17. The Return
I had only spent two nights away from Rivendell but it felt like so much longer. As we came over the last hill my stomach clenched, nervous to be returning. I can't really explain why but it's possible that it had to do with sleeping with two different elves over the course of those two nights. Wow. That sounded so much more awesome than it actually was.
By the time I bid farewell to Elrohir and found my room – thankfully not having run into anyone on the way – I had worked myself up into quite a little ball of stress. I hadn't seen Justin since – I paused to think – since before that game of I Never which seemed like a lifetime ago. I had no idea what to expect from him. I stood outside the door and took a few calming breaths, tilting my head upwards to catch the last few rays of the setting sun. Finally, I reached out, opened the door and stepped inside. My blood ran cold. There was a woman lying with her back to me in my bed; a woman who, although we shared the same hair color, was definitely not me.
I was frozen in place. If I'd been carrying anything it would surely have slipped out of my hands and crashed to the floor. As it was, it was a wonder I didn't crash to the floor.
I didn't notice Justin enter the room from what served as the bathroom until he called my name. I felt like I was in slow motion as I blinked and then raised my eyes to meet his gaze. He didn't even have the decency to look guilty.
"Thank goodness you're ok!" he said as he started to make his way around the bed.
I did the only thing I could manage at that moment. I turned and ran from the room, slamming the door behind me.
He followed me; of course he followed me, shouting my name so loudly they could probably hear it all the way back in the Shire.
He caught up to me and grabbed my shoulder, spinning me around to face him.
"Where are you going?" he demanded, having the nerve to sound annoyed.
I pulled my arm out of his grasp. "I don't know," I answered honestly, feeling that all too familiar burn behind my eyes. I bit my lower lip until I tasted blood.
He looked bewildered. "Are you…mad at me?"
I scoffed at him. "Are… are… you…kidding?" I couldn't even get words out.
His eyes narrowed. "Why the hell are you mad?"
I turned to walk away, just wanting to be anywhere but with him. He grabbed my arm again.
"Let me go!" I demanded.
"No!" he shouted back. "Talk to me!"
"Ok, I'll talk." I yelled, spinning to face him. "I get kidnapped and it doesn't even take you two days to jump into bed with… with… with I don't even know who!"
"I didn't…" he started but I didn't want to hear it.
"Is this payback?" I laughed bitterly. "You saw me with Elladan, so you had to go and get me back for whatever it is you saw, is that it? Well, I have news for you. That wasn't me with him!"
"No! It was her!"
That stopped me, and I'm pretty sure my mouth was hanging open.
"Oh my God, you're sleeping with Nerdanel?" I laughed at the complete absurdity of the situation. "Oh, Fëanor is going to kill you…"
"No, I'm not… How could you even…?" He broke off, most likely because I was hysterically laughing.
"Holy crap…" I managed to sputter. "You are so…" Tears were streaming down my face now. I just couldn't stop.
He stood patiently and waited for me to finish. Finally I was able to pull myself together.
"Well, at least she looks like me." I said, wiping tears from my eyes. "Or so I'm told."
"She looks exactly like you," he answered, then added quickly, "and I'm not sleeping with her."
"Whatever," I said, and then giggled. I pressed my lips together to try and prevent another outburst. "I slept with her husband…"
"What!" The look of shock and outrage on his face was priceless. I completely lost control again.
He glared at me furiously until I was able to stop laughing.
"Not like that. Just next to him, you know?" He still looked less than pleased. "What? It was cold." He continued to scowl. "Oh come on. His wife is in our bed. You have absolutely no moral high ground."
He seemed to consider that for a moment. "She was tired and needed somewhere to crash." He shrugged. "I offered our room, since I've been staying with Legolas anyway. I just came back to get a few things."
I frowned. "Why have you been staying with Legolas?"
He shrugged again and looked at the ground. "Beats the hell out of staying by myself."
I felt a pang in my chest and I reached out to put my hand on his arm. He moved ever so slightly, just enough so that my reach fell short. I pulled my hand back and folded my arms across my chest.
"You were gone two nights." He still wasn't looking at me. "Any other warm bodies you care to tell me about?"
Not really. And anyway, I had come back to find a woman in my bed; how had this turned into a discussion about my behavior?
When a few moments passed and I hadn't answered he finally met my gaze. It made me wish I hadn't said anything at all about Fëanor.
"Who?" he asked.
"You have no idea what it was like out there." My voice sounded choked and I was afraid some of the guilt I was feeling had spilled into it. "There were Orcs, and… monstrous dog-things…"
"Who?" he interrupted, his voice dangerous and low.
