Chapter 8: House Guest
"Would you like a cup of tea?"
"...No, thank you. Lavender, am I dreaming?"
"No, Kili..." I say, feeling his pain, "I don't think you are."
He accepts the fact far easier than I ever did, and nods solemnly. Ming you, when you've grown up around Wizards and Goblins, I suppose it's a lot easier to come to terms with weirdness.
Kili shakes his head. "Some magic has brought us here, to this place. We ought call upon the Wizard-"
"You're in my world, now, Kili," I tell him, "there's no magic here. No Wizards, no Witches."
"...We are in Hogwarts, then? This is the Vulcan Lands?"
I bite my lip, partly through horror at my own lies, partly through uncontrollable laughter. "Uh... not exactly. But this is my house, we'll be safe here... we just need to figure out how to get you back." And if you're real, I think absently. "I'll get you some proper tea, anyway," I say, taking the cup of chamomile downstairs and pouring it down the sink. Cautiously he follows. At the bottom of the stairs he is met by my sad-eyed little Weimaraner puppy, Pewter. Kili points at the dog in horror.
"There's a beast in your home!"
"It's alright, it's alright!" I try; "that's just my dog."
"Why is it inside?!"
"He's supposed to be inside, he's a pet- animals live inside here. He's part of the family."
The notion seems to both surprise and disgust Kili, who starts to retreat back up the stairs; at the top, he is met by my angry little moggy cat.
"There's another!" he says, and lifts my poor old kitty above his head; Misty screeches in anger and scratches at his face, cutting the stubbled flesh just above his upper lip. He drops the cat, who scutters back into my bedroom with a hiss, his fluff ball tail vanishing around the door. For Kili's sake, I put poor Pewter out in the garden and he sits behind the glass doors looking longingly at the warmth of the inside; Kili watches him with a contorted expression, half-snarling himself.
"Come downstairs," I tell him; he stays perched halfway down the staircase. Oh, for goodness sake.
"There's food," I goad him, and he seems unable to help himself. I seat him at the dining table, wet a little kitchen roll and sit beside him; I reach out to his split lip, and he draws back. "You're bleeding," I remind him. He leans back to where he was and allows me to dab away the blood. I feel his eyes on me the entire time; I risk a glance up at them and my heart shuts down for a moment in my chest, and my face begin to bloom red. Stop being such a pansy, Alice.
"Umm... what do you fancy to eat?"
Kili furrows his brow in consideration.
"Have you any steak? Or lamb, perhaps?"
"...Uh... for breakfast?"
His expression shows me that meat for breakfast is just common place where he's from. What am I saying?! He isn't real... is he?
Don't think about that now, I tell myself, just wait for Josie, then you can sort this out once and for all.
"We've got toast," I say, "or cereal. My mom's a Pescatarian so we don't really have all that much meat in the house, but there's some chicken in the freezer-"
"What is 'Pescatarian?'"
"Oh, it means that she that she doesn't eat meat," I tell him, "just fish and other food and... stuff."
"That is vile," Kili says quietly, "how does she function? Is she an Elf?"
"Umm... no, Kili. My mom isn't an Elf."
Kili holds his head in his hands. "My skull is on fire," he tells me, "I should not have drank so much of that Hobbiton wine last night... I barely remember a thing."
So long as you don't remember my telling you that you're very attractive and fresh out of a L'Oreal advert, I couldn't care less what you remember, I think, opening up the medical cabinet and handing two paracetamol and a glass of water to Kili, who watches with fascination as the water pours from the tap.
"These will make you feel better- swallow them."
"What are they?" he asks, gesturing to the small pills and rattling them in his fist, "some sort of magic?"
"No, they're science," I tell him, swallowing back a couple more myself, "they'll stop your head from hurting."
Come on, Alice... think back to GCSE Science. "It... uh... reduces the production of plaragarlewotists in the spinal cord or something... look, I'm just gonna go and get changed. swallow those back. I'll be down in a minute."
I dart upstairs and into my room, running a brush through my ragged hair and throwing on a jumper and a skirt. I run to the bathroom and splash my face with water before scrubbing my teeth, then glance briefly into the mirror and grimace at my face; I look a mess. No wonder Kili was staring so hard. I rub some moisturizer into my skin and head back downstairs.
Kili is gone.
"Kili?" I call, "where are you?" No response. "It's not really time for hide-and-seek, bro..."
