Author’s Note: 10 points to whoever picks up on one of Spike’s favourite words. Oh, and smut ahoy at the end of the chapter.
Without, Part 10
“Ow. Honey, your elbow’s in my side.”
“My apologies, herves-nîn. Is that your foot in my face?”
“No, must be Corinne’s.” Pause. “What’s that slurping sound?” Pause. “Hey, you two! Just because you landed on top of her, Haldir, doesn’t mean you can start making with the smoochies.” Pause. “Legolas, they’re ignoring me.”
“Allow me to try.” Thud.
“You would be wise to release me, Thranduilion.”
“Alas, I cannot. Galadriel would be most severe with me if I allowed the two of you to indulge.” Pause. “Ai! Did you just kick me?”
“No. Must have been Corinne.”
“Everyone blames everything on me. I get no love.”
“Was it you that kicked him, doll-nîn?”
“Well, yeah. But still.”
Their conversation was interrupted by an enthusiastic knock on the door to Corinne’s dorm room. “Rinnie, are you in there?” asked a worried voice.
Corinne winced and hauled herself out of the tangle of limbs to stand and open the door. “Hi, Sandra,” she began cautiously, planting her body so that the other woman would not succeed in peeking past into the room. “What can I do for you?”
“I heard a thud, and then voices,” Sandra replied, eyes bright with curiosity. “Male voices,” she continued meaningfully.
Nodding, Corinne glanced back at her companions. Buffy seemed unperturbed by her surroundings, while Haldir and Legolas were surveying the dingy cement-block walls with profound horror. Rolling her eyes, she swung the door wide. “Yes, I have some friends over.”
Sandra’s eyes grew wide as she looked in and saw another woman, petite and pretty, as well as two tall, blond, impossibly handsome men. “They… they’re…”
“Gorgeous, yes, I’m aware of that,” Corinne replied briskly, trying not to be too offended at Sandra’s utter surprise that she’d have two hotties in her dorm.
“They’re dressed… sort of weird,” Sandra ventured, hoping for more information. “Well, she’s not—isn’t that your sundress, Rinnie?—but they definitely are.”
“They’re Finnish,” Buffy lied blithely, with her best ditzy-blond smile. “It’s their national costume.”
“You’re not Finnish, then?”
“Oh, no. I’m from California.”
“But… Corinne’s been in Egypt for two weeks. Why is she hanging out with Finns?” Sandra’s tone was closer to implying, however, Why would Finns be hanging out with her?
“We met when I was taking a tour of Dra Abu el-Naga,” Corinne said. “Finns are very interested in Egyptology.”
“They are?” Sandra was looking distinctly skeptical.
“Yeah, who knew?” She grabbed Haldir’s hand. “Sorry to rush out, Sandie. You know how it is, places to go, people to see.” Buffy grabbed Legolas and they started down the hall. The door to the stairwell closed on Sandra’s last, plaintive words.
“Do you even speak Finnish?”
Downstairs in the lobby, Corinne gave a sigh of relief and started firing off instructions. “Don’t talk to anyone, don’t touch anything, don’t give anyone money, don’t eat anything, and for God’s sake, don’t look anyone in the eye.” By the time she was finished, they were outside on the sidewalk and she was standing half off the curb, hand raised for a cab.
The elves gaped, stock-still in spite of the masses that thronged and pushed past them, at the onset of noise as vehicles blazed by, their drivers happily ignoring the 25 mph speed limit and honking their horns with typical New Yorker abandon. The wind that seemed always to rush down Manhattan streets lifted their pale hair in swirls around their heads, and many a glance was drawn to them, two effulgent figures on a dingy urban street.
In short, they looked utterly poleaxed. Buffy wasn’t much better, staring around with an expression somewhere between awe and disgust. “It’s… very dirty, isn’t it?”
“Huh?” Corinne asked, distracted as she was trying to convince Haldir that yes, he did want to get into the large bright-yellow thing that had skidded to a stop before them. She crammed him in and was now pushing on Legolas, but he was resisting and had both hands gripping the doorframe. “Haldir, pull him in,” Corinne instructed, and turned away from Legolas to use her back to press on him, holding on with a death’s grip to the door for leverage. “Legolas, just get in, dammit.”
“Release me,” he said through gritted teeth. “Tis unnatural, this thing.”
