Chapter 13: Josie
That night Kili and I sleep side by side, having decided in the silence to do so in order that he might awaken back in my world.
"It's rather exciting, all of this," he admits as we lie there, arms touching discreetly, "being able to see your world. You will show me around as you promised, won't you? Take me outside the walls of your home?"
What an adventure that's going to be, I think; I tell him yes, of course, but he has to do exactly as I say and not go wandering off or doing anything odd.
"How am I supposed to know what is odd and what isn't?"
I try to think of the best way to put it. "Remember Josie?"
He laughs quietly. "I don't think anyone could forget Josie in a hurry."
"Well whatever Josie does, do the exact opposite. That way, you'll be perfectly normal."
I watch the sky in awe; the stars here are stunning, nothing like the polluted skies at home. I tell this to Kili, and he smiles.
"They glitter," he says. "Like the diamonds set into the walls of Erebor."
"Diamonds in the walls," I repeat, "it sounds beautiful. I'd like to see that."
"You will, once all this is over," he says. "and then there are the Dwarves in Moria, of the Iron Hills, those still in Ered Luin... will want to return to the mountain. The quest will not end when the Dragon is slain."
"Do you miss home?"
Kili shrugs. "Not all of it; I do miss my mother, though. She worries. Before we left, she could barely contain herself." He puts on a booming voice in imitation of his mother and whispers, "'Boys, make sure you look after each other and keep your weapons clean and for Durin's sake don't embarrass your uncle Thorin you know how he can be Kili that means you and make sure you're eating properly and you keep your sheepskins on and your cloaks washed and your ponies hooved and do as your told, be respectful to your uncle Dwalin and Balin and Oin and Gloin and Bofur and Bifur and Bombur and Dori and Nori and say your prayers and don't tease Ori because of his mittens...'"
I laugh. "Typical mother stuff then, really. You don't really tease Ori because of his mittens, do you?"
"No," Kili says, affronted. "...We tease him because of the purple ribbons his mother braids into his hair."
The both of us laugh for a long time at fall asleep with warm hearts and cold hands, basking in the white glow of the midnight sky.
The two of us wake side-by-side, hands clutched together in much the same position we had been in before awaking in his world. Josie sits on the end of the bed, fussing around as I sit up.
"Awake at last... you're Mom's gone to the supermarket, so let's get Dwarf-boy out of here, pronto!"
"What are we supposed to do with him?" I ask, releasing Kili's hand as he sits. "We can't just let him wander the streets."
"Kili can live at my place," Josie offers, "I've been thinking about it whilst the two of you were off fighting Orcs and slaying Dragons. No one will know he's there, will they?"
"Josie, you are an angel," I tell her. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah! It's gonna be badass, I'll have a Dwarf as a roommate! Even if it's only for a few days until you sort all this out back in La-la Land... come on, Kili. We need to get out of here before "Lavender's" Mom gets back and tans your ass."
"Why would she tan my ass? I ride a pony-"
"Oh, come on, dude. A random guy in her daughter's bed? She's hardly going to think you've popped around for a cup of tea. Come on, let's-a go, Mario."
"I'll have to come and stay at yours, too," I say, "I have to touch Kili so that he wakes up-"
"The more the merrier!"
"Awesome. I'll tell my Mom we've got some massive project to do or something... we can figure that out later. Hey, don't forget your gloves, Starman."
Kili takes them from me and pulls his hands into them as we descend the stairs. "So where am I going?"
"To Josie's house. I'll be over in an hour or two. Just... don't get into any trouble, okay?"
My Ma walks into the house to see the three of us stood in the kitchen aimlessly, frozen with surprise and not one of us saying a word.
"Who's this?" my Ma asks with a plastered-on smile, holding her hand out to Kili. He lifts it to his lips and kisses the ring on her hand.
"Alice, I never knew you had gentlemen as friends," my Mom smiles.
"Mom, this is... uh..." I feel my eyes grow wide, watching Kili. Somehow I know what he's about to do. For the love of God, don't you dare-
He goes to raise his hand to perform the Vulcan gesture- Josie grabs his hand and grins.
"My cousin!" Josie says quickly, "he's visiting from... uh... Belize!"
I look over at her wide eyed. Belize?! She nods awkwardly at me, begging for help.
"Yeah," I say, laughing nervously, "this is... Cedric. Cedric Diggory." Not making this any better for myself.
"Nice to meet you, Cedric," my Ma offers, putting her bags of shopping down on the table, "that's an... interesting outfit."
"He's wearing it for Comic-con," I intrude before Kili can start babbling about quests and dragons, "he's Cosplaying as...a..."
"A Dwarf," Josie offers. "A Dwarven prince."
My Ma nods her head with a raise of her eyebrows. "How... intriguing. Are the pair of you staying for tea?"
"No," I tell her quickly, "actually, they're just leaving... bye, Josie. Bye, Cedric."
