A/N: I could not find a Sindarin word for `squirrel’. Since Tolkien based Sindarin on Finnish, I used the finnish word for squirrel, `orava’. Thank you very much for your understanding!
Rúmil slowed as he neared the mallorn where his brother and Rían were waiting. A smile crept into place when he saw Haldir carefully wash the cuts and scrapes on her face. They were speaking to each other, Rían grinned and Haldir laughed briefly, but he could not hear their words.
What had happened while he was gone? Rúmil wondered. He could see they were more at ease with each other and if he stared long enough he swore there was a glow about them!
`Valar, please say they have quit fighting this,’ he prayed to himself, hope blossoming in his heart. Orophin would be so pleased and he could not wait to tell his brother of this new development.
For too many years they had hoped and prayed with every fiber of their being that Haldir would quit being so stubborn. They understood his fear but one could not go through life, especially the long life of their people, afraid to open his heart.
“Rúmil, there you are! We are just about ready to continue,” Haldir said as he stood and helped Rían to her feet.
With a smile at that gesture, Rúmil hurried to where they stood.
“How are you feeling?” he asked Rían.
“Much better,” came her reply though it was obvious she was still in discomfort.
“She is too stubborn to admit it still aches,” Haldir said, his tone disproving but his eyes teasing.
“Hmph!” Rían ignored the comment and carefully took the bow Rúmil held out to her.
While she admired the workmanship of the weapon, Haldir took the quiver from his brother and began to slip it onto Rían. She was about to protest when he reminded her she most likely was not able to reach back for the straps herself. With a curt nod, she let him continue. She found herself holding her breath when he adjusted the straps across her chest and noted he, too, had yet to draw a breath. The warmth she felt exploded into flames as he made sure the buckles lay flat and did not catch in her overtunic. She closed her eyes for a moment to gather her composure so she missed the way Haldir’s hands shook as he finished his task.
“How does that feel?” his voice shook ever so slightly.
Not trusting her own voice, Rían experimentally moved her arms and nodded.
Rúmil bit his lip to hide his smile as he watched the scene before him. Yes, they were definitely soul mates! The emotion, the energy, between the two practically overflowed to their surroundings, he mused.
“We should reach the flet by dusk, we will camp there for the night and return to the city tomorrow,” Haldir said as he gave Rían one last look then resumed their journey by ground.
The Marchwarden saw how Rúmil instinctively took up position on Rían’s right side…her injured side. Ai! What he truly wanted was to return to Caras Galadhon tonight and have a healer check on Rían. However, he knew she would not agree to that. The injury was not that severe; would he have made one of his regular guardians return for the same? No.
`She is your one…you cannot help wanting to keep her safe,’ he argued with himself.
He felt his heart warm remembering their time by the stream. By Elbereth! It had felt so perfectly right to finally hold her! He could still feel her cheek where she had rested against his chest, the smell of her hair when he pressed a kiss to the raven tresses. Never had he felt so alive than when they held each other and he wanted to hold her again…and *never* let her go!
As the sun began to set, the trio came to a stop before one of the largest mellyrn Rían had seen. Without a word, Rúmil scampered up it and moments later a rope ladder dropped down. Haldir smiled at the relief on Rían’s face when she saw it. She began the climb, easily managing it even with the injured shoulder. This time, Haldir stayed a good distance behind her; if she fell, he would stop her. When they reached the large flet, Rían was panting from the exertion but she was smiling.
“Is this where you three would hide when you were younger?” she asked.
“We still do from time to time,” Rúmil grinned mischievously.
Rían watched them set up camp for the night as she leaned against the tree for support. It had been a long time since her last injury and she had forgotten how weary she became while her body healed.
“I apologize for cutting our training session short,” she said. “I know there are many more things I need to be shown before standing a watch on your borders.”
“We will get to them, do not worry yourself over it,” replied Haldir. “Take this evening to rest and by tomorrow Rúmil and I will have you traipsing through the mellyrn as if born to it.”
“Do we not need to set our own watch?” she asked when Rúmil removed his quiver and bow.
“No. We are well within the borders and still very close to the city. There are half a dozen watch posts within shouting distance of us,” the younger elf explained.
