[. . . Kyshri . . . Kyshri . . .]
I blinked and opened my eyes, automatically looking to the window. It was dark still–how long had I slept? [How long . . .?]
[I do not know. I just arrived.]
Then I had slept all day. I tried to sit up; my body ached from the unnatural position I had slept in. A plate of food was held before me and I accepted it gratefully. [I am sorry I was not up. I was planning on having a meal ready.]
[If you could sleep through the day, you needed rest,] he replied with a smile. [And it let me have a meal for you.]
[I thought you tired of cooking for me,] I said around a mouthful of food.
He excused my lack of etiquette since we were alone, knowing I was just hungry. [I did, yes, six and a half centuries ago. Then I realized exactly how much I missed it.]
I almost choked. [Missed it? Goodness, I never missed looking for Sulaine!]
[It let me feel needed,] he explained shortly.
Staring at him, I swallowed what I had and then looped my arm around his neck, drawing him closer until our foreheads were touching. [I have always needed you. I just did not know until now.]
He smiled a little and closed his eyes. I set my plate aside and slid to the floor to hug him, resting my head against his chest. He shifted a bit, enclosing me in a familiar embrace. [Oh Haldir . . .] I whimpered. [I am so sorry.]
[Shh,] he soothed, kissing the top of my head gently. [We have already said our apologies. Eat.] I finished off the plate and he whisked it from my hands. [Now get some more sleep.]
I crawled into bed without thinking; Haldir did not correct me.
He woke again to the sun streaming into the room and yawned, stretching under the blankets languidly. He opened his eyes and had to hold back a yelp of surprise because Kyshri was lying asleep on the blankets beside him, her back to the sun.
It gave him time to examine her features without fear of being questioned and he took the opportunity. Running his fingers over her face, tracing her scars, he could think only one thing:
She stirred suddenly; his touch had awakened her. Her clear blue-gray eyes opened and focused on him. She blinked in surprise, then let out a short scream and rolled right off the edge of the bed. It was not long before the door was flung open, revealing Haldir and the rest of the Fellowship. He quickly raised his hands in surrender. [I did nothing, I swear it!]
Kyshri sat up, one hand holding the back of her head (which she had hit on the foot of her chair) and the other pointing accusingly at Haldir. [Why did you not tell me not to get into the bed?!]
Haldir laughed. [What difference does it make?]
I growled and stood, storming from the room to the kitchen, where I angrily began cooking myself breakfast. It would get my mind off this most recent embarrassment until I had cooled down enough to not hit Haldir. It was only about ten minutes before anyone came after me.
[. . . Kyshri?]
I glanced over my shoulder, smiling when I saw it was Legolas. [Good to see you up. How do you feel?]
[Still a bit tired and somewhat stiff, but fine otherwise.]
[Please.] He took a seat at the small table in the kitchen and I placed the food on a plate and gave it to him, then began on my own breakfast. [But you do know that it is nearly afternoon?]
I paused. [I do now.]
We had a nice, private meal there in the kitchen and he then convinced me to join the others in the sitting room. I did so, ignoring the sporadic snickers. Conversation was pleasant until the front door opened. Haldir rose and moved to enter the foyer, but stopped and nodded. He stepped back out of the way and the very last person I had wanted to see stepped into the room.
I stood so quickly that I knocked my chair over backwards. Its legs hit mine and tripped me, making me fall gracelessly to the floor. I scrambled back, unable to break eye-contact with this new visitor, and finally pulled my last dregs of dignity together to kneel facing him, bowing low so that my forehead touched my knee, and closed my eyes.
[Lord Celeborn,] I murmured respectfully, wincing inwardly at the tremble in my voice. Oh, how I had wronged him . . . how I deserved whatever punishment he saw fit to deal to me . . .
I heard the rustle of clothing and then arms were around me, hugging me tightly, desperate to confirm my presence. [Kyshri . . .] Lord Celeborn whispered with something strangely akin to tears in his voice. [Kyshri . . .]
[. . . My lord . . .?]
[How could you have done this? How?]
I broke down into sobs. [My lord, please . . . I realize I deserve punishment, but I gave my actions no thought until I had been so long gone! I did not mean to abandon you!]
[Punishment!] was the scoffed reply. I was held tighter. [I have not the heart for it! I am simply happy to see you well.] He lowered his head. [You are all we have left and when you ran away . . .]
[I am sorry! Forgive me!]
[Cease running up her guilt, Celeborn!] Haldir snapped. [I want her time here to be pleasant!]
I remained in Lord Celeborn’s grasp–eyes closed, tear tracks on my face–glad to be there even if he was going to inflict some sort of punishment on me later, when he perhaps did have the heart for it. He made some sort of response to Haldir and then held me tighter than ever. I felt my wound tear open and let out a wail.
There was a semi-large commotion. Haldir began yelling at Lord Celeborn and Legolas had to be kept from making the situation worse in an attempt to help me. I could see I would have to take matters into my own hands.
One could have heard a leaf fall. All eyes turned to me.
I took a breath. [Now, there will be no arguing about it. I was injured during the journey through Moria–it is no one’s fault.]
