“I can take the first watch. You two get some sleep.” Murmured Legolas, gesturing towards Morelen and Elboron who sat silently beside each other, their blankets wrapped comfortably around themselves. Three horses laid back at the edge of the clearing, sleeping beneath the boughs of the trees. A soft breeze rustled through the leaves as they listened to the crackle of the fire, its leaping tongues reaching towards the sky. The night was young, but the stars were hidden behind a dark blanket of clouds, leaving the all the world totally black. Gimli lay beside them, snoring loudly.
“I will take it, Legolas. I’m pretty sure sleep is going to evade me for a while.” Elboron replied humorously, motioning towards the sleeping dwarf.
Legolas grinned and answered, “I see.” He sighed and continued softly, “If you wish. Wake me, and I will take the second.” Elboron nodded and the elf wandered back to his blankets, away from the warmth of the small campfire.
“You should sleep too, lady. No harm will come to us here while I am awake.” Elboron assured her. His expression became perplexed as she giggled, her eyes twinkling by the firelight.
In truth, she had been quite upset with him for their little afternoon dip, and she had decided not to speak to him. He had felt guilty even though it was she who tried to push him in the water, and her sudden, comfortable laughter put his heart at ease. She lay down and snuggled into her blankets. Her hands rested comfortably on her stomach, laughing as she looked up at him, still seated by the fire.
“What is so amusing?” He asked, the corners of his mouth beginning to lift into a confused smirk.
After a few moments of uncontrolled snorting and giggling, Morelen composed herself and replied, “Because you called me, `lady.'”
“That is what you are, is it not?” He teased, his smile wicked in the firelight.
“Well,” She thought for a moment, gauging the accuracy of his statement, “technically speaking, yes. But I am not very prim and proper, as a lady aught to be.”
Elboron chuckled, his shoulders shaking gently. “I know what you mean. A `lady’ wouldn’t wear the same pair of riding gear for over a year.”
She smiled ruefully, instinctively combing her fingers through her long hair, snagging them on grass and twigs alike.
“Oh well.” She sighed wearily. “It was just strange to hear you call me, `lady.’ What was it you used to call me when we were little?” She queried, closing her eyes as she struggled to remember.
“Ah yes, Elen.” She grinned, remembering the dirty, ragged little boy he had once been, his front teeth missing and stringy hair filled with grass and dirt clods.
“I much rather prefer to be called Elen than, `lady,’ if you do not mind, my lord.” Morelen laughed, putting specific emphasis on the last two words.
“Not at all. It’s just that…you’ve grown somewhat since the last time I saw you.” He paused for a moment, trying to gather and express his thoughts, “I didn’t know if you were still Elen or if things were different…” His voice trailed off, leaving an awkward silence between them.
“Why would you think that?” She asked, her voice incredulous.
He turned and looked at her gravely, replying “Why wouldn’t you? Doesn’t everyone change at this stage in their life? It’s the transition between childhood and maturity, or so they say.”
It was the one thing he had feared most when he set out to find her. He feared that she might have changed so much that he would no longer enjoy her company. He was worried that she wouldn’t be Elen anymore, and the thought tore at his heart. Instead, he found her hardly changed, still the stubborn, expressive, strong girl she had always been, and it put his heart to rest.
She stared at him, her gaze intense. The crickets in the woods chirped loudly, and their noise seemed to increase as the silence between them grew.
“Indeed, we all are shaped by our experiences in life. When I first saw you in the forest, I did not even recognize you.”
She gradually sat up, staring face to face with Elboron, looking deep into his misty grey depths to show her sincerity. “But know this. I will be Elen forever, no matter what I find in Harad. Time may pass, but I will remain. “
Elboron smirked and said, “Indeed. I think not even time can change you, Elen. Nothing can.” His cheeks became hot and he silently cursed himself for allowing those words to trip awkwardly from his lips. Suddenly he was extremely jealous of Morelen’s ability to hide her blush with the darkness of her skin, for his pale cheeks showed it all too clearly.
“You would not wish me to change, would you?” She said demurely.
Time seemed to slow almost to a complete halt as they gazed at each other. At that moment it felt as if they were separated by a thousand miles, their tongues becoming heavy in their mouths, the silence around them becoming deafening.
“Never,” he croaked huskily, his heart rapidly pounding inside his chest, his blood coursing throbbing hot magma through his veins.
What the name of the Valar is going on!?!?!?!? I [B[DON’T UNDERSTAND WOMEN!!! At first we’re at each other’s throats, and then…
He corrected himself, well, most of the time we’re at each other’s throats, but now all of a sudden we’re……we’re getting awfully close…
Question after question screamed in his thoughts, and he could not restrain these sudden emotions that controlled him. As if nudged mischievously by some higher power, he inched towards her, giving her every opportunity to avoid him if she wished. She did not move, but her expression turned slowly to one of apprehension, her dark eyes widening. When their lips were an inch apart, he stopped, as if waiting for some great booming voice to approve of the motion. They sat there contentedly for a moment, surviving on the breath the other had released, their eyes slowly closing.
Elbereth, what is happening? They both thought, their hearts and minds screaming with fear and awe at the sheer fire that hummed between them, the unbearable magnetic force drawing them closer…
“Blasted orcs, I’ll take each and every one of you…” The dwarf shouted loudly in his sleep, tossing in his blankets, grumbling into the cool night air.
They jumped, startled, their shy gazes lowering timidly.
Morelen thought her voice would fail her, but she seemed to hear herself murmur quietly, “Goodnight, Elboron.”
He whispered back, frightened and in complete confusion, “Goodnight Elen.”
She smiled, wavering, and turned away from him, moving into the comfort of her bed, her hands jittery.
He fought the urge to punch his pillow, so he clenched his fists instead, his fingertips digging into the palms of his hands. He stared unblinking into the embers of the fire, thinking to himself,
What the hell was that…?