Vaarsuvius sat cross-legged on the bed, attention fixed on the book that lay open on the covers. The elf was ignoring the sounds of celebrations that could be heard from outside, the laughing, the music, the occasionally firework. Humans amused themselves so frequently with celebrations, what was another new year when you had already seen more than a hundred of them? And of course, no amount of partying could surmount the enjoyment of a good book.
The patter of light footsteps sounded from the corridor, but elf neglected to look up even when they stopped outside the door. The door opened and then slammed shut. There was a brief pause.
“You’re back soon. How was your walk, did you see-“ Vaarsuvius looked up. “What is wrong?”
Leaning against the door with a look of utter horror written across delicate features was an identical elf. It looked just about ready to throw up.
“That little creep.” The elf finally managed to mutter.
They were almost identical, at least. The Vaarsuvius sitting on the bed closed the book, putting it aside, and a face that was ever so slightly softer twisted into a concerned frown. “I assume you’re referring to the Halfling?”
“The little psychopath kissed me!” the elf by the door spat, and as if to leave no doubt of his feelings about the incident, he wiped his mouth furiously with the back of his sleeve.
The other Vaarsuvius’s face went through an odd series of expressions, and then without warning, she burst out laughing. She hurriedly raised a hand to her mouth, attempting to hide the helpless grin and failing.
“It’s not funny! Urgh, I can still taste second-hand beer.” He wiped his mouth again, scowling at the elf sitting on the bed.
“Sorry, it was just the look on your face.” The tone was apologetic, but her purple eyes were still sparkling with mirth. “I believe there is some mouthwash in the bathroom cabinet.” The other Vaarsuvius looked grateful and hurriedly disappeared into the en suit. The sound of gargling was soon heard.
“So how exactly did this… event occur?” There was an audible smirk behind the words. “I hope you exacted the appropriate retribution.”
The male Vaarsuvius reappeared, now looking less nauseous and merely annoyed. “Unfortunately it is poor sportsmanship to target an opponent who has inebriated himself to the point of unconsciousness.”
“I am beginning to gain a clearer understanding of the proceedings.”
“Be assured I will make every effort to get my own back over the course of the next few days, weeks, months and possibly years.” The elf stepped over to the chest of drawers and rummaged around in the top drawer until he found a small bottle. He uncorked it and took a large swig.
“Careful now. After all, alcohol is what caused the situation initially.”
“That and unsavoury human customs.” He grimaced, and replaced the bottle back in the drawer. “This is required to further remove the taste from my mouth.” He turned around and started slightly when he found his doppelganger standing inches away. She was smiling.
“I see. You are referring to the exchange of a kiss at the start of the New Year? That was several minutes ago, but as they say, better late than never.” Leaning forward, she locked lips with the other elf. The kiss was happily returned and he brought his hands up to rest lightly on her waist, accepting the gesture that was an unspoken apology. After a long moment, they parted.
“I have to revise my opinion; it’s not unsavoury in the slightest.”
“But only if I am the one doing the kissing, I should hope.” The elf said, crossing the room and sitting down on the bed, the other elf following suit.
“You’re never going to let me live this down, are you?”
“Let’s just say that I look forward to helping with the imaginative revenge that you are sure to come up with.” She moved closer and wrapped her arms around him, pulling their slender bodies together.
If someone had told Haley a few weeks ago about amount of loneliness that the inability to communicate could incur, she would have dismissed it as mere hyperbole. But now she had come to realise just how important the need to make yourself understood could be, how much she needed to be able to tell others things. As an absurdly secretive person by both nurture and nature, this realisation came as a harsh surprise.
It wasn’t Elan’s fault, of course not. She couldn’t expect him to take the initiative, especially since she had never made any real effort to make her feelings known back when she could talk. Did Elan return the feelings, she wondered? Even if he did, it’s was likely that he would never take it on himself to raise the issue. Elan was like that; he was a people person, charismatic and as far away from shy as you could get, but he was also like a child, eager only to please and always happier when he first had approval of his actions. She shook her head sadly. If anything were ever to happen between them, it would surely be up to her to start it.
These thoughts, of course, did nothing to abate the utter loneliness she was currently feeling. The city-wide party was still at full throttle as she made her way back to the inn, but for her all the heart had gone out of it. Maybe she could go and see V. Her friend had almost certainly taken a similar attitude and would be sitting somewhere quiet with a book. Maybe they could even go and find a quiet bar and get roaring drunk, assuming Haley could sufficiently communicate that with hand gestures.
The rogue made her way along the corridor to the elf’s room, and knocked on the door. After a full minute’s wait Haley let out a silent sigh. The elf wasn’t there. It seemed that everyone was enjoying the evening more than she was.
She was about to leave when a barely audible snatch of words reached her ears. “…leave if we ignore them…” Haley frowned in confusion, and briefly wondered if she had the wrong room. No, it was right at the end of the corridor, there was no mistaking it. Out of roguish habit, Haley tried the door handle, and almost jumped in surprise when it turned easily. Well this raised an important question; was her respect for the privacy of others stronger than her curiosity?
Haley smirked and pushed open the door.
There was a long moment between the door opening and the elves – who were enthusiastically making out – noticing the human standing there gawping. For Haley, it was an extremely awkward moment, not only because of the obvious embarrassment of the situation, but also because she knew without a doubt that the image of the two elves playing tongue hockey would be running across her mind for a very long time. Oh boy. Maybe if she closed the door quietly enough…
“Miss Starshine!” Upon noticing her, the two elves tried to move apart from each other, which was easier said than done since they both had their hands tangled up in each other’s robes. An identical blush started to spread across their faces.
