Apr. 4th, 2008 10:30 am
Characters: John/Rodney, ensemble
Warnings: Crack, language, slash, blood and gore
Disclaimer: None of it is mine. None. Of. It.
Summary: See title.
Author's Note: I feel this deserves some explanation. Or at least a distribution of guilt. I'm blaming day_glosocks (happy birthday!) for most of it, and for making a liar of me by having me write the HP au/crossover/clusterfuck that I said I wasn't going to. But arguably mgbutterfly (what kind of lotion did you want me to pick up from the store, baby?) is to blame as well, because the LotRs one would never have come into being without her. The other three are my own fault, though. So there is that.
England is probably a great place, though Rodney hasn't gotten to experience most of it in the months he's spent in the country. An unfortunate side effect of being sent abroad for schooling is that apparently other countries aren't quite as forward thinking as his own about certain things, and magic happens to be one area where England is seriously lagging behind the times.
Rodney has spent the last eight months trapped in a dreary castle with a bunch of people who seem to think that they're stuck somewhere before the invention of electricity. He's not sure why they think that just because they use magic they can't use pens. Or cell phones. Or why they're so intent on flying everywhere on broomsticks. It hadn't taken Rodney very long to write off ninety-nine percent of his fellow students and the entirety of the faculty as lost causes.
Even his fellow Ravenclaws—who went around claiming to have wit beyond measure, obviously a blatant lie—were so frustrating that he'd given up speaking with them within hours of having a ratty old hat shoved on his head and being pushed towards a bunch of people wearing likewise ridiculous hats and cloaks.
Rodney had stopped letting his parents dress him somewhere around three years old, and he was damned if he was going to let anyone else force him to dress up like an idiot at sixteen. Rodney had resisted all efforts to have any kind of hat anywhere near his head, and clung to his warm, familiar orange fleece when they'd tried to replace it with one of their black robes.
The whispering about him using notebooks and pens to take notes in class and stepping outside school grounds to call his parents had been ignored. The sneers about the relative purity of his blood—and he was still having a hard time believing that there where still people around that thought magic-limited people were somehow lesser beings—were dismissed. Rodney had planned to keep to himself and wait out this fresh hell, his own island of sanity in the midst of the asshattery going on all around him.
Unfortunately, the other foreign exchange students had decided that he had the right idea, and he'd been saddled with a freakishly calm Hispanic girl, a big quiet guy from some island or another, and the quintessential bratty, rich, American. Rodney had impatiently put up with them, the four of them banding together against the greater weirdness all around them and the confusion of their 'houses'.
And at some point Rodney had realized that they were his friends. Frustratingly brave Teyla, who had gone and made friends with all the ghosts haunting the school the week she arrived. Ronon, who spent hours trying to learn the spells they were being taught and listened patiently when Rodney finally broke down and explained them, and who sampled everything Rodney wanted to eat after he found out about Rodney's lemon allergy. John Sheppard, who was perfect in all the ways Rodney was never going to be and who had every teacher, and most of the students, in the school wrapped around his finger. They had all become family at some point.
Which is probably why when Teyla and Ronon run up to Rodney, bursting with the news that Sheppard got invited along to wake up an elder god, Rodney doesn't even hesitate before trying to figure out how to stop it. It's just one of those things you have to do sometimes, and besides, no one else is smart enough to figure it out.
And that's how Rodney ends up standing on the wet sand of some beach on a whole different continent, rain hammering down on him as he watches the group of hooded people swaying around a huge pillar of green fire. He's soaked through in seconds, and Ronon is rumbling in his ear, "Fuck, McKay, think you could warn us before you do that?"
Rodney releases their elbows, ignoring the question because it's not his fault they're not as good at transportation spells as he is. It's also not his fault that he didn't have time to explain exactly where they were going, but neither of the others had ever been anywhere near Salem, Massachusetts. And okay, yes, it had been a lucky guess on his part to choose Salem instead of Innsmouth or Dunwich, but mostly it had been necessity. His parents had never seen fit to take him to Innsmouth or Dunwich.
It doesn't matter. They're obviously on the right beach, if the hooded—again with the goddamn hoods, Rodney doesn't get the obsession—figures are anything to go by. So far he, Ronon and Teyla haven't been noticed, and Rodney takes a steadying breath, yells over the rain, "Remember what you're supposed to do?"
Neither of them so much as hesitates before nodding and Rodney risks one quick look out over the ocean. Nothing tentacle-y or evil appears to be rising out of the crashing waves yet, but someone in the group has started chanting, "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn—"
Teyla winces at the words and takes off across the sand, dragging Ronon along by the wrist, heading for higher ground to work on their spells. And Rodney, his hair hanging in his eyes, water plastering his shirt to his skin, on the right continent for what seems like the first time in forever, makes himself move towards the green fire.
