Author’s Note: If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I mention an Edvard Munch painting, visit the Pictures section of my yahoo group, and click on the pic titled “Scream”. I think you’ll get my obscurity then. J
And 10 points if you know what song’s playing during the fashion show J.
Without, Part 9
Haldir and Corinne went to bed early that night, and Caras Galadhon was treated to several hours of lusty noise-making before the talan fell silent once more. Nothing dire seemed to be happening as a result of their sort-of shagging, Buffy noted. In fact, if anything, Haldir’s haughty Glare O’ Death was almost back to its former glory, and Corinne didn’t look at him a single time during lunch, preferring to scribble notes in one of her notebooks about what she was eating.
“I understand how lembas is waybread, makes perfect sense, lenn is journey and bas is bread, a specific recipe and purpose,” she said apropos of absolutely nothing, “but about the other names for bread… the root is fairly obvious, but why so many variations? Basgorn—is the gorn here in the sense of ‘impetuous’ or ‘valorous’?-- bass, bast—that’s the name of another Egyptian god, by the way— bassoneth, bessain.”
The others stopped their discussion to stare at her. Unphased, she watched Celeborn unblinkingly, waiting for his response. When none was forthcoming, she continued. “And does the last one have anything to do with bess? Co-cognates, perhaps?”
“All excellent questions,” Celeborn replied smoothly. “It has to do with mutation of consonants, and better explained in the library.” Corinne looked positively delighted at the prospect, and eagerly followed him without a backward glance.
Galadriel smiled serenely. “They are ever like that,” she said fondly. “Ever since Orophin became a march-warden 400 years ago, Celeborn has had no one to study with. This is vastly preferably to seeing him mope about.”
Legolas looked at Haldir. He was watching the departing figures, but with faint amusement, and no sign of discomfort. “It does not pain you, then?” he asked.
“It does not,” Haldir affirmed, and took a sip of wine. “I believe that as long as we are able to… release our tensions… we can be parted for some time.”
“Yeah, about that tension-releasing,” Buffy said, grinning when Haldir lifted a brow in her direction. “Are you sure that your almost-but-not-quite methods aren’t going to do anything wacky with this cartouche thing?”
Haldir surveyed her over the rim of his goblet. “Of course not,” he replied calmly. “But there seems little alternative. We cannot continue to function the way we were.” He stood and stretched. “Now, if you will excuse me, I have some march-wardens to terrorize. I have been… regrettably lax in their training this past week.”
“So, what year are you from?” Buffy asked Corinne later. Upon learning that the other woman had brought an entire wardrobe of clothing with her, they had retired to Haldir’s bed chamber (with their respective elves, of course) to have a fashion show, as Buffy was quite starved of ‘modern’ garb since jumping into the portal so long ago.
“2005,” Corinne replied idly, her nose buried in another book. Buffy wasn’t too good at reading Tengwar; the title looked suspiciously like “Sindarin for Dummies” but that couldn’t be right, no. Haldir was making more arrows (he had made approximately eight million in the past few days, or so it seemed) and Legolas was watching his wife with a distinctly predatory gleam in his blue eyes.
“Hm,” said Buffy, and twirled. “How does this look, honey?” she asked Legolas, who watched appreciatively as his wife’s shapely legs were revealed by the dress’ flaring skirt of periwinkle chiffon.
“Quite nice,” he replied, his voice low, and Buffy shot him a knowing smile before darting over to the pile of garments for another outfit.
“When do you want to go?” Corinne asked suddenly, peering over the top of the hefty tome. “It should be soon, I’ve been here almost two weeks and have to get back so people don’t think I’ve been abducted.” She had a thought. “But I have no idea where you guys are going to stay while we’re there, if it takes more than a single day. My dorm’s not exactly outfitted for a slumber party, you know.”
“Legolas and Dagnir can sleep on the floor; they are used to such things,” Haldir informed her, earning him a frown from the other two. “For I will not be parted from you, and I doubt they will allow us to be parted from them.”
“And leave the living, breathing hormones that are you two alone? I think not, says Buffy,” she told them from behind the dressing screen, slinging the dress in a chiffon froth over the top before emerging in a sundress of floaty peach cotton, smoothing the material over her hips. “It’s too big in the boobs,” she complained, glaring at Corinne as if it were her fault Buffy had a smaller bosom.
