Author: whitereflections12 PM
A very, very AU story involving rebirth, many original characters, many traditional ones, and an epic story about people's lives and how they interact...involves war and all the dynamics, pain, and celebration involved, love and romance, and massive, massRated: Fiction M - English - Adventure/Supernatural - Arwen U. & Aragorn - Chapters: 2 - Words: 16,259 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 12-10-07 - Published: 11-20-06 - id: 3253160
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Ok, I have a nice long A/N on my desktop computer that I plan to post before the first chapter, but I have a few things to say here before I have purists running at me to shove canon and Mary Sue warnings down my throat like a pack of rabid dogs.
First things first, don't EVEN act like I'm some little squeeing 13 year old who has only ever seen the movies and wallpapered my room with the actors pictures. I have read the books. I have read The Hobbit. I have read the Silmarilion. I have read pieces of The Book of Unfinished Tales. I speak a little bit of Sindarin(the real thing. Though I know some Grey Company too, I no longer use it.). I am so far beyond canon illiterate that it's not even funny and in all likelihood, I know more than most of the people on here(though I am humble enough to admit I pale in comparison to some purists.).
Yes, I did discover LOTR through the movies. I am sorry if this upsets you, but I like them better than the books. Both movies and books will be important here, but the books are canon. Of course. But, for my purposes in the story I have to tell(my story, not yours remember people)the books are not always accurate because Tolkien was just a man, and, for my purposes, he changed the story some. No, idiots, he didn't change it to leave out random elf characters with flowing hair and blue green eyes and magical powers(please.), but on other, logical things. When I get there, you'll see what I mean.
While the people in this story, including the main character are based off real people not a one of them is a Mary Sue. Rebirth, while corny and ridiculous to some of you(note: if this is you, I don't care)is NOT the same as randomly created said above green/blue eyed character to go screw Aragorn senseless. Aragorn and Arwen were together always. This is canon. Call Nashieth(you'll see her when she gets here)a Mary Sue and she'll come haunt you in your sleep. Mary Sue's, among other things, ooze perfection. I have no perfect characters because I am a WRITER and life is not perfect. No one is perfect. I spell Middle Earth as Middle Earth although I know good and damn well it's spelled Middle-earth. Got some nitpicky problem with that? GET OVER IT. This is a story, people. If I was sitting out to recite canon I'd be writing an encyclopedia not a fanfic.
Look, honestly I'm as much of a purist as many of you, believe it or not. I have had crazy long debates about the balrog wing question and all sorts of other things only we LOTR freaks talk about. But this is fiction, it's a story, and I'm not Tolkien. His work is his, mine is mine. Let it be. If you hate it, I am truly sorry but just leave it alone. Unless you have some complaint that doesn't stem from "But that didn't happen!" or "I don't like her, she's a Mary Sue!"(ha) or " (fill in the blank) wouldn't do that!"(don't even. "in character" is by nature subjective…and by the HOURS of study on the subject that I have, for me all my characters are kept in character), don't bother. Because, on any of the above arguments, I will either laugh and ignore you or fight right back because I know you're wrong. I will defend this story like I defend nothing else. Get it? Got it? Good.
Sorry if that seemed harsh, I'm really not a mean person. But I won't deal with psycho crazy people who only know how to scream Mary Sue at the top of their lungs and burn people at the stake. FYI, I hate Mary Sue's too. That (forgive the southern-ness) ain't what this is. Right. On with the story.
I'm not certain if everyone can look back on their lives and see the moment they first found courage. I know I can. I can feel it, hear the things I heard, see the things I saw. I can taste the early spring air. I can smell bark and rain and leaves. It feels as close now as it did the day after, as close as I believe it always will. There is…such an importance to it. If I hadn't been able to stand up, to embrace what my future might hold…I might have backed away. I might have given up. And that, more than any other action, would have changed my destiny forever.
Nikkey spun slowly in the computer chair, absentmindedly staring either at the computer screen or out the window when Jennifer entered the room carrying a very large hardback copy of Lord of the Rings.
"Here. Move over." Obligingly, Nikkey stood and moved to the chair next to the computer desk allowing her friend to sit down in front of the monitor itself. Jennifer plopped the book down on Nikkey's lap and proceeded to connect to the internet. "We've got to start…figuring things out. You have the paper with the runes on it?"
"Yeah." Nikkey nodded, turned the book over in her hands. "Hey! There's an ear on the cover! On the side!" Jennifer smiled and looked away from the computer to see the side of the binding she was pointing at.
"Yeah. There is. Aragorn's ear, looks like from the front." She turned back to her work and pulled up google, typing in a search for a Lord of the Rings Elvish dictionary. "Come on. Let's get to work. If you open it to the back…" Deciding she had better do it herself since she knew what she was talking about, Jennifer pulled the book from Nikkey's hands and began flipping to the appendixes. "There's a table of what letters the runes stand for in Elvish…right here. See? Go through that list and get me a list of letters. I'll find us a good dictionary." There was silence for a bit as Nikkey uncoded the letters, but it wasn't long before Jennifer had found just what she was looking for. An online dictionary comprising thousands of words. It was just what they needed. "Here. You got the list?"
Nikkey nodded, handing the paper over. "Bunch of random letters."
That got her a smile. "Well…hopefully they'll make more sense in a minute. If my hunch is right…they aren't just writing nonsense. Come on. Move over here, help me look."
What felt like hours passed as they arranged the letters into every possible configuration and searched, searched, and searched some more. Nikkey kept it light, as she always did, never failing to intersperse random comments and always getting if not a laugh then at least a smile for her efforts. Finally…
"I've got it! This word, this word right here…matches perfectly! What does it mean…" Her eyes raced across the page to the definition and they both stopped for a beat, then repeated it at the same time.
