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One Dangerous Game

This is the first chapter of another fanfiction I've written with lot's o' Teatime.  I'm obsessed.  So there.  Anyhow, please read and comment, because that would make me happy.  Thank you.

Title:  One Dangerous Game
Rating:   T (violence, romance, Teatime craziness... etc.)
Fandom:   Discworld/Hogfather
Category:   Romance/Drama/Suspense
Pairing:   Susan Sto-Helit/Jonathan Teatime
Summary:  Hogswatch wasn't the first time Susan met Teatime, even if she wanted it to be.  Through a series of rounds, they played one dangerous game before.
 
One Dangerous Game

ROUND ONE
(Teatime)
Learning the Rules
 
 
She hated masquerades. She hated them. She hated the banquets, the small talk, the pompous nobles she was supposed to make small talk with, and she hated – hated – the dancing. She hated it. So as Susan Sto-Helit sat there at the banquet table, making small talk with the nobles, preparing to dance, she was in a really, really, bad mood. But she was a duchess, and had to be there.

"...and see, dear," Lady Belladonna Barbaloena said in her swirling, extravagant voice, "that's why any respectable lady of nobility – regardless of their status – should find herself a husband. Just a charming fellow to come in and sweep you off your feet, take up your lands while you crochet – "

Susan smiled and nodded as pleasantly as she could, simultaneously nearly biting off her tongue.

Yes, I very much want to live my life knitting in rocking chairs, cooking dinners, and sighing dociley, she thought sarcastically. But the thought was in the back of her mind, even further away than the lady's voice. Susan was much more interested in the Black Blur.

Not that she would have paid any attention to Lady Belladonna Barbaloena anyway; no, she would have flat-out ignored her no matter what the circumstances. But the Black Blur was something that caught her eye, and probably would have distracted her even from a stimulating conversation. At the head of the table, behind the backs of the diners, a black and yellow streak sliding passed them all in the corner of her eye. She was hardly catching it, hardly even noticing it in her peripheral vision, but it was definitely there – whatever 'it' was.

There was again, a flicker in the corner of her eye, sliding by... by her host's meal. Looking back, that had always been where it was lingering. Shifting in the shadows in that one, far off end of the room. She could have sworn that she had seen something drip into the man's soup, but it had been so quick, so smooth.

"Excuse me, Madam," a soft voice chirped politely. Lady Belladonna Barbaloena gasped and glanced up behind her. Susan followed her gaze.

It was a very young man, and if he was yet twenty he couldn't have been three years passed it. He had perfect blond curls and an almost angelic face, boyishly handsome that reminded her of a cherub minus the chubbiness. He would have been quite handsome, if he didn't send chills down your spine by his mere posture, or those terrible black and white eyes that just screamed PSYCHOKILLER! in capital letters. But that was just silly; you really shouldn't judge someone by how they look.

Susan, however, was finding that very hard not to do under the present circumstances.

"Yes...?" Lady Belladonna squeaked.

"Are you truly Lady Barbaloena?" he asked.

"Yes. Why do you ask?"

He pursed his lips and glanced down and to the left thoughtfully, his eyes boring and blazing into nothing.

"You are much younger than I had expected. The way the Duchess of Pembroke described you I expected you to be at least fifty, but you don't look quite thirty."

"WHAT?" she gasped, her eyes nearly popping out of her head.

"Oh, it really is nothing," he assured her in his high, off voice. "But your hair doesn't look gray at all. And your eyes, they really aren't beady in the slightest. I don't understand – "

The Lady was steaming as she shoved her chair back, dipped her head at the cherub from hell, and went stalking after the Duchess of Pembroke. Susan sighed in relief as the man slid into the Lady's seat.

"I take it you weren't enjoying the conversation?" he asked, not bothering to look at her as he took a single breadroll and sliced it perfectly in half with a knife that hadn't been at the table. The roll hadn't even scrunched up as his blade slid through it, and how familiarly he handled the weapon made Susan a little uneasy.