I search the downstairs rooms and then the up, but there is no sign of him. I come back down and stand in the kitchen, arms akimbo.
"Kili!" I call once more, but there is nothing.
Maybe the hallucination is over, I think absently, then notice that my puppy is no longer sat by the door; I head to the kitchen sink and stare out of the window. Pewter is sat on the grass, floppy ears perked and looking up at Kili, who is stood with his back to me as he faces the outer fence.
"Kili!" I call out of the kitchen window, "what are you doing out there?"
"I'm... answering nature's call, Miss Lavender," he says back awkwardly, "I don't suppose you could give me a moment's privacy?"
My stomach drops.
Not the rosebushes.
"Kili, get back in here, now!"
"I'm a little preoccupied at the moment!" He yells over his shoulder, "can't it wait-?"
"No!" I cry, "you can't piss all over the flowers, you'll kill them, and my Mom will kill me!"
"I doubt she values the life of the flowers over that of her own kin-"
"So you'd think," I yell back, looking away; I'm more embarrassed than he is, "but she loves those damn things, and if she comes home and fancies a sniff of her fragrant flowers to find them stinking of Dwarf urine, I don't think it's going to go down too well... for God's sake, are you done yet?!"
"Yes, yes... don't worry yourself. I'm coming."
He returns back inside, tops by the door and stares with horror at my exposed legs. He turns away, flushing a little.
I look down at myself, realise what he's so horrified at and make a 'hurgh!' noise.
"They're just legs, Kili, get with the times! Sit down."
He does as he's told, making some comment about my dress once again being rather odd. I pull out the toaster, and just then, the doorbell rings. The sound startles Kili, who is not used to such artificial noises, and I reassure him that everything's okay before making my way to the door. I haul it open with relief to find my best friend in the whole wide world standing there with her faded plum-coloured hair with its light brown roots scraped back into a messy bun, her round face beaming and her arms akimbo, wearing pair of offensively shiny leggings, training shoes and a bright pink hoodie with her name on the back; clearly remnants from her yoga session. She heaves a huge sigh of relief upon seeing me.
"Hello, Ally-wally... no hostage situation, then?" I gesture to the deodorant can she holds in her hand; she shrugs. "I was going to spray it in the face of the Mafia Dons, bide us some time to escape."
I grin widely and hug her tightly. It's good to see someone normal... well, at least my level of normal. "How are you, Josie?"
"Never mind me, what's this big secret you've hauled me out here for?" she says, practically pushing me out of the way and making her way through the hall excitedly; I slip in front of her and barricade her way to the kitchen.
"Josie, listen. I need you to not freak out," I say. "I... I think I might be going mad."
She giggles. "Well I could have told you that, Alice-"
"No... seriously. I've been hallucinating or something. Just... go in the kitchen. Tell me if you see anything unusual."
Josie narrows her eyes. "Are you sure we aren't going to be kidnapped by the Mafia?"
She shrugs and steps into the kitchen; I watch Kili from over her shoulder. He sits at the table, poking the fabric runner with his gloved hand; Josie pauses in the doorway and stares in his direction. He looks up at her, stunned at the new face, and stands hurriedly.
"Kili," he says with a tepid bow, "son of Dís."
He raises his hand then, and I get the sudden feeling that I know what he is about to do.
No, Kili, no-
He separates his fingers in the timeless gesture and says,
"Live long and prosper."
...There it is.
I can't tell whether or not Josie has registered his presence; she stands totally still, hands at her sides, staring at either Kili or the back door to the kitchen. This is it; the moment of truth. Ground control to Major Tom, do we have contact; I repeat, do we have contact?
Thank God; I'm not crazy... but there is still a Dwarf in my kitchen.
I grab my friend by the back of her shirt and pull her into the living room; when I turn her around, she is grinning.
"He's h-o-t hot!" she shrieks, far too loudly, and I pull her down onto the faux-leather sofa and hold my hand over her mouth as she rambles beneath my hold. "Hot and a Trekkie fan... but what is he doing in your kitchen, and why is he dressed like a homeless man?"
"Breathe, Josie," I instruct her, "breathe..."
She calms down and I release her. "Who is that dude?!"
"That's Kili," I say; she bursts out laughing.
"Kili?! Seriously? What a dumb-ass name-"
"So you saw him?"
She widens her eyes at me with an expression that says, 'well, duh.' "Of course I saw him; where did you find him, and where can I get one?! He's gorgeous!"
