Diana called back once they were on the surface that the tunnel was caved in. They were barely out of the hole when the earth seemed to rumble and dust and debris shot out after them, an echo of the sound evident over the line.
"Jones, are you ok? What's going on over there?"
She hadn't heard about the bomb yet or Peter's message, no signal while they were beneath but now she heard a very upset agent barking orders in the background to get emergency crews over here ASAP. A cold chill danced down her spine as she quickly got everyone together and they headed back. Things had gone from bad to worse.
Light flashed before his eyes and he thought he heard a faint whistling sound by his ear. Peter was stunned, unable to move. His head still hurt from the first hit by Mick/Baylor and now his whole body ached as if he held the weight of the world on it. He had been protecting someone, his ears still ringing. Peter wanted to tell someone to answer that phone but he was too weak to reply or react, eyes open a crack and watching the light move around then shine directly on him. A quiet beeping sound, painfully slow and deliberate broke through the ringing of his ears as he started to come to. The beeping went on a few minutes then it stopped, that faint whistling evident again before he gasped for air and coughed, eyes open enough to see another face dimly lit.
He couldn't say much else, the whistling his only reply and a gentle squeeze from someone's hand. He blinked dust from his eyes and saw the light had shifted so he could see the face again. It was Neal's, dull blue eyes glittering back at him and something else that made him alarmed. The young man looked pale but for a darkening ring around his lips. That was the whistling sound, Neal was gasping for breath.
"Shhhh… just nod. Ok?"
He watched his friend nod weakly in the dim glow of the cell, a familiar tone making them know someone had answered. Neal was looking at the screen, a half smile on his face as he turned the screen to show Peter.
Jones: We're digging you out. Hold on.
Peter smiled back, still unable to move but for his head. Neal started to text a reply but the cell slipped out of his hand as he slumped back, the darkening hue around his lips almost black now in the dim glow. The agent shifted slightly, lifting up his head and poking the young man's chest with his chin where he lay over his friend.
The con man didn't reply, eyes glassy and staring off to the side. The wheezing whistling of Neal's breath had stopped for now, silence except for his own breath and the ringing in his ears. He poked his friend with his nose as best he could but Neal didn't move.
The building was demolished, tons of debris covering what had once been a factory warehouse lot. If anyone survived the explosion it would be a miracle, emergency crews pushing earth to get to any would be survivors below. Jones and his agents helped in any way they could, a buzzing interrupting his thoughts as he made to answer his cell. There was a new text.
Anon: Anyone out there?
The agent paused, too shocked to react at first until Diana walked up and poked him.
"You look like you've seen a ghost, Clinton. What's… Oh my… They're alive? HEY!"
She was calling the emergency crews over now, Jones sending his reply back and waiting for another. He knew this was Neal's burner answering them but what about Peter. He hoped they were together but one life was better than none at this point and he wasn't sure who was writing him. Several minutes passed and there was no more replies. Jones watched the construction crews digging up tons of earth and hoped that hadn't been a last message.
Diana had snuck up on him, the agent shaking his head back as Jones sent another reply. Someone had sent them that message and whether it was Neal or Peter, someone down there needed their help.
Peter nudged his friend but Neal was unconscious, possibly dead but he didn't want to think that way. He pressed his ear to the con's chest and found a faint beat and then a sound that made him worry. It wasn't the typical breathing sound, sort of like a vacuum with a leak as he tried to feel around with his right hand until he found the hole where Neal had been stabbed. He doubted his index finger was clean or his hand for that matter but right now he just had to play a hunch. Peter felt around until his middle finger fit into the puncture wound nearly up to his hand and he squeezed down with the other fingers to make a seal around it. He pressed his ear back down and found the odd sucking noise had left. That was only part one of the plan as he shifted some, moving his head closer to his friends and felt for breath. There was none.
He spoke breathless himself from the weight of debris upon him as he was pressed heavily upon his partner. The con didn't respond so he shifted enough to find his other arm and moved it with some resistance as he reached over and squeezed Neal's nostrils closed, pressing his lips to his partner's as he attempted to reinflate the lung. He kept his right hand firm on and in the stab wound, his finger the plug he hoped as he blew hard as he could into Neal's mouth and felt the seal around his finger start to grow. It was working.