He shouts, straining his voice to be heard over the chanting, the flames, the crashing of the waves, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
For the most part he's ignored, but one of the figures turns to look at him. Even with the hood pulled low over his face, John Sheppard is recognizable, the flash of his smile and his careless wave familiar even in the midst of a ceremony to bring hell on earth. Rodney scowls, almost to the circle now, contiues, "Yes, you. What the hell, Sheppard?"
Some of the others are paying attention now, turning away from their fire and eying Rodney with what is most definitely not friendliness. He has to remind himself that Teyla and Ronon are out in the dunes somewhere, prepared to blast the hell out of anyone that tries to kill him. John shrugs, looking out across the water and then up to the sky, finally says, "Didn't figure you'd be here, McKay."
Rodney throws up his arms, clinging desperately to his irritation in the hope that no one will notice he's scared out of his fucking mind, "Oh, I'm sorry, I couldn't quite bring myself to just sit around and let you try to destroy the sanity of every person on the planet. What's wrong with you?"
Sheppard shrugs again, and one of the men standing beside him cuts in, voice booming, "Do you not see, we will become as the Great Old Ones. We will be free! And wild! Beyond good and evil, with our confining laws and morals tossed aside, shouting, killing, revelling in joy beyond compare! The Earth will burn with a holocaust of ecstasy—"
"Silencio! And also, shut up, God." Rodney scowls at the man, now opening and closing his mouth like a gold fish. Spells might be useful, but sometimes they just don't adequately convey his irritation with the situation. He focuses back in on Sheppard, "Listen to me, it appears that you idiots have already gotten pretty far along in this ritual. Which means that, joy of joys, we're going to need some serious fire power to stop it. Now, take off that ridiculous cloak, get over here, and help me fix this."
Sheppard might be squinting at him. It's hard to tell in the rain. Either way, he shifts his weight from foot to foot, says, "Look, McKay, they've got a point."
Sometimes people are such idiots that Rodney fears stupidity might be a degenerative, wasting sickness that they're all infected with. Rodney steps forward, pokes Sheppard hard in the shoulder and does his best to keep his voice from going high and desperate, "No, no what they have is a case of terminal stupidity. People will die if you do this, goddamnit."
Sheppard shrugs, sighs with nothing but long suffering condescension in his tone, "People die a lot. But I won't. And you won't either. Look, it's all about who's strongest after we wake him up. And everyone says I'm the strongest wizard in, well, in a while. I'll look out for you and Teyla and Ronon, okay?"
Punching Sheppard in the jaw is looking like a better and better option by the minute, but it probably wouldn't help in the long run. Rodney takes a step back instead, crossing his arms and scowling as fiercely as he can at Sheppard. He spits, "If you do this I will never, ever, make out with you."
There's a pause, where the whole world seems to go still and silent.
And then Sheppard is taking a small step away from the circle, pushing his hood off and not even seeming to notice when the onslaught of water plasters his hair down around his face. He looks fascinated, head tilted to the side when he says, "What?"
Rodney wonders how exactly he came up with this plan, and then goes with it because it seems to be working, "You heard me. Any chance you ever had to get me to stick my hand down your pants," he snaps his fingers, "gone."
Gambling like this is really more Teyla's thing than his. She's the brave one, the one who is perfectly okay with going along with stupid plans. But Rodney is really pretty sure that he hasn't misread the way Sheppard looks at him. He prays he hasn't.
Sheppard does seem to be considering, and one of the other people in the circle stomps a foot, puts his hands on his hips and yells at Sheppard, "Hey, kid, we don't have time for this. We're past the point where you can just back out."
Sheppard looks at the man, the fire, the ocean, and then back to Rodney, his expression openly calculating. Rodney thinks that he's being weighed against the destruction of civilization as they know it, and that they're all so, so screwed. And then Sheppard takes another step away from the green flames, shrugging his cloak off of his shoulders and saying, "Okay."
Rodney and the men still around the fire all say, "Okay?" with the same tone of surprised incredulity. One of the men continues, "You can't change your mind!"
"I just did." Sheppard steps up to Rodney, grinning that cocky smile that gets him whatever the hell he wants. The other men around the circle are all sputtering, confusion giving way to anger and demands for an explanation and Sheppard is in Rodney's space, reaching out to push his hair out of his eyes and looking distracted when he says, "Sorry guys, a better offer came along."
Rodney has the presence of mind to mumble, "Lumos," under his breath, the signal for Teyla and Ronon to utterly destroy the green fire, and then John is leaning into him, pausing with his lips almost brushing Rodney's. Rodney grits out, "You're an idiot, you know that?" and John leans the rest of the way in, his lips slick with rain, his hand sliding down to curl around the back of Rodney's neck.
