Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings and all its characters, races, and creatures, as well as our beloved Middle Earth, belongs to JRR Tolkien.

Jeren was already frustrated and she had not even had her morning meal yet!

After she had spoken to Lord Elrond last night, she had awoken early this morning with a new determination that she would tell Elladan everything today—that she loved him—that she had seen him making love to Naith at the pond the other day—and that she wanted to be with him forever. The only problem with her plan was that Elladan was not cooperating! She could find the Elf nowhere!

She had of course looked in his bedchamber first off. She had knocked and he had not answered. Thinking he may be asleep, she had even peeked inside, but he had not been there—not even in his bathing room—she'd checked in there as well. She'd then gone to the kitchen, where the aroma of the morning meal being made was making her stomach growl and her mouth water, but he was not there either. She checked in the stable, but Elladan's mare was still tucked into her stall, content with her morning's ration of oats, munching away.

Jeren was now on her way to the armory, to see if perhaps anyone there knew of the Elf's whereabouts. She could think of another place he might be, but she would die before she would knock on Naith's door and ask to speak to Elladan!

She paused outside the armory door. There were many voices coming from within—and footsteps headed for the door! She hurriedly stepped away from it, and just in time. It swung outward and she narrowly escaped being hit as it quickly swept out in an arc.

The Elves who stepped out of the armory did not even pause; they continued conversing with one another and walked back toward the house. There was Glorfindel, Elrohir, Galion, Tarmenel, Celduin, and the object of Jeren's quest—Elladan. Finally. Behind those six emerged Aragorn and Anardil and Jeren suddenly opened her ears to what they were saying. They were about to go off on another patrol—and they were leaving today!

Jeren quickly jogged forward to catch up with the groups. They were all walking very quickly.

"Papa," Jeren said breathlessly, as she drew up even with her father, "did I hear you aright? Are you leaving today on patrol?"

"Jeren," Anardil exclaimed, "where did you pop out from—thin air? I did not see you standing there!"

"Never mind, Papa," Jeren insisted. "Is it true? Are you leaving today?"

"Yes, daughter," he replied. "It is true. As soon as we can be ready, we will be off."

Jeren thought on this for a moment. She had to tell Elladan today. She could not continue worrying about this, and Valar only knew when he and Elrohir would return from this patrol. It could be weeks—or months. She could not let Elladan go without telling him all she had to say.

She ran ahead, catching up with the Elves who were almost to the house by now.

"Elladan," she panted, "could I speak with you, please?"

"I'm not sure, Sweetling," he said with a laugh, "it doesn't sound like you can speak at all. Perhaps you should wait till you can breathe easily again before you try talking."

"How funny," Jeren said sarcastically. She could do very much better without him treating her like an infant. "Not here, though. I must speak to you privately." She commended herself on how well she sounded this time. She was breathing much easier, and she'd chosen her words carefully.

"Very well," Elladan told her. "Come with me to my chamber. I need to gather a few things together. You can speak to me while I do this. Will that be all right?"

"That will be fine," she replied.

She followed him up the stairs and into his bedchamber, closing the door behind them. He busied himself with gathering the clothes and supplies he would need while out on patrol, and Jeren began pacing nervously. She wandered out onto his veranda, standing at the railing overlooking the valley.

Elladan stopped and followed the girl with his eyes. He'd had a conversation with his father this morning, a not altogether pleasant conversation, actually. Not that his father had been angry with him or anything of the sort. These things happen. Jeren had developed feelings for the person who had saved her life—a 'hero worship', if you will. It was no one's fault; it simply was a fact of life. Now he merely had to find a way to tell a young girl that she would live to love someone other than him; that he was not the love of her life, and that they would never be together romantically. The question would be 'how'?

"Jeren?" Elladan prompted.

Jeren didn't know how to start, so she decided to jump in with both feet.

