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08 January 2013 @ 11:57 pm
[fic: white collar/fallen london] A Boat Trip  
This is the first of my [community profile] fandom_stocking fics to be posted to my journal. It's also possibly the strangest. sholio and I had a very long and exclamation-mark filled discussion recently about how the characters from White Collar would get on in Fallen London, which is a web game which is beautiful and dark and hilarious and all kinds of wonderful (The game description is in italics below the header). Then I wrote this for her. More ficlets in this 'verse will almost certainly follow.

Title: A Boat Trip
Characters: Peter, Neal, the Boatman, El
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 1550
Warnings: Character death as game mechanic. Entirely non-permanent.
Notes: Hopefully this will make some sort of sense without playing the game! For this segment, what you need to know: You have a Wounds quality. When your Wounds are high enough you die, and are sent to the river where you have to stay until you've reduced your Wounds enough to come back to life again. In Fallen London it is all but impossible to die permanently, and all the inhabitants know it.

Summary: Peter is temporarily dead. Neal thinks he should have some company.

- - -

Three decades ago, London was stolen by bats. Dragged deep into the earth by the Echo Bazaar. The sun is gone. All we have is the gas-light of Mr Fires.
But Londoners can get used to anything. And it's quiet down here with the devils and the darkness and the mushroom wine. Peaceful.
So welcome. Delicious Friend.


The boat is slowly passing a dark beach, drifting its way down the silent river. The water and the roof are black as vake-wings, and the banks are swathed in dark fog.

It's cold, and quiet, and surprisingly peaceful.

Peter is very tired. For now he is content to sit back in his seat, waiting for something to happen. The dark continent fails to draw him, and he thinks idly of London, knowing he can do nothing to force his return. A scoundrel had been trying that earlier, pilfering breaths from fellow passengers. Peter had, after a brief scuffle, ended up tossing the fellow overboard.

Even in Death, one encounters criminals.

He has barely finished that thought when a voice calls cheerfully, "Peter! Hi!"

Peter starts, and rubs his eyes, but it really is Neal making his way towards him, tipping his hat to the individual of mysterious and indeterminate gender who shuffles along the bench to make room. "What are you doing here?" Peter demands.

Neal grins at him. "Oh, you know. Just one of those unfortunate accidents. Focus on the fact that at least you get to have my company now."

"I can't believe you died!" Peter says, horrified.

"You were here first. No one likes a hypocrite."

Peter sighs resignedly, recognising the futility of continuing this line of argument. "How's El?"

"El's fine. She sends her love, and hopes you'll be back soon."

Peter sighs again, more regretfully this time. "That's in the hands of the Boatman." He gestures towards the shrouded figure crouched over the rudder.

Neal stares at Peter. "Don't tell me you were planning to just sit here until you were allowed to return to life."

"Well, yes," Peter says. "That is how it's supposed to work. Bodies need time to heal."

Neal tosses that away with an airy wave of his hand. "Oh, supposed to. Come on."

He tugs Peter's sleeve until Peter reluctantly gets up and follows him to the stern, joining the Boatman on his steering platform. Black water slides astern with barely a ripple, the wake fading back almost instantly into the current. "I've come for a game," Neal announces.

The Boatman looks up with a skeletal creak. "Oh, it's you again," he says.

Peter looks very hard at Neal, who is equally studiously avoiding his eyes. He can't have died that often, surely?

"I know you love our matches," Neal says to the Boatman, with relentless enthusiasm. "How about dice today?"

"Oh, very well," the Boatman grumbles, and brings out from some pocket an ancient set of bone dice. They rattle and growl like thunder as he shakes them in his hand. "Is your friend joining us?"

"Nope," Neal says, very quickly, before Peter has time to so much as open his mouth. He leans forward conspiratorially. "He aligns with the Constables, you know."

"Oh dear," the Boatman says, his teeth clattering as he shakes his head woefully at Peter. "You have my very deepest sympathies."

"Er," Peter says, uncertainly, "Thank you?" Although he suspects the sentiment had been less than complimentary.

The Boatman nods gravely at him nonetheless, and then he and Neal play.

It takes some time for Peter to realise what's going on. "You're cheating!" he whispers, appalled, as the jerking of the rudder provides a momentary distraction.

Neal shrugs, and grins. "Of course I am. What were you expecting?"

"But you can't cheat… him!"

Neal rolls his eyes. "If it's impossible that means you've got nothing to worry about."

