Behind the Lute Case

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'Behind the Lute Case'

Behind the Lute Case

 

All was quiet in the Last Homely House. Outside it was cold and threatening snow and even the Hall of Fire had drifted into near silence as people sought the warmth of their own or others' beds. A core of diehards remained, but Lindir had gone home to get some work done. He sat in the middle of his bed, papers spread out around him, the cheap and nasty harp he composed on leaning against the pillow. He had just changed a row of notes when there was a knock at the door.

Lindir frowned. It was late for callers. Some instinct said to ignore it, but he supposed it might be important. He got up carefully so as not to disorder the sheets of music, and went to open it.

Gildor leaned an arm against the doorframe, a wine bottle in his other hand. His auburn hair had come loose and hung over one shoulder, his shirt was open to mid chest, displaying a silver and jade pendant of Haradrim design. He was tall and lean and hard and sexy as hell. And drunk. Lindir grabbed the handle and tried to push the door shut. "Not buying, try down in the village," he snapped.

Only a little unsteady on his feet, Gildor pushed back, walked in and closed the door behind him. He looked around carefully, searching for something. "Where's that flower?"

"Flower? What...?"

"Ugly tangerine thing you had in the corner once. Told you to get rid of it. Was watching us."

"And I told you I'd never heard anything more ridiculous in my life," Lindir retorted," and that you had no bloody business telling me to get rid of my plant. As though you had rights in here."

"It's gone though, yes? Sneaking, spying things."

Lindir glared at him. "I try not listen to the rubbish you spout about killer plants and elf eating pods when you're drunk, Gil, but it gets really tired after a bit."

"Long as it’s not here." Gildor gave the room a final inspection then held the bottle out to Lindir. "What you need is to relax and have some of this. Shouldn't be working this late. What’s all this on the bed?"

He strode – more correctly, staggered - to the bed and swept the papers into a pile before Lindir could say a word. Putting the wine down on the table, he made a valiant lunge. "Damn it Gildor, you drunk! I had those in order..."

Gildor, already off balance, tripped and fell heavily onto the bed, taking Lindir with him and almost wiping out the harp.

"Get off, you ass!" Lindir yelped, beating at him vainly.

Gildor snickered and managed to roll them over so he was on top. Even drunk, he was hard and strong and Lindir knew from past experience he was no match. He thought of moving the harp, and then he stopped thinking as Gildor found his mouth and began kissing him - hot, hungry, and with some inventive tongue play.

Fed up though he was, the usual happened and Lindir's arm found its way up around Gildor's neck. His fingers closed around the collar of Gildor's jacket and he closed his eyes, giving himself up to the kisses. A determined hand burrowed down into his trousers and he pressed up against it urgently. Calloused fingers wrapped around him and he gasped aloud. He started pulling at clothing, arguments about papers, the hour and plants vanishing into a haze of lust.

Afterwards Gildor passed out on top of and still inside him and had to be pushed off forcefully. Shirt missing, trousers undone, he rolled onto his side, stretched out - taking up a large part of the bed - and started to snore. Lindir watched him for a while, trying not to notice the way the light burnished his hair or the fact that in sleep he looked worn out and almost vulnerable. Then he smacked himself across the head several times, hard. "Stupid, spineless, weak-willed --- you said never again and what do you do? He pushes his way into your room and next thing you're on your hands and knees, begging."

Having got that off his chest, he shrugged into Gildor’s abandoned shirt and went about gathering papers from the bed and floor. He set them on the table then remembered Gildor looking for the plant earlier. He was more alert sober.... Going to the dark corner by the chair where he often sat during the day and read, he reached down to a spot that offered plenty of light from the window but happened to be quite out of the way.

As he touched the rim of the pot, a sharp pain shot through his fingers. Jerking his hand back, he brought it up and saw blood welling from three little puncture wounds. Puzzled, he checked for sharp edges on the pot, but there was no question: somehow the plant had stabbed him! The wounds burned out of all proportion to their size, and when he put his fingers to his mouth and sucked there was a sharp, angry taste mingled with the salt-metal of blood.

He had never noticed thorns on the plant. Kneeling down he moved it out of the gloom, speaking to it as he often did during the day, whispering even though the chances of Gildor waking were slim. "What did you go and do that for? Did you think I was Gildor, come to turf you off the balcony? That hurt, damn it. How could you do that? You must have thorns after all. Where....?

There were no thorns on the plant, no matter how carefully he looked, just rounded leaves and soft tendrils that branched off the stem at intervals; he assumed they were a secondary root system and that it would later start creeping up things. He touched one of the tendrils dubiously. It was soft on the top, but there was something like a vein on the underside, making it firmer than it appeared. As he watched, the tendril seemed to - flex - and then wrapped gently round one of the fingers that had been punctured. Almost as though it were - apologising.

The night was very quiet. Outside he could hear the river, while inside Gildor's soft snores drowned out smaller sounds like the lamp wick’s low hiss. Lindir looked down at the plant, at the tendril wound round his finger. Almost like holding hands.

Carefully extricating his finger, Lindir took the plant and put it behind the lute case where it would be safely out of sight when Gildor woke, then backed away a little faster than was called for. Back in the light, he examined the damage. Two punctures still oozed blood, but it was the third finger that held his attention. He was certain it was the first he had noticed and the one that hurt the worst, and yet there was not a mark on it. Frowning he held his hand closer to the lamp and looked again. Nothing.

He had examined the plant with that finger. The tendril, possibly the same one that had hurt him, had wrapped around his finger and --- the pain had stopped.

Lindir stared from his finger to the plant’s hiding place, and finally at the solid figure of Gildor snoring on his bed, He shook himself very firmly, crossed the room to the table and drank what remained of the wine straight from the bottle.

Plants could not differentiate between friendly elves who fed and watered them and elves who would pull them out by the roots and shred them into small pieces, as he had seen Gildor do once or twice to those daisy-like flowers Elrond had tried to grow. It was late, Gildor had upset his nerves, and his imagination - a fine thing for a bard, but troublesome in practical situations - had taken flight. Nothing more.

He put the harp away and got into bed next to Gildor, who had turned over to lie on his side. Lindir fought to retrieve a pillow and sat hugging it, looking down at his comatose companion. "There are no such things as killer plants, sentient vines, elf-eating pods, all the rest of it," he told the sleeping elf. "I’ve had too many late nights, that's all. I just need some sleep. And... maybe a bit more stress relief in the morning before you vanish again."

He was reaching across Gildor to kill the lamp when he heard a faint rustling sound. It seemed to be coming from the corner behind the lute case. Lindir froze, his hand still reaching for the lamp, and then very slowly he drew it back. Getting under the covers he turned to face away from the light, spooning in against Gildor.

He would be able to laugh at himself in the morning. Right now, he just wanted to get to sleep, away from the little throb of pain in two out of three fingers and the sense of eyes where there should be no eyes.

Watching.
 


Beta: Red Lasbelin