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In Aragorn's Safekeeping
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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32
Revelations

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the recognizable characters; I am only borrowing them for fun for a little while. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.

Many thanks to my Beta Readers – J. and Marsha

Italics are used to indicate conversations in elvish and individual elvish words are translated at the end of the chapter.


~~~

There was a moment of silence while all in the room stared at Gandalf. Aragorn finally spoke, his voice low and questioning. “What do you mean, Gandalf? Then do you also know why they are here? And if you knew these things, why have you not said anything to them or to me before?” The look he gave the wizard was sharp and piercing as these questions had been preying on his mind for many months.

“Peace, Aragorn,” Gandalf replied mildly. “It was not yet time for me to speak to Rebecca and Thomas and I would not speak to you before I spoke with them.”

Aragorn looked troubled and he nodded once before turning his gaze to Rebecca and Thomas who were staring blankly at Gandalf as they clung to each other. “Rebecca, Thomas,” he said softly, walking around his desk as they started and looked at him with varying degrees of shock and confusion now filling their eyes. “It will be all right. I am sure that Gandalf will be able to explain things to us and everything will be all right.” Aragorn fought down the knot of fear in his stomach as to why the wizard had chosen to wait this long and what it could mean - both to them and to him and Arwen. He put a hand on their shoulders in an effort to reassure them.

Thomas looked back at Gandalf and asked, his voice trembling, “Can you tell us right now?”

Gandalf gazed inquiringly at Aragorn who, after glancing at Faramir, reluctantly shook his head. “I am sorry, but we will have to wait a short while longer. I have a few things I must get done this morning for when court meets tomorrow morning. We will not be able to meet for several hours, say this afternoon at the… eighth hour.”

“And it would be best if the rest of the Fellowship were there,” Gandalf said. “They were there at the beginning and deserve to hear this.”

“If it would be permitted, Mithrandir, I am sure that Lord Elrond would like to hear this discussion,” Erestor said quietly.

Gandalf gave him a thoughtful look and then nodded. “Yes, he should be included as well.”

“What about Halbarad? He should be there,” Rebecca said, the fear in her voice obvious to all in the room.

“Yes, young lady, he may come,” Gandalf replied in a very gentle voice.

“Elladan and Elrohir should be there too,” Thomas said after glancing at Rebecca who nodded. Gandalf started to protest, but stopped when Thomas added, “They’ve been with us a long time, Gandalf, and besides,” he glanced at Aragorn, “they’re family.”

Nodding, Gandalf made no further comment on the inclusion of the twins as he turned to Aragorn. “Where will we meet?”

“The sitting room on the second floor, it is the room best suited to our purpose.”

Gandalf stood. “Then I will go and find Legolas, Gimli, and the hobbits and inform them of our plans. I do know they were planning to be out this morning.” Pausing briefly by Rebecca and Thomas on his way out the door, he spoke to them quietly. “It will be all right, children. Even if it is difficult, you will be all right.” Neither of them responded as he left the room.

Aragorn watched him leave before looking back at Rebecca and Thomas and his eyes immediately softened with compassion. They had not looked so lost and uncertain since the first few days they had spent in Middle-earth. Knowing there was nothing he could say to set their minds and hearts at ease, he looked at Erestor and, after a pause, spoke to him in Quenya instead of Sindarin so that neither Rebecca nor Thomas would understand what he was saying. “Erestor, will you please take them back to the House and directly to Arwen? Tell her what has happened and ask her to stay with them until I can join them. They may desire to be off and alone, but I do not believe that that would be wise or the best thing for them right now. The fear of what Gandalf may tell them is already overwhelming them and it might be best if they talk about it with Arwen or you or any of the other members of our family that may be present.”

“Of course, Estel, and I will stay with them after I have spoken with Lord Elrond.”
Erestor paused briefly and his eyes reflected his sorrow as he looked at Aragorn. “My heart aches for the pain this is already causing you,” he said softly as he moved towards the door.

Aragorn nodded in acknowledgment and turned to Rebecca and Thomas who had been watching their exchange with wide eyes and he spoke to them gently. “I want you to go with Erestor back to the House and wait there with Arwen until I join you later.” He hesitated briefly before adding, “I do not know what to say that will put your hearts at rest, except that I have known Gandalf for most of my life and I trust him.”

“I don’t understand why he didn’t tell us before, Adar,” Rebecca said, her voice reflecting her confusion and fear, her eyes anguished.

“I do not understand it either, Sell-nín, but I believe that is something he will tell us this afternoon.”

“I always thought Gandalf knew more than he was telling us,” Thomas said, a hint of bitterness creeping into his voice.

Aragorn eyed him with concern as he responded, “While I too am concerned about what Gandalf will tell us, ion-nín, I do know that often he is not free to speak until certain events have taken place. I do not know all the restrictions that the Valar have placed on him, but you can trust that he kept quiet for a good reason or because he was not at liberty to speak.” Thomas looked at him for a long moment and then nodded reluctantly. “Now, you two need to go so that Faramir and I may get our work done.”

Thomas turned to go, but Rebecca let go of him and embraced Aragorn tightly for several moments as he gently patted her back. He kissed her brow tenderly when she finally released him and then he watched, his eyes filled with sorrow, as the two of them followed Erestor out the door. Sighing in frustration and running his hand through his hair, Aragorn returned to his chair and sat down heavily, burying his head in his hands. It was quiet in the office for a time before Faramir finally spoke.

“Aragorn?”

“What?” Aragorn did not look up.

“You need to heed the advice you just gave to your children, Aragorn.” Aragorn lifted his head and looked at Faramir with an eyebrow raised in question. “I mean about trusting Mithrandir,” he said. “He told them that it would be all right, even if it was difficult, it would be all right. I do not pretend to know the ways of wizards, Aragorn, and you know him much better than I do, but you will have to trust him.”

Aragorn looked away briefly and then back at Faramir. “He said it would be all right for them, he said nothing about me, Faramir. But you are right, I should listen to my own words,” he admitted wryly. “I have always trusted Gandalf,” he said with a small sigh, “and I will not change now.” He straightened up in his chair and turned to the business that he and Faramir had to accomplish that morning, firmly pushing thoughts of Rebecca and Thomas to the back of his mind. At least for the moment.

--------------

As they followed Erestor back across the courtyard to the House, Rebecca and Thomas held hands, paying absolutely no attention to their surroundings. They ignored or did not see those who called greetings to them and they missed the puzzled frowns of those people as they passed them by without a word. Neither of them spoke as the furious thoughts about what Gandalf was going to tell them tumbled through their minds.

Rebecca did trust Gandalf. The time she had spent with him in Lothlórien and then as they had traveled together had built a deep level of trust within her for the wizard and it was not easily cast aside. She truly did not understand this long delay in telling them what he knew, and she was frightened by the discovery that this was actually earth. She wasn’t sure why it upset her so much, part of her had always known that time travel had been a possibility. But the longer they had been here the less likely that had seemed. What she had told Erestor was true, there were no records of any of this in her time and maybe that was part of the reason she was upset. She had grown to love Middle-earth and the people and to think that none of this would ever be remembered was hard to believe. Something had to have happened to cause all records of this time to disappear, but she couldn’t understand how things like elves, hobbits, orcs, Sauron, and the Valar had just disappeared from the history of a world. She wondered how far back into the past they had traveled. Things did look different on that map, though she knew that the beginning of the Second Age was some six thousand years in the past. Maybe her time was six thousand years in the future. Rebecca sighed with frustration as they entered the door of the House.

All Thomas could think about was why this was happening now. He had come to accept that Middle-earth was his home and he was finally content living here. He had a family that he loved and that loved him in return, a woman that he was going to marry, friends that he enjoyed, work that was both interesting and challenging, and opportunities to explore new things – like his painting. None of which, except for the family, he had back on earth, or rather in his own time, Thomas corrected himself with a slight grimace. Whatever Gandalf had to share with them could not be good. Gandalf, Aragorn, Galadriel, and Celeborn had always said that the Valar or Eru had some plan for them, but he sure didn’t know what it was. At least, it wasn’t obvious to him. If it was Rebecca saving Halbarad, then Thomas didn’t know why he was here at all and why they would still be here when the war had ended months ago. There had to be some other reason, some other explanation to all of this, but whatever it was, Thomas knew that it was going to be difficult and would upset the life he and Rebecca had made for themselves here in Middle-earth. Sighing in frustration, he followed Erestor into the House.

Erestor paused just inside the doorway and looked up and down both hallways as if uncertain about where to go. The three of them looked up and to the right as Elladan and Elrohir came silently down the stairs. The twins looked at Rebecca and Thomas and then their gazes shifted quickly to Erestor as Elladan asked, “What has happened, Erestor?”

Ignoring the question, Erestor asked one of his own. “Where is Lady Arwen? We need to speak with her.”

“I believe she was planning on returning to her chambers after breakfast,” Elrohir said slowly, his gaze turning back to Rebecca and Thomas.

“Do you know where Lord Elrond was going to spend this morning?”

Elladan nodded. “He is talking with Daeradar and Daernaneth in their chambers,” he replied, motioning down the hallway.

“Good. Elladan, please ask him to join us in Estel and Lady Arwen’s chambers,” Erestor said, turning and striding down the other hallway. Rebecca and Thomas followed him and, after a moment, Elrohir trailed behind, a look of concern on his usually impassive face. They stood silently after Erestor knocked on the door to Arwen’s chambers and when she opened the door her discerning grey eyes swept over the group and she silently beckoned them inside. After the door closed, Arwen asked the same question Elladan had asked a moment before.

“What has happened, Erestor?”

Glancing at Rebecca and Thomas, Erestor spoke in Sindarin as he answered Arwen’s question and Thomas listened impatiently, understanding some of the words and things they were saying, but he grew increasingly frustrated. He knew they were doing it out of some need to try and ‘protect’ him and Rebecca, but he didn’t see the point. Finally, he spoke up. “Would you speak in the common tongue so that Rebecca and I can understand? You don’t need to try and protect us, neither of us are children,” he said with a trace of anger in his voice.

“Forgive us, Thomas,” Arwen said quietly as she laid her hand on his arm. “Indeed you are not children, though of course you are very young.” The last was said so gently and her eyes were filled with such compassion that neither Thomas nor Rebecca felt offended. “We spoke so because it is often easier for us to quickly and thoroughly discuss something. Erestor has told me what has happened and of Estel’s concerns for the both of you. Come and sit down.” Arwen gestured to the couches and chairs that sat around the fireplace. As Rebecca moved to follow Arwen’s directions, Thomas just stood and watched the elf as she continued speaking softly. “Because he is concerned for you, Estel has asked that you stay here with me, that you not be alone at this time.” Rebecca sat on a couch and looked up at Thomas.

