Perpetrator's Note: Updated at long, LONG last. Poor Susan. I'm so mean to her it isn't even funny. (Well, okay, it is, but she certainly doesn't think so.) Though to be fair, Teatime's existence isn't half so carefree as he'd like it, either. Add in Death and Albert's attempts at the Dating Game and you've got…problems (as do most of Susan's suitors, once Teatime finds out). XD Also, cookies to anyone who can spot the two Hot Fuzz references.
Four days passed uneventfully, which to Susan seemed a minor miracle. She was quite happy to let her strength come back at its own pace--at least it was coming back, making her feel more like her normal caustic self. Her sleep those nights was deep and untroubled, but it also felt…lacking, somehow, which made her absolutely furious. It wasn't much; in the rain-gauge of regret, it was little more than a light mist, but it was there, and she couldn't deny it any more than she could do away with it.
She couldn't deny it, but she could ignore it, at least while she was awake. She spent her days working with Granny--tending the goats and the near-dormant beehives, splitting wood and occasionally shoveling snow. Though she'd grown up the child of a duke, Susan enjoyed working with her hands, and it served to take her mind off things she'd just as soon not think about.
She'd been expecting Teatime to be the one who broke her idyll, but that didn't turn out to be the case. Instead, on the fifth day, Mrs. Ogg came to fetch her with the news that Death and Albert had come to see her, and had brought…company. More than that Nanny would not say, and both Susan and Granny followed back to Nanny's cottage with deep misgivings.
"Look at it this way," Granny said, reading Susan's expression rather more accurately than Susan would have liked, "it can't be any worse than your demon."
"You don't know Granddad," Susan said darkly. "Trust me, if anyone can come up with something worse than Teatime, it's him."
As it turned out, she was right. When Mrs. Ogg led her into the tidy, overstuffed parlor, Susan found not only her grandfather and Albert, but a small herd of bewildered and clearly uneasy young men.
She halted, realization hitting her like a boot to the head. "Oh,gods," she groaned, covering her face with her hand. "No," she said. "Just…no. Out, all of you, and Granddad, I would like aword with you."
Death tapped his fingers on his scythe, awkward. SUSAN, I'VE--
"I know what you've done, and I think I know why, and I WANT A BLOODY WORD WITH YOU."
The effect those words had on the gaggle of young men was electric--as one they flinched away, looking from Susan to Death and clearly calculating their chances should they decide to run for it.
Death got the hint, and followed Susan into the kitchen, leaving the young men to the mercies of Nanny and Granny. Susan rubbed her forehead.
"All right, I think I know what you're doing, and why, but for gods' sakes, that is not the answer." She gestured to the sitting-room, fluttering a hand in a gesture of helpless frustration. "If you want to help me, find…well, find a solution that will actually work." And one I wouldn't tear my hair out before taking.
IF YOU'LL JUST TALK TO THEM, Death said, sounding slightly desperate. THEY'RE ALL VERY NICE--ALBERT AND I CHOSE CAREFULLY.
Susan shut her eyes. "I did not just hear that," she groaned. "Granddad, in case you hadn't noticed, they're all terrified out of their wits, and I can't blame them! Besides, I don't want to get married. To anyone. And especially not to some poor sod who's too frightened to say no."
STILL--COULD IT HURT? JUST…TALK TO THEM. PLEASE?
Susan eyed him. Her grandfather was terrible at wheedling, but she often gave in out of sheer embarrassment on his behalf. With a sigh, she did so now. "All right," she snapped. "But you'd best take them all back where you found them when we're done." The last thing she needed was to have to baby-sit a load of petrified young nobles hundreds of miles from home.
Death's fixed grin seemed to widen in relief. GOOD. THEY HAVE ALL BEEN APPRISED OF YOUR SITUATION--YOU WILL NOT HAVE TO EXPLAIN.
"Thank gods for small favors," she muttered, heading back into the parlor. "All right, you lot, I'm sorry you got dragged out here, and I've made Granddad promise to take you all back where he found you when we're through."
