WhiteCollar-Neal hat

White Collar/Fallen London AU fic

Ever since Fandom Stocking, [personal profile] frith_in_thorns and I have been writing this fusion between the Flash game Fallen London (formerly Echo Bazaar) and White Collar. Mostly it's been taking the form of bits of fic tossed back and forth in email and LJ comments. Every once in a while they go ahead and develop into actual stories. :D She's posted a few of hers so far: A Boat Trip and A Game of Croquet.

Fallen London (the game) is set in a Victorian-era alternate-history London sunk beneath the surface of the ground. The game is bizarre and dark and funny and disturbing and very fun to play ... as well as fun to inflict on the White Collar characters. Frith explains some of the game mechanics in A Boat Trip; that particular story deals with the fact that, within the game, if your Wounds quality gets high enough, you die. However, it's established game canon that you only die temporarily and all the residents of the city are aware of this (which we both think is hilarious when applied to Neal and his canonical risk-taking abilities).

The ficlet below the cut deals with a different aspect of Fallen London game mechanics, Nightmares. Nightmares is another quality that rises as you play the game, and when it gets too high, you go temporarily insane (which is highly entertaining to play). However, you can reduce your Nightmares in various ways -- everything mentioned in this story (walking in the park, buying goldfish, etc) is actually a canonical way of bringing your Nightmares down from dangerous levels. Naturally Neal goes for the most self-destructive option. *g*

I've been slightly reluctant to post this because, even aside from the fact that I'm hardly online at all due to factors beyond my control ... I'm not entirely sure how much sense this will make if you haven't played the game. The whole AU is basically one long extended series of in-jokes. But it's also White Collar! There's Peter! And Neal! And h/c! (Because we're us.) So, here you go. :D

Title: The Search for Sleep
Word Count: 1200
Characters/Pairing: Peter, Neal, gen
Summary: Sleeping down here isn't easy. It helps to have a friend to look out for you.





Neal seeks him out while he's patrolling in Spite. Well, to be technical about it, Neal picks his pocket, shadows him until he notices, and then deposits a small sack of glim, two carnival tickets, a half-empty flask of Tincture of Vigour, and El's most recent gift of adoration back into his palm. It's one more carnival ticket than he started off with, which Peter pretends not to notice; he just snaps, "Knock it off", before pocketing the stolen items.

"I just wanted to check and make sure you were paying attention," Neal says, tucking his hands into his pockets and falling into step with Peter. "Which you weren't. Most people around here wouldn't give it back, you know. And that's the ones that aren't going to stick a knife between your ribs before you even see them coming."

"There wouldn't be nearly as many people trying to stick knives between my ribs if someone hadn't roped me into dueling with the Black Ribbon."

Neal smiles. It's a tired smile, not as bright as his normal cheery grin. "Don't blame me for that. You did that all on your own."

"I was trying to help," Peter retorts sullenly. "I thought that priest was trying to kill you!"

"He was trying to kill me, Peter; that's the point."

Peter glances nervously over his shoulder, which has become a habit ever since black-ribbon-wearing individuals started jumping from alleys trying to decapitate him, then looks more closely at Neal. Up close, Neal looks terrible. The fine lines around his eyes have grown more noticeable, as they always do when he's not sleeping, and his eyes seem to have sunk deeper into his eye sockets, surrounded by shadows so dark they look like bruises.

"Nightmares?" Peter asks quietly.

Neal shrugs, an eloquent enough answer. Peter can relate -- he's had enough sleepless nights of his own, though talking it over with El often helps. And Peter swears he's slept more restfully since he acquired the goldfish now swimming in a little glass jar by the head of their bed, though El doesn't seem to believe him. She likes having it around, though. It's a cheerful little thing.

But he worries about Neal. Death might not be permanent here, but it's not the only kind of harm that can befall a person. He doesn't want to think about the time that he and El found Neal wandering in the Forgotten Quarter, wet and half-starved and so confused that he didn't even recognize them. They'd taken him home with them and cared for him in their cottage until he came out of it, but some of Peter's nightmares are about Neal's mindless laughter and the empty stare of his haunted eyes.