“Thomas, aren’t you going to sit down?”

“In a minute, Rebecca,” he replied impatiently, moving instead to the window, leaning on its frame and staring moodily out into the garden.

Rebecca watched him for a moment and then turned her gaze to the floor as she began to absently play with the tassel on the corner of a pillow that was sitting beside her on the couch. She looked up when Arwen sat down beside her and she gave the elf a wan smile. Arwen took Rebecca’s hand and rubbed it soothingly for a time before she spoke softly. “Erestor told me all that Mithrandir said to you, Rebecca and I know of your trust and love for him. I see it whenever you are with him. Will you tell me what frightens you the most?” Rebecca paused for a moment to try and put her thoughts in order and was beginning to answer when the door opened and Elrond and Elladan silently entered the room. Their intense grey eyes looked around the room and Rebecca turned back to Arwen when she saw Erestor going to speak with them.

“I’m not really sure what I fear the most, Arwen. But I know I don’t understand why he hasn’t told us before now.” Rebecca brow furrowed as she thought for a moment before she continued slowly. “Maybe… maybe it’s that whatever he tells us, our lives won’t be the same anymore.” She gave Arwen a sad smile. “I like my life here, Arwen and if I have to change it again…,” her voice trailed off and she bit her lip as a tear trickled from her eye, which she quickly wiped away as she took a deep shuddering breath.

“It would be hard,” Arwen agreed. “For all of us,” she added after a moment. “Rebecca, your life may not be the same after speaking with Mithrandir, yet that does not necessarily mean it is a bad thing. I know not what he will say to you, but there is also the possibility that in the end it will be a positive thing for you and Thomas.”

“He said it will be difficult,” she pointed out quietly.

Arwen nodded. “Yes that is true, but you know that difficult times can also lead to a good ending. Look at the war we just endured. Was it not the most horrible, difficult time you could have imagined?”

Rebecca nodded and smiled slightly. “Yes and now everything is going well around here – you and Aragorn are married; the people have a king and queen at last. I see your point, Arwen,” she sighed deeply and leaned back against the couch. “It’s going to be a long day,” she murmured.

---------

Thomas glanced up at Elrohir as the elf stepped up beside him and briefly clasped his shoulder. They both stood looking out into the garden, neither saying a word. After the silence stretched on for many long minutes, Thomas began shifting nervously on his feet and he looked up at Elrohir again who was still staring impassively at the garden. “Do you have something to say, Lord Elrohir?” he finally asked.

“No, Thomas,” he replied softly, glancing down at him. “I just did not want you to feel that you were alone right now.”

“Oh. Well, I don’t,” Thomas said, turning and gazing around the room to see Erestor and Elladan talking quietly, while Elrond was talking with Rebecca and Arwen. He frowned slightly before looking back at Elrohir. “There are lots of people here,” he said with a shrug.

“There are people here and yet you stand alone by the window,” Elrohir observed.

“Didn’t you ever just want to be alone with your thoughts?”

“Yes, at times.”

“Then you understand how I feel right now,” Thomas said as he returned his gaze to the garden.

“I shall respect your need for privacy, Thomas.” Elrohir turned to leave and then paused and placed his hand on the young man’s shoulder and he waited until Thomas looked at him before continuing. “While it is always your decision to share your thoughts and feelings with another, I do believe it would help ease your heart and mind if you spoke with someone. I would also remind you that Rebecca truly does understand what you are feeling and would probably like to have your comfort and would probably give you comfort in return,” he said gently. Thomas watched Elrohir walk over and join Erestor and Elladan, pausing briefly to whisper something to Rebecca as he passed. With a sigh, he turned back to the window, his thoughts turned inward once again.

---------------

Aragorn read the parchment for the third time, his eyes narrowed in thought as he pondered the request by several of the small hamlets on the Pelennor to enlarge their traditional acreage of plowed fields for various crops and also to plant small fruit orchards. Men from each of the hamlets would appear before him during the court session tomorrow and he would have to give his ruling on their request. Sowing more crops would be a wise thing as they continued to recover from the years of war, but he was uncertain about the orchards which would take years to bear fruit and he wondered if the land would be better used to grow crops the people could use much sooner and then plant trees in a year or two. “Faramir,” he asked, turning to where his Steward was bending over another piece of parchment, “this request from the farmers on the Pelennor.” Faramir nodded. “I do believe that we should allow them to increase the acreage they currently sow, but I do not think the orchards are a good idea at this time, I would rather see that land used for faster growing food crops.” Aragorn looked questioningly at Faramir.

“How much of the Pelennor do you want to see under cultivation?” Faramir responded and Aragorn blinked in surprise. The steward gave his king a small smile as he continued, “If we give each of these men the additional acreage they request, then men from the other hamlets will also come seeking additional land.”

Aragorn nodded thoughtfully. “And we also need land for grazing and land kept clear for our guardsmen to drill. But we do need more food,” he paused briefly, and then made a decision. “They cannot plant crops now anyway, have someone find out how many farmers there are on the Pelennor and how many acres of land they already have under cultivation. Have a survey done of exactly how much land we have available and then we will figure out how to best use that land. What do you think about the orchards?”

“I enjoy apples,” Faramir grinned, “but I do agree that it would be best to wait another year on the orchards. I would not wait longer than that. Things should be better after harvest next year and I think that planting trees could be done at that time.”

“All right,” Aragorn nodded, pausing as a knock on the door interrupted him. “Enter,” he called.

His secretary poked his head in through the doorway. “Pardon the interruption, my lord, but the lunch you requested has arrived.”

“Thank you, have them bring it in,” Aragorn directed, turning back to Faramir as two servants from the King’s House brought in trays of food and set it out on a table across the room from his desk. He glanced up as the servants were leaving, “Thank you, Nusirile, Alpheth,” he said with a very slight smile. The women curtseyed as they left and as the door closed behind them, he turned back to Faramir. “Are there any criminal proceedings tomorrow?” Aragorn stood and moved around the desk, motioning for his steward to join him at the table where they observed the Standing Silence before continuing their discussion.

Faramir grimaced as he sat down. “One, Aragorn and you are not going to be very happy about it.”

Aragorn raised an eyebrow in question. “I am never happy about any of the criminals that come before me.”

“I know,” Faramir sighed. “But I believe this was, in many ways, caused by our lack of care.”

Setting down his fork, Aragorn gave him a hard look. “Why? What happened?”

“A young boy named Bronad was caught breaking into a house. He did so because he has a ten-year old brother and an eight-year old sister and they had no food. His father died in the war and his mother died in the camps when the city was evacuated.”

Aragorn looked appalled. “How old is he and how have they survived this long? Where do they live?”

“He says he is almost fifteen, but I suspect he may actually be closer to his fourteenth birthday than his fifteenth. He is quite tall and the blood of Númenor flows strongly in his veins with his black hair and grey eyes, there is something vaguely familiar about him,” Faramir mused as he narrowed his eyes in thought for a moment before he continued. “They have a house down on the third circle and evidently they had some money and that lasted them for awhile, but it ran out. There are no jobs right now, especially for a boy of his age, which is why he broke into the house.”

“Why were they not in one of the homes we have set aside for the care of orphans?”

“He did not want to be separated from his brother and sister and none of their neighbors reported them to the city guard.” Faramir paused and shook his head with a slight grimace. “They appeared not to have noticed there was no mother or father living in the house anymore. I believe they were just busy trying to rebuild their own lives and as long as Bronad and his brother and sister were quiet, no one paid any attention.”

Aragorn sighed and ran a hand through his hair before throwing a sharp glance at Faramir. “How do we treat a ‘criminal’ such as this, my Lord Prince Steward?” he asked softly.

“This is another one of the times when I am glad that I am not the king, my Lord King Elessar,” he quickly returned.

“Hmm, I suppose so,” the king murmured. “The people who owned the house he broke into, how did they react when they found out the boy’s circumstances?”

“With compassion. They had called for the city guard immediately when they caught him, but when I spoke with them yesterday and explained what had happened, they seemed quite concerned for the boy and his brother and sister.”

“And how has Bronad reacted? Where is he and where are his brother and sister?”

Faramir stared down at his plate and pushed the food around with his fork. “He appears to be very remorseful and frightened, my lord.” Aragorn gave him a questioning look at the use of his title, but Faramir did not see it. “I had the brother and sister taken to one of the orphanages.” He shifted in his chair before looking up at Aragorn and finishing quickly. “I had Bronad taken there too, Aragorn. I could not leave him in a prison cell. He spent one night there when the guardsmen locked him up and I did not hear about him until the next morning. But when I heard the whole story and saw his concern for his…”

“Peace, Faramir,” Aragorn said quietly. “I understand your compassion, though I will still have to come up with a suitable punishment for him. Perhaps I will have him work for a period of time for the people who owned the house.” He frowned. “We cannot allow him to think that if things become difficult for him in the future that he may break into another house, or steal something else and I will just overlook it.” He took a bite of his now cold chicken and chewed it for a moment as he thought. “I assume they have no family.”

“Bronad told me that his mother’s family was dead and he has never known anything about his father’s family. It was something that neither his mother nor father ever spoke about.”

“What will we do with them now, Faramir?” he asked.

Faramir looked startled. “Will you not keep them in the orphanage?”

“While I do not approve of what Bronad did, I understand his heart in wanting to take care of his brother and sister and keeping them together as a family. If there was a way to keep them together, I would like to do that.”

“He is very young to have that responsibility, Aragorn,” Faramir said eyeing his king dubiously.

“I am not suggesting that he have the sole responsibility, yet being a king does give me some resources, Faramir.” Aragorn gave his steward a half-smile. “If he had some sort of a job and if there was a woman there to help with the younger brother and sister during the day at least,” his voice trailed off as he thought. He glanced at Faramir to see he was watching him with a small smile and Aragorn raised an eyebrow in question.

“Are you punishing Bronad or rewarding him?”

Aragorn laughed briefly. “I will meet Bronad before I decide what would be best and he will do his punishment before he learns of any possible change in his future. He will also stay in the orphanage until his sentence is over. I want to see how he responds to the punishment before I make any further decisions. Does that satisfy you?” he asked with a slight smile.

“Yes, my Lord King.” Faramir returned Aragorn’s smile.