Peter doesn't have time to insist that Neal's logic doesn't follow at all before the Boatman returns and the game is rejoined. The dice crash and roll against the deck with a roar like mountains toppling. Peter can't bear to watch, knowing what the stakes are.

"A good game," the Boatman announces at last, and Peter finally dares to look up from the river's surface and back towards the two of them. The Boatman is collecting up his dice, a little disconsolately. "You are an entertaining opponent."

"I do try," Neal says, preening. "I imagine I'll be seeing you again soon for a rematch."

"Please don't," Peter implores.

Neal ignores him, and shakes the long, pale fingers of the Boatman's hand.

And just like that, they return to Life.

Peter sits up very slowly in the cottage parlour, his whole body hurting. He groans.

"Peter!" El exclaims. The disappointing marsh-wolf leaps up from the rug before the fire and puts its front paws on the sofa to lick Peter's face. El gently pushes it out of the way, beaming. "I'm so glad you're back!"

Peter hugs her. "I'm glad to be back, believe me." He gets slowly to his feet, painfully and unsteadily and with support from El, but delighting in the experience of being reunited with his body. His hand goes to the back of his head, finding the place that's sore but no longer broken. "Remind me not to do that again."

"I do tell you to be more careful out there," El says. Her tigress purrs in agreement. "You're as bad as Neal, really."

"Neal!" Peter exclaims. He turns hastily towards the door. "Hon, he was on the boat too. And I didn't ask him where his body is! He could be anywhere —"

"I'm sure he's fine," El says, reassuringly, which makes Peter narrow his eyes in sudden suspicion. There is no way El would be that cavalier about the possibility of Neal lying alone in an alley, or drowned off the docks, or…

"What do you know?" he demands.

"What do you mean?" she hedges.

Peter glances towards the stairs, and El's eyes widen slightly. That's enough confirmation for Peter, who takes them two at a time, despite the protests from his only-just-alive body. A couple of bats in the rafters squeak sulkily at the clatter.

"Neal!" he snarls, bursting into the guest room.

Neal is lying fully clothed on the bed, blinking blearily at the ceiling. He turns his head sluggishly at Peter's entry, and cracks a slightly guilty smile. "Peter. Fancy meeting you here."

"You — You —" Peter finds himself speechless. He turns to El instead. "You let him!"

"I was going to anyway," Neal says. He pushes himself up, and instantly falls back down again. "Mozzie just shouted at me and then locked himself in his suite at the Royal Beth. Knew I wouldn't risk dying there."

"Mozzie was sensible," Peter says, grimly.

"I did try to talk him out of it," El says. "At least here I could make sure he was safe."

"He was dead!"

"So were you," Neal points out. This time he successfully manages to sit up. He makes a quick grab for the tiny glass bottle on the nightstand and tucks it into his pocket before Peter can get more than a glimpse of the label. One of F.F. Gebrandt's creations, of course.

"You are —" Peter splutters, unable to come up with something damning enough. "You can't do things like that!"

"But you didn't know how to get off the boat," Neal says. "I thought you might be lonely."

Peter drops his head into his hands as El puts her arms around him. "Neal," he says, his voice muffled by his fingers, "That was utterly reckless, and utterly stupid."

"It's not like dying is permanent. I don't see why you're so upset."

Peter drops his hands and stares at him. But no, Neal really doesn't get why he's so upset. "You died. You went and killed yourself."

"Well, yes," Neal says, like he's being perfectly reasonable. "To keep you company — I didn't want you to have to be in Death all by yourself. And I was there to help you get back quicker. London's better when you're around."

El kisses the back of his neck to show that she agrees with at least that part of the statement. Peter supposes he should be grateful Neal and Mozzie haven't finished teaching her their tricks, or there might have been an entire card party taking place on the river.

"I appreciate the sentiment," he says, gruffly. "But don't do it again. I mean it; don't."

Neal rubs his mouth and grimaces. "You know, Ms Gebrandt should really make poisons that taste more pleasant."

"…No, I think she really shouldn't," Peter says, taking less than a moment to consider.

Neal beams unrepentantly at him.

Peter groans. "I can't deal with this. I just can't."

"Dinner will take your mind off it," El says, brightly. "I got the three of us reservations at Dante's Grill."

He's lost this battle. Thoroughly lost. He sighs in fond exasperation as Neal gets to his feet, wavering for a second but then finding his balance. He can put this behind him. He can enjoy dining out with his friend and his wife…

"Wait," he says, sharply. "The last time we were at Dante's Grill you were observing someone for that Implacable Detective."

