"I HATE HIM!" She flung a crystal goblet across the room and it shattered against the marble hearth with a loud crash, then she exhaled. "Damn it, that was part of a set."

She sat down on the bed and buried her face in her hands.

"Knock… knock?"

Amdir looked up and saw Seren in the doorway, one hand over her belly, the other raised in hesitant greeting.

"Come in, if you dare."

Seren stepped in and noted the shattered glass. "I am brave, remember?"

Amdir laughed dryly. "You'd have to be. Have you heard?"

"I wish I could say 'no', but the whole court is talking about it. They think it's a good match." Seren cocked her head and studied her friend.

Amdir sat on her bed and pouted. "Of course it's a good match, it's a wonderful match. But I didn't want it like this. I want him to want me, not marry me out of some misplaced sense of duty. How could Thranduil do this to me a second time? I should never have returned."

"I would never say that Haldir has a misplaced sense duty." Seren sat at the foot of the bed, tucking her leg underneath her.

"He may in this case, assuming he's even agreed to the arrangement. Everyone knows that Galadriel would forgive our King almost anything. Time could heal any transgressions as easily as an alliance through marriage. Thranduil thinks he is doing this for me."

Seren pursed her lips and bobbed her head a few times. "I don't think so. I am under the impression that the King is doing this for Haldir."

Amdir barely heard the comment. "I sat by his side every moment I could. I prayed and begged and bargained with the Valar to have him stay, but I wanted to earn him back, not have him take me because he was ordered to."

"What does it matter? Either way you get the hero, and even if he is mad now and marries you out of duty, he will come around in time. You are a part of him, if he has forgotten this, he needs to be reminded. Have you talked to him?"

She rose to gather the broom from behind the door. "Not since the night I tried to seduce him, and he picked me up and dropped me in a heap on the ground. No I have not talked to him about our relationship."

Seren sat up. "Things have changed. Amdir: Go talk to him!"

"I can't."

Seren turned wide eyes to her.

"Don't look at me like that," she protested. "I have a lot to do, somebody has to clean up this broken glass."

Seren sighed. "Amdir…"

The young elleth slowly sat back down on the bed, broom in hand. "You don't know him like I do. Haldir will do anything for duty. He will marry if ordered to, and I will never know if he truly loved me. Thranduil should not have meddled."

Seren moved up the bed to sit next her friend. "What if I told you that it wasn't all the King's idea?"

Amdir stared straight ahead of her and slowly made space between them. "Pardon?"

"The King came to me when we were at Rhosgobel. He asked me about your relationship with Haldir. He said he was concerned for you and wanted to help, and I told him that you wanted Haldir but that Haldir refused to get out of his own way. That he was blinded by his anger."

"And together you thought you would force him into forgiving me? Force him into a marriage he doesn't want?"

Seren shifted uncomfortably, and Amdir pounced.

"How dare you treat us like that? You and Rumil were given the time and space to fall in love, and yet you think it is acceptable to dictate and advise on my life as though I were an asset of the state?"

Seren rose, her hands out in front of her. "It wasn't like that Amdir. The King cares for you and he cares for Haldir too. He wanted to help."

Amdir rubbed her forehead and pinched the top of her nose. "I don't need your help," she said through clenched teeth as she started to gather her things.

Seren looked alarmed. "Where are you going?"

"First to see Haldir and apologize for the actions of….everyone, then I will travel back to Imladris, resume my work there, and forget any of this ever happened. And I warn you, Seren, if there is ever to be any friendship between us ever again, do not interfere."

Seren's eyes began to tear up and she wrung her hands, but she did not try to stop her. Amdir glanced at her friend and hesitated, but she was too angry to deal with Seren right now. She grabbed a vase of flowers off her desk and stormed out of the room.

30 minutes later, the elleth was pacing the hall outside of Haldir's door, trying to muster up the courage to enter.

"It's not like he can do anything, I mean, he can't even walk…but he can order me out…or ask me to stay…no, he won't do that…he will wonder why I'm there at all…'didn't I ask you leave?' he might say or maybe he'll be happy that I've come…but unlikely…"

"Who, in Middle-earth, are you talking to?"