-------------

It was actually only a short time after Elrohir left him that Thomas shook himself from his own thoughts, realizing that the elf had been right. He was being selfish and unfair to Rebecca. She probably would like to be with him and, if he was honest with himself, he would rather be with her instead of brooding all alone. Turning from the window Thomas saw that she was still sitting on the couch with Arwen while Elrond sat in a nearby chair. He hesitantly approached them until Elrond looked up at him, his eyes filled with such kindness and compassion that Thomas could not hold his gaze for long. “Come and join us, Thomas,” the elf-lord invited. Nodding, Thomas moved over to the couch and gave Arwen an imploring look. She smiled graciously and slid over so that he could sit next to Rebecca.

Thomas immediately turned to Rebecca and spoke quietly, “Forgive me, Rebecca for leaving you alone. I needed to think for awhile.”

Rebecca looked at him for a moment before responding. “I wasn’t exactly alone.” The slight smile on her lips didn’t reach her eyes. “I know you sometimes need time to yourself, Thomas, you always have and I don’t mind as long as you don’t shut me out completely. Especially,” she added softly, “when it’s something that concerns both of us and I need you.”

“I finally came to realize that. But mostly I came to realize that I needed to be with you,” Thomas admitted, his suddenly intense blue eyes studying her. “I am sorry,” he repeated and Rebecca took his hand.

“It’s all right, Thomas,” she whispered and he sighed quietly in relief before leaning over and quickly and gently kissing her cheek.

“What thoughts drew you away from Rebecca’s side, Thomas?” Elrond inquired.

Startled by the sound of Elrond’s voice as he had almost forgotten the elf-lord was there, Thomas looked at him in surprise and it took him a moment to respond. “Well, I was just thinking about Gandalf and what he will tell us,” he shrugged.

“So I had assumed.” Elrond smiled very faintly. “Rebecca has told us of her fears; will you share yours with us?”

Thomas glanced quickly at Rebecca wondering what her fears were and if they were the same as his, he would have to ask her if they ever had any time alone. Shifting his gaze back to Elrond, Thomas knew that he would have to answer him. The elf-lord would not be deceived by an answer that was not the truth. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to tell the truth, he just wasn’t totally sure how to express what he feared. Rubbing his hand across his forehead, Thomas struggled to put his feelings into words that made sense. “I think that… my fear… is that I will be… separated from those I… love,” he swallowed hard. “Again,” he added after a moment. He paused, his brow furrowed in thought. “And… or… my heart will be… torn in two,” he finished in a low voice, his gaze fixed firmly on the floor near Elrond’s feet.

“Those are fears that I well understand, Thomas,” Elrond responded quietly and Thomas looked up and met the elf-lord’s eyes with disbelief that quickly faded at the look in his eyes. All of the things he knew about Elrond quickly went through his mind and he knew that the elf did indeed understand his fears and he nodded slightly. “And while there is nothing I can say that will set your heart at ease, perhaps it helps to know that others have known the same fear and yet have overcome it.”

“It does, Lord Elrond,” Thomas replied, “I know…“ his voice trailed off and he turned toward the door as it opened and Aragorn walked in. He sighed in relief, both at the sight of Aragorn and the abrupt end of the conversation with Elrond.

“You came earlier than you thought,” Rebecca commented, the relief in her voice evident.

“I have a very efficient steward,” Aragorn replied as he glanced around the room, his gaze lingering on Arwen whose eyes were reflecting her love and concern for him and he nodded his acknowledgment almost imperceptibly. “But,” he looked around again, searching for signs they had eaten, “it is probably later than you think, Rebecca. Have none of you eaten lunch?” When they all shook their heads, he stared hard at the elves in the room. “I know that you do not need to eat, but I do believe you know that mortals are accustomed to eating regularly.” Aragorn crossed to the bell pull near the door and waited impatiently for one of the servants to answer the summons. As he waited he became aware that it was quiet in the room and he thought back to what he had said and, more importantly, how he had said it and he raised his gaze from the floor and looked at the compassionate expressions on the faces of his elvish family. “Forgive me,” he said quietly, “I should not have spoken to you in such a manner.” The elves inclined their heads, but said nothing.

Glancing between Aragorn and the elves, Rebecca spoke up hesitantly, “I’m not really that hungry. I don’t think I could eat anything right now.”

“I am,” Thomas said, though he too was watching the elves and Aragorn curiously.

“I will order food for you anyway, Rebecca, should you change your mind,” Aragorn said as he opened the door in response to the knock. He spoke quietly to the servant and after shutting the door, headed towards his bedchamber to change out of his formal tunic that he wore when he worked in his office. He was pulling out a more casual tunic from the wardrobe when he sensed Arwen’s presence in the room and he glanced at her before returning to changing his clothes. Arwen’s hands suddenly clasped Aragorn’s as he was unlacing the ties on his tunic and he sighed wearily and leaned his head against the closed door of the cabinet. After a moment, he straightened up and drew Arwen into his arms. “I am glad you are here with me, meleth-nín. Forgive me again for my harsh words.”

“I forgive you, even as I understand why you spoke them, Estel,”
Arwen replied as she began unlacing the rest of the ties on his tunic before helping him take it off. “Though you should know that it was not done out of lack of care on our part, but because Thomas has just recently begun speaking with us and none wanted to interrupt him.” Aragorn looked at her with concern and his gaze darted to the door as he wondered if he should go and speak with Thomas, but she laid her hand on his arm. “It is well, beloved, he has spoken with both Rebecca and Adar and I believe he is doing well now.” He nodded and she finished lacing up the dark red tunic Aragorn had put on.

“Thank you,” he said, taking Arwen into his arms once again and kissing her tenderly, yet deeply for a long moment. Reluctantly, he drew back and, taking her hand, led her back into the sitting room.

------------

No one was speaking as Aragorn and his family walked into the sitting room. The rest of the members of the Fellowship were sitting quietly around the room, except for Gandalf who was out on the balcony smoking his pipe. Legolas looked up at him with an expression of deep sorrow in his eyes and Aragorn was forced to look away. Deciding that a less formal arrangement was needed, Aragorn and his brothers quickly moved a few chairs and couches so that everyone would be seated in a circle in one end of the large room. “Sit here,” he quietly directed Rebecca and Thomas to one end of a long couch and they moved there without a word. Aragorn wondered if Halbarad would return in time. He had sent him to Osgiliath early in the day and had left a message for him at the stables to come here immediately on his return, but he was not sure when he would arrive.

Glancing out the window, Aragorn saw Gandalf knocking the ashes from his pipe and so he joined the others, sitting between Arwen and Rebecca on the couch. He noted that Pippin and Merry had moved closer to Rebecca and Thomas and were sitting on the floor just in front of them, their arms wrapped around their pulled up knees and he was touched by their protectiveness. Legolas was in a chair next to Thomas with Gimli just beyond him, while Frodo, who was absently fingering the glittering star necklace that Arwen had gifted to him, and Sam were sitting in chairs beside Arwen. Elrond, Elladan, and Elrohir were sitting on another couch and several other chairs remained empty as they waited for Gandalf and Halbarad. The door behind him opened and Aragorn looked back to see Halbarad walk in, a small frown on his face as he looked around the room before crossing to Aragorn, who stood to greet him.

“You sent for me, my lord?” Halbarad asked with a small bow.

“I did and I do not have time to explain anything now, Cousin,” he replied quietly as Gandalf entered the room and took a seat. “You will just have to listen and ask questions if you need to.” Aragorn patted Halbarad’s arm and the Ranger nodded and sat down beside Sam. Resuming his own place on the couch, Aragorn took Arwen’s hand in his own as he waited for Gandalf to begin. Feeling Rebecca trembling slightly next to him, he looked at her and saw that while Thomas held one of her hands, her other hand was furiously twisting the tie on the Lothlórien tunic she had chosen to wear. Aragorn gently placed his hand on her knee and she stilled, giving him a grateful look before turning back to Gandalf as he began to speak.

“Since everyone is here, I will not delay any longer,” Gandalf said as he gazed around the room. “Rebecca, Thomas, I know you have many questions, but I hope that what I tell you will answer most of them. I know you are angry that I have not spoken of this before, but I was not at liberty to do so until now.” He paused for a moment and Aragorn could see the compassion in Gandalf’s eyes as he looked at Rebecca and Thomas and then his gaze landed briefly on Aragorn before moving around to the rest of the Fellowship.

“When the two of you arrived in Middle-earth and spoke of your home, it did not take me long before I realized that you must be from the future, though I did not share those thoughts with anyone. There was no reason to as it could not be proven. But the name of your home was too similar and your race was obviously the same as Aragorn and Boromir and the Men of this world. While I do not doubt that Eru can make other worlds, I did not believe that to be true in this situation.” To Aragorn’s astonishment, Gandalf began tapping his pipe absently against the palm of his hand, something that seemed to indicate nervousness or unease and again he saw compassion in the wizard’s eyes and Aragorn grew increasingly concerned and he glanced at Legolas to see the same concern in his eyes.

“As you know, after I defeated the balrog, I died. However, many of you may not know that my spirit was sent not to Valinor, but instead to where Eru himself dwells, as only He may create, or I suppose in my case, recreate life. Of that time, I will not speak except as it touches on Rebecca and Thomas.” Gandalf paused briefly, “During that time one of the things I was shown was the bus accident that caused you to be thrust back in time.” Out of the corner of his eye, Aragorn saw Rebecca and Thomas lean forward on the couch.

“What happened?” Thomas asked, and Aragorn clearly heard the tremble in his voice.

“Then you must know what happened to everyone,” Rebecca said at the same time, only much quieter and she covered Aragorn’s hand that was still resting on her knee and squeezed it hard. Arwen leaned into Aragorn and he let go of her hand, slipping his arm around her and drawing her close.

Gandalf responded softly, “Yes, I do. As you told us, it was snowing very hard and it was very dark, and for a moment all I could watch was this bus as I had never seen one before. I saw the few other… cars on this road and then I watched with horror,” the wizard’s eyes reflected the horror of what he had seen for a moment before he continued. “As the bus began sliding off the road and it hit something similar to a rock…only narrow like a railing… that I was told was made to protect cars from falling off the road. However, the bus appeared to be so tall that when it hit, it instead flipped over this railing and tumbled down a very steep bank and… landed upside down.” Gasps of horror burst out from all of the mortals in the room and Aragorn saw that the eyes of the elves showed deep grief and sorrow.

Aragorn turned to find that Thomas had his arms around Rebecca and was rocking her slightly. Thomas looked at him with grief-stricken eyes when he briefly clasped his shoulder before returning his hand to Rebecca’s knee where she grabbed it again.

