horrible, half-assed, hurriedly written for MerianMoriarty, because she needed this conversation today. this could almost happen to a bunch of characters who had nothing to do with anybody's work but mine, it just happened that my obscure little fem!Tommy from a strange corner of the Fateverse was perfect for the job.

warnings: AU - Fateverse. rampant rule 63 lolwut. crossover with several flavors of Neil Gaiman literature, notably Neverwhere. depression/mental illness. language: pg-13 (for use of f***).

pairing: none/gen.

timeline: local year AD 2005, maybe a week or two after Go Get Your Shovel.

disclaimer: the original versions of Wade, Wanda, Billy, and Tommy belong to marvel. au and au versions belong to me. Neverwhere, the Sandman graphic novels, and all recognizable characters and terms thereof belong to Neil Gaiman.

notes: 1) this is what depression is like. when it gets really bad, you don't even get the fleeting little sparks of almost-excitement from the things you used to like, you just get the dreary grey low of "what's the use?" from them. 2) when you're not too far gone yet, there's an interesting little pivot-point in the mind when you realize "omg, i seriously just thought about killing myself. wtf?" and then you think of how stupid you're being, and you wonder what's wrong with you and why you can't just snap out of it. you don't even tell most of your friends or family, because you don't want to worry them. if they're really lucky, you'll know you should tell at least one of them, and you'll pick one, and you'll say something before it's too late. 3) a certain amount of depression is pretty much unavoidable during the hormonal ups and downs of the teenage years. the problem comes when it turns into something constant, or when thoughts of self-harm show up more than fleetingly. 4) "whinging" = "whining/complaining." 5) it's not always this easy to snap a friend out of the blues, and it's certainly not this easy to pull them all the way out of a depression, but every little bit helps. sometimes it can make all the difference to put into words little things you've been thinking all along, like "you know that thing you think you're just okay at? i think you're awesome at it."

A Friend on the Outside

These days, life for Tamris is an impenetrable grey haze.

When she dresses in the morning, she just throws on any old thing. Looking at favourite dresses or shirts only reminds her of the iris-petal ruffles on that dress she saw at the Floating Market.

When she pads into the hallway, she barely glances out the window. If the weather is nice, it's a reminder that she can't go out in it. If the weather is gloomy, she just feels that much more trapped.

When she eats her meals, she mostly just prods her food. If it's something she likes, it makes her think of all the 'low-brow' foods she only tasted at the Floating Market. Her father is the enemy, her hateful jailer, who calls her 'ignorant' and 'foolish,' calls all her actions 'shameful.' Her sister could probably blow up half of London without so much as a chiding glance, but Tamris doesn't even dare open her mouth in their father's presence.

Today, she's pushing a dumpling around in her soup bowl when she thinks to herself, 'Wouldn't it be nice if I just died right now?'

Yes. Yes, it might. If she's going to live her life a prisoner and a constant disappointment, then why bother?

'Could I drown in my soup?' she wonders, and, 'Would they try to save me?' But then she starts to worry that her father would blame Bergan, say the soup had been poisoned or bewitched or cursed, and that wouldn't be fair. Bergan has always been nice to the twins.

She turns her head to look at the windows of the dining room. Partly cloudy, today, and warm-ish. A fine enough day to dive toward the pavement. But then there'd be all that glass for Marta to clean up.

Maybe a pair of scissors in the bath. Then it'd just be a quick rinse.


She looks at her sister's worried face.

She realizes what she's been thinking about, and is appalled.

"Nice weather," Tamris says with a feeble grin. She waits with clenched teeth for their father to state his utter disagreement, as he does with everything else she ever says. She waits for the veiled insults, for the treacle-thick air of disdain.

He says nothing. He doesn't even look at them.

"May I be excused?" she mumbles.

"You've hardly eaten," says Illamar.

She tries a smile. "Not hungry. Too many snacks," she lies.

After a moment, their father waves a hand.

Tamris quells a rush of spiteful anger. She stands from her seat, gently sets her napkin on the tablecloth, and walks very calmly back up to her room.

In the safety of her room—

not safe, not safe, he comes in whenever he wants

—she sits down and hugs her knees and stares at nothing. What a feeling, to be terrified of herself! To feel as if a part of her mind has betrayed her, turned against her… But what can she do? There is no hope for leaving; her father's made sure of that. And nobody ever comes to visit, only for business; he's made sure of that, too.