Lord Celeborn helped me stand. [Forgive me.]
I kissed his cheek and smiled. [You did not know.]
I went to my room, where I had left a few things I could use to tend my fresh injury. I rewrapped my chest and returned to the sitting room, absently noting a new voice among the others. I only put a face to it as I entered the room–too late to escape back to the safety of my own room.
I stiffened in the sudden embrace, but he did not seem to notice. [. . . How did you know I was here?]
[My younger brother told me. Kyshri, where have you been?]
[Away to where? Rivendell? Mirkwood?]
[What difference does it make? I am not staying.]
[She has joined the Fellowship of the Ring,] Lord Celeborn explained (which I was thankful for; Firdon would not dare challenge him as he might have Haldir). [When they depart, she will as well.]
Firdon, surprisingly, had the guts to say, [But she is a Lady. Surely she cannot be allowed to participate in such a quest, however noble—]
Lord Celeborn drew himself up to his full height–which was tall even for an elf–and fixed his gaze sharply on Firdon. [As you should know, she may exercise her right to do as she wishes. She wishes to continue with this quest and I have given her permission to do so.]
Here, Legolas rose. [Do you always contradict your Lord?]
Firdon turned to him, apparently noticing him for the first time. [. . . And who do you think you are, vagrant?]
Properly furious, Legolas came around the longchair and the two stood face-to-face, equal in height. [I do not believe I heard you correctly. Would you dare repeat what you just said to me?]
From one of the reading chairs I heard Merry ask Aragorn, “Are they really going to fight?”
That was a good question. I put a hand on each’s chest and shoved them apart, making them stumble back. [All right, children. Cease your strutting.] I warned Firdon not to move and turned to Legolas, who would not look at me no matter my words. I finally ended up pushing him backward into the kitchen and forcing him to sit down so that he could not see Firdon. He tried to peer around the doorway, but I always managed to head him off. [Legolas.]
[What?] he replied distractedly, still trying to look around the door.
I completely blocked his view of the door and he finally focused on me. [You will not antagonize him.]
[Him?!] he hissed indignantly. [Did you hear what he called me?]
[My ears are not mere decoration for my head. I will speak with him as well, but you will refrain from provoking him any further. Better yet, speak nothing at all to him. Now wait here while I speak to him.]
I left and went to the back of the sitting room, where Firdon was standing sullenly. I was able to get a look at him and while he had matured a great deal physically, his mental growth had obviously languished.
[Who is he to dare to speak to me in that way?] Firdon demanded as soon as I was within angry-whisper range.
[That is not your business,] I answered because a) it was not, and b) I knew little about Legolas other than his name but I was not going to tell Firdon that.
[He had no authority to speak to me in such a tone!]
[He did if you called him a vagrant in such a tone as you yourself adopted!] I snapped back. [On that thought, you will not further provoke him.]
[Provoke! I have done nothing of the sort!]
[Do not be such a dithering fool. You should feel spared that Lord Celeborn has not yet castigated you for your inconsiderate tongue! Speak not another word this night if you plan to remain here any longer!]
He frowned at me. [. . . I must converse with you, alone, of a serious matter. It must be before you next depart.]
I had an idea of what it was, but did not bother telling him no right then. [Very well. I will meet with you in the gardens tomorrow afternoon.]
He nodded and left. I called Legolas from the kitchen and I watched his eyes sweep the room as he entered. [He is gone,] I assured him. [You need not hunt him out and throttle him.]
He had the decency to blush and quickly returned to his previous seat. The tension cleared and everyone relaxed and resumed the abandoned discussion. I paid little attention, pondering how to very kindly deny Firdon what I was sure he was planning to ask me tomorrow. As much of an egotist as he was, such a matter as what I believed would be brought up then was nothing to treat lightly. He deserved the kindest refusal I could give, even if he was a jerk.
[. . . Kyshri?]
I started and looked around at Haldir, who had somehow moved to stand just beside me without my knowing. [Hm?]
[Are you well?]
[Quite. Why do you ask?]
He gave me an uncertain, sideways look. [You were not answering us and your stare was blank.]
I shrugged. [Forgive me. I was distracted with my thoughts.]
He felt my cheeks and forehead and I batted his hand away. [I am not ill!]
[You are,] he replied. [You need rest.]
[How can I be ill now when I was not a moment ago?!]
Knowing I would not go to bed willingly, he picked me up and carried me from the room. [It has been known to sneak up on the unsuspecting and since you have been getting little sleep recently . . .]
[I cannot be ill!] I fumed, wriggling half-heartedly in his arms. [I am one of the Eldar! We do not become ill! Besides, I must speak with Firdon tomorrow!]
[Tell me where and when and I will go for you,] Legolas put in, entering my room after Haldir.
[Never!] I snarled. [For your life you will set not one foot near him, even if he is an arrogant . . .] Well, I could not say that without Haldir reprimanding me for my less than lady-like speech. [. . . You know what I mean!]
[Do not leave the house,] Haldir advised Legolas, [or she will come after you. Just do as she says so she will get some rest.]