“What happened after that?” Merry asked in a shocked and horrified tone.

“Peace, Merry, and I will go on,” Gandalf said in a low voice as he watched Thomas and Rebecca for a moment before continuing in a soft and gentle voice. “Most of the people on the bus died. Rebecca, Thomas, your mothers both died in the crash and Thomas your younger brother died as well.” Rebecca let out a low moan and pulled out of Thomas’s arms, jumping to her feet, running toward the balcony door, but she stopped just inside and leaned against the wall, bending over and clutching her stomach as if in deep pain.

Thomas stared at Gandalf in disbelief as he asked in a low and shaking voice. “How do you know? We’re still alive, maybe they’re alive somewhere too.”

“They are not, Thomas.” Gandalf glanced away for a brief moment and Aragorn saw him swallow hard. “I will not describe all that I saw there, Thomas, but you will have to trust me when I say that they are indeed dead.” Thomas buried his head in his hands as he started to weep.

Aragorn looked in dismay between his two children trying to decide which one to comfort when Merry and Pippin made it easier for him by jumping up and heading for Rebecca. Arwen, Elladan, and Halbarad quickly followed them so he scooted over on the couch and took Thomas in his arms as he wept. Legolas and Elrohir quickly came and stood behind the couch and began singing soothingly in elvish, while Gimli, Frodo, and Sam gathered near to provide what comfort they could by their mere presence. Thomas wept long and bitterly and when he finally pulled back out of Aragorn’s arms, his eyes were swollen and red and he took the handkerchief Sam pressed into his hand and wiped his eyes and nose as he took deep, shuddering breaths. “Why does it hurt so much, Adar?” he whispered. “I never thought I would see them again anyway and yet to hear they are dead…,” he took another deep breath and wiped away more tears with the back of his hand. He glanced up at Legolas as the elf stroked his head comfortingly and saw his eyes were glimmering with unshed tears.

“Perhaps because before you could picture them living a happy life at your home and it brought you comfort, even if you knew you would never see them again, ion-nín,” Aragorn replied softly.

“You also now have heard how they died,” Elrohir said, “and while I do not totally understand what a bus is, I can imagine it somewhat from Mithrandir’s description. Yet for you it is very real and the image in your mind must be difficult.”

Thomas nodded and he whispered his agreement before adding, “But Gandalf didn’t say why we are here.”

Frodo looked over his shoulder and then back at Thomas, his blue eyes full of sorrow. “I don’t think he’s finished yet, Thomas.” The rest of them looked at Gandalf who was talking quietly with Elrond and Thomas sighed deeply.

“You’ll get through this, lad,” Gimli said gruffly. “You’ve gotten through tough things before and you’ll get through this.”

“Rebecca! Where is Rebecca?” Thomas suddenly asked as he looked around wildly.

“Peace, ion-nín.” Aragorn laid his hand on Thomas’s arm and pointed over his shoulder to where Rebecca was still quietly crying. “Come,” he stood and pulled Thomas to his feet, embracing him firmly for a long moment and with his arm around Thomas’s shoulder they walked over to join the group around Rebecca. She had dropped to her knees and was being embraced by both Merry and Pippin as she wept brokenly and Aragorn could hear Pippin’s voice speaking soothingly, but could not understand what he was saying. Arwen and Elladan sang quietly to her, while Halbarad gave Aragorn an uncertain glance as he stood close to her, occasionally patting her shoulder.

Thomas stepped hesitantly towards her. “Rebecca?” he called softly and her eyes snapped open and she scrambled to her feet as the hobbits moved out of the way. He held her tightly and whispered meaningless, encouraging murmurs into her ear as she slowly stopped crying with uneven breaths and small hiccups. Thomas pushed the hair off of her face and, realizing she also needed a handkerchief, looked around for one and took the one Merry handed to him and carefully wiped the tears from her eyes before handing it to her.

Aragorn watched them for a moment before turning to Arwen. “Did she say anything?”

“No, this is the first time she has stopped crying.”
Her eyes were full of compassion as she returned her gaze to Rebecca and Thomas.

He nodded and turned back to Rebecca. “Sell-nín, I am grieved for your loss and your pain,” he paused and glanced at Thomas, “and yours, ion-nín. You both have been through much already, however I believe that Gandalf has more to share with you… with us. Do you want him to speak with you today or should I ask him to wait?”

After glancing at each other, Thomas answered, “I think we would both like to just get it over with, Adar.” Aragorn nodded and started back towards where they had been seated, he had only gone a few steps, however, when Rebecca grabbed him from the side and embraced him fiercely for a moment before she hurried on ahead of him. Startled, he watched her go, a slightly puzzled expression on his face.

“Now you truly are the only parent she has left,” Arwen remarked.

“And you.”

“Not yet, beloved and perhaps not ever, especially now,”
his wife gave him a serene look and he nodded in understanding.

As they settled once again, Gandalf gave Rebecca and Thomas a look full of sorrow. “I am grieved that I had to be the bearer of such news.”

“At least we know now,” Rebecca whispered, wiping tears from her eyes before asking, “But why are we here and not… not…” her voice trailed off.

“That question is not easily answered, Rebecca, not even by me.” Gandalf sat back in his chair with a sigh. “After I saw the accident, I had hoped that Eru would tell me that there was one specific reason that you had been sent here, but he was not as forthcoming as I desired, though he gave me small hints that did not become clear until quite recently.” Gandalf grimaced slightly before continuing. “I have pondered this for several months now and spoken with those I trusted,” he glanced at Elrond, “so, except for one thing, I believe that you came here for many different reasons. To most people some would, perhaps, seem unimportant. Unless, of course, you were one of the people affected by your presence here.”

“Then it must have mostly been to save Halbarad,” Rebecca said slowly, glancing at the Ranger who was staring at the floor.

“But I had nothing to do with that,” Thomas protested, “so why would I be here?”

“Thomas,” Legolas chided softly, “I have watched the two of you together for over half a year now and I believe I can say with absolute certainty that Rebecca needed you on our journey. Just as you needed her. You were both in such new and difficult situations that you desperately needed each other.” Thomas nodded reluctantly, though he did not really believe him as he knew how strong Rebecca was.

“I did, Thomas,” Rebecca said quietly, turning to look directly into his eyes. “You and I have talked many times about how much we’ve needed each other and how glad we weren’t alone here. I know I wouldn’t have made it all the way to the Pelennor without you. I would probably have stayed in Lothlórien.” She glanced at Aragorn who gave her a small smile.

“Besides, I needed you, Thomas,” Gimli spoke up and the others looked at him in confusion and he laughed shortly. “You did save my life at Helm’s Deep,” he pointed out. “It may be a small thing to others, but it’s not to me.” He glared briefly at Gandalf.

“I did say it was important to those affected by their presence, Master Gimli,” Gandalf reminded him. “There is also the time when Aragorn and Éomer were on the causeway at Helm’s Deep and Rebecca drove the orcs back. I am not sure if she saved their lives then or merely made it easier for them to escape, but she clearly made a difference,” he paused for a moment and Sam spoke up.

“There was also the battle we fought against the wargs before we went into Moria,” the hobbit said thoughtfully. “Thomas helped me and Merry kill a warg and I don’t think we could have done it without him and that saved Mr. Frodo.”

Thomas glanced at Aragorn wondering why he was not saying anything, but he had an intent, watchful look on his face as he listened to Gandalf and so Thomas turned his attention back to the wizard. “That is true, Sam. Rebecca and Thomas were in many other battles and we will never know how many lives their very presence saved.” Thomas frowned thoughtfully as he considered Gandalf’s words; he had never thought that perhaps he might have unintentionally saved people that he was not even aware of. It was something he would have to think about at another time. Gandalf continued, “Rebecca also saved many lives with her healing skills…”

“She saved mine!” Pippin said with a small laugh as he rubbed his forehead, breaking the tension in the room and everyone either smiled or chuckled with the hobbit before turning back to Gandalf.

“Yes, Pippin, though I am not sure your life was actually in danger when you fell from that tree.” Gandalf smiled fondly at the hobbit before giving Thomas a strangely intense look. “I know, Thomas that you feel that your presence here does not, perhaps, measure up to some of the things that Rebecca has done, yet I do not agree.” Thomas looked away briefly before meeting Gandalf’s eyes again. “Yes, you did need each other and so that alone required your presence. One of the seemingly unimportant things I was thinking of was you being with Hinhael when he died. It was certainly not necessary and it changed nothing, except to bring comfort to Hinluin and his family and that is always a good thing.”

There really was nothing Thomas could say to that and he did know that Hinluin had been comforted by the return of the brooch and the ring, but it seemed like such a little thing to him, though of course he was glad for his friend and he would do it again if he had too. He paused for a moment as that thought hit him. Would he really be willing to go through that horrible battle again just to be there when Hinhael died so that he could recover the mementos for Hinluin? With a shock, he realized that he would and he wondered at the depths of the friendships he had made here in Middle-earth. He listened again as Gandalf continued his explanation.

“We will never know the full impact that Rebecca and Thomas have had, except to us personally,” he said with a genuine smile of affection as he looked at the two of them. “It is impossible to measure the affect of any one person’s life over the course of a week, let alone the months that they have been here. They have interacted with too many people, in both large and small ways, and could have changed too many different things for us to truly know. However, with the possible exception of Halbarad,” Gandalf turned a thoughtful gaze on the Ranger who looked up in surprise. “I do not believe that any of the things we just discussed are the reasons they are in Middle-earth. Without Rebecca’s intervention it is unlikely that you would have lived, Halbarad. As horrible as her injuries were, I do not believe she received the full force of the blows that you would have received.”

“No, I don’t think she did,” Halbarad whispered.

“I’d do it again, Halbarad,” Rebecca said quietly.

“I know you would, lady, and I thank you for doing it the first time,” he said, looking up and meeting her eyes for a brief moment and she smiled.

“In every other situation that occurred,” Gandalf said, “I believe that while Rebecca and Thomas’s presence made it easier or did, in fact, save lives, I do not believe that their presence here was ultimately crucial to the quest to destroy the Ring or the fate of Middle-earth.” Puzzled looks were exchanged all around the room and whispering broke out between Frodo and Sam and between Merry and Pippin.

“Then why?” Rebecca asked her voice full of confusion, “What about what Saruman said?”

“Why were we saved from that accident?” Thomas asked at the same time.