"I'm in love with you, Elladan!" she said in a rush. When the Elf said nothing and indeed, did not even look that surprised, she went on, "I have been for quite a while. I think about you all the time, and I love you more that anything or anyone in the whole world." Jeren dropped her eyes to the floor, because the next part of her speech was very hard, and it was going to embarrass her to say it.

"The other day, I accidentally came upon you and Naith at the pond, and you were—you were both—you were about to—anyway, it upset me very muchand that is why I have been avoiding you both."

This time Elladan was a bit taken aback. Being caught by an audience out in the woods while making love wasn't that shocking. Most Elves have stumbled upon a couple now and then; it is not a cause for concern. But having Jeren see them was different. First of all, she was a young Human girl, and Human standards are very different from Elven ones. The shock for her would have been great under the best of circumstances. But Jeren's case was even more unique. She had been raped. He wondered just exactly what she had seen. He wondered if it had frightened her. He sincerely hoped it had not.

Elladan started toward her and she hung back slightly. She knew not why she shrunk from him, but she did just the same. He stood still and spoke from where he was.

"I am sincerely sorry that you saw what you did," he told her. "I hope we did not cause you fright, Jeren, or set you back in any way."

"No, Elladan," Jeren said sadly. "It was only pure jealousy I felt. I wished for you not to be with Naith at all. I wished for you to be with me." Jeren turned away from him, embarrassed for being so blunt, but wanting him to think her old enough to understand exactly what it meant to be in love—and to make love.

"That can never be, Sweetling," he told her gently.

"Call me not Sweetling!" she said forcefully. "It sounds as a name you would call a child. I am seventeen years old. That is quite old enough to know my own heart Elladan, whatever you might think!"

"You told us you were but sixteen," he said, trying to diffuse the situation somewhat. "Since when did you add a year?"

"Since my birthday two days ago!" she said near tears. No one remembered but her—not even her father!

Elladan dropped his head in defeat at the terrible hurt he knew that must have caused her. Elves celebrated their begetting day, but he knew Humans set great store in celebrating their birthdays. Many a birthday did they celebrate of Estel's, much to the young Human child's delight. And now half the Elves Jeren knew—plus Estel and Anardil—were deserting her today. Wonderful. And he was telling her not only was he not in love with her, but that there was no future for them ever. What a wonderful day this girl was having.

"I wish I could tell you I was in love with you Jeren," Elladan said, "but I cannot. To start with, I am over two thousand years old. I have seen things and done things your mind cannot begin to grasp—things your father's mind cannot begin to grasp, sweetheart. Were you ninety-seven, and not just seventeen, the difference would still be too overwhelming. And look at me, Jeren. Two thousand years old. I look not a day over thirty, you once said. When you are seventy, I will still look not a day over thirty. And let's just say I let myself fall in love with you, and I loved you with all of my heart. Since you are Dunedain, you would last a mere one hundred fifty or sixty years or so—and then you would die and leave me for all time—leave me with a broken heart to fade away. An Elf loves only once in his lifetime you know. We are not as Humans, and able to love again if we are unfortunate to lose our mates to death. You may call me selfish if you like, but I would think myself insane to purposely put myself in that position. Can you understand what it is I am telling you?"

Jeren had been listening to Elladan with her total attention, and as much as she did not want to understand what he was telling her, she could not deny that he made complete sense. She wanted to weep and rail against the unfairness of it all! But she wanted to know—was it the fact that she was not attractive to him at all that kept him from loving her, or was it simply that she was Human, and the problems facing them too great to overcome?

"Elladan," Jeren started quietly, "would you answer a question truthfully for me please? I have to know. Could you love someone like me—ever? I mean not just some Human woman. I mean me—in particular. Look at me and tell me. Do you see a woman who could please you?"

The Elf looked at the girl—young woman—with different eyes. There before him sat a young woman with ebony hair and silver-gray eyes. She was pretty, in a rugged sort of way. She was a woman not afraid of hard work, and made lean and strong by the doing of it. When he looked at her in this way, he could see the shape of Estel's face in hers—the high cheekbones and pointed chin. Elladan smiled. She was a pretty little thing, now that he looked at her. He'd never bothered before; at first he'd seen her through a healer's eyes, and then he adopted the eyes of a brother when looking at her.

