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End To Innocence, An: 10. Waiting
"Why do I always start to wake up just when I should be going to bed?" Maggie muttered to herself irritably. Meylari had returned an hour or more ago, and had gotten her settled in the small guest room, but as soon as Meylari had gone to bed herself, Maggie had become wide awake. Now she lay curled under the blankets in one of Meylari's nightshirts, wondering where Mira and the others were, if they'd gone home as she'd asked. Meylari had assured her they hadn't yet been arrested, though apparently a soldier of the guard had come to see if Maggie was with them. He'd left upon finding that she wasn't, and Meylari had arrived shortly after, just in time to stop her friends from going into the City to look for her. Meylari hadn't thought they were well-pleased, by either the inquiring guard or the note.
Suddenly there was a faint thud and a muffled curse in the direction of the main room. Maggie sat up, her heart pounding, and listened for other noise, but there came none. Carefully, quietly, she slipped out of bed and crept to the door of her room, and stood listening, but no sound reached her ears. Soft as a whisper she crept back to her bed and drew her remaining pistol from underneath it, then went back to the door. Finally, she opened it and peeked out. In the dim glow from the embers in the grate, she made out a lithe silhouette she recognized. "Hsst!" she whispered. "Mira!"
Mira looked to the sound, then reached out to touch the shoulder of another slim figure, and the two women carefully picked their way through the dimness to where Maggie waited. "There you are," Mira whispered. "God, I didn't know where we landed." She and Janet came into the room and Maggie shut the door. "I still don't, actually," her voice low, but Maggie wondered if she heard irritation in it.
"It's the home of a cousin of one of the Rangers in Faramir's company," said Maggie, and Mira let out a little snort.
"I need a scorecard," she said, "or a cast listing or something. A cousin of a Ranger of a brother of a son of a Steward. Geez." She took Janet's arm then, and Maggie realized the other woman was trembling. "Come on, she needs to rest."
Maggie helped Mira get Janet to the bed, where Janet lay down passively and let Maggie pull the covers up over her. "What are you doing here? Where are the others?" Maggie asked.
"They're at Chip's," Mira answered, "like you said to do. But I'm none too fucking happy about it, and I want to know what the hell is going on."
Maggie frowned. "What are you pissed about?"
A short bark of laughter. "What am I pissed about?" she asked. "Just 'cause you disappeared on me and then sent a note ordering us home like fucking children?"
Shaking her head, Maggie said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that. It's just, I didn't know what else to do. Things got so fucked up."
"Yeah," said Mira, "I sorta figured that out when the guard came looking for you." She sat down on the edge of the bed and went on, sounding only slightly appeased by Maggie's apology. "So what do you mean Denethor's 'unstable' and might have us arrested? Can't that knight you've been shagging get us out of whatever it is we've done?"
"It's not what we've done, really," she said, "it's just... what's happening." She told Mira then about Denethor's strange behavior, and the seeing stone, and about Boromir's reaction to the news that Faramir had been sent to Osgiliath. "So now," she finished, "Boromir and the rest of Faramir's Rangers have gone to go try to bring him and his men back, if they can, before the whole thing turns into a rout."
"Shit," said Mira. "He pulled a gun on his father?"
Maggie nodded. "Yeah, it totally freaked me out. And Denethor."
"I can imagine." Mira paused. "So didn't it freak Boromir out? What - is he in the habit of threatening his pop with deadly weapons?"
She let out a snort. "On the contrary, he's in the habit of doing exactly what dad wants, except that now dad wants Faramir dead so Boromir can - well, can be a usurper, basically."
"You got some twisted shit here, babe," said Mira. "This is like daytime talk show crap, y'know?"
In the darkness, Maggie smiled faintly. "Yeah, only worse, 'cause of the whole 'fate of Middle Earth' thing."
"Hey, I've been meaning to ask," said Mira, perplexed, "what's it in the middle of?"
Maggie chuckled, then shrugged. "The middle of a war, as far as I can tell. Apart from that, your guess is as good as mine." Maggie sat, her back to the bed, and leaned against the frame. "How are the guys holding up?" she asked. "It's weird, you know, never knowing for sure what's going on with the others."