"Cooommm… oooonn… Neee…"
He felt his friend's lungs start to firm up, listening for breath and hearing a faint wheeze that made him smile. He slumped against the con, no place to move in their earthy prison when a buzzing sound made him turn where the cell lay dimly lit. He made a grab for it with his left hand, looking at the cracked screen.
1) Jones: Is this Peter or Neal?
2) Jones: Text us if you can.
… END OF MESSAGES!
The last message had been over 5 minutes ago so their team was probably worrying about another answer as he tried his best to do a one handed text, the quieting beeping of the cell somewhat comforting in the unnatural silence of their underground tomb. He pushed send, laying his head back onto Neal's chest, unable to do move elsewhere and hoping he wasn't hurting his friend more by adding his weight on top of him. He could feel the soft up and down motion of his friend's breathing. Peter was glad to hear it except for the added "gurgling" sound which meant possibly blood had gotten into the collapsed lung or something else. His right hand was still firmly sealing up the stab wound stopping both the flow of blood and any air that might still escape Neal's punctured lung. He couldn't hear anything other than their own breathing, the faint ringing in his ears from the explosion and the cell should they answer him. He had 1 bar and sometimes 2 when he looked so that was something. They weren't completely cut off but he was conserving power by not calling directly not that he thought he could say much. Better to text and keep it simple.
Peter looked at the cell screen and sighed in relief.
Jones: Nearly there. Just hang on. Who's this?
Anon: Peter Neals hurt badly How long
Jones: Truth? A few hours.
He glanced at the power for the cell, they had more than enough but he placed the phone in power save mode, keeping it in his shirt pocket and easily accessible incase it buzzed. Peter was feeling sleepy, a bad sign their air might be running out or he could have injuries of his own besides the earlier knock to the head by Baylor. He yawned, coughing out dust and hacking a bit before he lay his head down and tried to relax. He couldn't move but at least for now he was alive and so was Neal. For all he knew Baylor had been killed and that would save them time once the debris was cleared.
He was listening to someone talk to him, their hand squeezing his free hand.
Peter nodded in the Stygian gloom, eyes closing. He heard his wife talking to him in his mind, soothing him while the feeling of someone squeezing his left hand and holding it felt real. In fact after a while he woke up to the cell buzzing, lethargy keeping him from reacting immediately until he realized someone really was holding his left hand. It was Neal. He squeezed back, moving to grab the cell but the hand held on tighter and he ignored the device to ease his friend's need for comfort. He had no idea how much time had passed, the pitch darkness disconcerting.
The monosyllable was just audible mostly because of the unnatural silence. Peter smiled to himself and nodded. He sensed his friend shift slightly then relax, the grip on his hand letting go a moment. The agent worried Neal wasn't breathing again but felt the up and down motion of his partner's chest under his head and took that as a sign he was ok. He pulled the cell out careful not to drop it and opened it up with his left hand.
Jones: How are you doing down there? (Received 10 minutes ago)
He glanced at the time and saw an hour had passed. If they were digging down to them wouldn't he feel or hear something? It was still so unnaturally quiet as he started to text back with his free hand.
Anon: Still breathing How much longer
He checked on Neal again, his partner still alive for now and looking more pale but his lips were less dark than they had been. That was some relief, his right hand still keeping the stab wound compressed with his finger stuck inside as a stopper. It was an uncomfortable position but necessary one to keep his friend alive. Peter was certain that everyone was doing what they had to in order to rescue them both. It was still odd he heard nothing overhead as he shifted ever so slightly. His whole body ached and tingled with pain but he cowboyed up. It was all he could do in the situation they were stuck in, returning his hand to Neal's when no text was returned. He relaxed again, closing his eyes and imagining his house and Elizabeth.
Hun… would you go upstairs and get me my purse?
Peter was confused by the request, looking up from his newspaper to see his wife at the kitchen counter working on some dish or recipe. He smiled and folded the paper over going towards the stair and glancing back over at her. There was an odd humming in the air but he ignored it as he replied back.
Must be a new recipe if you can't pull away from it. I'll be right back.
She smiled sweetly back at him, nodding as she continued her work and he started up the small staircase that led to their 2nd and 3rd floors. He noticed the humming almost a vibration now was more obvious but his dream self seemed to ignored it. He was barely halfway up when the stair beneath him started to give way. Peter wasn't sure what was going on as he reached for the railing and felt it rattling under his fingers. It dissolved before he could get a secure grip on it, Peter flailing as he started falling forwards towards the stairs and heard a thundering crash. The wind was knocked from his lungs but mostly he felt oddly light, his right hand gripping something firmly as he slowly came to. Something was underneath him.
