I continued walking away even when I heard Legolas exit the tent behind me.
“Elaina!” he called, his voice bordering too dangerously close to command for my taste.
My feet didn’t falter as I held my hand up in the air in a one-finger gesture over my shoulder. I knew he wouldn’t understand the gesture, and part of me realized it was probably a childish action, but that righteous anger now burning never knew any difference or any better.
A hand descended on my shoulder to pull me to a stop, but I shrugged out from under the weight of it and spun a quarter of a turn, shoving Legolas’s hand away from my body.
“Don’t touch me!” I hissed, pointing a finger accusingly at him.
When I started to walk away again, Legolas once more reached out to stop me.
But I’d regressed to my behavior from the days after I’d crawled out of North Korea. My need for controlling my life and all aspects of it had swelled disproportionally. And I didn’t want anyone grabbing me to take that control back away from me.
As Legolas once more grabbed for my arm, I automatically pivoted again, blocking his hand with one upheld forearm and sailing my other fist at his head. He jerked back, but my knuckles still glanced off his turned jawline.
I stepped back, partially caught up in my anger, but also half horrified that I’d actually struck Legolas.
But moving like lightening, he stepped closer again, effectively blocking and deflecting the arm I’d thrown up trying to block him once more. And before I could react further, he pulled my body close to his, one hand splayed at my back as the other grasped my neck, tilting my head back as my arms got caught between our bodies.
I had just enough time to gasp before his lips crushed against mine in a bruising assault. Our touches and embraces to this point had always been soft and tender. But there was nothing soft or tender here. Just violence tempered with an underlying sense of desperation.
And it reached something inside of me that nothing else would have in that moment.
I reveled in that violent exchange.
The anger that still ran warm in my veins craved it.
So as I leaned back into him, kissing as punishingly and frantically as he had, I clutched at his chest and took his lower lip between my teeth, biting down until I tasted blood. But I didn’t struggle to pull away yet.
Legolas jerked back and stared down at me, not releasing his hold on my back or neck, and seeming heedless to the blood trickling down his lip and onto his chin.
I expected surprise or an anger to match my own in his eyes—I wanted and needed his anger to cement and justify my own or perhaps for him to strike me back—but he only stared down at me with same desperation that had been in his bruising kiss.
“I love you,” were the surprising words he said.
But at the words, I again struggled to pull away, needing distance, and when his hold would not yield, I pulled my arms up further between us to push away at his chest.
His only reaction was a movement so swift I barely could track it, and suddenly my wrists were gathered in his hand and pulled tight against his chest. I knew I wasn’t physically strong enough to overpower him, but I also knew the only way to struggle out of his grip could seriously hurt him.
“I love you,” he repeated, almost seeming more desperate than before, and lowered his head to press another kiss to my lips, but I jerked my head to the side, his lips landing on my cheek instead.
“Well I don’t like you very much right now,” I whispered in a hard graveled voice, my head still turned away.
Legolas made a resigned noise, not seeming surprised by the venom in my voice. “I was acting in the interest of your safety,” he offered by way of explanation.
The air was still leaving my lungs in shallow pants. I knew Legolas wouldn’t hurt me, but the feeling of my hands being bound and immobilized still hit old triggers.
“Let go of me,” I whispered, my voice now coming out in a soft, desperate request.
Legolas heard the catch in my voice and immediately did so; I took three steps back, as my arms almost unconsciously wrapped around my midsection.
Pacing in a small pattern, I looked back at Legolas and demanded, “How could you think I’d be okay with you just deciding something like that and not even discussing it with me? Do you think I’m a soldier serving under your command and you can just give me orders to follow? Or perhaps that I’m your subject, my prince!” Anger still boiled and raged within me, whistling like a pressure cooker as it demanded release. Yearning to surge forth like it had in my darkest and most volatile days after I’d escaped North Korea and hadn’t been quite sound of mind yet.
That roiling darkness reminded me that maybe I still wasn’t quite right. That destruction longed to be unleashed once more, to show everyone I knew the true depth of what I so carefully hid away.
I turned away from Legolas, fighting myself to shove that darkness back down where I thought I’d so carefully hidden and contained it. Struggling for control while the darkness raged for chaos and destruction. I’d fallen to those depths before and it was a sight I never wished to revisit. Nor for Legolas to witness.
“You can’t just decide something so huge for me and then expect to just give me orders and have me obey them. I’m your wife,” I growled, still straining to gain some control of the utter darkness scratching at my throat for control and freedom.
“Of course you are my wife. Yet Aragorn intends to march on the Black Gate itself,” Legolas desperately insisted. “Can you fault me for wanting you as far from that place as I can place you?”
“I just don’t get it,” I said, whipping back to face him. “Why are you suddenly throwing such a fit now about me fighting? I’ve fought before. You know I have. Why are you suddenly trying to forbid me?”