"They're okay," Mira answered. "It's tough on them when we come here with the talisman and leave them there, though, not knowing for sure whether we'll ever make it back."
"Indeed. If only the mobile phones would work across the space-time continuum, or whatever it is we're dealing with here."
"Yeah," said Mira, "we need an interdimensional digital phone service, damn it."
Janet had fallen asleep moments after lying down, but she shifted then and Mira and Maggie flinched, and waited to see if she'd wake. She didn't, and Maggie whispered, "We should probably try to sleep too. Is there room for you by Janet?"
"Yeah," she said, "but we should flip a coin or something."
"Nah," said Maggie, shaking her head. "I'm fine." Glancing around she spotted her cloak on the chair, and pulled it down to her, wrapping it around herself and lying down. "I got kind of used to the 'not sleeping in a bed' paradigm when we were coming from Isengard."
Another little snort from Mira and she said, "Yeah, you're a regular campfire girl." Maggie held her tongue, figuring it was just stress making Mira irritable. A little while later, Mira said softly, her voice gentle at last, "Maggie, how long have you been here? In Middle Earth, I mean, not just the city."
Startled at the question, Maggie stopped and thought about it. It took her a while, but finally she said, "I don't think I know exactly.... Two weeks, give or take, I guess. Why?"
"You just seem so..." Mira paused, looking for the word. "So acclimated. Talking about things like Isengard and Osgilawhatever, and - and 'seeing stones', and Rangers and stuff, like you've lived here for years. Aren't you homesick?"
Maggie hesitated, then said brightly, "Well, not right now," smiling. "You're here. I miss y'all when you're not."
"But home," Mira said. "Don't you miss... like, television? Computers? Fast food?"
"Mobile phones?" Maggie said with a smile. "Yeah, I miss those things. I miss hot baths, and cars, good moisturizer, my own bed.... Of course I do." But as she lay there, waiting for sleep to come, she searched for homesickness in her heart, and she couldn't find it. Home was fighting an impossible enemy - apathy and corruption so widely spread you could never get your hands on it, could never grasp the entire problem and fix it. Home was struggling against selfishness and poverty and the despair of never knowing how to make things better, of small victories followed by staggering defeats. Home was harder than this, and bleaker, the doom that came from the east notwithstanding.
Of course, now that she could get from one world to the other, it was easier to find this doom a lighter burden. She could leave it, after all.
The next morning passed slowly. Meylari was indeed surprised to find that extra houseguests had arrived during the night, but not so surprised that she failed to make them welcome. "After all," she'd said with a smile, "in such difficult times, we must be prepared to offer hospitality to all who come in friendship." Janet was still drained, but with breakfast and a tea Meylari brewed that smelled of jasmine and new grass, soon the young wizard was sitting by the fire talking animatedly with Meylari about life in Minas Tirith, life back home, and what it was like being a woman alone in such societies.
Still, Maggie was getting more and more restless. "I wish there were some way we could find out what's going on," she said to Meylari as she helped the other clean up from the morning meal.
Meylari considered, then said, "I may be able to find word. My sister's husband Benneth is in the guard, but though he is a steadfast friend, I think I could discover somewhat of the situation without placing a burden of secrecy on him."
Maggie glanced at her. "Are all the men in this city soldiers?" she asked, and Meylari laughed.
"No, my friend," she said, "but the soldiers of this city and their families do share a common bond, which brings us often together. Thus my sister met, and married, our cousin's friend, and he became my friend in the bargain."
"What about you?" asked Maggie. "I mean, you're - you don't seem like you'd have to be alone, if..." and she hesitated.
"You wonder why am I unmarried?" Meylari replied with a smile. "I fear I haven't the taste for it," she said. "I don't..." and now she hesitated, then said lightly, but with an undertone of caution, "I don't prefer the company of men."
"Ah," and Maggie nodded.
"I do not shock you, I hope."
"What?" Maggie looked up, startled. "Oh, gosh no," and she chuckled. "Most of the time I wish I didn't. They seem like so much more trouble than they're worth, so much of the time."
"But not all of the time," the other woman said with a smile, and Maggie blushed.
"No, not all of the time," and she looked at Meylari out of the corner of her eye. "Does everyone know about this thing?"