“Amin hiraetha,” Corinne said smoothly, grinning with delight when the elves in the room looked at her in surprise. She looked down at her bust. “Stupid things. Always causing trouble. Good for nothing at all ”
“I would not say that, doll-nîn,” Haldir contradicted, his voice low and silken as he met her gaze. The air between them seemed to tauten somehow, until suddenly the music that had been playing softly from Corinne’s boombox blared raucously.
“—IN HIS FACE? OH NO, THAT’S JUST HIS CHARMS. IN HIS ONE EMBRACE? OH NO, THAT’S JUST HIS ARMS.”
Buffy grinned at them from her position by the boombox, returning it to its previous moderate volume. Blinking, Corinne looked away from Haldir. “Just for that, you have to dance with me.” And before Buffy could protest, Corinne leapt to her feet, grabbed Buffy’s hands, and began spinning her around while singing along.
“You are a terrible singer,” Buffy complained, trying not to fall over.
“I suck at dancing too,” Corinne agreed blithely. “I’m the whitest white girl you’ll ever meet. No rhythm at all.”
“I would not say that,” Haldir repeated, and Buffy had to tug viciously on Corinne’s hands to keep her dancing and not over snogging the hot elf, while the music blared loudly once more.
“—HUG HIM, AND SQUEEZE HIM TIGHT, AND FIND OUT WHAT YOU WANNA KNOW-OH-OH…”
Legolas grinned and tucked his hand, which had been hovering over the volume control, back under his arm. Buffy took the opportunity to disappear behind the screen once more, this time with a long skirt of forest-green suede and silk blouse of palest lime.
“You never answered me about when we were going to go,” Corinne persisted, returning to her book.
“Rush a girl, why don’t ya,” Buffy said with a frown, her voice muffled by peach cotton. “Things move slowly here, including me.”
“I’m beginning to realize that,” commented Corinne, turning a page. “Have you realized yet that you shouldn’t contact your old friends?”
Buffy poked her head out from the screen, looking stricken. “What? Why not?”
Corinne blinked at her from behind wire-rimmed spectacles, reminded Buffy so forcibly of Giles for a moment that she had to swallow hard to remove the lump in her throat. “Haldir’s been telling me some of what’s happened in the past year, how your sister came here through a portal?” She ended the statement as a question, wanting Buffy to confirm it.
At Buffy’s nod, she continued. “Well, we’re going to 2005. If you came here in 2001, and Dawn came seventeen years later, that would be 2018. If you contact them, she’s going to have thirteen years to think about things. It could radically change who she is, who she becomes. Decisions she’ll make with her life.”
“It wouldn’t kill her to not marry her first husband,” Buffy retorted. “He was a loser.”
“But he helped to form her into the Dawn that came to us, Dagnir,” Legolas said quietly. “What if she did not fall in love with Boromir? He might well have died at Amon Hen. What could have happened differently? Dawn would not have been at Minas Tirith to help Eowyn defeat the Witch-King, they would not have married…”
“Mercas wouldn’t have been born, and the war might have ended differently,” Buffy finished. She glared at Corinne a seemingly endless moment, and then turned a rather charming pout to her husband. “I hate when people outthink me,” she whined. He put a comforting arm around her, trying to stifle his smile.
Corinne just started laughing. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I have no doubt you could kick my ass six ways to Sunday,” she told Buffy. “And if we strike out everywhere else, we might have to contact your friends anyway.” Buffy brightened at that, but still looked a little down. Hm, time to call in the reinforcements. “I’ve got chocolate, want some?”
“Yes, please,” Buffy replied instantly, and linked arms with Corinne as they went into the talan’s main room where food was kept.
Legolas turned to see Haldir watching the women with a fond and vastly uncharacteristic smile on his lips. “Mellon, what is happening to you? For you are not as I remember.”
