Peter was running.
He had been torn between moving fast and moving quietly, but another image of Neal flashed to his mind, and running it was.
This Midtown Mutual was bigger than the other one. It had more offices, more hallways, more doors. It had enough different directions to confuse him.
But Peter was looking for the basement; there had to be a door to a staircase somewhere.
Peter’s feet thudded rhythmically against the carpet. He was panting, having run through half of the bank already. It wasn’t until he turned down two more hallways that he found the door he was looking for: to a stairwell.
Peter rushed toward it, ripping open the door and taking the concrete steps two at a time. He was going to get Neal. He was going to get Neal out of the bank and to the hospital, and Neal was going to be okay.
Skidding to a stop at the door to the room he and Neal were confined in, Peter grabbed the doorknob, and it turned. He opened the door and rushed inside.
But it was empty.
Peter’s heart dropped low in his chest. Where was Neal? Where did he go?
His heart sank lower. “No, no, no…” said Peter quietly to himself, shaking his head. He backed out of the room and turned, heading back down the basement hallway and up the stairs.
Either Neal miraculously found a way out of the room-which Peter highly doubted the delirious conman was capable of doing-or Maverick and Allen had taken him again.
Peter kicked himself. How the hell could he let himself leave Neal? His partner was completely vulnerable and he left him.
And now he had no idea where to find him.
Peter ran a shaking hand through his hair as he rushed back onto the first floor. Where was he supposed to find Neal?
And that’s when he heard it. A gunshot. His heart freezing in his chest, Peter ran, following the echo. He turned down two hallways, and heard a noise that chilled him.
And that someone sounded way too much like Neal.
Peter picked up his pace, running faster. He turned a corner, entering the atrium of the bank. And he stopped.
Only ten feet in front of him was Allen. Allen was standing over Neal, a gun pressing into Neal’s temple. Neal was lying on the floor, looking even more broken. His skin was nearly transparent. He was shaking, his face pulled tight into a grimace.
“Tell me where the drive is,” said Allen to Neal, still unaware that Peter was behind him. “Or I swear to god I will kill you.”
“Looking for this?”
Allen whipped around. Peter stood behind him, the flash drive held high in his hand.
Allen’s glare was venomous. “You!” he spat. The gun didn’t move from Neal’s head.
“Let Neal and me go,” said Peter slowly, “and you can have the drive.”
“Let you go?” asked Allen. “I don’t think so.” The gun pressed harder into Neal’s temple and Neal cringed. He opened his eyes, staring at Peter. Pleading.
“Allen, you can have the drive, just let him go!”
“How about,” said Allen, “you give me the drive or I’ll put a bullet in his head.” He looked down Neal. Neal tried to move backward, but Allen quickly kneeled on Neal’s injured ribs, immobilizing him. Neal groaned in pain.
Peter’s hand shook with anger. He watched more color drain from his partner’s face. “Peter,” said Neal weakly. “Peter, don’t—”
Allen pressed his knee further into Neal’s abdomen, crushing what Peter knew were broken ribs. Neal’s face screwed up in an agonized grimace, his teeth clenched, fighting his hardest to keep the pain quiet. When Peter said nothing, only pure horror paralyzing him, Allen leaned more weight into Neal’s side. Neal cried out. The sound was so broken. Peter’s heart twisted.
“Okay!” yelled Peter, his face drained of color and numb rage burning within him. “Okay, you win! Just-just stop!”
Allen looked at Peter, and he slowly released his hold on Neal. Neal fell back to the ground, breathing harsh and fast.
“Throw it here.” said Allen, and Peter obeyed, his eyes glued to Neal, watching as his partner struggled to breathe.
Allen caught the drive, and stood. He looked off to his left, and smiled.
“You have what you want,” said Peter. “Now let us go.”
With one look off to his left, Allen gave Peter an easy smile. “With pleasure.”
Peter was surprised. That was easy.
Maybe too easy.
Once Allen was gone, Peter ran to Neal, dropping to the floor at his side. Neal coughed, his eyes screwed shut.
“Neal,” said Peter, wanting to help him, but afraid to touch him. “Neal, are you okay?”
“N-no,” said Neal, coughing again, his face screwing up in pain. “N-no—c-can’t breathe—”
His ribs. The way he was lying was making it impossible for him to breathe. That alone sent ice cold fear into Peter’s blood. Peter immediately put an arm behind Neal’s shoulders and slowly lifted him up. Neal cried in pain, his voice cracking.
“I’m sorry,” whispered Peter as he continued to lift him up, holding Neal’s weight against his own. “I’m sorry, Neal—hang on.”