"We need Paramedics here STAT!"
Someone was barking orders, other voices evident and the soft buzz of something like a drill. Peter wasn't sure how he had ended up here when he'd been going upstairs to get his wife's purse. His brain was confused by the change of scenery as light blinded him momentarily and he felt hands prying his from whatever he'd been holding onto.
"He's got a tight grip on him. Help me pry his hand loose…"
The voice was very close, hands continuing to pull at his right when he swung blindly out at them with his left. He couldn't move his right, it was important he keep it where it was.
He murmured the word coughing as dust and the dryness of his throat made it hard to say anything else. They finally stopped trying to pull him away when those same hands lifted him and what he was clinging to up and onto a softer surface. A mask was pushed over his face as he opened up his eyes and could finally see a blurry hint of motion around him. People in dark jackets with yellow letters hurried around with others in orange or white. There was light and what looked like jackhammers or something close to them. As he focused more, Peter could see shovels and other earth moving equipment. The air was heavy with dust, masks over the faces of the men around him and now he could see what he was holding onto so tightly. It was Neal Caffrey.
It had been a hard decision for Jones not to tell his boss and friend what was going on. They didn't want to give them too much hope as the crew they'd called in noted that to dig from the top of the pile might crush their colleagues more under the weight of the earth and equipment sent to save them. That wasn't a possibility, plans changing to some other endeavor that involved digging up the old tunnel Baylor had blown closed and trying to open up the ground beneath the trapped men. From the phone's GPS they had a rough estimation of where the two were trapped and it would hopefully prove more fruitful and safe to try the new route.
When they finally saw the two figures sift through the hole and fall down like limp dolls, Jones felt both relief and fear. Diana was uptop taking care of the ground security should any of Baylor's men show up. He wanted to text her soon as he knew what was going on. When Peter moved, a weight fell off his shoulders. Elizabeth had been waiting to hear about both her husband and Neal. Mozzie had come to the site briefly to make accusatory remarks but stood back as the crews started their extraction process. He was just glad he wouldn't have to give anyone any bad news… yet.
"How are they?"
He had moved closer to the paramedics who had placed both agent and consultant on two adjoined stretchers. Peter had refused to let go of Neal and nobody could figure out why, leaving them as they were until they could get them up top.
"Can't say anything until we get them out of here and give them both a more thorough exam. Would help if we could separate them."
He pointed at Peter still clinging tightly with his right hand to Caffrey. He knew the two were close but it seemed more than just his boss' usual protective nature. The light in the tunnel was not bright enough to examine them here so he let the paramedics move them back down the dug up corridor and lift both up into the daylight. Jones followed along, squinting a bit as the dying daylight hit his eyes. He pulled out his cell, got a signal and finally texted Diana. He got an immediate response.
Diana: Thank Goodness! I'll let everyone know.
He smiled at her reply, relief at the fact everyone was ok. He hoped their injuries would be minimal but they'd been trapped beneath rubble for almost 3 hours. Thankfully the earth had been soft enough to dig out and reach them from below, a miracle no doubt.
Jones turned, pushing his phone back into his pocket and turning to see the paramedic from before. The man was motioning for him to come look at something in the ambulance. It wasn't apparent at first, both Peter and Neal covered in dust, mud and debris but now that some of it had been cleaned away he could finally see why his boss had been holding on so tightly.
"Your boss is a smart man. Not what I would have done but it did the job. We're about to transport them to St. Gerard's if you want to inform your people."
Jones nodded back, the paramedic smiling at him before turning back to his patients and the ambulance. They were getting ready to take off. He wanted to trail along but he had to call Diana and give her the details. Once that was done, he asked to ride in the ambulance cab. Elizabeth and Diana would meet them at St. Gerard's.
Peter had woken up long enough to know he was still clinging tightly to his partner. It was life or death and so far nobody had tried pulling them apart again. He relaxed, closing his eyes and resting with the oxygen mask over his face. He heard voices speaking urgently around him and then calming down. A warm blanket was placed over him and Neal, his eyes opening enough to see they'd placed a mask and nose tubes on his friend. They were both hooked up to IVs despite their awkward positions. Maybe they knew?