Everyone quieted and looked back to Gandalf who gave them both a gentle smile. “As I told you at the time, much of Saruman’s power was in his voice and he did use that against you. He could sense that you were different and he assumed that you were brought here for some great purpose, and even at that time, I was unsure if you had some larger role to play.” He sighed deeply. “I cannot answer the question of why you were the only ones saved from the bus, Thomas, for I do not know. But I can tell you why you were brought here; all of us, including me, were looking at it the wrong way. You were not brought here to help Middle-earth, although you did so; you are here so that the people of Middle-earth can help you. Or, more specifically, so that someone could help you.”

Thomas tightened his grip on Rebecca’s hand and blinked his eyes several times as he processed what Gandalf had just said and then he turned and looked over Rebecca’s head at Aragorn who was staring at Gandalf with an unreadable expression. He watched as Aragorn took a deep breath and lowered his gaze with a slightly furrowed brow as Arwen spoke softly into his ear. Wondering what he was thinking, Thomas looked back at Rebecca who had not moved since Gandalf had last spoken and he shook her gently, “Rebecca,” he whispered and she looked up at him with glittering eyes and she whispered back.

“I don’t understand any of this, Thomas. It makes no sense.” He nodded in agreement as he listened to the others around the room talking and he rubbed his forehead wearily.

“Do you have no questions?” Gandalf’s commanding voice cut through the other voices in the room and they stilled instantly as Rebecca and Thomas looked at him.

“Yes,” Thomas said slowly and then continued at Gandalf’s nod of encouragement. “It makes no sense to us. Why would Eru…” that must be God, he suddenly realized since they were, in fact, on earth, it was something else he and Rebecca would have to discuss at some future time. “… bring us back in time so that we could have a… father. There are thousands of people in our time without fathers, including,” he swallowed hard and blinked back tears, “my younger brother.”

“I do not know why Eru chose the two of you either, Thomas,” Gandalf spoke softly and his gaze shifted between him and Rebecca. “Just as I do not know why he chose Frodo to bear the Ring or why a woman and a hobbit, not some great warriors, were destined to destroy the Witch-king or why Hinhael, who had a wife, died and Hinluin lived. Those questions are not easily answered, not even by those considered the wise.” The wizard glanced at Elrond who shook his head slightly. “But for some purpose or reason of his own, Eru saw your hearts or your desires and decided to do this for you, perhaps someday you may ask him yourself,” his smile was gentle and his eyes were kind.

“Well, I’m very thankful for it,” Rebecca said quietly, “even if I don’t think it makes sense to send us way back in time like this.” She leaned over against Aragorn’s shoulder. “As hard as it’s been, I’m glad to have an Adar like Aragorn.” Aragorn bent down and kissed her forehead tenderly, but Thomas noticed that his eyes were still watching Gandalf intently as if he suspected there was something else. He learned he was right when Rebecca asked, “I still don’t understand why you didn’t tell us all of this earlier, Gandalf. Nothing you have said seems to be something we couldn’t have heard about before now.”

Sighing deeply, Gandalf nodded in agreement. “You are right, Rebecca, and now we come to the reason why I have waited all this time. You and Thomas needed a chance to see what life would be like in Middle-earth in a time of peace. To become comfortable here in Minas Tirith and exploring the world around you, accepting your place in it.” Thomas wrapped his arms around Rebecca as she leaned back into him and he could feel her beginning to tremble as they could both sense where Gandalf was leading. “If you had only endured the horrors of war and not enjoyed the peace of the last months and had not strengthened your relationship with your Adar,” he looked pointedly at Thomas, “and friends,” he glanced around the room at all of the others, “then the choice you must now make, would not be a true choice for you would not have seen the good things about Middle-earth.”

“We have to choose between staying here and going back?” Rebecca asked, distraught.

“Yes,” Gandalf said softly, “you have the right now to choose between the two places and once you have chosen you cannot change your mind.”

“But wouldn’t we be dead there?” Thomas asked.

“He said most of the people died, Thomas,” Aragorn reminded him quietly in a voice laced with sorrow. Thomas looked at him and was taken aback at his pain-filled eyes and he nodded once as he remembered Gandalf’s earlier words.

“Aragorn is right and if you return to your own time, you will have some severe injuries, but you will survive them and go on to live normal lives.”

“The injuries will be worse than what we had when we woke up here?” Rebecca asked in surprise.

“Yes, I believe Eru knew what you needed to accomplish,” Gandalf replied wryly, “and yet he also knew that the hearts of the rest of us would be stirred with compassion at the sight of your injuries, so when you awoke here you only had minor ones.” Rebecca gave him a disbelieving look and then nodded.

“Would… would we remember all that has happened to us here?” Thomas asked.

Gandalf looked uncertain and turned to Elrond who spoke after a moment’s pause. “I believe that you would retain your memories, Thomas, though I cannot be certain of that. However, I believe that if Eru was giving you the gift of a father,” he glanced at Aragorn briefly, “even for a short time, then I think he would allow you to retain that memory and the skills that you have gained while you are here.”

That settled it as far as Thomas was concerned, Elrond did not sound entirely positive and he was not willing to risk the loss of even the memories of this time. He had nothing to go back for, his mom and brother were dead and he had no other family to draw him back to that time. If he would not even have the memories of this time, then he would not even consider returning, though even with the memories, he doubted he would leave the life he had made here. The modern conveniences were nice and he occasionally missed watching a movie or driving a car, but the longer he was gone, the less he missed those things and so the decision was quickly made. He opened his mouth to tell Gandalf when the wizard held up his hand to forestall him. “This decision is not quickly or lightly made and I advise you both to seek counsel before you decide. You do need to decide before Éomer returns in two days so that if you decide to leave, word can be spread in the city.”

“Why?” Rebecca asked and Thomas suddenly realized that her decision was not going to be as easy as she had many relatives to draw her back – numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. And she had always wanted to go to college and to write and do many other things. Thomas started to worry and wondered what he would do if she wanted to go, while he wanted to stay. He almost missed the answer.

“Because as my children,” Aragorn said softly, “you cannot just disappear. Some explanation must be given if you choose to leave,” he swallowed hard. “I believe Gandalf has something in mind if that happens.”

“Yes, Aragorn, I do. Relatives in the north will have been found and your people will be told they are returning to them. As we will all be returning with Éomer as he takes Théoden’s body back to Edoras, it will seem a reasonable explanation.”

“How will you send us home?” Rebecca asked.

Gandalf snorted and shook his head, “Always so curious, young lady. That I will not tell you, unless you decide to return to the time from which you came. Now, unless you or Thomas or anyone else here has questions about the things we have discussed, I will take my leave.” No one spoke and Gandalf stood and walked over to Rebecca and Thomas and shooed Merry and Pippin aside so he could crouch down in front of them, taking Rebecca’s small hand in his large, gnarled one. He looked at them for a time with his blue eyes that seemed to pierce to the very depths of their souls and then he gave them both a very soft and gentle smile.

“I am grieved that I had to be the bearer of all of this, and yet perhaps it comes easier from someone you know and love.” They nodded and Rebecca wiped a stray tear from her eye. “As I told you earlier today, this would be difficult, but you will be all right. No matter which way you choose, you will be all right.” He patted their knees gently before rising to his feet. “Come, Legolas, Gimli, Master Hobbits, I believe it is time that we returned to our own home.” Muttering small noises of protest under their breath that only Thomas and Rebecca heard – as well as most of the elves, Thomas thought with an inward grin – Merry and Pippin got reluctantly to their feet. Quiet good-byes were exchanged and then the room was quiet for a time before Elrond spoke.

“I believe that Mithrandir is right and perhaps it is best if I take my leave as well. With your permission, ion-nín, I would share this with Galadriel and Celeborn.”

Aragorn glanced sidelong at Rebecca and Thomas before he responded, “Perhaps you should ask Thomas and Rebecca, Adar, it is their story.”

“You can tell whoever you want, Lord Elrond,” Thomas said, rubbing his forehead, “You should probably tell Erestor too since he was there this morning when this all started.”

“Thank you.” Elrond inclined his head before standing, Elladan and Elrohir rose as well and, after a moment, Halbarad stood, though he appeared to be watching Aragorn closely. The three elves left silently, though Elrohir paused briefly to lightly touch both Rebecca and Thomas on their shoulders and he whispered something, almost inaudibly, that neither of them understood before he moved on. Thomas thought it might have been the same language that Aragorn had used earlier in the day and he supposed it was some kind of prayer or something. Halbarad moved to follow the elves, but Aragorn motioned for him to stay and the Ranger sat down in the chair next to Arwen. Running his hand through his hair and with a deep sigh, Aragorn turned on the couch and looked at Rebecca and Thomas who returned his gaze with expressions that showed a mixture of fear, confusion, grief, anger, and utter exhaustion. Some of the things he was going to say were driven from his mind and he turned first to their physical needs.

“Halbarad, would you please get us some wine and fruit juice and something simple to eat?” Halbarad nodded and headed for the door. Aragorn got up and dragged two chairs over in front of the couch so he could more easily see Rebecca and Thomas and he glanced at Arwen as she joined him, wrapping her arm under and around his before clasping his hand. “I know I sent Halbarad for food, but would you prefer to go to bed, you both appear to be exhausted,” Aragorn asked quietly as Arwen hummed softly under her breath.

“I’m not sure I could sleep right now,” Rebecca replied and Thomas just shook his head, his eyes narrowed in thought.

“I am not sure what to say to you,” Aragorn admitted. “I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are in right now nor the choice that is before you.” He paused as Halbarad returned and drinks were poured and he noted with concern that Rebecca again did not eat anything. But as she was at least drinking fruit juice, he decided that it was not something to worry about for today, though it was something he was going to be aware of in the next few days. Even in this stressful situation, she needed to take care of herself. Taking a sip of his wine, Aragorn cleared his throat before expressing the thoughts on his heart.

“I find myself as amazed as you that Eru would send you back in time. Though,” he gave them a gentle smile, “since he did, I am glad that he chose me to be your foster father. My foster father once told me that he loved me every bit as much as he loved the children of his body,” he glanced at Arwen who nodded. “While I do not have anything to compare it to, I cannot imagine loving children of my body any more than I love the two of you.” Rebecca ducked her head in embarrassment, but Aragorn saw tears trickling down her cheeks, Thomas’s eyes glistened, but otherwise he just looked at Aragorn. “Because of that, however, I will not be able to give you counsel when you need it most.” This time it was Aragorn’s eyes that filled with unshed tears and Arwen leaned against him and he wrapped his arm around her. “I know that my advice would not be unbiased because my Adar’s heart would urge you to stay and I do not know if that is best for you.” He glanced away for a long moment and when he looked back, both Thomas and Rebecca had tears running down their cheeks and he sighed. “Forgive me,” he said quietly, “I did not mean to add to your burden.”