"You are a very pretty woman, Jeren," Elladan replied at last, "and you will make a fine wife to one of the rangers who ride with your father and Estel—later in your life when the time is right."

Part of her wanted to beat on the Elf and tell him none of it mattered. Tell him that they should live in the moment—worry about the future when the future arrived. Of course that would be easy for her, because her future was finite—as he'd reminded her, only one hundred fifty some odd years. Elladan, on the other hand, had a future never-ending; he would continue on and on, whether she was with him or not.

She'd had a conversation with Naith—before the fateful day at the pond—in which the Elf had explained all about the Elven way of love—how they bonded but once, and if one of the pair was to die, the other could very well fade away and die of a broken heart. What Elladan told her was the truth—if he fell in love with a Human—deeply in love—and the Human woman died at the end of her life, Elladan could be doomed to a slow, painful death, simply because of the loss of his love. If he married an Elven woman, like he was supposed to do, they would both live forever and he would be fine. She should just leave Elladan alone, and go about her life the best that she could. Perhaps she would get over him, given enough time. Right now it felt like she would not, but she was still very young. Perhaps all the 'so called' adults were right. Perhaps her heart would heal from this hurt of loving Elladan. She thought not, but what choice did she really have?

"Well, I hope for my sake that you are right, Elladan," Jeren said sadly, "But I know in my heart that you are the only one for me."

Elladan knew not what else to say, so he left it at that. He placed his hands on either side of her face and gave her a sweet, brief kiss on the lips.

"You will find the one who is right for you, Jeren," he said. He straightened up and checked the bow he had strung across his shoulder.

"I suppose I am off with the others now, to go and hunt some Orcs," he said, his face like flint.

"Slay them heartlessly, Elladan," Jeren said with venom, "kill at least a thousand for me."

"Consider it done, lady," he said.

And with that, he was gone, and Jeren was there, looking at his back as he left. She turned to the railing, again looking out over the vista that was the valley of Imladris. It wasn't long before she could see the party of warriors as they made their way out of the vale, into the wilderness, where the wild things were which they hunted.

Jeren lingered in Elladan's chamber for a little while, looking at some of his things. He really kept very Spartan surroundings—there were very few things adorning his chamber, so those that were there, must have been very special to him. On her way out of the door, Jeren caught her image reflected in the mirror that hung over a desk. She looked at herself in that mirror, trying to see herself as others saw her. Her dark hair, which she pulled back in a braid, trailed down her back; her widely spaced gray eyes fixed between two high cheekbones, were slightly tilted upward at the outer corners; her small mouth just above her gently pointed chin was pleasant enough. She had the scar at the corner of her left eye, but that didn't matter to her at all. As Elrohir was so fond of saying, it was her banner of courage for all to see. Was she pretty? She had no notion at all. Nor did it matter. If Elladan did not want her, she saw no point in worrying over it any longer. She could not imagine having these deep feelings of love for anyone else, ever again.

She shook her head slightly. She had told Elladan how she felt, but now she wondered—did she feel better as Lord Elrond told her she would? Or worse? Of course, she had to remember he also had told her 'in the long run' she would feel better, even were Elladan not to return her affection. At least she would not be wondering how he would feel or react to the news any longer.

She closed the door behind her as she left, and ran down the stairs two at a time. She hoped that the Lord of Imladris was in his study again. She imagined he had seen the riders off on patrol when they'd left a short while ago. It would also help if he weren't in some meeting with Glorfindel or Erestor. She really hoped to talk with him. Her mind was all mixed up with these thoughts and feelings about Elladan and men and women—and just life in general.

She skidded to a halt in front of Elrond's study door, stopping momentarily to regain her breath. If she wanted to be considered an adult, she supposed she should begin acting like one more often. She knocked softly upon the closed door. She heard the muffled 'enter' clearly and went in.

