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28 January 2013 @ 09:53 pm
[fic: white collar] A Game of Croquet (Fallen London 'verse)  
This is officially a 'verse now. sholio and I have written over 10k words of this between us so far. It's so much fun.

Title: A Game of Croquet
Characters/Pairing: Neal/The Affectionate Devil, Peter
Rating: PG-13 (There is flirting, but that's all.)
Word count: 1500
Warnings: I don't think so.
Notes: Neal is such a good fit for the "An Intimate of Devils" storyline.

Summary: Croquet is a genteel sport. Conversations, on the other hand, are fair game for cheating.

Photobucket

There is no sun, of course, but the gas-lamps glow cheerily above the green lawn. It's smooth moss instead of grass, with decorative fungal borders, but the croquet set was imported from the surface. From Versailles, apparently, where it was used in real daylight. The polished wood is warm in Neal's hand.

If it were down here, the sun would be more than matched by the luminous glow from the Affectionate Devil's eyes as he smiles at Neal. The select few men and women at the croquet party instinctively follow that smile like they're flowers, leaning towards it.

"Enjoying yourself, I hope?" the Devil asks. He offers a plate of fruit — real fruit, from the surface.

Neal waves them away. "Very much indeed."

The Devil's smile deepens, holding a hint of something else. "Good. I'm glad." He moves through a subtle quarter-turn, shielding the two of them from the other guests. It feels secretive; intimate in a way none of the others can hope to enjoy, no matter their society connections. Neal recognises the trick, of course, and feels a showman's admiration for the smoothness of its deployment. "I wanted to thank you for coming to my party, Neal." The Devil draws out the sound of his name, Neal, for a little longer than necessary, giving the air of savouring it in his mouth.

"I'm thrilled to have been extended an invitation," Neal says. Two can play at that game, and he leans closer with a subtle movement that's all but unnoticeable. "I see you're in great demand. You enjoy the company of us Londoners?"

They're saying all but nothing of note, really. Quite in contrast to the times they've been seated next to each other at table (a dinner at Benthic College last time; El had acquired an invitation for him), when they've talked art and politics long into the night. The discourse right now, this give-and-take, is not being played out with words. And it's fun.

The Devil smiles at him, the intensity of it dizzying. "I find you in particular most fascinating," he murmurs, his fingers drifting across Neal's wrist. Neal's pulse speeds up in response to the fever-warm touch; from the Devil's expression it seems he can tell. "I'm certain you have an exceptional soul. Quite brilliant."

"Is that what you see when you look at us?" Neal asks. He's captivated by the Devil's eyes, warm and unearthly as amber from the deeps. "Our souls?"

"Not the only thing I see, by any means." They are standing very close now. Neal has only dim thoughts of the game. He feels almost as if he's basking in the sun's glow. The Devil leans to whisper very quietly into Neal's ear. "And not the only thing I desire…"

Neal closes his eyes. He's dazzled; he can't seem to think straight.

"Think on it," the Devil murmurs. He keeps a hand on Neal's arm as he takes half a step back. "I do hope to have the pleasure of your company again. Alone, perhaps?"

Neal is still enough himself to flirtatiously say, "Perhaps. We'll have to see," and flash a smile he keeps as a tool, one that's mischievous and laden with the promise of more. It's all he can do not to immediately acquiesce to anything he's asked, with those golden eyes staring into him.

The eyes abruptly flick to the side, their spell fluttering like a candle-flame in a draught. "Is that your friend?" the Devil asks.

Neal looks round. There's Peter, standing at the edge of the croquet lawn, beckoning sharply and looking not at all happy. "Oh," he says, apologetically. "Yes, it is. I guess he needs me for something." He doesn't want to leave, but his brain is warning him to take this opening.

"I've heard a lot about him," the Devil muses. "Maybe I should invite him into the game. Against the rules at this stage, of course, but I can make an exception."

"I don't think he'd want to join in," Neal says, regretfully. "He doesn't really approve of devils, I'm afraid."

"Ah," the Devil says, nodding his head sagely. "I must see you again, though. Soon."

"You can count on it," Neal promises. Peter is visibly frowning now.

"Adieu, then," the Devil sighs. He presses Neal's hand to his lips, and then slips something into Neal's pocket. "And a token."

Neal inclines his head in a slight bow, and walks reluctantly across the carpet of moss.

Peter grabs his arm as soon as he steps off the lawn, all but pulling him along the path that leads through the high hedges towards the egress from Tyrant's Gardens. He doesn't say anything until they're well out of both sight and earshot, and then he bursts out with, "What are you doing?"

"I was having a lovely afternoon," Neal complains, trying to shrug out of Peter's grip, already regretting his swift exit from the party.