“You’re not,” Rebecca hiccupped through her tears. “It’s just that I don’t know what’s best either and if I can’t ask you then who do I talk to?”

Aragorn saw Thomas pale at Rebecca’s words and he knew that Thomas had already chosen to stay. It did not surprise him as he knew that Thomas had little to draw him to that time except for his mother and brother and with them dead, his life here would be much more appealing to him. Evidently that was not the case for Rebecca and Aragorn suppressed a groan before answering her question. “I suggest you speak with one or more of the elves, Sell-nín, particularly the older ones. It is not that I do not believe that Legolas or Haldir or even my brothers do not have enough wisdom, but I think that they are too close to you and it might be difficult for them to give you the counsel you require.”

“All right, Adar,” Rebecca said with a half-hearted, shaky smile.

Taking a long look at the two of them, Aragorn knew there was one more thing he had to say, especially as it appeared that Thomas had already made his decision. He tightly clasped Arwen’s hand and his voice was very gentle as he spoke. “There is one other thing you both need to consider very seriously as you make this decision. As you are not married, only betrothed, I do suggest that you make this decision separately from one another.” He held up his hand to forestall their protests. “I know that right now you cannot imagine living apart from one another and I understand that, you both know that I do.” They gave him reluctant nods. “Perhaps I should say it another way…,” he frowned slightly, looking at Arwen for help.

“I believe what Aragorn means is that you should not try and force each other to either stay here or to return to your own time. If you do so and you marry, then at some time in the future it will cause problems between you. Each of you needs to love and respect one another enough to honor the other person’s decision in this matter.” Arwen’s gaze, which could be as piercing as either Aragorn or her father’s settled on each of them for a moment and then she smiled before turning to Aragorn. “Is that what you were trying to say, beloved?”

“Yes,” he nodded somewhat absently, watching his children process what Arwen had said. Thomas appeared thoughtful, while Rebecca seemed slightly stunned by the idea. Deciding that that was enough talking and that sleep, or at least resting, was what they needed most right now, Aragorn stood and stretched his tall, lanky body. “Come,” he motioned to Rebecca and Thomas and they automatically got up and began following him to the door. After a moment, he stopped and looked them over carefully. “Will you be all right sleeping alone in your own chambers this night? I know that when I learned of my naneth’s death, I was grateful that I was not alone in my grief,” he gave Halbarad a significant look. “I…”

“Where would we stay?” Rebecca interrupted him, sounding suddenly like a lost and frightened little girl.

“You will stay in the sitting room in our chamber,” Arwen said softly, taking her by the hand and drawing her close. “Where Estel and I will be close by should you need us.”

“Thomas, you can stay in my sitting room,” Halbarad offered with a small shrug.

“I think that would be a good idea,” Thomas replied as he followed him out of the room.

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Thomas walked stiffly alongside Aragorn as they headed for the Tower and to the throne room for the Royal Court session that was to begin shortly. Giving Thomas a sidelong glance, Aragorn realized with a start that he had grown several inches in the time he had been in Middle-earth and was rapidly approaching his own considerable height. If not for his hair and eye color, Thomas would appear to be of the Dúnedain. Aragorn shook his head and focused back on the task at hand.

“I only wanted to give you some time today to think about your decision, Thomas. It was not that I did not want your help this morning.”

“I understand that, my Lord King, but I don’t need the time and I would rather be working.”

“Thomas,” Aragorn growled in a low voice.

Thomas’s steps faltered and he gave Aragorn an apologetic look. “I’m sorry, Aragorn,” he whispered, “but I really don’t want the time and I need to work.”

Aragorn stopped and turned to face him, motioning their guards to step further back to make sure they were out of earshot. He studied Thomas for a moment. “You have decided to stay.”

“I have, there is nothing there for me anymore, Adar. Anyone that would have called me back is… dead.” Thomas stared at his feet as tears filled his eyes.

“I know,” Aragorn replied softly, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Yet, as Gandalf told you, this is not a decision to make lightly. Are you sure you should not seek the counsel of others?”

Thomas’s brow furrowed in thought as he replied slowly, “You told me once, after you had looked in the palantir against Gandalf’s counsel, that there are times when a man has to follow his own heart and counsel and I think this is one of those times.” He looked away for a moment and then met Aragorn’s eyes again. “I’ve already lost one family… one father and I do not want to lose another one,” he said, quietly.

“I understand, ion-nín. And if Rebecca chooses to return?” he asked gently.

His eyes filled with pain and it took Thomas a moment before he could respond to Aragorn’s question. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I know the choice is harder for her, she has other family there and she had things she wanted to do and you heard her questions last night, Aragorn.” He shook his head. “But as Arwen said, I can’t ask her to stay just for me – not if her heart is truly there. I want her to be happy, Aragorn, even if that means she leaves,” he whispered. “I love her deeply and I can’t imagine my life without her, but if I returned just for her, I don’t know if we would be happy together.” He gave a deep sigh. “I think part of me would always resent the fact that I was there and we would both be miserable after awhile. And while she had her life planned out in that world, I didn’t. I kind of enjoy being the son of a king.” Thomas gave Aragorn a small grin that Aragorn returned before he quickly sobered. “And I like the things that I’m learning and doing here and if I returned to that life, it would be difficult. Although,” he added thoughtfully, “now that I’ve seen the things I can do, I believe that I could do almost anything in that world… that time.”

“Yes, you could, Thomas.”

“Anyway, I don’t really think she’ll return. She loves you too much, and with her mom dead…” his voice trailed off and his eyes held a hopeful look.

Aragorn snorted with amusement. “You forgot one thing, Thomas, she also loves you deeply and I imagine that she knows that you desire to stay.” Thomas gave him a sheepish grin before he started to walk on, but Aragorn held him back.

“But you will talk to her and explain your reasons, will you not?”

“Yes, of course. I wanted to talk to her this morning, but I couldn’t find her.”

“She had a… difficult night and was finally sleeping when I left. Arwen is sitting with her.” Thomas cast a worried glance back at the House and Aragorn put his hand on his shoulder once again. “She is in the very best of hands and I hope that she is able to sleep until long after court this morning. You do not appear to have slept well either,” he observed.

“No, I didn’t,” he admitted. “I tried to, but I had a lot on my mind,” he said with a wry smile. “I spoke quite a bit with Halbarad,” Thomas paused, “in fact, it’s the most I’ve ever heard him talk.”

“Halbarad rarely speaks unless he feels it is something worth saying. Did he help you?” Aragorn asked, turning to walk on as he noticed Faramir striding from the Tower. The steward looked somewhat harried and Aragorn realized they had been talking far longer than they should have.

“Yes, in the sense that it helped to be able to talk about my mom and my brother, the pain and grief are still there, of course, but it seems a bit less. Halbarad has been through a lot,” he added, glancing at Aragorn.

“He has,” Aragorn acknowledged, before looking at Faramir as he approached.

“My Lord King,” Faramir said, “the people are arriving and I know you desired to speak with Bronad before seeing him in court.” He looked at the two of them curiously and Aragorn knew he wanted to ask about what had occurred the previous day.

“We will have a long talk after court about what happened yesterday,” Aragorn said to Faramir’s unspoken question as he quickened his pace and entered the Tower. Faramir led him and Thomas to the small room where Bronad was being kept under guard. The boy looked up at his king fearfully and then bowed deeply as Elessar swept into the room in his black formal robes, wearing the winged crown, and carrying the scepter, with glimpses of Andúril visible under his swirling robes, all of which he normally wore while he was holding court. While he had seen it happen many times now, especially during court and council sessions, Thomas was always amazed at the transformation that could come over Aragorn and turn him into a stern and noble king.

Elessar was startled as he looked down at Bronad, for he realized immediately why Faramir had felt there was something familiar about him and he smiled inwardly as he now knew what he would do with Bronad after he served his sentence.

“How old are you?” he asked, sternly.

“Fourteen, my Lord King Elessar,” Bronad replied, his voice trembling.

“When is your birthday?”

“My-my birthday?” he looked up at Elessar in confusion, but the king just waited and finally Bronad answered, “Nárië 18, my lord.”

“So you lied to the Lord Prince Steward when you told him you were almost fifteen.”

“Yes, my Lord King,” he whispered.

“Why?” Elessar asked more gently, though he doubted that Bronad heard the difference.

“Because… because, I thought maybe if… if I didn’t get hung or something for breaking into the house, maybe… maybe I could still look after my brother and sister,” he whispered, tears now running freely down his cheeks.

Aragorn exchanged startled glances with Faramir and Thomas before he knelt down on one knee in front of the boy and placed a hand on his trembling shoulder. “Bronad,” Aragorn said softly, “look at me,” the boy sniffed and wiped the tears away with the back of his hand before meeting Aragorn’s eyes. “I have not and will never execute any child in my kingdom.” Bronad’s eyes lit up with a suddenly hopeful expression and Aragorn felt his tense body relax. “I will sentence you to a punishment that I believe is just, Bronad because you cannot break into other people’s homes even if you are hungry and in need. You should have asked for help.”

“I know, my Lord King and I’m so sorry I did it,” he hung his head in shame.

Aragorn tilted his head up until he could see his eyes. “It is because you are remorseful that your sentence will be lighter than you perhaps deserve. I want you to stay in the orphanage; it is the best place for you and your brother and sister.”

“I know, it’s just that I promised my Naneth I’d look after them and I can’t do that when we’re in the orphanage,” Bronad’s voice held a note of despair.

“But you are taking care of them by having them in a place that gives them shelter and food, Bronad, and your Naneth would be very proud of you,” Aragorn said gently. He watched as Bronad thought that over for a moment while he stood to his feet and glanced at Faramir who signaled it was time to leave. “Bronad, go with the guard and when it is time, you will be escorted into the throne room and I will ask you some questions and pronounce your sentence. Do not be afraid, child.” Bronad bowed and followed the guard from the room and Aragorn turned quickly to Faramir.

“Faramir, did Lord Nestor ever have a son? I know that I am not aware of any children he might have had, but Bronad looks remarkably like him and as he knows nothing about his father’s family, I wondered if perhaps…” his voice trailed off.

“That is why he looks so familiar!” Faramir exclaimed. “Yes, he did have a son, but I believe he was disowned by Nestor for some reason. I was in Ithilien so I know little of what occurred. I remember Boromir telling me something about it years ago, but I don’t recall any of the details. Perhaps he disowned him because he fell in love with and married a woman from what he considered the lower classes.” Faramir shook his head with a grimace.

