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13
Leaving Lothlórien

Author Notes: Words in italics are elvish and in this chapter and subsequent chapters there may be long conversations in elvish, I’ve found it easier to do it this way. I will still have a few elvish words sprinkled in here and there throughout the story and I will continue to translate those at the end of the chapter where appropriate.

Also, in what I believe is a departure from canon, Aragorn sees Celeborn and Galadriel as his grandparents and they see him as their grandson. Not only is he betrothed to their granddaughter but he was raised in Rivendell by their son-in-law.

I know these chapters are long and I've tried to cut them, but there just isn't another natural break in this section!


~~~

Time passed swiftly in Lothlórien. For most members of the Fellowship it was a time to rest and recover from their journey. However, for Rebecca and Thomas it was a time of learning and acquiring the skills they would need in their new lives.

Practicing with her sword was the hardest part of Rebecca’s day. She lacked the raw physical strength that was required for wielding a sword. Aragorn was teaching her ways to compensate for her lack of strength by using her quickness. It was still very difficult. She also struggled because she never had time to practice except for an hour or two each morning.

Working with Lord Thalion continued to be a struggle – mostly because Rebecca was never quite sure how she was doing. He would seem pleased with her progress one day and the next day everything she did was wrong. Still, she liked learning how to stop wounds from bleeding, how to apply a bandage and she enjoyed working with the herbs and learning when and how to use them. She only learned a few simple herbs that were used to reduce pain, to bring down fevers and to stop infections. Of course, she hadn’t actually used any of her knowledge on a real patient yet, so was uncertain if she would freeze at the sight of blood. Rebecca could only hope that her training would take over and allow her to help the injured.

Archery became one of Rebecca’s favorite parts of the day. Haldir was indeed a patient teacher and it was such a relief to work with him after being with Lord Thalion for several hours. Rebecca excelled at archery. Unlike a sword, which required a lot of physical strength, archery required dexterity, quickness and precision. All traits that she possessed combined with her burning desire to learn and prove herself. While her arrows did not fly nearly as far as Haldir’s due to his superior strength, they still flew fifty to sixty yards and she began to hit the target with increasing accuracy. It brought her great joy to have such success, greatly increasing her self-confidence. While Haldir’s demeanor changed little as he taught her, Rebecca did notice that he smiled more often, though around the other Fellowship members he remained the very polite and proper March Warden.

Rebecca learned many things about the lives and backgrounds of the other members of the Fellowship as they gathered for supper each evening. Gimli, Boromir, and the hobbits spoke freely about many things they had seen and done. Rebecca noticed that Aragorn and Legolas mostly listened, though occasionally they told a story of some ancient elvish hero. She and Thomas shared some stories about their lives at home and everyone listened intently and asked many questions. Rebecca didn’t know what had happened that night she and Thomas had walked away from the camp without answering anyone, but it was obvious that something had been discussed. Gimli had quietly pulled her and Thomas aside the following day and shown them how to use a flint. From that time on, everyone seemed more accepting and less skeptical of the things they shared.

Highlighting each day became the walks she took with Thomas each evening. Thomas had continued to ‘escort’ her home each night and it seemed to take longer every day as they seldom went directly back to her talan. At first they stayed near the camp, then began venturing further after discovering a nearby stream. They talked about everything, especially about home and family since no one else could truly understand those things. Rebecca cherished those walks and talks with Thomas and wondered again how she would ever survive in Middle-earth without him.

--

Aragorn and Boromir spent hours with Thomas practicing his sword fighting skills as the days passed. Five to six hours a day, with only short breaks became normal as they rushed to prepare him for the dangers of the journey ahead. His body soon grew used to the daily grind and his hands developed thick calluses. The sword was rapidly becoming an extension of his arm. Most of the defensive movements were becoming automatic, offensive moves were trickier, but Thomas worked hard and he knew he would learn the moves eventually… he just hoped it would be in time.

Thomas had almost given up on archery. Almost… but not quite. He was fortunate that Legolas was an elf and had an infinite supply of patience. Though his arrows were flying farther, most of the time his arrows still flew to the left. If he concentrated really hard and went slowly, he could get the arrow approximately where he wanted it. He just wasn’t sure he would ever be fast enough to use it in a real battle. Being surrounded by elves and having Gimli making little jokes didn’t help his confidence either. Legolas encouraged him to keep training, saying that even if he didn’t use the skill now, it would be something he would use later. So, he kept trying.

Like Rebecca, Thomas’s favorite part of the day became the walks they took in the evenings. Just being alone with her gave him both pleasure and pain. Pleasure because as the days passed he realized he truly loved her and being able to hold her hand and to talk with her was wonderful. He loved learning more about her and her family and her life. He loved holding her to comfort her if she was upset, though he sometimes felt guilty about the thoughts that went though his mind as he held her. He enjoyed having someone to talk with about his family and his dreams… someone that understood him, and truly listened to him. Pain, because Thomas desperately wanted to tell Rebecca how he truly felt. That he loved her, but so far he lacked the courage to do so. Thomas knew he would need to tell her of his love before they left Lothlórien. There were too many dangers outside its borders and he was not willing to risk either of them dying without her knowing how he felt.

--

“I learned how to set stitches today!” Rebecca crowed happily as she sat down next to Thomas to eat her supper.

“Ugh,” Pippin shuddered, “I don’t know how you can do that.”

“How do you learn to do that?” Merry looked at her inquisitively, “What do you practice on?”

“Oh, Lord Thalion has these little… doll-like things I used,” Rebecca shrugged. “Of course, there’s no blood so that’s not realistic…”

“Lady Rebecca, we are eating,” Boromir chided softly.

Rebecca flushed and looked down at her feet missing Boromir’s sparkling eyes. “I’m sorry, Boromir. My mom taught me better than that…”

Boromir and the others burst into laughter, even Thomas laughed quietly at her expression.

“Lady Rebecca, I would think that by this time you could tell when I am teasing you!” Boromir smiled.

“Well, usually I can, Boromir, “Rebecca protested, “but my mom was really insistent about table manners.” She looked around thoughtfully, “Not that I’ve actually eaten at a table for a long time,” she said dryly.

“When you come to my city you shall sit at the steward’s table. Or,” Boromir glanced at Aragorn from the corner of his eye, “at the king’s.”

Aragorn laughed quietly, his eyes never straying from the fire where he had been staring for quite some time.

“At this point, any table would be fine!” Rebecca smiled.

“It doesn’t matter whose table you’re sitting at, what matters is what’s sitting on the table!” Merry said with a laugh.

“As long as there’s lots of food, I don’t care where I eat,” Pippin grinned as he swallowed.

Gimli grunted, “I have to agree with young Pippin there.”

Thomas slowly tuned out the conversation as he watched Aragorn. Something was bothering the Ranger and had been for a couple of days. Thomas had noticed how quiet he had been as they practiced and he seemed to be spending a lot of time alone. He wondered if they were getting ready to leave. Rebecca’s laughter caught Thomas’s attention and he glanced at her with a soft smile. He knew that if there were going to leave then he had to tell her that he loved her. He couldn’t do it while they were traveling, there was just no privacy and too many things could happen. Thomas nervously rubbed his hands together as he tried to think of when and how he should tell her.

--

Aragorn shifted uneasily on the ground where he sat. He had finally reached a decision; he would accompany Frodo to Mordor. Now he had to tell Boromir and make a final decision on Rebecca. Thomas he would take with him as his skill with a blade had improved significantly in the last three weeks. He did not know what Boromir would do, if he would come with him or go on to Minas Tirith alone. Aragorn sighed and rubbed his forehead in frustration. He knew what must be done; Rebecca would have to stay here in Lothlórien where she would be safe. He could not protect both her and the hobbits during the journey, and he had to be able to focus on Frodo and the Ring… not on Rebecca.