Around them, Ronon and Teyla's spells crash and throw sand everywhere and possibly somewhere out in the waves a great monster screams and writhes and sinks back to the depths. Rodney isn't paying very much attention, fisting a hand in John's shirt and pulling him closer.
John Sheppard backs into his apartment, arms full of groceries, and the first thing he notices is the smell. It's all smoke and melted plastic and John curses around the keys he's holding between his teeth and bangs one shoulder into the wall looking for the light switch and praying that the fire isn't big enough to cost him his security deposit.
He flips the light on and barely manages not to drop his groceries all over the floor.
There are three naked people in the middle of his living room, slowly standing up and looking around like they've never seen the inside of a bachelor pad before. There are two men and a woman, and the woman turns to look at John, her expression curiously blank for the situation, which John feels calls for horror or at least embarrassment. She says, "John Oliver Sheppard?"
John stares at her, or more accurately, he stares at her breasts. It's kind of impossible not to. They're really very nice breasts, as far as breasts go, full and round and her skin looks very soft. Also, he really needs to kick the heater on, apparently. The giant sized guy standing behind her growls and John wonders if he's about to get into a brawl for looking at the naked woman that somehow managed to show up in his living room without any help from him.
Before that can happen the shorter, also naked, man is talking, "It's him. Come on, he doesn't look that different. John, we need clothes. Where's your bedroom?"
John considers his options, shifting his attention to the man talking to him. The guy is every bit as naked as his companions, pale where they're dark, with a mop of dark curls, blue eyes, and a tattoo John can just barely see high on his inner thigh. John waits for the situation to become less bizarre. When it doesn't he jerks his chin towards the hall that runs back to his bedroom, and says, "The door is open."
The guy smiles, big and crooked, and takes off down the hall. John stares after him, not sure if he's looking at the other man's ass or the ugly scars that crisscross the pale skin of his back and shoulders. John's attention is only jerked forward again when someone pulls the keys out of his mouth and takes the groceries from him.
The giant moves off with the bags and John doesn't protest, not least because the guy is twice his size and looks like he's spent his entire life beating up smaller people and eating them. John watches in a kind of numb shock as the big man tears open his package of sliced ham and gives it a cautious sniff before stuffing a huge handful of it into his mouth.
The irritation of someone eating his food knocks John far enough out of the surreal circumstances he's suddenly found himself stranded in to ask, "Who the hell are you people?"
Naked Lady—still very, very naked—is the one that replies, her voice oddly inflectionless, "I am a T-886, combat and infiltration model. That is Specialist Ronon Dex. And that is Meredith Rodney McKay." She turns to look down the hallway just as the shorter man reappears, wearing one of John's t-shirts and a pair of John's jeans.
The clothes are just a little too big on him, but he doesn't seem aware of it, tossing a shirt and pants at the woman before turning towards Ronon Dex, saying, "There's nothing big enough for you here. We'll have to make a stop on our way down to the base."
Dex shrugs, polishing off the last of John's ham and tossing the empty bag onto the counter. His voice is a low rumble, "Was planning on stealing a uniform anyway."
McKay rolls his eyes, reaching out and snatching John's keys from the big man's hands. They both start for the door, but McKay pauses, staring at John with sadness written all over his expression before he shakes himself. Dex reaches out, puts a hand on McKay's shoulder and sounds gentler when he says, "We don't have much time."
McKay nods, "Right. Right. Yes," and then to John, "Teyla will take care of you, listen to her, okay?"
And John finally manages, as McKay starts to step out his front door, "What the hell is going on here?"
There's a pause where the men just look at him while Teyla, or T-886, or whatever the hell he's supposed to be calling her, dresses herself quickly in his clothes. John isn't sure that this isn't all some kind of strange dream, more of a nightmare, and is about to say so when his windows burst inward in a spray of glass and explosions of gunfire.
It's insane, watching his blinds jump and bounce, watching glass spinning down to the floor, catching and reflecting the light. John stares, his mind desperately trying to catch up and Teyla-T-886-whatever tackles him around the waist and drives him to the floor.
She's ridiculously heavy for a woman that can't be over five foot three, and John gets the air knocked out of his lungs in a rush, his head cracking into the floor. Over his head bullets are slamming into the far wall, over and over and over again. There's drywall dust everywhere and the salty smell of blood is filling the room up and Teyla-T-886-whatever pushes herself up and turns towards the windows.
John watches bullets catch her in the shoulder, gut, and right thigh. She doesn't even flinch, just stalks towards the window, her hair matted with blood, John's clothes sticking to her skin, metal flashing in the ugly wound over her hip. John gapes, and someone gets a hand in his hair, yanking hard.