There was another awkward moment, and then the two of them tried to speak at the same time.
“-that is to say, we-“
“-can explain!” They were sitting apart now, not meeting each other’s eyes, and the blush was threatening to turn their faces as red as their robes.
“It may take some time though.”
The Vaarsuviuses (Vaarsuvii?) both patted the space between them in a movement that was creepily synchronised. “Please, sit down and we can talk.”
“Qkfq’v hfvn rjs njo qj vfn.”
“Ah yes, your speech impediment.”
Haley pointed to each of the elves, raised two fingers, pointed to her eyes, and then raised a single finger. When she was met by blank stares, she repeated the gestures. The Vaarsuvius on the right still looked confused, but left Vaarsuvius seemed grasp what she meant.
“Yes, there are two of us, and our appearances are similar.”
Haley raised a questioning eyebrow, and then wiggled her fingers in a poor imitation of spell casting.
“No. There is no magic involved in there being two of us. We…”
“We are twins.”
“Fraternal twins, however. Our seemingly identical appearance is partly just family resemblance-“
“-and partly due to the impaired ability to distinguish between individuals of other species.”
“Indeed. We are not even of the same gender.” A conspiratorial grin spread between the two elves.
Haley’s eyes narrowed as a suspicion started to form in her mind, but she couldn’t think of a way to express it through hand signs. The elves mistook the expression for anger, and sobered up immediately.
“Haley, we are sorry for pulling such a deception all this time. As your friend, we should have told you.”
“If you are angry, you have every right to be. Will you at least stay and hear our side of the story?”
The elf indicated for Haley to come and sit down. Hesitant but intrigued, Haley walked into the room, shutting the door behind her. She sat down awkwardly on the bed between the two elves.
“We have been doing this for far longer than we have travelled with the Sir Greenhilt’s party.”
“As far back as we can recall we’ve been mistaken for one another, and after a while we stopped trying to enforce the distinction. Partly, it was simply easier to keep up the image of us being a single person.”
“Although a lot of was enjoyment at the deception. Especially keeping everyone guessing as to our gender. Our double act even fooled the Halfling’s keen nose.” Haley’s mouth switched into a smile at that.
“Again, you have our apologies. By the time we met you, it had become second nature to us. Not that there have not been some near misses. Invisibility Spells are not foolproof.”
“And there was always the temptation to step in when the other seemed to be in danger.”
“Like when you were polymorphed into a lizard. I had to pick up your robe and hand it back to you later.”
“Yes thank you very much for reminding me of that incident. I recall you didn’t look so happy about being chained up and gagged by that Paladin.”
“You hated that vile woman as much as I did.”
“Oh, so it was not being chained up that you minded?”
Haley gave a snort of laughter, which unfortunately distracted the elves from their banter as they remembered the rogue was there.
A sigh. “We hope you’re willing to remain our friend. Truely, we never intended you and harm by it.”
“Is there anything we can do to make it up to you?”
Haley glanced between the two siblings, and a smile slowly spread across her face. She pointed at herself, and then pointed at each of them. Then pointed back at herself. Elan would have to wait, until she could talk, until she had built her confidence up that she could cope with the pain if her hopes were brought crashing down. A friend (or two), on the other hand, was different.
“I’m afraid I don’t understa-“ It was Left Vaarsuvius who spoke, and Haley took hold of the front of the elf’s robes and brought their lips together firmly. There was a muffled exclamation of surprise, but soon the elf began to kiss back, relaxing into the embrace. Then there was a warm breath at her ear, with the slight hint of some unidentifiable alcohol.
“We’d be delighted to.” The other Vaarsuvius said breathily in her ear, and Haley felt strong slender fingers begin to tug at her clothes, to stroke across her exposed flesh. She broke away from the kiss momentarily, leaning into the touch and gasping as one of the elves nibbled an ear lobe.
She needed this. The closeness, the intimacy. To be able to communicate without words and be understood. She was vaguely aware that her armour had been taken off, and that a pair of red robes had joined them. She drunk it all in, and it was intoxicating.
Haley awoke to bright sunshine, and the few moments it took for her eyes to adjust were all she needed to remember where she was. The male Vaarsuvius was sprawled out next to her, lost in some past memory and otherwise dead to the world. Haley smiled, before slipping out of the bed. He stirred slightly as her weight moved the mattress, but remained otherwise oblivious as she dressed and left the room.
Haley was halfway down the corridor when a loud explosion shook the building, seeming to come from the floor below. She sprinted the rest of the way to the stairs, ran down them two at a time, and approached the breakfast hall just in time to hear Durkon’s remark.
“-coffee wit Roy’s sweat socks was a nice touch.”
“I pride myself on attention to detail” The elf replied, completely poker faced. She turned around as Haley stopped next to them. “Good morning Miss Starshine. I trust you slept well?” The conspiratorial grin was back, but this time Haley was in on it. The rogue smirked, then raised an eyebrow and pointed towards the Halfling lying in a pool of coffee.
“Just a little bit of light hearted revenge. Ask ‘me’ about it later.”
Since the elf was turned away from him, Durkon missed the very meaningful wink.