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13 February 2013 @ 11:41 pm
[fic: white collar] The Taste of Lacre (Fallen London 'verse)  
Title: The Taste of Lacre
Characters/Pairing: Neal, Peter, El, June; Gen
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 1000
Warnings: None
Notes: sholio wrote a lovely, lovely story set when the Neath-snow (the lacre) was falling. Then I wrote this in response. The lacre is linked to all the pieces of lore I find most fascinating, and which are the most eerily creepy.

Summary: Don't breathe the lacre in for too long.


Neal digs down with the spade, and heaves away another load of not-quite-snow. His muscles are burning by now, and he's for a while been regretting offering to clear the path to June's handsome townhouse. But having made that promise he can't very well renege on it, especially as June is currently out visiting with the Duchess and her cats. He doesn't want her to come home to find he's abandoned a job halfway through.

Still, the morning of shovelling the Neath-snow is taking its toll. And around June's house the lacre lies especially thick, pressing at her walls and nestling up against the threshold. He hasn't seen this much anywhere else in London. And the lacre is pure; just the kind that several factions are most interested in acquiring.

When he pauses to catch his breath, leaning on the spade handle, he catches a glimpse of the Bifurcated Owl peering out of one of June's windows and gives it a cheery wave. It doesn't look impressed, but then it rarely is unless you've brought it a tasty handful of really good secrets. It loves Mozzie, who spoils it appallingly.

He's thinking of secrets as he turns back to the work. The lacre falls in patterns which are almost sigils if you squint, blurred just beyond recognition.

His eyes are beginning to tear up now, the cold filming them with water as it steals his breath again, and he slows. Stealing… The lacre is mesmerising, and he can't look away.

He falls slowly. Until he hits the path he doesn't even realise how the strength's been sapped from him, so gradually he didn't notice. But it doesn't seem to matter much, as the patterns formed by the not-snow stir at his breath. The symbols shift as he blinks; supple as wax, drifts of lacre rolling slowly like thunderclouds across the ground and piling softly against his body. The lacre remembers, if he can only learn to read it. There is a storm and a word in its frozen core.

Lacre clings to his eyelashes, white as rime. Flakes of it spin in his bleary sight like frost-moths dancing to a candle flame.

Beneath the whisper of the wind, there are voices, faint and unimportant. "Neal?"

Ghostly hands touch him, tap his face. "Neal! Can you hear me?"

"Neal? Sweetie, please talk to us."

The words are barely in focus.

"We should get him inside, into the warmth."

"June, can you help me with him?"

Neal doesn't resist the hands which lift him from the lacre and carry him out of the world of white and grey and into dimness. He's hollow and keening inside, and can't think of moving.

"Is he conscious?" El's worried voice asks, as he's laid on something soft.

Peter leans into the slice of the room that Neal can see. "I don't know. Neal?"

"Here," June says. "Blankets."

Neal is limp and unresisting as June and Peter strip damp clothing off him and bundle him up in the blankets, lying him back down on the sofa with a cushion under his head. The visions in his mind are more real than what he sees through his eyes; swirling mists of white and grey, parting like veils to give brief and half-remembered glimpses of distant shores.

Without closing his eyes, he dreams. Massive stone things stirring far below them, deep in the dark. Bright mirrors growing from the ground like trees. A lingering light.

"What if he doesn't come out of it?" Peter asks, in a low voice.

"He will," June says. She strokes his hair gently. "You'll come back to us, won't you, Neal?"

"I should have stopped him from messing around with the lacre," Peter says. "I knew no good would come of it. I should have made him stop when I found he'd done our path."

"You're not responsible for what Neal decides to do," El says. El who looks North when the false-stars are alight and the thunder is growling far away.

Peter will not be comforted. "Heaven knows how much of that stuff he ended up breathing in. Have you heard what happened when someone fed some to an L.B.?"

The urchin-gangs have rhymes about the lacre. And the Masters, and the sigils, and about what crawls behind the glass.

"Neal?" Peter says, his voice still low. A gentle hand tilts Neal's face towards him. Peter's care-burdened brown eyes are more full of worry than ever.

"We'll try this," June announces. Her steps are careful. She's carrying something.

"Are you sure?" El asks.

"Candles to light the way. You've all heard it."

Neal shivers. It runs all through him, completely beyond his control.

The strike of a match and the brief stink of sulphur. The crackle as the wax on the wick catches.