Peter slowly lifted Neal to a sitting position, carefully leaning him against the wall behind him. Sweat beaded on Neal’s forehead, and his eyes were shut tight. “Is that better?” asked Peter.
“Yeah,” whispered Neal. Then, his eyes shot open. “Peter!”
“What?” asked Peter, whipping around, afraid Allen had returned.
“Peter, there’s…” began Neal. He took another shaking breath, and said, “T-there’s a bomb.”
Peter’s eyes widened. “What? What are you talking about?”
“Over… Over t-there.” Neal slowly nodded his head to the right, and Peter looked. His breath caught.
“Oh, my god,” whispered Peter. The timer told him that they had less than two minutes before it should detonate. “Oh, my god, Neal, we have to go!”
Peter was about to put his arm around Neal again, to help him up, when Neal said, “Wait—!”
“Wait?” repeated Peter incredulously. “Wait for what?”
Neal lifted his right arm, and Peter recognized his own handcuffs, securing Neal to the air grate.
“Damn it,” whispered Peter, feeling the time ticking down. “Neal, they took my handcuff keys, too!”
“D’you still have my… m’picks?”
Peter looked at Neal suddenly. His eyes were shut again, and his breathing had slowed way down. “Neal,” said Peter sternly, fear crawling up his spine, “Neal, open your eyes.”
Neal didn’t respond. His head dropped further to his chest, and Peter’s heart thudded. “Neal!” He shook his partner’s frame.
“Damn it, Neal,” whispered Peter, his voice shaking. He quickly pulled Neal’s lock picks out of his jacket and lifted the handcuff chain.
He didn’t know much about lock picking, save for the time Mozzie taught him. But that was a long time ago and it wasn’t something Peter had practiced. Though, after today, that was something Peter was going to reconsider.
Peter inserted the pick into the small lock. Trying to remember what Mozzie taught him, he jostled the pick, hoping for the best. After ten precious seconds, he was still unsuccessful.
“Neal, please, wake up.” he said, still trying to get the lock, working the pick in furiously in frustration. “I can’t pick locks, Neal!”
Neal was still motionless. His face was drained of all color. Peter watched the cut on his face drip blood down his cheek.
Peter dropped the picks, officially giving up. He held his face in his hands, breathing hard. What do I do now?
He suddenly whipped his head up, looking around the room. His eyes landed on Maverick’s unmoving body. There was a dark hole in his head. His eyes were open, unblinking. Peter’s eyes traveled down to the man’s belt.
Maverick had a gun.
Jumping to his feet, Peter ran to Maverick’s side, and tore the gun from the waistband of his jeans. Running back to Neal, Peter lifted the handcuff chain, trying to steady his trembling hands. He straightened the chain, aimed and pulled the trigger.
The bullet struck the chain an inch from Neal’s wrist. The metal snapped and Peter sighed in relief, just as Neal’s eyes shot open.
He looked wildly around, then found Peter. “Peter…?”
“Neal! Thank god,” breathed Peter. He quickly grabbed Neal’s arm, pulling it around his own shoulders. He lifted Neal up, not even trying to be gentle. One look backward told him they had nearly a minute to get the hell out of the bank.
Neal grunted as Peter put strain on his ribs. “P—Peter,” panted Neal. “Stop, p-please—”
His words tugged at Peter’s heart, but Peter lifted him to his feet anyway, and started dragging him out of the room, and down the hallway, one hand holding the gun in case Allen came back.
“Peter,” said Neal again, louder, as he cringed through each step. His weight kept pulling down, as if he was losing more strength the further they went. “Peter, what’s… what’s going on—”
“Neal,” panted Peter, his arms growing tired as he carried almost all of the younger man’s weight. He turned down another doorway, getting as far away from the bomb as possible. He had been counting down from sixty in his head, and was nearing forty. “Neal, there are explosives wired in the bank, we have to get out.”
“Explosives?” asked Neal blankly. His lapse in memory terrified Peter.
“Yes,” hissed Peter impatiently. He hit thirty seconds in his head. He pushed himself to go faster. He adjusted his grip on Neal, holding him steadier, and turned down another hallway. At the end of this hallway was the lobby, then the front doors.
They were going to make it.
“Peter…” Neal said again. “What’s going on?”
Peter swallowed his fear. “I just told you!”
“Y-you did?” asked Neal, his voice growing softer. Peter shook him.
“No, Neal! I need you to stay conscious!” He picked up his pace again. “I can’t get us out of here if you pass out again!”
“I-I’m… tryin’,” whispered Neal. He became a great deal heavier, nearly falling from Peter’s grip.
“Neal, no!” Peter took more of his weight, entering the lobby. He hit five seconds in his head. He ran faster.
But, unfortunately, just not fast enough.