A/N: Soooo... yes. It's been, what, three years since I updated this fic? I fully acknowledge that I am a bad person. I've actually had most of this chapter written for years now, but I convinced myself it was awful and couldn't bring myself to look at it. And then I went and reread it and realized, "Whoa! This actually is not that bad! Awesome!" So I've finally finished it, and polished it, and started on Chapter 3. I don't know why, but my Susan/Teatime obsession appears to be reemerging full force. I'm planning to work straight through this one as much as I can, but we'll see what happens. Thanks so much for your patience. Also: there's a Doctor Who reference in this chapter. I expect a number of you will catch it immediately. I hope you enjoy the new chapter!
Disclaimer: Discworld, Susan, and Teatime are not my creation; they belong to Sir Terry Pratchett, who is a flawless human being and a wonderful writer. I make no money from this story; I'm writing and posting only for fun.
Ibycus groaned, coughed, and rolled out of his bed, hitting the floor with a loud whump. And then he groaned again.
He felt as though he'd attempted to swallow a watermelon whole. And now that he'd accidentally rolled out of bed he was cold and bruised as well. The day had barely begun, and it was already bad.
He sat up and rubbed his head, wincing. He'd have to find some sort of potion or something to help his throat. He couldn't go through classes feeling like this. He wasn't sure how much time he had before he needed to go, but he'd never had trouble getting out of bed in a timely manner. Surely he could go to the library and find something before…
He rubbed his eyes and opened them, looking around in bewilderment. He wasn't in his room – in fact he wasn't entirely sure where he was. Even more concerning: it was nighttime, and not the morning as he'd thought.
Slowly he got to his feet, looking around the room with nervous eyes. Something was very wrong here. What had he been doing earlier that day? Surely he hadn't been drinking… no, he'd been studying. He was certain of that. But what had be been studying? He couldn't quite recall…
He turned and met the eye of the ghost he had summoned, and very suddenly remembered.
"Agh!" He gave a cry of horror and leaped back, pressing himself against the wall. "Who are you? Why did you bring me here? Please don't kill me! I don't want to die!"
The ghost smiled amiably. Well, amiably was perhaps not the correct adjective. The smile might have been amiable on anyone else, but on the ghost it was positively maniacal. "I didn't particularly want to die either," the ghost confided. "But Death had other ideas." He took a few small steps towards Ibycus, and Ibycus attempted, desperately, to sink into the wall. He failed.
"But… but… you tried to kill me!" His voice was accusatory.
The ghost blinked innocuously. "You startled me," he said, tone rebuking. "It isn't a good idea to startle me. I can be very… unpredictable."
Ibycus shivered. "I… well… sorry," he said, feeling very sorry indeed. "I didn't mean to disturb you, really. I'll just send you right back and –!"
In a flash the ghost was across the room, a hand pressed once again to Ibycus's throat. "I don't think so," the ghost told him, smiling widely. "I'm very glad you brought me back here. There were so very many things I had left to do. And now that you've summoned me, I think I'd like to finish them."
Ibycus avoided staring into the ghost's empty eye socket. "Oh… well… you see I think maybe this is all a very big misunderstanding… I…" He trailed off as the ghost smiled even wider. "I… suppose… I could… help…" he said finally, reluctantly. "But only a little. You see, I summoned you because –!"
"Shhhh," the ghost said, pressing a finger to his lips. "Never mind that. We're playing my game now… yes?"
Ibycus swallowed loudly. "Yes," he whispered.
The ghost giggled. "Good." He stepped away from Ibycus, and the wizard breathed a sigh of relief. "Now… what is your name, wizard?"
"Uh… Ibycus," Ibycus said, looking around for his hat. "Ibycus Shandry."
"Ibycus Shandry," the ghost repeated thoughtfully. "Very nice to meet you, sir. I am sure we'll be great friends."
"I certainly hope so," Ibycus said fervently. "And… uh… I didn't catch your name."
"Teh-ah-tim-eh," the ghost said. "Jonathan Teh-ah-tim-eh. I'm an assassin."
"Yes, I know," Ibycus said, glancing nervously over his shoulder. "That's why I called you, actually."
Teatime arched a brow. "Do you need someone… inhumed?" he inquired. "I'm very good at it. I inhume with great... elegance."
Ibycus forced himself not to think of all the painful ways in which the ghost might kill him. "Oh, well, it's really nothing like that – "
Teatime looked politely perplexed. "Why else would you summon an assassin?" he asked.
"Well… there were these men, you see," Ibycus began to explain. "And they were bad men, following me…"
"And you wanted someone to get them out of your way?" Teatime offered.