"What does that…" Nikkey trailed off, wide eyes staring at the screen.
"I don't know. But my bet is…nothing good."
"So….how to do this…" Nikkey walked around the dead tree, surveyed it from every angle. Jennifer nodded.
"That is the question." The stump had appeared the week before. It was a little more than half their height. There would have been nothing quite so strange about a stump like it in the woods. Except that dead trees didn't just appear in the soil where no live tree had ever grown. For that reason, there was obviously something not right about it. And regardless of its danger, Jennifer had thought it best it be uprooted and taken down. Lyndsey had tried to help them, but other than make it wiggle they had made little progress. Today was Nikkey's last day. If they were going to get it down, it had to be now.
"Right so…without getting splinters…cause I know you hate that…" Nikkey smiled and cut her eyes at Jennifer, judging the results of her attempt to make her laugh.
"Nikkey, to get this thing out of the ground…I don't really care, to be honest." If Nikkey was surprised, she didn't show it, though the statement was pretty atypical.
"Alright. Well…let's just get started. Do what we were doing yesterday…rock it side to side, try to…wiggle it free enough to where we can pull it out."
Jennifer nodded. "Right. All we can do I guess. We can take turns. I'll-"
Nikkey cut her off. "No, I'm gonna do it first!" She moved up behind the tree, wrapped her hands around it and started the slow process of working it out of the ground. Jennifer leaned against a nearby oak, watching and waiting with a soft smile, ready for the classic type of Nikkey comment she knew must be coming. It wasn't long. "You know…this feels really weird. Like I'm…out in the middle of the woods, humping a tree. Just a lil' bit strange, you know?"
That one she hadn't expected. Jennifer doubled over laughing, leaning against the tree for support. It only got funnier as she watched and realized that in way, that was just what it looked like.
Nikkey grinned. "Just thought I'd let ya know. It's something we can say we've done. You know, we'll be like 90, grandmas, sitting on one of our front porches and I'll be like 'Hey, remember the time we humped that tree together?' and all the other old women will think we're crazy? Like that. It'll be fun."
Their laughter mingled together and carried on the wind, making its way through the woods and down the hill.
Two hours later, the tree fell with a defeated thump to the forest floor, met by a cheer from the girls. With dirty and slightly raw hands they stumbled their way inside out of the cold.
"Nin o Ithliglier lasto beth daer, rimmo nin Bruinen dad in Ulaer…better?"
Nikkey nodded. "Yeah. Getting better."
Jennifer wasn't quite satisfied. "Here…play it again." Obediently, Nikkey ran the recording of Arwen at the ford and played it again. Jennifer listened intently. Nikkey listened with her head cocked, and when it was finished couldn't help but giggle. "What?"
"Did you know that last part sounds like 'Run like Houdini, you liar!'?"
Jennifer chuckled and shook her head, slowly. "No. Didn't know that." On running the statement back over in her head she laughed harder, turned to face the other girl. "Wow…that's…really funny in a strange way. Nikkey, what would I do without you?"
"Hmm…" Nikkey put on a mock thoughtful air and stared up at the ceiling. "Be a lot less amused I suppose."
"You're probably right. Come on…again, I've got to nail this." She was determined, beyond determined, to learn Elvish. The Fellowship quotes seemed a logical place to start, and lucky for her lordoftherings .net was running these Valentine's day cards that spoke, in the actors words, the lines from the movie. It was a perfect learning device. The recording played again and Jennifer spun around in her chair, facing the wall to keep from cheating by reading off the words. She closed her eyes to concentrate and felt stronger emotion well up than she had anticipated. "Nin o Ithiglier lasto beth daer, rimmo nin bruinen dad in Ulaer!"
Nikkey was silent for a moment, her eyebrows raised. "That was….good."
"Uh-huh….better than good. A little creepy in fact. Did you know…" Nikkey was looking at the floor instead of in her eyes. She looked somewhere between puzzled and unnerved. "You sounded exactly right? Accent and everything. Even almost better than her if that makes sense."
Jennifer grinned triumphantly. "Yes! I did it! Alright!" Spinning back around in her chair she navigated through the page until she found the conversation between Arwen and Aragorn before she raced off with Frodo to the ford. "Let's try this one."
Nikkey shook her head slightly. "If it makes you happy."
"I need to do this." Jennifer was so serious, so determined and she only half knew why. It just seemed…the right thing to do. She wanted it, even if it was hard to put into words the exact reason.
"Ok. Here. Listen close now…"
She could hardly have listened closer if she'd wanted to.
Jennifer sighed as she settled down into the computer chair and flicked it on. Nikkey had left about 20 minutes ago. Every time she went away felt like…losing her all over again. Like the first time she had watched her family's van pull away on its way toward Lexington and away from home. It was always such a let down. Wandering aimlessly across the net like the computer nerd she had always been, she found her way without really thinking about it to lordoftherings .net. Might as well. It was what mostly interested her these days. Shifting through the page she found a link to the trailer for Fellowship and it brought a ghost of a smile to her face. It'd take forever to download but…yeah. Yeah, why not? She clicked the button, sat back and stared aimlessly at the ceiling. She actually didn't have to wait all that long, by dial up modem standards, before she heard the video start. She watched with the excitement she had always had, only enhanced by the uncontrollable questions about her recent life running through her head. What if….what if…..she couldn't shake it out of her head, but it wasn't fear….it was excitement. Pure and simple. A few nerves, to be sure, but that wasn't what had her heart pounding as the map of Middle Earth flashed across the screen. It would have sounded ridiculous to put into words but that…that felt like everything she had ever wanted…the Fellowship…the war itself. Everything she had ever wanted, without really ever being able to put words to it before. "This task has been appointed to you, and if you do not find a way…no one will." Galadriel. The words caught her, trapped her, down to her very breath. Somehow, watching them on that day, they seemed aimed at her…even if she knew they couldn't have been. "You will find your courage." Courage…exactly. She knew she had it, somewhere, always had. Her anger had certainly always been easy enough to access, but the courage, though always there, had been in some deeper part of her soul. She took a deep breath, and somehow felt steadier than she had a moment before. Like her mind had been cloudy and now it was clearing. Like….she had just opened up a part of herself she hadn't had access to before. It sounded crazy and she could have never really put it into words…but that was how it felt. In a moment she was on her feet, her eyes sparkling as they fell on the window that showed her the back yard. She knew exactly where she wanted to be.