I try to stay serious until I've figured out what's going on, but can't help bursting into giggles.
"Yes, yes he is. But listen; he thinks I'm called Lavender, so try not to ruin the illusion."
"You lied about your name? Why?"
"I... sort of panicked. I don't know. It's a long story; I'll tell you when we go back in there. You promise you won't freak out?"
"I pinkie-promise, cross my heart and hope to die."
"Stick a needle in my eye," I finish and take the two of us back to the kitchen. Josie stares at Kili from the opposite side of the table with keen eyes as I make us all toast; she doesn't say a word. I hunt for something to top the bread with in the cupboard and find a jar of chocolate spread; with a sharp grin I plate up the first lot of toasted bread and set it down before Kili. He stares at the plate with a grimace.
"Try it," I grin, breaking the silence, "you're going to fall in love with it, I promise. It's made from the tears of angels."
He stares at the bread before poking it with a distasteful expression. "What is it?"
"What is it?!" Josie yells, "it's the treacle of the Gods!"
"Let's not mention the Gods for a moment," I say with a forced laugh, "at least not until the toast is finished. Try it, Kili, go on."
With careful fingers he raises the chocolate-spread bread to his lips and takes a tiny bite; my best friend and I watch in wonderment as he chews it, expression contorted, and then the magical wave of endorphin-infused serenity glazes his face.
"See?" I say, "it's good, isn't it?"
Kili nods. "It is. But where is the meat? If it's not any trouble."
I shrug and throw him a packet of ham from the fridge. He places every single slice atop his Nutella toast, folding the two pieces of bread against each other.
"Ham-and-chocolate sandwich," I muse. "Original."
Kili grins and takes his first bite. "It's good," he says. "Surprisingly so."
He seems much happier now that he has food going into his belly. Josie narrows her eyes at the Dward, and I just know she's about to say something embarrassing.
"You have very big ears," she says, almost suspiciously. Kili looks up from his toast for a moment.
Her eyes narrow even further. "Look, Alice, I'm all for helping the homeless, but don't you think this is a bit extreme?"
"Can't you just volunteer at a soup kitchen or something-?"
"Josie, Kili isn't homeless."
"Then why is he dressed like a vagrant?"
"Vagrant?!" Kili balks, obviously taking offense, "these are the finest works in Ered Luin-!"
"Alright you pair, that's enough," I say, simmering the situation and starting to explain to Josie. "Now listen, Jos. I'm going to tell you how all this happened-"
"Hey, Al, look," she says, pulling a ladel out of my kitchen drawer and pulling a vacant expression. "My spoon is too big."
"My spoon... is too big!"
"Josephine!" I yell; she falls silent. I raise my hand. "Desist."
Like a naughty child she obeys, sitting back down with her cold toast. "You're probably going to think this is all a load of rubbish," I begin, "but I dreamt about Kili last night. Wen I woke up this morning, he was here. He was real."
Josie barely looks up from her toast. "Okay... go on."
I'm stunned by her acceptance. But then again, this is Josie we're talking about... she's always been pretty airy-fairy, even more so than myself. The fact that she is utterly unsurprised by my revelation that I have somehow managed to bring the man of my dreams back to the world of the waking isn't really all that shocking. Thank God I've got her.
Very slowly I talk the two of them through what has happened to me over the last twenty four hours, from the so-called dream at Bilbo's house to the here and now. Kili occasionally interjects with anecdotes in muttered Dwarven that neither I nor Josie understand, and when I start telling her about the all mighty Thorin- in the nicest way possible due to Kili's blood bond with the irksome Dwarf- Kili mentions that they are related.
"Dude," Josie says with a spray of crumbs, leaning closer to Kili, "you're a Prince?! That is friggin' awesome!"
Kili smirks, softening to Josie a little, obviously grasping that it is a good thing to be 'friggin' awesome.' "Thank you."
"But if you're a Dwarf," Josie asks, "then why are you so tall?" Kili smirks, pleased again. Josie turns to me and says, "so in your dream-land thing, is he really small? Like a tiny little cutesy midget-man who you can pick up and pop in your pocket or leave on a shelf?"
"No," I say, "he's just like this... normal-sized."
"So are you all midgety when you're there?"
"I... I don't think so. There's this really tall wizard guy, though."
"Yeah. His name is Gandalf."
Now that I've got Josie's acceptance that this is reality to back me up, I'm finding it far easier to accept that there is a Dwarf in my kitchen; Kili, too, seems more settled.