"Well… I wanted some protection, at least," Ibycus said. "A, uh, a sort of bodyguard, if you will."
There was deadly silence. Ibycus swallowed again. That could only be a bad sign. "It's just, see, I thought with an assassin on my side, that such men might, er, leave me be… when I go out…"
Teatime was staring at him. It wasn't precisely a glare, but it was a look cold enough to chill the marrow in Ibycus's bones. "A bodyguard," he repeated, with such disdain that Ibycus felt as though he were shrinking.
"Well… yes." He shrugged helplessly. "Perhaps it was a stupid idea…"
"It was," Teatime confirmed. "And so we won't pay it any mind. Leave the ideas to me, if you please."
"Y-yes sir," Ibycus muttered, staring at his feet.
Teatime smiled again. Ibycus couldn't decide which was worse – the smile or the frown. "Enough about your troubles," the ghost said brightly. "I, as you can see, am missing an eye, and we are going to get it back."
Ibycus looked perplexed. "Err… but… how?"
Teatime glanced askew at him. "Well, obviously, we retrieve it," he said irritably.
"Right, of course," Ibycus said. "But… it's just that… well… when one loses an eye, it… well, doesn't it… stay gone?"
Teatime didn't bother to look at him this time. He was studying some peculiar wizarding instrument set up on a table in the corner. "Not my eye," he said. "What's this?"
"It's… it's a… a wibbly-wobbly… timey-wimey device… er… thing. Goes ding… when there's stuff." Ibycus waved a hand. "But surely your eyeball's been gone ages. Hasn't it… well, hasn't it decomposed? Or been eaten?"
Teatime poked the device. It dinged. "Haha!" he giggled.
Ibycus shifted uncomfortably. "I might not do that, if I were you… it might blow…"
Teatime poked it again. It dinged once more. It was the same ding as before, and it showed no signs of exploding. Apparently disappointed, Teatime stepped away. "My eye is special," he revealed, grinning maniacally. "And Susan has it, so we must get it back."
"Well, unless you had a glass eye I can't see how – wait. Someone is keeping your eye?" Ibycus stared at him incredulously.
"Yes and no." Teatime bounced on the balls of his feet, not precisely eager, but stir-crazy, perhaps. There was too much energy in him, and he had things that needed doing. "It is in her house, and no doubt in her possession as we speak; but I think it's more that it's following her."
"Ah," Ibycus said faintly, and decided resolutely that he didn't want to ask.
"I tried to get it back while you were off in a swoon, but she got in the way," Teatime said. "But I know for certain she has it now, so retrieving it ought to be simple."
"No doubt," Ibycus said. He coughed. "Also, I don't swoon."
"No?" Teatime smiled broadly. "What was that then?"
"Errr... a brief... but very important nap!" said Ibycus desperately. "Yes. I like naps! Naps are good."
Teatime was no longer smiling. He turned away. "You'll have to help."
Ibycus blinked. "Er… what? With the eye? But… I…"
"Ibycus." Teatime turned to look at him, his boyish face earnest. Well, earnest for him. "Are we friends?"
"Well… we did only just meet," Ibycus pointed out.
"Because if we aren't friends," Teatime continued, "I'm afraid I'll have to kill you."
Ibycus stared. "You – oh, dear…"
"But if we are friends, you've no need to worry," Teatime promised. "So?"
"Oh, we're great friends," Ibycus hurriedly assured him. "Been bosom pals for ages."
"Bosom pals," Teatime repeated thoughtfully. "Hmm. I like that." He turned his one eye to stare keenly at Ibycus. "And since we're such great pals," he said, "You'll surely want to help me with this one little bitty thing… won't you?"
"I… well… I suppose," Ibycus said, giving up.
Teatime brightened. "Wonderful!" he exclaimed. "Then we'll start at once."
"But… but it's late," Ibycus protested. "What about sleep?"
Teatime arched a brow. "You will sleep… eventually," he promised. "First, you help me. Yes?"
Ibycus heaved a sigh. "Yes," he said.
Teatime turned away. "Good," he said. "That's what friends are for, you know."
The eye was trapped safely in Susan's pocket. It had been there all day, successfully making her both shrewish and paranoid. The children had gotten so tired of her that they'd gone off to their room to play rather than be around her, and she'd been left alone with the damn eye in her pocket, trying once again to read her book.
The count of how many times she'd read the first sentence now: one hundred fifteen.
Finally Susan gave up, snapping the book shut and tossing it onto her nightstand. There wasn't any point in attempting it while the eye was with her. It was far past time to get it – and hopefully its owner – out of her life forever.