"I was actually wondering ..." Neal says casually, drawing Peter's attention back to him. Neal trails off, but he touches his coat pocket meaningfully.

"No," Peter says quickly. "I'm not giving you that kind of help anymore. That stuff's addictive, and you're taking too much of it as it is."

"I just need to sleep, Peter." Neal's voice isn't so much wheedling as tired, tired beyond endurance. "Just for one night."

And then another night, Peter thinks, glancing at the bulge in Neal's pocket where the laudanum bottle is snugly tucked away. And another ...

But the fact that Neal is willing to come to him means a lot. Neal doesn't like being out of control in a laudanum-induced stupor -- which makes sense, considering some of the places he's been staying lately (rooms above gambling dens, beachwrecked steamers and who knows what else). The first time he asked Peter to stay with him after he dosed himself, Peter hesitated to argue against it because the alternatives were so much worse; at least he knows that Neal isn't passed out in a honey-den somewhere. He's tried, since then, to talk Neal into healthier alternatives (jogging! a nice stroll in the park! goldfish!) but he can't deny that it makes Neal look a lot better afterwards -- more bright-eyed, more alert, more like the Neal Peter knows and less of the dead-eyed zombie he becomes when he's not sleeping.

Peter found a small bottle of laudanum in El's nightstand recently. He tries not to think about it; he tells himself that she has it just in case. But he also found himself staring at it for longer than he wants to admit, wondering if it really would help ...

"Never mind," Neal says quietly, looking away. He takes his hand off the pocket containing the laudanum, and then pastes a bright grin on his face. "Want to walk me over to the Singing Mandrake, get a drink?"

"Come on," Peter sighs, and he traps Neal's wrist with his hand. And Neal comes, as responsive as if he still wears the anklet.

Peter is braced for what he'll find at home -- El's friends include poets and prostitutes, revolutionaries and spies, any of whom might stop by for a cup of tea at any time. But the cottage is quiet except for an occasional sulky squeak from the rafters, and the happy splashing of the goldfish in its jar, upstairs.

"We could go back to my place," Neal says, a little awkward now that Peter's taken him up on his offer.

"Oh no. If you're going to do this, you're going to do it where I have a comfortable chair, the crossword from the Gazette, and my favorite tea mug." It's all but impossible to get a proper cup of coffee in this town, aside from Caligula's, which he's started avoiding on general principles because he can't walk in the door without wanting to arrest half the people in the place. At least down at the docks, the rough bars are supposed to be full of criminals. Peter likes it there, although it makes Neal tease him about getting back to his Viking roots. The undercurrents of veiled malice at Caligula's make him deeply uneasy.

Neal sighs and flops down on the chesterfield in front of the fireplace, while Peter stirs up the fire and puts a kettle on.

"You want something to eat?" Peter asks.

Neal shakes his head. "Not really hungry," he says, and now that he's lying down, the weariness in his voice is almost unbearable. "I just need some rest."

"So rest," Peter says, and goes about making a cup of tea strong enough to disguise the tea flavor, and possibly melt spoons.

He nurtures a small hope that Neal might forgo the laudanum, but when he glances over, an empty glass bottle is tipped over beside Neal's limp fingers. Peter sighs, and covers Neal with a blanket.

Then he goes upstairs to get the goldfish -- it can't hurt, right? -- and sets it on the table by Neal's head, before settling into his favorite chair with a cup of tea and the latest copy of the Unexpurgated Gazette. Which, he can't help but notice, contains a scathing and politely venomous editorial aimed at the Masters, with the byline E.B.

Every so often he glances over at Neal, who doesn't seem to have moved since sinking into a deep, oblivious sleep.

The fire crackles. The goldfish bubbles cheerfully in its jar.

Sometimes living down here isn't so bad.





This entry is also posted at http://sholio.dreamwidth.org/873177.html with comment count unavailable comments.
'm not entirely sure how much sense this will make if you haven't played the game.
It makes perfect sense as my favorite kind of friendshippy h/c! :) Seriously, I'm really fond of "nigtmares" and "watching over sleeping friend" tropes, and this story left me warm & fuzzy. Loved Neal trusting Peter to stay with him and Peter doing so, even he's not liking the idea.

