WhiteCollar-Elizabeth smiling

White Collar/Fallen London AU ficlet

Masterpost of White Collar/Fallen London AU here at Frith-in-Thorns' LJ.

This one was actually written a little while back, but never posted. :D The usual explanatory stuff for non-players of the game: This story takes place on the same voyage as Fair Zailing and Your Overcoat Wishes You Ruin. If you have a ship, Mutton Island is one of the other places you can zail to. It is charming and friendly! How could this possibly end badly?

Title: A Procession to the Cliff-top
Word Count: 1500
Summary: How could such a lovely, bucolic island with such friendly inhabitants be dangerous?





"Have you seen Neal?" Elizabeth asked suddenly.

Peter's heart sank. Up until then, they'd been having a lovely vacation on peaceful, pastoral Mutton Island. He and Elizabeth had strolled on the hilltops, hand in hand, and had a nice plate of Rubbery Lumps at the Cock and Magpie. It was one of the few places he'd been in the Neath that was simply pleasant. The people were nice; the scenery was nice; the whole island was nice. Good food, good people, real trees ...

He might have known that things would go dreadfully sideways sooner or later, and that Neal would be involved.

"He might have gone back to the ship," Peter said, but he knew, with a sinking sensation in his chest, that it wasn't going to be that easy.

Neal wasn't on the ship. He wasn't at the Cock and Magpie, and the serving girl, who had been flirting with him, claimed she didn't remember him -- which instantly sent Peter's Constable instincts into overdrive.

He and El did a thorough search of the island: together, because Peter wasn't about to allow anyone to go off by themselves, especially his wife. Where people had been friendly before, now they were oddly evasive and kept finding business elsewhere. The children who had been playing around the village well when he and El were taking their walk had vanished. The ladies picnicking in the local ruins were nowhere to be seen.

"I don't like this," Peter said as night fell. A part of him wanted to tell El to go back to the ship, but his wife had proven time and again that she could handle herself in a dangerous situation. Besides, they had no idea what was happening; the ship itself might not be any safer than the island. "You said the last time you saw him, he was just exploring the island?"

"Yes. Like us."

Neal had been overjoyed to be away from the monotony of the Zee, though he'd quickly grown bored with the equal monotony of Mutton Island. Peter had kept a close watch on him for a while to make sure he wasn't going to try to liven up the experience by walking off with valuables from one of the huts, but at some point he'd stopped paying proper attention, and look how that turned out.

Darkness closed upon them, and lights came up in the small, cozy houses. As the breeze off the ocean ruffled his hair, Peter looked down at the village with a twinge of wistfulness. It would have been so nice to spend a night here, on a real bed with El, not a swaying hammock on the ship ...

"Hon!" El whispered, tense and excited, as she clutched his arm. "Look!"

A procession was wending its way up a narrow path from the village. At this distance, Peter could see little except the bobbing, feathered headdress of the group's leader, and the firefly glimmer of the lamps carried by several members of the party.

El squeezed his hand. The question did not need to be asked in words. Of course they were going to follow.

It was a tense and difficult business in the dark. The path up the cliffs was narrow and dangerous; it reminded Peter unpleasantly of the Flit-ways. El darted with mountain-goat swiftness, and he found himself picking his way behind her, coming within a hairsbreadth of disaster more than once. Alarmingly far below, waves crashed on the rocks.

But then he was straightening at the top of the cliffs, his shirt damp with sweat, trying not to puff too loudly. Ahead, the group had clustered in a circle. Their lamps gleamed through the dark. He and El crept closer.

"Tonight we are granted a boon," the feathered priest declared in a carrying whisper. "Tonight it will not be one of our own who goes to the darkness, who goes below, who goes North."

Oh dear, Peter thought, and he already knew what he'd see when Neal was dragged out into the circle of lamplight, mostly naked and bound hand and foot.

El's hand tightened on his own.

Damn it, damn it. He should have picked up every weapon on the ship when he first realized there was something wrong on this damned bucolic, innocent-seeming island. Why did he never learn that it was always the fresh-faced suspects who were responsible for the most heinous crimes?

"Honey --" El whispered.

"I know," Peter whispered back.

They were dragging Neal towards the edge, while he fought them as best he could, bucking his body against the hands gripping his ropes. Peter could see the bruises from here, and damn it, what had they done to him to keep him out of sight throughout the day, until they needed him now --?

It was this, at last, that got him moving, down the hill, with El at his heels: the knowledge that while he and El had been enjoying a pleasant Mutton Island holiday, Neal had been beaten and locked in a cellar.

Nearer, he could hear Neal saying, "-- all a mistake, really, can we talk about this?" in a voice that was rapidly climbing the scale of desperation.

Peter plowed into the nearest and largest of the cultists who was holding Neal's ropes, thinking even as he did so, We should have brought the Tiger, should at least have brought a hunting rifle ...

He and the villager went down in a heap. Peter scrambled to his feet and drew his spiked rosary, the weapon he had taken to carrying with him everywhere. To his surprise, the villagers drew back from it, and several of them crossed themselves.