She laughed and lay her hand on Maggie's shoulder. "I dare say only those who've watched you together, or have seen the embroidery of the shirt you wear," and she touched the leaves that graced the cuff of Maggie's sleeve. "Here," she said, tracing the pattern, "the leaves, and the slender branches that bear them. The Steward's son often wears this pattern." She smiled. "'Tis perhaps the one soft thing about him, at least that any who do not know him might see."
Maggie's blush deepened. "I didn't think, when I put it on, I just...."
"It becomes you," said Meylari, humor in her voice, "as does the sweet blush you wear. But do not feel shy," she went on, turning to set a platter back on its shelf. "You follow your heart, as do I. As do all who one day win happiness." She smiled then. "Now," she said, "an errand calls me. If you can remain in patience a while longer, I shall pay my sister's husband a visit."
The afternoon dragged on.
"Well, look," said Mira finally, "we've gotta figure out a plan of action here."
Maggie nodded. "Yeah. Well, Plan A is wait for Boromir to come back with his brother and fix the whole mess."
"I don't like plans that rely on someone else coming back to fix the whole mess."
Nodding her agreement again, Maggie murmured, "Yeah, me neither."
"I mean, what if they both come back dead?"
Maggie's heart clenched, and she drew a breath.
Mira reached out and took her hand. "Shit, I'm sorry babe," she said. "I didn't mean to say it like that."
Shaking her head, Maggie replied, "No, you're right. They may come back dead, or they may not come back at all, and we still have to deal with this."
"Yeah. He's a big issue. If not for him, we could just go the hell home."
"And speaking of, I don't want to leave the others there longer than we have to."
"How many of us do we have now?" asked Maggie. "There's us five, plus Janet, plus Michael. What about Chip?"
"He can go either way, I think," said Mira. "He'll come help if they want the weapons and training after all, or he'll stay home and wait for us to get back. We talked to him about the situation," she continued, "and it looks like this crowd here is going to want to deal with Sorrow, or Saruman, or whoever he is, at some point, and that's all Chip cares about." She smiled a tight smile, and added, "Of course, we didn't tell him about the part where they might think they wanna kill Saruman here and make our world go poof."
Maggie nodded. "Good thinking - he might not love that part. So seven, really." She looked around the small room. "I don't think they'll fit in here."
Mira chuckled. "No, I don't think so."
"How long do you think they'll be safe at Chip's?"
"No telling," she answered. "He's looking for us, that's for sure."
Maggie found herself again biting the tip of her finger, her brow furrowed. "I don't know," she said, "I can talk to Meylari, see if there's someplace else we could go."
"Tell me again where your guy's gone off to?"
"Osgiliath," she said. "It's a city to the northeast, near the border of Gondor and Mordor."
"Do you know how to get there?"
Maggie chuckled. "Go northeast?" she suggested. "Meylari might know."
"We should have gotten a map from her before she left," said Mira. "We can see if she's got one when she gets back, though - that should still give us hours before dark."
"To do what?" asked Maggie, glancing up from where she drew invisible patterns on the table.
Mira cocked an eyebrow. "Well, to get the guys, and the guns, and go after them." At Maggie's blank look she frowned. "What - you aren't planning to just sit here 'till they get back, are you?"
Her brow furrowing, Maggie said, "Well, yeah, actually, I was."
Mira shook her head, disbelieving. "Maggie, we need to deal with this."
"And we will," Maggie said. "If they come back dead," her skin cold at the thought, "we can head towards Dunharrow and catch up with Aragorn's army," and she held up a hand when Mira started to speak. "Or, just let me finish," she went on, "if they don't come back at all, by, say, tomorrow night, then maybe take some firepower and go after them, but we've gotta give them a chance to get back here before we do something that could make it worse." She sat back then, looking at her friend. "We're not going to go headlong into some war zone when the guy in charge of the war ordered me to -"
"Hey - since when do you follow orders from some guy?" asked Mira, her tone heated.
"Since the guy started being the captain of the goddamned army," Maggie answered, matching Mira's tone.