While he knew that she would be safe among the elves, Aragorn tried to convince himself that since Brethil was a good friend of hers, Rebecca would not be too lonely. Shaking his head slightly, annoyed at himself, Aragorn knew that was not true. He knew that leaving Rebecca behind would hurt her deeply no matter how close she was to Brethil or how settled she seemed here in Lothlórien. The members of the Fellowship were her ‘family’ here in Middle-earth and being separated from them would devastate her. Yet he knew there was no real choice in the matter, that destroying the Ring came first. Aragorn cared too deeply for Rebecca to risk her being injured or killed. She was his ward and it was his duty to protect her, no matter the cost. He could only hope that she would see it his way or would be willing to forgive him. In any case, he would not take her even at the risk of incurring her hatred. Aragorn frowned at that thought. His heart set, he resolved to speak with Celeborn and Galadriel about leaving Rebecca in their care.

--

Rebecca looked at the pile of herbs, bandages, and utensils she would need to carry when she left Lothlórien and sighed. “Brethil, how will I carry all this plus my clothing, food, and weapons?” she looked at the elleth with wide eyes.

“You could…”

“Take fewer clothes,” Lord Thalion snorted from where he stood across the room sorting various herbs.

“Lord Thalion,” Rebecca spoke respectfully, “I am only taking three changes of clothing.”

“You only need one,” he retorted, turning to stare at her intently.

“Only one?” she replied doubtfully with a slight frown.

“Lady Rebecca,” his voice softened as he approached her, “you are going on a difficult, dangerous journey. Your clothes should be the least of your concerns. If you have one set to wear and one set to change into should the first become wet, it will suffice. These medicines, however, may save lives. Your weapons may save lives. Food is essential. More than one extra set of clothing is not.”

Rebecca bowed her head in acknowledgement, “You’re right, Lord Thalion. I would hate to run out of healing supplies just because I took extra clothes.” She paused and added with a smile, “Though, I insist on taking a comb!”

Lord Thalion actually smiled, “Yes, I do believe a comb could be considered essential, Lady Rebecca,” he said. “Now…” he was interrupted by loud voices at the door.

“We need some help here!” A frantic voice called out as someone banged on the door.

“That’s Thomas!” Rebecca cried, as she, Lord Thalion, and Brethil sprang towards the door. She gasped at the sight that met her. Thomas was carrying an ashen faced Pippin, blood streaming down the side of his head, his shirt in tatters. Merry followed closely behind him wringing his hands and whimpering softly.

“What happened?” she gasped.

“Not now!” Lord Thalion snapped. “Put him on the table,” he directed Thomas, “and wait over there.” Thomas laid Pippin down and then grabbed Merry’s hand and gently led the hobbit off to the side. He glanced at Rebecca, but she was watching Thalion examine Pippin.

“Lady Rebecca, I want you to take over,” Lord Thalion straightened up and gazed directly at her.

“Me?” she squeaked, her eyes wide. Then her eyes hardened as she nodded, “Yes, my lord.” Taking a deep breath, she approached Pippin.

“Hello, Pip, looks like you got yourself in some trouble today.” She spoke softly as her fingers gently examined his head to find the source of the blood flow. She found a long, fairly deep cut along the left side of his head that would require stitches and she pressed a cloth against it to stop the bleeding. Pippin said nothing, just stared up at her, eyes wide in fear and pain. Rebecca swiftly glanced down at the rest of his body where his clothes were torn, but saw no blood. “Pippin, are you in pain anywhere besides your head? Do your arms or legs hurt?”

“No,” he whispered, trembling.

“Good,” she smiled at him reassuringly. “You have a cut here that I will need to stitch.” Pippin flinched. “I hope that was because you fear the pain and not my ability, Pip!”

Pippin smiled weakly, “Pain,” he whispered.

“I can do something for that.” Rebecca turned to where Lord Thalion and Brethil had set out the things she would need. She quickly cleaned her hands and then mixed up willow bark tea to help Pippin with the pain, glancing at Thalion for approval. He nodded slightly. After helping the hobbit drink it, she started cleaning the blood from his face. As the pain medicine made him sleepy, Rebecca stitched the wound, looking at Thalion for reassurance that she was doing it correctly. He would nod and she continued carefully, not wanting Pippin to have a large scar. She quietly spoke with the hobbit the whole time she worked, soothing him with her voice.

As Rebecca finished bandaging his head, she glanced up at Thalion, “Lord Thalion is it best to try and clean and bandage these smaller wounds through the tears in his shirt or should I remove his clothing?” A hint of amusement could be seen in her eyes. Pippin’s eyes flew open and he struggled to sit up. Rebecca firmly pressed him back down, “Peace, Pippin, I won’t do anything to embarrass you.”

Glancing at the hobbit, Thalion responded dryly, “I think for Pippin’s sake you better not remove all of his clothing, just his shirt.”

Pippin sighed deeply as Thomas and Merry laughed. Rebecca turned and gave them a brief grin before turning back to her work. It took almost an hour to clean all of the little scraps and wounds and to bandage those that required it. During that time Aragorn and Legolas had slipped into the room and stood observing Rebecca, talking quietly with Merry and Thomas. Rebecca however was oblivious to their presence as she worked. As she finished, she looked at Pippin, “Now, I hope you don’t expect me to stitch up all of the tears in your clothes!” she said with a small laugh. Pippin laughed softly and was joined by the others in the room. Rebecca turned, surprised to see Aragorn and Legolas and gave them a small smile before looking back at Pippin.

Rebecca gently touched his forehead, checking for fever and found it cool. She mentally ran a checklist of things she should have done and not coming up with anything else she needed to do, she looked up at Lord Thalion.

“My lord, I’m ready to release this patient,” Rebecca spoke firmly, looking directly at Lord Thalion.

He gazed at her intently for a long moment then his eyes flicked to Pippin, looking him over. “I concur, Lady Rebecca. You have done well today. So well, in fact, that I am going to release you from your training, you will not be required to come anymore, though you are still welcome.” Rebecca’s eyes widened. “What I have taught you will be sufficient for wounds such as this and things you are likely to come across on your journey.” Thalion paused and smiled kindly at her for the first time. “You have a healer’s gift, Lady Rebecca, and if you should ever desire to continue your studies, I would gladly train you.”

“Thank you, Lord Thalion,” Rebecca bowed. “I think I’d like to do that some day.”

Thalion nodded and left the room, leaving Rebecca shaking her head in wonderment. She turned to see Brethil smiling at her and she walked over and embraced the elleth tightly. Brethil laughed lightly as she hugged her back. “Thanks for all of your help, Brethil.”

“You are quite welcome. I have learned much as well.”

Rebecca started at the voices behind her and she turned to see the others crowded around Pippin. “Excuse me, gentlemen,” Rebecca shouldered her way between Aragorn and Merry, “Pippin needs to rest now.” She missed the amused glances Aragorn and Legolas exchanged. “Though I would like to know what happened.” She looked at Thomas for an explanation.

He shrugged and looked at Merry, “I just happened upon them. Merry?”

Merry blushed and stared down at his feet. “We were just playing around…”

“And?” Aragorn prompted.

“I decided to climb a tree,” Merry continued.

“Hobbits are not particularly good tree-climbers,” Aragorn pointed out, biting back a smile.

Merry shook his head miserably, “No, we’re not. Anyway, Pip followed me up and we went kind of high.”

“It wasn’t that high!” Pippin protested.

“Yes, it was!” Merry retorted. “Or, you wouldn’t be hurt. Anyway, we got scared and were coming down when Pippin slipped. I grabbed him, but I couldn’t hold on. I guess he hit his head on a sharp branch or something.”

Aragorn nodded, “Well, Pippin, you were lucky you did not break anything and that you had a well trained healer available.” He smiled at Rebecca, who grinned. “I suggest, however, that you both stay out of trees.” The two hobbits nodded in agreement. “Now, with Lady Rebecca’s permission, I will carry Pippin back to camp.” He looked at Rebecca questioningly and she nodded. Aragorn gently scooped up the hobbit and carried him out the door.