"Thank you," she said, realizing he'd realized her discomfort and sent the woman running because of it. As grateful as she should be, she couldn't help but feel unnerved around him, and think that maybe spending time with the Lady would have been the safer option.

He took a bit of honeybutter onto the flat of his blade and started to spread it nonchalantly. The knife didn't look like a knife that was normally used for eating. It wasn't, and the fact that the man beside her didn't see a problem with using it for both purposes just goes to show you how insane he was. He had washed it, after all, so what was the problem?

"My name's Teatime," he replied absently. "What's yours?"

"Susan," she answered, watching him intently with a raised brow. He didn't feel right (saying he unnerved her would be a drastic understatement), but something about him was terribly interesting, and she continued (horrified) to watch him.

He nodded, and sat back, leaving his roll untouched.

"Susan. Very sensible."

"Teatime. Like around four o'clock in the afternoon?"

He stiffened, still looking straight ahead. She realized she'd just struck a nerve; somehow, she had a hunch that it might be useful to remember that. Susan had the unnerving feeling that they would meet again, and that there was no guarantee that it would be on friendly terms.

"No; I did say teh-ah-tim-eh. Please pronounce it correctly," the way each syllable formed on his lips sent tiny shivers down her spine. She considered mispronouncing it again, as listening to him enunciate each sound gave her the same feeling going into a haunted house did – exhilarating, and terrifying. But she had a hunch that he was much more dangerous than a haunted house.

"Alright, then, Teatime. What brings you here?"

"You, Susan."

She blinked.

"What?" And then it dawned on her. "I saw you. The black blur – "

He nodded.

"You're the only one in room. I wanted to know what was different about you."

"What have you found?" she asked, straightening.

He finally turned to her, meeting her eyes.

"You're very different, Miss Sto-Helit."

"I never told you my last name," she replied, her voice low as their eyes locked.

"You don't have to. I know enough to know Death's granddaughter when I see her."

"I'm here because I'm a Duchess. Why are you?" the moment she asked the question, she immediately wished she hadn't; the smile that spread across half of his mouth (making his angelic face look terribly eerie) gave her a bad feeling.

"Because I'm an Assassin. In training."

She clutched the tablecloth discretely in surprise. A few dishes clinked, but he didn't seem to notice.

"The bowl of soup – " she was about to stand and call out when an unnaturally strong arm clamped down on hers, restraining her as those terrible, cold eyes bored into her. Now it was she who stared straight ahead darkly. "Release my arm," she growled through clenched teeth, sliding a hand discretely towards one of the steak knives nearby. It only made her angrier to see him grinning in the corner of her eye. She hid the knife in the folds of the tablecloth for later use.

"No, I don't think so, Susan," Teatime was referring to her standing, not the knife. He hadn't noticed as far as she could tell. "It's too late, anyway; he's already ingested the poison. He'll be stone dead by midnight," he glanced at the lord, a little longingly. "I don't like killing like this. It's not satisfying at all." He shook his head gravely.

"That's why you came to talk to me. You knew I saw and you knew I'd figure it out – "

"No," Teatime corrected. "No, I didn't know, but I don't like to take unnecessary chances. But now I do, and I'm glad I didn't underestimate you."

"What are you going to do now?" Susan asked.

He grinned charmingly. Or at least it should have been charming. He made the otherwise friendly expression feel terrifying.

"I'm going to go."

And then he was gone, like that, in a black blur. Susan sprang to her feet, brandishing the knife below her waist as she glanced around wildly, looking for a streak of gold and midnight darkness against the endless chatter and bright colors. But she saw nothing, and got quite a few shaky glances from those surrounding her. Only then did she realized how crazy she must look; unnaturally skinny, a mess of white hair pinned up to the back of her head that wouldn't stop slithering around like a snake, a gothic, slightly lacy black dress, a small, black mask covering her eyes, and a steak knife glinting dangerously in her right hand.

Honestly, she didn't give a damn.

