Pottymouth: 22. Epilogue

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22. Epilogue

EPILOGUE &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Funny how you can drive by something a thousand fucking times and never really, really see it. Funny how I can just glance at something and it stirs in me, making my fingers itch, making my soul ache. I need to bloody well let this out or it'll drive me nutters every time I go by it. Stop the bike, put down the kick, shut it down. Stretch my leg over the seat and my hands go automatically to the left saddlebag, where I keep my watercolor pencils and pad. Then it's down with the ronson, legs crossed, and the stillness envelops me so I can work. After a while I don't even smell the dust or the grass, don't hear the tractors or birds or the distant hum of the town. Even the sibilant breeze fades and it's just me, my pencil in my hand, and the blank white paper turning into something that satisfies me. I know time passes; I can mark it in my head. But I can ignore that, too. This is a little more important right now than getting Rosie's marketing to her. Besides, the perishables will be right as rain in the saddlebag; well-insulated they are; she insisted on that, poor little kife, last time this happened and the cheese was all spoilt by the time I made it home. That's the way to loosen Sam's purse strings, I've found: make Rosie brassed about something that can be fixed with a purchase, and it's off to the market he goes, no matter what it might be. Poor fellow. But aren't I the same with my own little bit of all right? Do anything for her, I would, right down to jumping off a fucking cliff if she asked. Fortunately for me she doesn't ask that very often, and stops me before I go through with it. I have to grin at that memory – "Take a flying leap," she'd said to me, all exasperated and cheesed off because I'd done something she didn't like. "Right then, acushla," I'd answered, and was halfway to a hundred-meter drop before she screamed at me she was just KIDDING, DAMMIT, LEGOLAS! Did I get bollocked for that! Made up for it, though, got her that mare from Bar Four Stables in upstate New York, the one what sprung Pedro Patino. Now she's about to foal and my sainted aunt, are the buyers lining up for the little bugger. Hope he's a gray; always liked grays. His sire's gray at least, that's a fucking nice start. Pay attention, Greenleaf. Hmm? Yes, my lord? Watch the road. All right, as you wish. ################################################ My god, never thought she'd live this far from anywhere. I feel as though I've been on the road forever. I don't like this car – never liked American cars, but what choice did I have? That stupid girl behind the counter just laughed when I asked for a Beemer – "We only have domestic-made vehicles, sir" – and when I told her where I was going she shook her head and said, "Sorry, sir, I wouldn't be doing my job if I let you drive all the way to White Rock in a sedan." I've never driven an SUV before. I don't think like it. Too bouncy, too much like a truck. And oh, I miss my stereo! Simply Red just doesn't sound the same; these cheap speakers are so tinny. Why -- ? Don't ask don't ask don't ask. I don't ask myself that anymore. The answer would be too frightening for words. I don't like being frightened. I don't like not knowing why I'm doing something, either. I'm pushed – or pulled, one or the other. Why, why, why? It serves no purpose. Why can't they just leave me ALONE? I think I made a wrong turn. I must have. There's no way that anyone would live this far from civilization. And I thought the civilization, if I can even grace it with that term, was far away from everything! Brings new meaning to the phrase "two-horse town," I even saw horses when I stopped there, tied up to the light posts. How provincial. Hair styles ten years out of date. Dickies. Overalls. Bad teeth and chewing tobacco. Pocked roads, dusty pick-up trucks, old faded Tastee-Freez signs. Oh god, what did I do to deserve this? Not a good thought. Push that one down. The man behind the counter at the grocery store kept looking at me funny. I think he suspected I'm gay. I can't help the way I look, I can't help wanting to wear clothes like this and fix my hair like this and talk like this. This is how I am, this is WHO I am. Why, why do people judge me so? It's not fair; at least if I were in L.A. I could be around people who understood, sensitive people, more sophisticated people. These inbred, poorly-educated country folk are just incapable of accepting me, that's all. Well, damn them. I don't need them, I don’t care. Bet he gave me the wrong directions too, just because I'm a queer. Bastard. Wait – is that a fence? It is! Well, good. A fence means something ought to be coming along soon. I'll drive this way until I see a gate or a person or a house and stop and ask directions again. Oh, I hate my life. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& I hear it before I see it, a low rumble, biggish engine, probably large six or eight cylinder. Then a murky yellow cloud of dust, far far down the road. He answers your summons, Greenleaf. Not finished yet. Fuck! Hurry hurry hurry, need to get this done . . . ###################################################### Oh thank god a gate, and a flash of metal; maybe I can find someone to tell me what I should do now. Floundering . . . I feel as though I'm just treading water, getting swamped by the occasional wave. Sucking down salt water and sea weed and looking around for land, not finding any. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Almost there almost there almost there, do that little bit by the morning glory vine, touch of blue, close close close . . . Big green SUV pulls up. Oh fuck, I'm almost done; couldn't you have gotten lost or something? ######################################################## It's a gate, there's a motorcycle or something parked out front, someone's sitting on the ground – -- wait -- Oh shit, it's HIM. Damn damn damn damn! I had hoped he'd be out of town, or riding around with Aragorn and Gimli or something, not here! Oh shit, I hate this, I hate this so much. He's just sitting there, looking at me. He knows it's me, he probably knew I was coming. Shit, shit shit! Will I NEVER be rid of his influence? It was bad enough all those years ago when he was just an Elf – JUST an Elf, like that wasn't appalling as it was – but now since – since – that time he's worse, he's – I can feel him, can sense that disapproval, the pity, which is worse than disapproval. Oh god, he's beautiful. He's sitting cross-legged on the grass next to the gate, something white in his lap, something long in his fingers. A cigarette? His hair is covered by a blue bandana, his blue, his impossibly blue beautiful eyes are looking at me, looking through me, digging holes into me. I hate him I hate him I hate him. Well. . . I might as well talk to him. He, at least, will know where she is. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Well, my lord, now what? Read him, Greenleaf. Do you not see his pain? Does that not move you to pity? It does, but pity's not what he wants. What he wants is not what he needs. Fuck, I knew THAT. Do I tell him what he needs or not? We seek obedience of him. And of me, naturally. We need not seek that commodity of you, beloved Listener, for we know you give it freely and without question. All right then, my lord. Just don't go too far, will you? Need your help with this. You underestimate yourself. He will obey you. Fucking shirtlifter. Behave yourself. Sorry, my lord. He gets out of the car, hesitant, wary. I can feel the fear coming off him, fear and resentment and despair, it almost hurts me to feel it, like a blast of icy air rotting the flesh. Oh, my lord Manwë, how do I turn him? I can bend him to my will but I can't soften that hard heart, calcified with bitterness and self-loathing. Patience, Greenleaf. Fuck, I fucking HATE it when you fucking say that! ###################################################### I approach. Careful, though why I'm being careful I have no idea, it's not like he couldn't take me if he wanted to – too fast, too strong, too quick. I was never a match for him, the bastard. But it's like approaching an attack dog, you never know what will set him off. And he just LOOKS at me, the prick; that gorgeous, that perfect sculpted face is impassive, his lean body relaxed. He knows. He knows he has absolutely nothing to fear from me, and I hate that. I hate him. He knows that, too. And it doesn't bother him. Bastard! "Faramir," he says, and rises smoothly to his feet. How does he do that? And why does he call me by that name, when I've told him I want to be called Frances? &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& He hates that, me using his real name. Wants to be called fucking Frances. What a prat. ############################################# Now he's got this stupid knowing smile on his face. He called me that on purpose, the jerk. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& He looks brassed and spare all at oncers. Poor little git, if he'd only listen to me, like I listen to my lord, things would go better for him. Bloody idiot. "Legolas," he says. His voice is cautious, protecting himself, wants to give nothing away. Bugger that; I can read you like I book, I can; I can see your fear and your self-loathing and your loneliness and your frustration. You stupid soppy rear-ending nit, why won't you just fucking LISTEN? ################################################### Oh god, stop looking at me like that, like you're pitying me. I don't want your pity – especially YOUR pity – you make me, make me feel like I'm an ant, a worm, like I’m obliged to you in some way. I am, of course – Dammit, that HURT! I don't want to think of it, don't want to think of his hand before my face, intercepting the fiery death; the agonized screams that brought the bouncer running around the building, the horrible gurgle in his throat when his life left him. I have nightmares about it still. Now we're just standing here looking at each other. This is such a waste of time – why, why, why did I even come? &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Bally git, has no idea why he's even here. At least he came. He's fucking missing everything. Look around; pay attention! It's like he's a malignant tumor, encapsulated; nothing gets in, nothing gets out. You can't live like that, mate. My lord won't let you. Here. Let me try to show you, try to crack the shell. ################################################# He tucks the pad of paper and the pencil back into one of the motorcycle's bags, then turns to me. He's smiling; what is he going to do to me? Oh shit, he's holding out his hand to me. Now what? "Come with me, Faramir." No, no, no – what are you going to do? I don't trust you. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Come on, gobshite, I don't bite. Well – I do, but only Éowyn, and she bloody well likes it, oh fuck yeah. "I'm not going to hurt you," I say, still hold out my hand. "Come on now, mate. Come with me." He still looks wary, unwilling. "Why should I?" he asks. Stupid manky kerb-crawling sonofabitch, would you just fucking YEILD already! " 'Cause I WILL hurt yer if yer don't," I say. My voice sounds a little cold, but I can't fucking help it, he cheeses me off something terrible, the poncy bender. ############################################ Oh god he can too, I remember when he brought his will to bear on me the last time we met, when he caught up with me in San Diego; the horrible pressure, the crushing, the weight on my mind that defeated, subdued, mortified me, made me do everything he said. Those glowing blue eyes, the flash of light, then the feel of him entering my head, wrapping those long white hands around my soul – oh god oh god oh god, don't do that again, I beg you; I'll do anything, anything to keep you from doing that to me again! &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& That's right, mate, be a good boy. Can see the terror in his eyes; doesn't want me to do THAT again. Don't bloody blame him – don't want to do it, myself. That kind of power still gobsmacks me, can't believe I can fucking do that. Remuneration, indeed – like I'd ever get off hurting someone. Come on, you fucking prat, come on . . . #################################################### I can't help it – I don’t want to, I don't trust him, I hate him I hate him I hate him, yet when he compels me I come. How did he manage to get his hand around mine? Now he's pulling me toward the gate. He's pointing up with his other hand, still holding onto me. "Look," he says. There's an archway above the gate with a couple of signs on it. My eyes are clouded, I have tunnel vision, I can't see – but he makes me look, and then my vision clears, and I can read it. SILVER CREEK RANCH HOME OF SIENA DASH OUT OF FLIPPIT ÉOWYN GREENLEAF, PROP. RIDING LESSONS, TRAINING, BOARDING, BREEDING To the left on the side of the arch is another sign, smaller. GREENLEAF STUDIO PORTRAITURE, ART CLASSES FOR BEGINNERS AND INTERMEDIATES And on the right, surrounded by closing morning glories, another: FRIENDS AND VISITORS WELCOME ALL PEOPLE FALLING INTO NEITHER CATEGORY ARE INVITED TO BECOME ONE OR THE OTHER &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& I see him read the signs, a small frown creasing his forehead. Does he still not get it? ############################################### Why is he making me see this? Is he showing off? Doesn't seem like much to be proud of. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& No – doesn't get it. Fuck. I lead him to the verge, push him down on the grass. Soppy little mama's boy, afraid of soiling his trousers – just sit, dammit! ####################################################### Oh god, these are Tommy Bahamas, do you have any idea how expensive it is to dry-clean them? He may know but he obviously doesn't care. I try to sit carefully but I just know I'm going to get dirt and grass stains all over my rear end. Shit, shit, shit! Why did I even come? &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& He's sitting gingerly, legs pulled up, almost quivering with the effort of getting the least area of his ronson on the ground. Fuck, and this man used to be one of the leading captains of Ithilien! Unfuckingbelievable. Well, all I can do is wait for him to crack, the fucking gobshite. Fuck, Rosie'll have the abdabs, waiting this long for the groceries. ################################################### He lies back on the grass, arms behind his head, staring up at the sky. What are we doing here? Why doesn't he say anything? What's the purpose behind this? Is he deliberately trying to ruin my clothes, is that it? God, it's quiet. So, so quiet. No engines or street noise or voices or anything. Wait – not so quiet. I do hear birds. And some kind of bug buzzing somewhere – and a soft rustley noise; that's the wind, isn't it? Yes, I remember that sound – the wind through tall grass, whistling around the flat signs, humming through the tree branches. Smells good – clean – I can smell warm grass, cold rock, the slightest scent of horses. Nothing at all like San Diego, is it? I look down at my companion. He's stretched out, his long body crushing the grass, his flannel shirt looking soft and worn and faded; he even has a small hole in his elbow, and I can see skin peeking out. He's gazing up at the sky, blue eyes soft and contemplative, flaxen hair spread like liquid gold across the blades of grass. His jeans are patched and worn nearly white at the knees, his boots rubbed down at the heels. He's put a stem of grass between his lips and is chewing on it absently. A breeze ruffles his shirt, stirs up the silky tendrils of his hair to float about his head. His bandana's slipped and I can see his ears, long graceful points framing the high-cheekboned face, the smooth jowl and perfectly curved lips. Astounding. The loveliest and most powerful being on the planet, and one of the richest as well, wearing worn-out clothes and lying next to a horse pasture in Montana. He ought to have a house in Mentone overlooking the Grand Corniche, with a high white wall covered in bougainvillea, a courtyard full of lemon trees and furnishings from Monaco. Instead he's teaching kids how to paint, and he's married to a woman who breeds livestock. Something's not making much sense here. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& There we are; I think he's starting to understand. "It's not who you are or what you've got," I say around my grass stem. "It's what you are and what you do." I look over at him. He's looking down at me, still a little puzzled; when I feel his comprehension snap open, he looks faintly irritated. ################################################## Oh, please, not that tired old lecture again. Good grief, people have been spouting that goody-two-shoes nonsense for millennia, and it's gotten us nowhere. "We're not what we are for no purpose, Faramir," he adds, his eyes warm and kind. "Sooner you understand that, mate, sooner this nasty spell will be over for you." Nasty spell? What is he talking about, me being gay? I want to yell at him, tell him it's not my fault, but then he makes an impatient noise and says, "Not yer sexual preferences, mate. Yer loneliness. Do what you're supposed to do and the blessings will come back to yer." How does he do that? I feel that shiver of fear go through me. He can read my mind. I hate that, I hate him. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Poor stupid little fecker, still so cold, so fearful, so closed-up. Guess I'd better let Éowyn have a go at him after all. Fuck. I'll give him a few more minutes, then bring him in. Beautiful out here, love being so far up north. Those mountains, like great black fences surrounding us, snow-crowned, tree-dappled, lovely; the high bright dome of blue, the wheeling swooping swallows, the birdsong and crunch of dry grass. Wish he could see it, would do him some good. Have to remember to call Mrs. McLucas when I get in about Veronica's last lesson, have to check on Bobby Taylor and make sure he's all right after that fall, have to look up the last books for Bailey's Store to see if he needs any more money, need to grind up that veal and get the pasta made. And Rosie's marketing, she needs her marketing. Five, ten minutes pass. Come on, you fucking gobshite, come on . . . #################################################### I haven't been out in the country for so long – how long has it been? Decades, maybe even a century. It's so much safer in the city; no one knows you there, you can hide, be anonymous, no one knows your name, no one notices you. Here everything's open, exposed; you have all the crush of humanity on you, people demanding things of you – your time, your attention, your things. I feel exposed, vulnerable with these huge mountains looming over me, with the silence, with no one near except this odd and frightening being lying beside me. He breathes so slowly, he's so still; I look down at him again and see his alabaster skin, arched eyebrows, long columnar neck; he's pale, pale, pale, and oh so lovely, so terrifying. Almost looks like an angel, but I know better – more a demon in disguise. I was so close, so close to oblivion, so close to being able to bid this awful world good-bye and end it all, so close to halting my horrible downward spiral of seclusion and isolation and pain and fear, and he stopped it – stepped forward, hand outstretched, bathed in the sickly red light; lightning arcing from the tip of Mithrandir's staff to his palm, suffused in death and deeply profound agony. I'm not sure I could've stood that much pain. I'm pretty brave as a rule, but . . . I remember that letter Mithrandir sent me a couple of years ago, detailing what exactly Legolas had done for me. The death was the easy part, according to him; the ultimate punishment occurred after death – that was what he saved me from. Eternal separation from everything, and from what Mithrandir said, Legolas felt it, it was worse, worse than death. It must've been horrible. Why did he do it? I know it wasn't because he wanted to, because I saw the fear and pain on his face before he even touched the staff. I know it wasn't because he wanted to spare me, because I know he hates me, despises me, I know I disgust him. And I know it wasn't because anyone there told him to, because they all yelled for him to stop. Why, why, why? And why am I here? Why did I obey this meaningless compulsion to come out to see them? While I'm at it, why am I suddenly so afraid to do anything wrong? Why did I just beggar myself replenishing all those women's trust funds? Why have I suddenly clung to celibacy and sobriety? Well, I can answer those last three; it's because I'm afraid – terrified Legolas will do what he threatened to, what he showed me he could do. He can hurt me, he can bend me to his will, he can force me to do anything – he could tell me to shave my head and join a monastery and I would have no choice but to obey him. Damn him! I was unhappy before, but at least I could lose myself in sex and drink; now I don't even have those. And why Éowyn? Why did he marry her? Surely he didn't want to; the Valar must've told him to do it while he was Listening. How can he possibly be happy with her? She's the world's biggest bitch to live with – willful, crass, sloppy, pig-headed, cold. She can't even cook; I had to do it all when we were together. Over fifteen thousand years of trying to understand the woman, trying to help her find herself, to achieve self-realization, to improve, to grow, to mature. I felt as though I were beating my head against a brick wall – she never showed the slightest interest in bettering herself; she just got colder and colder and then shut me down completely. How could I live with that, I ask you? Especially when I found the company of other men so much more fulfilling . . . I didn't mean to cheat on her, I really didn't. But you can only go without sexual gratification for so long. And at least I never cheated with women, only with men. It doesn't seem to count as much that way. I was just trying to self-actualize, to find myself, to find happiness, a grounding, to feel good. Not that she understood – only made her mad. Lord, does that woman have a temper . . . I suppose it serves Legolas right, trying to live with that irritable witch. And I suppose it serves her right, having to put up with this peculiar being, who's currently in the process of unwrapping a Blo-Pop and putting it in his mouth with an expression of gratification usually reserved for orgasms. I never understood him – blowsy, irresponsible, foul-mouthed, hard-drinking, reckless, violent . . . but worse, that streak of eerie mysticism, that compulsion to fiddle with things better left alone, the arrogant assumption that everyone would obey him just because he said "the Valar said so" – who on EARTH does he think he IS? He's the person who willingly descended into the pits of hell to rescue me from a fate worse than death itself. Again the question. WHY? I can't seem to qualify that – can't wrap my head around the juxtaposition of Legolas, Lord of Dol Galenehtar, wino, party animal, disheveled denizen of the haunted woods, against the Listener, the mystic, the perfectly obedient servant of the angelic beings who watch over us, the one who gave up everything just so the man he disliked wouldn't have to be punished. I need to stop thinking about this, or it's going to start hurting again. And oh, I'm so tired of hurting. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Getting close. "Lie back," I tell him. He looks over at me, puzzled. I pat the grass beside me. "Lie down," I say. "Look at the sky. It'll help." Now he's frightened again. Of me, or of the help he's going to get? Poor nit, looks all spare. "Reflection may be good for the conscience but it's bloody soul-searing," I add, rattle my lollie round in my mouth. ############################################### Oh damn, he did it again – how does he DO that? I lie back. I might as well; my clothes are ruined as it is. The grass crunches beneath me, and the sweet scent of hay fills my nostrils. My body is heavy, ponderous, sluggish. But when the earth cradles me I am light again. The sky is blue, so blue, blue as Legolas' eyes. And deep – fathomless – as the demon himself is fathomless. Centuries, millennia will I live, and I will always fear him, always misunderstand him, always dislike him, and – damn it – always respect him. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& I think sour apple is my favorite flavor of Blo-Pop. ############################################## I can't help but to respect him. How does he DO it? Thousands upon thousands of years, and he never balked, never protested, cheerfully did whatever he was told. And the stories I had of him from the other Chosen reflected this attitude even to the mortal citizens of this horrible planet – he was always feeding, succoring, helping, nurturing, and caring for them. He never questioned, never complained, never demanded his due. He just did it. Well. That's my "why" answered. And here I've been judging him, calling him crude and filthy and crass. Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm the one that went wrong. Made the wrong decisions. Went in the wrong direction. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& "Ilúvatar allows U-turns, yer know," I say. He turns his head, his gelled hair crackling against the dry grass. His gray eyes are full of tears, his face twisted into an agony of indecision. Come on, you poor fecker, come on; we're waiting for you – all you need to do is come home. ############################################### How can I? How can I return to that circle? I separated myself, pulled away, cut ties and turned my back on them. They won't want me back. It's impossible; they all hate me, hate me for what I did to Éowyn, for what I did to Legolas. I can't go back to them, to that anger, that resentment, that intolerance. I'm alone . . . I'm so alone. I can't help myself – the sob just chokes its way up out of me. And then he's there, his arms around me, cradling me like a baby. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Poor spare little nit. #################################################### I can't help crying, can't help it, curled up against his chest. I can hear the comforting thrum-thrum of his heartbeat, can smell a sharp, piney fragrance; his silky hair falls across my face. His arms are long, strong, stronger than the roots of the mountains, holding me and rocking me and murmuring something in my ear. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& That's torn it; he's ready now. Poor fecker, needs a good rave-up and a soft bed, is all. "You belong with us, with the rest of the Chosen, Faramir," I say as he cries. "We were never meant to be alone, you know. The Valar put us here to be family to each other. You gain damn all by bottling out." "H – how can I g – go back?" he sobs, I can feel his tears wetting my shirt. "Everyone hates me – they all b – blame me – " Well, he's got a point there; no one feels too fucking hospitable where the Son of Denethor's concerned these days. But they'll do what I bloody well tell them, the feckers; they'll fucking take him back if I have to shove him down their fucking throats. "Frodo, Longshanks and Arwen will accept you back, no questions," I say. "Same with Pip and Diamond – always liked you, Pip did. Éomer and Lottie – they'll come round, so will Merry and Stella. Sam, Rosie, and Grim may throw a bit of the abdabs, but I'll quash 'em." He pauses, takes a deep shaking shuddery breath, wipes his eyes. "Why?" he whispers. " 'Cause yer supposed to come back, you nit," I laugh. "Why" indeed! "Haven't you been fucking listening to me, mate? Yer supposed to be with us. And if those other feckers try to give you a hard time I'll fucking bollock them, I will." ################################################## That's – not what I expected – that he'd support me in this, be my champion. Seems odd. No – not odd. Think about it, Faramir, what has he already done for you? This is a drop in the bucket. And whether he wants me back just because the Valar said so, or if he wants me back so he can boss me around and make my life miserable, or if he wants me back because he genuinely cares about me, what does it matter? All he has to do is tell me and I'll do it – I don't have any choice. "What about Mithrandir?" I ask. A valid question; he's an Istar after all, and if anyone can make my life difficult it's him. Legolas laughs. "Especially him," he says, gives me a squeeze. "Think he doesn't feel pretty fucking awful about sending me to hell? The bloody gobshite'll do whatever I fucking tell him." He rolls me away, stands and pulls me to my feet. I'm dizzy; I see the mountains, the trees and grass wheel about me a moment, then settle and – My god. It really IS lovely out here. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& He catches his breath, looks around, wonder in his eyes. Ah, hooked you. "Pretty land, innit?" I say. "Come on, mate, need to get me marketing back to Rosie or she'll fucking rip me knacks off." I lead him back to his car and mount my bike. I make sure he's following me when I pass under the gate – don't want to have to fucking track him down AGAIN; this fucking shirtlifter's caused me enough grief already. About two klicks to the house – hope he doesn't fucking bottle out on me. ######################################################### I can't believe I drove all the way out here and missed looking at the scenery. I guess I was so uptight about losing my way and seeing Éowyn again that I just didn't notice. Oh, look at those mountains – we have mountains in California but they're dry, brown, rocky; these are verdant, lush, snow-tipped; look at how they reach up to the sky, scrape that beautiful blue with their peaks. And these fields – green, luxuriant, rippling in the wind. The drive is bumpy and all gravel, so I guess it's a good thing I got the SUV after all. I have a feeling my Beemer'd be all pock-marked and dinged up if I drove it here. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Wind, scent, brilliant light; I reach out to it, call to my beautiful playmates. Here they are, cresting the rise; manes tossing, hooves pounding, eyes flashing. They call to me and I answer; they are beautiful too. #################################################### Look at Legolas – perfectly balanced on his motorcycle, arms outstretched, shirt luffing and undulating as he rides – and look, look at those horses! They're galloping toward him, toward the fence that separates them, now they're flanking him, running along beside him, beside us as we go down the road – like an honor guard. I almost want to laugh, not because I find it funny but because suddenly I realize something. I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. This is not a concession, a serves-him-right place for Legolas. He and Éowyn always had this in common; they really are remarkably suited for each other. He's not here because the Valar told him to be here; he didn't marry her because he felt obliged to. He loves this; he loves her. And I'm not sure why this makes me glad, but it does. Thinking about seeing Éowyn again still makes my heart turn cold, though; my laugh dies before it can even come out. Oh god, what have I done? Why did I treat her that way? Now I'm not so much afraid as . . . what is this emotion I feel? I've fought it so long I can hardly put a name to it. Shame. I was wrong, so wrong about so many things. What and who I am; what does that matter? It was what I did about it that was wrong. Oh, god. What am I going to say to her? I have to say SOMETHING. I can't let it go on like this. I have to resolve this. And anyway, if it works out okay . . . maybe . . . maybe I can come back, can come back to the rest of the Chosen. Please, please, let it work out. *************************************************************************** "Rosie!" I call, then wait. Sure