"Oh!" and Mira laughed derisively, "so he's your captain, and that puts me in his army now too? That's what we have to deal with, Maggie. Since when do we act like a bunch of fucking recruits? We are independent operators," enunciating each syllable, "or did you forget that part?"
"What the hell is going on with you?" asked Maggie, leaning forward now, catching in the corner of her eye Janet's slim figure slipping quietly out of the room.
"Look," she said, "Chip may run his little anti-gang, anti-terrorist, anti-whatever cell like a regiment, but we work as equals," her words sharp and clipped. "Or we did. I don't like being ordered around by my fucking teammate!"
"What orders have I given you?" Maggie asked, incredulous.
Mira counted off on her fingers, "First, 'Get the shipment,'" she said, "then, 'come tell me you have it,' then 'go home and come back after I've got where I'm going,' then 'stay put while I go get bitch-slapped by my boyfriend's dad,' and then 'go the hell home.' How's that?" Her gaze was sullen, and angry.
Maggie shook her head, stunned almost to speechlessness, and stammered as she answered. "Those - those weren't orders, for god's sake. We fucking decided, together, as a team to get the weapons, and the rest of it - well what the hell else were we supposed to do?"
Mira scowled. "We didn't decide that you should go see that prick Steward by yourself," she answered, "and we didn't decide that Janet and me and the guys should go home and wait for you or that 'captain' of yours to tell us it was safe to come back!" She shook her head, her eyes fixed on Maggie. "When did you join his fucking army anyway, that you should do what he says? You take an oath or something? 'Cause I sure didn't."
Maggie laughed, and said, "It's a war, Mira! it's not a goddamned City Council meeting or a back-alley conference with some corrupt or corruptible official! And he didn't tell me to send you home, I did it 'cause I didn't know what the hell else to do!"
"And you didn't fucking ask either, did you?" Mira retorted. "And yes it's war, so what's the deal with not bringing the guns anyway? What the hell did we get them for?"
Shaking her head, Maggie replied, "I thought Greg wanted to get that shit anyway, and what do you care whether we use it there or here? Where is this coming from?"
Mira ignored the question. "So we risk our asses to grab a fucking massive haul of firepower for this war you're so freaked about, this war your new shag-pal is probably dying in right now, and we're not even going to use it to help them? What the hell is that about?"
Maggie paled. "First," she said, her voice low and tight, "he's not a shag-pal." Mira cocked an eyebrow. "Second," Maggie went on, "he's not dying, goddamn it."
"No? How would you know, sitting on your ass here?"
"And third," Maggie finished, "if he'd fucking wanted us there, he'd have fucking said to come, it's not like he didn't know we could." Her knuckles were white where she clenched her fists, her fingernails biting into her palms. "Now you can do what you damned well please, but Boromir -"
Mira rolled her eyes. "'Boromir,' you say his name like he's fucking God, like you used to say Steven's. Christ, Maggie, you've got the worst taste in men, what makes you think this guy's any different?"
Maggie's voice shook when she answered. "This is not a road you want to go down, Mira."
"No, you're right," she said, standing up. "Where I want to go is home, where I don't have to watch you roll over for some fucking guy." She turned on her heel then and left the room, and Maggie sat down at the table again, shaking. After a moment, Maggie heard her speaking to Janet, and then Janet's quiet footstep.
"Maggie," she said, "um, Mira - she wants - I'm going to send her back to Chip's. But I think I'll stay here, if that's all right."
Startled, Maggie turned. "Uh - yeah, that's fine," she said. "That's great actually."
"Okay, cool," she said, and slipped back out again.
Shortly, Maggie heard Janet come back, and the young wizard set a pocket-pack of tissues on the table in front of Maggie, then sat trembling across from her. Startled, Maggie laughed. "Damn, where'd you get these?"
Janet smiled shakily. "I always carry at least one. I brought a couple spares last night."
"You rule," said Maggie gratefully, opening the pack and taking out a tissue. "S'cuse me," she said, then blew her nose.
"You're totally excused," said Janet. "You know," she continued hesitantly, "Mira really didn't mean most of what she said."
"No?" Maggie said doubtfully. "What makes you think so?"
"She's just tense, because of everything that's going on."
Maggie scowled. "Yeah, well I'm not exactly the poster-child for a good night's sleep, either."
