Title: On That Fine Autumn

Author: Reiko

Summary: Legolas was already building his ship to fulfill his heart's greatest desire, to sail over Sea. But after spending some time in Ithilien, he felt something missing. And to make things worse, a forgotten memory decided to haunt him again. What will happen if he goes back to an elf-maiden who confessed her love for him half a century ago?

Author's notes:

I know everybody, especially, the people in the HP fandom, will be asking what the hell I'm doing here ^_^ First and foremost, I'm so sorry for neglecting the sequel to Serpent's Bride… it has been difficult for me to write again… I know everybody will be disappointed but I do hope that you would also like this fic ^_^ Secondly, this long one-shot fic was requested by a friend of mine. She was actually bugging me to write one LOTR fic for her even before when I was still writing Serpent's Bride. I just hope that now I have finally wrote, it will not be too late for her to read it…

Another thing, there are some spoilers here… so if you haven't read the three books and the Silmarillion, then I don't think that it would be good idea for you to read this… unless you want me to spoil everything for you ^_^ And also I have based this fic with the book and some with the movie... you'll find the difference along the way.

I haven't taken a beta-reader for this so please bear with me if you find anything wrong with this fic… grammar and typo errors… but be rest assured that I've read this again and again only to double check everything. Heck, for me nothing's wrong… and I'll just be posting this… you cannot please everybody anyway ^_~

Lastly, LOTR, characters and everything, belong to THE genius, J.R.R. Tolkien… don't own them, not making any money out of them…

Here it is… hope you like it! Italicized words are for memories!

~*~*~*~*~*

On That Fine Autumn

The wind blew at his fair face.

It smelled sweet, fresh. It told him nothing but freedom and peace.

It was as if Manwë's heart was glad, summoning the fairest winds and breezes and hanging the clearest clouds up the vast sky. It was a gift from a powerful Valar. Never did the air smell this fresh, without war and blood. Never did Middle-Earth look beautiful, without fiery darkness and loss of hope. All in all, life was good.

At the very thought, a slight smile curved at his lips as another wind from the west blew at him. Inhaling every breeze and receiving the gift from a god, he turned westward, shifting in a most comfortable position with his left leg upon a huge rock. He stood there, in a satisfied silence, watching the busy people of Ithilien, Elves, Dwarves and Men alike, going on about their usual business on that very fine day, rebuilding their lives.

And then suddenly, the memories consumed him.

Unconsciously, his mind wandered to his home, Mirkwood, now called Eryn Lasgalen. Together with that, he thought about his family, his father and his people and not long after, his mind was filled with thoughts about his friends and his kin. What had happened to them? Had they survived the war? He hadn't seen most of them after bringing some of his people to live and settle in Ithilien. Did they settle in the other woodland realms? Or did they sail over Sea then?

He was sure most of them did. Middle-Earth was not a place for Elves anymore. "The time of the Elves is over", Elrond, the master of Rivendell once said and somehow, he couldn't deny that fact. And being the sons of the noble lords in their kingdom, surely his friends would've left Middle-Earth with their families. What kind of father will leave his sons here to die? A soft chuckle escaped his lips. Well maybe, except for his father, the King Thranduil. But then again, it was a duty and he willingly took it. And nobody got hurt in the process, right?

"Don't be too certain, Legolas," a voice inside him suddenly said. He frowned slightly. "Are you sure nobody got hurt?" it added. His frown deepened. And as if on cue, the soft voice uttered a name, a sweetest, most beautiful name, as if tauntingly rousing his memory a little bit more.

"Erendell…"

He shook his head, ridding himself of the very memory of her.

He forced his trained eyes instead to the people below the small cliff as if he could entirely diminish impending thoughts of her. He turned from face to face and he noted nothing but content on their faces. There was no trace of fear or dread. There was neither distress nor grief. It wasn't long ago when those eyes told him nothing but dismay and loss of hope. But now, those very eyes conveyed bliss and happiness. He then tore his eyes from the people and turned to look at the golden morning.

It was the Fourth Age of Middle-Earth, the 1st of March and the passing of King Elessar. No, it wasn't just the wise and good king of Gondor who had left him, he thought, there were the brave hobbits as well. Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, fondly remembered as Merry and Pippin, apparently decided that they had lingered long enough in Middle-Earth. Merry died in that calm autumn day of 1484 while Pippin afterwards followed his passing.

Everybody eventually left.

And with SamWise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins sailing over Sea, now he could say that the Fellowship indeed parted ways.

