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Title: Bitter Gifts
Fandom: The Traitor Game
Characters/Pairings: Michael/Francis UST, OFC
Rating/Warnings: Foul language (when doesn't that warning apply to these two?), romance novel covers
Written For: [livejournal.com profile] hs_bingo, prompt "rivals." It's not explicitly spelled out at any point, but the idea of rivalry and competition did end up forming a running theme, so that's good.
Wordcount: 1000
A/N: The second of two fics written around midnight last night. I may catch up with this whole mess yet, if only I can get tonight's work done at a reasonable hour.

“How about there?” Michael asked, pointing towards a battered-looking store with a dimly-lit sign proclaiming it Harrington’s Secondhand Books and Stationary.

“All right, I suppose,” Francis said, eyeing it rather dubiously. It did look a bit grungy, but it also looked like it might have some relatively cheap books that might appeal to his mother and didn’t have humiliatingly half-dressed people on the cover, which was all Michael cared about at this point.

Pushing the door open revealed a scent of mustiness and a faint whiff of industrial cleaner that was eerily reminiscent of school, but at least they weren’t smacked in the face by tinny holiday music. This store’s sole concession to the season was the dimly twinkling strand of lights around the window, which were almost swallowed up by the cobwebs.

Michael tried to make a beeline for the bargain books but quickly got distracted by the fantasy novels, most of which oughtn’t to have made especially effective distractions. They were all cookie-cutter copies, like Evgard stories might be if they were told in dull ordinary language and without Francis’s gift for coloring in little details of the world. Michael shook himself out of their clutches and turned his attention back towards the realistic fiction and the romances, frowning.

A little poking revealed a still-glossy hardcover that talked about banal everyday life and the longing for a greater destiny, which sounded similar to the sort of books his mother left lying around the house and seemed nice enough to count as a good present, so he took it and worked his way between the stacks in search of the register.

He got embarrassingly turned around given that this was a fairly small shop, and eventually stumbled around a corner to discover not only his destination but also Francis, who was deep in conversation with the girl at the till. He was chuckling in that way he had, the one that made him look like he belonged on a slightly classier version of one of the novels Michael had discarded as too humiliating, and leaning on the counter in a way that pulled his crisp white shirt tight across his thin shoulder blades. Michael watched the girl giggle behind her hand, light flickering off her sparkling nail polish, watched her brace her elbows on the counter and lean in very close to Francis, toying with her scarf, and tightened his hand on his book.

He’s gay, you silly little tart, so leave him alone, he thought, and then wanted to smack himself. Where the hell did that one come from? It wasn’t as if Francis needed Michael to protect him from overzealous women, or some such thing, and she was only barely coming on to him. Possibly not at all; it might be that he was just imagining things. (Again. He dug a fingernail into his palm.)

“Oh, is that him?” he heard the flirty shop girl say, gesturing. Francis turned and smiled, not an embarrassing-cover smile but his typical friendly one.

“Michael, there you are! Find what you were looking for?”

“Yeah,” he said, surprised when it came out a croak. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Yeah, I think I’ve found something.” He hurried towards the counter and slid the book across the chipped and mottled surface.

“Oooh, Miller? That’s a good one. A present for someone? Girlfriend, sister?” the shopgirl asked. He could see her winding a strand of honey-blond hair around her finger at the edge of his field of vision.

“My mum,” he said, handing over the cash without looking up.

“Oh, nice. I bet she’ll love it. I’m Elaine, by the way,” she said, ringing up the sale.

“Thank you,” Michael mumbled, grabbing for the book.

“Er, you’re welcome. Happy holidays.”

“Yeah, merry Christmas.” He hurried out of the store with Francis tugging at his sleeve.

“Why didn’t you talk to her, Michael?” Francis hissed the instant they were out the door. “Didn’t you see she liked you?”

“Wait, what? It was you she was all over.”

“Seriously? No, she was asking me about you.”

“Really?”

“Yes. It was a bit comical, really. She called you the good-looking boy with the lovely eyes.”

“When did she even get a look at my eyes?”

“Beyond me.” Francis brushed at the snow settling in his hair; he was already a bit flushed from the cold, and his eyebrows were pinned down in a scowl that Michael presumed to be directed at the flakes on his nose. “Perhaps she just assumed you’d have nice eyes.”

“I s’pose it’s possible. She must have weird taste, though.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well.” Michael waved his mittened hands vaguely at the air, trying to communicate the obvious difference in quality between himself and Francis. “Looking at me with you right there, and all – I mean, it doesn’t make sense, particularly. That she would.”

“What on earth are you going on about, Thompson?”

“For God’s sake.” Michael was flushing now, hot and furious. Why did Francis have to be so dense all the time? “You’re better-looking than me, all right, Harris? Did you –” and he bit back the end of that sentence, the sharp-edged did you need to hear it or something? Francis wasn’t like that.

“I will never understand how your mind works,” Francis said, frowning at him. “Don’t take that the wrong way, I like how your mind works – ah, don’t take that one the wrong way, either. I just meant I don’t understand how you could possibly end up with that notion.”

“How couldn’t I?” And this was surely one of the odder conversations Michael had had in his life, and not the most comfortable either.

Francis coughed. “Well, anyway. Perhaps she could smell the gay on me, or something.” Michael guessed the noise that followed was meant to be a laugh and snorted obligingly.