Amdir whirled around and met Tira, who was quietly leaving the March Warden's room. Her mouth dropped open "myself, unfortunately."

Tira smiled and stood patiently.

"How is he?" Amdir asked.

"Much improved, although his mood seems off. I can't imagine why."

She slowly shrugged her shoulders. "Nor can I," she said in the most innocent voice she could conjure.

Tira raised a brow. "I suspect," she said, looking at Amir pointedly, "that he misses his companion."

Amdir exhaled. There was simply no point in playing coy with the elleth who had raised her. "Tira, he didn't even know I was there, what difference does it make?"

The healer smiled. "I think he knows, I think it's the reason he returned to us. Why not go in, Amdir. It could do no harm, and you two have much to talk about."

Amdir gave Tira a long look that ended in a nervous smile, then gently knocked on the door.

"Come in,"

She bit her lip and looked back at Tira, who raised her brows and mouthed 'go.'

When she entered the room, Haldir's eyes were closed. He lay against a pillow, his hair free and loose over his shoulders and he wore no shirt. His torso still bore the bandages from his arrow wounds.

"Place it on the nightstand," he said, eyes still closed, causally motioning to the table by his head. Amdir placed the flowers close to him, so he could smell them on waking, then she sat down in the chair by the bed. He took a deep breath and relaxed more deeply into the pillow.

She leaned in, her voice barely above a whisper. "Haldir?"

The March Warden's eyes flew open, and his arm jerked out, overturning the flowers that fell onto the floor with a crash, spilling water and petals everywhere.

"What in the…?"

"I'm so sorry!" she gasped and immediately knelt to gather the flowers and sop up the water with a white linen towel that she grabbed from the sidetable.

"That is my shirt!"

"Oh my, I apologize…" She stood up, one hand holding a few roses, the other held the now sopping wet shirt. "I'll just place these here," she carefully placed them on the nightstand, "and go."

She turned on her heel, squeezing her eyes shut in mortification the moment her back was turned.

"Amdir, wait,"

She paused.

"Do stay, we have things to discuss."

She exhaled a ragged breath then slowly turned around.

"Please," he motioned to the chair.

She sat down, and an awkward silence prevailed. He slowly hoisted himself up against his pillows, then turned his blue eyes on her. He was paler than he had been and his face more narrow, but it only served to accentuate his chiseled features. She had rarely seen him with his hair down and had never seen him shirtless, except that one time…

"I see you almost brought me flowers," he said with a small, slightly amused smile.

She nodded. "How are you feeling?"

"Much better. Tira says I can start exercising this leg in a few more days. She also said that you stayed with me while I was unconscious."

She caught his eye, but quickly looked away with small shrug. "You were far from home and I didn't want you to be alone."

He lowered his head to catch her eyes again she wondered what was happening. It was unlikely he'd forgiven her, but perhaps he wished to renew her friendship? It may not be a love of the ages, but it was something.

"It was kindly done. Thank you," he said.

She nodded a third time and bit her lip.

"I also hear we are to be married," he said lightly, as though he were commenting on the weather.

She immediately rose and the words began to tumble out of her mouth. "I did not mean to, it was not my doing, you must believe me—"

"Peace, Amdir, I know this already. The King spoke to me before he spoke to you. Please sit down. There is some wine on that far table, I would pour it for you if I could."

She exhaled and sat down heavily. "I do not need wine, in truth I don't know what to say, other than I'm sorry. About Uldor, the baby, doubting you with Aea, even the flowers," she motioned to the remaining stems still laying on the floor. "I'm so sorry."

He looked at her for a long while but said nothing and although she thought she was mentally prepared for his response, her heart sank nonetheless. He looks like one of the Valar, I do not want him as just my friend, and every time I see him, my heart will break again.

She took a breath. "Also," she continued quickly. "I want to officially release you from this latest arranged marriage. I'm not quite sure what my Lord King was thinking, but I do think we can agree that match-making may not be his greatest skill. You were very clear about your intentions and also taught me a valuable lesson about respecting boundaries, and so, as much as I have cared for you, you are free of this duty, this obligation. I think we both know our realms are in good standing and so, I release you."

