She managed to make it safely back to her chamber before the tears began to flow. Why did he keep doing this to her? It was at moments like this, after partings like this, that she came close to despair. Why couldn't he understand? She didn't care about crowns or kingdoms or safety or peace. She knew what a Ranger's life was like and had prepared herself to share it. She could use sword and bow, heal the wounds and sicknesses of Men and animals, tend garden and dairy and do all the other duties that fell to the mistress of a holding. They could have been married years ago. Father would have been unhappy, yes, but the matter would have been settled. He'd have had no choice but to accept it. As it was he kept hoping, kept arguing.

Oh this was his doing, she knew it was! She'd overheard Father on that theme before, telling Aragorn he would only bring her to misery and death and making him believe it. The brief spurt of anger died. She knew only too well how much it would hurt Elrond to lose her, how could she blame him for putting up a fight? Wouldn't she do the same in his place. Besides, it wasn't Father who'd made Aragorn give her back her ring all those years ago in Lorien and tell her he had nothing to offer her to match what she would have to give up, that they must forget each other. That had been his own idea, his own belief. And she'd never, for all her efforts, been able to change his mind.

She'd lain awake all that long, miserable night listening to the golden leaves rustling around her chamber and remembering Aragorn's father and grandfather and all those other Heirs of Isildur who'd loved her so passionately as boys and forgotten her so completely once they were Men. And it in the dark watches of that endless night a terrible fear entered her heart, fear that Aragorn had tired of her, like all his fathers before him, but was too kind to tell her so. By daylight she'd known the thought for the nonsense it was. She had seen the love and the pain in his eyes and known that he truly believed she would be better off without him. Aimlessly idling the long years away in the peace and beauty of Rivendell and Lorien. But it was to late for that. She knew it, even if he didn't.

Neither Aragorn nor her father seemed to understand that she'd changed. She was no longer the blithe Elf child she'd once been, before shed seen Estel, and never could be again. The Mortal side of her nature had become very strong over fifty years of loving a Man and fitting herself to live among his people. She was more Woman than Elf now and she knew in her heart Aman was not for her.

Even if Aragorn died, or truly tired of her and never wanted to see her again she would stay in Middle Earth and grow old and die alone if she must. Like her brothers before her she had found her true self and there was no going back. Even though she knew it would break her father's heart, and her mother's, and her grandparents' too.

She wiped her eyes. If Aragorn returned she would tell him that, and he'd finally stop being so blasted noble and self sacrificing and let them get on with making a life together. If he didn't return, she'd find him again beyond the Circles of the World, as Luthien their ancestress had found Beren. Either way, they'd be together - and that was all that mattered.