"Was I?" El asks, and blinks innocently. "I'm afraid I don't recall."

Smiling sweetly, she slips out of the room.


Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/84823.html with comment count unavailable comments.
kanarek13kanarek13 on January 9th, 2013 12:34 am (UTC)

Okay, I have never ever played the game but I love this fic \o/ Anything supernatural mixed with WC is a win for me. And there is just something so Neal about what he did for Peter, taking his own life to help Peter come back to life... I think this was the part that really did it for me \o/
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on January 9th, 2013 12:37 am (UTC)
Hee, thank you! :D Neal would be an absolute terror in this 'verse, because he's immortal and he knows it, so it doesn't matter what risks he takes! Peter, however, would not be quite so impressed :P

I'm really glad you liked this fic - it was incredibly fun to write.
(no subject) - kanarek13 on January 9th, 2013 12:42 am (UTC) (Expand)
dennih23: Set matt fixing tims tiedennih23 on January 9th, 2013 01:18 am (UTC)
:D – this is a great A/U – I can only imagine the kind of trouble Neal would get into, and it doesn’t surprise me that the Boatman knew Neal. I hope you continue the story.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on January 9th, 2013 08:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :D Oh, Neal would get into so much trouble. And I am most definitely writing more!
aqwt101aqwt101 on January 9th, 2013 05:32 am (UTC)
I don't know anything about this game, but omg, this is hilarious :D Neal dying to keep Peter company, and Elizabeth letting him, and Peter being all... Peter-y about it :D (And immortal Neal would give Peter lots of grey hair, I bet!)
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - boysfrith_in_thorns on January 9th, 2013 09:15 pm (UTC)
Yay, I'm so glad you enjoyed this even without knowing Fallen London! :D It was so much fun to write, I can't even tell you XD Thank you very much!
Laura: Neal approvescookielaura on January 9th, 2013 09:17 am (UTC)
Hee! This is awesome! So in character, they're all just adorable!

"I can't believe you died!" Peter says, horrified.
"You were here first. No one likes a hypocrite."

!!! BOYS! :D

And I love Neal's unrepentant beaming!

(also the game sounds quite cool and I may have to check it out!)
Frith: Zundry - squidflailfrith_in_thorns on January 9th, 2013 09:16 pm (UTC)
Yes yes play the game, you know you want to :D

And thank you! It was so much fun to write :)

ETA: Also this is my new favourite icon :D :D

Edited at 2013-01-09 09:17 pm (UTC)
Ellie Williams: Avatar Uncle Tea/Poison?mentalfirewall on January 9th, 2013 11:04 am (UTC)
Hee! oh that's fantastic. Although of course now they can never leave unless they find some Hisperian cider (can't spell... sorry). And what are the bets that Neal is mixed up with the Cheese-monger? A+++++, would read again!
Frith: Zundry - Failboatfrith_in_thorns on January 9th, 2013 09:19 pm (UTC)
Eeee! :D I'm so glad you liked it! And I am going to be writing this 'verse forever, I can tell you. (Taking requests for bits to cover, too :P)

Btw, I haven't decided yet how much Neal is mixed up with the Cheesemonger, but Diana certainly is :D
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Neal grinsholio on January 9th, 2013 05:52 pm (UTC)
I know that I've already flailed about this extensively elsewhere, but this is really too awesome for words, and I love it more every time I reread it. The best part, though?

More ficlets in this 'verse will almost certainly follow.


*smishes them*
Frith: Zundry - squidflailfrith_in_thorns on January 9th, 2013 09:20 pm (UTC)
Just try to stop me writing more, I'm already doing it XD

And I am still so so happy and gleeful that you like this so much!! ♥
helle_dhelle_d on January 9th, 2013 06:19 pm (UTC)
Wow. Peter just planning to sit there and being Quietly Alarmed by Neal's alternative strategy! And I laughed out loud at the exchange:
Neal rubs his mouth and grimaces. "You know, Ms Gebrandt should really make poisons that taste more pleasant."

"…No, I think she really shouldn't," Peter says, taking less than a moment to consider.

on top of the quiet giggling that the rest of it prompted.
Frith: Mechanisms - storybookfrith_in_thorns on January 9th, 2013 09:21 pm (UTC)
Peter has faith in How Things Should Be Done! You can't take that away from him! *gg* I am so glad to make you laugh with this. Because you will have to suffer me talking about this 'verse forever, mwahaha.