He felt a deep sense of dread deep in the pit of his stomach just thinking about that. That was the price of immortality, to watch everybody around you, dear and loved ones, wither and die until you have nobody but yourself. Suddenly, the desire to see Gimli, his closest friend, roused within him. Gimli will serve as a reminder that I'm not alone, he thought. He was about to turn around and look for that certain dwarf when suddenly, a loud booming voice echoed behind him. He turned around abruptly and suppressed a smile upon seeing the small, round frame of Gimli Gloin's son walking with none other than Yurim, the apprentice shipwright, who was busy balancing the rolls of parchments in his arms. Apparently he need not to look anymore because he was purposely on his way to him with the tall elf afoot beside him.

"Oi, Legolas!" Gimli cried jovially, positioning himself beside him while Yurim busied himself with his papers. The strong wind blew at him as well. He held fast his thick and long beard to keep it from flapping against his face.

He first looked at the elf and when no answer came, Gimli let out a soft sigh. He turned his eyes downwards only to realize yet again that something's keeping the Elf too preoccupied with his thoughts. He decided not to speak at first and just stand there, offering his presence as comforting reticence. For the first time, the two warrior lords stood there in peace, without any armor on their bodies or weapons in their hands. The Dwarf was sure that the people thought it strange but then again, he was also sure that they would prefer it to see them like this rather than with their battle axes and bows and arrows. After a moment of remote silence, Gimli decided to speak.

"I know what you're thinking, lad," he said, still not looking at him. "Give it three weeks."

This time Legolas turned to him. "How could you know what I'm thinking?" he asked in that mysterious voice of his.

"You elves think you are all mighty and powerful and know all things?" Gimli grunted sharply but not unkindly. "I have been with you since everything started and I have been with you still. That gives me the right to say that I know what you're thinking.

Legolas gave a soft laugh. "Indeed nothing escapes you, Gimli Gloin's son," he answered, his voice in a teasing tone. "After all, you have the eyes of a hawk and the ears of a fox," he continued with mirth. When Gimli narrowed his eyes at his direction, he sighed and looked on, absorbing the majestic view before them. Obviously that was their private joke about the Dwarf. Only the members of the Fellowship were aware about it. They knew better than to tell it in their tales and sing it in their songs and let other people hear. Gimli will never give them, their children and their children's children, a moment's peace if word about that leaked out. "Three weeks, you say?" he asked suddenly.

"Yes, three weeks," said Gimli, nodding once. He turned his head towards Yurim. "Master builder here says that your ship will be ready in three weeks."

"I'm an apprentice builder," Yurim corrected through gritted teeth and forced patience. Gimli just grunted and it was quite clear to Legolas that his friend was just deliberately jesting the priggish elf. "If I may remind you, and in fact I have been reminding you several times already, that I am an apprentice of the greatest shipwright, Master Cirdan who—"

"— built the greatest ship that the beautiful Lady Galadriel and the mighty Lord Elrond used to sail over Sea," finished Gimli. The elf looked at him through furrowed brows, no doubt offended. Legolas suppressed the urge to speak. It would be unkind of him to take part in the jest as well. Instead, he looked at Gimli, quite amused.

"Anyway," Gimli continued, "Master Builder here says that everything is going as scheduled," he added deliberately, looking purposely at Legolas.

Yurim fumed. "Apprentice builder," he hissed, this time infuriated. Gimli just shrugged and turned away from him as if he said nothing wrong. Legolas pursed his lips and forced out a cough to stifle the building laughter inside him. Indeed, Gimli knew how to cheer him up when feeling down. That's the very character he liked about the Dwarf. Gimli knew when to speak. He knew when not to pry. He was sensitive. And he greatly appreciated that because he was the type of elf who often felt awkward with personal issues. It was just not his habit to speak openly about emotional matters, that's all. He wasn't brought up that way.

Legolas turned away from Gimli's taunting face only to see the other elf haughtily gathering his parchments. It was quite clear to him that Yurim got fed up and was ready to leave them without even telling them the latest development of the plan. He walked towards the muttering elf, his gaze inquiring. "Is it true Yurim?" he asked gently, soothing the elf into staying.

"Aye, it is," the other elf answered knowingly, gathering the last bit of parchment from the ground. "We're nearly finished, Master Legolas, the only thing missing would be the huge sail that the builders would be laboring for the next couple of weeks."

"May I see the plans?" Legolas asked.