John jerks back to the present, to the adrenaline pounding in his veins, to McKay yanking on his hair like he's trying to pull it out. John pushes himself towards the other man, slipping in the blood all over his linoleum floor, and McKay lets go of his hair, turning his attention back to Dex.
Dex, unlike Teyla-T-886-whatever, isn't faring as well with the bullet hole punched into his shoulder. The man is slumping against John's doorframe, blood trickling out of the corner of his mouth as McKay presses his hands against the ragged wound. McKay is cursing, loud and bitter, demanding, "How'd they find us so quickly? Fuck! Fuck! Ronon, look at me!"
There's a crash, and John looks back into his living room to find a man hauling himself through what's left of his window. The guy is huge and as John watches Teyla-T-886-whatever grabs the man by his ears and drives her knee up into his face. The noise isn't so much the smash of cartilage as the scream of metal on metal.
"Get Sheppard out of here." Dex's voice is wet, thin, and he's shoving McKay away, pushing to his feet. "I'll keep the metal off you as long as I can. Your mission is scrapped, McKay. Sheppard is the priority, do you understand?"
McKay looks for an instant like he might argue, and then he's nodding, grabbing John again and pushing him through the door. Out in the hallway things look normal, sane, as long as you ignore the roar of anger from John's apartment and the crashes.
John stumbles the first few steps, but McKay is pulling him along relentlessly. The other man is covered in his friend's blood, barefoot, and holding onto John's keys like they're a lifeline. He looks like he's about an inch away from snapping, and he's dragging John with him.
They pass Ms. Ellswourth on the stairs, and she screams. John doesn't really blame her, trying a comforting smile anyway as McKay pounds down the stairs two and three at a time. He has time to hope that she doesn't continue upstairs and get caught in the war-zone that his apartment has become and then they're in the parking lot and McKay is demanding, "Where's your car?"
John points mutely to the rust bucket of a truck that he calls his. He expects McKay to make a disgusted sound, but the man just drags him over to the vehicle, yanks the driver's side door open and yells, "Get in!" and when John hesitates, "Do you want to die? Get in the fucking truck!"
John gets in the truck.
McKay is already pushing in, forcing John to slide over and shoving the keys into the ignition. The man manages to spin the wheels reversing, and takes out a curb on the way to the road. John scrambles for his seatbelt, McKay takes out a mail box, and John yells, "Jesus, who taught you to drive?"
And McKay looks over at him, all the anger and panic draining out of his expression, leaving behind only that deep empty sadness that John had seen in his apartment. McKay looks away after just a second, wrapping his bloody hands around the steering wheel and mumbling so softly that John barely hears him, "You did. You do."
John turns to look over his shoulder. His apartment building is on fire now, his life burning down as some crazy stranger for all intents and purposes kidnaps him. There's a woman with metal bones back there, and he just watched someone get shot. Five minutes and a life time ago he had got home from getting groceries, planned to kick back and watch the game and thank God he'd made it home from overseas alive.
John clears his throat, "What the hell is going on?"
"Look, I really need to get off of this planet."
Rodney rolls his eyes, doesn't even bother pulling himself out of the ship he's working on. She's all gummed up inside and half her wiring is dry rotted, he doesn't want to lose his place. Especially not for her aggravating, pain-in-the-ass, of a pilot. Rodney grits out, ignoring the sting of sweat running into his eyes, "It's a moon."
There's a pause, and then, "What?" Sheppard sounds closer, and Rodney wonders if he's doing one of his Force tricks to levitate himself up.
Rodney rolls his eyes, wondering how the hell the man managed to burn out the secondary landing propulsions systems that most people never even use when he says, "Nar Shaddaa is a moon. Or did you think you were on Nal Hutta?" There's a beat of silence, "Wait. How did—no, no I don't want to know. Don't tell me."
The silence stretches, and Rodney dares to hope that Sheppard wandered off. He has a lot of work to do on the Atlantean Dawn and her pilot is nothing but a distraction and an irritation. Work goes much faster while he's not around to ask his stupid questions.
Unfortunately, Sheppard says a moment later, "Okay, fine, I really need to get off this moon."
Rodney figures it's all for the best that he's shoulder-deep in the machinery of the man's ship, or he'd be far too tempted to bash him upside the head with a wrench. And attacking Jedi is never a good idea. Not even Jedi who crash their ships and can't keep track of which planetary body they're stranded on.
Rodney makes an effort towards patience, but not a very large one, "Well then I suggest you go find a transport, because I have at least another three cycles of work on your ship. As I've told you. Repeatedly." Sheppard appears to be from the school of thought that says the more he comes around to be annoying the faster Rodney will finish his work. He's so wrong it'd be funny if it weren't driving Rodney insane.
