ON THE EDGE

AN: I have no idea where, in my brain, this story came from. I just liked the idea of Neal dragging himself out of water up onto a beach. The story has just grown from there. I have no idea where this synaptic misfire may land. But I hope you all will join me for the ride. Thanks, in advance, for your reviews and alerts. And, a big thank you, to ccluvhorses101 for your beta abilities. Enjoy!

She stroked his cheek. His skin was cold and his hair was wet. He had dragged himself up onto the beach and had simply given out. And this was where they found him, hours later. Diana looked out at the cold water, the sun beginning to set on what was turning out to be another horrible day. For two days Neal had been missing, and now he was found. But it appeared that they had been too late.

Diana knelt down beside Neal's cold and beaten body. She could see the bruises through the torn material of his shirt and slacks. She could see wounds made by a knife blade, some deep, some superficial. She could see marks from cigarette burns and taser prongs. The pain Neal must have endured brought tears to her eyes. She already knew what she would find, but she pressed her fingers to Neal's neck anyway. He was so cold. He was so pale, and there were so many injuries, so many severe injuries. There was no way Neal was still alive.

Neal had beaten the odds, there was a pulse! Diana was thrilled. She needed to tell the team she had found Neal, and what condition he was in. Diana started to stand, wiping the tears from her eyes. Then she felt a touch. Diana looked down and saw the panic in Neal's eyes as he began to cough up water, tinged with blood. He was too weak to roll onto his side to allow the water in his lungs to escape. Diana did the next best thing. She sat down beside him and pulled him into her arms. She positioned him to allow his body to rid itself of any remaining water.

Neal squeezed her hand tightly as he coughed to expel the water. He then groaned, exhausted from the effort. Neal's eyes slid closed, and his body seemed to relax in her arms. Diana panicked at his sudden stillness. She checked his pulse again. It was only then that she could feel his body shaking as he tried to generate heat. She took off her coat and wrapped it around him. It seemed to warm him, and he relaxed a little more.

Jones, Peter and the other agents found Diana and Neal sitting together in the sand. Diana had used her free hand to dial her phone and inform Peter of Neal's condition. She then slipped it back into her pocket. She absently ran her fingers through Neal's hair as she waited for the cavalry to arrive. She could not stop the tears as they once again flowed down her cheeks.

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Diana found herself wiping her eyes yet again. And she was not a crier. She was an FBI agent. She was tough. She was smart. She was a very valuable member in a trusted position, usually reserved for men. She was not weak. She had no vulnerabilities. Or so she thought.

Diana had not known, until that very moment, how much the smart, handsome convict had wormed his way into her life. She had not known until that moment how much it would hurt her to see him battered and broken, near death. She had not expected this reaction from herself, concerning anyone, but especially not concerning Neal Caffrey.

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Diana came up to Peter in the ER waiting room as they waited for news on Caffrey.

"Boss, I…I'm sorry for what happened back there…my reaction." Diana stated.

Peter looked at her for a moment. He shook his head, unsure what Diana was talking about.

"It was very unprofessional for me too…." Diana started.

Peter shook his head and smiled, finally getting what it was she was trying to say. "No apology necessary, Diana."

"But…?" Diana said, shaking her head.

"You like Neal, Diana. It's hard not to. He's…." Peter replied.

"He's a criminal." Diana quickly interjected, chastising herself for having let her guard down.

Peter nodded. "That's part of who he is, Diana. But that's only part. He's…. there's so much more to him. And you've seen it. He's a guy worth knowing."

"I don't…." Diana paused. She couldn't get the images of the cuts, burns and bruises out of her head. "They tortured him."

Peter nodded. He had knelt down beside Neal when he and Jones had arrived at the scene. He had taken inventory of all Neal's injuries before the ambulance had taken him away. "And they dumped him in the bay knowing it would wash away all the evidence. And I guess they figured, on the off chance that he was still alive, he would drown." Peter looked at Diana. "We need to…we have to find this guy."

TBC