It was cold but not bitter cold, though for someone who hated cold it was enough that in past years it would have kept her indoors. Not so anymore. She wandered down through the woods, edging her way past the center and toward the back half. There was nothing but silence, silence and an almost imperceptible breeze. She was anticipating …something, and she wasn't even sure exactly what it was. She motioned back over her shoulder with one hand, beckoning her dog forward and she smiled warmly when she felt Duchess nose come in contact with her waiting fingertips. "Hello, sweetheart." It was a soft affectionate murmur, meant only for the lab's ears, and her tail swished appreciatively in the leaves. A word came to her then, a thought really…they called her Arwen Evenstar…as close to a last name as anyone in Lord of the Rings seemed to have. Evenstar. Whatever that meant. Undomiel in the Elvish. The very word had a sound to it both foreign and familiar. "Undomiel…" It rolled off her tongue with surprising ease. Equally surprising was what happened when it did. The wind picked up, fierce and harsh, whipping its way through the branches. The sky, the very air seemed to darken 10 shades. And there…on the wind. The sound of drums. She dropped into a crouch, one arm around her faithful dog. They faced into the wind. The drums grew louder, and for the first time, she held her ground. "Wait and see, Duch. Let's wait and see." Her heart was pounding in her chest, but it was all anticipation and no fear. The fear seemed banished, and so far from her she would have been proud of herself if she had thought to think of it. She was focused only on the woods, and the ever approaching sound of the drums. There was another sound, hardly intelligible from it but clearly different all the same. Almost like…footsteps. But massive. Something. It had to be. It was more unsteady than the drums. Something was coming. Whatever it was, she was not in a position to fight it. "Come on. Time to go." She turned to leave, but she did not run. She walked. The drums of their own accord faded into the distance, and by the time she had reached the house she knew they had given up. For today. She had gained little information. They had something. Not a surprise. If they were the Nazgul, there was no telling what they had. More importantly, she had gained her courage. She was ready to fight.
She knew them now as well as she knew the sound of her dog's bark, the sound of a familiar song. The drums of war. She was positioned behind a tree, one hand on Duchess' collar and the other uneasily rubbing the sleeve of her faithful black and blue baseball jacket out of habit. Today, she was waiting. Today, she would see them. She wanted to know. As they grew closer she could hear footsteps, for certain this time, and lighter than the creature she had heard the first day. Jennifer backed closer against the tree trunk and cut her eyes around its corner. She would probably be afforded only the slightest glimpse. She wanted to see them clearly. There, a flash of black, then a shape…hunched and running and a bow slung over its back. It was the best she could do but her mind was piecing it together. From the vague glance at its appearance…its gait…on orc. It had to be. Her heart was pounding and she could hardly keep from laughing out loud. An orc. Lord of the Rings. They had been right. She, Lyndsey, both of them…they had been right. Just as they suspected. Her heart stopped and restarted as she heard the dull thud of an arrow into the trunk of a tree. She spun, saw the shaft quiver in the trunk just outside the fence. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe they didn't want to take her alive after all. Shoving Duchess before her and pushing her to make her run, she dropped into a crouch and made her way as swiftly and carefully up the hill as she could. Before she reached the edge of the trees, she heard one more failed arrow strike wood.
"Come on, come on…pick up." Jennifer shook the phone slightly in her hand, willing Lyndsey to answer hers. She had come in straight from the backyard, her hands still cold from the winter air. This was big news. Lyndsey had to know.
She was pretty sure it was her, but out of habit the words came out anyway. "Can I talk to Lyndsey please?"
"Hey." It was her. Thank goodness. She wasn't sure what she would have done if she hadn't been home. Gone crazy with excitement and anticipation, she supposed.
"Can you talk? About…Drums?" The name they had given to the whole circumstance. It had been Lyndsey's idea, the code, and it was a good one. If they were going to talk about it in public, they needed good cover. Even if it was in a way that sounded like nonsense to other people. In fact, that made it even better because then no one would suspect.
"Hold on just a sec." She jostled the phone, presumably looking around. Jennifer waited impatiently. "Yeah. What happened?"
"I saw them, Lyndsey, I really saw them…in the woods. I waited until the Drums were closer, stayed low, and I saw them! They…they're orcs, Lyndsey. Had to be. And there were quite a few of them…maybe 6, probably more but I could hear them everywhere and…they shot at me! Like, with arrows…I saw it hit the tree and…I thought that was probably a good time to get out of there but I SAW them!"
"Wait…they shot at you?" She could tell from her friend's voice she was just as excited
More excited than nervous.
"Yeah. They shot at me." This was news, huge news, and the enormity of it seemed to hit her then. They shot at her…they wanted her dead… Interesting.
It was after dark, the world still caught on the tail end of winter. She was pacing aimlessly, deep in thought, Duchess pacing faithfully beside her. This was progressing….strangely. But, at least, it was progressing. They wanted her dead. Why, why would they want her dead? What had she ever done? Nothing, that she could remember. Certainly nothing that could cause this kind of a response. She was nothing special. She never had been.