***

Teatime almost laughed as the Lord passed Susan off as having one too many when she tried to convince him he'd been poisoned. He'd think differently at midnight, when rather poetic justice would come about. The Duchess looked ready to murder – something he knew well, having murder as a profession himself. The way her hand tightened and strangled the poor hilt of the blade made him want to smirk.

He should probably go. His service was complete, his mission over, he had succeeded. But it had been so terribly boring. Before Teatime could graduate, he had to inhume someone via poison, and he had taken this opportunity to do so. It hadn't been satisfying or interesting at all. It had been slightly fun slipping about the room through the shadows, but he was done, and he hadn't even gotten a chance to stab/drown/strangle/nail anybody. It wasn't fair. It was so dull, and assassinations shouldn't be dull – this was what he loved, for goodness' sake, what kept him going. He owed it to himself to do something interesting tonight, since this escapade had been such a bitter disappointment. He chewed his lip thoughtfully as an upbeat song started playing and the guests began dancing. Some idiot asked Susan to dance.

Susan. Teatime rather liked Susan. She was smart, very dry, and a tinge sarcastic. She was most definitely interesting; especially with that knife she thought he hadn't noticed. He smirked again; yes, he really did like her. That would make the toying with before actually killing her so much more fun.

***

Said idiot cowered before Susan as she glared at him terribly, twitching the steak knife dangerously.

"Sorry!" the poor soul squeaked before running off.

I'd did write what happened, but it was censored during editing. Sorry for the inconvenience.

"Just have that effect on people, do you?" a high, off voice asked behind her. She whirled around, but there was no one there. Her brow furrowed before she felt that terrible, prickly feeling at the nape of her neck that meant someone was behind her. The damn Assassin was literally dancing circles around her.

She didn't bother to turn (he'd only dance around some more), but grasped her knife firmly, taking in deep, long breathes and attempting to remain calm. Every inch of her wanted to turn, to see this new-found threat, but she resisted. This both agitated and encouraged Teatime; on the one hand, it'd be more fun to watch her face. On the other, he rather liked that she was fed up with him and bothered to show it. It wouldn't be any fun if he killed her here and now, so he simply slid in and out of the shadows until he faced her.

Susan didn't have time to blink before he was holding her knife hand with his left and had his knife hand on her waist and was stepping into the music. They looked like some kind of Halloween horror show, Susan's fiery glare, his icy stare, and the deadly knives held so stiffly.

It felt like some kind of a Halloween horror show, too. Almost like a nightmare – one of the ones where all of a sudden you are frozen and can't run or speak. That's just how it felt for Susan, except that she was feeling rather asphyxiated as well, and he was cutting off the circulation to her fingers with his rough grip. His hand was surprisingly warm, for someone with such terribly cold, mismatched eyes. It was rough, too. It tingled, like static.

LET GO OF ME NOW, it was like gravel, like stone against stone – low, quiet, and threatening. He just grinned.

"I did save you from Lady Belladonna. The least you could do is give me a dance."

I.

DON'T.

DANCE.

"You certainly are Death's granddaughter."

She started to panic as they headed towards the arch into the garden. This wasn't going well at all – no, not in the slightest. She just knew he intended to do something horrible (that devilish grin on his angelic face made it clear enough) and no matter how hard she pulled back she couldn't break from his grip.

LET ME GO OR I'LL SCREAM.

"No you won't."

"And why won't I?"

"I am the one with a knife at your waist. I'll just kill you and slip away. But I really don't want to just yet; you're so terribly interesting."

She tried so hard to bend her elbow (the one hold the knife), but he held it so straight and so firmly. It wasn't long before the music grew quieter and the moonlight poured down over his blond curls, making them glow and casting his face with befitting shadows. His one black eye stared out at her eerily, and she just knew something terrible would happen if she didn't get away from him now.

So Susan did the one thing she never failed to do when dancing. She stepped on his foot. Hard.

She didn't run two steps before he caught her arm, but how wide his eyes got as her heel came crashing down was just priceless.