--

Aragorn climbed the steps with a heavy heart. He was not worried that Celeborn and Galadriel would refuse to let Rebecca stay in Lothlórien, though few mortals ever dwelt in this elven realm. However, he was concerned about why Galadriel had Rebecca learning healing skills; she must have sensed something about her. Something she had not shared with him. He frowned slightly at that thought, hoping he was not making a mistake by leaving her behind. Rebecca had impressed him with her skills as she worked on Pippin. She had learned a lot in a short amount of time and the fact that Lord Thalion was willing to take her back as a student told Aragorn much about her potential.

Aragorn took a deep breath and knocked lightly on the door of his grandparent’s talan.

“Come in, Estel,” Galadriel called.

Entering the room, Aragorn greeted his grandparents quietly, “Daernaneth, Daeradar,” he bowed.

Celeborn raised an eyebrow in question, “Estel? You are troubled.” He stepped forward and firmly embraced his grandson.

“He is concerned that he has made the wrong decision,” Galadriel glided forward and gently kissed Aragorn on the forehead as he gazed at the floor. “Is that not what troubles your heart?”

Aragorn shook his head briefly with a wry smile, “You well know what troubles my heart.” He looked at Celeborn, “With your permission, I would like to leave Rebecca here. I am not going to Minas Tirith at this time. I will accompany Frodo to Mordor instead.”

Celeborn gazed at him intently, “Does Boromir know of this change?”

“Not yet, I will speak with him soon.”

“He will feel betrayed, he trusts you.”

“I know, yet the Ring must be destroyed. How can I send Frodo alone into Mordor? Gandalf was to take him and I find I cannot leave him to face it alone.”


Celeborn nodded, “My heart is heavy at the thought of you in that place, Estel. Yet I see that it must be done.” He regarded Aragorn gravely for a moment, “And Rebecca?”

“I shall not willing take her into such a place, Daeradar, and I do not think I can protect both her and the hobbits.”
Aragorn stared at his feet for a moment before looking up. “I would like her to stay here.”

“No place in Middle-earth is safe, Estel,”
Galadriel smiled sadly. “Even here in Lothlórien among the Galadhrim evil may find its way.”

“Yes, I know. However, I still think she would be safer here under your protection.”

“Have you considered what this will do to the child? You know of her past, of her family.”
Galadriel’s voice was full of compassion.

Aragorn hesitated and closed his eyes briefly before looking at Galadriel. “I have,” he said softly, “it will hurt her deeply and I regret that. Yet I would have her safe.”

“I do not tell you what to do. However, I must point out that you, all of you, are her family here in Middle-earth and she has lost one family already just coming here,”
Celeborn said quietly.

Aragorn nodded in agreement, “I know. Would you have me take her into Mordor? I cannot,” he shook his head stubbornly. “I can only hope she will forgive me… and that at least some of us will return for her, ” he whispered.

“Estel,” Galadriel gently caressed his cheek, causing him to look up. “Do not despair. I cannot see your path ahead, but you must not lose hope.” She smiled faintly, “Otherwise you were named in vain.” Glancing at Celeborn, who nodded, she continued, “Rebecca may stay here until someone comes for her.” Galadriel paused and looked at Aragorn closely, “Though I have sensed that she has something important to do here in Middle-earth. The Valar sent her for a purpose, though I know not what that is. That is my only concern in her staying here”.

Aragorn frowned thoughtfully, “I had not considered that,” he admitted. “Still,” he shrugged, “I will leave her… it may be that her purpose is to be played out later.” He sighed, “We may never know.”

“You are taking Thomas?”
Celeborn suddenly asked.

“Yes, I had thought to leave him as well, but he is nearly a man in the eyes of his people and his skill with a sword will be useful.”

“Rebecca will truly be alone then,”
Celeborn said quietly as if greatly troubled.

“She is close to Brethil and Lord Thalion mentioned today that he would be willing to continue teaching her if she were interested. I hope that will help.” Aragorn ran his hand through his hair in frustration. “It will have to be enough,” he muttered.

“We will watch over her as well. You must now trust in the decision you have made.” Galadriel spoke calmly. “You cannot waver from the path you yourself have chosen.” She smiled fondly at her grandson who nodded grimly.

“I will not, Daernaneth. I am resolved on this.” Aragorn smiled, “With you and Daeradar, I always become a child again.”

Celeborn smiled, “That is because you are, young one,” he laid his arm affectionately across Aragorn’s shoulder.

Aragorn shook his head and laughed lightly, having had this conversation many times with various elves over the years. “Yes, yes, I know how young I am compared to an elf,” he snorted.

Celeborn and Galadriel both smiled as they walked Aragorn to the door.

“Thank you, Daernaneth, Daeradar. It gives my heart peace to know Rebecca has a place here.” Aragorn bowed slightly.

Nodding in acknowledgment, Celeborn opened the door, “Rest well, Estel, knowing that all will work out as it should.”

--

Rebecca and Thomas walked silently through the forest heading for their favorite spot near the stream. Rebecca yawned tiredly and she stumbled slightly, causing Thomas to grab her arm gently.

“I think I’d better help you tonight,” he murmured quietly, before sliding his hand down to grasp hers.

“I need the help,” she agreed. “I’m pretty tired. All that excitement with Pippin,” she grinned. “It scared me at first… all that blood,” Rebecca shuddered. “But I remembered Lord Thalion saying head wounds bleed a lot and then… I could just do it.” She frowned thoughtfully, “It was like it wasn’t Pippin, it was just someone that needed help.”

“You did so well,” Thomas said admiringly, “like you had been doing it for years. If we ever get home, you should be a nurse. No, you’re good enough to be a doctor. Though, I don’t know any women doctors, do you?” he glanced at her questioningly.

Rebecca laughed, “I don’t know any, but there are more women doctors since the war ended. Just not very many. A doctor,” she mused, “hmm… I never thought about anything like that before.” She smiled at Thomas, “Maybe that’s why we’re here, to discover what our true jobs should be!”

Thomas squeezed her hand and laughed as they sat down on the stream bank. He picked up a few small rocks and absently played with them while his heart raced, his mind a jumble as all of his well planned words suddenly escaped him. He had decided that this was the time to share his feelings with Rebecca, but now he wasn’t even sure how to start.

They sat quietly for some minutes before Thomas threw the rocks in the river, dusted off his hands and took a deep breath. Turning to face Rebecca, he took both of her hands in his, smiling faintly at her slightly startled expression. Gazing at her intently, Thomas’s eyes softened as he took in her puzzled brown eyes, her cute nose and her soft red lips that he ached to feel and taste… he shook himself mentally.

“Rebecca, there is something I’ve wanted to tell you the last few weeks, but – but I have hesitated…”

“Why? You can tell me anything,” Rebecca looked at him in confusion and concern, squeezing his hands reassuringly.

“I know, I know. That is true for most things.” Thomas briefly looked away before fixing his gaze back on her. “This is a little different… a little more difficult for me.”

Rebecca shifted uneasily, wondering what was wrong, “Thomas, what is it?”

“Oh, Rebecca, now I’ve scared you!” Thomas smiled nervously. “It’s not a bad thing.” He took a deep breath and plunged ahead, “Rebecca, I-I love you. I… I didn’t know how to tell you.” He watched her carefully for her response.

Rebecca stared at him in shock for a moment and then her eyes blinked rapidly, “You love me?”

Thomas nodded, “Yes,” he smiled at her, his voice filled with warmth.

“Why? I thought we were friends.”