She wandered down closer to the wood's edge. Other than that her life was…taking a turn for the worse lately. She had only ever been a good student when forced…she just didn't have the focus for school work. It wasn't that she couldn't do it, it was more along the lines of she just didn't. She wrote during classes, original stories, fanfiction, or notes to friends. She wrote more and home, or read a book, or a messed around on the internet. She just couldn't stomach school work when there were so many more interesting things to do and now…now, she was in trouble for it. Her math grade had slipped dangerously….so dangerously, she knew she was in trouble. She had to bring it up for this next quarter or…she didn't want to think of what would happen.
Easier to think about was the movie she had just recently seen. The Mummy. She had seen it before, with Nikkey, but it was ages ago and she hadn't paid it much attention. She had this time. She loved it. It was amazing. Particularly Rick. She loved his sense of humor, his cynical cockiness that reminded her so much of Han. He even had some pretty good lines, some she agreed with. Some she might want to take as her own every now and then. "I only gamble with my life, never my money." She said it more to test it out than anything, see how it sounded. Of course, if she had any money, she'd have nothing against-
Her thoughts stopped abruptly at the ringing sound of metal on metal. Very. Close. By. The temperature seemed to have dropped 10 degrees. Maybe more. She turned, slowly, and there…at the fence…
He was tall. Taller even than she had thought, seeing him from a distance. A Nazgul. Her mouth felt dry but she felt oddly disconnected. The old instinct to run was finally beginning to leave her. "You are….You're…one of them."
Clang. It looked like a sword.
"Is…Are you answering me?"
Ok… "What do you want from me?"
Silence. He didn't even move.
"Is it me? Are you…what is this?"
A sword. A sword, the arrows, the drums of war… "Are you here to fight? Is this…Is that what this is?"
What? How had she ever gotten herself involved in a war? A war that didn't even concern her? Some people might have been disturbed by that. Some people might have professed that they weren't involved, that they had the wrong person. She was excited, adrenaline flooding her veins. A war. An actual war. She could fight. She did fear they had the wrong person, but not for the same reasons. She didn't want this to be a mistake. "Alright then. I accept. I'll fight you. But not right now, and not alone." She took a deep breath. "My friends will fight with me." She didn't feel the slightest hesitation in volunteering them. She had amazing friends, all of them. They wouldn't hesitate to fight beside her, with her. They would make this stand together, whatever it required. She wanted to be the one to end the discussion, the one to hold the power of leaving when she chose. She turned and walked away, knowing full well it's borderline insanity to present your back to the enemy. She thought(or hoped)that he at least would honor what she said. That he would be pacified by her promise to fight.
When no arrows found her back, she figured she was right.
She told them immediately, Nikkey, Lyndsey, and Katelyn. Lyndsey was interested, a little excited. Nikkey…harder to read. If Jennifer didn't know better, she would have said she seemed a little cautious but that couldn't be. Besides, she had promised to fight beside her. That was all she needed. Katelyn…Katelyn was amazed, somewhat in awe of the proceedings but Jennifer knew she'd be right there beside her, however far this went. That was one thing that was always, always true.
Jennifer leaned against a tree, pondering. She had talked to Nikkey earlier, through e-mail, and her advice had been to find out as much information as she could. So, she had set out to do some….testing. She had seen the dog again, appearing this time after she said Undomiel but before the drums. He had appeared before the drums before, running toward her and barking frantically but he always disappeared before he reached the fence line. It seemed almost like…a warning. Maybe he was a warming…or was giving a warning…or maybe he was working with the Nazgul, she had no idea. But she knew better than to think him good just because he was white. This wasn't the movies, and just because his fur was white didn't make him automatically an angel of light or some other such happy thing.
Now…she was going to try something new. Undomiel seemed to call them. She didn't know why, but she might as well try another word. This had been Nikkey's idea, and it seemed a good one. Maybe if she tired enough she could stumble on one that could bring some help instead of an army out to get her. She took a deep breath. "Dunedain." They were the rangers. Strong, brave, the best humans Middle Earth had to offer. Or so she believed. Aragorn had been a Dunedain. "Dunedain." The loved the way it sounded, and something about it felt…warm. Whether it was a good word or not didn't matter. Nothing happened. Well, at least she had discovered something. The dog could be a warning. Or he could just be their herald.
The arrow flew through the air in a graceful arc…only to fall unceremoniously into the leaves. "Aw, it's alright, Jess, good try! I'll get it!" Jennifer trotted off through the trees down toward the area where the arrow had fallen. A little too close to the corner for her comfort, and she couldn't help but wish Jessica would quit edging toward the back of the fence. Jessica knew nothing, and she wasn't sure she wanted her to. It was her 14th birthday, and for that she was having a bunch of friends over to spend the night. Jessica, a friend of hers since 6th grade, had been the first to arrive and had wanted to go out and try archery practice with a crude bow Jennifer's dad had made her when she was 8 years old. Jessica was small, both in build and stature, a fact that had earned the affectionate nicknames among her friends of Midget or Hobbit, and lots of not so affectionate teasing over the years. She had medium length dirty blonde hair and pretty green eyes that unfortunately often went unnoticed because of her glasses. She was extremely shy, quiet almost to the point of being withdrawn but with her friends she was talkative and funny in a dry, sarcastic way. With every year that passed she seemed to come out of her shell around others more, but it was a slow process. No one that loved her cared. They knew the real her. As Jennifer bent to retrieve the arrow she cast a wary eye on the woods before her. The platform had switched again. The sound of a car pulling up in the driveway up the hill pulled her out of her thoughts.
"Hey! Someone else is here!"
