Title: Loose Leaf
Original story: Morning Tea, by sassywitch
Summary: There's nothing quite like a cuppa
Post-reveal notes: Many, many thanks for feelforfaith for the lightening quick and fabulous betaing.
Disclaimer: The author makes no claims or inferences to reality or truthfulness. Moreover, this story is based upon the work of another author and recognises their creation.
As a boy Dom had thought that maybe his Gran was a witch.
Not an "I'll get you my pretty and your little dog too" kind of witch; warty and malevolent. But a witch nonetheless.
She had long white hair and a black cat, grew herbs on her kitchen windowsill, and had a special way of making tea. A way that involves rituals and traditions that made Dom think of cauldrons and tall black hats.
Whenever they'd come over from Germany to visit -- after the hugs and the "haven't you grown!"s -- they would all troop through to the kitchen and his Gran would put the kettle on. Dom's mum, dad and brother would settle themselves around the old wooden dining table, and Dom would clamber up to sit on the kitchen counter and watch eagerly as his Gran would take her old, yellow teapot from the shelf.
It was Dom's job to fetch the tea leaves while his Gran poured the boiling water from the kettle into the pot to warm it. The tea caddy lived in the back of the cupboard, where it was dark and cool, and Dom would have rise up onto his knees and stretch his arm as far as it would go, through the plum tomatoes and baked beans, before he felt his fingertips brush the metal tin. The old tin was decorated with a picture of a young couple walking through a garden. The picture had faded with time so that only the occasional detail could be made out: a flower, the blue sash tied around the girl's waist, the young man's smile.
Once the pot was warmed, Dom's Gran held it out to him so he could spoon the leaves in. That was his favourite part, the part he looked forward to the most. His Gran kept the scoop for the tea leaves in the caddy so he had to plunge his fingers deep inside to find it. It was fun and messy; leaves spilled onto the counter and tickled his fingers as they became stuck underneath his fingernails, and as he dug, the pungent smell of tea would drift up to him.
He would spoon one, two, three, four into the pot and add another pinch for luck, then his Gran would pour the water into the pot, spinning it like a top twice one way and once the other, and then leave it to brew. She insisted that it helped the flavour, and Dom liked to lean over and watch the leaves twist around in a tiny brown, fragrant whirlpool.
There would be the clinking of mugs and a jar of honey would appear, and then his dad would settle back in his cushioned wooden hair cradling a mug between his palms; he'd take a sip of his drink, holding the liquid in his mouth for a moment to savour it, swallow, then murmur, "Magic."
There had been tea that final night in his Gran's hospice. After they'd said their goodbyes, and they'd been led to the family room where the nurse on duty brought them all a cup. The tea came in old, well used mugs and from generic tea bags, but that didn't matter. There was comfort in the feel of warm mugs and the familiar traditions of milk and sugar. They sat together as a family, sharing their grief as they drank.
When Dom had confessed to his mother in reluctant tones on an international phone call that he was homesick, despite having the time of his life, a package had arrived later that week containing the tea pot. His mum didn't need to include a note.
Dom wasn't sure if he would find the tea leaves he wanted in a New Zealand shop and was delighted when he had. He kept them in the back of a cupboard until a Feetless morning, when he brought them out as the pot warmed.
The tea tasted good, wonderful in fact, but it wasn't the taste that made him grin into his cup, it was the memories it invoke: his Gran smiling as she helped him to count out the scoops of tea leaves, his dad relaxing back into his seat as the tea warmed him, summer holidays and Christmas mornings. Looking through the eyes of an adult Dom finally understood what the mumbled word that followed his dad's first sip meant. There had been magic in that kitchen, not the kind that came with the swish and flick of a wand, but the kind that comes from family and tradition and love. Everyday magic, the kind that was too commonplace to be remarkable.
The first time Dom made tea properly for Billy was the morning he woke up to find Billy sprawled across him, snoring and wearing one of Dom's t shirts. They'd stumbled home the night before, too tired and sore from a day in Treebeard to do more than prepare a bowl of packet noodles and then fall into bed. They had curled together effortlessly and were still wrapped around each other when Dom woke.
They had known each other for months and had been together as more than friends for almost as long, and when Dom woke that morning and felt Billy's limbs wrapped around his own he knew that he had found something more than lust, more than a quick fling, something abiding. He knew that what he had found and the person he had found it with deserved a place within the tradition his grandmother had taught him.
Dom still used the same teapot. It was one of the few things that remained the same in his life; there had been changes of address, new friends, new tattoos, but the flowered teapot was a constant companion. The teapot and Billy.
Dom felt Billy watching him as he poured boiling water over the leaves, felt Billy's eyes on him as he distributed honey and milk. Billy would be smiling, Dom knew, watching him with a mixture of amusement and fondness. Billy's cheerful appreciation of Dom's tea ritual was part of their morning routine. Just as the way Dom would smile when he turned and held out Billy's mug was. Just like the kiss Billy would give him as he took it.
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