“Well, we are, Rebecca. You are also the-the most beautiful girl I have ever seen,” his gaze was suddenly very intense and she ducked her head. He reached out and gently lifted her chin so he could see her eyes. “You are also very brave and-and sweet” Thomas frowned thoughtfully. “I-I… you make me laugh, Rebecca. And… and you’re kind to everyone. I just like being with you… you listen to me. I just…” Thomas shrugged helplessly and looked at Rebecca closely, “I just love you, Rebecca,” he whispered.

Rebecca was in turmoil. She quickly tried to sort through all of the feelings that she had for Thomas. She knew she cared for him deeply and loved him as a friend, but she had never considered anything beyond that. Right now she was too overwhelmed to figure anything out, yet she didn’t want to hurt him. “Thomas…” she paused, looking at him uncertainly, “I don’t really know what to say…except I care for you so very much as-as a friend. Maybe…”

“Shhh, you don’t have to say anything else,” a brief flicker of disappointment crossing his face. “I-I knew you probably didn’t feel the same. I think we might leave soon and I wanted you to know how I felt in case… in case something happened. Besides you know how that trip will be,” he smiled faintly, “We won’t have time to talk.”

Rebecca nodded, “I’m sorry.”

“Do not be, Rebecca,” he said firmly, “Now, I think it is time to take you home.”

Nodding, she got wearily to her feet, once again thankful for the privacy of her talan.

--

Staring at the ceiling, Rebecca replayed Thomas’s words over and over in her mind, still not quite believing them. He loves me? He thinks I’m beautiful? She sighed softly, not sure what to think. She tried to figure out what she felt for him, he was such a good friend and she cared deeply for him, but she knew that that was not the kind of love he felt for her. Although Thomas was good looking - she smiled as various images of him flew through her mind - she had never thought of him as more than a friend. And yet Rebecca also knew that she would feel lost without him by her side and she frowned as she drifted off to sleep.

--

Rebecca walked slowly to the camp; it was early so she hoped Thomas wasn’t the only one up. She frowned as she tried to decide how to act around him as she didn’t want to hurt him and he was such a good friend, she shrugged mentally and decided to wait and see how he acted. Reaching the tent, she found only Legolas sitting outside and sat across from him, greeting him quietly, “Good morning, Legolas.”

“Lady Rebecca,” he bowed slightly before regarding her steadily with his warm blue eyes. “What troubles you this morning?” he asked softly.

Rebecca quickly looked away, “Nothing, I’m fine. Where’s Boromir?”

“He went for a walk with Aragorn. Lady Rebecca, you do not have to share with me, but you are not ‘fine’. There is a shadow about you this morning.”

“Elves,” Rebecca muttered. “I suppose I’m not fine, Legolas. I didn’t sleep well… I had a lot on my mind,” she shrugged.

“Sometimes it helps to share it with someone,” Legolas suggested softly. “Two people can often see a solution where one may not.”

“There are some things, though that just need to be worked out on your own…” Rebecca froze when she heard a noise from the tent and relaxed when she realized it was only Gimli snoring.

“Lady Rebecca, does this have something to do with Thomas?”

“What? How did you know?” she whispered.

“I am an elf,” he shrugged gracefully. “I have seen how he watches you and the way he acts with you. Did he tell you how he feels?” Legolas asked quietly.

Rebecca nodded, “Yes, last night. I was totally surprised, Legolas. We’re friends and… I think I hurt him. Though, I didn’t mean too,” she said quietly, staring at the ground.

Legolas was suddenly sitting next to her, gently holding her hand. “Were you honest with him about your feelings?”

“Yes… I didn’t say much… I told him I cared for him as a friend. I was just so surprised that I didn’t know what to say.”

Legolas smiled, “Then that is all you can do. Thomas has shared his feelings and has heard yours. Yours may change… or they may not. Only time will tell. In any case, I believe you are still quite young for a mortal woman, are you not?”

Rebecca nodded, “I guess… though being here has aged me considerably,” she said dryly.

Legolas laughed merrily, “I am sure it has.” He looked at her seriously, “Lady Rebecca, the ways of the heart are unfathomable and yours may change overnight,” he smiled faintly. “Thomas is your friend and I believe his love for you runs deep, do not shy away from him because he has declared his feelings. You need his friendship and he needs yours as well.”

“I know… I can’t imagine being here without him, Legolas. It just feels strange now, sort of awkward.”

Legolas raised his eyebrow questioningly, “It feels strange because you know he loves you? Lady Rebecca, he felt the same way yesterday and for many days before that, yet he has been nothing but a friend to you. I doubt that will change now that you know how he feels. You can choose to respond to him as you always have or to pull away from him.” He looked at her intently, “The choice is yours, but make sure you consider the consequences of your actions.”

Nodding, Rebecca stayed silent, considering all that Legolas had said while she waited for the others to awake.

--

They walked well away from the tent before Aragorn turned to tell Boromir of his decision. “Boromir, I wanted you to be the first to know…” Aragorn paused briefly while staring intently at Boromir.

Boromir looked at him keenly, “Yes?”

“I cannot go with you to Minas Tirith as we had planned. I feel I must go to Mordor with Frodo.”

“What?” Boromir froze, a look of absolute shock on his face. “We were to go there together, to fight against the enemy side by side!” he protested.

“We would have, had Gandalf lived,” Aragorn replied. “As he did not, it falls on me to accompany Frodo.”

“Why not take the Ring to Minas Tirith?” Boromir argued, a shadow crossing his face that Aragorn could not read.

“Why would we do that?” he asked sharply.

“Since we cannot use it, at least we could re-gather our strength before taking it on to Mordor.”

“No, Boromir, I will not take the Ring to Minas Tirith. It goes from here.” Aragorn looked at his friend sadly, “Forgive me for breaking my word to you. I would never do so without just cause.”

Boromir waved his words off. “I know, Aragorn,” he sighed. “What about the others?”

“They will come with me and the hobbits. I would like your company as well, though I know Minas Tirith is calling you home.”

“Yes, father expects and needs me.” His eyes narrowed, “What path will you travel?”

“The river,” Aragorn replied simply, watching Boromir closely, wondering what the man was thinking.

“I could travel with you for a while at least,” he said slowly, glancing at Aragorn with an unreadable expression.

Nodding in agreement, Aragorn responded quietly, “I would like that. Our road runs together for many miles yet and it would be safer for all of us to stay together as long as possible.”

Boromir nodded, gave Aragorn one last piercing look, turned and strode off into the woods, his body taut with anger.

Aragorn rubbed the back of his neck as he watched him leave, then turned and walked back towards camp, his eyes narrowed in thought.

--

Thomas smiled warmly at Rebecca as he emerged from the tent seeking his breakfast. She looked at him uncertainly for a moment before she spoke. “Good morning, Thomas.”

“Good morning,” he said as he sat next to her, balancing his food on his lap. “What are you going to do today, now that you don’t have to meet with Lord Thalion?” he asked between bites of food.

“Well, he said I don’t have to come, so I still might go anyway. Brethil and I need to pack the herbs and other things I’m taking with us. We didn’t get that done yesterday… in fact,” Rebecca glanced around looking for Pippin. “Pippin! How are you feeling this morning?”

“I’m fine, Rebecca. I don’t hurt.”

“Good. Still, after breakfast I want to check those stitches.”

“Oh, Rebecca you don’t need to do that,” Pippin whined.

“Yes she does, Pippin,” Aragorn spoke firmly as he strode into camp, giving him a stern glance. “She tended you and you are now under her care, you must trust that she knows best.” Aragorn gazed at Rebecca with an unreadable expression for a long moment.

“Thank you, Aragorn,” she said, puzzled by his expression. She glanced at Thomas, but he shook his head, also confused.

Aragorn nodded and continued on to the tent, ducking inside briefly before returning and sitting next to Legolas. He lit his pipe, causing Legolas to shoot him an irritated glare and the elf scooted down the log away from the Ranger. The others watching the little drama laughed and the conversation started up again.