Rían unbuckled her own quiver and winced as it slid from her back. She sighed with relief and set it and her bow against the mallorn. Rúmil pulled some blankets from an old trunk and laid them out on the floor of the flet. Haldir rummaged through the extra pack Rúmil brought back along with Rían’s new bow.
“Have a seat and rest,” he said over his shoulder as he set out some bread and cold meat.
Rían made herself as comfortable as possible on the blanket and eagerly reached for the mug of tea Haldir offered her. When she took a sip, she detected a faint, familiar scent to it. She glanced at Haldir after taking a second swallow.
“You could have asked before drugging my tea,” she said.
“I-I only brought it…it, it -“Rúmil quickly tried to explain.
“I know you are still in some discomfort,” Haldir spoke up, his tone firm but filled with concern. “I only want to make sure you rest well tonight.”
Rían admitted to herself she *was* grateful for their foresight. Indeed, the shoulder was still quite stiff and sore and she knew she would not be able to rest as she should.
“Thank you,” she said softly and took another drink of the tea.
The three elves ate their supper while enjoying some light conversation. When the food was gone, Rían sighed and leaned back against the tree. She smiled as she felt her muscles unwind and the pain dulled to almost nothing.
“Alright, Marchwarden, since we are settled in for the night and I have been sufficiently drugged you may as well tell me what you found so humorous earlier.”
At Rúmil’s look of confusion, Rían quickly told him of the little squirrel’s visit after her fall and Haldir’s amusement.
“Your brother said he would explain when I was better rested,” Rían said.
“Well, Tôr, we are not going anywhere and I would love to hear that tale again,” Rúmil smiled as he scooted closer to Haldir and Rían.
Haldir took a few moments to gather his thoughts then sat back and began the story.
“We had only been with the Lord and Lady a year when the Peredhil came to visit their grandparents.”
Haldir sat high in the mallorn as he watched the twins below. They were attempting to lure some squirrels close with treats and Haldir took pleasure in their failure; he was angry with them! Elladan and Elrohir wanted Haldir to play with them but the twins were not too keen on his little brothers joining them. Of course, Haldir being *very* protective of his brothers stated they played together or not at all. The twins shrugged and said they would rather not play with babies anyway and walked off.
Rúmil’s big blue eyes filled with tears and his bottom lip quivered as he tried his best not to cry. He had thought they would have a grand time with the twins! They had wanted to play with his big brother…but why not with them, too?
“Tôr, y-you can go play with them,” Rúmil said, not wanting Haldir’s day ruined because of them. “You do-do not have to stay with us -“
Rúmil did indeed cry when Haldir dropped to his knees and pulled his brother into his arms. Orophin, noticing his brothers’ distress, began to whimper and he wiggled his way in between them; needing to be close.
“I would rather stay with you two,” Haldir said fiercely. “I love you, Ru, Oro…I will *always* be here for you two…*always*. We do not need the Peredhil to enjoy ourselves. We will have more fun without them any way.”
Haldir felt Orophin’s tiny hands clutched in his tunic and Rúmil’s arms wrapped tightly around his neck. He fought back his own tears, not wanting to let them see how the twins’ actions had hurt him, too. He would be strong for them, as he had since their parents’ death, only alone would he give into the pain he felt.
“Oro,” he said as he sat back, his voice playful and teasing. “How about we hunt a Ru-bear?”
The youngest elf’s eyes brightened immediately and he hopped up and down in delight.
“Hunt Ru-bear!!” he squealed, clapping his hands together.
Rúmil wiped his eyes, his smile growing wider at the prospect of the game.
“You remember what we do when we catch a Ru-Bear?” Haldir pinched Rúmil’s tummy playfully as Orophin answered.
“We *tickle* the Ru-bear, Tôr! We tickle him good!!”
“Alright then,” Haldir grinned as Rúmil started backing away. “the chase begins!”
“Run, Ru-bear!!” Orophin shrieked in excitement as he leapt onto Haldir’s back.
Laughing in delight, Rúmil took off like a deer. Haldir made sure his baby brother was secure then raced after him. The forest was filled with the brothers’ laughter for hours afterwards.