“Unnatural is my foot up your ass, if you don’t just get in the damned cab,” Corinne yelled. “The meter is running!” And so it was, merrily ticking away the dollars and cents as their driver (Faarooq Ahmad, recently of Harappa, Pakistan) watched with polite interest and no comprehension whatsoever. “Buffy, help me with your husband!”
Buffy blinked and turned to face the others. “What?”
Corinne scowled and gave a mighty shove with her butt. Unbalanced, Legolas fell forward into the taxi (“What is that smell?” he could be heard complaining from within, as Haldir’s rumbling voice told him to be silent and sit up as became a grown elf). She guided Buffy into the cab, urging her to sit on Legolas’ lap, and squished herself in beside him before pulling Buffy’s legs to drape over her lap. “59th and 2nd,” she told Faarooq, and flopped back in the seat, uncomfortably aware of the growing ache in her belly as they zoomed back into traffic.
Buffy’s squeak of distress alerted Corinne to the fact that Legolas was grasping his wife’s knee with a white-knuckled grip. She patiently pried his fingers free and patted them. “Just relax,” she said in what failed utterly to be a soothing tone. “You two better start being more cooperative. If you’re like this getting in a cab, how are you going to be in an elevator or the subway?”
Legolas ignored her, preferring to stare straight ahead, and Haldir actually went out of his way to lean forward so he could glare around Buffy at Corinne, but said nothing.
“You did not inform us that these horseless vehicles would travel at such speeds, and with sudden, alarming changes in direction,” he thought at her as Faarooq darted around a seafood delivery van to hang a left and go up Broadway. A sharp right, then another left, and they were hurtling up Park Avenue at what seemed to be the speed of at least sound, if not light itself.
“I didn’t think of it,” she shot back crossly, suppressing an ‘oof’ as she was thrown hard against Legolas when they turned right onto 42nd. Very softly, Buffy began to sing. “Come and meet those dancing feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet, on the avenue I’m takin’ you to…”
“Forty-second Street!” exclaimed Faarooq from the front seat with a happy grin that revealed that dentistry was not perhaps as much a priority in Harappa as it was in the States. “I love that musical!”
“That’s nice,” Corinne said dismissively, then shouted “Eyes on the road!” as they coasted alarmingly near a bike messenger. Faarooq sniffed at her brusqueness and concentrated on aiming the cab up 2nd Avenue. It wasn’t long before he screeched to a halt at their destination, blithely ignoring the incensed blarings of horns as he was quite efficiently blocking no fewer than three lanes of midday traffic. Corinne pushed the fare and a decent tip (because Haldir had scolded her for being rude) into the little dish and nearly fell to the street in Legolas’ haste to extricate himself.
She staggered back a few steps but couldn’t help laughing—Legolas emerged still holding Buffy in his arms, seemingly reluctant to release her. Haldir unfolded his tall frame a moment later and wrapped his arm around Corinne’s waist. Both sighed when their discomfort eased instantly. “Now?” he inquired.
“Now, we walk.”
A mere half-block later, Haldir was munching happily on a hot, mustard-smeared pretzel; Legolas’ foul mood had been appeased with a mango smoothie; and Buffy was the proud new owner of what she squealingly called ‘absolutely darling little shoes!”: point-toed mules with large, pink plastic daisies on the toes.
Corinne winced both at the piercing tone and choice of words (“Darling?” she snorted internally, and laughed aloud when Haldir reciprocated) and pulled them away from where they were pressing their noses against a deli window displaying no fewer than two dozen rotisserie chickens.
And now they were at the store where she’d gotten the cartouche. Blowing out a breath, Corinne pushed open the door. The bell gave a single, sad-sounding chime, and she blinked at the sudden change from outside’s brightness, then blinked again when she saw the interior of the shop.
Gone were the heaps of bladeless sword-pommels; vanished were the boxes of lead phials containing ‘holy’ oil from the shrines of Europe. There were no scraps of chainmail, nor battered and cloudy glass bottles claiming to be of Roman origin. Instead were row upon row of neatly-hung, brightly-coloured silk saris, azure and crimson and violet. Rare flickers of sunlight through the filth-bedecked windows glinted off silver and gold patterns, throwing little sparkles around the otherwise dingy premises. The faint aroma of chicken vindaloo seemed to emanate from the very walls, and satar music undulated around them.