"Yeah, but - " and Janet hesitated. "Well, she thinks you're going to stay here."
"What?" said Maggie, looking up. "Why would she think that?"
Janet ducked her head. "Well," she said, "it's - I mean, he really seems - you seem different, I guess. I think she's not used to you listening much to anyone but her and the guys." She paused. "You really seem to like him."
"Well I do, but...." Maggie paused. She hadn't given any thought to staying, but now, thinking about it, she realized she wasn't sure she didn't want to. But would he even want her there? Why should she think so? "Oh, hell," she murmured. "Listen," and she stood up, "I'm going to go take a nap, or try to. Are you okay? You wanna share the bed? You look a little rough."
Janet shook her head. "I'm cool. It's amazing how much easier it is to do one person at a time."
Maggie nodded, and started to leave, then hesitated. "Did, um," and she turned to Janet. "Did Mira tell you any time to come back and get her? or them?"
She shook her head. "No, I just told her I would when we knew better what was going on."
"Okay. Wake me when Meylari comes back, would you?" Janet nodded, and Maggie turned and headed for the small bedroom. She didn't think she'd sleep, but she wanted to try, or at least to close her eyes and not think about anything for a while.
When Meylari returned, she was grim-faced. Maggie, who'd slept only a short time, started water for tea while Meylari told them the news. "Yesterday," she said, "a host issued from Minas Morgul, a stronghold of the Enemy since Minas Ithil fell a thousand years ago." She met Maggie's gaze when Maggie turned to face her. "They rode to Osgiliath," she said softly, "joined by regiments of the Southrons - the Haradrim." And now she shook her head, and her eyes were shadowed. "The Black Captain of Minas Morgul leads them," she went on, "and he is a fell creature. Fear goes before him, and his armies, it is said, would fall upon their swords if he bid them do."
Maggie came and sat at the table then, across from Janet. "Is there any word on Faramir, or the men Boromir took?"
Meylari replied unflinchingly, "The Black Captain has taken the passage of Anduin, and our forces retreat to the Causeway Forts of Rammas Echor, the wall which guards the Pelennor," she said. "Boromir and Faramir both lived, I was told, and the wizard Gandalf has gone to their aid."
"Gandalf," Janet murmured, and Maggie suddenly remembered.
"Pippin," she said, "oh, no, he wouldn't have -" and she shook her head. "Of course not," she murmured, "I'm just worrying for the sake of it."
"The Halfling?" said Meylari. "Nay, he went not with the wizard, but is with Denethor, attending him."
Startled, Maggie turned to her. "How do you know?"
Meylari smiled slightly. "Benneth waits upon the Steward this day," she answered, "and Halflings are easily recognized, once one knows they exist this side of legend at all."
Frowning, Maggie said, "So, what, you just walk up and talk to Benneth while he's waiting on the Steward?"
Meylari shrugged. "I found him standing guard outside the Steward's chamber. He is used to my ways, and I dare say he was surprised that I had not come to him earlier." She smiled. "Had I been born a man," she said, "my cousins would not be the only Rangers in the family. But it would not take a Ranger's senses," she went on thoughtfully, "to know your third friend is not within these walls, nor that you two are troubled." She paused then, looking from Maggie to Janet and back.
"We, um," and Maggie hesitated. "Had a disagreement."
"She's not wandering around loose, though," said Janet. "She wanted to go home, so I sent her back."
"To your other world?" said Meylari. Janet nodded. "Is it wise, when you know you face a threat there as well?"
Janet shrugged. "They know the terrain," she said, "and they've got resources. They'll be all right." Maggie didn't comment, nibbling thoughtfully on the tip of her finger, frowning.
There was a pause, then Meylari said, "Well, come then, I shall start the evening meal, and you shall tell me about your world. What are the people like? If they are like the two of you," she said, standing, "it must be an interesting place indeed."