"This is some dark heathen magic," Kili murmurs. "How am I to get home?"
Josie is the one to speak up. "Well falling asleep brought Alice- uh, I mean, Lavender-" she gives me an over-exaggerated wink- "back and forth from your world, right, Dwarf-boy? So maybe you just have to go to sleep, and you'll be back in Dwarf-land."
"It's called Middle Earth."
"Yeah, whatever, Dwarf-boy."
The two begin another light argument; as they babble on, I remember something which both excites and terrifies me.
"I'm going on a quest," I say blandly. The pair of them go quiet.
"You... you are coming to Erebor?!" Kili intrudes, but Josie's vocals overpower him.
"Yeah, that's what the Wizard wanted to see me about ...I've agreed to go on a quest. With a fictional Wizard. And thirteen Dwarves."
Josie grins. "That is pretty cool, Al."
"No, it's not!" I shriek, "I'm... I'm going to die! If this is all real, if I do end up going back in my sleep, I'm actually going to have to go, aren't I?"
"Yes," Josie says, "and the problem is..?!"
"Dragons," I say, eyes wide. "The Wizard mentioned Dragons!"
"One Dragon," Kili corrects me, "Smaug the Terrible. And there will be Orcs and Goblins."
"What the heck is an Orc?!"
"A vile Goblin-like beast, malevolent and repulisve. They feast on the flesh of all they come across, and pillage all they come across." Kili smirks from atop his chocolate-and-ham toastie. "But they're not that strong. No need to worry about a handful of Orcs."
I stare at the wall opposite me in sheer horror; Josie looks confused. Orcs.
Dragons, Goblins and Orcs.
Hobbits and Dwarves and Wizards.
Lions and Tigers and Bears.
"We're going to bed," I say quickly, grabbing Kili by the top of his arm and dragging him upstairs.
"Woah," Josie says, "okayyy... should I, uh... should I come up, or do you to want some time alone?"
"Get your mind out of the gutter," I say, "and yes, you get up here right now. Let's find out what the hell is going on, once and for all."
"Where are we going?" Kili asks, clearly not comfortable with being pulled around like a puppy on a lead.
"Kili, you can get in my bed- take off your shoes!- I'll sleep on the floor. Josie, you need to watch us, see if we disappear or whatever when we fall asleep."
"I want to come!" Josie shrieks, "can't you do some sort of magic mind thing and take me with you?"
"No bloody way. I don't even know what the hell is going on here... I'm still not one-hundred per cent sure that any of this is really happening. Just... see what happens, alright? Can you feed Misty and Pewter, too, and if I'm not awake can you ring my mom at ten O'clock and tell her who got kicked off Strictly Come Dancing?"
"Ten o'clock? You want me to sit here until ten o'clock doing nothing?!"
"I've been trying to get you to have a sleep-over with me for ages," I tell her with a smile, rubbing again at my aching neck, "here's the opportunity."
"It doesn't count if you're asleep!" she says, "it's going to be so boring. You better not snore, Dwarf-boy!"
"My laptop's on the end of the bed, and there's a ton of box-sets on the bookcase, you can get through a couple of those, eat whatever you want."
"What box-sets have you got?" she says, jumping excitedly at my bedroom shelf. She runs her finger along the spines of the books and DVD cases and gasps excitedly.
"The Walking Dead! Yes! ...Oh, wait, it's season two... ugh..."
"Have fun," I say, "love you, Josie."
"Yeah, yeah... go to sleep, dream-traveler. Ooh, that's what we should call you; the Dream-Traveler. I'll write a book on it... we'll call it... 'The Dream-Traveler's Wife.' You'll have to marry me, though, I'll be your wife. Is that even legal here yet?"
"We'll get a civil partnership," I smile into the pillow I've pulled onto the beanbag, "goodnight, Kili."
"...Uhm," Kili says, "I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be doing-"
"Just sleep," I tell him, "if we've figured it out right, we should end up in your world... sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite."
He sits up swiftly, clearly alarmed. "There are bugs, in the bed-?!"
"No, no!" I reassure him, "...well, I mean, there are, but... oh, never mind. Just... get some rest."
"And you," he tells me, eyes already closed. "Goodnight, Lavender."
Josie makes a tiny squeaking noise; I send a beady stare her way, one eye open, and she flutters her hand like a fan before her face.
'That was cute,' she mouths; I throw her a smirk and close my eyes.