And then El was beside him, brandishing a ratwork derringer. The villagers backed off farther, the priest spitting whispered curses, while Peter slit Neal's bonds and helped him to his feet.

"Nothing like cutting it close," Neal murmured. He was shaking, stripped to his trousers with his bruised torso exposed to the night.

"Oh, shut up," Peter murmured, because he had a very strong suspicion that none of this would have happened if Neal hadn't been sneaking around parts of the island where he was not supposed to be. He shrugged out of his overcoat and wrapped it around Neal's shoulders as they backed away, El covering the villagers with a steady hand.

They were halfway down the cliff path before Neal said in an undertone, "I hate this island." His teeth had not quite stopped chattering, and Peter still had an arm around his shoulders, supporting him.

"I'm starting to hate it too," Peter murmured back.

"And I was so close to a breakthrough on Mrs. Plenty's past," El said wistfully.


***


The brisk (very brisk) walk back to the ship helped warm up Neal a bit and stop his shivering, though he was still rather subdued. Peter didn't have time to worry about it; he could see flickering lights from the village that looked suspiciously like torches, and anyplace this rural had to have lots of pitchforks. El went to stoke the boilers, while Peter deposited Neal on a coil of rope, still wrapped in the overcoat. "You - sit. Stay."

They cast off just as the mob reached the quay. Once they were steaming merrily out to Zee, Elizabeth took a lantern over to Neal and crouched down, peeling away the overcoat. "I'm fine," Neal said, although his teeth were chattering again.

"I'll take him below, if you'll man -- er, woman the wheel," Peter said.

As she passed him, El murmured, "Be nice."

"What? I'm always nice."

Her lips quirked.

As he manhandled Neal to his feet, Peter said, "I'm a fundamentally nice person."

"Well, you did rescue me from being sacrificed by cultists," Neal pointed out as Peter guided him down the ladder to the ship's hold. His arm was draped over Peter's neck, and his hand, resting against Peter's collarbone, was ice-cold. "I'm sorry I ruined your vacation," he added, his head drooping onto Peter's shoulder.

As much as Peter knew that this sort of thing was at least a little bit calculated, he'd never been able to stay mad at a repentant Neal. "Anyplace that throws tourists off cliffs is not someplace I want to spend my money," he said. No matter how delicious their Rubbery Lumps were.

El had thoughtfully put a kettle on their little brazier while she was below to fire up the steam engines, so there was hot water for tea. Neal didn't normally take sugar, but Peter decided this situation called for it, and shoved a well-sweetened cup into Neal's cold hands. He wrapped Neal in blankets after checking for anything worse than bruises. Neal didn't seem to be hurt badly, although some of the bruises were suspiciously boot-shaped. Peter wished he'd had a chance to hit more of the cultists during their escape.

"So what were you doing, anyway?" he asked as he prepared a cup of his own.

"Oh, you know," Neal said lightly. He blew on his cup of tea. "Just looking around."

"Uh-huh."

"Anyplace that pleasant has to have a dark, seamy underbelly, Peter."

Peter decided not to argue that sometimes nice places were just nice, considering that this one had categorically proved him wrong. Instead, he said, "So you had to find it?"

"I was hoping there'd be a cache of pirate glim or something."

Of course he was.

"Well," Peter said, "I hope this taught you a lesson about snooping around strange islands."

Neal nodded vigorously, and just as Peter was starting to hope that it might actually be true, Neal said, "Yeah. Definitely don't get caught."




This entry is also posted at http://sholio.dreamwidth.org/887237.html with comment count unavailable comments.
Oh dear, Peter thought, and he already knew what he'd see when Neal was dragged out into the circle of lamplight

Ahahaha, I love this fic so much! I love Peter's absolute exasperation that of course Neal would manage to find the trouble and get thoroughly mixed up in it, and El being all competent and prepared, with the ratwork rifle, and Neal piling on a little with the repententness at the end. And more of Peter's exasperation, hee!

And you also gave us shocky!Neal here, which I love excessively, and Peter looking after him. I just want to hug them all. (I wish this a lot when reading your fics! ♥)
Thank you! ♥ ♥ ♥ This AU is so much fun. :D

(I am currently exploring Flute Street, btw. This was totally worth paying for!)
Ooh, that's great! I love "classic" adventure , the kind with ships and quests and islands, and I love that this universe provides settings for adventures that are virtually impossible in canon!

And shocky!Neal and Peter manhandling him = so much love ♥

And I loved the ending:) Of course being almost thrown off the cliff won't stop Neal from getting into trouble again:D
Thank you so much! ♥ I enjoy canon a lot, but I agree with you, I love quests and pirates and wild hijinks in exotic lands, and it's fun to put them in a setting where they can run around having life-and-death fantasy adventures. :D
Neal nodded vigorously, and just as Peter was starting to hope that it might actually be true, Neal said, "Yeah. Definitely don't get caught."

LOL!!! :D :D :D Poor Peter! :D

Loved Neal in shock, and competent El!