He doesn't want to think about the time that he and El found Neal wandering in the Forgotten Quarter, wet and half-starved and so confused that he didn't even recognize them. They'd taken him home with them and cared for him in their cottage until he came out of it
Um, any chance to see this written, pretty please? :D

Edited at 2013-01-29 01:14 pm (UTC)
Yay, I'm glad you like it despite not being familiar with the crossover canon! <3 Their fondness for each other is still the same, after all, no matter their different circumstances.

Um, any chance to see this written, pretty please? :D

I may have had a few thoughts along those lines, I can't lie. :D
...I haven't read the fic yet as I am wrestling with signing up for Fallen London...I shouldn't, I don't need the time-sink! ...but it looks like fuuuun... >.>
It's really not that much of a time-sink (at least not as much as it could be) because you only get 10 actions at a time, and then you have to wait for them to refresh. It's designed to be played slowly over months or years. On the other hand, I keep having to block my own access to it because I keep compulsively checking to see if my actions have refreshed yet, so, uh, there is that too. ^^;;

But it is ridiculously fun! I'm not usually much for playing video games, but this one really sucked me in. It has a really wonderful, dark-clever sense of humor.
I caved and signed up! (the sign-up choice of lady/gentleman/I BID YOU GOOD DAY, SIR! convinced me XD)
...now I just have to figure out what I'm actually *doing* ^^; It's quite different from any game I know...(also I haven't been able to figure it out, to make friends/contacts/folks to do social friend-invite thinglets, do you need a facebook/twitter, or can you just connect with people in-game, e.g. can I contact you...?)
ANOTHER ONE FALLS! ... ahem. ^^;

I'm a terrible person to ask about that, because I don't usually do any of the social stuff. The only person I've ever added as a friend is frith_in_thorns, and only because we started chatting about the game and she decided to friend *me*! Here is my profile. (I'm playing under my real name, because I signed up on a lark without the slightest clue that I'd still be playing the game years later!) If you tell me your username, I'll see if I can figure out how to friend you!
This is me...though I have no idea how to add you as a friend; when I tried to enter your username in to 'Friends' it gave me a "user cannot be found" error! No matter, though, got a lot of other stuff to play with now ^_^
Aha, I found the place to send a friend request (well, "invite to your clique" is apparently the term they use), but it says we have to be friends on Facebook or Twitter for it to work. Foo.

Like you said, though, you have LOTS to explore! And I've gotten by just fine in the game without doing any of the social stuff at all.
Ahh - well, if ever I am looking for more to do I'll link up my never-used Facebook...!
I am not familiar with this game but Like you said it is Peter and Neal & H/C. I love seeing how their friendship works whereever they end up. : )
I'm glad you enjoyed it, despite not knowing the crossover canon! :) Hee, yeah, it doesn't matter where they are; they're still them.
Awwwww, I really really adore this fic, I'm so glad you posted it. Goldfish! Laudanum! El writing scathing editorials about the Masters!

Also, you did such a better job than me of explaining beforehand what's actually happening in these stories XD
Peter's goldfish was your idea in the first place, I think! And it is AWESOME. ♥ ♥ ♥

I think you gave a good explanation! Mine is just ... really long. XD
Ooooooh, this is lovely! The atmosphere of this 'verse is delightfully fun and creepy (this game is seriously tempting ... *g*) and Neal and Peter are both totally in character and adorable. :)
Thank you so much! ♥ It is a fun game. But it doesn't have Neal and Peter (et al) in it. *g* And everything is better with Team White Collar!
This is *gorgeous* - Peter taking care of Neal in the best possible way, and trying to do the best he can in such frakked-up circumstances. Oh Peter, oh Neal. *melts* So sweet and heartbreaking at once!

Edited at 2013-02-03 01:45 am (UTC)
Thank you! <3 <3 <3 I am such a sucker for fluff with them. (Er, for certain values of "fluff", in this case.)
I have no clue of the game but I love the ficlets you and frith are writing. ♥

I love Peter watching out for Neal!

Thank you!
*grins* Thank you! They are adorably themselves, no matter the circumstances.