“Don’t be a tosser, Harris,” he said. “Anyway, where else do we need to go?”

“I think I’m good, actually,” Francis said, glancing at the packages in his arms. “Off again home, in that case?”

“Sounds about right.” They headed for the train station, and Michael caught Francis smiling at him sideways through the snow, with little flakes sticking to his eyelashes and dampness gluing his hair to his forehead. Michael smiled back, suddenly and inexplicably warm in spite of the weather.

Date: 2011-01-05 09:36 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
That was absolutely brilliant- you got the characters, setting, and voice so perfect, at first I thought it must be an actual continuation of the book!!Are you planning to continue with this one?
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
Wow, thank you so much! I'm truly, deeply thrilled that you found enjoyed it so well. I love this book, and I'm so glad you found I did it justice.

This is actually the latest entry in an ongoing set of fics that are at least loosely connected; they're all on the tag for this. I'm also planning on a longer, unconnected fic for this fandom, but I don't know when I'll actually write that. I don't have as much time as I'd like.

If you don't mind, can I ask how you happened across this? I'm just curious, because I didn't think there were a lot of people looking for fic for this book; not many people seem to have read it.
From: (Anonymous)
I've been specifically searching for fics pertaining to The Traitor Game because I liked the book so much; yours are the only ones I've found so far.I really liked all of them, though this is still my favorite.
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
Ah, I see. I'm touched that you liked the others; thank you. And if you find anything else, would you be willing to let me know? I've never found any.
From: (Anonymous)
Sure,though the pickings seem to be pretty slim at present. I might also start writing my own fics for the book too... I've never written any fanfics, being more of short-story/novel person, but TTG could be a good place to start from given the quality of the original work.
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
I look forward to seeing anything you write. Do you have an account anywhere that I can track it?
From: (Anonymous)
I don't have an account as of yet, but will probably be setting up a LiveJournal account soon. I'm working on a pretty promising fic right now, involving such random thrown-ins as petty black mail, Shitely losing his mind, extreme intoxication, and a sickening amount of holiday cheer... I'm hoping it will better than it sounds.
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
That sounds remarkably light-hearted for this fandom. Is it an intentional crackfic, or does it just sound like that from the summary?
From: (Anonymous)
Just a bad summary, really. There's a lot more to it than that- I've only just started formulating.

Date: 2011-01-06 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
Ahh. I look forward to seeing it. Link me when you get an account, please?

Date: 2011-01-06 10:33 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Yes, I will do that.

Date: 2011-01-15 12:09 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I now have an account on LiveJournal and am working very hard on a pretty long, involved fic for The Traitor Game. Hopefully, it will be done soon so I can post it...

Date: 2011-01-15 12:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
Awesome! (Er, you are aware you aren't signed in to that account, right?)

Date: 2011-01-15 12:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boodandivory13.livejournal.com
Yes, sorry about that... There's nothing on my journal page as of yet, but, as I said, the story is coming along. Incidently, I was wondering: do you add to your fics after you've posted them,or are they mean't to be complete?

Date: 2011-01-15 01:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
That depends on two things. One, how long is it (in words), and two, are you dividing it into chapters?

Date: 2011-01-15 01:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boodandivory13.livejournal.com
No, I mean't your fics specifically- are they complete when you post, or are they ongoing?

Date: 2011-01-15 01:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
Personally speaking, I generally post one-shots. My Traitor Game fics are part of an interconnected universe, but they're meant to be understandable on their own, so I consider each a complete piece with a couple tie-ins. Each post stays the same, barring the odd minor edit to correct errors when I spot them six months down the line. That help?

Date: 2011-01-23 11:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boodandivory13.livejournal.com
I've finished my first fic for The Traitor Game, but am unsure of how to go about posting it... Will it work to post it as a regular journal entry?

Date: 2011-01-24 07:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
Oh yeah, definitely; that's what we all do. Just mind the HTML and it's customary to slap a header on it. You should crosspost to [livejournal.com profile] evgard, too; do you know how to join and post to communities?

Date: 2011-01-25 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boodandivory13.livejournal.com
My TTG fic is now up on my journal page. The formatting is slightly off, and I had to post it as a whole because my computer wouldn't let me cut it.

Date: 2011-01-31 10:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] boodandivory13.livejournal.com
It is quite a bit darker than I'd first intended... Also, I'm not posting on Evgard yet until I get the lj cut to work on my computer.

Date: 2011-05-01 03:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] silver-sandals.livejournal.com
I just read this book and was delighted to discover fic for it, and your stories are so good. I really wish I had something more coherent to say than that, but I don't.

Date: 2011-05-01 04:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
afskfjasf saying that much is wonderful, thank you so much; it means a lot to me. And I'm so glad that people are reading this book!

Date: 2011-05-17 05:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] coffe-please.livejournal.com
:D It's lovely to see Michael and Francis interact so lightheartedly! They're so adorable. And they're both so oblivious, Michael in particular, it's actually kind of funny. I loved this!

Date: 2011-05-17 08:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sour-idealist.livejournal.com
Thank you! There isn't really room in the book for scenes of them just being together, but I wish there could be. And yeah, this was pretty much IDIOTS IN LOVE, GO.

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