No more news came that night, nor did they hear anything to make them think the sons of Denethor might have returned, and Maggie slept little and spent the next day in an agony of waiting. Several times she opened her mouth to tell Janet to take her home, that she was going to get Mira and the guys and the guns, that Mira was right, and they were going to Osgiliath. Trick out the Land Rovers, get some grenade launchers and some machine guns and whatever the hell else they had, and to hell with what Boromir wanted and with what Saruman wanted and with this constant questioning over "right" and "wrong." Who even knew what was right or wrong here? Everything seemed both utterly right and unutterably wrong. But each time, she stopped herself, remembering how fiercely Boromir had insisted she not come to Osgiliath. She couldn't quite make herself go against his wishes, not yet. So she paced, and she got in Meylari's way in the kitchen, tripped three times over Janet's feet despite how carefully Janet tried to stay out of her way, and she paced some more, and spent eternities staring out the small, cloudy windows into the dark day. Finally, in the mid-afternoon, Meylari pressed a cup of wine on her, saying, "Please, drink this down, it will calm you. Then rest, if you can, and I shall see what news I can discover."
Maggie scowled and shook her head. "I don't want to calm down, I want to find out what's happening. I hate this waiting! Mira was right - waiting around doesn't fix anything."
"But it is what a soldier's wife does," said Meylari sharply, her grey eyes turned to steel, softened by the hand which reached out to press the other woman's cheek. "Or a soldier's cousin," she said, more gently, and placed the wine cup in Maggie's hand. "We wait, and we hope, and we pray to whatever gods there are that our men come home again. And we try not to drive one another to distraction while we wait."
Maggie's scowl faded to a frown. "I hate waiting," she said, but she drank the wine. It tasted of herbs, and when she felt a drowsy warmth steal over her she realized Meylari had doctored it, but she didn't mind. She knew she was making both the other women crazy, and besides, the whole point of the drug was clearly to make her stop worrying about things, including about having been drugged. She made her way to the small bedroom, crawled into the bed fully clothed, and pulled the covers over her head, remaining awake only long enough to feel the sudden gentle pressure of Snowpad as she leapt onto the foot of the bed and curled up at her feet.
She woke to a thin sliver of light opening in the darkness, and in the other room she could hear voices. She turned in bed and looked to see the unmistakable silhouette of Boromir limned in the glow from the lamp outside her room, and she leaned up on her elbow. "Boromir?" she said softly, her voice disbelieving.
"Here, love," he replied, coming forward to sit on the edge of the bed.
She reached out to touch him, the leather bracers that shielded his forearms cool beneath her fingertips, and then she sat up and threw her arms around him, holding tight. "Oh," she whispered, "I thought I was dreaming, but leather never feels like that in dreams," and she kissed his hair, his cheek. "Faramir?"
"Taken to the Houses of Healing," he said, returning her embrace, then pressing away to look at her. Her eyes hadn't yet adjusted and she could barely see him in the dark, but she had tasted blood where she'd kissed him, and she put her hand to his face. He winced when she touched the wound.
"You should be too," she said. "How badly are you hurt?"
"'T'is nothing," he said, "a scratch I got from carelessness." But when she ran her hands over his shoulders and his arms, testing, he gave a short hiss of pain and trapped her hands in his. "And perhaps a bruise or two," he admitted reluctantly, "but Faramir is gravely injured. We would surely have perished if not for my uncle and the swan-knights of Dol Amroth, who rode to our aid outside the City Gate, and Mithrandir who seems these days to be fair fashioned of light," and she caught humor, and something akin to awe in his voice. "I begin to understand why my brother reveres him so."
"Does your father know you're back, and both alive?"
"Aye," he said, nodding. "And it seems he has forgiven me for my..." he hesitated, "outburst before departing for Osgiliath, or at least he met us at the door to the Houses of Healing and did not order my arrest on the spot."
"Well," said Maggie, "that's encouraging."
"Indeed," he said, "though I believe I have yet to forgive myself." His voice was low, and unsettled, and Maggie considered asking him to talk about it, but decided against it. Now didn't seem to be the time to debate the merits, or lack thereof, of drawing a pistol on one's father.
"Who's here?" She nodded to the doorway, through which soft voices came.
"Haerendil," he said. "And his brother."
Maggie closed her eyes, relief at news she hadn't known she waited for washing over her. "Oh," she said in a sigh, "that's good."