"Don't be so rude, honey," my Ma scalds, "I'm sure Josie and Cedric can speak for themselves."
"No, actually," I intrude, "Cedric doesn't speak English." I look to Kili to back me up, and he purses his lips tightly, not saying another word.
"Not a word of it," Josie adds, still clinging tightly to Kili's gloved hand, "In fact he doesn't speak at all, he's... uh... dumb. As in like, lame, not stupid. It's a horrible business- he was attacked. As a child, by...bears."
"By Drop-Bears. The wild Drop-Bears of Belize."
My mother says nothing. I stare in horror.
"Oh, Josie," I say, throwing an arm around her neck too hard, to the point of strangulation, "you and your jokes. Cedric's just started learning English."
Mom nods. "And umm... how long is Cedric in town?"
"About ten minutes more," Josie squeaks, "we best be off, don't want to miss the plane. Come on, Cedric, let's get you back to Belize. Nice seeing you, other Mother!"
"And you, honey- lovely to meet you, Cedric!"
Kili smiles awkwardly over his shoulder as Josie leads him from the kitchen and out of the house; I show them out then stand in awkward silence with my mother, who suddenly says,
"Well, he seems nice. He's very handsome."
I laugh nervously again, boiling red. "I'm actually going to stay at Josie's for a few nights, Ma. We've got this huge project to do and we're gonna have to for the course that we've been putting it off since we started, so we're going to put a good week's effort into it."
"You haven't mentioned it before now... at least stay for tea, babe. I'm making your favourite, cheese and spinach casserole."
Not my favourite, I think. Probably one of the most horrible foods I have ever tasted, in fact, but my dear Ma believes it to be her specialty, and I think it would break her heart if I told her the truth. She is a terrible cook, and so am I.
I head upstairs once I've forced my way through half a plate of the leafy pasta concoction, I grab some clothes and my laptop and everything else I might need, shoving them all into the bag and heading back downstairs.
"I'll pop back home tomorrow and see you, Ma. Have a good night."
She fusses around me a minute or two checking that I've remembered my toothbrush and my vitamins and a jacket and hey, why not take some more casserole, too? I head out into the street after kissing her goodbye and begin my walk to Josie's flat, a huge tub of cheese and spinach casserole which could probably feed an army in my grasp. Luckily Jos doesn't live too far, a few streets or so.
Josie didn't have the best start in life; not the best parents. Nor the best anything else, really. When she turned sixteen, she pretty much lived with my mom and I for a while until she got her own place. Josie loves her flat; hell, I love her flat. The area is pretty decent, her neighbors are nice enough and every penny of her wages from her part-time job goes into furnishing the place with colourful canvases, a plethora of cushions and all the collectible action figures she can find. I ride the elevator up to her floor and ring the doorbell; the nail varnish-painted bell chimes out the national anthem, and Josie appears at the door with a bottle of energy drink in one hand and a packet of Space Raiders in the other. She shoves a handful of the crisps into my mouth and leads me through to the tiny living room.
The first thing she asks is if I can take her with me.
"Come on, let's all go!" Josie says, "when Kili gets back from hunting, we'll all go on an adventure to Middle-Earth! It'll be a blast!"
"Hold up," I say, "Kili is where?!"
Josie looks stunted. "Just out hunting," she repeats. "He said he was hungry and he didn't fancy crisps or humus so..."
"He'll come back with someone's cat!" I shriek, running to the window and staring out at the field which serves as the block's shared garden, "what if someone sees him?! There he is!"
I crack open the window hatch and yell out, "Kili!"
He turns to me with his finger pursed against his lips; a moment later he darts into the bush, wrestling with whatever he has found, and stands up with a struggling pigeon.
"Put that bird down!" I demand, "and get back in here!"
"You ought thank me!" he laughs, "am I not providing for you and your kin-?!"
"I'll bloody provide you with a punch in the face if you don't get back up here pronto!" I cry, "let go of that pigeon right now!"
With a roll of his eyes he does so, and the bird flutters off in a squawking panic; I watch him as he makes his way back inside with a relieved breath.
"Let's watch TV," Josie says, bunging down on the faux-leather sofa and turning on the Television set. She skips her way to the music channels and finds a station that happens to be doing a corny countdown called 'The Eighty Greatest 80's Hits.'
"Dance with me, Alice," she demands, snaking around the room to a pop song I've never heard before, "dance!"
"I don't even know what this song is."
"Dance anyway!" Josie grabs a hairbrush off the kitchen unit and throws it to me, using the remote control as her own microphone. She points at me from across the room and screeches the lyrics my way.
The volume is turned up so loud that I barely hear Kili nock the door. Josie runs to it, grooving to the beat with dance moves that look like they were pulled from an early Take That video; Kili stands the other side of the door, eyes wide at the sudden blow of music. She grabs him by the collar of his shirt, walking him into the room backwards and singing into his face. Once he's inside she jumps up on the wooden coffee table now and points out at an imaginary crowd.