"C'mon, McKay, word on the street is that you're some kind of genius." Sheppard has taken on a wheedling tone, and Rodney spares a moment to wonder if Sheppard is trying to mind-trick him into something. He doesn't feel particularly influenced, but he's been told before that he has a strong natural resistance to outside pressure. Something about being a stubborn, pig-headed bastard.
In any case, "I am a genius. Which is why it's going to take another three cycles to get your ship back in the air instead of the dozen it would take anyone else." It's Rodney's professional opinion that no one else could get the ship flying again, period, but they'd try for awhile before giving up.
Sheppard heaves a sigh, speaks again from closer to the ground, "I left you the information on where I'm staying if you get it done earlier, right?"
Rodney ignores the question, because they both know that Sheppard is going to be back, time and time and time again before Rodney gets close to done. The man has a freakish obsession with his ship, and Rodney speeds up his work as much as he can, because he really can't wait to get the Jedi out of his hair.
Eljonas wasn't sure what to make of the fact that someone had went and changed the name of his forest while he was away. Granted, he was aware that such things had happened before. After all, Men were impatient creatures and lacked the wisdom that the elder races had. But he had not been prepared to return home to his beloved Greenwood the Great and find it being called Mirkwood in the mouths of the surrounding Men as well as its own folk.
It was a truly unpleasant surprise, second only to the fact that so many of his people had abandoned the larger part of the wood. Many of his old haunts, from the glorious days of his childhood those millennia ago, were abandoned and overgrown with thorns now, inhabited by none save the giant spiders. The change is almost inconceivable, to take place in so little time.
Eljonas walks the paths that he tread not two thousand years ago, and wonders why he thought it might be a good idea to go home for a while.
Lorien was bound to be gorgeous, and certainly it would be more familiar than these dark woods that had once been his home. The golden wood had never changed, and Eljonas had no doubt that it never would. Even the halls of Imladris would certainly be welcoming after the cold days he'd spent below the gray boughs of the trees he once called friends.
There's a part of him that even thinks that going to the White City or wandering amongst the Rohirrim might be preferable to this. But it is home, and he's come this far. If nothing else, he feels he should see his family, make sure the centuries have treated them fondly.
Eljonas sighs, and continues north, past the Emyn Fuin.
Some days later Davenas looks surprised for all of two seconds when he opens the door and finds Eljonas on his doorstep. Eljonas smiles, trying to keep the expression from looking unsuitably tight, and waves. He's pleased that his voice is mostly pleasant when he says, "Greetings, my brother."
Davenas scowls at him, and says without any preamble, "They passed for the Gray Havens long ago."
Eljonas almost curses, and then remembers that he's not in the company of Men anymore, and smiles some more instead. Davenas is still not returning the expression, and Eljonas finally sighs, lowers his voice to the whine that he knows drives his older brother crazy but nevertheless has always gotten him his way, "I need but a place to rest for a few moons."
For a half second he thinks Davenas will turn him aside, but then his brother steps back from the door, motioning Eljonas in. The foyer looks exactly as Eljonas remembered it, all open spaces and the tapestries his mother favored, and even in a different house it's painfully familiar.
Davenas waits for Eljonas to hang up his bow, to slide his quiver off his shoulder before saying, "It seems this is my day for guests. Nanciel is here as well."
The door is only a step away. Eljonas freezes with his hand on his quiver, wondering how quickly he could grab his bow and flee. It is, of course, nothing but foolishness to believe that she would still be holding a grudge after two millennia. Surely the broken engagement is the last thing on her mind.
Eljonas winces at her sweetly familiar voice, "Ah, my missing Eljonas. I see that in your travels you still have not managed to find a solution to the nightmare that is your hair." Oh, yes. Now he remembers why he'd avoided coming home for so very, very long.
Eljonas lasts for a day before deciding that he has to escape before he buries an arrow to the fletching in Davenas or Nanciel's eye. Nanciel hovers over his shoulder, flicking her long dark tresses back at every opportunity, watching him carefully load his pack.
The pack holds enough way bread to last him for weeks, his whetting blade, and spices should he take up hunting, the essentials that he's pared his life down to over the long seasons away from home. Nanciel keeps up constant chatter, about the elf she finally wed, and the children she bore that went off on their own adventures millennia ago.
Eljonas tries to disguise the naked relief he feels when he finally slides his pack on, throws his traveling cloak over his shoulder. He turns, itching to grab his daggers and bow and get out of here before he loses what sanity he has left, and Nanciel stops him with a gentle hand on his arm.
For once her expression looks open and concerned, and Eljonas stares down at her, wondering if perhaps he judged her too harshly. She smiles at him, and draws a vial from beneath her robe, pushing it into his hand and curling his fingers around it.