An annoyed look crossed his face and I was almost certain I heard a growl emit from his own throat. “As I have said,” he crossly threw back, “we go to march on the Black Gate. Into the very lands of Mordor. Little hope there is for either success or for survival. We go to give others the hope of life and survival. Terror stills my heart at the very notion of you entering those dark lands along with us. Can you find fault with my longing to place you away from such certain demise? Stout-hearted men of these lands quake at the idea of marching into the Black Lands, yet you seem eager to rush headlong into a certain death.”
“Whoever said it was certain death?” I yelled back, throwing my arm out to encompass the entire field. “I know many stout men will turn from marching on the Black Gate for fear of it, but whoever said it could only end in death? Of course there’s hope, or not even Aragorn nor Gandalf would order such a suicide mission. But regardless, I’m not afraid. Don’t order me to stay like I’m too afraid to march into those lands.”
This time I was certain of the growl he gave, swinging his fist through the air to slam against his palm to punctuate his words. “Nay! Never have I seen you fear death. Least of all your own. But I fear it more now than ever. For surely I know that it shall strike me down as well. Never before has fear ever held such dominion over me; yet now it rules my heart and mind. All my thoughts now turn to how quickly fate could strike you down and how easily you could fall in the Dark Lands. I want to ensure that you are safe in this city and able to live on even should I fall in those lands.”
“What about what I want?” I yelled in return, thumping my chest in emphasis.
Legolas stepped closer as I continued pacing, my movements taking on a frantic, almost nervous, edgy quality as I struggled to stow away the black anger still churning.
“Already you have come too near death and suffered great harm, Elaina. The thought of what might occur within those dark lands strikes terror through my heart. How am I to fight when I am frantic in my worries for you?” he argued, his eyes tracking my pacing.
It suddenly occurred to me that not only were we still on a crowded field with strangers watching as they passed by, but that the males from the tent we had just left were gathered somewhat inconspicuously at the opening of the large structure, obviously watching and listening to our heated argument as well.
“This isn’t the time or place to argue,” I lowly told Legolas, starting to turn away once more.
He reached out to stop me, but I danced out of his reach, my eyes narrowing dangerously on him.
“I do not wish to leave this issue unresolved to fester,” he maintained.
“We’re making a scene,” I growled, throwing my arm out in gesture at the tent. “They can hear everything we’re arguing about.”
“Let them!” Legolas yelled, his voice rising in a shout for the first time that I could recall as it echoed on the field. “I care not if any wish to listen. I would have this issue brought to bear between us in any manner. I care more about settling this matter between us than for what they think or what they hear. Why can you not see reason?”
My pacing stopped and I stepped closer to Legolas. “I’m not stupid, Legolas,” I spit out. “I get what your reasons are for wanting me to stay. Can you say the same? What about me? What about me if I’m forced to stay here? Waiting alone for word of the outcome of the battle. I’m a Marine first and foremost, but I’m a woman, too, Legolas. So I get both sides of this age-old dilemma. You don’t want me to go so that you can know that I’m here and safe.
“But did you ever stop to think about how hard it is for the wives who are forced to sit at home waiting for the news that their husband has miraculously survived, or the more terrifying news, that they’ve been killed? I don’t deny that it’ll be hard on both of us if we march out together, but can you imagine if the roles were reversed? What if I said I was going to march out with Aragorn and the others and demanded that you stay here in the City? You’ve come just as near to death as I have! I thought you were dead once already back there in Rohan.”
I sighed and continued, still staring up into his eyes, and willing him to see things from my perspective. “I’m not going to say that it would be better if we both march into Mordor in an impossible to win scenario and die together rather than be forced to live apart. I’ve never thought the whole dying together thing was in anyway romantic, anyway. Romeo and Juliet were idiots in my opinion.” His brows scrunched together, but I waved it away, having grown too used to the confusion stemming from anything pertaining to my world. “Never mind. Anyway, I don’t think dying together is some wonderful, romantic notion. I’d a helluva lot rather live together. But chances are, since I’m a mortal, you are going to have to deal with my death one day. Just the way it is. And I do want you to go on living and doing everything that makes you happy. Just that same as I’m sure you’d want for me. Even if I’d live ever day with a piece of my heart missing. But dying together isn’t something I want or am planning for. We can’t live our lives worrying that one or both of us could die or be killed at any moment. That’s no way to live. We have to keep believing that there’s gonna be a tomorrow. Even if there isn’t.”
Wetness shone in Legolas’s eyes as he continued to stare at me with the same anguish, but beneath it, I finally saw the love that had been shinning there all along, driving that despair, and the burning anger in me suddenly cooled and tempered.
Stepping closer, I reached up and carefully wiped the blood from Legolas’s chin and lip with my sleeve, shame now setting in that I’d actually caused that wound and the purplish bruise now forming on his jaw.