He woke up again, suddenly finding himself in the ER. When had he shown up here? He had lost time and the window outside indicated night had fallen. He looked up at the white ceiling then back to his left where a man in a white lab coat and green scrubs smiled gently back at him.
"Can you hear me, Agent?"
The man was still speaking patiently, Peter nodding back sleepily as he shifted his weight and felt he was missing something. He reached up to wipe his face with his right hand and paused, looking at it a moment before he felt panic. Neal! The monitor started to beep urgently but he felt hands holding him down before Peter could jump out of bed, his body aching but he had to tell them what happened.
"Agent Burke… calm down… Nurse…"
The doctor was calling another figure, a woman and man in blue scrubs who moved to help him hold Peter down.
No… Neal can't breath!
He wanted to scream that out but his throat was too dry to speak, his eyes looking desperate at them to understand. Neal couldn't be dead after all he'd done to help him. He kept struggling until another voice broke through and he paused, seeing blue eyes staring back at him with worry and relief.
"Peter? Doctor, what's going on?"
The monitors were beeping still as they continued to hold him back and he tried to convey silent thoughts he couldn't express. Where was his voice when he needed it? Where was Caffrey?
"Your husband woke up and started panicking. Nurse…"
The nurse was preparing a small syringe of something clear, tapping it as Peter watched and felt more fear wash over him. If they knocked him out he wouldn't be able to tell them why. Why wouldn't they just say what happened? His eyes met Elizabeth's and finally he saw her reaction match his.
"Let me talk to him. Please.."
Elizabeth was pleading quietly, the nurse looking at the doctor for direction. He shook his head at her, nodding at El as the other nurses let go of Peter. The monitor was still beeping as they left except for the doctor. Peter watched his wife move closer, giving him a little kiss on the cheek and hug before speaking.
"Neal's ok, hun. You saved him. They said…" She turned to the doctor who had been listening. He moved closer and smiled softly.
"Your wife is right, Agent Burke. Your quick thinking saved your partner's life. He's in ICU at the moment but that's typical for this type of injury. Once he's breathing a bit more normally, we'll move him to a room like this."
Peter turned to see what El thought, wanting to speak so badly but when he opened up his mouth nothing happened. He was frustrated.
"Give it a day to get your voice back, Agent. We treated you for a minor chest and throat infection from dust inhalation and bruised ribs. I'll make sure the nurse brings you some ice chips and water now that you're awake."
Dr. Mirken (that's what his tag said) took his pulse, checked his vitals and did some initial tests while Elizabeth waited patiently by and Peter calmed down. Neal was ok but what about Baylor? Had they found the other man's body and was he alive as well? The thought occurred to him but he couldn't ask thankfully as the doctor left him with positive remarks on how well he was healing and promises to bring updates on Neal's condition. Now they were alone, Elizabeth hugging him gently as she sat near his bedside, their hands clasped. He thought about that dream he'd had below the ground and finding out that Neal had been holding his hand the whole time. It didn't matter, both his wife and partner special to him. Peter saw the curious look on El's face so he made a motion for her to get him something to write with. She pulled out a small notepad and pen from her purse, handing it to him as he scribbled a quick note. He was still not very coordinated, his writing worse than normal. El glanced down at the note as he handed it over and blinked back.
"What do you think? I was worried when Diana called me to let me know what had happened. I thought you and Neal were doing a normal case this time."
She was upset, Peter having lied to her this one time but as his usual way he had meant to let her know the details afterwards as he had with Keller that one time. He'd been kidnapped once and since the undercover requirements were for Neal to help pretend to take him, El would have been more upset. He'd wait to tell her about getting hit over the head. It had been an unexpected danger of the case neither he nor Neal had expected and right now it matched his wounds for the incident at hand. One thing at a time. He wrote on the pad again, a chagrined look on his face. She sighed, squeezing his shoulder gently as she kissed him on the lips then the nose and forehead.
"I guess there was a reason you had to keep the details from me. I'm just glad you're ok, hun."
She snuggled close to him, a twinge of pain in his back and right arm but it didn't matter now that he had his wife there. His back was wrapped up mummy-like and he could just move to hold her. Everything had thankfully turned out in their favor. He just had to wait to see how Neal was doing.
"You're on leave, Caffrey. Don't make me lock you in a padded cell."