Haldir turned his piercing gaze to the other elf. “I would like to say it is only the taint of the cartouche that has wrought this change in me, but having never been in love before, I cannot say this is not how I would be were it genuine, instead of artificial.” He sighed. “I fear, however, that it is merely that accursed object, for I observe little change in either you or Dagnir, nor Rúmil and Tatharë, since acknowledging love. I am feeling more myself, however, since… the past two nights.”
“Will it subside completely if you join properly?”
“I do not know. Galadriel insists we cannot risk it.” Haldir sat heavily and leaned forward, elbows on his knees as he cradled his head in his hands. “It is tempting to give in, out of desperation. The severity of the attraction, the need for proximity, the affect all are having on my behaviour—all make me greatly suspicious. I would have this done with, Legolas.”
“And so it shall be,” Legolas replied, dropping his hand on Haldir’s shoulder. “We will free you from this thrall.”
Haldir lifted his hand to cover Legolas’ briefly in gratitude. “My thanks.”
“Aw,” said Buffy from the doorway. “The boys are getting along better, ain’t that cute?” She leaned against the jamb and popped another cherry cordial in her mouth, chewing thoughtfully. “Does this mean you and I have to be pals as well?”
“It’s adorable when men bond,” agreed Corinne from behind her, smiling in spite of the increasing soreness in her middle which told her it was time for more elf-nooky (darn the luck), and plucked a chocolate from the box Buffy held. “As for you and me, I’ll give the idea some thought after you’ve put away all the clothes you’ve tried on. Until then, I’m withholding judgment.”
The next morning, Galadriel helped Buffy and Corinne pack for their sojourn back to their world. The ‘men’ were told to go ready themselves, a suggestion at which they frowned.
“We bring nothing but ourselves and the clothes on our backs,” Haldir said. “Not even our weapons.” He looked significantly disgruntled about this last. “What is there to ready?”
“Ok, then, just go away,” Corinne said, pushing him and Legolas out of the talan and shutting the door firmly after. “I’m so glad we found a way around the problem!” she told the others happily. “My old personality is coming back!”
Buffy and Galadriel exchanged a glance; they were not sure about the ‘real’ Corinne, as she seemed exceedingly strange to them; always with her nose stuck in a book, or asking odd questions (why would anyone care about the circumference of the city of Caras Galadhon, and its ratio to the size of Lórien as a whole?). Still, Buffy reasoned, she seemed harmless enough, genuinely sorry for involving Haldir in this whole cartouche fiasco, and eager to solve it.
“There is no need to be nervous, meldisamin,” Galadriel told her friend, who was folding things over and over and stuffing unnecessary items, like two quiver-fulls of Haldir’s arrows, into the duffelbag. Corinne said nothing, but kept removing them just as Buffy put them in.
“It just feels so weird, you know?“ the Slayer said in a rush, as if she’d been holding it in for a long time. “For years after I came here, I’d wake up in the morning and think, “Buffy, that was one messed-up dream.’ Then I’d realize I was sleeping in a freakin’ treehouse, and it wasn’t a dream.” She smiled sadly at Galadriel. “After I accepted that it was really… real, I was so angry. That’s part of the reason I became a Ranger. I didn’t want to be Angry!Buffy around you and Haldir and Celeborn all the time. Oh, and the killing things was great therapy, too.”
“And after that?” Galadriel prompted, taking a pair of jeans from Buffy’s mauling hands and refolding them with smooth, efficient movements.
“After that, I had my Gift to obsess over,” Buffy sighed. “That, and fond memories of home. I wished every day that I could go back, but since I couldn’t, death was the next best thing. You don’t know how much I wanted to jump through that portal myself when Dawn came here… if Haldir hadn’t been holding me up, I might have.”
“But you did not, and I do not think it is solely due to Haldir’s presence,” said Galadriel with a smile, and gestured for Buffy to sit in a chair, then began unbraiding her long plait. Picking up a brush, she began to run it through the long, honey-brown tresses. “Why?”
“Because I had a job to do here,” Buffy replied, tilting her head back and enjoying the soothing strokes of the brush against her scalp. “Because I had new friends here, and was finally beginning to move on, and then I started falling in love with Legolas, and now I realize that my life is here and it only took me twenty years to realize it—“ She stopped suddenly, turning to stare accusingly at the elf-witch. “You knew from the beginning of this discussion where it was going to go, didn’t you?”
