Disclaimer: I own nothing but an '89 Caddy Eldorado with a broken tape deck, and you're welcome to it.
Rating: Who knows what offends people? I gave it an R, just in case someone's squeamish.
Picture, Part 1
Kate stared around her with abject dismay. When she'd lay down to have a good think about the scene she was supposed to be sketching— that tense moment of Boromir finding the ring on Caradhras—she'd only expected, at worst, to fall asleep and have a nice little nap.
Never had she expected to fall asleep, have a nice little nap, and wake up on the side of a frigging mountain. Pushing her hair out of her face, she pushed herself up to a sitting position and searched for some sign of life in the swirling white world around her.
There was none.
She sighed, and wondered what it was she'd eaten that had spawned this bizarre dream. At least she wasn't cold, she thought with relief, and flopped back on the snow to wait. It didn't take long. First she heard them, and then she saw them—three tall figures struggling through the snow, dragging four short figures, a medium-sized figure leading a pony, and…
One last tall figure, seeming even taller as he was prancing about atop the snow.
Well, perhaps 'prancing' was unkind… it was really more of a stroll than a prance, Kate had to concede. The expressions on the faces of the eight non-prancers as they gazed upon his unimpeded progress was priceless, a mixture of fury and envy and helpless amusement, and she had her sketchbook and pencil out before she knew it to capture the moment.
"Hee hee," she giggled at a particularly foul glance the dwarf leveled on the elf when he looped back to the end of the line to check on the pony, and then blinked in shock. Because the elf had stopped, straightened, and turned around.
To face her.
She looked to either side, and behind her, to see if he were checking out something that was happening nearby, but no. Nothing there on the lump of snow upon which she was seated, but her.
And now it was his face that was priceless: she was fairly sure that elves weren't often surprised, and even more rarely shocked, but this one was both. His eyes opened wide, his lips parted, and Kate found herself scrambling to flip to a blank sheet so she could draw him that way.
Alas, the moment passed quickly, and before she could get just the right expression of astoundment in his eyes, they and his lips were narrowing in suspicion and, she suspected, a bit of anger. Hm. He was no less compelling when suspicious or angry either, and began to modify the drawing to reflect his new expression as he stomped closed to loom over her.
To her absolute astonishment, he reached out and snatched the pad from her, tossing it to the snow behind him. "Foolish woman, what are you doing here?" he hissed at her as a sudden gust blew snow over him—but not her. Ice crystals clung to his eyelashes, and he blinked furiously to clear them away.
This was interesting… she had never interacted with anyone in her dreams before. Standing, she brushed absently at the seat of her jeans and walked over to where Boromir was fighting his way through a drift, one arm clenched around Frodo's waist. Bending close, she reached out to poke his shoulder.
"What are you doing?" the elf hollered, running after her. "Do not—" but before he could finish his sentence, Frodo started shrieking in alarm.
"The Ring! I have lost it!"
"This is it!" Kate said, and ran back for her sketchbook. Her pencil was gone; she jammed a hand in her back pocket and found another, and began drawing. The looks of concern on the faces of the other Fellows, the panic on Frodo's, the… hm, that was interesting.
Boromir was just as apprehensive as the others, his face holding none of the avarice and power-lust she thought he'd have borne in that situation. Just as she was puzzling over it, she saw him spot the ring, and gasped at the change that came over his face the moment he grasped the chain and lifted it from its nest in the snow.
An expression of anguish, of struggle. Like he was fighting, and losing. His eyes were alight with a look of pained, reluctant adoration, and it wasn't until Aragorn shouted at the Man to return the ring to Frodo did she realize she'd been holding her breath.
Crying, too, she saw when she looked down at her pad. There, along with the rough representation of Boromir's conflicted face, were little spots where her tears had fallen. She turned to the elf, who was switching his gaze from her to the scene before him so quickly he looked like a spectator at a tennis match.
"He is going to have a rough time," she told Legolas. "Take care of him, will you?"
He frowned. "You say that as a farewell," he accused, and clasped his long fingers around her wrist. "You will not go anywhere until you tell me how you come to be here."
Kate forced a smile, even as she wiped her eyes with charcoal-smudged fingers, and on sudden impulse ripped the sketch she'd done of his astonished/angry face from the pad. "To remember me by," she said, thrusting it into his hands, and then she was gone.
Kate huffed in frustration and ripped out the third consecutive botched-up attempt to draw Gandalf's demise on the bridge of Khazad-dûm. No matter what she tried, no matter the angle or her attempts to draw from different characters' points of view, it just wasn't… working. There was no spark, no magic, nothing special at all about the scene.
Not like what she'd done after her dream. That piece, showing Boromir's tortured longing, was nearly electric in its vitality and passion. The dream had creeped her out in a huge way, and Kate had refused to try it again, but…
It had been a month, and everything she put her hand to sucked really, really badly. And none of the effortless ease she'd felt when drawing Boromir had been present. Instead, it had been a grinding ordeal to churn out even the least-bad of her attempts.
Kate growled to herself and flopped back on the bed, sketchpad in one hand and pencils in the other. She closed her eyes and began to control her breathing. Deep, calm, in, out…
"Not you again," snarled a voice in her ear, and her eyes flew open to see Legolas run by her, followed by Gimli and Pippin. Kate leapt to her feet and followed them, skidding to a halt when the narrow corridor opened abruptly to a wide-open space spanned by a stone bridge.