The stern shipbuilder looked at him long at first and seeing a captive audience in him, Yurim changed his mind and thinking of being taken seriously this time, settled the parchments carelessly on top of the big rock-like table. He unrolled one of the large yellowed parchments. He took out his pointing rod and began discussing the plans and the designs while Legolas listened attentively, ignoring the name and the voice inside his head, clamoring for his attention.

"It was really kind of Master Cirdan to let my hands try on in this one," Yurim continued, warming up to his subject. "And I owe my gratitude to you as well for letting me, an apprentice builder, be in charge of everything since technically, this is to be my first ship as you very well know," he babbled bluntly. "Now, I was actually planning to use a wood of light quality here and here, " he continued, pointing his rod at the ships' sketched skeletal framework. Legolas' eyes tried their best following it, moving here and there in a pace so quick.. "It will be much lighter compared to what they used before, but strong and sturdy as well. It may not look like it, but when you step aboard, you'll feel the difference. You will be sailing much swifter." He stopped and took a deep breath. "By next week, the sail will be ready, I deem," he finally said, looking at the Elf Prince.

"And another week should be enough to prepare before we set sail," added Gimli who surprisingly appeared beside him. The dwarf looked up at the elf, expecting happiness on his face, but when he saw none, he frowned. "What's the matter, Legolas?" he asked. "Isn't this what you wanted? To go over Sea? To be with your people?"

"Indeed and you are to come with me," he answered thoughtfully, walking away and leaving Yurim, who was very busy with the ship plans to even pay them attention. He placed himself again on the rock, over-looking Ithilien. "It is my heart's desire."

Then he fell silent again, refusing to speak anymore, his face set in a melancholy manner that gave out the very thing that had been troubling him ever since they had set out for Mordor. Good as the Elf was in keeping his personal emotions and affairs in secret, still nothing could miss the Dwarf's sharp keen, sense.

Unbeknownst to most them, Legolas would often have this look whenever alone, whenever he thought everybody was busy with their own affairs. During the war, although the Elf exercised a keen sense of intelligence and strength in battle, still there were times that Gimli would often catch him gazing at nothing, pondering and thinking. He didn't miss the happy but downhearted look the elf displayed when he witnessed the binding of Aragorn son of Arathorn and Arwen Undómiel, of Faramir, the Steward of Gondor and Éowyn, the Lady of Rohan. He was sure that the wood elf was happy for them, yes, but there was a subtle envy on those blue eyes of his. Although it was just a fleeting glance on the couples' way, still Gimli didn't miss it. And now, here was that very look on his face again, more visible than before.

He decided to give Legolas the silence he had been inadvertently asking for. His mind, however, was busy deciding on how to approach the Elf in the most sensible manner that he could think of. After all, it was the first time that the quiet, secretive Legolas unmasked his true feelings and emotions, though not intentional. But for him to let his emotional barrier down like that, even for just a second, it was very, very unlikely of the Elf. Something or somebody must be really bothering him, he thought.

"Once we go there, there is no turning back," said Gimli after a moment.

"I know," Legolas answered simply.

Gimli turned to him. "Have you said your farewells?" he asked.

"THEY already did," answered Legolas meaningfully. This time, his voice hardened a little.

"You know that's not what I meant," the dwarf answered stubbornly.

Legolas sighed and looked away. There was no escaping the nosy dwarf now. "She hates me," he finally answered, refusing to look his way. "I'm fairly sure she doesn't wish to see me again."

"Sure?" Gimli asked mockingly. "How can you say that you are sure? Have you spoken to her lately?" He couldn't contain himself anymore and laughed. So much for being sensitive, he thought. "The last time I looked, Legolas, you didn't even bother going back and staying home!" he roared with laughter.

Legolas turned to him. "Are you mocking me, Master Dwarf?" he asked, his voice a little uptight. Gimli, instead of answering, just laughed at him. Gimli knew that it was just wrong to laugh but he couldn't help it! Legolas Greenleaf! The most indifferent and not to mention the oldest in the Fellowship, being 2,931 years old and all, still having one of those puerile thoughts about a maiden? What in Middle-Earth was going on?

Hearing that was enough to disgust the Elf. With a wrinkled brow and an annoyed face, Legolas turned gruffly away from him, leaving the wretched Dwarf laughing behind him.

"Sensitive, my foot!" he muttered gruffly, quickly taking back the endearing thought he had for his friend a while ago. He briskly walked away from him. He was very irked that he strongly wished that he had his bow and arrows with him. Of course, he wouldn't kill the Dwarf but a little lesson wouldn't hurt, right? He swore in Elvish when he heard Gimli laughing harder.