“I can’t stay here in the city, waiting for word to come back to me that you’ve lived or died, any more than I could expect you to do the same,” I whispered tenderly.
Legolas caught my hand and pressed it to his jaw over the mark forming there. “You are my wife now, it is my duty to protect you,” he whispered with fierce insistence.
“I’m not like other women, or ellith, or hell, any females, I guess. It’s not the way I’m built, Legolas. Not anymore. What am I supposed to do? Sit here in the city waiting for you while I knit or sew or crochet? Or maybe cook or clean? I don’t even know how to do any of those things! I’m a Marine and cop at heart, Legolas. Maybe it’s the Fae blood in me, but on a battlefield, or on the streets protecting people, are the only places I’ve ever felt like I was in the right place and useful. You knew who I was when you bound yourself to me. Of every being I’ve ever known in my lifetime, you’re the only one I don’t hide myself from.” I thought of the bitter, dark anger that had welled up in me. Anger I thought I’d so well controlled after my torture in North Korea. “You’re the only one I can’t seem to hide anything of myself from. Even the worst parts of me I wish you never had to know about,” I whispered, gently touching my fingertips to the purplish mark on his jaw before my head fell in shame.
Legolas gently tipped my head back up with his fingers, bending down to kiss my lips though I feared to return the kiss and hurt him further than the marks he already bore.
“Such fear grasps at my heart when I think of you so willingly going into those lands. I can master the fear my heart feels for myself at entering those lands, but how do I master the fear I feel for you so freely walking into those evil lands? Death I long mastered the fear of for myself, for elves know what awaits us and that we will pass through Mandos’s Halls and be reborn in Valinor. And I could master my fear when you fought in Rohan, and even when I thought of you fighting on this very ground, but such agonizing fear grips me at the thought of you fighting in the battle to come. On Sauron’s very own land. You seem not to fear your death in the slightest, but it now rules my heart. How do I master that fear? How did you master your own fear of death? It claws at me for I know not if I shall ever again be reunited with you.”
I glanced away as a sigh escaped. “No, I don’t fear death anymore,” I admitted. “Not for a long time, I guess. But I’ve lived and suffered through things far worse than death. I’ve longed for it and begged for it. Would have welcomed it like an old friend. I know firsthand what it’s like to be suspended in a fate worse than death. I can’t truly say what awaits me in death, but I know it has to be better than what I’ve suffered through before. So I don’t fear it. I can’t fear it, not if I tried. I just know somewhere in my heart that after everything I’ve been through and suffered, I’ve earned the right to happiness and peace in death.”
“Teach me,” he suddenly begged, “teach me this surety that beats in your words. Teach me to banish my fear of your death and to embrace your surety that we will again be united, even in death.”
“I can’t. I don’t know how you teach something like that. And I wouldn’t want you to gain the resolve that I now feel about death in the way that I did. It has some definite drawbacks.” I looked away as I spoke, thinking guiltily of the anger and violence that I now had to keep so carefully hidden beneath the surface of my emotions.
We stood silently for several moments, both lost in our own thoughts. But I was grateful for the opportunity to further temper my anger.
“What if you are with child?” Legolas whispered, but even to my own ears, it sounded like a last-ditch effort.
Still, my cheeks burst with warmth. “I’m not,” I assured him. “It’s only been one night, but besides, I know I’m not fertile right now,” I whispered back.
“It is still early to know for certain, even if you are not yet fertile,” he maintained.
I knew he was right, some bit of knowledge clung from somewhere in my mind and memory, reminding me that a man’s seed could survive in a woman’s body for several days. But I knew children weren’t meant to be. At least not for me.
“That’s grasping for straws and you know it,” I returned, but then my expression turned grim. “Besides, even on the extremely low, off-chance that it could take, the chances of me carrying a child to term now are nearly impossible.”
“I do not understand.”
I looked purposefully away. “After my time in …” I trailed off and left the rest unsaid before foraging ahead with the remaining pieces, carefully maintaining a flat tone of voice. “After everything that happened, my body is too damaged and scarred to actually have any chance of becoming pregnant, let alone carrying a child to term.”
“You cannot carry a child,” Legolas slowly repeated.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered miserably, feeling somehow like a failure.
Legolas didn’t hesitate and grasped my jaw with gentle and carrying fingers as he turned my gaze back to his. “Nay, do not feel this guilt. This was a thing done unto you, not any act of your own doing,” he assured me.
“I should have told you sooner.”
“It would not have changed my course. My love for you is unchanged. You are more than enough for me.”
Silence stretched as our words sank into each other’s conscious. I could only pray his words were true and his heart wouldn’t change. But when Legolas spoke again, he had moved on to other matters.