Mourning candles burn bright and dark at once. Neal's eyes cannot see them but he is aware of each point of flame, and he shivers again. Here comes a candle to steal you from bed…

He shivers, and then he's suddenly wracked with shudders, Peter's hands clenching tight and fearful on his shoulders. "Neal! Look at me!"

"Peter," Neal chokes, and then his eyes finally close.

But June's stroking his hair, calling his name, and he manages to resist, forcing his eyes back open from the draggind dark and trying to sit up. He doesn't manage it, but he at least turns his head as the candles flicker, the flames shrinking into streams of pale smoke.

"Neal?" Peter says, again.

"I'm okay," Neal whispers. His words are like smoke themselves, and there's a dull hurt through his chest.

"You're not," El says. When he looks at her she has her lips pressed fiercely together, determinedly holding back tears. "What happened?"

"I saw things," Neal whispers to her. But the visions are already melting away, banished by candlelight and beating hearts. "Memories…"

Peter frowns, worriedly, and shakes his head. "If they came from the lacre, they're best forgotten."

But Neal looks to El, and to June, and recognises there the disagreement they won't voice. There are some things that will not let themselves be lost for long. He shivers again, and Peter rubs a warm hand comfortingly up and down his arm. Peter will keep all harm away, if he can.

If he can.


Posted at http://frith-in-thorns.dreamwidth.org/88767.html with comment count unavailable comments.
kanarek13kanarek13 on February 14th, 2013 12:04 am (UTC)
Ooooh, another real treat... I am so loving these \o/

Poor Neal, he always manages to get himself into trouble... but then again, Peter's always there to save him :D Heee...
Frith: Mechanisms - storybookfrith_in_thorns on February 14th, 2013 12:08 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D Yes, Neal has so many brand new ways of getting himself into trouble in the Neath, he is driving Peter quite to distraction XD I'm really glad you're enjoying reading these!
florastuart: June and Nealflorastuart on February 14th, 2013 12:15 am (UTC)
Eeeeeeeeeeeeee! Awwwww, this is haunting and sweet and adorable all at the same time. The imagery of the snow and the patterns and the candles is gorgeous and vivid, and the sense of danger is very real, and Peter and El and June all being there to pull him back. (And I love love love June stroking his hair. Awwwwwwwwwwww! ♥♥♥)

And I love the idea of the owl and Mozzie spoiling it with secrets! :D
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on February 14th, 2013 11:47 pm (UTC)
Mozzie is totally just hoarding secrets and honey and wine. He would love the Bifurcated Owl, which lives on secrets!

And thank you so much! I was really trying to go for the feel of the game in this one. I love these pieces of lore, and I think they're definitely the thing Neal would be fascinated by, to his detriment at times...
kriadydragon: Cheshire catkriadydragon on February 14th, 2013 12:37 am (UTC)
Oh, very nice. Loved the creepiness :D
Frithfrith_in_thorns on February 14th, 2013 11:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :)
Sholio: WhiteCollar-Neal hatsholio on February 14th, 2013 01:10 am (UTC)
Awww, Neal - so many brand-new ways to get in trouble! I just love how you've captured the whole creepy/weird/beautiful feel of the game here. Out of all the ficlets we've written, I think this is the one that feels most like Fallen London, in all its dark eldritch glory.
Frith: Fallen London - mushroom hatfrith_in_thorns on February 17th, 2013 07:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! ♥ I love the writing style of the game, particularly in storylines like the Dreams. And it's actually a style that I really love writing, although I don't do it often because it tends to happen at the expense of any sort of plot.

And yes, I think we haven't come close to exhausting all the new kinds of trouble Neal can find himself in in this 'verse :D
aqwt101aqwt101 on February 14th, 2013 04:40 am (UTC)
Eery and beautiful and sweet. Loved it!
Frith: White Collar - Neal - purple shirtfrith_in_thorns on February 17th, 2013 07:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
elrhiarhodanelrhiarhodan on February 14th, 2013 07:04 pm (UTC)
This makes my breath stop in my throat and my heart beat like a wild bird caged.

Just magnificent.
Frith: Mechanisms - storybookfrith_in_thorns on February 17th, 2013 07:18 pm (UTC)
Eee, thank you so much! ♥ ♥
saphirablue on February 17th, 2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, Neal!

I love this!

Thank you! :)
Frith: White Collar - Neal - hat bluefrith_in_thorns on February 17th, 2013 09:18 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! ♥
the girl's got moxietricksterquinn on December 17th, 2013 12:04 am (UTC)
Lovely reading this when I was only just shoveling my steps of lacre today. I am fascinated by what June and El are up to in this verse!