Yurim finally looked up, surprised to see Gimli laughing and Legolas disgustedly stomping away from them. And seeing the graceful and renowned elf in such a fashion made the Dwarf laugh even harder.

"Now, what was that all about?" he asked curiously, standing up and placing himself beside the laughing dwarf, completely forgetting the annoying feud they had a while ago. He looked on only to see the disappearing figure of Legolas. He turned his face curiously to him. "It's not good business annoying someone whose good with the bow, Master Dwarf," he added seriously, shaking his head with disapproval.

"Nay, Yurim, shooting me with his arrows was the last thing he would think of doing," answered Gimli, chortling.

"What do you mean?" Yurim inquired.

Gimli continued to laugh. "For the first time, Legolas Greenleaf, Prince of Mirkwood, decided that trees and plants are a nasty business to worry about," he answered. He shook his head in mock disgust remembering the time Legolas dragged him around Fangorn Forest to look at some stupid plants and woods. He cringed a little upon remembering how one of those nasty looking things nearly took his life. Of course it was the Elf's way of getting back at him after he draggled Legolas inside the Glittering Caves. He grunted. "He's thinking of a maiden!"

And that very night, while Gimli was preparing to retire for the day, he noticed a piece of carefully folded note lying on top of his little table. He picked it up and, against the candlelight, read the short, direct message in Legolas' neat handwriting.

I'll be going away for some business. Give me a month or two.

Gimli snorted and laying the paper carelessly on top of the table, he got ready for bed. A while longer, an amused smile escaped the Dwarf's beard-covered lips. So the Elf thought things over after all, he thought as he closed his eyes. But then again, he could still wait for two more months. Nobody's in a hurry. And who knows, things might turn out to be what the elf wanted. Anyway, there's still room for one more person on their ship, his mind added.

And with that last thought, he finally slept.

~*~*~*~*~

Legolas rode long and hard, never tiring. His white steed, as strong as its master was, never complained as they journeyed over rough lands and mountains. After leaving Ithilien, Legolas went to Mirkwood first and found a few of his people there, the ones who were most unwilling to leave the woods and to live with Men and Dwarves. And there, from one of the elder noble lords, he discovered that she hadn't left Middle-Earth and sailed over Sea. She moved to Lothlorien, to her cousin's realm. Upon learning that, his heart was glad and without a moment's rest and against the counsel of the older elf to rest and stay the night first, he set off at once.

From the thick Forest of Mirkwood, he rode Southwards until he reached the vast river of Celebrant. After crossing it, he rode again until he reached the wide green plains at the very entrance of Lorien. "I'm here at last," he thought, looking around his surroundings. Heaving a satisfied sigh, he slowed his horse into a canter, his insides suddenly filling with doubt.

A while ago, his heart was burning, consumed with the need to see her and now that he was close, why, all of a sudden now, he wanted to turn back? Maybe this is a mistake, he said to himself thoughtfully. He momentarily stopped and looked at the clear sky, gathering his thoughts altogether, trying to make out something sensible out of this rash absurdity.

"This isn't like me at all," he thought, shaking his head.

He was always so sure, always so certain in everything. He had been that way, even before. It was not his habit to thrust himself into something he wasn't entirely sure of. That was what the war and schooling taught him, that a simple miscalculation would cost him not only his life but also the life of the people around him. That was the reason why he was always careful not to be rash. And now this! He shook his head in disbelief and let out a humorless chuckle. How could a simple elf maiden drive him, the indifferent Prince of Mirkwood who cared nothing but hunting and capering, into this foolish insanity?

Or was this insanity?

And at the very moment, he remembered…

They were childhood friends.

He was a Prince. She was the daughter of a noble elf lord.

A smile curved at his lips as fond memories of there days together began swimming inside his mind. He clearly remembered growing up with her and making her life a living hell. He remembered the many times they would play in the woodland. One moment he was nice and she would smile but when his elf friends came, he would suddenly be different and make her cry.

Lost in his recollection, he laughed softly upon remembering the time he threw a big nasty-looking bullfrog at her that he had found somewhere. She cried, partly because of the shock and partly because she really hated green and slimy creatures. And he was well aware of it. Seeing the look on her face, he and his prankster friends laughed save for one, Glayden Goldenstaff, who, being the gentle half-elven boy he was, comforted her. Then there was another time he switched all of her carefully coded books and parchments. Erendell was a much better student than he was and it really drove her insane figuring and sorting out her carefully coded notes.

