Warning:IT IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED THAT YOU HAVE A BOX OF TISSUES AT HAND!
Credits:I would like to extend my thanks to eLLe and Lisette for editing and looking over this story. Thanks for your support gals! ^_^
A small trickle of light melted into the room through a small split in the curtains, highlighting the dust motes that danced in the air. It gave the chamber an ancient feeling, like it had not been disturbed in years, and was for the first time in centuries beholding light. Beyond the single ray the shadows congregated, coating the furniture and single occupant within its oppressive layer and merging it all into a single entity.
Through the musty yellow light a door creaked open and Legolas entered. His hand lingered on the door handle for a moment before he worked up the courage to let it slip shut once again. He did not completely understand why he was so nervous, after all, he had come to this same room many times in the past to both celebrate and to mourn, yet he knew this time would be the last, and so it held a certain monumental significance. He only wished it was a happier occasion which would mark this final visit.
His keen eyes managed to penetrate the gloom with relative ease, although it bothered him to see the room in such disrepair, and in such an unkempt state. He could remember seeing it vibrant, with windows thrown wide open in welcome and the drapes pulled back in invitation of the sun. Straightening his tunic slightly, he walked purposefully forward, his hand reaching out to draw back the curtains; but a voice refrained him from completing the action,
"Leave it, Legolas," the voice sounded weary, but still stern enough to be obeyed. It was the tone of voice only a woman who had born and raised children could employ, Legolas thought with a small smile.
"Why would I do that when the day is so beautiful?" Legolas asked simply, folding his arms across his chest and raising a single challenging eyebrow.
"To humor an old woman," came the clipped reply.
"You are not so old, Éowyn," Legolas said, perhaps more forcefully then he had intended, but he was feeling the full weight of the reason of his visit welling up within him once more and with it came a swell of emotion. He wanted desperately to believe the words he spoke.
There was a long moment of silence that was as impressive as the darkness in the room. "Yes, Legolas. I am old," came the gentle voice, almost soothing in quality. "I am too old," she continued lightly as though they discussed some trivial topic like the finer points of a painting.
Legolas stood next to the closed window, feeling a mixture of confusion. He unfolded his arms and started to lace together his fingers as he considered what he had just been told. He wanted to deny it, to argue and laugh the issue away, but he could not find the voice to speak. The situation had suddenly become too real.
"Oh, Legolas. Come here," Éowyn said sadly, her withered hands lifting from her lap to slowly reach out to him, though it looked like the simple maneuver was strenuous. Legolas found himself hesitating once again, for he knew as soon as he touched Éowyn he could fool himself no longer. Everything would be real, and he was not sure how to handle that. Yet he could not deny her either, and so he swallowed the lump that had been forming in his throat and came and knelt by the chair in which she sat, slowly reaching out and cupping her hands within his own.
He could feel the dry, wrinkled skin, and as she clutched gently at him he was saddened by how weak she appeared. He could remember seeing those hands wield a blade and handle a horse with enviable strength and confidence. To feel them clutching at him weakly now, so devoid of all that once used to mark them... mortality was such a waste.
"Legolas, I realize how difficult this is for you, my friend," she began gently, stroking his hands soothingly, and it made Legolas feel suddenly guilty that at this moment it should be she comforting him. He was not the one who was dying.
The word had finally surfaced in his thoughts, and now that it had appeared he could not rid himself of it. He had seen death many times over his life; in the heat of battle, to wounds after a fight, and even to the withers of old age, for he had stood along side Éowyn when Faramir had passed away a few years prior, but he could never accept it in the same way a mortal seemed able to. It still seemed like such an alien concept to one, such as he, who was immortal.
"Let us not talk of that, Éowyn," he interjected quickly, placing a light kiss on one of the hands he still held. "I shall manage, so worry not for my account." He stood smoothly then, taking a few steps away, his feet unconsciously leading him back to the window where he started to play with the edge of one of the curtains. "How are you feeling?"
She shook her head lightly, and her hair, gray and lacking of elasticity, lay limp upon her shoulders. Her once youthful face smiled somewhat bitterly, lined with skin that no longer seemed to fit her properly. She was old. Legolas knew this, but could still remember her being young, an image that seemed so much at odds with who she was now. "I hurt. I smell, although thank-you for being decent enough to not mention it when you came in," she added as though it was an after thought, "and I cannot walk without assistance, and even then I cannot walk far. I miss Faramir, more so nowadays then ever. I am ready to join him. In other words, I am not at all well, although I do not want to make it sound as though I am pitying myself!"
Legolas was silent for a long minute. "You talk like one resigned to fate. I had thought you would put up a harder struggle." The words were spoken not scoldingly, but in a factual sort of tone. He suddenly realized he was being childish, but he could not ignore the longing to see her live and if he had to beg her to continue breathing, then he would do so gladly. He realized that although she might be prepared, he was not. He simply could not part with another friend.
She laughed, her breath sounding labored and wheezing softly. "All mortals are born resigned to the fact that they will one day die. It is merely you immortals whom are not. I am sorry that this is painful for you," she added.
"You keep bringing this back to me! This is not about me, it is about you, and all the things you still have yet to do, and all the people who love you and wish for you to remain," he knew without doubt that he *was* being childish now, but his eyes felt watery with unshed tears, and as the situation became more and more real, his own panic grew. Acting on the sudden defiance which had possessed him he threw back the curtains, letting the afternoon sunlight pour in and add color to their world once again. The act left him breathing heavily, and chewing on his bottom lip slightly in apprehension.