The Death of Rats scurried up and handed her a stack of pasteboard cards. Susan took them, flipping them through with a sigh. "'What's your perfect Sunday'?" she asked, raising an eyebrow at the rat. It SQUEAK'd happily.
"Well, this is going to be a long day," she said, rubbing her temples. "All right, let's get this over with."
Grave-digging in the snow is even harder than it sounds. Ankh-Morpork's normally soupy soil had frozen into something rather harder than rock, and several hours with a pickaxe had only got him halfway down.
Teatime scowled. His range of weird quasi-demonic powers did not, apparently, include the ability to summon objects at will, and he'd been forced to go about this the old-fashioned way, which meant a lot of hacking with a pickaxe and much inventive grumbling. Most of the city's dead were eventually dug up again, and placed in the crypts, but his parents had been wealthy and thus had been able to afford to stay decently buried, unfortunately.
"She'd better like this," he muttered, hacking away. He still didn't quite grasp the whole 'happy' concept, but Nanny had been very firm on the jewelry bit, so he assumed it would all be alright. Presumably, all this stuff would keep Susan from going to her grandfather's, and thus keep her available to him, and that was all to the good. He was getting frustrated enough, spending so much time without her--once this week was up he was going to her, whether any of them wanted it or not.
The actual implications of this had not really hit Teatime yet. That she was addicted to him was a given; what he still hadn't fully fathomed was the fact that he was just as addicted toher. If he really did lose her he would be, to use the country phrase, shit out of luck. He had to trick her into wanting to stay--that was imperative, and he was willing to use any and all tricks available to do so. He wanted her back, wanted her with a truly disturbing intensity--if he got this done by evening he could see her again her this evening, and damn all those old biddies. The thought of Granny Weatherwax made him distinctly uneasy, but even that wasn't enough to actually stop him. He knew he couldn't sleep with her again just yet, but that didn't mean he couldn'tsee her.
At last, after another hour of digging, his pickaxe hit the lid of the coffin. He grinned, hacking now at the coffin itself--with any luck, he'd be able to be back in Lancre by dinnertime.
Susan had been right--it really had been a long day. She'd done her best not to be too unkind to all the young men, since it was hardly their fault they'd been abducted, but her temper was her temper, and eventually it gave out. The resultant shouting match with her grandfather, Albert, Nanny Ogg, and Mrs. Cake was enough to draw the attention of half the town, most of whom scattered when a wrathful Susan burst out the front door (having had to kick it open first) and tried to stalk back to Granny's.
She was intercepted by Granny herself. Alone of them all, Granny seemed to actually understand, at least a little, and so Susan allowed herself to be led back to Nanny's, fuming all the while.
A glass of scumble cooled her temper, or at least dulled it, and when it had done all it was going to do, she found herself sitting with her head in her hands.
"Your week's almost up," Granny said, not unkindly. "What will you do then?"
Susan shrugged. "I think I might go home for a while," she said. "Home to Sto Helit. I don't know if Teatime can find me if I'm not where he expects me to be, so it might be I can extend my reprieve." Death had collected him this time, and dragged him out to Lancre, so in theory at least he wouldn't be able to locate her right away. She hadn't set foot in the castle since her parents died, but she knew it and it knew her, and it might be that such knowledge could keep Teatime out even if he did find her.
As if her thoughts had summoned him like some kind of insane demon, Teatime chose that moment to stumble into the kitchen. He'd had to hop back into the land of the dead to get there so quickly, which had not been pleasant, and as a result he was one cranky Assassin. He'd got everything Nanny instructed, though, and he was damn well going to give all his presents.
"You were supposed to stay away for a week," Susan said, accusingly. "No cheating."
"I will go away, once I've done this," he said, beaming at her, all his annoyance abruptly forgotten. He was carrying several parcels and a bouquet of flowers, and Susan eyed them rather askance--she wasn't sure she wanted to know what on earth was in them. "I got you presents."
Granny raised an eyebrow, as did Albert, and even Nanny looked curious. She'd wondered how he'd fare in Ankh-Morpork, but the black box at least looked promising--she wouldn't have expected Teatime to have actual taste.