"Ah Jeren," Elrond said smiling slightly. He was sitting at his desk, and had paused in the writing of some message or other. "In all the excitement, I missed morning meal and neglected greeting you this morning. I trust you slept well?"

"Well enough," she admitted. She did not say anything more; she just sat down in a chair beside his desk.

Elrond laid the quill he'd been using down on the blotter and sat back. He rested his elbows on the arms of his chair, steepling his hands and twining his fingers together in front of his chest.

"You did not come down to the courtyard to see the patrol off," he said sedately, "was anything wrong? Your father missed saying goodbye to you."

"He also missed my birthday two days ago," Jeren retorted smartly, "so I guess that makes us even."

"My but your tongue is sharp this morning," Elrond quipped. "Come no closer to me, lest it lash out and cut me by mistake."

"I am sorry, my lord," Jeren said, looking contrite. "I just thought my father and I were getting on better is all; and then he goes and forgets an important day like that. It hurts me, that's all."

"I am afraid it is a bane of the male sex, Jeren," he told her with a guilty half grin. "Dates and occasions are not our strong suits, I fear. Try not to hold that against Anardil too harshly. If you will recall during your life, when your mother still lived, it was probably she that remembered all important dates and occasions. Am I right about that? If your father was even around to be reminded of them at all?"

Jeren looked at her hands in her lap. "You are right, I suppose, as usual. Papa was not around that much—which is another bitterness I hold against him unfairly. But unfair or not, it is still something he neglected to give me in my life, and I have spent many a long hour and day—and week—even month—alone—waiting for him to come home and be my father! Am I to simply forget that he was never there; say 'oh well, perhaps in my next childhood, Papa can do better?' I have no next childhood to live again, so what was lost is lost forever."

Jeren stopped speaking, knowing it did no good to lament over things lost. After a moment, she continued, "I will work through it—with your help of course—and get beyond it so that I can love my Papa fully and not think of it any more with bitterness. I wish to only think of it as something that was, that could not be helped. That is the mature way to think of it and that is my goal."

"You have grown up much, Dear One," Elrond told her sincerely. "You will meet your goals; and I will help you as much as I am able."

"Yet now I regret not saying goodbye," Jeren said woefully.

"He understands more than you know," Elrond assured her. "I am not sure Elrohir will forgive you, however. He was most irate with you!" The Elf lord laughed so she knew he was teasing her. "He had me hold this for you." He handed her a rolled parchment tied with a pretty pink silk ribbon.

Jeren smiled and accepted the message, untying the ribbon and smoothing out the paper. The message was written in Elrohir's smooth script:

My Dearest Young Lady—

While Brother did not tell me what you said, he did tell me he had a talk with you regarding what we spoke about a few days ago. I am happy you found the courage to speak with him, and hopefully, ease your mind. I know not if he gave you the answers you sought, and if not, my heart is in sorrow for you. I love you, and I would have you achieve your every dream, but only if it is truly in your destiny.

By the time you read this, I will be long from Imladris. Elladan also told me we missed a very momentous occasion two days ago, and I am exceedingly sorry that I cannot now in person wish you a belated 'Happy Seventeenth Birthday'. I have infused this message with a special Elven hug and kiss that will be delivered upon your completion of the reading of this missive, so be ready when the last word passes through your mind's eye. Are you ready?

I love you—


Jeren laughed and dropped her hands into her lap as she finished the letter, looking up at Elrond once again.

"Elrohir beats everything, does he not?" she asked his father.

"He beats everything twice!" Elrond replied with a laugh.

Jeren grew serious once again. "I spoke with Elladan before he left."

Elrond pursed his lips, wondering what his son had told the girl and hoping he'd not hurt her.

"Do you want to talk about what he said?" the Elf lord asked her.

"He told me the two of us could never be," she replied.

"And did he tell you why?" Elrond queried.

"He did, and I understand, but I don't want to understand," she said, knowing she sounded strange, but not caring.

"These things are difficult," Elrond admitted. "The heart has a mind of its own at times and does not want to do the logical thing."