Grasping her wrist, he swung Susan around like a morning-star (the weapon) into one of the pillars in the castle courtyard. She slammed roughly into the stone as her knife went flying and he pressed against her shoulders with him palms, grinning.

"Almost, Susan," he said encouragingly. "I'm sure you can do better, though."

"This is all some twisted game to you, isn't it?" she asked in disbelief, her brow furrowing.

"I don't see what's twisted about it."

She blinked back at him as he breathed in deeply, looking slightly flushed and terribly exhilarated. It was now that he decided this was definitely worth the most boring inhumation. Susan was fun.

"Everything!" she argued.

"I guess we'll have to disagree. You don't have to feel the same way about a game to play it so long as you play."

Susan narrowed her eyes.

"And what if I don't 'play'?"

"I'd be terribly disappointed, kill you, and go home."

"So I have to play."

"No," he said quite cheerfully. "No, not at all. Only if you want to."

"What are the rules?"

"Hmm..." he said speculatively. "I hadn't given that much thought."

"You can't have a game without rules."

"Oh, no, you definitely can," he corrected with an emphatic nod. "It just doesn't work out that well."

"As I'm playing for my life here," Susan said, "I'd rather like it to work out well."

"Your hair is moving," he observed, completely changing the subject as his eyes flicked to her shifting locks.

"It does that. Now about the rules – "

He reached up distractedly to one of her curling curls and coiled a long finger around it, gazing at it as a child would a ladybug – eyes full of wonder and awe.

"I think your hair likes me."

This was it; he wasn't paying her much mind, it was the opportunity she needed. So Susan took a few notes (he has the attention span of a five year old, he likes games, he's clinically insane) since she still had that feeling that this wasn't the last time they'd see one another, shoved him in the chest with her palms and ran for her life.

She did considerably better this time, making it the full five strides in the dark of the night into the hedge maze. Susan ran wildly, clutching her black skirt through all the twists and turns. Somehow, she made it to the center, where a single fountain lay. It had a cupid standing at the top, bow strung and notched as it aimed at the moon. Susan stopped to compare its happy little face to her hunter, and realized that no matter how similar they looked that they looked totally different.

The governess took a step forwards, tripped over her ungraceful feet and fell – head first – into the fountain. It wasn't very deep, no more than three feet, but a hand clamped to the back of her neck as the icy water swarmed around her and wouldn't let her up. She opened her mouth to scream, realizing her mistake as water gushed into her lungs. She flailed her arms wildly, scratching at the arm holding her down and kicking out blindly behind her, but she caught nothing, stopped nothing. The world was slipping slowly away, fog filling her sight and everything becoming terribly slow. She could hear the sound of her heart beat, and the water searing into her didn't hurt anymore. Everything stilled, and just as she felt herself fading into oblivion the hand slid up into her white locks and dragged her out by her hair. She tried to screech as the pain filled her, but it came out a croak as her throat was so red and raw water spewed out of her. Teatime pulled her head far back, all the way up to his shoulder, resting it beside his neck where he could quietly whisper in her ear.

"Why, Susan," he chirped gleefully. "That was a wonderful idea. I always did love mazes."

She clenched her eyes shut, trying to ignore the fact that she was leaning into him for support – had to, if she didn't want to fall into the ground, that is. That fact rather infuriated her.

"You nearly killed me," she managed.

"And then I changed my mind," he explained cheerfully. "I'm glad you're still alive. This is far too fun a game to cut short so soon."

Susan could barely stand, she felt so weak, her lungs so ripped. Teatime took a step back, sliding down onto the ground and leaning against the hedge with her beside him.

"Your move, Susan," he whispered softly into her ear, lips barely an inch away. She shivered in revulsion and trembled in the cold.

So it was her move. What would a heroine in a story do?

Well, in those fairy tales, a princess would sit here until Prince Charming came and rescued her. She hadn't seen Ymp in quite a while, she wouldn't meet Lobsang for another two books, and she'd never fancied herself like any of those fragile creatures anyway so that wouldn't be much help.