“I wonder what Nestor would do if three grandchildren were suddenly to appear in his life?” Aragorn grinned.

“He might be cruel to them,” Thomas cautioned.

“Yes,” Aragorn agreed, “or the passing of years may have given him a different perspective. Well, we shall have to see. I believe the court is waiting for me,” he said as he adjusted his crown and took the scepter back from Thomas before exiting the room, once again Elessar.

-------------

Rebecca sat up with a start, wondering where she was. “Peace, Rebecca,” Arwen’s low voice said soothingly from the chair next to the couch where Rebecca had been sleeping. “You are in my chambers where you slept last night.” She looked at the elf blankly for a moment then nodded as the memories of the day before came rushing back and she pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them.

“What time is it?” she asked as she glanced out into the garden. It appeared to be quite late in the morning or even early afternoon.

“It is just past noon,” Arwen replied as she moved over and joined Rebecca, sitting just on the edge of the couch. “You needed the rest,” she said gently.

“I suppose I did, it was a rather long night,” Rebecca said as she rested her chin on her knees. “Thank you, Arwen for being there for me.”

Arwen inclined her head before she asked, “Are you hungry?”

“Not really, but I better eat something. I saw the look in Aragorn’s eyes last night when I didn’t eat anything and he can be rather… insistent about things like that,” Rebecca smiled slightly.

Rising to cross to the door, Arwen laughed lightly. “I know of Estel’s stubbornness, but in this case he is correct, you do need to eat.” She used the bell pull and when the servant arrived, quietly ordered some food before returning to Rebecca. “How do you fare?”

“I hurt and I’m terribly confused,” she replied quietly. “I have no idea what’s the best thing for me to do, Arwen. The first few months I was here all I wanted to do was go home, but I don’t know anymore, especially with my mom… dead,” she took a deep breath. “But I have my cousins and lots of other relatives there and things I wanted to do… but I like it here and I have a wonderful family here. And then there’s Thomas. I don’t think he’ll want to go back, not without his mom and brother there anymore.” Rebecca shivered and Arwen pulled the blanket up around her shoulders and Rebecca smiled her thanks. “I can’t ask him to leave just for me, I know he wouldn’t be happy there. Not like he is here, and I want him to be happy,” she whispered. “I just need to figure out which place is right for me, yet I can’t imagine my life without Thomas in it. So, I’m confused, Arwen.”

Arwen lightly cupped Rebecca’s cheek with her long, slender hand and the compassion in her grey eyes deepened. “You have been given an overwhelming amount of information, some of it grievous, since yesterday morning. As you now have to make a decision based on that information, I would say that being confused is a very normal state, Rebecca.” In response to the knock at the door, Arwen went and took the tray from the servant, graciously thanking her before carrying it to a small table in front of the window. “Come and eat and then you must get dressed and then, perhaps, you might seek out someone to give you guidance as you make your choice. You have very little time,” she reminded Rebecca who sat and started picking at the warm bread, cheese, and fruit that was on her plate.

Rebecca looked up at her in surprise and then lowered her gaze back to her plate. “I suppose you fall under the category of one of the ‘younger elves’ Aragorn was talking about,” she mumbled.

“Yes, but I cannot advise you because my counsel would not be unbiased either, Rebecca. I have grown to care for you deeply in the time I have known you. Not just for Estel’s sake, but for your own and for that reason, you must seek counsel from one of the really ‘old’ elves.” Arwen smiled. “They are more easily able to set those feeling aside and will give you the wisdom you need.”

Sighing, Rebecca nodded and thought about the other elves for a moment as she wondered which ones to talk to, which ones she felt most comfortable with, and finally decided that perhaps Galadriel and Celeborn would be the best choice. She felt like she knew them at least a little bit better than the others and even though Galadriel could read her mind, maybe in this circumstance that would be a good thing as she wasn’t sure she could even express what she was thinking and feeling. “I think I should talk with your grandparents, Arwen.” Arwen gave her a gentle smile and motioned for her to continue eating, but Rebecca had a question. “Do you know where Thomas is?”

“Elladan told me that he went to court this morning with Estel, though he also told me that he was looking for you earlier.” Satisfied, Rebecca finished her lunch.

---------------

Aragorn strode into his chambers and glanced around the sitting room for Arwen before heading into the bedchamber to find it empty as well. He knew she had to be near as her guards were posted outside the door and then he saw the door into the garden ajar. He carefully set his crown and scepter in their respective boxes before he quickly stripped off his robes and tossed them on the bed for his manservant to remove and clean later. After taking off Andúril, he hung it on the armor stand in the corner before he changed into a less formal tunic and leggings before heading into the gardens to find his wife.

Arwen was sitting on the bench at the small pond where they had spent their first evening in the garden. It had become their favorite spot in the garden and they spent many hours enjoying each others company, either sitting and talking, or just sitting quietly and watching the fish. She glanced up at his approach and smiled the smile that was reserved for him alone, the one that always lightened his heart, no matter what his day had been like. Aragorn settled onto the bench next to Arwen and cupped her face with his hands, studying her for a brief moment before he returned her smile and then he kissed her once lightly before she wrapped her arms around his neck. He kissed her again, more passionate this time, as he moved his hands to her back and drew her closer. Finally, Aragorn pulled away with a very small smile.

“We do need to talk, meleth-nín,”

“I believe you started it, beloved.”

“So I did and it was most enjoyable,”
again there was a smile, before he turned serious. “Where is Rebecca and how was she doing? Did she sleep very long after I left? Did she eat anything?”

Arwen put a finger on his lips to stop the flow of his questions. “She awoke about an hour ago and, yes she did eat a light lunch. She said she noticed the look in your eyes last night when she did not eat and that you would insist she eat even if she did not feel hungry,” Arwen’s voice held a trace of amusement and Aragorn grinned and nodded. “Now she is dressed and was going to speak with Daernaneth and Daeradar, though I believe she may try and find Thomas first.”

“I am not surprised Rebecca chose them, she knows them better from her time in Lothlórien, but I hope she finds Thomas, they need to talk and probably should before she speaks with anyone else. I know he wants to speak with her.”

“Has Thomas decided?”

“Yes, he will stay.”
Aragorn ran his hand through his hair. “Though part of me wonders if he will change his mind after speaking with her. I cannot see them apart from each other, meleth-nín.”

“Rebecca will not leave, beloved,”
Arwen said quietly, but with absolute certainty in her voice.

Aragorn sat up straight and looked at her in shock. “How do you know? Did she tell you that?” he demanded somewhat harshly. He laid his hand on her arm and sighed. “Forgive me, I did not mean to use that tone with you.”

“Yes, I will forgive you and no, Rebecca did not tell me anything, Estel. Not in words anyway. Right now she is overwhelmed, mostly with grief with losing her mother and I believe that speaking with our Daernaneth and Daeradar will help her deal with that, as least as much as possible in a very short amount of time. But if she is able to set that aside for a short time and just look at the choice of staying or leaving, she will not leave.”

“Why?”

“Rebecca loves it here, Estel and you well know that. First of all she loves and cares for you deeply. She also has a large group of people that she loves and appears to see as cousins and uncles, that take the place of these relatives she has back in her own time. In fact, I am concerned that all of these people are leaving in a few days. Though at least Halbarad will be here and she seems to adore him.”

“I do not know why,”
Aragorn said with a small smile.

Arwen smiled as well. “She did save his life…”

“It seemed to start before that, but go on.”

“Except for this past day, I have never heard Rebecca speak of these relatives, though obviously Thomas knows of them and so I wonder if they are truly the draw that they appear to be, or if in the pain of the loss of her mother Rebecca is just thinking of them more at this time.”
Aragorn gave his wife a thoughtful nod and an expression of hope filled his eyes. “Then there is Thomas. She truly wants him to be happy, beloved, and she knows he will not be happy if he returns to that time. While I believe and hope she will make her decision for the right reasons, she is very young and I am sure that he will be a factor in her decision.”

“As long as she stays, I do not care what the reason is, including having someone lock her in her chambers,”
Aragorn muttered under his breath and Arwen laughed briefly and lightly, taking his hand in her own and squeezing it gently.

“You do not truly mean that, beloved, I know you desire what is best for her, even if the cost for us is heartache and pain,” she said softly.

“Do not be so sure, Arwen,” he said darkly, “I am more selfish at times than you know.” He ran his hand through his long, black hair again as the silence lengthened and then he sighed deeply. “I just cannot imagine not seeing her again, meleth-nín, but, yes, I do want what is best for her… and for Thomas as well. I just hope that Rebecca decides that that is here with us.” He hesitated before adding softly, “I begin to further understand some of Adar’s pain, Arwen. I thought I did before, but not like this. I suppose it is not really possible unless you experience something similar.”

“No, it is not, although Rebecca has not made her decision yet,”
Arwen reminded him as she stood and Aragorn slowly followed, looking at her questioningly. “You look tired, beloved, and I believe you could use some sleep right now,” she said with a small smile.

“I am not sure I could sleep, but perhaps I will rest for awhile,”
Aragorn returned with a smile of his own as he led his wife back to their bedchamber.

------------

Rebecca found Thomas standing out on the point of the keel looking out over the Pelennor. He appeared to be lost in his thoughts, but he looked up and smiled at her as she approached, though the smile quickly faded as he looked her over and taking her hand, he drew her close. “Oh, Rebecca,” he said with the pain he felt for her obvious in his voice. “I’m so sorry about your mom.” Heedless of who was watching, Thomas embraced her as tears filled her eyes. Rebecca cried only briefly, aware of his own grief and her tears had been shed too often during the past twenty-four hours. She pulled back slightly and looked up at him.

“I’m sorry for you, too. To lose both your mom and your brother; I don’t know how you can stand it.”

“Well, I have to,” he frowned and swallowed hard, “but it’s hard and it hurts deeply. I never thought I would see them again anyway, but to hear they were dead…” his voice trailed off and he told her what Aragorn had said and she nodded.

“That makes sense, I guess. Not that it makes it any easier,” she moved away from him and wiped her tears away with the handkerchief she now carried everywhere. “What are you doing out here?”