Breakfast over, Rebecca checked Pippin and finding him healing well, she walked with Thomas to the practice field. To her great relief, once she got over her initial nervousness, it was still as easy to talk to Thomas as it had always been and she was glad she had heeded Legolas’s advice.

--

Thomas knew something was wrong the moment he entered the practice field. While nothing was said, he could feel the underlying tension between Aragorn and Boromir. They barely looked at each other and few words passed between them. He wondered what had happened between them and if that was why Boromir had not shown up at breakfast. Thomas mentally shook it off, focusing instead on sparring with Boromir, who was being particularly aggressive and Thomas found himself without his sword numerous times. It also seemed as if the blows he received when he lost his sword were extra hard, harder than was usual and he looked at Boromir warily. Finally, he ventured a question, “Boromir, are you angry with me?”

“What? No, why do you ask?” Boromir stared at him.

Thomas looked at him uncertainly, intimidated by his tone and stance, “Oh, you just seemed angry and I-I thought maybe I had done something wrong.”

Boromir laughed bitterly, “No, Thomas, I am not angry with you. Now, enough talking.” He gestured for Thomas to attack again. Realizing he was angry at Aragorn, Thomas cautiously moved forward to attack Boromir.

They sparred for several more minutes with the same results as before and Thomas was getting tired and sore. Finally, it was Aragorn who called a halt, wanting to spar with Thomas while Boromir sparred with Rebecca. Thomas looked at the Ranger pleadingly; he did not want Rebecca sparring with Boromir while he was so angry. Aragorn ignored him. They switched, but Thomas kept one eye on Rebecca.

“Thomas, you need to focus on me, she will be fine,” Aragorn said quietly.

“I’m afraid he’ll hurt her, he’s very angry.”

“I know. That is why we switched; I did not want you injured. He will not hurt a woman though.” Aragorn glanced at Boromir and Rebecca as he circled around Thomas.

“Why’s he mad?” Thomas tried to slip his sword past Aragorn’s arm, but it was deftly blocked.

“I cannot tell you now,” he pushed Thomas’s sword down and lightly slapped his side. “I think you have had enough for today.”

“Certainly enough of being hit, but not enough practice, Aragorn. I don’t think I can get enough of that.”

“Maybe not. Nonetheless, I want you to take the rest of the morning off. Relax and rest… that is an order, Thomas,” Aragorn gave him a faint smile.

“Yes, my lord,” Thomas smiled back.

--

It took Aragorn a long time to find Rebecca. He had been searching for her for over an hour before he finally found her talking quietly with Brethil. As he looked for her he decided it would have been easier to track down a deer than it was to find her. Aragorn hated what he was about to do, yet he also did not want to wait until the last minute to tell Rebecca she was not going. He hoped that it would give her some time to adjust to the situation while they were still with her.

Brethil and Rebecca looked up, smiling, at his approach.

“Aragorn! What brings you here?”

“Forgive me for interrupting you,” he smiled at Brethil, who nodded graciously. “I need to speak with you, Rebecca.”

“Oh,” Rebecca glanced at Brethil, questioningly.

“Go ahead, Rebecca,” she laughed lightly. “We can finish our discussion later after…” the elleth paused, “after supper perhaps.” Her eyes twinkled as she gazed at Rebecca.

“Yes, after supper would be a good time,” Rebecca grinned.

Aragorn glanced between the two, aware that he was missing something. He shook his head slightly, “Come along, Rebecca,” he reached down and helped her to her feet, leading her in the general direction of camp, yet stopping well short of it to give them privacy.

Seeing no reason to delay, Aragorn plunged right in. “Sit down, Rebecca,” he said gently, waiting until she sat before continuing. He crouched in front of her, so he could see her eyes, running his fingers through his hair, his brow furrowed.

Rebecca watched him with concern and growing unease. She wondered why he was upset and if she had done something wrong.

Aragorn gazed at her intently for a moment and when he spoke his voice was gentle. “Rebecca, I hope that I have earned your trust…”

“I trust you, Aragorn.”

“Good, then you also know that I would never do anything to harm you, only to protect you,” he gazed at her searchingly.

Swallowing hard, Rebecca nodded, twisting her hair nervously, her unease growing.

“Rebecca, my plans have changed. I am no longer going to Minas Tirith. I am going to Mordor with Frodo.”

“What about me and Thomas?” she whispered.

“Thomas is coming with me,” he said gently. “You are going to stay here in Lothlórien. You will be safe here with the elves. I know it is not what we planned, but I will not take you into Mordor. It is too dangerous and I cannot protect both you and the hobbits.”

Rebecca jumped to her feet, looking at Aragorn with confusion, hurt, disbelief, and anger all clearly evident on her face as her eyes filled with tears. “You are – you’re leaving me behind?” she whispered.

Aragorn reached for her hand, but Rebecca angrily pulled it away as she slowly backed away from him, tears now streaming down her face. With a sudden cry of deep pain, she turned and fled.

“Rebecca!” he yelled. Aragorn dropped his head and rubbed his forehead. “That went well,” he muttered sarcastically. Suddenly, his upper arm was grabbed and he was spun around where he met Boromir’s furious dark eyes.

“What did you do to Rebecca?” he demanded harshly.

Aragorn looked beyond Boromir to see that the rest of the Fellowship had gathered, drawn by Rebecca’s cry and his yell. All had expressions of confusion and concern on their faces.

“Release me, Boromir,” he said tersely, staring at him coldly until Boromir removed his hand from Aragorn’s arm.

“What happened, Aragorn?” Thomas asked anxiously, “Is Rebecca all right? Is she hurt?” His eyes darted between Aragorn and Boromir, worried again at the strange tension between the two, though currently he was more concerned about Rebecca.

“Rebecca is… angry with me right now. I have not told any of you, except Boromir and Legolas, that I am not going to Minas Tirith. I have decided to accompany Frodo to Mordor.” Frodo’s eyes lit up and Thomas just stared at him unblinking. “Because of that, I have decided to leave Rebecca here. I will not take her to Mordor. That is why she is upset.”

It was quiet for a moment and then almost everyone started talking at once. The loudest voice belonged to Boromir.

“Leave her here? Why? Rebecca can accompany me to Minas Tirith.” Boromir glared angrily at Aragorn, “I am still going there.”

“I will not allow Rebecca to travel that distance with only one escort, Boromir. It is far too dangerous,” Aragorn spoke in a tone that brooked no argument.

The hobbits looked uneasily from Boromir to Aragorn and Legolas laid his hands comfortingly on their shoulders.

Boromir glared at Aragorn for a moment longer and then dropped his gaze, “You are correct, Aragorn. It would not be safe for her and while I am willing to risk my life to get home, I am not willing to risk hers.” He glanced up briefly, “I just worry for her, left here alone without us. She will have a hard time.”

“She will… she is,” Aragorn agreed. “Yet I believe it is best for her,” he shrugged. “The safest thing, though I fear she does not see it.” A look of sorrow crossed his face.

“She will, Aragorn, she will,” Frodo spoke up softly.

“Aye, she’s a smart lass,” Gimli grunted.

“Well, I’m glad she’s staying,” Thomas said quietly, relieved she would be out of harms way. Looking up he saw a few amused grins and heard quiet chuckles, which broke the tense atmosphere and caused him to blush slightly. “Aragorn, where did Rebecca go? Did you see?”

“I know not, Thomas,” Aragorn gestured towards the woods on the right. “She headed in that direction, though I would venture to say that she will go to her talan eventually.”

Thomas nodded, “I will find her and talk to her.” Thomas took off running in the direction Aragorn had pointed. Using the tracking skills Legolas had been teaching him, he could easily see where Rebecca had run, heedless of any plants or bushes. He found where she had stopped and sat on the ground for a moment before moving on. It was harder to track her after that because Thomas could tell she had calmed and was walking more slowly. When he discovered she was headed towards her talan, he sprinted off in that direction.