(Also Diana is a SPY and Mozzie talks to cats.)
saphirablue on January 13th, 2013 07:36 pm (UTC)
*___* I love this!

I have no clue about this game (and it sounds a bit crack-y to be honest - London stolen by bats? *scratches head* I'm sure it makes sense when you play the game but for me it sounds, well, crack-y. :)) but when I think of it as a total AU - WONDERFUL!

I want to know more about the lioness of El and what she does for the Implacable Detective. I want to know what Neal does in this world and what's up with all the other of the WC universe.

The Boatman looks up with a skeletal creak. "Oh, it's you again," he says.

I don't know if I should laugh or cry at the fact that Neal died so often that Death knows him.

But, it's so Neal to kill himself to make sure that Peter isn't alone on the boat and cheat Death so that Peter can be back way earlier than on his own. Also, I love the fact that El helped a bit. :)

Thank you very much for this! :)
Frith: Fallen London - mushroom hatfrith_in_thorns on January 16th, 2013 11:25 pm (UTC)
The game is some of the finest pitch-black humour ever. It is wonderful and manages to be simultaneously hilarious and really really creepy in a way I adore :)

And thank you so much! Especially for reading when you don't know Fallen London :) Neal and Peter especially are SO MUCH FUN to put into this 'verse. And El! She does lots and lots of things, including running a small newspaper press and giving tutorials at the University. And Diana is a spy :D (As you can probably gather, there will be more of this :P)

Again, I'm really happy you enjoyed this!
(no subject) - saphirablue on January 20th, 2013 08:11 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Machiavellian Puppet Master: WC--My OT3 are goofytjs_whatnot on January 15th, 2013 01:56 am (UTC)

This was adorable and sweet and I loved it SO MUCH!

I only have a vague understanding of Echo Bazaar, but you did a good job of telling us what we needed to know, but also teasing us with bits that we don't... the Implacable Detectve, the Lioness that is El. ♥♥

Mostly I just want to smush Neal to me and pinch his cheeks. Of course he's going to go and keep Peter company and maybe see about bumping his name up the list. :))

Frith: White Collar - El+Neal+Peter - familyfrith_in_thorns on January 16th, 2013 11:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :D Neal was totally not going to be Peter-less for that amount of time. I am having so much fun writing the characters in this setting, so I'm really happy you enjoyed reading! ♥
hawk_soaringhawk_soaring on January 20th, 2013 11:15 pm (UTC)
Very wonderful -- even if I don't know the game.
Frith: White Collar - Neal+Peter - boysfrith_in_thorns on January 20th, 2013 11:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm really happy you enjoyed this anyway :)
daria234daria234 on January 21st, 2013 03:47 am (UTC)
This is great - so IC for all of them, and a fun AU setting even though I don't know the game :)
Frith: Fallen London - mushroom hatfrith_in_thorns on January 22nd, 2013 11:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :D This AU is just so much fun to write, seriously!
pipiljpipilj on January 21st, 2013 06:52 am (UTC)
This was cool
Frithfrith_in_thorns on January 22nd, 2013 11:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
hurinhousehurinhouse on January 21st, 2013 10:59 am (UTC)
i know nothing about this but enjoyed this immensely. of course neal would be an expert at cheating death. fantastic!
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on January 22nd, 2013 11:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! Yeah, Neal's never met a situation he didn't immediately try his utmost to exploit :D
love_82 on January 23rd, 2013 08:06 am (UTC)
"Well, yes," Neal says, like he's being perfectly reasonable. "To keep you company — I didn't want you to have to be in Death all by yourself. And I was there to help you get back quicker. London's better when you're around."

Awww. <3

I have never played this game but it does sound vaguely familiar. I think I heard of it before. But this was great and so them. Of course Neal would die to keep Peter company and cheat death to get Peter back sooner. I love that the Boatmen knew Neal. Neal would give Peter so many more headaches in a setting where he couldn't die. :)

I look forward to more.
Frithfrith_in_thorns on February 17th, 2013 09:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! Yeah, Neal is a terror for Peter in this setting ;D
The Gauche in the Machinechina_shop on April 11th, 2013 08:03 am (UTC)
Wheeeeeee! I don't know the game, but this is awesome and funny and far sweeter than its subject matter suggests it should be. Heh. I love Peter's being so appalled by Neal's shenanigans. \o/