Okay, this is it. The final chapter of Among the Brambles. Thanks for reading, thanks for reviewing--this was a slightly different writting style I enjoyed experimenting with. Hope you all enjoyed it as well!
Well, last time I updated I'd written up here like usual, but apparently forgot to save. So, I'll be answering any previous questions... if there were any.
LJP: Well, not really questions from chapter 50 as annoyed rantings at my vastly overthinking Legolas. Which is fine, because I was ready to shake him at times. As for chapter 50... I'm never sure about the word mush coming up in a review. I'll just hope you didn't have to run for your toothbrush... and won't need to for this chapter.
The Hobbit Ivy: Well, thank you. And rest assured, this is the last chapter. Complete in 52 chapters. You started reading a week early to save yourself anticipation.
Animir: One of the best types of reviewers! Constant and appreciative (kind of like most author's feelings towards the best reviewers).
That one word summed up how I was feeling right now.
Actually… ambivalence would have been nice. I wasn't really ambivalent, but I figured if I told myself that often enough, I might make it. Eomer was long dead, but seeing his descendants on his throne, carrying the sword I'd forged for him… Even worse was going to Gondor and finding Estel's son on his throne, looking much like Estel had the last time I'd seen him…
On top of those depressing sights, far, far behind me were the two woods that had become home. They weren't really so far. We could return in a matter of weeks… but we weren't going to. I would never see the Greenwood again. Never see Fangorn.
I tightened my arms around Legolas, swallowing hard as I pressed my cheek to his shoulder. He tensed slightly, wrapping me in his arms.
"You can go back, if you go now," he whispered, voice low and tortured.
For an instant, I seriously considered it. I could go back, back to Greenwood, and spend a few years with Thranduil… before I went stir-crazy without Legolas. I shook my head slightly, smiling a bit tightly at him when I pulled back.
I watched his eyes for a moment. They were deeply shadowed, concerned for me, and yet ecstatic. He was so close to stilling the longing in his heart, and that joy was overcoming the thought of leaving things behind. Like his father. His people. His lands… but not so much his friends, as Gimli and I were with him. The others from our time in the wood had either crossed, or fallen out of touch with us when we decided to test out Fangorn for the last years, seeing if we could really let another wood substitute for own. As for me… I was leaving Taradriel, though I'd left her in Greenwood for Fangorn… a few fair friends in the halls… again, mostly left when we went to Fangorn, though a few went with us… and Thranduil. He would be joining us, in time. Of course, all that waited for us in the west were a few friends we weren't really close to, and my father. "As long as you remain with me."
He pulled back from contemplating what was just over the rise, and studied me for a moment, his eyes darkening again. "Of course, love. And, knowing what he did, there are few who would fail to be wary should he be alone with you."
I rolled my eyes skyward, but my retort was broken off as a bird winged into view.
"A seagull," Legolas murmured softly into my ear.
"I know," I muttered, trying to calm my suddenly rapid heart and breathing. I turned, looking at that last rise. "So… over that."
"Yes, dear elf."
I stared at it for a while, leaning against him when he moved closer, his arms wrapping around my waist. So, all I had to do was move forward, head over that slight rise, and get into the boat that Legolas had made, and let it take us into the west. It sure didn't sound like something difficult to do… and yet, I wasn't doing it. I took another deep breath, hearing the gulls, smelling salt. Already I could feel something threatening to rise within me. "It's scary, Legolas."
His head tilted down beside mine. "Is it?"
"Knowing that those steps will mean I won't feel right here any more… this has been home, Legolas. It is scary."
"Yes, it has been home." He kissed me lightly behind my ear.
I closed my eyes, knowing I was being silly, that I would find my place on the other shore, that I would be fine… but it was somehow so much scarier than traipsing through the wood at the ripe-old age of eight, scarier than facing down orcs as the world burned around me, scarier than traveling to Gondor the first time… and far scarier than getting married. That hadn't been scary, really, though my nerves were somewhat shot thanks to the hectic work of keeping everyone else from running things until the actual event—I was not going to have one of those overdone, false weddings as so many kept on insisting was the Prince's due. I'd been fine as soon as Legolas had my hand, whispering his translation of the words his father spoke so I could understand them.
And now… I was, frankly, on the ragged edge of panic. I knew that when I moved forward, I would probably be lost to the longing myself, and my fears would be quieted, my worries washed away, and I would go on, happily waiting for the other shore to show up. But that thought—that what I was currently feeling would be destroyed like shadows in the light… it was, well, scary. It's not a nice idea, and I hadn't even thought on embracing it.
Legolas, though, hadn't that moment of panic I was going through, not that he would have necessarily remembered it at the moment. He was being very good, remaining behind me, silent, not cajoling or coaxing, simply waiting… but he was going to go, and he was going to go today.
I would be with him.
There was no question about that, not really. One more deep breath, and I forced myself to take a step. Legolas followed, his arms just loose enough to allow me to move as I took another step. Well, the old saying was right—the first step is the hardest. Soon enough we were standing on the top of that rise, and the sea stretched endlessly before us, salty and sweet, beautiful and bitter.
Legolas took a deep breath, his arms tightening as he dropped another kiss behind my ear. "Love?"
Looking forward, the longing rose within me, but it was greatly tempered. Home wasn't before me, nor was it any longer behind me. It was in the arms around me, the body against my own, the tender concern in the voice that brushed my ears so gently. I turned my head enough to see his eyes, lifting a hand to brush his cheek as I kissed him. "I'm fine."
Gimli was already sitting in the boat, grumbling occasionally as he shifted within it. He glanced back at us, then snorted and turned back to look out at the approaching waves.
I smiled slightly as I heard him grumbling about immortals taking their royal time, and stepped forward, taking Legolas's hand in my own, heading down to the water. Once beside the boat I turned, looking back at the rise he had led me to, carefully assuring I wouldn't see the sea until I was ready to. Now I could see miles of land beyond… I inclined my head to the land, a silent goodbye. I turned to find Legolas watching me, waiting. I looked ahead, and then smiled at him. "Let's go."
He brought our entwined hands to his lips, then helped me into the craft he'd built, following quickly. The sea embraced us, murmuring delightedly at our intended journey. I leaned back against my prince, my husband, my lover, friend, and home, smiling slightly, my eyes closed contentedly as we were carried off for another adventure we would brave together.