She removed the eye from her pocket and set it on her pillow. "I'm watching you," she warned. She glared at it, but that seemed to have no effect. In fact, the eye didn't really seem, at the moment, to be much more than a glossy black marble.
It was a cheating marble, she reminded herself. She couldn't trust it.
She took a few steps backward, keeping her eyes firmly planted on the obsidian orb. Get your cloak, she told herself. Get your cloak as fast as you can, and get rid of that thing.
She observed, as she continued moving backwards, that for once the eye didn't feel like it was staring at her. It still seemed like a normal marble, which was very peculiar. She'd never once had the sense that the eye wasn't looking at her.
And then she realized, with a slow chill, that she didn't feel like the eye was looking at her because somebody else was.
She whirled around and found herself once again face to face with Jonathan Teatime.
"You!" she sputtered, pointing an accusatory finger at him.
"You!" he replied, doing the same. He dropped his finger and giggled. The sound grated on Susan's nerves.
"What are you doing here?" she spat. "Haven't gotten enough of the poker? I promise there's more where it came from."
"No doubt, though I can't see it doing much good," Teatime said. "I am, after all, dead."
"I'm sure I can find a way to kill you again," Susan growled. "There must be a way somewhere…"
"It would take you too long to find it," Teatime pointed out calmly. "And at any rate, I believe you have something that belongs to me."
"Oh, that's original," Susan sneered. "Trying that menacing/seductive tone. Who taught you to use that voice, anyway?"
"It's my own, thanks very much," Teatime said, sounding a bit put out. "And you do have something that belongs to me. I'd like it back."
"Why? Haven't got much use for it now, have you?" Susan snapped, taking a step back. "Go away."
"Don't you want someone to take it off your hands?" he asked. "Hasn't it been annoying you, Miss Susan, following you around like that?"
"Well, yes, but – wait. You have been telling it what to do from the afterlife, haven't you?" Susan accused.
He grinned. "Not directly. In my absence it did what it thought necessary."
Susan crossed her arms over her chest. "How is following me around necessary?"
"Someone needed to keep an eye on my murderer. Murderess, in this case." He bowed mockingly to her, with the appropriate flourish of the hand. The Assassins' Guild had taught him manners; he just chose to ignore them most of the time. "And may I applaud the originality with which you killed me, Miss Susan. It had a certain… elegance about it." He peeked up at her from his bow and grinned. "You'd make a wonderful assassin."
"I'm this close to assassinating you," Susan warned. "This close."
"Dead," Teatime reminded her cheerfully.
Susan clenched her teeth. "What are you going to use the eye for?" she asked.
"To see," Teatime said, pointing to his empty eye socket. "What else?"
"That," Susan said, pointing behind her, "Is no ordinary eye, and you know it. I'm not handing you potentially lethal magic to use against whomever you choose."
Teatime looked put out. "It won't harm anybody," he said. "It's not that talented."
"It must be able to do something extraordinary," Susan said stubbornly. "Otherwise you wouldn't want it so much."
He smiled at her, a wide smile that made her want to turn tail and run. "It's mine. I want it back."
Susan stared hard at him. "That simple?"
Susan frowned. "I still don't trust you."
"That's unfortunate," Teatime said. "I'd hoped we could be friends."
Susan stared a few seconds, then laughed. It was a half-hysterical laugh, but laughter nonetheless. "Friends?" she repeated. "You want to be friends with your murderess?" She cast him a disparaging look. "Do you really think that's a good idea, Teatime?" She deliberately mispronounced his name, and reveled in the way he glared. "Because I can assure you that if you stay in this house one second longer, I will take over my grandfather's duty for a few moments and send you back to the spiraling pit of hell in which you belong."
Teatime only smiled. "I wasn't in hell, Miss Susan," he said. "I was in a large white room all by myself with a lot of knives. Plenty of planning space. I made some elaborate plans for how to take revenge on you, for one."
Susan forced herself not to shudder. "I'm not afraid of you," she said disdainfully.
"And I'm not afraid of you," Teatime replied. "We make quite a pair."
"We are not a pair, Teatime!"
He smiled at the vehemence in her tone. "It's Teh-ah-tim-eh, if you please. Or Jonathan if you really please."
She flinched. "Jonathan is a bit too intimate for my tastes, thank you."
"You killed me. You're entitled to some intimacy."
She laughed bitterly. "Only you would think so," she said.
"Oh?" Teatime took a step towards her. "What's more intimate than witnessing the last moments of a person's life – twice? Don't they say you learn all you need to know about a person when you watch them die?"