enough, there's a soft thump thump thump from upstairs as she walks to the end of the hallway; I can just see her feet in their comfortable shoes and her long denim skirt. "Ah?" she calls down. "I'm done at the barn, gonna take a shower," I yell. "Sam'll be up in fifteen." "Ta," she calls back, and pads back down the hallway. It's very freeing, having the house divided in two like this. Before we got it set up right I was always flashing Sam, or poor Rosie was getting more of an eyeful than she'd have liked of Legolas' ass – ought to have been grateful, really, but she's awfully squeamish. Don't know why – half a hundred girls in town have been jonesin' for a glimpse of my Elven Ass since we bought the place. Just the thought of those two pale globes of flesh, flanked by the little dimples at the base of his spine – Shit. Hope he's back from Bailey's, I could go for a quickie. I shut the door behind me and head down the hall to our end of the house. I have to stop to let Doris out of the guest suite; she's got the laundry in her arms. "Hey," she says, leaning against the wall to let me get by. "I'm gonna throw a load in. Got some darks you need washed?" "Yeah, gimme a minute and you can have my jeans," I say. I look down at the pile. "Guess you don't mind they're all gross." I can see Gimli's pants on top – they look like they've been electroplated with mud. Doris makes a face, crinkling up her nose, and runs her hand through her short dark hair, making it stick up even more. "How that man can get his clothes so dirty on a camp-out is beyond me," she says. "Seems he has this irresistible compulsion to crawl around in caves." That explains the sulfur smell. "Call it part of his genetic makeup," I say. I'm not going to start that conversation NOW. That's Gimli's business, not mine. She's wrinkling up her nose again, looking down at my pants and boots. "What the hell is that shit all over you?" she asks. "Shit," I say, can't help grinning. "Dr. Weber had to give Roost an enema and he let loose all over me. Got Sam, too, you shoulda heard him yell." "Yech!" She shakes her head. "You must love your brother a lot, to put up with that stupid gelding." "Don't call my brother a gelding; Lottie'll have your head." I interrupt her startled shout of laughter with, "And anyway, it's only horse shit, it's not like his intestines fell out or anything." "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din." She heads down to the doorway. "Just toss 'em out and I'll wash 'em for you." "Thanks," I call back. I stand still for a moment, watch her push the swinging door open with her backside and go through to the mud rooms. Who'd have thought Gimli'd make such an impression on her? And who'd have thought she'd want to move out here, just to be with him? And who'd have thought she was a cowgirl at heart? I certainly never would've guessed it, even after working with her for two years. But she and Gimli have been living with us off and on going on three years now, in between road rallies and biker conventions and Comdex, and it's astonishing how good they are for each other. The only thing I'm not looking forward to is trying to explain to her why we never age. I figure we've got about ten more years before she starts to figure out something's wrong with us. Oh Yavanna, please don't let her leave; I don't think Gimli could handle it. Peace, Shieldmaiden. The Naugrim is in Aulë's care. If you insist, my lady. God, a shower's going to feel good. I strip off my crusty clothes, my sweat-drenched tank top and bra, step out of my tighty-whities . . . well, they USED to be white – another pair stained by horse shit. Well, I'm done for the day; I can put on something pretty, just for Legolas; wonder if he'll like that pink pair with the bows on the butt? He got such a kick out of them. And hey, if I'm lucky, he'll get back while I'm still in the shower. Haven't had sex in what, twelve hours? Starting to go through withdrawal here. Stupid gelding. I throw my clothes out into the hall, I can see chunks of mud and horse shit fall off onto the hardwoods. Whoops. Oh well, at least we pay Jane Enyeto a lot of money to keep this place clean, or Rosie'd kill me. Wait – shit, she's not coming in until Tuesday. Maybe I can sweep it up later. Turn on the water, wait for it to get hot. Thank heaven we replaced those two water heaters – even in the summertime, cold showers in Montana are a very BAD idea. Not that they had the conventional effect on Legolas, but still. Come to think of it, I don't imagine ANYTHING would have that particular effect on him – are Elves born horny? I ought to ask Arwen. Hell, I ought to ask Aragorn. Aaaahhh . . . hot water – now THAT feels good. Lather rinse repeat, cream rinse, scrape that muck out from under my nails, see all the dirt and sweat and shit and mud wash down the drain. Poor Jane Enyeto, has to clean this up once a week. She must hate tackling this shower stall. I step out and dry off. Legolas must not be back yet; shame he couldn't catch me while I'm wet and naked. How long has he been gone, anyway? It doesn't take that long to get to Bailey's and back. Oh, wait, I know. I bet he got distracted by something. He oughtn't to carry his art stuff around with him. Rosie gets so irritated. But he's making dinner tonight, so maybe it's not so bad. Cannelloni, yum! I love the way he cooks. Rosie's better at baking, but Legolas makes KILLER Italian. On with the pink panties, forego the bra – why do I even bother buying them? I never wear them – pull on clean jeans and a flannel shirt, slide into my Clarks, and I'm ready to go. I spare a glance at the Evisu dress I bought in Paris for Legolas' next show. God, I can't wait to wear that. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred I'll go for the jeans and tee shirt look, but every once in a while I really relish the feel of being Legolas' arm candy. He doesn't look so bad in Armani, either. All right, where the hell IS he? My fingers are itching to grab a handful of Elven Ass. I might as well start with the kitchen. Chances are he just jumped right into the cannelloni when he got home – that, or Rosie's still yelling at him. Oops. Forgot the horse shit. I'd better get the broom from the front closet before we track it all over the bedroom. Wait – looks like Doris swept it up. That's it; I'm buying her that Volvo SUV she wanted; to hell with Gimli and his buy-American kick. I may not like foreign cars, but Doris sure the hell does. I push open the swinging door and head to the kitchen. Is that his voice? Yes – it is – oh shit, I can feel the meltdown in my nether regions already; maybe I can talk him into a quick screw while the cannelloni's in the oven. Who's he talking to in there? Frodo, Rosie, Doris . . . Oh. My. God. ################################################ I can't believe I'm here. And I wish I were somewhere, anywhere else. Although it's not as bad as I'd thought it would be. Rosie was horrible – awful – nearly refused to let me in, but Legolas pretty much told her to shut up and move aside, and she did. Does EVERYONE obey him? Frodo about had a heart attack when he saw me, jumping back, his eyes wide and staring – but he's all right now – trying to make small talk, a stilted and awkward discussion about advance copies. And this other woman, the stout dark one, when she realized I was Éowyn's ex she scowled at me, hasn't said a word. Gimli's girlfriend – does everyone have a partner except for me? And Mithrandir – but he doesn't need one. And Frodo, of course. You know, I never noticed it before, but he has lovely eyes. I wish Éowyn would hurry up in the shower; I want to get this over with so I can leave. I can't even taste my tea, which is a shame, because I know it's Oolong and they've served it to me in the prettiest Port Marion mug, with a passion flower on the side. In fact this whole room is pretty, in a back-woods-country-kitchen way. I can't meet Frodo's eyes, can't meet Doris' either. I'll just watch Legolas at the counter. He's making cannelloni, he said, with minced veal and goats-milk ricotta and homemade tomato sauce. I'd ask to stay for dinner but I know everyone would say no. Although Legolas did say something odd – well, he says a lot of odd things, but this one just occurred to me – he was speaking to Frodo, but I got the feeling he was really talking to me. "You can discuss things and mend fences around the dinner table easier than the conference table," he'd said, and Frodo had glanced at me, then looked down. Does that mean I'm supposed to stay here and work things out with EVERYONE? That's a daunting prospect. But if I'm supposed to return to the Chosen . . . Oh, I wish this were over with. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Something emotionally satisfying about reducing veal to mince by hand. I smell basil, fennel, flat leaf parsley. Faramir's watching me, sitting at the kitchen table, perfectly still and quiet – probably afraid to rock the boat, poor little shite. Don't blame the fecker. Frodo's oh so polite, cautious but nicely making small talk; Doris is just sitting turning her mug of tea round and round in her hands, keeps giving me these reproachful looks – I know what it looks like, pet; I know the bally tripe Grim's been feeding you about the poor little fuck, but give over, will you? I know what I'm fucking doing, after all. And Rosie's brassed as hell, stopped screeching but now she's clattering and banging round the kitchen, throwing pots and wooden spoons round like an unmanned missile. Makes her opinions known, she does – fuck yeah, wasn't bad enough I brought him in to talk to Éowyn, I told her he was staying for a while and she had the abdabs right there. "HIM?" she shrieked, aiming her finger at him like she'd like to fucking shoot him. Right in front of Doris, too. "HERE?" Had to bear down pretty hard on her – Sam won't thank me for that, oh fuck no. Then I smell citrus, and I turn. She's standing in the doorway, eyes on Faramir. Gobsmacked? Afraid so. Should've warned her, but fuck, if I'd gone into the loo with her naked, wouldn't have come out for an hour, and I need to get tea in the oven. She looks at me, a question in her eyes. Why? Because he fucking needs this, acushla, that's why. Those starry gray eyes flicker, her pretty red mouth twists into a smile. Very well. ************************************************************************** Unbelievable. Didn't think he had the balls to come here. Rosie looks pissed. Better diffuse this pretty damn quick or he'll run off again. Doris turns, sees me, starts to get up. Bet she feels pretty uncomfortable. Now Faramir turns. ############################################## Oh, god. It's her. ************************************************************** Boy, does he look unhappy. ############################################# She looks so – happy. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& There we are, now. Let's get this over with. You two have an hour to sort things out, then it's time for tea, and I won't have any fucking ructions with cannelloni di vitello on the menu. Fuck, what do you think I'm running here, a fucking restaurant? You either play nice or eat elsewhere. ###################################################### "Faramir," she says. Her voice is warm, her eyes welcoming. How can this be? How can she forgive me for what I've done? It must be an act; she must be afraid of Legolas, too. I get up; she reaches out her hands to mine. Just to touch my hands to hers feels as though I'm forcing her to make a great concession. I can't believe she'd even want to be in the same room as me. ****************************************************************************** What's that look in his eyes – fear? Apprehension? Unease? Considering the way Rosie's banging around the kitchen, I don't blame him. "Éowyn," he says. Yep, still pronounces it EE-winn; I could never get him to say it right. You'd think, after seventeen thousand years, it would've sunk in by now, but NOOOOOOOO . . . His hands are cold, and shaking a little, too. All right, let's get this over with. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Right then, you two, get it over with. ################################################## Okay. Let's get this over with. "I want to talk with you. Is that all right?" ******************************************************************** Well, duh. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Leave off your snorting, Rosie-lass; this has to be taken care of. ############################################## "Of course," she says, smiles and squeezes my hands. Her grip is warm, sure, firm. I remember those hands, those long strong hands, clothed in leather, gripping the reins, the squeak of the saddle between her legs. Her eyes bright and assured, back straight, poised, confident. Nothing at all like any lady I had ever met – those well-bred, soft-voiced, delicate ladies of the White Tower, with their embroidery and their thin-soled slippers and their heavy brocade petticoats. Why did I ever try to turn her into one of them? I ought to have known from the outset she'd never be like that, it would completely ruin her to be that way. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Rosie looks at me, still cheesed, but a little unsure. Yes, dearie, I know you're shirty; let Éowyn handle it, she's up to it. Doris and Frodo, too; they look at me like I ought to fucking know better. Dammit, I DO know better! Don't you little shites know by now she's got my heart in her hands? How could I ever do anything to hurt her? Trust me; fucking TRUST me already. Fucking A, I know I look a right charlie, but oddly enough I know what my acushla can do. You really think this shirtlifter has the capacity to hurt her any more? My sainted aunt, you're fucking nutters. *********************************************************************************** Well, I'm certainly not going to talk to him with an audience. Even I have my limits. "Come on," I say. "Let's sit on the front porch. We can talk there." Actually, what I'd really like right now is a beer. "Want a beer?" I ask, and head to the fridge. ############################################### She – drinks beer? Well – "It's Harp," she adds over her shoulder, opening the fridge. Well, Harp is all right; it's better than what I was afraid of – PBR, or worse, Milwaukee's Best. I don't know why I'm surprised they have Harp. This may be a country house out in the country, with country jobs and country responsibilities, but anyone with taste can tell the people who live here are definitely NOT poor. The furnishings, the window treatments, the kitchen appliances and cookware – Legolas must have paid a fortune to outfit this place. Funny. He never seemed to care what he had or where he was. He must be doing this for Éowyn. No wonder she's happy. ******************************************************************************* "Yes, please," he says quietly, looks relieved. What, did you think I was going to offer you a Miller Light or something? Gimme a break – just because you drink beer doesn't mean you have to drink BAD beer. I dig out two Harps and lead him out to the porch. He trails me disconsolately, like a whipped dog. Apt simile. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& All right then, mates. Let's get this cannelloni fixed up, shall we? Got a rave-up tonight, want everything to be just so. It's a fucking homecoming for the little bender, whether you approve or not. Whose fucking house is it, anyway? And whose fucking wife? Fucking wife – oh, fuck yeah. ############################################## We sit on rocking chairs on the porch – so Norman Rockwell; I can hardly believe it of myself. But the view – I have to admit, the view is – well, it's nothing short of spectacular. Those wide rolling fields, stands of trees flanking hidden rivers, folded green mountain feet rising to snow-crowned peaks, the sky pinking and darkling and swallows and bats swooping and dancing from eaves to poplars to pines . . . all right, I concede the prospect is agreeable. I wish I knew what to say. She church-keys the bottles and hands me one; it's slick with condensation. She knocks hers back, eyes closed appreciatively; I never pegged her as such an aesthete. I take a sip – I actually do like Harp; if I have to drink beer, it might as well be good beer. Shame it's not Guinness. ********************************************************************** Ahh . . . I could stay here for centuries and never get tired of this view. Look at Mount Otoahnacto out there, reflecting back the sunset on his snowy cap, and the Togquos peaks, which Legolas calls the Two Tits, jutting up into that puffy golden cloud. And smell that air! I swear, I could just stand here and breathe for a week. Faramir's sitting on the rocking chair beside me, clutching his Harp like it was his hope of heaven. Poor bastard, bet he feels pretty uncomfortable here; not his kind of place at all. And it looks like Rosie was giving him a hard time. Boy, talk about not fitting in – he ought to have worn L.L. Bean and not Tommy Bahama; what the hell was he thinking? And he's staring out at the view, like he's never seen anything like this before. Gimme a break. Don't you remember the White Mountains, Faramir? And the Ered Nimrais? Remember? Or has it been too long for you? Do you not remember how beautiful it was, when we were young and mortal, and so in love we ignored our differences? "Opposites attract" like hell – they might for starters, but after a few centuries it gets a little old. Maybe he feels uncomfortable because Gimli's coming up the stairs, his face like a thundercloud. Uh-oh. "What the hell is he doing here?" he growls. Faramir flinches back; I don't blame him – Gimli can look pretty damn scary when he wants to. ########################################## I knew it. I knew it was a mistake to come. They all hate me, they all want me to leave. I'll say what I came to say and leave, that's all. I won't stay. I'll go back – go back to California, back to my little apartment, back to my miserable existence. I hate myself. "Back off, Grim," she says; her voice is sharp and forceful. I look at her; why did she say that to him? **************************************************************** What; you think I'm going to let him talk to one of the Chosen like that? Gimme a break. ########################################### "We're going to talk, he's staying the night, and you're going to suck it up and shut it up. Got it?" Amazingly Gimli drops his gaze. How does she DO that? I'd have to scream and throw things and put my foot down; all she ever had to do was SAY it and people listened to her. What was it Éomer said – too much woman for me? God, I pity Legolas; I pity anyone who lives here. Then again, knowing what Legolas is like, seeing how he crushed Rosie's objections to my waiting in the kitchen for Éowyn, I suppose my former brother-in-law was right – Legolas IS man enough to handle her. It must get really noisy here when they argue. ***************************************************************************** That's right, Gimli; I love you but you're throwing off our groove. Let us talk, get this cleared up, and things will be okay again. He looks at me, as though he's asking me if I'll be all right. What a question – what on earth can Faramir do to me now? I've got his number; besides, if he tries to mess with me my Elven Ass will cut his nuts off, and he knows it. "Staying the night?" he rumbles, looks sideways at Faramir. ############################################## Wait – who said anything about staying the night? I can't stay here! I can't stay in a house full of people who hate and resent and misunderstand me! That cannelloni sure smells good, though . . . "Yeah, staying the night. Staying as long as he wants. You got a problem with that?" Elbows on knees, beer in one hand, looking up through that tangle of honey-colored curls at him. Shit, I wouldn't mess with her. "No, I guess not," he says hesitantly, looks at me again. He seems a little unsure. I suppose he expected me to charge in here, demand money, try to take her away, whatever; just the fact I'm saying nothing, and she's defending me, is knocking him off balance. "What room?" She shrugs. "He can have the blue room on the south side," she says, takes another swig of beer. "Italian for dinner; Legs is cooking. And Bailey's had Harp." "Thank god," Gimli mutters, stumps past us wiping greasy, oily hands on a dirty rag. "Red Jeep okay?" "Yeah, but watch third, it still sticks." "Damn. Think it's time to replace it?" "Nah. Lemme drop the transmission, I bet I can fix it." "Okay." ************************************************************************** At least I've managed to placate him. Hell, just for the fun of it I'll throw him a barb. "By the way, I've decided to buy Doris that Volvo SUV for her birthday." He turns, glares at me. I grin sweetly up at him. Aren't I cute? Aren't I adorable? Don't I always get my way? Guess I made my point. He stomps in the door, muttering under his breath. Wish I were Elvish, then I could have heard him. Bet he was swearing. Rosie won't like that. ######################################################### Oh, that give-and-take, the playful banter, the easy understanding, the intimate discussion of mundane details – I miss it, I miss it, I miss it. Well, I've blown it. I'll never have it now. It's quiet between us. She's quiet. She knows I'm here to say something, and she won't say anything until I do. That used to really bug me. Then I realized she was just being economical with her words. Why say anything when you haven't got anything to say? She could sit for weeks and say nothing. Kind of irritating, really. I look over at her. She's still sitting leaning over, her elbows resting on her thighs, the Harp bottle dangling from her fingers. Her profile is smooth, perfect, long straight nose coming down from a round forehead, high cheekbones, wide red mouth, obstinate chin. She's let her hair grow out; it's about shoulder length now, all tumbling, riotous honey-golden curls, glimmering faintly in the mellow light. Beautiful, this Shieldmaiden. But it was never enough for me. There was always something missing, something I wanted. I suppose if she'd had a penis, she would've been perfect for me. But because she was a woman, I wanted her to act the way I thought a woman should act, and not like a – a tomboy, some embarrassingly horsey woman who thought more about armaments and bravery and honor and outdoorsy things – A lot like Boromir, really. I wonder what he and Father would have thought of her? Well. It's too late now. ************************************************************************ He shifts, takes a sip of beer. Just wait for it; give him a minute. It'll take him some time. Let it come out on its own; you can't force this, he'll just get irritated and run off again. And then won't Legolas be mad! He was so pissed when he found out Merry and Éomer had run Faramir off, after he'd died for him. He'd yelled, "He was supposed to come back to us! Fuck, he was supposed to STAY with us! What, did you think I went through all that for nothing? What the bloody hell were you thinking?" Merry and Éomer just stood, looking sideways at each other, shuffling their feet – like boys who've been caught teasing that retarded kid down the street. It took us a while to understand what Legolas meant. He'd paid the price; everything was even. Faramir had screwed up, but it didn't matter anymore. "Éowyn," he says, then clears his throat; his voice is a little husky. ###################################################### She just looks at me. Dammit, that's not helping me any! All right. Just say it. Flowery language never worked on her anyway. ****************************************************************************** "I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I treated you horribly. Can you forgive me?" Tears fill his eyes. Oh, god. I knew he was probably going to say something like this, but it still gives me a big ol' wrench when he does. Now my nose is burning, and my