Jennifer turned from the woods with some difficulty, her smile widening at the sight of Katelyn's dad's car in her driveway. She may have more cares than other people, but she was determined nothing was going to dampen her happiness today. This night…was going to be fun. She grinned at Jessica. "Come on. Let's go see. I think it's Katelyn…"
11:00 PM. They were watching The Matrix. 10 girls, stretched out across the whole expanse of the living room. It was almost over, and at least two of them were already asleep. Those that remained had been silent for a good 10 minutes, but they were most certainly not asleep. Trinity leaned in to kiss to Neo. "Smile, you got Frenches…" The voice was so small and unexpected. So typically Kristin. The girls broke out in uncontrollable laughter. The statement on its own, coming out of the silence as it did, would have been funny enough but it was made even more so by the one who spoke it. There was no better word to describe Kristin than, well…Kristin. She was tall and slender, blue eyes and blonde hair and always with a smile on her face. She was everything fun, everything hilarious, everything wacky and crazy in a good way all contained in one person. There was nobody like her. The good mood, and the random appreciative chuckles lasted several minutes. The movie over, Jennifer stood up and stretched, stepping over Katelyn to reach the remote and turn off the TV. Her eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness. She was awake, vividly so. She had always been a bit of a night owl, and the recent events in her life were only giving her more of an edge, not less. She would not be ready for sleep for at least a few hours.
"Alright guys…I'm gonna go get a drink."
Lyndsey was up off the couch in an instant. "I'll come with you."
"Yeah, me too." It was Brittany Scots, a friend of Jennifer's from way back before she had really had friends. Brittany had been one of about 3 of them at her elementary school. She had also turned out to be the only true one. She was extremely tall, even taller than Nikkey. Her long brown hair matched her light brown eyes perfectly. She was gentle and sweet, a very kind, almost always happy person.
"Katelyn?" Jennifer turned to look at Katelyn over her shoulder. They had been friends all their lives. Where one went, the other inevitably followed. Katelyn nodded, getting up slowly and stepping up behind her friend. She was maybe an inch shorter, if that. It hardly mattered. Her blue green eyes had a way of standing out, particularly now that she wore contacts. Every year, she only grew prettier…and more popular. She was one of the happiest, most bubbly people Jennifer had ever met. On the other hand, however, no one who had ever seen her truly angry ever wanted to see it again. They were both very strong people, and over their childhood they had clashed loudly and often, but through it all they had always remained best friends and as they grew older they fought less until they didn't at all, and it seemed they had worked through all their fights as children. The group made their way into the kitchen, Jessica wordlessly getting up and following them as well.
Wandering over the refrigerator, Jennifer jerked the door open and leaned on it. "Ok guys…what do you want?"
Lyndsey's eyes fell on the bottom shelf. "Capri Sun! I haven't had one of those in…a long time, let's have that." There were general nods of agreement and Katelyn helped Jennifer pull the packs out and pass them around.
Maybe it was the night, the time with her friends when her life was undergoing such strange changes but there was a sense of energy to it all. She had to admit, if only to herself, that she had entertained the idea of telling some of them tonight. The prospect was both thrilling and frightening. There was always, always the risk that someone wouldn't believe her. But this was…becoming an integral part of her life. She knew that now. Just as she couldn't quell the urge to share it with those she cared most about. Besides, from a more practical point of view…If they were headed into a war, the more people the better. Lyndsey, across from her, struck a fighting pose from The Matrix and with a grin Jennifer squared off against her. Like Morpheous, she beckoned her forward. "Come on."
They sparred half clumsily for a moment, both laughing and neither seriously trying. Only a couple of kicks came close to hitting, and both of them nearly overbalanced more than once. They stopped by mutual agreement only because the "fight' was generating too much laughter and general noise. "You guys are crazy." It was Brittany, but she said it with a good natured smile. "I want to try." That earned some more laughter.
"Yeah, alright then I-" Jennifer stopped to see Katy entering the room, rubbing her eyes sleepily. "Katy. Hey." She lowered her eyes and looked away, feeling a little guilty. "Sorry we woke you."
Katy shook her head yawning. "No, it's fine." She furiously blinked the sleep away from her eyes. "Really."
Not so sure, Jennifer let it go all the same. "Here…you want a drink?" She pulled out a pack and handed her friend a drink before waiting for an answer. In her mind the tension between telling them and not telling them was reaching an all new high. On impulse, she tugged both Lyndsey and Katelyn by their arms. "Hey…can I talk to you two for a second?" She motioned around the corner and they both followed her. Lyndsey was smiling.
"You're thinking about telling them." It wasn't a question, it was a statement. She had already figured it out.
Jennifer gave a half nod. "Well…yeah. I trust these people or…I think I trust these people." She turned it over in her head for a moment…Kristin…yes. Brittany….yes. Katy…pretty much yes. Jessica…the most ambiguous of all, but she was pretty sure it would be alright. "Yeah. And…if I told them separately, on my own, it'd be harder than to do it all at once." She looked from Lyndsey to Katelyn, all seriousness. "It'd be easier with you two here to help me tell the story…not to mention back me up so I don't sound crazy."
Katelyn spoke first. "If you trust them…I think this needs to be your decision. If you want to do this…I'll help you."
Jennifer's eyes cut to Lyndsey. "Ok?"
An answering nod. "Yeah."
"Alright then…let's do this." Stepping back into the room, everyone's eyes came to rest on her. "Ok, ah…any of you guys really tired?" No one said much. Jessica shrugged. "Ok…we have…something we'd like to tell you about. It's a….really big secret. And I have to know I can trust you. You have to swear to silence. You'll tell no one. But it's…a really big secret. Huge. And…if you want to know…you can come with us. It may take quite a while to explain." Her eyes traveled over them, gauging their responses. Brittany stepped forward first.
"I want to hear it."
Kristin shrugged. "Yeah. I'll come hear it. Big secret…sounds exciting." She was smiling, as always, and looked just as excited as she always did about something new. Just like Jennifer had expected.