In espionage books, she'd do a few quick karate chops, catch him off guard and run off. Unfortunately, she doubted she much had the strength to do much more than stand. What else could she do?

The knife, it glinted under his left hand in the moonlight. She could see it out of the corner of her eye.

Susan just knew she was going to throw up when this was done.

"I'm waiting, Susan," he whispered.

The governess tilted back her head, turned it and met his eyes.

"I completely," she said softly, "and thoroughly loathe you."

With that, she leaned forwards and kissed him.

She could literally feel the shock on his face. It was a good half a second before he pushed forwards towards her, and she was surprised by how pleasant it was. Er, how not completely and utterly revolting, rather. Slowly, she shifted her right hand towards his left. Carefully, she reached towards his blade. Gently, her hand brushed the hilt...

Susan felt his lips smile up against hers and his hand clamp down on her wrist. He slid his cheek up hers until his mouth came to her ear.

"Oh, no, Susan," he said softly. "I don't think so."

"Damn!" she called, sitting back across from him as she pulled away. Teatime grinned at her.

"This is a fun game," he said happily.

Susan crossed her arms.

"Speak for yourself," she grumbled, pulling herself to her feet. When she looked up, he was already standing.

"May I kiss you again?"

Susan blinked, a little dumbfounded.

"Most certainly not!" she replied vehemently. "But you don't seem to type to ask."

"I was trying to be polite," he explained.

"Ah." Susan glanced around, edging backwards slowly. He mimicked her every step. "You're move."

He grinned.

"It is a fun game..." he repeated, taking a step closer as he walked her backwards through the maze. She certainly hoped they didn't come to a dead end – that just wouldn't go over well in the slightest.

It was about then that her back hit a shrubbery.

Damn! she thought again.

"Let me think," the Assassin said thoughtfully, stepping even closer. He stared at one of his hands intently as it came to her face, and her staticky hair reached out to it again. "See, your hair really does like me. And I like you, Susan. You're so... intriguing. And I think you find me intriguing, too. You don't have to admit it, and I have a hunch that you never would, but you do."

"Perhaps in my wildest of nightmares," she growled. "Now get your hand out of my hair."

He looked at her very seriously.

"Get your hair out of my hand."

He was right. Her hair had closed the gap. And that just made her furious.

Bad, hair, BAD! she thought angrily, attempting to coax it back to her head. You know better!

Teatime must have noticed, because he was grinning again. He really did have a charming smile, and a pleasant presence, too. It was amazing how creepy he was in spite of (or was it because of...?) it.

His pulled his hand back slightly, and her hair followed. He watched, enraptured, twisting his fingers and watching her pale white locks – almost blue in the moonlight – curl and contort. Susan gritted her teeth to keep from growling.

Teatime brushed his knuckles against her pale cheekbone, still staring at his hand intently.

"This feels good. You feel good." He cupped the nape of her neck and kissed her again, fire and anger searing through her. Susan kneed him between the legs and shoved him in the chest, the fury he inspired giving her back some of her strength. She pulled back her fist and struck him hard across the cheek before running, ignoring how terribly her lungs hurt. She'd made it two steps before something nicked the side of her neck. She stopped still, pressing her hand to her now bleeding throat before she heard the sound of something slam through a hedge. The knife, it'd gone passed her neck –

"I still have another, please hold still," he called cheerfully. She whirled around and folded her arms angrily, watching him take a few quick steps up to her. The Assassin glanced at the moon to check the time, then sighed sadly.

"I have to go, Susan. I should have left a while ago. But let's play again, you and I."

"Not if I have any say in it!" she huffed.

"You don't," he grinned in reply. "Maybe it won't be for a while, but we will play again, and then I'll try to kill you."

"If we do, Teatime," she said with a lethal glare, I'LL BE READY.

The way she said it would have made any sane man tremble. The Assassin just grinned. It would be fun.

"Good," he replied.

She could barely see him as he leapt over the hedge in the blue moonlight – but she did, be it out of the corner of her eye.

Round One went to Teatime