Galadriel, unperturbed, repositioned Buffy’s head to face forward and rebraided her hair with nimble fingers. “I find that these things make more sense if we find them for ourselves,” she said, and tied off the long hank of hair with an elaborate knot before turning to Corinne. “And you, young one? What mysteries can we solve for you?”
Corinne stiffened in surprise, not expecting to be examined in a like manner. “Um, I guess the pressing issue on my mind right now is, why Haldir? I know why I’m involved in it all, having bled a few quarts for the cartouche, and it was me who made the wish and activated the stupid thing, but… why Haldir? I’m sure there had to be some regular human guy in my own dimension having the same wistful thoughts that I was… why would I be yanked to Middle-Earth, to fall in love with an elf?” She laughed, but it was not a happy sound in the cheerful, sun-dappled room. “An elf! If I didn’t have the mind-numbing pain as proof, I’d think I was locked in some bizarro fever-dream or something.”
She tossed a shirt into the duffelbag and slumped into a chair. “And I can’t reconcile all these different emotions in me. I grew up in Grosse Pointe. I’m not this sexual being, not especially affectionate. WASPs aren’t, as a general rule, and my family is the WASPiest of the bunch. Touching Haldir all the time is almost as much discomfort as it relief. I feel… possessed, like my real self is an Edvard Munch painting inside my head while my body flings itself like a weasel in heat at the hot elf who is flinging himself, weasel-fashion, at me. And let me tell you, it’s weird.”
She took a deep breath. “Wow! Who knew all that was boiling around in there?” Plastering a bright, thoroughly unconvincing smile on her face, she said, “So, I can’t wait to get back, there’s this awesome Jamaican place around the corner from my dorm. Mmmm, jerk chicken! Whaddya say?”
Buffy eyed the other woman a long moment, then decided not to press the issue. “I was hoping for some Chinese, myself,” she said. “Haven’t had a good General Tso’s in… eighteen years, really.”
“Pizza…” Buffy moaned, closing her eyes. “With sausage?”
Corinne nodded, grinning at Galadriel’s expression of bewilderment. “And mushrooms,” she added.
“Mushrooms…” Buffy whispered, eyelids fluttering closed at the very idea. They flew open a moment later at the soft touch of lips against hers, to find Legolas leaning over her, smiling.
“You must be turning into a Hobbit, to speak with such desire for mushrooms,” he commented. “What can have you in such a state of vegetable-lust?”
“Mushrooms are fungi, not vegetables,” Corinne mentioned from the other side of the room where Haldir was trying to sneak in a snog before Galadriel could come separate them.
“Shut it, Einstein,” Buffy commanded, and wound her arms around Legolas’ neck for a lengthy kiss. “Missed you,” she said against his mouth. “Did you boys play nice, or was there fighting?” Both elves looked distinctly guilty for a moment before their infamous stoicism reasserted itself; suspicious, Buffy studied them. Sure enough, there was the faintest scrape on Haldir’s cheekbone, and Legolas had a few smudges of dirt on his tunic. She pushed Legolas back and stood, planting her hands on her hips. “You were fighting!”
“It was but wrestling,” Haldir said firmly. “A harmless release of—“
“Long-festering resentment between two alpha-males?” Buffy completed rashly.
“I will thank you not to place words in my mouth, Dagnir,” he replied coolly, his face dropping all expression until it seemed a pale, perfect mask. “I was going to say, a harmless release of tensions about a journey that could be quite dangerous. Also,” he continued, a touch of pomposity in his voice now, “if you had bothered to wait, you would have learned that it was Legolas and I against Rúmil and Orophin. Not each other. You are immortal now, Dagnir; patience is not so precious a commodity as it would be to another of your kind.”
He stared down his nose at Buffy and then all pretense at apathy fell away at the sight of her crying against Legolas’ shoulder. The other elf looked somewhat baffled, too. “Why are you weeping, foolish woman?” he demanded, exasperated.
“It’s so good to see you be you again,” Buffy sniffled, and blotted her eyes with the hems of her sleeves.
amin hiraetha = I am sorry
bess = young girl
mellon = friend
meldisamin = my friend (f)