"I… After the battle I passed out. I had no idea what was going on. I woke up in a cave, and it was dark… and cold… and I…"
"WHO?" he asked again, and the intensity of his tone frightened me.
I swallowed against the lump in my throat.
I took a deep breath.
"Elladan," I said, watching his face for his reaction. He pressed his lips together and nodded once before turning and walking away.
I don't know how long I stood there, debating whether or not to follow him, but I think it was a while. By the time I decided to chase after him he was long gone. In fact, I made it all the way back to the room without catching up to him. I battled my nerves for a second time in not all that long and entered our chambers again.
He wasn't in there, but she was, sitting on the bed, her back to the door. The only indication that she heard me enter was a slight tilt of her head. I remained in the doorway, waiting for her to speak or turn around or something. She did not.
I cleared my throat, thinking that perhaps she hadn't heard me. Slowly she turned her head to glance over her shoulder. I took a few steps closer to the bed. Nimbly, in one motion, she leapt to her feet and spun to completely face me.
I gasped, overcome with shock. If I hadn't been standing there myself I would not have believed it. It was as if I was staring at my own reflection. Her hair covered her ears but even if they were pointed it wouldn't have mattered. The rest of our features were identical enough that even I mightn't be able to tell us apart. She regarded me silently and I did the same to her.
"How…" I finally said, but my voice was weak. I swallowed, trying to wet my suddenly dry mouth. "How is this possible?"
She didn't answer immediately and instead stared at me with eyes that might possibly have been the only difference between the two of us. Her eyes were just so old. I don't know how else to describe it. They were ancient and deep and they were making me uncomfortable.
"I would be more inclined to ask 'why?'" she stated. Her voice even sounded like mine. It was unnerving.
Why? That was a good question. Why on earth did I look like Nerdanel? Why was she here and not over in the West where she belonged? Why did my husband think it a good idea to loan out our bed to her?
Unfortunately but not unexpectedly the green monster won out. "Me too, actually. I'd like to ask 'why?' too. For instance, why are you here?"
She tilted her head. "I came seeking my husband."
"And instead found mine…" Ooh. The claws were coming out.
A slow smile spread across her face. "As you, in turn, found mine."
The claws quickly retracted as I realized I was no match for this woman… elf… whatever. It was then that I think it finally dawned on me to who I was actually speaking. This was Nerdanel, the only elf in the world able to temper Fëanor. She was amazing. And she had been through so much. Regardless of where I found her, she deserved my support and respect, not my venom.
I held out my hands towards her. "I'm sorry… I…" I faltered.
"I understand." She smiled again, but there was warmth to it this time. "It was long ago, but I remember being young, worrying over female attention to my husband."
There was something patronizing in her tone and it struck me the wrong way.
"I wasn't 'worrying over female attention.' You were in my bed. That's a little different than batting your eyes at someone else's guy."
She raised her head slightly, almost defiantly. "You were being kept warm elsewhere."
At that point I didn't care who she was. Ancient elf or not, how dare she.
"Oh, that's right… after your husband kidnapped me." A thought struck me. "Yes, kidnapped me while I was out wandering around, looking for my husband who was mad at me because of whatever the hell you did with Elladan in the woods the other night."
A brief moment of surprise showed on her face until she schooled her features. "I did not know we were observed."
"Oh, you were observed." I folded my arms across my chest. "You were observed all right." I kind of lost a little steam because I wasn't sure where I wanted to go with my accusations from there. Part of me wanted to ask her what it was that went on that night. I felt a twinge in my stomach and realized that most of me did not want to know. Right or wrong, I didn't want to picture Elladan doing anything with her.
I continued to stare her down but she regarded me coolly, not moving or answering. I decided to abandon my argument for the moment, but not my animosity.
"He's looking for you, you know." I said, changing the subject.
"Elladan?" she asked, scrunching her features in a way that I stopped doing long ago when I realized how unattractive it made me look.
"No, Fëanor." I paused and then decided to needle her. What could it hurt, especially after her 'being kept warm' comment? "Although it's interesting that you immediately thought of Elladan…"
She raised her eyebrows. "We were just speaking of Elladan. I misunderstood to whom you referred."
I sighed. I was never going to unsettle her. Although that shouldn't be surprising, I supposed, considering her husband.
"Whatever." I said, getting tired of our conversation. I just wanted to go find Justin or anybody else. "He's here. He's looking for you. He kidnapped me because he thought I was you." I waited a beat. "Maybe you can go find him."
A hint of a smile played at her lips. "Subtlety is not your strength, is it? No matter, I will take my leave of you, though it is not to find my husband; not yet."
I didn't get a chance to ask what she meant because she walked out of the room without even a backwards glance.
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.