Jessica shook her head. "You guys go…you'll probably be awhile. I'm gonna go to sleep."
Jennifer nodded, a little relieved and ashamed that she was relieved at the same time. She wanted so much to trust this person. She turned to Katy, the only one who hadn't spoken. "Katy?"
Katy nodded. "Sure."
Three of them, three newbies. The count seemed perfect. It was time to begin. Flicking off the kitchen light she led them around the corner and into a room no longer used for anything but storage. When she was younger it had been her playroom, a place where she and Katelyn had passed more happy hours than either could count being dogs and wolves and playing with hundreds of animal figurines. Now, it was a ghost of what it had once been, unused toys stacked around the edges of the room and equally unused exercise equipment in the middle of it. They took seats in a half hearted circle around the central, flat piece of equipment. The only light remaining was that from the kitchen pantry just to their left and everything was cast in half light and half shadow. The light was almost a bit much for the kind of secrecy from the others Jennifer would have preferred, but turning it out meant she would be unable to judge anyone's faces, and she wanted to be able to know at least a little of what they were thinking. By her reckoning, she could start and Lyndsey and Katelyn could help clarify and add information where she left something out. When the basics were finished, there was more she had to tell them that had happened recently that even those involved hadn't heard. It would take some time. Lyndsey and Kristin had been friends from middle school and maybe even before, and Jennifer had met Katy only because she lived a few houses down the street from Katelyn. None of the others had ever met Brittany before. This divided everything up equally, with one person to focus mostly on one other. Hopefully, it would go well.
A couple hours later, the discussion had migrated up to Jennifer's room. Jessica had stirred in the living room and, not wanting to take the chance of being over heard, they had, by mutual agreement, gone upstairs. "So…that's everything. Up until what they've heard. There's more, recently, that not even they-" she pointed to the other "originals", "know."
Everyone stared at her, solomn. Then…
"Man, I have to go to the bathroom..and I don't want to go alone…" Kristin, of course. They all laughed, nervously. Lyndsey stood up.
"I'll go with you and I can stand in the shower and just be there and talk to you."
Kristin nodded, gratefully, and the two of them left for the bathroom. Jennifer settled back against the headboard of the bed, Brittany beside her. She didn't want to ask, but she had to say it. "You all…believe me don't you?" There was a chorus of "yeah"'s. Fairly convincing yeah's. Katy's was the only one she might have doubted, but it seemed alright. Good. That was good. She needed to be able to trust them.
Kristin and Lyndsey came back then, Kristin pausing to fish around in her bag before taking her place back up on the bed. She held a framed picture of her cats. "My cats…my cats…." She petted the picture, drawing a laugh from everyone. The emotion was understood. This was…scary stuff.
"Look I…understand you're freaked out. But it's alright. We're in this together." It felt good saying it like that, it felt like…they really were together. Fighting together. Jennifer smiled. "So….news. Right. I've been doing some research, and I think they might have found another balrog." She got a few wide eyed looks and a couple blank looks, just like she expected. "Ah…giant demon. Fire. Generals for the bad guys." She didn't want to say generals for the devil, even though it was what they were. Somehow, that made it a whole other shade more frightening. "They were supposedly all gone but…." She shrugged. "I have heard, and me and Katelyn have heard, footsteps along with the drums. Loud footsteps. Now it could be something else entirely, could be louder drums, but…a balrog would be the worst, so I say we assume that. And I tried saying "flame or Arnor" and got the same response as when I said Undomiel….Gandalf was wielder of the flame of Arnor. So…they don't want us mentioning anyone good. I'm not sure if that's from fear that they'll come or what but…I can see a little bit of a pattern."
"A…balrog." She could tell the word tasted completely unfamiliar to Brittany. "A demon." That one, not so much. "And it could be…after you?"
She glanced at Lynsey and Katelyn. "Well…there have been other things. Occurances that…" There was no good way to say this. "We're starting to think they may be catching on about others involved besides me." she watched it dawn on them. They were all at risk. This was what they had accepted. Some part of her said that maybe she should have told them the risks beforehand, but that was impossible. They wouldn't have believed her without the full story, and only saying "it's dangerous" would have serve to make everyone more curious. Maybe curiosity really did kill the cat.
Slowly, they began to talk amongst themselves, trailing off into other, individual conversations. There was general talk about getting the Silmarilion out and looking up more about balrog's but the book was in one of the birthday bags in Jennifer's parents room and she wasn't sure she could get in there and out without getting caught, so they decided to hold off on that. Jennifer leaned back against the bed, eyes falling to Brittany beside her. "You ok?" her voice was soft, concerned. This girl had been a friend of hers since fifth grade, but she had always been more of a follower and never one to stand up for herself…she wasn't a fighter. God, what had she been thinking… She was overwhelmed by sympathy and more than a little gift. Life wasn't the same anymore. She wasn't just some kid with a secret. This wasn't just gossip. This was life, and this was potentially dangerous, and she had to step up. Be a real leader. Being a leader meant not putting people at unnecessary risk.
"Yeah I'm….this is just so weird, you know?"
Jennifer nodded. "Mmhm. It is at first." She slid off the bed and fished around on the floor until she found the book she was looking for, then moved to sit back beside Brittany, propping the book up on her knees so they could both look. "These are the Nazgul."
"Do they look like that?" Her whisper had a tinge of awe to it.
"Not exactly, obviously, but they are in black robes…I haven't seen one up all that close yet." Yet. She used the word, because she knew eventually she would.
Brittany trailed her hand across the page, as if touching the image could give her a better feel for everything. Pulling the book away, she began to flip through the pages. "It's kind of like…The Matrix that we were watching earlier. Morpheus gave him the choice of taking either pill…and one drastically changed his life…and afterward, he was part of a war. But he would been happier, felt safer if he had just taken the other pill."