Legolas finally broke the resounding silence that seemed to encompass our area on the field, regardless of all the soldiers and men nearby. “I will not lie and say I do not still wish you to remain in the city,” he said, “but you are correct, I am unfairly asking of you what I could not myself any more abide. I should not have tried to decide such a thing for you and then declare my will upon you in such a manner. It is a grievous thing to realize I have so tried to order about my wife as though she were a mere soldier serving in my command. Or worse, that you could ever feel I would have so placed or thought of you as being below myself as a mere subject.” As he spoke, he gave a sad smile, his fingers still grasping my chin and not letting me look away.
Now unable to turn my head away, I leaned forward to bury my face against Legolas’s chest. “I can’t believe I hit you like that and then bit you,” I whispered miserably. “How could you ever continue to harbor any love for me after what I’ve done? After what you’ve seen in me?”
His arms suddenly wrapped tightly around me, crushing me to his chest. “Say not such things,” he whispered back, that desperation creeping back in. “I know your heart; I have seen the darkness that dwells there, and I would rather have you unleash that darkness and anger upon me, and fight me, than fight that darkness alone and suffer it in solitude.”
I shook my head against his chest. “I wouldn’t ever want you to have to see even a shadow of that anger in me. You are so good and kind—even if a bit commanding from time to time—but I can’t bear the thought of what that dark part of my soul is doing to you. I was never like this before …” I trailed off, but I knew Legolas instantly understood just when that darkness had taken root within me.
Legolas forced my head to tilt up to face him again. “Think not that elves are such perfect beings. Have I not already proven in so short our marriage how abysmal I am to hold up to that ideal? But I shall not allow you to suffer that darkness alone. Elves have our own blight in the history of our race, and darkness not so foreign a thing to our fëa as you seem to believe. After all, has there not been Kinslaying in our history? Let me help you bear this darkness when it comes upon you, and together we shall overcome it.”
My fingertips caressed the now purplish bruise along the smooth skin of his jaw again. “But I hit you … I bit you. That’s atrocious of me! How can you say you understand that?”
Again, he pressed my hand against the mark, seeming heedless of any pain the action might cause. “Because you are neither cruel nor violent in your nature. Not even after all you have suffered. That violence lurks beneath the surface, but it does not control your nature. I marvel that you are still capable of such warmth and kindness, when so many other creatures would have so long ago embraced the darkness and violence that had been visited upon them. Do you think the Eldar cannot fathom the desperate need to strike out when one has been so heinously battered and damaged as you have been? It is animal instinct to strike out in anger at even slight provocation when you have been so violently and repeatedly tortured.”
He shook his head sadly and continued. “In truth, I see now why I have precipitated such a response in you, and the wrongs I did to bring it about. I have long known your propensity and need to have some order and control in your life, a deep-seated want I well understood after your past, but I did not give one thought to it when I decided you would stay in the city. I was thoughtless to your reaction and to your feelings, thinking only of my own fear.”
My eyes closed. “It doesn’t excuse what I did.”
“Nay, there are neither excuses nor regrets between us, yes? What is done is done; we shall strive to learn and move on. And I shall strive to not be so thoughtless to your past.”
I opened my eyes and looked up at him, letting him see my sorrow and regret. “I’m a mess. I doubt you could have found a wife that was more of a mess if you had tried.”
He laughed suddenly and pulled me close again. “And you have wed an ellon used to giving orders and being utterly obeyed. An ellon that acts swiftly on his fear of loss for his utter terror of it. I cannot say you have wed the husband I know you to deserve.”
Something in his laughter loosened the hard knot in my chest, easing that ache in a way that always surprised me no matter how many times he managed the feat. “What a delightfully rocky marriage we’ll have,” I darkly laughed. “You’ll get to feeling all princely and superior and throw your weight around, ordering me not to do this, or not to go there, and I’ll blow a gasket and start yelling and screaming back.” I pulled back to look up at the smile now growing on his face. “But you were right not to let me walk away before. It’s never good when I stew on that kind of anger. It just grows and gets worse. But please, don’t ever let me hit you again. We both know you’re stronger and faster than I am. Do whatever it takes to stop me. Don’t let me do that again.”
He smiled tenderly. “I will not make a promise I cannot keep. If expending such little hurt on your part helps ease that darkness that has taken root within you, I will gladly bear far worse. I would rather see you still strike out rather than shrink away when you feel so threatened, for it means that you have not let the darkness conquer you. That you have still not allowed your past to defeat you. That you fight still what was done to you and can still defeat it. But I shall promise to ever help you find other venues to ease the anger and darkness in your fëa. We shall assuage that obstacle together.” His face sobered. “Though first must come the great task of surviving this coming battle.”
My hand found his as I carefully stretched upwards to chastely kiss the cut I’d inflicted on his lower lip. The split already seeming to have begun healing over. “We’ll do that together. Standing side-by-side this time. Neither of us will have to sit in terror awaiting the news. We’ll face it together. That’s all we can do.”