Éowyn blinked rapidly as she was bombarded by light. One of her hands rose, shielding her eyes and she uttered a small, unseemly curse under her breath as she adjusted to the new surroundings. Legolas had not recalled Gimli teaching her that one.
As she finally became adjusted to the change she glared over in Legolas' direction. "They were fine closed," she stated tenaciously.
"You should not wallow in darkness. You might be dying, but you are not dead yet, and until such a time as you are I see no reason for you to not enjoy the sun," Legolas replied just as stubbornly. "You are alive, and we should celebrate that. I will not stay in this room if you insist that it become a mortuary. Now, if you want, I can leave but... please don't ask me to do that... because I wish to be with you," he finished somewhat lamely. He felt awkward suddenly under Éowyn's gaze, though he knew her vision was not what it had once been. She had had problems seeing for nearly ten years now, and it was simply an issue they never discussed anymore.
"I will not ask you to leave," she said, suddenly sounding sad. "Open the window and let a breeze in, if you will, and then come and sit by me."
Legolas nodded, glad to have been given a order which could be fulfilled. He threw the windows open wide, inhaling the scent of spring grasses and approaching rain from the breeze that entered. He took a moment only to enjoy that before he turned and pulled a chair up next to Éowyn's own.
"Ah, me," she said unhappily. "When did I become so old?"
Legolas knew not how to answer this. As an elf he often remained ignorant of the passage of time, but these last few decades seemed to have changed his entire perspective. He had watched as his friends around him succumbed to the ravages of time. It was so painful, and his heart bled with each farewell that was spoken.
Éomer had been the first. Legolas had not been with him when he had died, and so it had made the parting slightly easier. He had come to Ithilien though, to mourn and console Éowyn and Faramir, and he remembered the three of them drinking wine into the early morning, reminiscing about past conversations and memories. Faramir had died nearly seven years ago, peacefully, while he had slept. The healers had assured Éowyn, as she had cried upon Legolas' shoulder, that it had been painless, but he remembered the hollow ache that had come when the Steward of Gondor had been laid to rest.
Now Eowyn, too, was fading. Although she seemed to be taking it with a dignity and courage that left Legolas awed, two principals that seemed to mark most occasions and actions of Éowyn's life, it did not make the final parting easier.
He was here to say goodbye.
He felt tears upon his cheek then as they both gazed out the open window, watching nothing in particular. He could deny it no longer. Reality left him feeling dazed and cursing the unfairness of his existence. He was remaining in Middle-Earth to watch his friends die. Merry and Pippin would follow. They were already looking old, and Aragorn too, although gifted with elven blood and a longer lifespan, was sporting gray hairs. They would all pass from this world, and all Legolas could offer them was his presence up to the moment they passed on. It seemed inadequate.
"I would not have one of the firstborn shed tears for me, Legolas. I am hardly worthy of such a thing," she said softly, drawing him back from his own depressing thoughts.
"I am sorry. I am being silly," Legolas said, reaching up to try and brush away the evidence of his sorrow. He had meant to come here and be strong for her. He could not believe his own selfishness as he failed miserably in his self-appointed task.
"Tears are not silly," Éowyn stated firmly. "I merely wish I could spare you them." She reached out and patted one of his knees affectionately.
He smiled warmly at her, wishing that his nose had not become quite so congested and his throat so scratchy. He had been the one protesting the concept of burying her before her death, and here he was almost sobbing with the thought of it. Pushing down his turmoil, he breathed deeply, normally, once again.
They sat in the room as the sunlight faded into twilight. Legolas held Éowyn's hand, his thumb absent-mindedly tracing soothing circles on her palm as he listened to her breathing. "You know," she said suddenly, "I wish I had some parting wisdom I could bestow you with, or at least some catchy final saying," she said with a small chuckle.
"Anyone who has known you has been gifted already. You do not need to give me more," Legolas offered quietly. He wished that there was someone that was present who was better suited to deal with this. He suddenly realized that Arwen or Aragorn would be much more suited to comforting her. He wondered briefly if he was doing everything right.
"Ah, you always did have a quick tongue. Thank you for lathering me with compliments up until the end, my friend. It has done wonders for my ego, which I think is the only part of me that is fully functioning," she said with a giggle.
Again they slipped into silence, Legolas still tracing nonsensical patterns upon Éowyn's palm. "Do you think I will be remembered?" she asked suddenly, and the question came out very quickly, as if it was something she had been wanting to say for a number of minutes but had lacked the courage.
Legolas bit his bottom lip once again, trying to restrain his tears, although he knew his breathing had gotten louder again, and was betraying his current state. In the end he offered her the only thing he could. "I will remember you."
The four simple words seemed to have the desired effect, for Éowyn smiled her first real, relaxed smile. "Then that will be enough," she replied solemnly, with strength and conviction marking each of her words.
It was in the night, three days later, that Éowyn finally succumbed to death and slipped from the world of mortal eyes. Legolas had not left her side in all of that time, and as she drew her last shaky breath, she clutched at his own hand tightly, a degree of fear in her expression which she had been unable to hide in those final minutes.
Legolas did not know for how long he sat, still clasping the dead woman's limp fingers, before rising. She looked almost peaceful where she lay. He reached out softly and slid her eyes shut, before kissing her forehead reverently.
Another friend had been lost.