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ratherastory ([personal profile] ratherastory) wrote2012-11-13 03:16 pm

All I Needed To Hear (Was the Sound of Your Voice)

Title: All I Needed To Hear (Was the Sound of Your Voice)
Summary: Written for [livejournal.com profile] run_the_con based on a prompt by the lovely and talented [livejournal.com profile] embroiderama. Neal is injured and trapped. Until rescue can find him, all he has to hang onto is the sound of Peter's voice.
Characters: Neal Caffrey, Peter Burke
Rating: PG13
Wordcount: 1,732
Warnings: Implied violence
Spoilers: None
Disclaimer: If I had any claim at all on "White Collar," I probably wouldn't be writing fanfic for free. Or maybe I would, who knows?
Neurotic Author's Note #1: Ack. This is only my second time writing WC fic, and I'm not sure I got the characters down at all. Neal Caffrey is a tough customer to figure out! /o\
Neurotic Author's Note #2: Because I am apparently not enough of a masochist, this was written for a 24-hour schmoop challenge. It's unbeta'd, and I'm not sure it's even all that schmoopy. Oops?
Neurotic Author's Note #3: Title is taken from the 38 Special song, "The Sound of Your Voice."




"Neal?"

He can hear a world of relief in Peter's voice, though it's tinny and distorted on the other end of the line. He sort of feels the same, if he's honest with himself. He clutches the cell phone with both hands, afraid he might drop it and never find it again in the darkness.

"Peter, hey…" his voice sounds weak, even to his own ears. "Don't be mad, 'kay?"

There's a hint of exasperation in Peter's voice now. "I'm not mad, Neal. What's going on? Where are you? You went off the grid hours ago!"

The phone slides in his grip a little, and he huddles up closer to the wall, trying to wedge it up by his ear. His hands are too slippery, he thinks, that's the problem. If he had something to wipe them with, it might help, but he can't really see, it's too dark. Blood, Jones once told him, is the slipperiest substance in the whole damned universe. Neal hadn't believed him at the time, but now he's beginning to see that the argument has merit.

"Neal?"

Right, Peter. Peter's still waiting for him. "I think it's broken."

"What's broken? Neal, talk to me. What's happening?"

He's missing something important. Maybe if it wasn't so cold here he'd be able to think more clearly. "My anklet. I think they smashed it. They stepped on the phone, too, but I got it to work. I got it to work, so it's okay, right? It's hard to see, I can't tell if it's going to last."

"Neal, are you hurt?" Peter's tone is sharp, anxious. "Tell me," he commands, and Neal doesn't know how to refuse when Peter asks him anything.

"I don't know. I think so. I think I'm bleeding, but I can't see." He thinks maybe his side hurts, but he can't check because that would mean letting go of the phone. "They hit me," he manages, and hates how weak he sounds.

"Okay, okay, Neal, you're going to be fine. Tell me where you are."

He wants to answer, he does. Peter doesn't ask for much, not really, and this should be a simple question to answer. "I don't know. It's dark. They hit me over the head… I think I blacked out. I don't know where they put me."

"Right. Okay, hang on, Neal, stay on the phone, you hear me?"

There's a scuffling sound on the other end of the line, then Peter's voice again, but muffled, as though he's talking to someone else, and Neal hears him barking at someone to get him a trace on this number, right the hell now. Neal smiles. That's Peter's don't-mess-with-me voice. He never gets tired of hearing it. It takes him a moment to figure out that Peter is talking to him again, and he shakes his head, trying to clear it.

"What?"

"We're tracing your phone now, Neal. I need you to stay on the line with me and talk to me. Can you do that?"

"Sure. Sure, Peter, anything you want. Hey, what happened? Did you get the recording?"

"Never mind about that now," Peter's tone turns gentle. "We're just going to focus on you, okay? How badly are you hurt, Neal?"

He has to stifle a sob that wells up unexpectedly from what feels like the bottom of his stomach. "I don't know. I think it's pretty bad. Everything's all messed up, and I can't see. I didn't mess up my anklet on purpose, you know that, right? They broke it. Peter?"

"I'm still here. I know it wasn't your fault," Peter soothes. "Take it easy. You don't have to worry about any of that, you hear me? I'll take care of it."

He nods, even though he knows Peter can't see him. Peter's really, really far away, there's no way he'd be able to see that. Neal shifts uncomfortably, and the movement sends pain spiking from his side up and into his spine.

"Neal?"

He must have moaned without realizing it, because Peter sounds even more worried. "Sorry. Hurts. Must have moved wrong. Did you get the recording?" he doesn't remember the answer to his question, but it seems like it's important. The whole point of going undercover was to get the recording.

"Yeah, yeah we go it. Don't worry about that, that's an order. Right now we're worrying about you."