“Thinking, trying to decide how to talk to you mostly.” He didn’t see any point in waiting; they had very little time in which to make up their minds. Grasping her hand again, he led her to the bench and they sat down, keeping their fingers intertwined. “Rebecca, there isn’t an easy way to say this,” he took a deep breath, “but I’m going to stay here.” Tears filled his eyes and he blinked them away. “You know how much I love you.” Rebecca nodded, her own tear-filled eyes never leaving his. “And I can’t imagine my life without you, Rebecca,” his voice dropped to a hoarse whisper, “but Arwen is right and you need to make your decision because it’s the best thing for you… because it will make you happy. I don’t want you to stay here just because of me,” he swallowed hard, “and then be angry at me later. But you have to know that I love you,” he said with a slightly desperate edge to his voice, “and that even if you leave, I’ll still love you. I just can’t go back, my life is here now.” Thomas used his shoulder to wipe off the few tears that were trickling down his cheeks.

“I…I knew you wouldn’t go back, Thomas,” Rebecca said in such a low voice that he could hardly hear her and he drew her closer to himself. “Not without your mom and your brother there and I know you’re happy here and I want you to be happy. B-but I still don’t know what I’m going to do.” She looked up at him with pain-filled and confused eyes. “I have relatives there and I miss them… sometimes, but they’ll miss me and it doesn’t seem very fair to them.” Thomas could think of no way to respond to that comment so he remained quiet, though slightly puzzled. “And I wanted to go to college and be a writer and so I could do that if I went back and I’d have lots to write about now,” she said, frowning. “But I really like learning to be a healer and Dolgaran is helping with my writing.” Rebecca stopped and buried her face in her hands for a moment and Thomas heard her mumble, “I need more time to think about this, I want to do both of them.”

“You have until tomorrow,” he reminded her firmly. “I assume you have not spoken with one of the elves yet as Adar suggested?” Rebecca shook her head. “Then you need to, Rebecca. I certainly can’t advise you and, as you yourself said, you are too confused right now. Come on,” he helped her to her feet and headed back to the House.

“I was going to talk with Galadriel and Celeborn after I spoke with you,” Rebecca said quietly as they approached the House. “I just needed to see you first.” Thomas looked down at her and gave her a small smile. “I think I forgot to say it, Thomas, but my love for you is every bit as deep as yours is for me and I don’t want you to think differently.”

Thomas pulled her to a stop just inside the entryway. “I never doubted it and I never will,” he promised as he leaned down and kissed her gently. He led her down the hallway to Galadriel and Celeborn’s chambers and knocked lightly on the door which was opened almost immediately. Celeborn stood looking gravely down at them and he inclined his head in greeting.

“Lady Rebecca, Thomas, come in,” he gestured for them to enter.

“Actually, it’s just me that needs to talk with you and Lady Galadriel,” Rebecca explained.

As Rebecca entered the sitting room, Celeborn turned his eyes to Thomas and the young man fought hard to keep the contact and was successful. “You have decided to stay.”

“Yes, my lord, I have.”

“It was the right decision.”

“It is for me,” Thomas agreed quietly, “but I’m not sure for Rebecca and neither is she.”

“I grieve with you at the loss of your mother and brother.” Celeborn put a gentle hand on his shoulder.

Thomas blinked at the rapid change of subjects, but it was something elves often did and so he simply said, “Thank you, my lord.”

“Where will you be, if Rebecca needs you later?”

“Umm,” Thomas thought for a moment before he replied, “I guess I’ll go to the balcony upstairs.” With a slight bow, he walked back down the hallway and up the stairs while Celeborn returned to his sitting room.

Galadriel handed Rebecca a cup of juice as Celeborn gracefully sank onto a chair next to the couch she was sitting on while Galadriel sat down beside her. “We are grieved for the loss of your mother, Rebecca,” Galadriel said in a soft and gentle voice. Rebecca nodded, fingering the design on her cup, tired of speaking about the death of her mom. “But your grief is what is keeping you overwhelmed and confused about your decision, Child,” Galadriel said gently, reminding Rebecca of her ability to read her thoughts. “While you cannot be expected to deal with the loss of your mother in a day, you must find a way to set it aside for a time so that you can make this decision.”

“I know, Lady Galadriel, but how do I do that?” she asked, setting her cup on the small table next to the couch.

It was Celeborn who answered her, “By accepting that it truly happened, Child.”

“Of course it happened,” Rebecca spat out angrily. “Gandalf wouldn’t lie about something like that. He would never lie to me.” Tears began streaming down her face and she buried her face in her hands. A moment later she felt Galadriel’s hands lightly touching her back in a soothing manner and she felt a sense of calm and peace as she felt Galadriel’s mind briefly touch hers. Taking a deep breath, but not looking up, she whispered, “Forgive me, Lord Celeborn for talking to you like that. I- I’ll leave if you want me to.” Rebecca suddenly sensed movement and she slowly looked up to find Celeborn crouched in front of her, his blue eyes compassionate as he looked at her.

Taking her hands in his, he rubbed them gently for a moment before he spoke, “I am not offended, Child, and while you are free to leave if you so desire, do not do so out of fear that you may offend me. I do not believe that there is anything you would do that would be truly unforgivable,” he gave her a gentle smile. Celeborn stood and moved his chair so that it was more directly in front of the couch and sat back down as he continued speaking with Rebecca. “I was most certainly not suggesting that Mithrandir was lying, what I was saying was that while your mind has, perhaps, accepted the fact of your mother’s death, your heart has not.”

“No, it hasn’t,” she whispered with a deep sigh.

“If you believe Mithrandir,” Galadriel asked gently, “then why is one of your reasons for considering returning to that time wanting to make sure that your mother is, in fact, dead?” Rebecca stared at her incredulously, shaking her head in denial. “I am only sensing what is in your own mind, child,” Galadriel reminded her.

Rebecca bowed her head in thought for a time and realized, with surprise, that Galadriel was right and she looked up to find the two elves studying her intently and she blushed slightly. “You’re right, Lady Galadriel,” she whispered, “but why would I do that? I trust Gandalf, so why wouldn’t I trust him about this?”

“You do trust him,” Galadriel acknowledged, “deep inside yourself, you do. But in your heart, you cannot imagine your mother’s death and so you are trying to find a way to make it not be true.”

“Aragorn told Thomas that even though we never thought we’d see our mothers again, we could picture them having a happy life at home and it gave us comfort.”

“Estel is right,” Celeborn agreed softly, “and now that image is gone for you and it has left you feeling lost and alone, much like you felt when you first arrived here. Except, of course, you are not truly alone anymore, are you Child?”

“No, I’m not and I love the people and the life I have here. But I do have other family there, aunts and uncles and cousins. And I wanted to go to college…, it’s a type of advanced schooling,” she explained at their inquiring looks. “So I need to decide what’s best for me and I don’t know how to decide that. It… it doesn’t seem fair for the rest of my family to lose both my mother and me when I could go back.” She frowned and stared at the floor.

“With your mother gone, where would you live if you returned to that time?” Galadriel asked.

“Oh, we lived with one of my uncles and his family and I’d go back there.” Rebecca shrugged and another slight frown crossed her face.

“Did you enjoy living there?” Celeborn asked, his gaze suddenly intense and Rebecca had to look away.

“Oh, well, it was the only place I ever really remember living, but I didn’t really like it,” her voice trailed off for a moment. “I spent a lot of time in my room because my aunt and uncle had six children and they were noisy and my mom was gone a lot and sometimes my uncle…,” her voice trailed off again and she frowned once more as images from those days flashed through her mind.

“Do you enjoy living here?” Galadriel asked with a small smile gracing her lips.

“Yes, I love it here, Lady Galadriel. I have a wonderful family and friends and I enjoy almost everything I do here.” Rebecca’s face brightened considerably. “There really is no comparison, especially with my mother no longer there. But I guess I felt I had some responsibility to the family I left behind,” she paused, her brow furrowed in thought as she slowly continued. “But I-I think it will be all right if I stay here, it’s not as if they depended on me. If… if Eru sent me all the way back here to give me a father, then who am I to reject him,” she said with a grin suddenly lighting up her face.

Celeborn laughed lightly and Galadriel smiled, placing her hand on Rebecca’s arm. “I do believe that you have made a wise decision,” Galadriel said, “and for the right reasons.”

“I need to find Thomas,” Rebecca cried, standing quickly and rushing for the door. She stopped halfway there and slowly turned around and found the two elves watching her with amusement clearly written on their faces. “Forgive me,” she sighed, “Adar will be very upset if hears how I’ve acted today.”

“I think Estel would be very understanding, Lady Rebecca,” Celeborn assured her with a gracious smile, his eyes twinkling with amusement. “I believe that you will find Thomas on the balcony upstairs.”

“Thank you very much, Lady Galadriel, Lord Celeborn, for your help today. For helping me to see past my confusion and to see what was truly in my heart and mind.”

“You are most welcome, Child,” Galadriel replied with a gentle smile. “Now go and see Thomas and then Estel, who is waiting just as anxiously as your betrothed.” Rebecca nodded and again rushed for the door.

---------

Drumming his fingers absently on his legs as he stared out over the wall surrounding the balcony, Thomas wondered how long Rebecca would be with Celeborn and Galadriel and if there was any chance she would make a decision today or if he would have to wait another day. He didn’t want to rush her and he wanted her to make the right decision, which he desperately hoped and really believed would be to stay, but the waiting was hard. It reminded him of the tenseness before a battle.

“I thought we would find you here,” Aragorn’s voice broke into his thoughts as he and Arwen strolled out onto the balcony.

“I’ve been waiting here while Rebecca talks to Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel.”

Aragorn patted his shoulder before pulling a chair out for Arwen and then sitting down beside her. “Has she been gone a long time?”

Thomas shrugged. “I’ve sort of lost track of the time, but it’s been awhile.”

“I am glad that you have decided to stay, Thomas,” Arwen said. “I would have missed you deeply.”

“And I would have missed you, I just hope that we all don’t end up missing Rebecca,” he said with a deep sigh. He turned halfway in his chair when he noticed Aragorn and Arwen’s eyes shift to something behind him and he saw Rebecca walking onto the balcony. Thomas immediately noticed that she was at peace and he knew that she had made her decision, and with the soft smile on her lips, he also knew she was going to stay. Leaping to his feet, he quickly crossed to her and gently held her shoulders, keeping a small distance between them, as he studied her. “You’re going to stay, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I’m going to stay, Thomas, Adar,” her eyes flicked briefly to Aragorn, who was grinning, before she focused back on Thomas as he pulled her firmly into his arms and kissed her deeply and hungrily.

~~~

Elvish Translations:

Adar – Father
Daeradar – grandfather
Daernaneth - grandmother
Ion-nín – my son
Meleth-nín – my love
Mellon–nín – my friend
Sell-nín – my daughter


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