“I pray the Valar shall see us through this battle.”
“Me too,” I whispered.
“Are you yet angry with my demeanor?” he asked cautiously, and I was surprised by the shy and somewhat cheeky smile on his face.
“Honestly? Yeah. I am. I can take orders from superior officers—God knows I did enough of that in the Marines and as a cop—but I don’t take orders from someone I should be on equal footing with, so yeah, you’re still in the doghouse for even thinking of forcing me to stay behind,” I honestly answered.
He glanced down at our joined hands, seeming to wait for me to yank it away. “I do not understand what a ‘doghouse’ is,” he slowly said, “nor how housing for an animal pertains to the matter, but I should venture to guess it is not a good thing.”
I laughed. “Nope. It’s not a good thing, but if it’s any comfort, I think my own atrocious behavior is just as deserving—if not more so—of some time in the doghouse, so at least we won’t be lonely in there.”
He laughed and pulled me closer.
But any rose-colored views of our future together were now wiped from my imagination. For the first time, I began realizing just how much two strong-willed individuals such as we were, were likely to butt heads in the future. And with my own penchant now to lash out when I felt cornered, I could see that we were in for a bumpy ride. And probably a bruising one.
Legolas leaned down to whisper in my ear, “Our path may be rocky, yet I imagine that our bond shall be the stronger for our trials. Ever shall we strive to strengthen our bond when such trials might otherwise set us apart.” He pulled back and smiled. “Never shall we fall prey to boredom at the least.”
I still felt slightly unnerved that he’d heard my thoughts, but after the last doozey of a fight, I pushed the feeling away for the time being. Now was not the time to rock the boat anymore. “No, I really doubt we’ll ever have the chance to grow bored,” I ruefully agreed.
We would undoubtedly fight more, but I realized I’d rather fight with Legolas if it meant we were truly fighting with each other, on the same side, not just fighting each other from opposing sides. If we could fight with the goal in mind to strengthen our marriage, maybe that wasn’t so bad a thing.
After all, they did say love was a battle.
As we walked together back towards the large tent, I realized all of the gathered men—well, males—from the tent I’d dubbed headquarters, were still gathered around the opening, watching us with unrestrained curiosity.
Legolas felt my stride falter and tugged me along, whispering to me that what they thought was of no consequence. I glanced up at his steady expression and realized he was right. If he had accepted what had happened between us and felt everything was resolved, it didn’t matter what the men thought. I was used to far worse than anything they might think after our little spat.
Yet at the same time, I realized I did strangely care what a few individuals thought. And I wasn’t used to caring what anyone thought about me. But I did care about what Gimli, Aragorn, and Gandalf might think.
Strangely, the wizard seemed to be suppressing a smile, and there was a definite twinkle in his eyes. Our fight, I supposed, was probably merely entertaining to an immortal, all-powerful wizard.
But Aragorn and Gimli watched with wary eyes, both straining as they looked us over. Yet I sighed with relief when I realized there was only worry in their eyes, not condemnation.
The others I causally dismissed from my notice. I didn’t care much what they thought.
“Everything a’right with ye two?” Gimli asked as we stepped back into the tent, the gathered males parting to allow us through the sea of testosterone.
We continued into the tent until we were standing at the long table, once more gathering around to look down on the maps scattered there, as though our argument had never interrupted the previous meeting.
“All is well, friend-Gimli,” Legolas assured him with a warm smile. “Elaina has been tutoring me in my true and correct responsibilities as a husband.”
Gimli chuckled loudly at that, and even Aragorn broke into a smile.
“I’m sure the Lass’ll fin’ that a ne’er-endin’ task, just as mos’ females do,” Gimli laughed.
I rubbed my thigh and said ruefully, “Well, I’ll probably spend the rest of my life trying to figure out how a wife is ‘supposed’ to act, too.”
“You have resolved your argument?” Aragorn cautiously inquired.
“Yeah. As best we can anyway. I won’t be staying here in the city. I’ll be going with when you leave.” As I spoke, I glanced around the tent to meet the eyes of the other gathered men as I made my declaration.
Those that I had come to know a little didn’t seem all that surprised, and a few even nodded to me at my proclamation. But many of the men I didn’t know pursed their lips in disapproval. But I paid them little attention.
The elven twins—the sons of Elrond—Elladan and Elrohir, both gazed down at the dirt floor of the tent. Seeming lost in thought at my words and with no little disapproval on their faces as well.
My eyes had just started to travel past them when one of them looked up at Aragorn and crossly said, “I thought your words yesterday upon the field were spoken in jest, Estel.” The twin—I couldn’t say which—rounded on Legolas next. “What in Arda has possessed you that you would wed a mortal, and such an ill-tempered one at that?”