"Okay." He can live with that. "Peter, the phone's beeping." If he twists his head just the right way he can see the display flickering, even though it's smashed almost beyond recognition. "Peter?"

"I'm still here, Neal, we're coming to get you. How much battery have you got left?"

He shakes his head, and this time stars dance in front of his vision. "Can't tell. They smashed the phone. I don't think there's much battery left. Surprised it worked at all, actually. They shouldn't have left it. Sloppy. You should put that in the report."

"I'll do that," Peter's amused now. "It won't be long now, okay? Your signal's pretty weak, so we're having trouble getting an exact fix on your location. Is there anything you can tell me about where you are? Anything at all, Neal, just concentrate. A smell, a sound, anything."

It's too dark to see anything except dim outlines all around. He's lying up against granite, and all around it smells of damp and garbage and stale urine and something else that he can't quite identify but which seems terribly familiar. There's no way out of this tiny room that he can see, but he's certain there's something bigger out there. It's quiet, though, now that Peter isn't talking anymore, and suddenly the darkness becomes an aching void inside Neal's chest.

"Peter?"

"I'm here, Neal. Not going anywhere, I promise. It won't be long, okay?"

"Subway." He grins, triumphant, and wishes Peter were there to see this.

"What?"

"I can smell the subway. Can't hear it, though. Must be a vent."

"Attaboy," Peter sounds so proud, and Neal's chest feels like it's going to burst. "Just hang on, okay? I'm getting you out of there, just keep talking. Is there anything other than the subway you can smell or hear?"

He shakes his head.

"Neal?"

"No, nothing, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I can't… it's hard to focus. I'm really tired…" There's no answer, and for a split-second he thinks maybe the phone battery finally died, or the connection dropped, and it feels like his lungs have shrunk to half their size. "Peter?"

"What is it?"

He lets out a sigh of relief that turns into a full-body shudder. It's so cold in here. He can't feel his fingers, can't feel his legs. "Thought you were gone. You're not going to leave me, are you? Peter?"

"No way. I'm not leaving you anywhere. Come on, keep talking, I don't like the way you're slurring your words, there. Focus on me, okay? Focus on my voice."

I already am, Neal wants to say, but instead all that comes out of his mouth is: "Cold."

"Yeah, I know," Peter commiserates. "I know you're cold, but you have to stay awake, you hear me?"

"I hear you. I hear you. Did you get the recording? Peter?"

There's the sound of Peter snapping instructions, hand held over his phone's mouthpiece so Neal can't quite make out the words. He sounds angry, but that's just what Peter sounds like when he's worried, Neal can tell the difference. He's seen Peter legitimately angry, and this isn't it. It's sort of nice, to think that Peter worries about him, because sometimes he worries about Peter. He worries about El and Mozzie and June, too, and sometimes about Jones and Sara and Diana, because their lives are already complicated enough without him, and he puts them in even more danger just by knowing them.

"Neal! Talk to me, buddy, say something!"

He can't keep his eyes open. "Keep thinking about you. And El, and everybody. 's not fair."

"Neal, Neal, hey," Peter's tone is cajoling, now, coaxing him out of the dark corners of his mind. He sounds oddly out of breath. "I just need you to stay awake a little while longer, okay? We're right there, we're looking for you, but you need to stay awake. Hang on, you hear me?"

"I hear you," he says, or he thinks he says it, but it's so cold that he can't feel anything at all anymore, and the pull of the darkness is too strong.

He hears the clatter of the cell phone as it hits the ground, but it feels like too much of an effort to move in order to try to find where it fell. It's not so bad, he tells himself, it's not even that cold anymore. And then he doesn't think much at all, anymore.

When he next opens his eyes, it's no longer dark. Pale sunlight is filtering through a window covered with a grille, and for a moment he wonders if it hasn't all been some sort of elaborate dream, if he hasn't been in prison this whole time. He blinks, reaches up to rub at his eyes, flinches when even that small movement makes pain flare in his side. It's not the prison hospital ward, he realizes, it's an actual hospital, and Peter is slumped in a chair by his bedside. He jerks awake a moment later, as though he somehow sensed the change in Neal's condition, and his features crease into a smile that make the corners of his eyes crinkle up.

"Welcome back," he says, pushing himself out of his chair and coming over to the bed. He lays one hand over Neal's, warm and reassuring. "How are you feeling?"

"Peter," Neal wonders if he should be worried that his face is about to split in half from how wide he's smiling. "You made it."

Peter shakes his head slightly. "I'm not the one for whom that was in question. Seriously, how are you feeling?"

"Nothing a hot tub and a glass of Cabernet wouldn't fix," he answers, proud of how his voice doesn't crack. Peter smiles, but he doesn't look fooled for a second. "I was just thinking…"

Peter's instantly on the alert. "What?"

"Your voice sounds so much better in person."

Peter laughs at that, and it's the best sound Neal has heard in days.

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