Peter doesn't let go. "Do you even realise how stupidly reckless you're being?"

"It's harmless flirting, Peter! Don't tell me you don't miss civilised company once in a while."

Peter huffs. "Oh, so Elizabeth and I aren't civilised?"

"That's not the point," Neal objects. They're heading back into London again, the gas-lamp glow reflecting from the damp cobbles. "Don't get upset."

"You'll be upset, when you lose your soul to the devils," Peter accuses darkly. Neal suddenly wishes he could see Peter's soul. Perhaps the devils can teach him how.

"You could have joined the party, you know," Neal says.

Peter shudders. "There are few things I like the sound of less."

Neal sighs. He would have liked Peter to be there, enjoying himself. It had been lovely. He's still buoyed up on the feeling of it, on the memory of those glowing eyes so hungrily focused on him. "Where are we going?" he asks, having belatedly realised that they're not actually heading towards either of their lodgings.

"Here," Peter says, and propels him through the varnished doorway into the low hum of noise that fills Caligula's Coffee House. The air is thick with secrets and insurrection.

"You hate this place," Neal says. Peter's fingers must already be itching to arrest everyone in sight.

"But they make good coffee," Peter counters, and secures one of the small circular tables for themselves, all but depositing Neal into a chair. "Don't move, okay? Stay there."

Neal rolls his eyes and laughs a little at Peter's redundant insistence, but, unusually, he feels no actual desire to disobey. A frost-moth drops onto the polished wood in front of him and he amuses himself by making it crawl across his fingers until Peter pushes a large cup in front of him and takes his own chair.

"I thought you wanted coffee," Neal says, gesturing at Peter's tea.

"No, I wanted you to have coffee," Peter says, a little sternly. "Drink it and sober up."

Neal huffs. "You showed up before we even opened the Morelways," he complains. "I'm perfectly sober."

"No, that's one thing you definitely aren't," Peter says. "Drink."

Neal rolls his eyes some more, but obediently takes a sip. It's proper darkdrop coffee — expensive — and he takes another mouthful. He certainly isn't going to admit to it, but he realises that he does indeed feel a little odd — sleepy and pliant, like he's been out in the sun too long.

Peter watches him carefully, with the same analytical gaze usually turned on exhibits at the Labyrinth.

"You're staring at me," Neal accuses.

"Sorry," Peter says, and attempts to stare less obviously. It doesn't work, and Neal glowers back. But he does keep on drinking his coffee.

He's halfway through the cup before he realises just how worried Peter's eyes on him are. He stops mid-sip. "Peter, what's the matter?"

Peter gives a noticeable start. "Neal?" he asks, like Neal hasn't been there all along. "How do you feel?"

"Fine," Neal says, slightly confused. He rubs his eyes and looks around, then back to Peter. "Are you alright? You keep giving me strange looks."

"You haven't really been yourself."

Frowning, Neal tries to recall. The last few hours are receding, dreamlike. He thinks of luminous golden eyes and a dazed, dizzy feeling washes over him for a moment. The cup in his hand clinks loudly against the saucer as the strength in his wrist briefly wavers.

This afternoon could have ended very, very badly, he thinks, abruptly shaken. He needs to take more precautions. "I'm okay," he says, to Peter's anxious expression. "Really."

"We're going to have a serious talk later," Peter promises.

Great. Neal knows he isn't going to be able to avoid this. Peter can be relentless, and Neal can only stick to public places for so long.

He casts around for a different conversational topic, and picks the first one that occurs to him. "Don't you hate this place?" he asks.

Peter blinks, and then his mouth twists into a lopsided smile, which Neal finds himself echoing. "Oh, it has its perks," Peter says, as Neal drains his cup.

Photobucket


Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/86692.html with comment count unavailable comments.
 
 
 
kanarek13kanarek13 on January 28th, 2013 10:42 pm (UTC)
Ooooh... Neal flirting with the Devil - I like this :D But Neal would be so lost without Peter :D

Still have no idea about the game but I really, really like this :D
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on January 28th, 2013 10:52 pm (UTC)
The Affectionate Devil is a very nice devil, really! Bad Things definitely don't happen if you flirt with him or the Quiet Deviless... >_>

And thank you very much! :D
kanarek13kanarek13 on January 28th, 2013 10:56 pm (UTC)
Makes me wanna play the game... I will probably cave sooner or later :D :D :D
helle_d: ellen fremedon on fandomhelle_d on January 28th, 2013 10:43 pm (UTC)

Neal and flirting! Neal! Flirting! I'm not sure _why_ I find Neal's interaction with the Affectionate Devil ridiculously lovely and sexy, but...
Neal, stop getting glamoured by charismatic devils. I am sure Peter would appreciate it. "You'll be upset, when you lose your soul to the devils." Yeah, Neal. Then you'll be sorry.