My barriers were down, so I knew there was more that he thought to himself, but as with all elves, I still hadn’t learned their languages yet so I didn’t know what his thoughts specifically were.
Legolas suddenly lunged forward beside me, and after years of serving with hot-tempered Marines and hotheaded cops, I automatically reached out and grabbed Legolas by the arms from behind, pulling him to a stop as he tried to reach the twin that had spoken.
But my attempts to stop his physical movement didn’t stop his voice. “You dare to say that the Valar cannot support our union?” he growled. “I assure you, They themselves have blessed our binding, Elladan. Do not again ever call my wife ‘a lowly mortal.'”
Seeing that restraining him from behind wasn’t working—he was still pulling against me and making ground—and that it was doing nothing to stop his verbal attack, I quickly stepped in front of Legolas and pushed against his chest to stop him. He did stop, but still glared over my shoulder at the other elf.
It finally struck me that I was feeling a deep roiling anger, but one that felt different from my earlier anger. And suddenly it struck me that the anger was not emanating from me, but originating within Legolas. I wondered that I hadn’t felt his emotions before, but realized that even though Legolas’s emotions were always there within me, they weren’t so strong as to overcome my own emotions. It was a comforting thought to realize that I could always sense them, but that they also would not overtake me. Even as much anger as my elf was feeling at the moment, they didn’t overcome my own emotion and I could clearly identify them as not being my own.
“He didn’t say I was ‘a lowly mortal,’ Legolas,” I whispered to him, trying to get his attention, and praying that no one else overheard my words. “And you can’t hold against others what they think. I didn’t understand his words, but there was no maliciousness behind the thought, and you can’t blame or fault people for their knee-jerk reactions and thoughts. If you’re gonna be stuck with hearing the minds of others now—and I’m really sorry I’ve put you through that—then you’re gonna have to learn to control it so you don’t hear their thoughts all the time, or learn how to ignore them when you do hear thoughts like that. People have to be free to think whatever they want. They can’t help what they think sometimes.”
Legolas finally tore his gaze from the twin—Elladan—and looked down at me. “I will not have another of my kind say such things about my wife.” He glanced back up at Elladan. “Your family line is descended from a mortal man as well. Your great-great-grandfather was the mortal Beren. Elros himself chose to take the path of Man. How can you think such ill of mortals?” He jerked his head towards Aragorn. “You count Aragorn as a brother to you, and is he not mortal?”
I glanced over my shoulder to see Elladan’s consternation, and even the consternation of his twin, who didn’t seem to know how to feel or react at the moment.
“Of course I love Estel!” Elladan returned. “But he is Dúnadan and not as other mortals. Still, I would not love him less were he not of the Dúnedain. But wedding a woman wholly mortal? The eldar and race of Man are not meant for each other, Legolas. You are dooming yourself to heartache and despair, damning yourself to walk in shadow after her short years are spent.”
“And what of me?” Aragorn wearily asked, and our collective eyes tracked over to see him heavily leaning down, his hands braced on the dark wood of the table as he stared down at its surface. “You and Elrohir know of my love for Arwen, and know that I intend to wed her when I have accomplished the task Elrond has laid before me. Do you direct such feelings towards our intentions as well? Am I too only damning her?” The last utterance came out a miserable whisper, and I knew then that he’d long harbored the same worries himself.
“You’d be a fool if you think yourself lofty enough to decide the hearts of others, or try to make for them such grave decisions, Aragorn,” I told the man. “Don’t you think I’ve had the same terrifying thoughts?” At that, the man finally looked up to meet my eyes, both of us ignoring all those still gathered in the tent. “As someone who once lived through fates worse than most deaths imaginable, I can tell you now that even a few moments of real happiness are enough to sustain you through the worst heartaches. If you truly love Arwen, you’ll let her decide for herself if a time of happiness is worth all the rest. And believe me, that happiness will sustain her through any shadow she must walk through after.”
I glanced back at the twins to see Elladan’s head was turned down, his expression torn as his brother placed a comforting hand upon his shoulder. And I knew his problems with me were as much about his worries for his sister as anything else. Though not all.
“You love your sister, but you can’t make decisions for her. She’s not an elfling.”
He looked back up at me, tears glistening in his eyes though he steadfastly refused to let them fall. “You do not know my sister.” Though it was a statement, the lilt in his voice gave it question.
I shrugged. “I know a lot of things. And I may not seem like a lot of women or other females, but I do know a female’s heart. And I’ll tell all of you males here and now, one thing a woman—any female—hates even more than being told what they will do, is being told what they should feel.”
A few of the men chuckled—the ones I figured were married themselves—but many of the others only looked contemplative.
Aragorn walked around the table and surprised me by pulling me into a hug. “I have not yet offered you my congratulations, my friend.”
He turned and pulled Legolas into another hug. “I pray your time together, however long, shall be enough to sustain you my friend, and know that you can turn to your friends for comfort when the time comes.”
