A/N: On the "Ask the Squishykins" tumblr, Twinings and I are currently offering ourselves up for two full weeks of filling fic prompts for our readers, varying in length from a hundred to a thousand-plus words. The project has been dubbed the Free For All Fic For All—or FFAFFA for short. This is one of those stories—and this is the boilerplate author's note you'll see on all of 'em. The current round of FFAFFA runs until July 15th, so if you want a custom fic written to any particular specifications, drop by and ask for it!
Prompt: Jonathan Crane's grandmother, Granny Keeny, not being horribly abusive
Warnings: This story contains graphic depictions of bullying and violence toward a minor. Please be advised.
He gasps for air.
"No, please not ag—glk!"
The water in the trough rushes up past his ears. Jonathan prays he can hold what little breath he has in his lungs—prays to hold it just long enough to last until Bill pulls his head out into the open air again.
Yanked from the water again, his lungs fill. He hyperventilates. One breath, two, then three, each more labored than the last. Intellectually, he knows that he should take a deep breath and prepare, but his terror overrides his senses. Thick and heavy, panic blankets him, frigid and tingling like a cold sweat. Fear like nothing he's ever known, at least, not since the last time.
"Had enough, Scarecrow?"
"Yes! Yes! I've had en—"
He opens his eyes underwater, a reflex when someone pounds on his back and forces the air out of his lungs in big fat bubbles. He thinks distantly, in his oxygen deprived brain, that if he squints, maybe he can see his glasses on the bottom of the trough. Probably twisted, if not in pieces.
The hand on the back of his neck pushes down harder, and his lungs burn. He can feel splinters lodging themselves under his nails as he claws at wood. Last time, when Bill finally got bored with this game, he lay in the dirt next to the trough, just breathing, dazedly counting the scratches he'd made on its surface.
When he comes up for air the next time, the fight has all gone out of him. Bill has him by the collar, and he flops like a ragdoll in the other boy's hands. His eyes roll in their sockets and he takes a shuddering breath. Rivulets of water trail down his cheeks, whether tears or from the trough is impossible to say.
With the last of his strength, he grabs Bill's wrists and begins to plead, "Please! Stop!"
"Say uncle." Bill's breath stinks of the rot of cavities. "Say it!"
Jonathan's hands drop, a trail of blood from his fingertips left behind on Bill's sleeves. He's crying now, there's no doubt about it, but he closes his eyes to try and hide it. "Un…uncle."
He doesn't have to see the cruel smile on Bill's face to know it's there. "Snivelin' wimp."
The hands on his collar let go and he falls back in the dirt, limp. He opens his eyes as widely as he dares and sees the pillar of black crepe that is his Granny, standing over Bill. He cowers at her feet, clutching his back of his skull.
Her cane's silver head shines in the afternoon sun, spattered with blood. Jonathan focuses on it. Feels a small, sadistic victory in it.
"Get off my property," she whispers.
"You crazy cun—"
The cane comes down again, splitting Bill's lip, leaving it a bloody mess.
"I'm within my rights," she says without passion in her voice, and even if she isn't no one here will argue with her. "Get off my property."
Bill scrambles up out of the dirt. Flashes Jonathan a threatening glare that says he'll pay for this later.
And then he's gone.
Granny makes no move toward Jonathan. Instead, she steps up to the trough. Slams her cane straight through the bottom.
The water spills all over the dirt, making muddy little puddles as it goes.
"Granny…" Jonathan sobs, forgetting himself. All at once, he's on her, hugging the stiff old woman around the middle.
She does not push him away. Not at first. She places a hand on his shoulder—the tenderest touch he's felt from her for as long as his memory stretches—and turns his face up to look at her.
Granny Keeny speaks, clear and strong, "We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces…"
She trails off. Remembers herself. Extracts herself from his grasp. "Go inside, boy. Wash up for dinner."
End Notes: The remainder of the scripture that Granny was reluctant to quote is "and character produces hope." Romans chapter 5, verse 3 and 4