"This is a traditional Vulcan song?" Kili asks me as the tune fades out and another song begins; I grimace a little and decide that now might be the time to let him know that I am a compulsive liar.
"Uh... I lied about the Vulcan thing. I'm not a Vulcan."
Kili frowns. "You're not?"
Josie grabs a decorative action figure of Spock from the nearest shelf and tosses it Kili's way; he catches it in mid-air and observes it.
"It looks like an elf," he says. "Tall, lean, pointed ears, sullen expression-"
"That's Vulcan's for you," Josie says, "though that's the Zachary Quinto version; it kind of sucks. I'll go get my original one, you can't beat old Lenny... hold up a minute." She pauses on her way to her bedroom and gives me a long, narrow-eyed stare. "Wait, you told Dwarf-boy you were a Vulcan?"
I nod uneasily; she practically falls over laughing. Kili is smiling, too. "But why did you lie?" Kili asks.
I offer him a hopeless shrug.
"Gandalf told me to tell you I was some kind of Hobbit that I couldn't remember the name of, and I panicked. I couldn't exactly have said 'well, I'm a human from another world', could I? You'd never have believed that."
"Well, now I certainly do. Human... is there anything else you've lied about?"
"Her name isn't Lavender!" Josie shouts with a mouth full of Space Raiders, still in hysterics in her room; Kili looks to me and I try my best to explain.
"Uh... also a lie. Sorry. I panicked again when Gandalf asked me and there was a vase of Lavenders- well, Heathers, apparently- so that happened. I thought I was dreaming, remember, and I was pretty drunk. I didn't think you'd be sticking around to learn the truth... Sorry, Kili. I feel like an ass now."
He nods. "You do not look like an ass. What is your true name then?"
He rolls the syllables around on his tongue a moment. "Alice... your mother called you that earlier. I assumed it was Vulcan for daughter. You won't mind if I still call you Lavender? I'm quite used to it now."
"Feel free," I say, "I like Lavender better, anyway."
"It sounds like lavatory, you turd!" Josie shouts with another cackle. I grab the nearest cushion from the sofa and throw it her way. She returns from her room with a blanket over her shoulders and a torch beneath her chin.
"I am a seuth-sayer!" she booms, jumping atop the table again with an 'ooooo!' sound; Kili's eyes widen, and he takes a step backwards. "I am an Oracle from the north-!"
"No you're not, Josie Maddox!" I yell, grabbing her blanket and pulling her down onto the sofa.
"We'll take you shopping tomorrow," I tell Kili, wrestling Josie, "let you see some more of our world, like I promised. Get you some normal clothes... but you have to promise not to do anything too Dwarvish."
"Trying to kill pigeons in the street," I say, "saying... weird things. Kissing people's hands and doing the whole bowing business. That's not how we do things here; you've just got to keep out of people's way."
I see that Kili is no longer paying attention; his eyes are locked onto the TV set, where number ten in the chart show is playing. "What on earth is that woman doing?"
I look over to see that it's the music video to Ashes to Ashes. "That's not a woman, that's David Bowie," I shrug. "He does that sort of thing a lot; he's like the original Lady GaGa."
"Where is his beard?"
"He hasn't got one," I say, and then add with a smirk, "just like you."
Kili looks affronted. "I do have a beard. I'm growing it out."
"Yeah, yeah. Come back when you look like Bombur... come on, let's watch some TV."
We spend the night before the TV set, with Kili occasionally talking back to the characters in the shows. Josie explains to me that he originally believed them to be tiny people locked within the TV set. He marvels at the guns in a crime drama we watch, astounded by their efficiency; we end the night watching Love Actually for lack of anything else, which takes some explaining due to the fact that Kili is amazed how one of the actors can be in both this movie and the show he was watching with Josie earlier at my house when I was asleep. I put my hand on his bare forearm as I realise he is falling asleep, probably bored stiff by the slushy fluff-fest before the three of us. Eventually he nods off.
"Well he'll be back to fighting Orcs now," I tell Josie, toes curled up under the blanket as the room seems to get colder. I lean my head against her shoulder before realizing the implications of what that could bring and pulling away.
"Don't touch me, Josie," I remind her. "I don't want you getting dragged into this, too."
"I want to come," Josie tells me with a yawn, but makes her way to her bed all the same. "Are you and lover-boy going to be alright on the sofa?"
"Well we can hardly move him now," I reason.
"You haven't even got your pajamas on yet."
"My clothes change depending on what I wear here," I say, "and I'm not spending another day in my 'stay cool' pajamas like some sort of Mr. Freeze reject... I need to get some warm clothes. Add warm clothes to the shopping list... see you in the morning, Jos."
AN: This is so much fun to write, its brill being able to write this when my other fics are all so damn depressing ;D