Over the Edge
Peter had never been as terrified as he was right now. Carter's bodyguard pushed hard against Neal's chest, causing Neal to tumble over the edge of the roof with a panicked: “No!”
Peter ordered his team to move and ran towards the place where Neal had stood just a second ago. He could see Neal's fingers, how they clung to the edge, all white-knuckled and slowly losing their grip. Everything seemed to go in slow motion; Peter felt as if he was sucked into the ground when all he wanted was to get to Neal – now.
He heard someone yell “no!” again when one of Neal's hands disappeared from his view. He didn't know who had shouted this single word and he didn't care. He was running out of time as the universe seemed to conspire against him and Neal. He was still nowhere near Neal when Neal cried out for him. Neal's remaining fingers were slipping and this couldn't happen, this shouldn't happen. Neal was his responsibility, Peter was supposed to take care of him, damn it!
Neal's fingers lost their grip at the edge completely.
“Neal!” Peter shouted again, sure that he had lost his friend forever.
Instead he discovered Jones hanging halfway over the edge, shouting: “Neal, hold on!”
Peter hadn't even seen Jones running towards the edge and now he was slowly sliding over the edge too, the force of gravity pulling Jones and Neal closer and closer to death. Jones hollered at Peter to help him, that he couldn't find a hold on the smooth surface of the roof. Peter thought he'd never reach Jones in time but somehow he did.
Peter bent over the edge and grabbed one of Neal's arms. Together with Jones he pulled Neal back on the roof, back to security, back to Peter where he belonged. As soon as Neal was back on the roof he threw himself against Peter, curled himself together into a small heap and clutched tightly at Peter's jacket. Peter enveloped him in his arms, holding Neal as the younger man tried to compose himself.
All three men lay on the ground for a minute, panting heavily. Jones sighed and got up first. He gave Neal a quick pat on the shoulder, then straightened up. Neal kept on shivering so Peter voiced his gratefulness towards Jones. “Thank you, Jones. Thank you.”
Jones nodded and smiled, then left the two men alone. Everyone else stole glances towards them but no one approached them. When Neal's shivers subsided slightly, Peter began to rub his back soothingly. Eventually Neal uncurled himself and sat back on his heels. He kept his head down but Peter wanted to see his face, especially those clear blue eyes that always told Peter more than Neal wanted him to know. He tipped Neal's chin up and felt his heart stumble a few beats at the sight of Neal's ashen face.
“That … that was close,” Neal whispered in a small voice. His gaze flickered restlessly from Peter to the edge of the roof while he swallowed hard several times. “I need to thank Jones for rescuing me.”
Peter nodded in agreement and got up. His legs were wobbly and just for a second he was swaying. He closed his eyes for a brief moment, then waited for Neal to get up too. He frowned when Neal kept sitting on the ground and prompted: “Neal?”
“I need help to get up and I probably need help walking. At least for a few steps.”
Wordlessly Peter bent down, slung one of Neal's arms around his neck and was about to hoist him up when Neal asked with a light tremble in his voice, “Are you sure you can keep me upright? We're still close to the edge.”
Peter pulled and steadied Neal with an iron-clad grip around his waist. Taking the first steps were a challenge because Neal's legs threatened to give out. They moved slowly away from the edge before Neal stopped abruptly. “Are we going to have to tell Elizabeth what just happened?”
Peter groaned. “She'll find out anyway.”
“We're in trouble, huh?”
Peter's answer was a deep sigh. Suddenly Neal chuckled and said: “We'll survive. Just think about in how much trouble you'd be if Jones hadn't rescued me.”
“I can't stand dark humor,” Peter growled.
“I could start crying if this makes you feel more comfortable,” Neal suggested.
“Uh, no, thanks.”
“Will you let me cuddle up to you later?”
“Neal!” Peter snarled, then lowered his voice, “keep your voice down. And yes, I'll let you cuddle up although I think El will smother you with cuddles to infinity.”
Neal turned his head and smiled at Peter brightly. “I can take a lot of cuddles.”
“You'll get them.”