--

Rebecca lay on her bed staring up at the ceiling. The sobbing had stopped, though an occasional tear leaked out and trailed down her cheek and ran into her ears. There were no words to describe what she was feeling, except raw pain. She couldn’t understand how Aragorn could do this to her. There were no answers to the questions that kept running through her mind. She didn’t know how long she had been lying there when there was a light knock on the door. Not wanting to see or talk to anyone, and fearing it was Aragorn, Rebecca didn’t answer. The knock came again. And again. “Go away and leave me alone,” she finally yelled out angrily.

“Rebecca, it’s Thomas,” his muffled voice came through the door. “I’m worried about you. Can I come in?”

At least it’s not Aragorn, she didn’t ever want to see him again, Rebecca thought bitterly. Still, she hesitated, “All right, Thomas, you can come in.” Rebecca got up and moved into the sitting room as Thomas slowly opened the door.

At the look of compassion on Thomas’s face, Rebecca sank down on the couch, buried her head in her hands and started weeping again. Thomas was quickly sitting beside her with his strong arms wrapped around her, holding her gently as she wept bitterly. He didn’t say anything, he just let her cry. Eventually she drew some long shuddering breaths and snuggled further into Thomas’s embrace as he carefully sat back on the couch. It was quiet for a long time, except for Rebecca’s deep breaths and occasional sniffles.

Finally, she spoke quietly. “I can’t do it, Thomas. I can’t stay here and watch you all leave. How can I? Doesn’t Aragorn understand that I’d rather die with all of you than be here all alone and be safe?” Tears streamed down Rebecca’s face unchecked. “What if you all die?” she whispered brokenly. “I won’t have anyone, then,” she wiped away the tears as Thomas hugged her tightly. “I can’t go home and yet everyone I know would be dead.” Rebecca laughed hollowly, “Well, I guess there are the elves here, but I couldn’t stay here forever.”

Thomas continued to hold her and listen, knowing that there was nothing he could say. Everything she said was true, yet still he was glad she was staying, he loved her and wanted her to be kept safe. He knew that Aragorn cared for her deeply and that because she was a woman and so young he was leaving her behind. Thomas could only hope that he would return for her, and if not him, then someone from the Fellowship would survive to come for her.

“Why? Why is Aragorn doing this to me? I never want to see him again! I hate him!” she hissed angrily. Rebecca burst into sobs again.

“Oh, Rebecca,” Thomas gently kissed her forehead in an effort to comfort her.

Startled, Rebecca looked up at him in surprise, blinking back her tears. “Did you kiss me?”

“What? Oh, um…I guess I did,” Thomas answered sheepishly, looking down in embarrassment. “I’m sorry… it just seemed like the right thing to do,” he smiled softly.

Shaking her head as she wiped away her tears, Rebecca smiled at Thomas, “Hmmm, well, that sounds like a reasonable excuse.” Her smile disappeared, “I don’t know what to do now. Aragorn won’t change his mind,” her eyes were troubled and sad.

“Probably not,” Thomas agreed. “My advice is for you to try and sleep now. It won’t change anything, but you do need to rest.”

“It’s probably a good idea. I’m exhausted, though I don’t know if I will actually be able to sleep.” Rebecca looked up at Thomas from where she sat still encased in his arms. “Thanks for listening to me… for being my friend. I really needed that tonight.

“You’re welcome,” he smiled at her gently as he stood and carefully pulled Rebecca to her feet. After opening the door, he turned back for a moment, “Rebecca, it will all work out as it is supposed to, though I’m truly sorry for all of your pain.”

Rebecca stared at him for a moment and then quickly reached up and kissed him softly on the cheek. “Thank you, Thomas. Good night,” she quickly closed the door.

Thomas stared at the door in shock as his hand moved up to where her lips had touched his cheek. He shook his head in wonderment, then turned on his heel and headed down to camp.

--

Rebecca awoke to sunlight streaming through the windows of her talan. She smiled as she stretched and yawned until the events of the past day hit her. Dragging herself from bed, she walked to the couch in her nightgown and plopped down, pulling her feet up and wrapping her arms around her knees. She sat there brooding for a long time, wondering what she should do… what she could do.

“Rebecca?” Brethil’s voice and a light tap on the door startled her from her thoughts.

“Come in, Brethil,” she called dully.

Brethil stopped short just inside the door, “You are not dressed!” she exclaimed. “Are you ill?”

“I’m fine,” Rebecca shook her head. “I’m just not going anywhere so I don’t need to be dressed,” she stared down at her feet.

Brethil swiftly crossed to her and sat, “What has happened?” She took one of Rebecca’s hands and rubbed it gently.

Rebecca smiled briefly before looking down again, “Aragorn is making me stay here, Brethil. He isn’t going to Minas Tirith; he’s going to Mordor with Frodo.” A single tear fell down her cheek, “Everyone is leaving but me,” she whispered, “I’ll be here alone.”

“I will be here, Rebecca,” Brethil reminded her gently.

Rebecca squeezed her hand tightly, “I know, I know and if it wasn’t for you it really would be impossible. But…”

“These men are your family here, are they not?”

Rebecca nodded helplessly.

“I know, Rebecca. I have seen you with them many times and I am amazed at how close you are to them. Humans are so different than elves and form attachments very quickly.”

“They are like my brothers or uncles or…”

“Father?” Brethil smiled knowingly.

“I suppose,” she mumbled, staring at her feet again.

“Rebecca, your own father died when you were very young, it is not surprising that someone else would fill that role. Especially when you have been thrust into a situation like this. Aragorn has made you his ward, of course you see him as a father figure.” Brethil laughed gently. “It is not surprising or unusual… it would be strange if you did not. You know he cares deeply for you.”

Rebecca shrugged.

“Rebecca, look at me,” Brethil’s voice had softened.

Sighing, Rebecca looked up.

“Aragorn does care for you; you know this in your heart.”

Nodding reluctantly, Rebecca stared at the floor again. “Brethil, it just hurts so much, I can’t stand it.”

“I am sure it does. Someone you trust has disappointed you and you are angry right now. Time will help heal this wound, but I think at some point you will need to speak with Aragorn.”

Rebecca shook her head vigorously, “I can’t do that! I’m not sure I even want to see him again!”

“How will you feel if Aragorn dies after he leaves?”

Rebecca flinched, “He can’t die, he has to come back,” she whispered.

“I thought so,” Brethil squeezed her hand gently. “Take a day, then speak with Aragorn,” she urged her gently. “Do not let your heart become bitter towards him. I know it is hard, but try and see it from his perspective. He is trying to protect you.” Brethil rose gracefully to her feet, “I will bring you some breakfast and perhaps later we can take a walk.”

Rebecca nodded absently, already lost in thought.

--

The morning after her talk with Brethil, Rebecca decided to join the others for breakfast. She wasn’t ready to speak with Aragorn just yet, but she missed everyone else. She wore one of her pretty dresses since she figured there was no sense in practicing with her sword anymore. Rebecca ran her fingers longingly over the sheathed sword before leaving the talan.

As she approached the camp, Rebecca noticed that everyone was already up and eating, including Aragorn. She sighed, wishing it was one of the days when he had already left for the morning. Still, she knew she couldn’t totally avoid seeing him even if she didn’t talk to him. Legolas was the first to notice her and gave her a warm, welcoming smile.

“Good morning, Lady Rebecca.”

“Morning, Legolas.”

The others looked up and greeted her as well. Rebecca glanced around, smiling nervously, though she couldn’t bring herself to look at Aragorn.

“You’re wearing a dress, Rebecca! Where’s your sword?” Pippin exclaimed.

“Pippin!” Frodo and Merry scolded.