Haldir opened his mouth to speak but she was afraid of what he may say, so she continued talking, her voice a touch louder and edged in formality.

"And furthermore, you go with my full blessing, and my hope that you enjoy a prosperous and bountiful future."

"Are you finished?"

"With lots of children and pets...and no unexpected Easterlings." She paused. "Now I am finished."

He exhaled and sat back against the pillows, then looked at her. "That was quite a speech."

"Thank you, I practiced it outside your door for twenty-five minutes."

His lips twitched. "Did you? I did not hear that…"

She smoothed her gown over her knees. "Well, now that that is done, you can move on with the business of living. May we part in peace, Haldir O Lor-" She made to rise, but he reached out and touched her knee.

"Amdir, stop."

She sat back down.

"The King came this morning, and when he told me his plans, I admit, I was furious. Yet again. You see, I have been so angry these last 12 months. At you, at Uldor, at Thranduil and Celeborn, at everything and everyone."

She jumped in. "But I only want-"

"Amdir, please let me finish. I must share this with you."

He ran his hand through his hair, pushing it away from his face. "The morning you disappeared when we were in the brown, the day after we made love, not even the power of creation could have consoled me, I was so hurt. I felt you had betrayed me, and I couldn't make peace with it. You were always special to me, you know know this, but when I saw you grown last year in Cara Galadhon, a part of me felt that the reason I saved you all those decades ago was because now you would be mine. I know how selfish that sounds – and perhaps even inappropriate...

"But I just… dammit, I have been a fool. I may have saved your life long ago, but over these past few weeks, you saved mine. I know it was you who reminded me of the promise I made to always protect you, and that you called me back from death. I saw it. And I know it was your hand that rested on my chest every night, keeping me planted in this world. I felt it.

She stared, afraid to move, afraid to blink, waiting for the 'but', except that it didn't come.

"Amdir, my beautiful rabbit," his fingers reached up and gently touched the tip of a porcelain ear that showed through her short hair.

"I know I have hurt you, but please do not go to Imladris, at least not yet. Do you remember when we sat in the patio of your cottage in Caras Galadhon and we said that we would take the time to get to know one another? Let's forget all that has happened, and take that time, take a lifetime. Second chances are few and far between, and I want you at my side. Will you come home with me and be my wife?

For a moment she thought she hadn't heard him right. She closed her eyes tightly as though trying to solve a puzzle.


She opened them and cocked her head. "And you forgive me?" she asked slowly.

He exhaled and his breath shook. She realized he was nervous.

"I don't blame you for acting as you did, in fact I admire you. You were heroic. I forgive you if you can forgive me."

Tears stood in her eyes. "But you threw me in the leaves."

"A damned fool."

Her heart beat, but she had to know. "This is not for duty?"

"Duty be damned."

He stared at her, his clear blue eyes steady, his arched brows intense as he waited for her response.

Finally a smile bloomed on her face, and he held his hand out to her. "Never doubt it. Come to me."

She rose, and carefully sat on the side of his bed, then she tentatively raised his hand to her lips, as though testing to see if he would pull it away, but instead he studied her face, his mouth tipped in a gentle smile. Then he reached around her and pulled her into a passionate kiss that left her breathless and radiant. After the first kiss, it began to sink in what was happening, and she wrapped her arms around him and kissed his face with joy, causing him to laugh and wince in equal measures.

"My love, my hero, my friend," she murmured between kisses and tears. "I was sure you would send me away, it has always been you, I love you, I love you."

That is how his brothers, Seren, and the twins found them when they came to check in on him a few minutes later, and they whooped their congratulations to Amdir's delighted embarrassment and Haldir's sheer joy. Wine was poured, friends forgiven and plans made, and as Amdir sat, beaming at her March Warden safely in her arms, and surrounded by family and friends, she wondered if it was possible to die of happiness.

And outside in the hallway, the Elvenking was making his way to the March Warden's room, but when he heard the laughter and general ruckus coming from inside, he paused. Then, with a slow smile spreading across his face, he turned around and made his way back up the hall.