Remembering those, he now realized that he was prankster and a very naughty lad and a trouble-maker indeed, stubborn, self-willed and totally out of control. Well after all, he was a prince and that status alone gave him the right to be what he was before. It justified his actions no matter how wrong they were. He frowned wonderingly, suddenly thinking of his father. How in Elbereth's name could King Thranduil stand to have such a son? At that, a renewed feeling of respect for his father suddenly sparked inside of him. If he were to have a son who was very like him before, he wouldn't know how to deal with it! He would've given up! Indeed, his father was really patient and very wise.

Life was very happy and simpler then, he thought. He would laugh and make her cry then he would ask for forgiveness, then they would be friends, and then he would make her cry again. It was a never ending cycle but then, things started to take different turn when his father decided to further his schooling and send him away to Rivendell to study under the tutelage of Master Elrond's best people. It was clear to him that his father was slowly molding him into becoming the future heir to his throne and so after giving Erendell his parting gift (which was a leech he found somewhere near the river), he, together with the young lads of Mirkwood, left for the Academy.

After long years of schooling, his young eager mind improving academically, absorbing and mastering different skills and crafts in warfare, his father finally sent for him. And at that clear spring day, packing up his belongings, he rode home and riding beside him was his trusted friend, the half-elven Glayden.

They reached the entrance to Mirkwood after days of travelling. Glayden, who was eager to see his father, bid a temporary farewell to him and turned for his house. Alone at last, he stepped down his horse and walked to his dwelling, leading his steed. He mindlessly picked a white flower when he passed by a bush and using that as a swatter, he shooed tiny little flying bugs out of his way. At last, after the seemingly uninteresting walk, he reached the old bridge of the tiny crystal river, the sole reminder that he was nearing the gates of his home. He walked forward, much quicker, but when he looked up, to his surprise and delight, he saw her standing there, dressed in white and alone, as if waiting for him…

~*~*~*~*~*

His face curved into a smile. Never had he felt this glad to see such a familiar face. He made his way towards her joyfully that he was practically skipping. "Oi, Erendell!" he called loudly. He let his horse go and wander around the grassy bank of the river, impatiently shoving his long golden braids away from his face when a sudden wind blew at him.

She looked up and smiled. Moments later, she laughed upon seeing the Prince acting in such an unfashionable manner.

He hurriedly went to her and stood beside her. Without thinking, he handed her the now marred flower he got from somewhere. He held it to her as if it was nothing of importance. Erendell accepted it with a faint blush on her face that he hadn't noticed, quite surprised that it was a flower and not a nasty bug or creature he got somewhere.

"You dare laugh at your Prince?" he asked, looking at her seriously.

"Nay, my lord elf," she answered, turning serious. "Who would dare laugh at a mighty and all powerful prince, may I ask?"

Legolas smirked. "You already did," he answered shrewdly. With that, she laughed again and for the first time, he noticed the sparkle in her violet eyes. He frowned thoughtfully and wondered how the lonely hue of her indigo eyes could turn into a sparkling shade of lilac under the sun. It was a delightful contrast against her dark ebony tresses. Actually, now that he thought of it, she looked indeed different, much different from the grubby and unappealing elf-girl he left years ago. Even against his "better judgement," he found her quite pretty. "Err.. well sort of," he quickly added to himself, frowning disconcertingly.

Seeing his scrutinizing gaze, Erendell stopped and she suddenly found the simple white flower very interesting as she looked down to play with it. Then they stood there in silence. The former scruffy elf children of the woodland realm stood there against the golden afternoon, all grown up and at the age where the beauty of their youth was at its finest. Finally, Legolas decided to speak.

"Forgive me," he uttered softly.

Erendell looked at him with a gentle inquiring gaze. "And why does my lord elf ask for forgiveness?" she questioned softly, bringing the half-ruined flower to her nose.

Legolas shrugged. "I know you're in wanting of a frog, Erendell," he answered a little airily. "Forgive me because that was the only thing I could find," he continued with mirth, referring to the blossom she was holding. He looked at her and waited for her to haughtily swat his face with the flower but when Erendell just looked at him with heartfelt eyes, he frowned with confusion.

"His majesty must be wanting to see to his family first," she suggested softly instead. When Legolas' clear azure eyes landed on hers, she hurriedly let her gaze land on the clear water of the river instead.