A small, trim woman with flawless sienna-toned skin and a flashing diamond stud in her nostril came forward. “Hello, hello,” she said, smiling widely. Her dark, liquid eyes flicked over Legolas and Haldir briefly before settling on the women. “What may I have the honour of doing for you?”
Corinne couldn’t keep the surprise off her face, and was speechless for a moment until she felt the reassuring touch of Haldir’s mind against hers, like the press of a hand in solace. “I was here a few weeks ago,” she began, “but it wasn’t a sari shop, it sold… antiquities, little historical artifacts.” She was dimly aware of Buffy drifting away to fondle the merchandise, Legolas trailing behind her.
“Oh, no, no,” the woman said in her lilting accent, still smiling. “We have been here for t’irty-two years, it is impossible.”
Haldir came up to stand beside Corinne, lending comfort in the form of his presence, and she leant against him gratefully as a thrill of alarm tightened her chest. “So, if you saw this, it would mean nothing to you?” Corinne asked in desperation, pulling the cartouche from her handbag and unwrapping it from the linen cloth Galadriel had bundled it in.
The woman gazed at it, then at Corinne, and smiled once more. “I am sorry,” she replied pleasantly. “Can I interest you in some nice saris?”
Corinne allowed Haldir to steer her over to where Buffy was holding up a length of emerald-green silk, printed in silver. “Do not despair, doll-nîn,” Haldir whispered in her mind. “We have not exhausted all possibilities.” And he took a sari of golden silk printed with metallic purple lotuses and pronounced it perfect for her.
Ten minutes and $120 later, Buffy was beaming at her companions, the proprietress of the store, and the bum sitting outside on the grate shaking his soup can for change, her arms filled with a brown-paper-wrapped parcel. “Galadriel will love what we got her, won’t she?” she asked happily, and Corinne didn’t have the heart to tell her they had more pressing issues to worry about than how the elf-witch would look in a blue sari with bronze acanthus leaves.
Corinne had tamped down her initial urge to panic, and now her head was whirling with alternatives. “We can go to the Met, pester a curator… What if he insists on a provenance? If I don’t have that receipt, I’m fucked…,” she muttered aloud. “Maybe I could get Ives on the phone; but no, he’s out the rest of the summer. Where’s his beach house? I could call information, get his number, harass him…”
She was interrupted by a tug on her sleeve. “I wanna Dove bar,” Buffy said, and gestured at the elves. “We all do.”
Corinne looked at Legolas and Haldir; they didn’t remotely look as if they even knew what a Dove bar was, let alone want one. Nevertheless, she recognized the attempt at distraction for what it was, and dug out her wallet. “Dove bars all around, then,” she murmured, and sighed to watch Buffy scamper off, pink plastic daisies bobbing merrily with each step, as she dragged Legolas into a nearby bodega.
“It’s like having our very own sugar-frenzied child,” she commented to Haldir, who looked greatly alarmed at the notion. Grinning, she squinted up at the sky, gauging what time it was as she’d forgotten to strap on her watch. It was early afternoon, but she was starting to get hungry and could tell Haldir was, as well. “Who’s in the mood for chicken vindaloo?”
By the time they returned to Corinne’s dorm, she and Buffy had happy tummies, and the elves were glaring at them. Apparently, curry was not a common ingredient in elven cooking and it had taken many chapattis and much ghee to soothe their abused palates. “Yum,” Buffy said with a discreet burp. “I have to get some cookbooks, maybe we can convince Dawn’s cook to try out a few recipes,,,?” Legolas didn’t look thrilled at the concept, but nodded apprehensively.
“Get… er… comfortable,” Corinne urged, motioning toward the narrow single bed and the only chair beside the one before the desk. “I’m going to try and locate my professor.” She booted up her laptop and plugged in the modem, sighing in abject relief to be on the information superhighway once more after a prolonged absence. Buffy and Legolas curled up together on the bed and Haldir pulled the other chair over so he could watch Corinne.
She was very aware of his proximity, and the ache that had been slowly building in her all day suddenly flared to life. She knew he felt it too; his breathing sped up the tiniest bit, and she sensed that same ache within him, desire and longing, urging to be satisfied. Containing her own was difficult enough, but the way hers fed off its knowledge of his made it infinitely powerful.