"Don't cry," she tells herself. "Don't cry, don't you dare, you weak, soppy, useless…" A few tears escape against her will, and she pounds an angry fist against the floor. "Don't give him the satisfaction!"

"That's right, honey," comes a low, rough voice, accompanied by ink-stained fingers on her shoulders.

Tamris makes an undignified squawking noise as she spins around and clutches her heart. "Don't do that!" she admonishes.

The Bone Collector just plops down beside her, muddy trainers peeking out from the edge of that huge cloak. "You look like a girl who could use an ear to talk to. I happen to have a pair of 'em."

"No," Tamris huffs, shaking her head. "It's stupid."

"Then it won't do any harm to tell me, will it?" Wade counters. "We missed you at the last Floating Market…Hammersmith got his hands on a ring you made, and he's fallen in love with your design sensibilities."

Tamris gestures in the vague direction of the gardens. "The door's gone. I can't get out anymore."

"Hmmmm," Wade says neutrally.

"I'm never getting out again," Tamris gloomily concludes.

"So you've got cabin fever, and it's giving ya the blues."

"The blues?" echoes Tam. "Is that what this is? This stupid, useless, teary-eyed 'woe is me' act that I can't stop? This…having part of me doing and thinking and feeling things I can't stand?"

"Mm. Part of growing up, too."

Tamris hangs her head. "I thought about killing myself today. For a good long while, I thought about it. I thought about who'd be inconvenienced by each method, calm-as-you-please. You can't tell me that's just 'part of growing up.' That can't be normal. Normal people don't say to themselves 'oh, wouldn't it be just brilliant if I fell down dead?'"

"Hmmmm," Wade says again, tilting her head so that a blonde curl spills out of her hood. "Normal elder twin daughters of the elder twin son of one of the most powerful magic practitioners in history?"

"Okay, yes, I know I'm not actually normal," mutters Tamris. "But I'm not any good at magic. I know a few spells, I know a little bit about the old books, I know a potion or two… So what if she mixes up Stephanus with Lastranas and can't tell a truth serum from a cough syrup? Illy's always been able to cast any spell he asks of her and more."

Wade drums out a strange rhythm against her knees. "You know, I once sold your father a brace of owl-skulls, and he paid me in Black Flame Candles. He didn't think much of the candles, told me his daughters had made them and they wouldn't last long. Your sister's didn't—they had maybe an hour each. The first one of yours has given me weeks of light, and you made it when you were five. Your father was your age before he could make an enchantment with that kind of lifespan."

Tamris doesn't know what to make of that information. It is, so far as she knows, the first time she's ever been more than mediocre at something related to magic, and certainly the first time she's ever been better than her father at something.

After a moment, Wade raises a black-tipped finger and wags it through the air. "Now, I'm not saying your ol' dad isn't going about this in a way as fucked up as it is circumspect, but there's something very special about you that other people are going to want, and he wants you to be safe."

"You sure he doesn't just want to make me miserable?" Tamris snorts. "Because that's the overall effect of everything he says and does to me."

"Ahhh, that's just parents," Wade scoffs with a flap of her hand. "Some kinda built-in drive to pass on the way their parents made them miserable. But look—even if you end up locked away in here for the rest of your life, until you feel like you're wasting away, there'll be people on the outside who'll come to see you no matter how tall that Front Wall gets. I'll be out there, telling everybody I meet about this awesome chick I know who does killer enchantments."

She doesn't bother to hide her scepticism. "Yeah, sure. Who'd walk past that whinging wall just to see me?"

Wade grins in the shadows of her hood. "I told you: Hammersmith. The big lug wants to make things for you to enchant. Your father wouldn't risk offending the greatest smith in all of London—or possibly all of England—by turning him away like some door-to-door salesman. He'll be here any minute. So you might wanna start picking up your toys."

That shocks Tamris into action. She immediately starts scooping up beads and dumping them back in her jewellery-making drawer, reaching under her bed and wardrobe for strays.

Hammersmith. The Hammersmith. The one and only. He's famous, he's the greatest smith in possibly-all-of-England, and he's coming to see Tamris.

"What the hell am I wearing?" she exclaims when she realizes she's got on green tights, a pink skirt, and a brown shirt (which is wrong-way-out). "I gotta get changed, I gotta brush my hair…"