Eljonas stares down at it, turning it over to look for any instructions and upon not finding any questioning, "Uh?"
Nanciel makes a soft scornful sound and leans forward to confide, "It is smoothing potion. Perhaps it will help with...that." She makes a vague gesture towards his hair and Eljonas resists very strongly the urge to take a knife to her hair while screaming in frustration.
He grits out, "I shall be going now," and leaves without looking back. Ah, family.
Eljonas' plan is to go south again, back across the Emyn Fuin to the Old Forest Road. He plans to take the road west, to cross the Anduin and the Misty Mountains into Rivendell. Word is that the Old Forest Road isn't as safe as it once was, but Eljonas has spent the last seven hundred years in one form of skirmish or another. He is not overly concerned about a few giant spiders or Orcs.
Eljonas makes it all the way to the Emyn Fuin before deciding that the last thing he needs is elves he doesn't even know trying to fix his hair. He makes his camp up a tree, eats cold way bread before he lets himself drift, trying to decide where to go from here.
In the morning, with the weak winter sun beating down on him, it seems obvious. After all, he has never seen the Celduin, and it seems that after living in these woods for such a large portion of his life he should at least take the opportunity to soak his feet in the waters of the river.
Besides, the hills of the Emyn Fuin run almost all the way to the river's shore.
Satisfied with having a clear course of action, Eljonas drops gracefully out of his tree, whispers a farewell into its trunk, and sets off with a new lightness in his heart. He follows the line of the mountains, relieved in no small way that there's no way he'll be able to get turned around while using mountains as a point of reference.
It's little more than fifty miles as the crow flies to the river, and Eljonas is in no rush. He gives himself three days to reach it.
By the second day Eljonas is considering stretching the trip out to a week. The path by the mountains is, well, rocky. He could easily move away, walk deeper amongst the trees, but Eljonas still has horrible memories of getting turned around in the Old Forest past Bree and a very strange man in a blue coat who had felt the need to sing about everything. He decides it's best to stick by his landmark.
Not that it is in any way an unpleasant trip. The weather is nicely bracing, no doubt chilly to any Man. The sky is clear through the day and into the night, and Eljonas spends hours high among the branches of the trees, watching the stars move through the steps of their endless dance. He is, if not happy, then content in the silence and peace of this place. And he has, for once, no where else to be.
He slows his pace, taking breaks throughout the day, resting on stones warmed by the weak sunlight and singing all the old songs as he goes.
On the third day he smells water, but reckons that he is not near close enough to the Celduin yet. Curiosity peaked, and more than a little anxious to fill his canteen with fresh water, Eljonas quickens his pace. He's humming under his breath, and as the sun fully rises, he raises his voice in song. Having no one to tell him to shut his trap is one of the nicer parts of traveling alone.
He's just starting the song of Nimrodel, which now that he thinks about it doesn't actually match his mood at all, never mind that the water he has almost reached has put it in his head, when he realizes that even traveling alone there are those offended by his singing. Someone calls, from the shore of the lake, if Eljonas' ears do not deceive him, "By the forges, shut up!"
Eljonas snaps his mouth shut automatically, wincing in embarrassment. There's a part of him that wants to turn around and flee before he can be discovered, but he really wants fresh water. And it's not like he has to stay in the presence of whoever he's managed to offend.
Eljonas takes a bracing breath, and steps through the last row of trees, opening his mouth to apologize and feels the words die in his throat.
There's a man in the water. Well. Not a Man, obviously, but definitely of the masculine persuasion. He has his back to Eljonas, standing waist deep in the water, pale skin streaked with dirt, water running down his shoulders and arms. Eljonas can see the muscles moving beneath the man's skin, broad shoulders leading to a thick back, and makes a sound that could roughly be described as a squeak, if one were feeling ungenerous.
The sound gets the man's attention. He turns, arms crossing over his chest as he faces Eljonas, and demands, "Were you the one singing? What are you, an elf? I have worked with apprentices that clash their hammers against anvils with more musical ability than you display."
Eljonas blinks, and digs deep for peace and tranquility. His efforts would probably work better if he'd ever been any good at the peace and tranquility thing. He settles for shooting back while trying very hard not to stare at the stranger, "Perhaps you have merely been deafened by the clamor of your hammers."
The man smirks, which effectively ruins Eljonas' efforts to ignore him. His mouth is oddly crooked, and even with the short, dark, beard the man is sporting Eljonas can see the twist of it. It distracts him momentarily from the man's eyes, blue as the sea that will sooner or later call Eljonas away from this land, and the man's arms, but only briefly. The man says, "I would have been saved much grief were that the case."