Though he had whispered the words to Legolas, I heard them anyway. “Let’s not go burying me yet, Aragorn. I’m still alive for the time being.”
He laughed as he pulled away from my elf. “Truly you speak,” he chuckled, “and with great wisdom beyond your years. I will take heed of them and know that should I again need your instruction in the hearts of females, that I can turn to you, lest I find myself fighting the same battles with Arwen if she will yet have me.”
“Well, I’d like to think that I’ve learned a few things over the years, and I’m glad that I can offer a few words of wisdom to those younger than myself. I doubt I have too much of use to offer the elves, or even Gimli for that matter.”
Aragorn looked slightly chagrined. “In truth, I am older than you suppose, I have now passed eighty-eight years in my life. The Dúnedain giving my line a longer life than most mortals.”
A smile grew on my face. I was used to hiding my real age, and actually relished now being in a land where a mortal of my lifespan was not supposed to have been an impossibility. “Still got ya beat,” I told him. “The Fae in my own bloodline gives me a longer lifespan as well. I’m somewhere around ninety-two, I think. Though I’ve never known for sure what year I was born.”
I laughed at the gaping mouths of Aragorn and Gimli; and as I looked around the tent, realized theirs weren’t the only mouths gaping.
Even the sons of Elrond were gapping, though Elladan still looked disapproving and downtrodden. Oh well, I thought to myself, a few words weren’t going to change Elladan’s mind on things or put to rest his worries for his sister. Time might, but even that could be a stretch.
Thankfully, Aragorn turned the conversation back to planning the coming battle. I knew he and the others probably had more questions, but he seemed to realize now was neither the time nor place for the discussion.
Only after several hours had passed, the meeting ended, and the tent emptied of most of the others, did Legolas and I again step out of the canvas structure and under the open air of the sky.
Darkness had fallen and stars now dotting the sky, with most of the men having returned to the city or to their tents for the night.
Legolas and I paused outside the large tent with Aragorn, Gimli, and interestingly enough, the twins still hanging around. I wasn’t sure where Gandalf had disappeared.
The twins were still glancing at me with unrestrained curiosity and question, and though I saw doubt and some disapproval in the eyes of the twin I guessed to be Elladan, there was no real animosity there.
Still, Legolas’s face was tight and drawn as he stepped closer to me and grasped my hand in his warm grip, pulling me into his side.
Aragorn didn’t miss the undercurrents. “The hearing of thoughts is not a common gift among elves, not one given outside of a ring of power,” he casually conceded.
I turned back to the Ranger with a guilty smile, somehow not surprised that he’d heard my words to Legolas. “Nope. And I’m guessing it’s still not. That would be my fault, and I’m obviously still going to have to teach Legolas a few things about it. Along with some of the etiquette that goes along with my little quirk.”
“How’s such a thin’ possible, Lass?” Gimli rumbled, stroking his beard and proving that he was no slower or worse of hearing than Aragorn. I was glad he also seemed no more concerned with Legolas possibly hearing his thoughts than he’d ever been with me hearing them.
I glanced up at Legolas to see if he was going to answer, but he seemed lost in a silent debate with Elladan as they stared at one another.
“Well, I don’t know how much you know about elves, Gimli, but when they marry, they bind themselves together, right down to their souls. My fairy ancestors once did something very similar, only with my ancestors, they shared everything, their souls, and even any special magics one might have. My telepathy I don’t think is magic, but as you can tell, I still ended up sharing it with Legolas, I guess. But I still have a lot to teach him about living with it.”
As I spoke the last part, I gave a hard tug on said elf’s hand until he looked down into my raised eyebrow.
“I do not care for Elladan’s treatment in your regard; you are my wife, and I will not apologize for my words,” he told me.
A smile nearly crept onto my expression at him assuming I was going to demand he apologize, but I ignored it and told him, “And I don’t care for the general treatment of women in this world, nor the fact that they usually are thought of as belonging to their husband or father, but you can’t change so many ages of indoctrinated behavior. Like I said earlier, people have to be free to think what they want.”
Legolas looked incredulous. “You think I should not care what prejudices those even of my own kind harbor towards you?”
I couldn’t help it, I laughed at his naïveté. “You’ve only experienced this for one day. I’ve lived with it my entire life. And I’ve experienced far worse prejudices than this. I was a woman in the military—a woman doing man’s work. You bet there was prejudice there. And believe me, I was more than prepared to face a little prejudice over our marriage. But you’ve got to accept it, too. And accept that it’s their right to be prejudiced.”
It felt a little too much like we were talking about Elladan in front of his face, so I moved along, facing Gimli again. “So that’s what happened,” I surmised.
The dwarf quickly caught on. “It’s a surprising thin’, Lassie, no less surprising than tha news that you’re even older than Aragorn.”