throat feels all tight. Dammit! I hate crying, it makes my eyes red, and then my nose is stuffy all night. I swallow it, smile at him. My lips are trembling. Damn. #################################################### It moves her, I can tell; I can see the little quiver in her chin, the glassing-over of those classic gray eyes. My heart lightens for the first time in centuries. It's possible, then. She can forgive me. "I forgave you four years ago, Faramir," she says, her voice unsteady. She reaches over to me, puts her hand on my knee. It's strong, unwavering, secure. "Whatever happened, it turned out for the good. I'm happy now, very happy. If you'd never left me, I would've never married Legolas, and you and I would have just gone on being miserable together." She pauses, looks at me keenly. "I just wish you'd figure out how to be happy," she says, and her voice is thick with regret. ************************************************************************ He flinches at that, looks away. The relief and elation he showed when I admitted I'd already forgiven him fades; he looks regretful, pensive, sorrowful. You poor, stupid idiot. Why do you fight it? "I don't think I'll ever be happy," he says in his oh-poor-pitiful-me voice. This time, I'm not buying it. So much for the Enabler; you're sitting with the Shieldmaiden now. "You know what your problem is, Faramir?" I say, gripping his knee hard so he looks over at me, surprised and hesitant. "You're fundamentally self-centered. You are, you know," I say over his protests. "Look at you, look at what you've done. Why have you done all these things? Because it's all about you, it's all about Faramir and how awful his life is. I've heard you, the past ten or so years – all this self-actualization, finding yourself bullshit. Gimme a break – you know who you are; and now you know your sexual preference. So what? You think you're put on this earth to be happy, to find happiness and fulfillment? Well, guess what – you're not. All this running after money and stuff and sex and gratification – has it made you happy? No, of course it hasn't! You don’t GET happy that way, stupid, because it's NOT about you." He looks astounded that I would talk to him that way. What, has no one told you the truth yet? Time to listen, you dork. ################################################### What – does she mean? What is she talking about? I don’t understand. "But – how can I be happy if I don't pursue happiness?" I ask. She snorts. It always was one of her more endearingly irritating habits, snorting when she laughs. " 'The pursuit of happiness,' " she says sarcastically. "So American. You really think that's why we're here? Do you, Faramir? Do you know why the Valar put us here?" She pauses, her eyes go cloudy, seem to glow a little; when she speaks her voice has a different, a deeper quality. "Do you know why Ilúvatar put you here?" she whispers, and I get the eerie feeling she's listening to something I can't hear. It frightens me, but intrigues me too. Why has Ilúvatar put me here? Why am I here? I've been floundering, thrashing around, casting about in a hundred different directions for millennia. And she knows? She knows why I'm here? "Why?" I ask. My voice is barely over a whisper. "Two things," she says, lifting her fingers in the V-for-victory pose. "Do what the Valar say. Help other people. Full stop." Oh, please. It can't be that easy. *********************************************************************** He doesn't believe me. Stupid shithead. "It IS that easy," I say, and he flinches back from me, his eyes fearful. "I know it sounds backwards, but the Valar reward us when we do what we're supposed to do – NOT what we want to do." I look at him closely; he's thinking about it. "It makes perfect sense if you look at it from their perspective," I add, hoping that will help. "Read Legolas' tattoo sometime. It says, 'La retribuzione di obbedienza è l'adempimento dei sensi' – the remuneration of obedience is the fulfillment of the senses. Manwë said that, Faramir, and he ought to know what he's talking about." ######################################################### That sounds – odd – but it kind of does make sense, now that I think about it. The Valar reward those who obey them . . . Is that why I've been so unhappy? I've been looking for it, instead of working for it? Funny. All this time I assumed it was my right. I had no idea it was a reward. But – "I've screwed up too much," I say. It's too easy, it doesn't work that way. "I'm a fuck-up. I've hurt people, done bad things. It's too late for me." ***************************************************************************** Oh, please. Don't give me that crap. "Don't you remember, Faramir?" I ask, shaking him. "It's over with, it's done. Legolas already took your punishment for that. You can stop feeling sorry for yourself; it's in the past now. The Valar don't hold it over you any more. You're free, you're forgiven. You can start over." He looks at me, stunned. The idiot, didn't he understand? "What about everyone else?" he asks, his voice quavering. "Who?" I ask. "Legs and me? We're good. The other guys? They'll come around. And if they don't, I'll just kick some ass." ######################################################## I always envied that in her – her ability to make people do what she wanted. Legolas, too. Oh, god, is she right? Can I start over? She pats my knee. "The past is just the past," she says; she's smiling, her lovely gray eyes twinkling. "We've got another twenty thousand years to work this out. You'll be fine." Well, when you put it like that – I guess I WILL stay for dinner. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& I step out on the porch. The light is fading, the air is thick, fragrant with dusk; I can feel the Steward's capitulation, can sense the Shieldmaiden's triumph. He is back, he has returned to us. Well done, beloved Listener; well done, beloved Shieldmaiden. She turns, looks up at me; fucking A she gobsmacks me; will I ever be used to how fucking beautiful she is? ********************************************************************** "Well, acushla?" he asks, wiping his tomato-y hands on a tea towel. His rosemary scent is overlaid with the pungent aroma of well-seasoned veal and astringent tomato. He's beautiful, my husband; his long pale hair sweeps past those sculpted cheekbones, his eyes, his impossibly blue eyes gaze down at me, soften, melt me. I rise, though my knees are suddenly weak. "He's staying," I say. ############################################## Look at them – two souls irrevocably entwined, two hearts beating as one. My eyes fill with tears and I have to look away. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& I take her hand, bring it up to my lips. My tongue tastes sweat, skin, beer; I can smell her, smell the citrusy scent of her hair, and I want nothing more than to bury my face there and forget the circling world about us. ******************************************************************** He kisses my palm, and I feel the flicker of his tongue there; my heart races. He must see the excitement in my eyes because his sweet pink lips smile slyly, and he scrapes the skin with his teeth. Dinner, talk, then bed – my favorite part of the day, with my Elven Ass. &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& Oh, my acushla. Oh, fuck yeah. ############################################# They've forgotten me – so wrapped up in each other, I'm just an addendum, an impediment. But then he looks down at me, his blue eyes thoughtful; he smiles then, his mouth widening, accepting, joyful. "Welcome back, Faramir," he says, and holds out one hand to me. And she turns, she also holds out her hand. "Yes," she says, her eyes shining. "Welcome back."

This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Le Rouret

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Humor

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 09/30/04

Original Post: 04/19/04

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