She both had to say it and didn't want to. "Do you wish I hadn't told you? Are you afraid?"
"…Yes." She sounded a little ashamed when she said it, but at least she told the truth.
Shoving down her own disappointment, Jennifer smiled warmly for her. "Don't worry. It's alright. You don't have to do anything, just…don't be involved, I won't tell you anymore, and they won't bother with you. You won't mean anything to them."
"Yes. I promise." And she hoped she was right.
"So I….I want to know." Jessica said it almost hesitantly, but her gaze was steady.
Jennifer twirled the chair side to side, thinking. She had, initially, said she would tell her but she had had reservations. And now, she was realizing she would have to choose more carefully. Brittany had backed out due to fear. Katy was interested but that was all it was and she should have known. She believed all of it, but Katy wasn't a fighter. She never had been. Kristin…Kristin was the most promising, and she would add some at times badly needed comic relief. It was her she looked to now, sitting across from her at the small lunchroom table. She didn't ask, but her eyes said it all. What do you think?
Kristin didn't give any sort of direct answer but instead gave a smile and sort of a vague shrug. She's support her if she told, but this wasn't her decision and she wasn't about to make it. Right. Jennifer looked at Jessica again. She did look sincere. She didn't want her to think she was being left out, stupid as that sounded. She seemed trustworthy. "Alright. I'll tell you."
Her eyes were glued to the grade sheet, heart beating fast. So, this was what it had come to. She had put everything else first and now….now…oh, God, she couldn't even bear to think of it. They would kill her. They would absolutely kill her. Mom had said she had to bring her grades up. She hadn't. Nothing had changed. No. No, no, no. She realized her hands were shaking, and that everyone else had already moved on to something else. Ripping her eyes away from the C that had just changed her life, she swiftly folded the paper in half and shoved it her notebook.
The lesson began but she was unable to focus, hands still trembling. She couldn't do this. She couldn't take this, not anymore. Not again. It would be worse this time, so much worse. They would hate her for this, maybe they already did. They would be furious. They would never forgive her. It didn't matter, she was nothing they wanted. She wasn't that kid who lived for A's. She never would be. It had been hard enough the last time but the fury she would face this time…it would be more than she could bear.
She needed a way out. She had to find a way out.
"So I'm thinking…that some people have the right idea." Kristin and Jessica looked up from their lunch, eyes falling on her, questioning. She had started talking as if they were in the middle of her conversation, because in her mind, she had been tossing this around for quite some time. "I think maybe it is better to just…end this, if the prospect of what you have to deal with is too much."
Jessica's eyes widened. "You don't mean-"
"Yeah. I do." Her voice was calm, her mind made up. She wasn't trying to scare them. She just didn't want them to be surprised when the time came. She loved them too much for that.
"No." Jessica was shaking her head. "No, you don't want to do that. Everything'll work out it's not the end of the world it's-"
"I think I'm right." She said it softly, gently. "And I've pretty much made up my mind."
"Maybe it'll be alright, you can wait and see…" Kristin looked a little anxious, hoping maybe to get her to listen if she talked about it calmly enough. "I'd miss you."
"And I'd miss you." And she would. So, so badly. "Both of you but I can't do this. Not anymore. It's too much." The bell was ringing. Lunch was over. "Come on. It's alright." She could tell they didn't think it was, but she did. She felt calmer, now that she had found a way out. Everything was going to be alright.
She had told Katelyn that night. Katelyn had begged and pleaded. She had told her she loved her, asked her not to leave her. She had reminded her of all she would miss, her dreams of being a veterinarian and a German Shepherd breeder. Jennifer had listened, and the tears had been heartbreaking, but she was done. She was just done.
She hadn't been able to get in touch with Lyndsey. She wanted to, before the time came, but she had a couple of days yet. She'd wait.
Nikkey would take some sort of crazy drastic action like telling someone, so she couldn't be told, unfortunately. Jennifer hoped she would understand.
The only other she had told she didn't really know. Online, someone whose identity she didn't know and had never met, but they had had a few fun conversations. He called himself Mulder. X-Files screen name. Damn, she loved that show. But it was a thing, just as he was a nameless face.
It was Tuesday. She had a week left to live, or at least a week in which to find the perfect time. Her days were numbered, and that didn't feel so bad.
Jennifer settled down in the computer chair somewhat uneasily. There was no noise from downstairs. She would probably have the time. It was only Wednesday, but perhaps it was best to get it over with. Slowly, she slid the drawer open and searched through the contents for what she knew would be there. An Xacto knife. Sharper than sharp. Breath slightly unsteady, she pulled it from the packaging. It seemed this was…her only choice. She wondered, briefly, how it had come to this…she used to be so happy, have such a happy life, and now…now, it seemed there was nothing worth living for. She had made up her mind. Steadier now, she lay the blade across her left wrist. It felt cold. She was ready. With slight pressure she felt it bite into her skin, then…
Without any warning, she was suddenly somewhere else. She knew, somehow, that physically she still sat in the chair. In her mind, however, and in the view she was seeing, she stood, her hands in the same position, knife blade against her wrist. And there before her…
He looked to be about her age, perhaps a little older. He had an air about him of someone who was, in any case, far older than his years. He was taller than her, though not excessively tall. He had the look of a warrior. He was dressed all in black, a match to his dark hair and a striking contrast to his eyes which were a lighter blue than she had ever seen. The color of artic ice. In those eyes she could see what looked to be desperation and panic, mingled with something else she couldn't read. He stepped forward, easy and swift but without seeming threatening. With firm hands he grabbed both her wrists, deftly twisting the knife away from her and pocketing it. His eyes never leaving hers, he raised her wrist to his lips and kissed it, lingering over the spot where the blade had been. "No." One word only, but it held power. His voice was soft and strong all at once. He held her wrist still in his grip. She could feel his breath on her skin, feel his thumb rubbing soothingly against the side of her arm. There was something in his manner…Almost like calming a frightened animal. Maybe that's what she was. It was all so bizarre she couldn't move, couldn't even speak. "I love you. I can't tell you why, but I love you. Don't…Do this."