And Peter was SO GREAT - insisting on taking care of Neal, despite the fuss he puts up. Aww.


I really, really hope you and Sholio post LOTS MORE Fallen London pieces!


Edited at 2013-01-28 10:55 pm (UTC)
Frith: Mechanisms - storybookfrith_in_thorns on January 28th, 2013 11:09 pm (UTC)
I am replying to this quickly before you edit again :P
I was so very very unsure about how my attempt at writing flirting turned out! So yay, I'm glad you liked that :) One of my first thoughts about this 'verse was that Neal would be flirting with the Affectionate Devil. Because he would.

Peter is very annoyed by Neal being so reckless, but he's still going to make sure he's okay :)

And yes, lots more! :D
helle_dhelle_d on January 28th, 2013 11:11 pm (UTC)
Re: I am replying to this quickly before you edit again :P
It was excellent flirting.
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Neal hand on Peter's shouldesholio on January 29th, 2013 06:41 am (UTC)
Oh wow, have we really written that much?! This AU is so much fun! ♥ ♥ ♥

I still love this story ... and I need to get some of mine posted! I would have already, except the Internet went away and left me.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on January 29th, 2013 06:22 pm (UTC)
We actually have written a lot XD

And thank you! Neal has many nefarious schemes, but not much self-preservation. And I don't think even he would be immune to Devil-glamour, at least not the first time it was fully turned on him...
aqwt101aqwt101 on January 29th, 2013 08:16 am (UTC)
Still have no idea about the game, but I love WC characters in this 'verse! And I can't get enough of Peter taking care of Neal:)
Frith: White Collar - Neal - writingfrith_in_thorns on January 29th, 2013 06:24 pm (UTC)
There was a point early in the planning where I said that I was having to resist very hard not to just be writing a series of fics in which Things In Fallen London Hurt Neal. And sholio's reaction was, "Why are you resisting? Stop resisting!" *gg*

That is to say, there is a lot of h/c to come in this 'verse ;D I'm glad you've been enjoying reading, thank you very much!
Vanae: WC/Giddy Neal - Peter not so muchvanae on January 31st, 2013 02:50 pm (UTC)
I'm rather smitten with this verse. I'm now also finding myself way too invested in this random game that I didn't even know about until a few days ago, constantly refreshing the page in the hope of more actions. I so do not need this in my life *sigh*. Really did enjoy this (and the other one). Loved the flirting and Neal's ever lackinng sense of self-preservation. Also, Peter.
Frith: Fallen London - mushroom hatfrith_in_thorns on January 31st, 2013 08:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! And I'm so glad you're enjoying the game, too -- it's fantastic. So funny and creepy! And it really is so, so much fun to put the White Collar characters into. You just know Neal has all the terrible ideas, like flirting with devils *gg*
Vanae: WC/Neal - Christmas lights smilevanae on January 31st, 2013 09:43 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure that I have no idea what I'm doing over there, but I'm definitely having fun. There's a bit of an H.P. Lovecraft feel to it. I'm so digging the world-building, atmosphere and characters. It all makes me want to read the non-existing books or graphic novels and push for a TV and/or movie adaption.

Neal in Fallen London? Just... poor Peter.
hurinhousehurinhouse on January 31st, 2013 11:53 pm (UTC)
absolutley splendid atmosphere; i could just drink it, it's so rich. neal flirting with the devil has got to be the most delicious notion in all of wc fanfic. i love the lazy drunk feeling neal had no idea he was having, and peter's protectiveness, as always. your devil is delightful.

looking forward to more.
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on February 6th, 2013 12:19 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I definitely had fun writing Neal flirting with the Affectionate Devil, they're great to play off each other! :)
saphirablue on February 4th, 2013 05:58 pm (UTC)
Okay, I'm confused about the Devil but I love Peter being protective about Neal and getting him out of a potential bad situation. :)

Thank you!

Edited at 2013-02-04 05:58 pm (UTC)
lemon_tree_7lemon_tree_7 on August 28th, 2013 07:36 pm (UTC)
I can so see Neal flirting with the Affectionate Devil. And then Neal suddenly wishes he could see Peter's soul. Perhaps the devils can teach him how. - I can see that too, as part of the motivation.
the girl's got moxietricksterquinn on December 17th, 2013 12:00 am (UTC)
Neal! Oh, man. Peter, you are such a good keeper. I'm sure if Neal gave up his soul you would be sure to help him get one back. *pats reassuringly*