A roar sounded behind her, and she spun around to find the balrog not ten feet from her. She screamed in surprise at its proximity, then screamed again when it stepped forward, its massive legs passing right through her. It was icy and scalding at the same time, pleasurable and painful in the same moment.
"Goddamnit that felt weird!" she yelled, and ran after it. The others had jumped the chasm, and Gandalf now stood with staff raised, facing down the demon. Without thinking too much about it, Kate darted in front of the balrog so she could get a really good look at the wizard's face, and began drawing.
Determination vibrated from every line in Gandalf's body, and power. His eyes, as grey as his clothing, were blazing with anger but also fear—he knew this was the end for him, she realized, but faced it anyway. "Courageous bastard," she said to him, even though he couldn't hear.
Behind him on the bridge were massed the others—Aragorn was forcibly restraining Frodo from running to the wizard, Boromir looked stricken, and Gimli was blinking furiously to keep from crying. The other Hobbits were unashamedly weeping. Legolas was clenching and unclenching his fists, as if he didn't know what to do with himself. She didn't imagine that sense of unsurety and apprehension was familiar or welcome to him.
Kate's pencil flew over the paper, capturing all of them in these last moments of Gandalf's life. The balrog passed through her again in its fall into the abyss, and the wild hope and joy that crossed Frodo's face was a wonder to behold. She stared hard, in that tiny moment, to memorize it to draw later, even as it melted into an expression of panic and anguish when the demon's whip latched around Gandalf's leg and tugged the Maia after him.
"No!" the Hobbit screamed, his voice shrill in the echoing gloom as he tried to free himself from Aragorn's steel grasp.
Kate's gaze met Legolas' across the gap in the bridge. "He will be back. Do not let them despair," she called to him, and stepped to the lip of the jagged break. He gasped in realization at what she was about to do, but had no time for more than that, because Kate leapt off after the battling foes.
Even as they fell, the balrog and Gandalf fought, and she hastily flipped to a fresh page and began drawing anew. The weightlessness of their movements was completely surreal, allowing them to turn in directions and positions that would have been impossible were they both firmly standing on land.
Gandalf's hair, beard, and robes streamed after him, making him look not a little like a superhero, and Kate emphasized the Superman-cape factor. Meanwhile, the balrog was lashing furiously at the wizard, and Kate winced in sympathy along with Gandalf every time the flaming whip struck him. She carefully sketched the pain on his face, the deeply-etched lines of resignation and fury, the resolution that glimmered brightly in his eyes even as they tumbled down this endless void.
It was time to go, she realized suddenly, and had a pang of regret she wouldn't be able to accompany Gandalf on the rest of his journey—not that he'd know she was there—but there were some things that were utterly private, she supposed, and blinked to find her bedroom ceiling above her once more.
This was getting weird, Kate thought sourly when she found herself walking alongside Haldir and a group of Elvin archers in what must be the forest of Lothlorien. Since when was her muse completely, utterly absent except when Kate was in the grip of a bizarre dream?
"It's all so real," she murmured in awe, brushing her fingertips over the rough bark of the mellyrn trees, then tugging on a lock of silver-gilt hair as Haldir strode noiselessly through the woods to meet the Fellowship as they bumbled their way toward Caras Galadon.
A tiny quiver of the elf's eyebrow was his only reaction. "Hm, so it's not all elves," Kate speculated. "Just Legolas." She wondered what it meant. Perhaps he'd know… she'd ask him the next chance she got. In the meanwhile… she whipped out a fresh sheet of paper and began to sketch Haldir's profile.
His face was rather hawklike and predatory, and a shiver that was not completely fear edged its way up her spine—he was a very handsome man. Er, elf. The harsh planes of his face, with its angular cheekbones and bladelike nose and firm chin, were emphasized by the arrogance and strength that radiated from him. For the first time, Kate was very sorry indeed that she was incorporeal in these dreams, because his hands as they gripped his bow looked quite capable indeed, and she'd been celibate for entirely too long now…
Gimli's voice sounded in the distance and Haldir motioned to the others to stop. The derisive smirk on his beautifully sculptured lips made Kate drool even as she thought, "What a smug jerk."
She hurried to record the dismay, hauteur, and humiliation on Gimli's face as the nocked bow was thrust into his face, the avid curiosity of the hobbits, the relief of Aragorn and Boromir, and the… unbridled fury of Legolas?
He was glaring at her, looking completely homicidal. "Yowza," she muttered. If she'd thought shocked Legolas and angry Legolas were hot, then blindly-barbarically-enraged Legolas was scorching. "Stop that, you're killing me here," she admonished, breathing hard as arousal began to sneak its way through her, unable to look away from his piercing gaze as her hand moved mechanically over the paper, pencil gripped tightly—too tightly—in her suddenly sweaty hand.
He was unable to speak to her with the others around for fear they would hear him speaking to thin air, but she knew that when he was, she was in for it. She decided discretion was the better part of valour, and waggled her fingers jauntily at him and grinning when he scowled even deeper at her before melting from his view.