She was mesmerized by his eyes. Then, it was over. As suddenly as he had forced his way into her mind h e was gone. She sat at the desk, blade across her wrist. She could still feel the warmth left from his lips, but it was soon lost to the knife's edge. If it had ever really been there. His words played over in her head, the honesty and fear in his eyes. His determination. Her right hand twitched, drawing the blade away from her skin. Maybe…maybe…if he was so determined that she lived, if it really…meant something to him…she would live. At least for a few more days. She slid the knife back into its package and back into the draw, hiding it beneath a pile of stuff and shutting the draw with a soft thud. "Who…" She didn't know, couldn't even begin to figure it out. Whoever he was…he was, at the moment, all she had. That was something.
She had had a day to work on it, and still she was no clearer on the identity of her mysterious savior than she had been the day before. With as many weird things as had happened in her life over the past few months, it didn't shock or surprise her as much as it would have before, but it was still bizarre and unexplained. She wandered aimlessly in her backyard, no clue as to her direction. No clue as to anything, really. She was worried about her future and thoroughly miserable. Not to mention, she was beginning to wish she would have carried out her actions from the day before. Then it would have all been over. As if he had been conjured by her doubts, he was suddenly in her mind again. This time there was a faint, somewhat relieved smile on his face. "You listened to me."
She chose not to answer that. "Who are you?"
His smile grew warmer and he took one step toward her. "Another time, perhaps."
She cocked her head at him, curious. "Are you…Mulder?"
He shrugged one shoulder. "You could say that, in a sense, yes." Another step forward. "And that would make you…Dana."
"He calls her Scully." She felt like being antagonistic. This guy had ruined her plans, after all.
"Yes, but…her name is Dana. I've been watching you." From most men it would have been a creepy statement, but for some reason she was comforted instead of frightened.
"Later." He wasn't far from her now, within arms reach. He seemed restless, like he wanted to touch her but was reluctant to do without her permission. She wasn't sure she was ready to give it. "So…do you want to tell me why it was worth it?"
She looked away. "I…I don't know what you're…"
He reached out and took her arm, solidly but not commanding. "Your life, Dana. Why was it worth your life?" His voice was coaxing, slow and soft.
Whoever he was, he knew more about her than she cared to think, but somehow…he made her want to answer him. She couldn't explain it. When it came down to it, though, it was hard to talk about. "I…" Tears sprang to her eyes and she blinked furiously to push them away.
"Here. Come here." Before she could protest he had pulled her into his arms, cradled her head against his shoulder.
She was surprised, dazed, but she didn't want to pull away. He was warm and somehow…safe. As if from here nothing in the world could ever hurt her. He would not allow it. She felt a little stronger. Enough, at least, to speak. "It…it's everything. Grades mean everything to my mom and…and mine have gotten worse. A C is like the devil to her and I haven't brought it up…It sounds so stupid to some people but they haven't faced her when she's mad. I have. And I can't do it anymore. It's too much. I…I couldn't bear it. And no one can help me. And besides I…She'll hate me. It'd be nice, too, to die while she still loves me."
He let her get it all out, the whole while rubbing her back and listening intently. When he spoke it was softly, treading lightly on a sensitive subject. "I'm sorry, that you have to go through that. It makes me angry, honestly, but I don't think…she knows quite what she's doing to you. Not that that helps but…I think you can do this. Just…get through it and it'll be over. I think you're strong enough. And…" He tipped her chin up and made her look at him, trapped her with his eyes. "I love you."
"Why?" She couldn't keep the agony out of her voice and she didn't even try. He knew how much she was hurting.
"Oh love," He brushed her hair back from her eyes, gave her a gentle smile that seemed to bathe her in light. "I can't tell you. Not yet. And I don't…expect you to be able to answer me. But I can tell you nothing but the truth. I love you." He moved closer to her, less than an inch between them and for a moment he seemed to be thinking it over, then he was nuzzling his face aginst hers, whispering softly something she coudlnt' understand. He kissed her then, warm and gentle and it seemed the most natural thing in the world. It was over all too soon and when he pulled back from he smiled broadly at the look in her eyes. She was dazzled. She had only known him a day and now….her first kiss, and she didn't' even know his name. All the same…it seemed perfect. She was not afraid of him.
"Who are you?"
"Not today. And…I have to be going."
"Now?" Before she realized it, her hands had tightened on his shirt.
"Yes. But…I'll be back tomorrow." He kissed her forehead, continued to hold her close. "Will you promise me you'll be alive tomorrow? Hmm?" He was, in a way, baiting her for an answer, using the pull she was already feeling toward him to tempt her into wanting to be alive to be with him again. He was hoping, at least, that he would be enough to make her hold on.
"Alright. I'll be here."
"Good." He smiled, let her go slowly as he backed away from her. "Good. I'll be here. Tomorrow evening…sometime. I'll see you."
She watched him fade from sight, her despair replaced by more than a little longing.
His plan was working.
Everyone says they can remember how it felt to first fall in love. For me, love was already there. It just had to be….reawakened. He did that and more. My first experience of love in this life was different, for it came at a time when I was also experience profound pain. I think it intensified the feelings, the awareness. The very need to be loved. I may not have answered him, those first few times but I loved him. I just didn't know how to say it yet because everything I had learned in this life had told me it was unnatural. Loving someone you just met? Preposterous, by their way of thinking. It was, however, there. It always had been. It always will be.