Elves don't blush, and so Eljonas is sure that the burn along the tips of his ears is from the sun. Eljonas grasps desperately for something to say, aware that mutely staring is not exactly part of any peoples accepted social graces, "You are a dwarf."
The dwarf cocks his head to the side, and Eljonas' attention is captured by his surprisingly short hair. He doesn't think he's ever seen a dwarf with hair quite that short before. In fact, he isn't sure he's seen any but the very young wear their hair quite so close to their head.
"Indeed, I am Meredith son of Meredydd son of Maredudd son of—"
Eljonas can feel his expression glazing over. He hasn't met very many dwarves. Their species don't exactly play well together. But he's aware that they all feel the need to go through their entire family line. Except Meredith is waving one of his hands, absently flicking drops of water at Eljonas while saying, "—someone or the other. I never really bothered remembering that far."
Meredith is staring at him expectantly, and Eljonas realizes what he's waiting for after a moment, "Oh. I am Eljonas of the Woodland Elves, from—"
Meredith cuts him off, snorting while wading out further into the lake, scrubbing at the dirt smeared on his skin. "I will not call you that." Eljonas boggles at him, not sure if he's more surprised by the man's reaction to his name or the fact that the man intends to go right on bathing in front of him. Before he can decide Meredith is continuing, "Does John suit you? It is a good, strong, name."
Eljonas grits his teeth, "There is nothing wrong with my name. What about your name?"
Meredith shrugs, bending forward and submerging his head. Eljonas has the sudden urge to wade out and hold him under, and chides himself. Dwarves are, of course, naturally infuriating. He understands that it's part of his responsibility as the more advanced race to control his temper.
That's why when Meredith straightens, water running down his body in a cascade, Eljonas says, "I think Rodney."
Rodney—because Eljonas is damn well going to start using that name immediately—blinks at him, scowling. "Perhaps that made sense to you, but you are going to have to explain your outbursts to those of us fortunate enough to not to be using your mind."
Eljonas thinks he was insulted at least twice, but he's not completely sure. He decides to ignore it, in an effort to be the better elf. "That is what I will call you. Rodney. It's a good, strong, name."
Rodney snorts, wading towards the shore and Eljonas, "You cannot just make up a word. 'John' is right there in the middle of your unnecessarily ornate name. 'Rodney' is nothing more than some sounds you threw together."
The dwarf doesn't seem as irritated as he should be, and Eljonas isn't irritated at all as the man steps out of the lake, water running down his short, sturdy legs. Rodney stomps up to him, and Eljonas feels his entire body jerk in surprise when Rodney braces a hand on his hip and pushes him to the side.
Rodney huffs out an irritated sigh, "Wonderful. Was it necessary for you to step on my clothes?"
Eljonas shrugs, trying to look aloof and nonchalant. He says, looking up at the sky to avoid looking at the things he shouldn't be, and says without an ounce of sincerity, "Sorry, Rodney."
The dwarf makes another aggravated sound, lost in the sound of him pulling his clothes on. When Rodney finally speaks Eljonas is completely surprised by what he says, "I never really liked Meredith anyway. Now. I have important work to be doing. Please, wait until you have moved far away from my mountain before starting that caterwauling again."
With that, Rodney swings the axe that Eljonas hadn't even noticed up onto his shoulder, and marches off.
Eljonas fills up his canteen. He even takes a bath because while he doesn't smell bad or feel particularly dirty, and never has, there's always the off chance that it'll one day happen. He's spent a lot of time around the species not blessed with quite so much grace as his, and their ability to get grubby might eventually rub off.
He also climbs up into one of the trees surrounding the lake and settles in. It isn't exactly dark yet, but it will be soon, and while he doesn't actually need to sleep he prefers not to be down on ground level when all the creatures with fangs and claws start moving about in earnest.
Eljonas watches the stars overhead, and when the sun starts staining the horizon pink and the predators of the night return to their haunts, he carefully slides back to the ground. And pauses. There's no reason for him to linger here any longer, and there are plenty of reasons for him to leave. At the top of that list is the fact that there's a dwarf living in the area.
But then again, Eljonas has no reason to believe that Rodney lives here. The dwarf could have just as easily been passing through himself. And if he was then there's no reason that Eljonas has to move on. He likes this lake. It's quiet, it's calm, no one knows he's here.
Eljonas figures that he can stick around for a while. If the dwarf comes back he can leave.
Eljonas spends the day following animals around through the woods. There aren't as many of them as there used to be, but he finds enough to keep himself occupied. The squirrel that he decides to chase through the canopy even provides a challenge, and he chases it until it starts throwing nuts at him and chittering angrily.