"I don't know who 'they' are," Susan snapped, "But whatever I learned about you when I saw you die didn't give me any desire for a closer relationship with you."
"And yet." Here Teatime evaporated, then reappeared behind her, his eye now in his hand. Susan inhaled sharply. He turned to her, grinning madly, and waved the eye at her. Now, without question, she could feel both of them staring.
"And yet," Teatime repeated, "You kept this. Why?"
Susan swallowed. "It... the children wanted it."
Teatime tsked. "Bad governess," he said, "Letting the poor little kiddies play with something so dangerous. You can't have really thought that was a good idea, being such a good baby sitter – inner or otherwise."
Susan gritted her teeth. The comment reminded her, more than she cared to admit, that she and Teatime had a history, however brief – and he was surely not going to forget it. And neither would she – he would never let her. "It never showed signs of harming them," she said. "They're smart children. You don't understand children, or you'd never condescend to them like that. Give it back."
"Smart or not," Teatime said, bouncing the eye in the palm of his hand, "You'd never willingly put them in danger. You didn't keep it for them."
"I can't just take things away without explanation," Susan snapped. The eye bounced, and she twitched as she watched it, wanting more than anything to snatch it back.
"Sure you could," Teatime replied, grinning. "The kiddies would soon forget."
Susan swallowed again, loudly enough that Teatime smirked upon hearing it. Susan ground her teeth harder. "It would have come back and followed me," she said.
"Perhaps." Teatime looked away from her, examining the eye. In a flash, Susan leaped forward, hand outstretched to grab the eye. Instead, she slammed hard into the wall, Teatime gone and the eye out of her reach.
"Ah, ah, ah," Teatime said, shaking a finger. "Naughty Susan. You won't be getting it back now that you've lost it."
Susan straightened, brushing her skirt and lifting her chin. Dignity, she reminded herself. She needed dignity more than she needed anything in this moment. Well, dignity, and some kind of ghost-killing weapon. If only the poker would work a second time... "Then how will you watch me?" she asked, her tone mocking. "Isn't that what you want... or are you going to kill me now?"
"Kill you?" Teatime's eyes widened with boyish innocence. He pressed his free hand to his chest, a gesture of shock and wounded pride. "Susan! My murderous Susan... how could I kill you?" A smile crossed his face, huge and genuine and horrible. "I haven't yet had time to play with you."
Susan's hand began to grope for the poker, quite of its own accord, as the rest of her made some kind of attempt to shimmy through the wall and out onto the street – anywhere to get away from that awful smile. "I don't know what that means," Susan said, voice quivering, "But if you even try to 'play with me,' I'll hurt your immortal soul in ways you can't even begin to comprehend."
The grin did not falter. "Oh, Susan," Teatime said. "I look forward to it."
When Susan blinked, he disappeared. For a moment, she thought he would surely pop out of the wall right behind her, or play some other ghostly trick; but he was nowhere to be found, nor did she have the sense that anyone was watching her. The room, for the moment, felt completely deserted.
Susan's body attempted to sag in relief; but Susan's will would not let it. Adrenaline pumping wildly through her veins, she dove for the door and flung it open, hurtling down the hall at top speed. She needed a weapon. She needed a shield. She needed a new skin, one that maybe would stop crawling so much at the mere thought of Teatime.
She slowed her pace when she reached the bottom of the stairs, breathing heavily. Nothing, she reflected, had ever had this kind of effect on her – not monsters under the bed, not any of the creatures living in Ankh-Morpork, not patricians or thieves or even the Shades, and certainly not even Death himself. It was ridiculous that one assassin, one single, lowly assassin, could make her run like this simply by appearing.
"I killed you," she said aloud to the still air of the corridor. "I killed you twice. You can't hurt me."
Nodding, briefly and fiercely, she turned and flung open the door to the kitchen; then and promptly yelped and leaped back when the open door revealed Teatime, standing in the door and grinning.
"I forgot to say goodnight," he said. "That was very uncouth of me. My apologies. Also, I thought you might want this."
He flicked his wrist, and the poker sprang up from seemingly nowhere and sailed towards her. Susan barely caught it in time. As soon as it hit her palm, Susan lifted it high above her head, a snarl twisting her features. "I'm going to kill you," she said firmly. "Right now. For the third time. And you're going to stay dead."
"That's not very nice," Teatime said, eyes wide and wounded.
Susan thrust the poker at him.
Too late; he had disappeared and reappeared already, several feet out of her reach. "Goodnight!" he chirped, and disappeared again, this time, it seemed, for good.
Or at least until he decided to come back to play. Whatever that meant.