Haldir sighed heavily, bringing himself to the present. He had left his brothers with Lady Galadriel after lunch. They had been exhausted after their *hunt* and once their bellies had been filled they easily fell asleep. Haldir smiled as he kissed them each on the brow, knowing the memory of the twins’ snub had faded from their memory.
However, Haldir had not forgotten. Galadriel watched him leave the talan, a knowing smile on her lips.
Pulling his knees to his chin, Haldir continued to glare at the twins.
Look at them! Acting like they owned the Golden Wood! He and his brothers lived here their entire lives…*they* were only visitors!
How dare they make his brothers cry! Did they not understand how much they depended on him? Especially now?! He loved Rúmil and Orophin with every breath he took, they were all he had in this world and they were not allowed to play, too!!
Haldir had not cried earlier, but he did now. Rúmil’s pain at the rejection had been as his own and his heart ached at the memory.
After several moments, Haldir realized he had company. He looked up and saw two dark grey squirrels sitting close by, their tiny black eyes watching the elf. Haldir smiled. He always enjoyed these little creatures with their tufted ears and curious personalities.
The squirrels crept closer to Haldir; their chattering grew low, almost as if in concern. Then, the creatures heard the mallorn.
/Our elfling is upset…the Peredhil caused his brothers heartache…would not let them join in their play./
The older squirrel pricked its ears in shock.
/Not let them play?! That is unheard of!/
The squirrel scampered past its companion to look down at the twins.
/Would not let the tiny Galadhrim play but they try to tempt *my* brethren to them! Hmph! This will not do!/
The squirrel looked back to Haldir. He liked this elfling and his little brothers! They did not try to catch them as certain *other* elflings did!
Chattering excitedly, it hopped back closer to Haldir. Abruptly, the branches fluttered as if in a brief gust of wind and at the same time the mallorn groaned. The second squirrel jumped in fright and found itself falling. Haldir tried to catch it, but was taken by surprise also, delaying his reaction. He watched the little squirrel land on top of its kin, scattering them in confusion.
The twins suddenly found themselves covered in squirrels. Some ran up leggings or down tunics while others tried hiding in the long dark hair. Elladan and Elrohir’s shrieks could still be heard long after they were gone from sight.
Haldir could not remember laughing so hard! He leaned back against the tree and indulged himself the luxury. He laughed until his sides hurt and he began hiccupping. He wiped the tears from his eyes to see the first squirrel watching him in amusement. The bushy tail twitched as it stepped closer and rolled a berry to him.
“Thank you, my friend,” said Haldir. “Thank you so very, very much.”
Rían found herself laughing through her tears.
“Th-that explains much,” she managed to say.
“What does it explain?” Rúmil asked.
“One year at Yule, Lord Elrond had teased his sons, saying he had finally gotten them a pet squirrel. The look of absolute dread on their faces was curious…but now, knowing this -“
Rían’s words faltered off into more laughing until finally she calmed. Her eyes fell on Rúmil and she smiled, cheekily. “Ru-bear.”
During the story, she had to fight back tears…not because of the twins’ actions. It was Haldir’s love of his brothers, the way he took care of them, making sure their hurts never lasted too long, that made her heart hurt with longing.
Feeling the sting in her eyes again, she closed them and rested her head against the tree.
“Are you well?” asked Haldir, concerned at her change of mood. He saw her swallow hard before answering.
“I am just tired. I believe the tea is starting to take effect.”
“Then you rest well, Rían. We will guard you,” Rúmil said gently.
Rían was feeling drowsy and chose to let it envelop her. So much had happened today and she was exhausted. Just as she felt a healing sleep take her, she remembered the golden ribbon Haldir wore and their all too brief kiss. She smiled sleepily as images of squirrels and herself fell out of trees.
“Did I really remind you of a squirrel…Marchwarden?” she asked, her voice very low.
Haldir watched her and wondered at the range of emotions that coursed through her. Although…he knew immediately when her thoughts turned to the stream, his own body awakened at the memory.
At her question, he smiled and brushed his fingers along the back of her hand.
“Aye, you did…*orava tithen-nîn.” [my little squirrel]
Rúmil grinned at the endearment but Rían was already asleep.
* I could not find a Sindarin word for squirrel. Since Tolkien based Sindarin on Finnish, I used the Finnish word for squirrel, orava.*