The sun is just starting to sink when Eljonas returns to the lake, and he ignores the curious tightness in his stomach. Perhaps he will eat two bites of way bread tonight to ease the ache.
Rodney is in the lake again when Eljonas drops out of the trees. The dwarf startles, blinking up at him with his big blue eyes. Rodney recovers quickly, scrubbing at the thick black dirt on his neck, and says, "Surprised to see you again, John."
Eljonas stares at him sourly for a moment before rolling his eyes and carefully avoiding stepping on Rodney's clothes when he sits down beside the lake. "That is not my name."
Rodney's mouth does all kinds of interesting things, and smiling turns out to be one of them. The dwarf grins at him, there's no other word for it, and says, "It is while you stay here."
Eljonas leans back in the soft grass that surrounds the lake, plucks a piece and twirls it between his fingers. He asks, more honestly curious than irritated, "You said this was your mountain?"
Rodney visibly brightens, ducks his head under the water and comes up still smiling, "Not the whole range yet, obviously. But this particular mountain," the dwarf twists, pointing over his shoulder at the peak rising against the horizon, "Is mine."
Eljonas considers this, "Why do you have your own mountain?" He's pretty sure most dwarves don't. For one thing, there aren't enough mountains for every dwarf to have one of their own. And there are bunches of them living together, he's sure. Maybe they usually have mountain common shares.
Rodney's expression shifts to uncomfortable, and the dwarf's voice has gone defensive, "I got tired of watching the others do everything wrong and decided that it would be best to go start over somewhere fresh. Do things right without idiots complicating matters."
Rodney seems unhappy all of a sudden, and he's scowling when he exits the lake. Eljonas decides to go for soothing platitudes, "I am certain you have a very nice mountain."
"I have an excellent mountain." The words are snapped out, and then Rodney pauses, lacing his breeches up. He fidgets with the leather strings, looking to the side at Eljonas out of the corner of his eye, "They all said that the rock here was too soft, but I have found a way to carve it without disrupting the structure. There is already much beauty in it and I will make it perfect."
The dwarf sounds painfully earnest and Eljonas is surprised to find that he doesn't have to completely feign interest. "Maybe you could show it to me?" And Rodney stares at him hard for a long moment before smiling again.
John ends up introducing Rodney to the majority of his family at his father's funeral. His father and Rodney had, of course, already met, but their acquaintance had been rather brief and, well, never extended past the realm of a business relationship. John is glad they had the chance to meet, though he certainly isn't going to tell his brother that. It probably wouldn't go over that well, and Rodney is already uncomfortable with the entire affair.
Rodney is shifting uneasily now, watching Dave and Nancy approach with their matching looks of grief and sympathy. He pokes John in the side, which probably would have been more effective in John hadn't been wearing his Watch armor, and hisses, "I really don't think this is a good idea."
John pokes back, mindful of Rodney's ticklish spot below his ribs because having him burst into laughter would probably be the nail in the coffin of the whole fiasco. So to speak.
Dave is there before John can grit out encouragement, giving John one of the formal, stiff nods that pass for affection in their family. Nancy is already focusing in on Rodney, looking him up and down with a slight tilt to her nose, finally saying, "You brought an assassin to the funeral, John?"
John is willing to concede that it might have been in poor taste. Especially considering the exact circumstances of his meeting Rodney and, in fact, getting to know him well enough to invite him to the funeral. But Rodney wasn't half so good with manners as Assassins Guild members were supposed to be and John hadn't felt like dealing with all the prayers alone and besides, it was, when you got right down to it, Rodney's fault that he had to deal with it at all.
Still, leave it to Nancy to make it sound like he'd broken a law. John had been so sure that wearing his uniform would have served as a reminder as to who had a keener grasp of right and wrong, but obviously he had been mistaken. That was usually the way it was with Nancy.
John is just opening his mouth to point out that he can bring whoever he wants to bring to his own father's funeral, but Dave interrupts, looking at Rodney with something speculative in his gaze, "You were formally trained? What family are you?"
And that's got Rodney's chin tilting up, his bright blue eyes narrowing and John can almost feel him fighting against crossing his arms. Rodney's voice is all waspish irritation, not a hint of the gentlemanly manners that the Assassins Guild is notorious for, "I was a foundling."
Dave and Nancy exchange a look while taking a step back, which isn't exactly a surprise. Everyone knows the foundlings are the ones that actually work for commission. It's all fine and good to be trained in a thousand ways to kill a man, and to learn your way around a flute as well, but when it gets right down to it the high born aren't really expected to kill people. At least not for money. Or rather, at least not for money to be paid by a third party.
Dave and Nancy make quick excuses and John rolls his eyes at their retreating backs, turns to find Rodney watching him with a curious expression and says, "So, the Mended Drum, then?"
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