This was originally intended to be a part of Those Violent Boys, but it had too much potential to squish into (roughly) 100 words. Besides, it isn't really about Teatime, per se. I'm sure it could be stronger, but as is it's nicely dark, I think.


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. : Proudest Possession : .

.


This is how it started...


Gawain loved his Hogswatch marble-- how it whirled and zigzagged and evaded. It glinted mesmerizingly in the sun, despite the crack through the middle which made him love it even more. None of the boys at the park had a marble with a line through it, not even Peter, and Peter had just about every kind of marble there was.

Susan didn't like it. She got a funny look whenever she saw him playing with it.

He didn't care. Huh, who cared what old Susan thought (he thought, with a shiver of delicious rebellion)? He was too old for a governess anyway. He was a teenager already.

And he wouldn't give up his marble for anything, or anyone. It was magic, he was sure of it. Its clinking when it hit the other marbles sounded beautiful, like high-pitched laughter. It made a whispering noise when he rolled it in his palms. And if he put it under his pillow at night, he had the most wonderful dreams: strange, hallucinogenic things that were as disturbing as they were breathtaking (although at thirteen he probably wouldn't have put it in those exact terms in speech, because nobody his age talked like that).

Gawain had the dreams almost every night now.

But the most special thing, the thing that fascinated him the most, was how he could see things in it. When he held the marble up to his eye, the world was a new place. Sparks of light sprayed off windows, books, people; different colors, different shapes, different feels. The closer he held the marble, the more amazing and otherworldly his vision became. Objects warped, stretched or shrunk, made monstrous or ridiculous or paralyzingly beautiful. He felt he could see the bones of anything's soul through that marble-- if such a thing existed.

He could think better with the marble, too. Sharper. Faster. Clearer. It was as if it was a part of him, a part of him that somehow existed apart from him but that he wasn't complete without. The world was a hard, dull place without the view through the marble.

Gawain wished he could see through it always.


Susan caught him one day looking through the marble.

She went very pale, and very quiet. Gawain had learned to beware when she went like this, but these days it didn't scare him much. Nothing scared him much these days. He'd realized that it was silly to let yourself be scared when you didn't have to; the sights in the marble showed him how to look at things. It all depended on your perspective.

It was only Susan, anyway. She'd never hurt him.

Even if she did, it wouldn't stop him. Gawain knew that he was special now. He knew things that other people didn't.

He didn't go out to the park with Peter and the others much anymore, or Twyla; he liked to be by himself and think about things, now that he really could think. Sometimes he held little conversations with the marble-- himself, really. He liked to look at his reflection in its curves and marvel at how different he looked: his hair yellower and curlier, his body lither and taller. One eye was always in shadow; he supposed because that was the eye he used for the marble, and it could hardly be expected to reflect itself, could it?


Little by little, an idea formed.

It had to be planned very carefully. Gawain did his research thoroughly and made the preparations, though it wasn't easy under Susan's watchful eye. Timing was essential. Everyone absolutely had to be out of the house.

It took a while. But one day, everyone was. Even Susan.

Gawain waved them goodbye. Then he stopped and looked out the window for quite a while.

He wouldn't be seeing it again, after all. Not this way.


It seemed fitting that the weather should be gray, somehow. Gawain placed the cleaning equipment and himself before the fireplace, because that seemed right, too.

Then he took the poker into his hands and began patiently sterilizing the tip. In some strange, unnamable way, that seemed right, too.


It hurt. It hurt worse than anything had ever hurt him before. It hurt like a bitch, and it was a long time before he could do anything but try to control his breath and will movement back into his muscles, but at the end of what seemed like an eternity he managed to pull himself up and look in the mirror.

It wasn't pretty.

Gawain slipped in the marble, blinking away tears and blood and other things that, thanks to Tacticus, he could name and describe in clinical detail.

But now it was.

The beauty hit him like a fist below the jaw. Gawain didn't realize he was on his knees again for long, long moments.

What he saw: it was everything he thought he'd see and more, oh, so much more. Thoughts flowed unbidden through his head; memories that didn't belong to him, revelations. And around him the sitting room caught on glorious, godlike, crystal-clear fire.

He understood now. He remembered. And he understood everything.

The door creaked open.

The women had no time to take in the gory carpet, the handprints on the walls, the medicine chest scattered across the hearth. Gawain was there, quite suddenly in front of their noses. It would've been more dramatic to remain kneeling and slowly turn around, of course, but a gentleman always stood when a lady entered the room.

"Hi!" he said, suddenly feeling light as a feather. "Mother, Twyla. Susan. You all look so... different."


...and that is how it started again.