I only shrugged. “It’s not like we sat around the campfire saying, ‘sooo, how old’s everyone?’ It just never came up. And it’s mostly unheard of in my land, so I’m not used to talking about any of it.”
“What are these ‘fairies’ you say are in your bloodline?” Elrohir suddenly asked.
Deciding that curiosity wasn’t so bad a thing on his part, I launched into a quick explanation about my ancestors, and then had to give another explanation about being from a different world, smiling to myself at their doubt about that. But Aragorn and Gimli didn’t counter my words, so the twins seemed to take that into account.
As I finally finished, I could see my fight with Legolas replaying in Elladan’s mind, and no doubt him drawing parallels between my description of my ancestors and my own behavior.
“‘Twas my fault I caused such anger in your response,” Legolas whispered against my temple, having obviously seen the same thing I had, and or caught on to my own thoughts.
“Yeah, but you can’t deny that my behavior didn’t exactly seem too impressive either.”
Gimli loudly cleared his throat, stopping the whispered conversation between Aragorn and the twins. “Well, I’m sure tha Lad and Lass are red’ah to return to their marriage bed.” At that, he grinned as Legolas and I both open-mouth gaped at him. “And I’m sure tha rest of us could use a good night’s rest as well.”
Bending down, I laughed as I embraced Gimli and said goodnight, chuckling at his audacity. And then exchanged goodnights with Aragorn as well.
I was surprised when Elrohir stepped in front of us. “I can see that there is great love in your hearts, and though I do not understand so strange a union, I offer my hopes that it continues to bring you happiness.”
Elladan stepped beside his brother and with a resigned sigh, his expression proving that he was by no means won over and still disapproving, though he did offer, “Perhaps I am too quick to form opinions, but I too can see you harbor great love. And I do not wish heartache upon either of you.”
It definitely wasn’t approval, and it wasn’t even really wishing us well, but I squeezed my elf’s hand and answered for the both of us, “Thank you. I know this must seem strange to you, and you don’t even know me, but I hope you can one day see that I am doing my best to ensure we’re both as happy as we can be.”
Legolas nodded to the twins and I pulled him away, heading once more up the long path through the city. It had been a long day, and I almost thought these emotional battles were far more draining than the battle the day before had been.
A/N: Sorry about the longer update time. August was very hectic and September is definitely going to be worse. I manage a horse sale that runs at the end of September, so that’ll keep me very busy. I’ll update when I can, but it won’t be on the weekly schedule that I normally like to keep, though I’ll still try as best I can. Just don’t count on any regularity in September! 🙂
Now, first off, I know I’ll probably get some people who don’t like Lane’s reactions in this chapter and don’t think it’s in keeping with her character, but I will defend this to the hilt. I’ve studied a lot about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), known people who suffered with it, as well as struggled with it myself my entire life. And I have carefully laid out Lane’s PTSD (and chronic PTSD at that) from the very first chapter when she was still in her own world. Lane has continually fought with sleeplessness, irritability over little things, exaggerated flight-or-fight response, flashbacks, nightmares, a tendency towards emotional numbing, and now, her angry outburst. Along with other symptoms. Her anger has always been lurking beneath the surface, and I’ve let it peek out, but now it burst through violently. And again, I will defend her violent outburst as authentic.
As I said, I’ve struggled with my own PTSD most of my life, and my own remaining personal demon there is my quick anger, and yes, when I was younger, even to the point of violence. I mostly can keep it hidden—even people who’ve known me for years think I’m incredibly laid back—but they don’t see the times I finally crack and the veneer slips. I’ve mostly controlled the violent outbursts as I’ve aged, but the temper is still there. And I can speak from experience that the beaten dog, no matter how meek when being beaten, can and will break and respond with the same violence it was shown.
And Lane’s behaviors and responses are fairly in keeping with many returning Vets from combat suffering with PTSD. It’s probably a miracle she keeps herself together as well as she does, or as Legolas noted, hasn’t turned cruel because of it. But as we see in this chapter, her careful restraint can still snap.
Most of Lane’s symptoms aren’t any I myself have experienced—she’s been through far worse than I have—but like I said, I’ve known others with PTSD and I’ve studied it as well.
And I know it might seem like she snapped over a little thing, but Lane’s life has been changing ever since she arrived in Middle-earth, and especially now in such a short timeframe. She’s suddenly married, bound heart and soul to another, and having to adjust to someone else knowing her thoughts and emotions. Not to mention all the trauma from the battles she just came through. So much change like this is not only hard, but also not actually good for someone with PTSD.
But anyway, I guess that’s my soapbox for this chapter. 🙂 Just wanted to make it clear that I’m not writing Lane’s reactions this way just because it’s fun. It’s been carefully studied and planned.
Thanks so much for all the reviews and for the new followers and favorites! Welcome to the story.
And as always, let me know what you thought!