Peter wasn't having any argument, him on desk duty until he was deemed able to go out into the field again and Neal off duty as his lungs continued to heal. Mostly the agent was stiff, his back in a temporary brace but he had been given the all clear a week after the incident while Caffrey had remained in the hospital. The con had been in and out of consciousness due to his collapsed lung and a minor chest infection. It had been a month since the incident and Neal was still winded easily although he would never say so but Peter knew the signs. He saw the small beads of sweat forming on his friend's forehead and the flush of red on his still wan looking cheeks. The doctor had said for Neal to rest and do mild exercise if he had to do anything and lots of rest. The con opened his mouth to protest but Peter held up a hand to stop it.
"Fine, Peter but at least let me help with some of the more interesting cases. I heard you had a bond forgery and didn't tell me."
Neal pouted although with him it wasn't obvious like a kid, just that look you see male models give in photoshoots which was almost as annoying. Peter sighed. He wasn't going to be swayed. This was his day off and he was going to enjoy it.
"You were in the hospital drugged up and unconscious. I was at home in bed with my back in a brace. Diana and Jones handled it well and they used Megan to do the authentication. She's an art history major and just as capable of handling this type of ca…"
He was stopped by Neal coughing, not a "you have to be kidding me" kind of cough but an actual attack. Peter paused, sitting his friend on a nearby stoop and letting Satchmo move over to the small grassy area next to it to sniff around. Neal was turning reddish as he coughed, sounding more like he was having an asthma attack than anything as he pulled out some water and sat beside his friend, handing it over. The con took a sip when he could, Peter gently patting him on the back until the spell had stopped and his color began to return. They were quiet for a few minutes as if waiting for something but not admitting to the fact that they were. Neal's manner was embarrassed as if he was trying to hide the fact he was hurt but Peter just let him deal without confronting him. They could talk about things when the time was right.
"Thanks. So… I heard Elizabeth had a new event planned."
He was changing the subject from what they were both unhappy about to something a bit more neutral. Peter smirked slightly as he went along with the redirect. Satchmo sniffed around them in the background, both men petting him at some point.
"Yeah. She's excited about working at the History Museum. Big event with the Mayor's office and the city arts board.
He saw the envious look on his friend's face. Neal was a person who appreciated all forms of art and history. It still perplexed him that someone so intelligent and savvy had turned out the way he had. Still their differences were what made their partnership work. Suddenly blue eyes were staring at him curiously and he flushed, standing up and taking the leash back into his hand. Neal was reading his thoughts or trying to.
"El's expecting us back soon. Said she's making those little chickens you like."
Now he was redirecting, Neal looking at him a moment then nodding as if he suspected nothing with the teasing comment. They had both been very lucky with this case. Baylor had been found a week after they'd been rescued under the same debris. His body was badly mangled with what the agent had seen from forensics. Capt. Shaddock had allowed him access to the coroner's report. Mick alias Baylor (the real Mick) had been found and captured along with three other men. Once they knew their boss was dead, they had panicked. Baylor had been the brains of the operation and without him they had nothing left to do but flee. Thankfully it had been into the hands of the FBI and NYPD.
Neal's voice broke through his thoughts as he looked up and nodded.
Even after all this time it was still hard for them to express themselves but even so, Peter knew what he meant. He just smiled back and patted Neal on the shoulder.
"Come on. El wants us both to take a nap before dinner. Rest and relaxation or something."
He mumbled the last part somewhat sarcastically. Both of them weren't known for being good patients, Neal smirking back.
"I could have Mozzie distract her while we go around the corner to that sports bar you like."
Neal was giving him ideas but he shook his head, the younger man continuing to suggest they "watch the game" when Peter knew Neal wasn't into sports.
"Well I would still have to drop Satchmo off… But if we went in the back way…"
Now he was falling under his partner's suggestion, the con becoming his own idea but that was the point. Besides, he had to make Neal think he still had it and his team was in the playoffs. Might be fun to bond that way. He nodded, a glimmer in Neal's eyes as he pulled out his cell and sent a quick text before smirking broadly.
"Operation MozEl has begun."
Neal blushed slightly as he said it, Peter giving him a look of query.
"MozEl? Tell me he thought of that…"
He watched Neal nod back, both falling into a fit of laughter like two boys who heard a very badly told joke from a friend.
"How bout we dub it a bonding opportunity. Two guys drinking beer…"
Neal interrupted him.
"and watching sports… don't forget that."
Author's Note: A short and sweet H/C bromancy story :D Hope you liked.