“I-I don’t think I’ll need a sword now, Pip,” Rebecca said quietly, biting her lip as she sat down next to Thomas.

“Oh, that’s because…” Pippin’s words were cut off as Merry covered his mouth. Merry whispered in his ear before letting him go.

“You don’t have to do that, Merry,” Rebecca said quietly. “I know I’m not going with you,” she glanced around at everyone, though still avoiding Aragorn. “I’m sure you’ll need to talk about things, whether I’m around or not, don’t worry about me.” Thomas reached over and took her hand and she smiled at him gratefully.

“We do worry about you, Lady Rebecca, you are our friend,” Legolas was watching her intently.

Rebecca ducked her head under his scrutiny, “I just meant don’t stop talking about things because I show up… that would make me nervous.” She smiled at Legolas, who just looked at her searchingly. “I’ll be all right, Legolas.”

“I am sure you will,” he said softly, as he smiled.

Boromir stretched and rose to his feet, “Thomas, I think it is time to practice, come along.” He stopped by Rebecca for a moment, taking her hand gently in his large sword calloused ones. He spoke quietly, “Lady Rebecca, loathe as I am to admit it, and as much as I will miss you, Aragorn is right in this. You will be much safer here.” He smiled faintly at her before moving on.

Rebecca stared at her feet as he walked away, not really surprised by his words.

“Bye, Rebecca… I’ll miss practicing with you,” Thomas smiled as he followed Boromir.

“Me too,” she whispered.

Aragorn watched Rebecca thoughtfully for a few moments before following the others. He wanted to speak with her, but if she could not even look at him, he knew she was not ready. At least she had joined the group and seemed to have accepted the fact that she would not be going. Aragorn sighed softly before pushing it to the back of his mind, ready to focus instead on training Thomas and the hobbits.

--

It was the middle of the afternoon and Rebecca was writing in the journal she had been keeping when there was a firm knock on the door. Opening it, she was surprised to see Haldir standing there gazing at her with the look that had so often intimidated her.

“Lady Rebecca, you are quite late for your lesson and you did not appear at all yesterday,” he said sternly.

“I’m-I’m sorry, Haldir,” she said quietly, looking past him. “I don’t need to practice anymore. I’m not going anywhere.” Rebecca bit her lip and stared at the floor. “I should have told you, though.”

“I did hear that you will be staying here, Lady Rebecca. However, Lady Galadriel has not told me to stop teaching you.” Rebecca’s head shot up and she looked at him in surprise. “Until she does, I will continue to teach you.”

“Why?” Rebecca asked bitterly. “I won’t ever need to use it now.”

“Lady Rebecca,” Haldir chided softly. “You do not know what the future holds. Even here in these woods it may be useful. Or, your path may take you somewhere else.” He shrugged gracefully, “You still need to learn. Besides, you are becoming very proficient and I think you enjoy it, do you not?”

Rebecca nodded, “I do like it Haldir. I just didn’t see the point anymore.”

“Learning is always its own reward, Lady Rebecca,” he smiled briefly. “Now change quickly and meet me on the practice field.”

Rebecca rushed to change, her heart lighter than it had been for a couple of days.

--

Rebecca knew it was time. She couldn’t stand not talking with Aragorn and she felt, after talking with Brethil, that she at least understood his reasons, even if she didn’t agree with them. Rebecca hesitantly approached him after lunch, “Aragorn,” she whispered, “can I talk to you?” she glanced up at him briefly as she shifted nervously on her feet.

“Of course, Rebecca,” Aragorn responded softly. “Shall we go sit by the stream?” She nodded. Aragorn led the way down to the stream, with Rebecca following slowly behind. The rest of the Fellowship watched them leave with expressions of relief and concern.

Rebecca sat down heavily on a log and picked up a branch to play with, while Aragorn sat leaning against a tree, watching her intently. They sat that way for several long moments before Aragorn spoke,

“Rebecca?”

She jumped, slightly startled and looked at Aragorn sheepishly, “I’m sorry, Aragorn,” she frowned and looked down again. “Aragorn,” she whispered, “I don’t think I can take it.” Rebecca looked at him with tear-filled eyes, which she tried desperately to blink back. “I do understand why you want me to stay, but Aragorn,” she pleaded, “please let me come. If something happens to all of you, I’d rather be dead anyway.” Tears started falling unchecked down her cheeks.

Aragorn watched her compassionately for a moment and then moved closer and took her hands gently. “Rebecca, you said that you trusted me, did you not?” he asked quietly.

Rebecca nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

“I told you that I had made you my ward and that I was responsible for your safety.” Aragorn tilted her chin up so Rebecca had to look at him.

“Yes, you told me that,” she whispered.

“Lothlórien is the safest place for you,” he said quietly, yet firmly.

Rebecca squeezed her eyes shut and wiped away tears with the back of her hand.

“I know this is hard for you. You are without your family and now the people you know best are leaving,” Aragorn’s voice was full of sorrow. “Rebecca, look at me.,” he said softly. He waited until she opened her eyes before he continued. “Yet I must go with Frodo. The Ring must be destroyed. It comes before all of our personal desires.” He rubbed her hands gently.

“Why can’t I help you?” she begged. “You told me a long time ago that having a sense of humor was helpful and now I can use a sword, and I’m a healer and I can use a bow…”

“Use a bow?” Aragorn asked sharply.

“Oh… I wasn’t supposed to tell you that. Lady Galadriel thought it was important for me to learn.” She shrugged, “Haldir’s been teaching me.”

Aragorn frowned in thought before chuckling, “Are you any good?”

“Yes, I am,” she nodded firmly.

“Good. But, Rebecca,” he paused and looked at her with compassion in his grey eyes, “Still, I will not take you to Mordor. I ask that you trust me on this even though I know it is difficult and hard to understand.”

Rebecca closed her eyes in pain before nodding slowly, “All right, Aragorn,” she whispered brokenly, “I will trust that you know best.” She opened her eyes and stared at him intently, “You have to promise to come back,” she said fiercely.

“I cannot, Rebecca. You know that,” Aragorn shook his head. “Though, I will promise to try my hardest,” he smiled gently.

“That’s all I can ask,” she sighed, gazing out at the stream. “I didn’t really think you’d change your mind, but I had to ask,” Rebecca glanced at Aragorn from the corner of her eye.

“I knew you would,” Aragorn said with a faint smile. He stood and pulled Rebecca to her feet and embraced her. She clung to him tightly for a moment and then with a sad smile headed back to camp.

--

Thomas spent as much time as possible with Rebecca during the last week of their stay in Lothlórien. He knew, even without being told, that Aragorn had not changed his mind about her coming with them. Not that he was surprised. He could see the sorrow in Rebecca’s eyes as she and Aragorn returned to camp that afternoon. Rebecca never told him what Aragorn had said, but he knew she had come to some sort of acceptance or understanding with him because she no longer avoided Aragorn. Though, she was much quieter around all of the members of the Fellowship.

Thomas took Rebecca on long walks through the woods, knowing this might be the last time they had to spend together. Sometimes they talked of home or sometimes an hour would pass in silence, but it was always a comfortable silence, not an awkward one. The day before their departure, Thomas led the way to a small intimate glade Rebecca hadn’t seen before.

“This is beautiful, Thomas,” she looked around in awe at the mallorn trees and the flowers lining the clearing.
Thomas looked pleased, “I found it the other day and I thought you’d like it.” He smiled, “Here, sit down.”

They sat and enjoyed the peacefulness of the place, listening to the birds and watching a few brave squirrels venture closer.

“Rebecca…” he turned to face her, “I have such mixed feelings about you not going with us.”

Rebecca stared at him curiously, “What do you mean?”

Thomas gazed at her intently and gently took her hand. “Rebecca, I told you how I feel… I love you.” Rebecca nodded shyly. “So part of me wants you to come just so I can be with you,” he frowned. “That’s the selfish part of me. I also want you to be safe,” he whispered softly, “and that part of me is…glad Aragorn is making you stay.” Thomas sighed, “I couldn’t stand to see you hurt.” He waited for her reaction.