"Still, the retreat was hard," he said. "We lost many men, and barely kept the rearguard enough together to prevent a rout." He shook his head. "The Rammas is broken, Maggie. The Enemy holds the Pelennor, the Gate is shut. The Rohirrim cannot come now, even if they would. And Faramir...." She waited for him to continue, and finally he shook his head and said, "My brother lies wounded, and he will not wake. I fear for him."
"You should be with him," she said. "Really. You should go to him."
Boromir nodded, then looked at her. "I wished to be sure you had not felt too misused by the somewhat forceful leave I took of you...."
"Ah," she said, and smiled, looking at their entwined fingers. "No," she said, "not too misused. But can I come see Faramir with you?"
"Denethor will be there," Boromir replied, "and though my lieutenant Beran tells me that the Guard no longer seeks for you, I do not think I trust my father not to release upon you all the anger he must surely bear towards me. 'Tis better if you wait."
She scowled. "I hate waiting," she said. "I'm not much good at it."
He chuckled. "I understand," he said.
"Do you?" She looked at him sharply. "Do you know how hard it was for me not to go back home, get weapons, and come after you? Mira and I fought about it, and it was me - me - saying we couldn't. It confused the hell out of Mira, and when I think about it, I don't blame her. It's not like me to sit on my ass while someone I care about goes skipping off into danger."
"We hardly skipped," he replied dryly.
"Well, whatever," she said. "Meylari said waiting is what a soldier's wife does, but I'm nobody's wife and I'm really sick of sitting around. Come on - haven't I proven yet that I'm not some shy flower who has to be protected at every turn? It's not like I didn't survive Helm's Deep."
"I would not have you go through another Helm's Deep," he answered.
"Well, it's not up to you," she said. "I stayed here before because your Ranger friend choked me out, and I didn't go after you when I woke up because... because... well, I don't know why, but I'm done being the one who sits around waiting."
"Disobedience, again?" he said, and she could see his faint smile in the dim light. "You are a troublesome woman."
"So punish me," she said, "but not by locking me up where I can't do anyone any good."
"You do me good by surviving," he replied.
"Bullshit." He looked at her, startled. "I do you good by being who I am," she said firmly. "Which is, yes, among other things, a survivor, but also a fighter."
"Not if that means following your orders when you tell me to stay put."
"And if all soldiers did exactly as they pleased?" he asked, and she could hear irritation creeping into his voice. "We are at war, Maggie, and an army is not run by ten thousand men each choosing his own path."
She pulled her hands from his and pressed one to the back of her neck, rubbing it. "Okay, but I'm not ten thousand men. I'm not in your army. I'm a free agent. And - and how did we get on this subject anyway? What was the point of this conversation?"
"That you are not to come with me to see Faramir," he said.
"Oh, right," she muttered. "And about how you understand my not liking to wait. Except you don't have to do it."
"I wait now," he answered sharply. "I wait for the Enemy to bring siege engines and destroy my city, and I wait for my brother to wake, and for my father to regain his senses. I wait for the King. I wait to surrender my people to a man of whose existence I knew not until a scant five months ago. Five waxings of the moon since I learned that all I have ever known will change with the coming of one who has not come, may never come. And without whose aid now, all my city and my world will come to ruin. Oh, I do wait, my lady," he said. "I do wait."
She looked at him, then reached out and took his hand. "Boromir," she said softly. "Do you know I love you?"
He hesitated. "I had hoped so."
"I do." She touched his chest. "I want to do what you want me to do," she said, "but I don't want that to change who I am. I don't want to become some shy, pampered thing, who sits on a cushion and sews a fine seam, as my mother put it."
He pressed his hands to her shoulders. "Then do not," he said. "But neither take rash, needless chances. And to come with me to Faramir and risk my father's anger is needless, and rash." He sighed. "Perhaps I did wrong to insist you not accompany me to Osgiliath, or perhaps I did not, but in this, I am right." He pulled her into his embrace, kissing her hair, and she slipped her arms around him and held him. "I should have you return to your own world and stay there," he said at last, softly. "I should not have you here with me when we face such a threat as now waits on the Pelennor."
"Just try sending me home," she whispered. "Just try it."
Boromir pressed her tightly to him for a quick moment, then pressed back and looked at her. "There is no choice," he said. "You have an errand to undertake."
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