Licking her lips nervously, she searched an online white pages and found the address of her professor’s beach house, but not the phone number. “Maybe I can get the department office to give it to me,” she said hesitantly.
“Perhaps,” Haldir agreed, his voice low and satiny. “Have I told you how I wish to see you wearing that golden silk, and naught else?”
Corinne closed her eyes and let her head drop back a little as a tide of yearning flowed from him, to her, and back again. Abruptly, she shoved back her chair and stood. “Sometimes in the summer there are a few empty dorms,” she said. “Let me go see if one of them is free, and you two can sleep there tonight,” she told Buffy and Legolas. Buffy smirked knowingly; Legolas just nodded.
She was back within minutes. “We’re in luck,” she said. “Number 4, just down the hall.” They’d gotten to their feet; she chivvied them along and made short work of showing them around the room. “If you need anything… well, just make do without, ok? Or you can ask Sandra, she’d probably love another look at Legolas.”
Corinne rushed back to her own room to find Haldir standing in the middle of it, nude from the waist up. “Ergh,” she groaned at the sight of him, all satiny skin and golden hair cascading to his shoulders.
“Indeed,” he replied with a touch of arrogance. “Do not keep me waiting, doll-nîn.”
She pulled off her clothes all too eagerly as he shucked his leggings, and with a moan of satisfaction they went into each other’s arms. After going all day without, it was like a long sip of cool water after a parching drought. His hands came up to cup and squeeze her breasts as her mouth blindly sought his, lips parting on a sigh of relief. Running his hands around to her back, he trailed them down her spine before grasping a buttock in each palm and hoisting her up, carrying her to the bed and dropping her unceremoniously onto her back.
“I thought you wanted me to wear the sari,” Corinne said breathlessly, looking up at his tall form, so gloriously naked and unashamedly aroused.
“Another time, perhaps,” he murmured, sliding his hand up the inside of her leg to her heated core. “But for now—Ai, Valar, how you are wet for me—I cannot wait.” He knelt over her head and lowered his face, trailing moist, open-mouthed kisses over her hips, her abdomen, her thighs, always circling around the part of her that wanted his caresses the most.
For her part, Corinne delighted in teasing him in the same way. A gentle love bite over the knob of his pelvis, just where the ridge of muscle angled inward; a kiss in the crease where thigh met hip; the merest flicker of the tongue along that tiny seam at the underside of the head of his shaft; the barest touch of soft lips on the weeping tip to collect the pearl of fluid that appeared there. Everything she did to him, she could feel herself, doubled and redoubled in his actions upon her, until the pleasure built unbearably.
“I cannot wait,” Haldir repeated, a desperate edge to his voice, and he plunged his tongue inside her. With a keening cry, her hips surged up to meet him. When she regained control of herself, her mouth found him and took him deep; he spoke for both of them with his whispered plea to the gods.
One hand came to fondle his velvety sac, the other stroked along his length in time to the motion of her mouth even as he filled her with his fingers and trilled his tongue upon her most sensitive spot. Unable to contain herself any longer, she tore her mouth from him as she came. “I love you, oh, I love you, Haldir,” Corinne murmured brokenly, over and over, chanting it like a litany.
Her words sent the pleasure crashing over him, and with a mighty shudder he peaked, flexing his hips spasmodically to thrust himself into the greedy suction of her mouth. Haldir turned his head to sink strong white teeth into her thigh, stifling his cry of joy, feeling her flesh quiver against him. When he returned to himself, it was to feel her hands stroking over his lean flanks, soothing and smoothing, as she nursed tenderly on him in the last aftershocks.
Haldir blinked and looked around him. At some point within the proceedings they had managed to rip the sheets completely free of the bed’s corners, and now Corinne was fairly well tangled up in them. He gently freed himself from her embrace and pulled her up, swiftly wrapping his arm around her waist when her legs faltered.
“So, you enjoyed yourself, then?” he teased, using his free arm to tidy the bed.
“It was alright,” Corinne replied nonchalantly, grinning when he stared at her in disbelief. “Oh, ok, fine. It was amazing, as it always is, and you know it.”
Haldir lowered her to the bed and slipped in beside her, pulling her close and nestling her head against his shoulder. “Yes,” he replied at last, feeling their heartbeats slow their rapid pace. “I know it.”
herves-nîn = my wife
doll-nîn = my dusky one