Rebecca stared at him for minute and then glanced away. “I would hate to see you hurt, too, Thomas, but I’d still like to go. I don’t know how I’ll do this without you here… you are such a part of my life...” she smiled at him. “I can’t ever imagine you not being at my side. It will kill me if you don’t come back,” she whispered. She sighed and pulled her knees up, wrapping her arms around them as she stared across the glade.

Thomas blinked at her words, not exactly sure what she was saying… he couldn’t ever imagine not being with her either. Still, she hadn’t said she returned his love and with him leaving, it might be best to wait until he returned… if he returned.

“I-I have something for you.” Rebecca watched as Thomas dug into a pocket in his tunic and pulled out a small leather bag. “I got this at the jewelry workshop. I thought it was pretty.” He held the small bag out to Rebecca who looked from it to Thomas and back again before slowly taking it.

“Thank you,” she looked at him for a moment, noticing his nervousness. She carefully untied the bag, watching Thomas out of the corner of her eye. Reaching in, she felt a slender chain, which she carefully drew from the bag. It was a beautiful silver necklace with a teardrop shaped pendant containing a rich red stone. There were intricate elvish designs etched around the outside of the pendant.

“Thomas, it’s gorgeous,” Rebecca breathed softly.

“Oh, good, you like it,” Thomas sighed in relief with a big smile.

“Of course I do, it’s beautiful. Help me put it on.” Rebecca handed it to him and Thomas carefully fastened it around her neck.

Rebecca looked at the necklace and then up at Thomas, understanding dawning in her eyes. “Thank you.” She suddenly hugged him and he wrapped his arms around her tightly. “This is in case you don’t come back, isn’t it?” she whispered into his ear.

Thomas hesitated, and then pulled back so he could see her eyes, though he kept his arms around her. “I wanted you to have something to remember me if…”

“I don’t need this to remember you,” she gave him a breath-taking smile. “My memory is quite good.” She looked down as her eyes filled with tears. “Be very careful, Thomas.”

“I’ll do my best, Rebecca,” he promised.

“I know and you have Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, and Gimli with you. You’ll be fine.”

Thomas smiled, “Right, what can hurt me with them around?” He glanced around, “We should probably head back now.” He stood and helped Rebecca to her feet. He gazed at her intently for a moment before taking his hand and softly caressing her cheek. Rebecca closed her eyes and leaned into his hand, enjoying his touch. Thomas paused and then slowly leaned down and kissed her tenderly. Rebecca’s eyes flew open and then she relaxed, returning his kiss. As she did so, Thomas drew her into his arms and she hesitantly embraced him as well. Suddenly, Thomas froze and pulled away from Rebecca and she looked at him in confusion.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that,” Thomas gazed at her with regret.

“What? Kissed me?” Rebecca asked in surprise.

“Yes, I took advantage of you… I love you, but you just see me as a friend,” he stared at the ground.

“Thomas,” something in her voice caused Thomas to look up hopefully. “I have come to realize that I can’t imagine life without you, and what I feel for you goes much deeper than friendship. I-I think I love you too.”

Thomas eyes lit up with such joy and love that it took Rebecca’s breath away. He took her hands in his and caressed them gently, “Oh, Rebecca,” he whispered, “are you sure?”

“Yes, quite sure,” she laughed quietly.

Thomas embraced and kissed her softly before pulling back and taking her hand again. Glancing around at the growing darkness with a slight frown, he sighed. “I hate to leave, but we really should head back before Legolas sends out a search party,” he grinned.

Rebecca smiled and nodded and they walked hand in hand back to camp.

--

The day of departure had come. The Fellowship was to leave at noon and take the Silverlode River down to the Anduin River and follow it as far as they could before heading into Mordor.

Rebecca and Thomas lagged slightly behind the others as they made their way to where the boats were moored. Their hands were clasped tightly, though no words passed between them. Earlier, they had taken time to say their good-bye in private, not wanting the others to witness the depths of their feelings for each other.

All too soon they arrived at the river. Rebecca was glad to see Brethil was there and she smiled at her gratefully, knowing she wouldn’t have to walk home alone. Haldir was also there, though he was helping with the boats. Still, it was good to have another familiar person there who would not be leaving. Thomas left her with Brethil and went to help with the loading of the boats. Rebecca stood with her arms crossed watching her friends, maybe I should have said good-bye at the camp and not come here, she thought as she swallowed a lump in her throat.

Aragorn glanced at Rebecca occasionally as he worked; glad that she had come to see them off, though he knew it was difficult for her. He smiled inwardly as he thought of her and Thomas, and then frowned, wondering if he should leave Thomas so they could have a chance at a life together. But he knew it was too late to do that, he could not do it to Thomas.

The boats packed, it was time to say good-bye to Rebecca. She trembled slightly as they approached and then stopped herself and looked at them with a wan smile. “I guess this is it, huh?” she said weakly. The hobbits were first and Frodo and Sam murmured quiet good-byes and Rebecca told Frodo to be strong and brave with whatever he faced and wished him good luck. Merry and Pippin had tears in their eyes, which brought tears to her own. She bent down and hugged them tightly. “Be careful, you two and stay out of trouble. I’ll miss you.”

Pippin nodded, “I’ll miss you too, Rebecca… and I never get into trouble!” he smiled cheekily. Rebecca smiled.

“Take care, Rebecca. We’ll be back before you know it,” Merry grinned with a slight bow.

Gimli gruffly said good-bye and surprised her by kissing her hand.

Legolas drew her a little apart from the others and spoke quietly. “Your heart changed, did it not, Lady Rebecca?” she blushed as Legolas laughed quietly. “I am not surprised.” He turned serious as he took her hand, “Aragorn is right to do this, Lady Rebecca, though I will miss your gentle heart and sweet smile. Be well and do not grieve overmuch in the days ahead.” Legolas gently kissed her on the forehead.

“I’ll – I’ll try not to, Legolas. I will miss you very much. Thank you for everything. Be careful,” she whispered.

“I will,” he promised as he led her back to where Aragorn, Boromir and Thomas still waited.

Rebecca blinked back tears when she looked at Boromir and then she had to look down. She felt his hand on her shoulder as the other gently lifted her chin. “Do not cry, Lady Rebecca. I would remember you with a smile on your lips instead.”

“I’m sorry, Boromir, I don’t think that’s possible today.”

He nodded gravely, “No, I suppose it is not. However, I will carry the memory of your smile and your laughter in my heart.” He smiled down at her.

“Good-bye, Boromir. I-I miss you already.” She wiped away a few tears and started to turn away from him. Boromir gently grabbed her and gave her a brief hug and a whispered good-bye before moving down to the boats.
Rebecca stared after him to avoid looking at Aragorn and Thomas.

“Rebecca, I need to leave now,” Aragorn moved into her line of vision.

“I know,” Rebecca swallowed hard as she looked at him. “Be careful, I need you to come back,” she whispered, grabbing his hands.

“I will do my best, Rebecca, you know that.” Aragorn stared at her intently and then hugged her tightly, “May the grace of the Valar be with you, Rebecca Norton.” He released her and gave her a small smile, “Good-bye.”

“Good-bye, Aragorn,” she said softly, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Their good-byes having already been said, Thomas just silently wiped away Rebecca’s tears. They gazed at each other for a moment and then Thomas quickly embraced her. “Good-bye, Rebecca, I love you.”

“I love you, too, Thomas. Come back safely.”

Thomas nodded and swiftly walked down the bank and joined Gimli and Legolas in the boat.

Rebecca felt Brethil’s hand slip into hers and she squeezed it gratefully, but her eyes never left the three boats until they slipped around the bend and out of sight.

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