"How…nice," Susan said, keeping Granny's words in mind. Besides, part of her was rather morbidly curious as to just what kind of 'present' someone like Teatime might pick out. He put all his parcels on the table, watching expectantly as she opened the black box first.
To her surprise, it was nothing disgusting--it was, if she was any judge, an assortment of very, very expensive chocolate. How he had known to get her such a thing, she had no idea; she suspected Nanny and/or Mrs. Cake's involvement. Either way, he'd picked it out somewhat disturbingly well.
The second was a rather smaller box which, accuracy with chocolates not withstanding, she opened very, very carefully. It turned out to contain a ring, which would have been lovely if that had been all it contained. She stared, wishing she could register it with some kind of disbelief--unfortunately, she knew Teatime much too well to be surprised. It really was a beautiful ring--all flashing diamonds and glittering sapphires that somehow contrived to be the exact shade of her eyes. The effect was rather spoiled, however, by the dry, half-rotted mummy finger (literally, though Susan didn't yet know that) still stuck inside it.
"I couldn't get it out," Teatime explained, seeing her expression. "I was hoping you'd have a pair of pliers."
Susan's face was a picture, of the sort usually painted by Salvador Dali. "Um," she said, for once lost for any real reaction. Nobody else in the room seemed able to summon one, either, though Nanny rolled her eyes. Trust him to get it half right. "I realize I'm probably going to regret asking this, but where, precisely, did you get this ring?"
"It was my mother's," he said, still beaming. "And it was bloody hard to get, I might add. The ground's frozen solid."
They all stared at it in rather horrified fascination. "You went grave-robbing for me?" Susan asked, not quite registering her own words. "How…uh…sweet." The thought that anyone might find a ring with finger still attached sweet…well, it was a veryTeatime form of logic. She kept staring at it while Teatime disappeared, and reappeared a moment later with, naturally, a pair of pliers.
"Here, let me," he said, taking ring and finger back for a moment. After some tricky maneuvering, the finger came out with a rather disgustingly dry pop. "There, much better." He passed the ring back, and looked at the finger as though slightly unsure what to do with it, until he noticed Greebo and tossed it into the cat's bowl. As if that wasn't bad enough, Greebo quite happily ate it.
"Well, that was…disturbing," Susan said, breaking the rather frozen pause. "Um…yes. Well, uh, thank you?" What else could she say, really?
Teatime's manic grin widened. She'd liked it. The fact that the ring-and-finger combo had not been a winner was completely lost on him--the chocolates had been a success, at least, and she didn't need to know that he'd swiped the flowers off the grave next to his mother's. What was it you were supposed to say, when someone thanked you? Ah, yes. "You're welcome," he said, then, with a rather uncharacteristic wisdom, he left them all alone with Susan's new…presents.
Susan looked at the ring in her palm, and at Greebo, and at the rest of the assembly. The chocolates she'd happily eat (even if some small part of her couldn't help but wondering if he'd poisoned them), but she had no idea what to do with the ring. It was too pretty to throw out, but she didn't know just what shecould do with it. Hide it with all her mother's jewelry at home, perhaps.
"Well," Nanny said, "it's the thought that counts." Susan looked at her, eyebrows raised.
"Yes, and the fact that he thought to dig up his dead mother to steal her ring is a very special kind of thoughtful," she said, her voice dry as the Great Nef. "Every time I think this whole situation can't get any more bizarre, I wind up with something like a severed finger."
"Ah, romance," Nanny said. "Look on the bright side. At least he didn't bring the whole hand."
"Or the whole corpse," Mrs. Cake put in.
Susan digested this. "I need some air," she said, shaking her head.
It was snowing when she went outside, light flakes that were already obscuring the manicured lawn--how anything could be green in the winter, she didn't know. It must be some kind of witch thing. She stood under the eaves and watched it come swirling down, wondering for perhaps the millionth time just what she was going to do about this. Just at present, what she really, really wanted was more scumble.