"Well," Jeren said as she let out a breath, "Elladan could not have been plainer. He doesn't want to put himself through the insanity of loving a Human woman, so he won't even try. That's the end of it, according to him, so there is nothing I can do but accept it. Correct?"

"If that is what he said," Elrond agreed, "I suppose that is all you can do." Inwardly, Elrond breathed a sigh of relief. His son had come through! He had let Jeren down easily, with a very plausible argument. However, it could very well be the way Elladan felt about the whole situation of Elves trying to bond with Humans. Elrond truly didn't know.

He'd discussed the perils of Elves having intimate relationships with Humans on many occasions with his children, and they knew the Elf lord's opinion of it without any doubt. Ane his opinion was that it was not done. However, what they would decide in their own lives was something else altogether. Whatever Elladan's cause for using this particular argument, Elrond was proud of him for thinking of it! This had been a very delicate situation and Elladan had handled it very well.

"Have you any work for me to do, my lord?" Jeren asked, changing the subject. She no longer felt like dwelling on this. It was only succeeding in depressing her further. She had many years to think about this, after all—her whole lifetime.

"As a matter of fact, I do," Elrond said. He reached across his desk and picked an apple up from the corner of it. He handed the piece of fruit to Jeren and she took it, her brows drawn together in a frown of confusion.

"Would you kindly take that apple down to the stables and feed it to Tuile?" Elrond asked her. "Elrohir had to leave her here this trip because she cut her foot on a sharp stone a few days ago and was not yet healed. She was most unhappy when she noticed he was preparing to ride another in her place, and he promised her an apple a day until his return. Would you take on the task of fulfilling Elrohir's promise to Tuile in his absence?"

"That Elrohir beats everything, does he not?" Jeren asked, her spirits up just a tad. "I always thought it was Elladan that had the kind heart—and he does have a kind heart to be sure—but I am not sure that Elrohir's heart is not just as kind, if not kinder. What do you think, Lord Elrond?"

"I think you have figured my son out quite well, Jeren," he answered her. "Elrohir is full of mischief and jests, but inside, where it counts, his heart is as large as the entirety of Arda."

"Well let me go and greet Tuile with her daily gift then," Jeren said with a little grin. She dropped a kiss on the Elf lord's cheek, then left the study to his fond farewell.

It took her not long to get to the stables, and to find Tuile. She looked not too much worse for the wear, but horse's feet could not be chanced with—especially for long journeys through rough terrain, when anything could happen, and the rangers and Elves needed to be on their toes at all times.

Jeren ran her hand over the mare's sleek neck, thinking about her owner. Elrohir was such a sweet person. He was very vexing and exasperating at times, that was for sure. Lately, though, while Jeren had been having so many problems, he had been there for her through thick and thin. If she had ever had a brother—she would have chosen Elrohir. And she would have been so proud to be a sister of his!

She walked back slowly to the Last Homely House, taking time to look down through the beauty of Imladris. She wondered if Elrohir had truly meant what he said in the letter he had written: I would have you achieve your every dream, but only if it is truly in your destiny.

Jeren wondered if Elladan was her destiny—or not? Was she simply a girl in love with the person who saved her life? He was handsome and kind and brave—was that what she was in love with? But Elrohir had been there at the homestead with Elladan, and had also helped save her life. He had been the one to stitch her wounds closed. He had used his Elven magic and chanting to ease her pain and help her sleep; yet she did not feel the same kind of love for him that she felt for his brother. She knew in her heart that it was not simply a girlish infatuation, this love she had for Elladan.

No, she was not going to turn her back on her own heart. She had lived her entire life pleasing others—mainly her father. It was high time she began living her life for herself, because as she had just discussed with Lord Elrond, she had but one life to live, and she only got one try at it!

With this conclusion drawn, she drew another: she knew not if Elladan would ever have her, but she knew she would never have another. If the experiences of these past several weeks had taught her anything, it was that life was too short to settle for second best.

And she would not.

The End

For now