He shook his head, purposely ignoring the change of her behavior. "Why don't we talk a bit first?" he suggested, letting his bundle of things on the ground beside him. "How are you, Erendell?" he asked, giving her a lopsided grin.

She looked at him. "You look different," she commented instead. He raised his eyebrows in question. "You even speak and act different," she continued.

He didn't answer.

"Usually you would devise a way to pull nasty tricks on me, Legolas," she said. When he didn't answer, she smiled. "Has the Academy finally made a mature elf out of you?" she added in a teasing tone.

He turned to her. "Maybe," he answered. Then he took a deep breath and turned towards the orange glow of the sun. "I've learned so much, so much that sometimes it scares me," he continued, shaking his head.

"Why?"

He stared at her only to see her looking at him with much care and concern that he found somewhat disturbing. He longed to tell her that it was the responsibility that was scaring him. By learning everything that he needed to know, he finally realized that that schooling was not for ordinary education anymore. It was his training, a preparation devised by his father for him to be the future leader of his people. It was a big responsibility and somehow, he wasn't ready for it. He thought himself to be too young. And now this, his father's unexpected message, sending him back home—

"Legolas?" she asked, placing her hand on his arm. "What's bothering you?"

Hearing her voice shattered his thoughts. He focused his attentions and shook his head, pasting a smile on his fair elven face. Actually, her present disposition was already giving him the creeps. He then gently took his arm away from her grasp, much to the maiden's confusion. "Nothing," he lied, shaking his head, purposely dropping the subject. When Erendell gave him a doubtful look, he laughed softly. "And why is the only daughter of the Noble Erenoll standing by the bridge as if waiting for something," he paused and looked at her seriously, leaning his head a little to hers. He captured her eyes with his and stared at her deeply, "or someone," he finally added.

Her eyes widened at the remark. Somehow the way he had been staring at her sent all of her blood rushing to her face. She felt her cheeks warming at the intensity of his gaze. The Legolas she knew never gave her a look like that before. And the tone of his voice… it was deep and soothing… and somewhat virile that it sent shivers down her spine. Was this one of the things he learned in the Academy as well, she found herself wondering.

"Where you waiting for me, Erendell?" he asked in that soft, husky voice of his again. He narrowed his eyes purposely at her and relished the sight of her blushing. The feeling confused him but then again he couldn't deny that he was immensely enjoying himself seeing her like that. It satisfied his male ego he never knew he had before.

Legolas pursed his lips to keep himself from laughing, waiting for her reaction, expecting his childhood friend to hit him with the flower or something, like what she would normally do when irritated. But when no violent reaction came, he frowned in confusion. "Is something the matter?" he asked, his teasing manner turning to concern.

"I fear something is not right," she answered in a hushed voice. "Something stirred from the depths of Middle-Earth, they were calling, clamoring." She turned around, leaning her back at the bridge's intricate stone railing. A sudden wind blew at her face and she instinctively lifted one fair hand to tuck the loose strand of hair behind one pointy ear. "The peace will not last long," she continued enigmatically. "Not after that creature Gollum escaped the confines of these forests."

"So you have heard of the Necromancer, know of it even," Legolas said, this time seriously. "Were you here when the attack was made?" he asked.

She shook her head. "Nay, my father immediately sent us to Lórien," she answered. "I got back when the assault was over and all were in ruins." Then she took a deep breath. "And I know, after that, you will immediately be sent home."

"And so you were waiting for me?" he concluded.

"Long years I have waited for you, Legolas" she thought. But instead of answering, she looked at him long and hard. Legolas frowned curiously as he felt something amiss. She wasn't acting normal. She was looking at him like she wanted to tell him something but couldn't. Maybe something was indeed troubling his dear friend.

"What troubles you, Lady Erendell?" he asked softly.

She fell silent at first. When Legolas, turned away from her, getting already annoyed and worried at her silence, she decided to speak up. "True, I have been waiting for you," she answered. "I have— I have something important to tell you before--,"

"Then pray tell what's bothering my fair friend," he said a little impatiently. He couldn't stand Erendell being like this. Usually, she would laugh and act silly and then cry but not this. She is getting him really worried. And whatever it was, he was more than willing to help if she would just tell him up front!

Seeing the look on his face, she took a deep breath and finally decided to speak. "I--," she began haltingly. Legolas turned to her, waiting. "I— I love you, Legolas."

He stared at her, his eyes wide with astonishment.

"Ever since we were children, I loved you," she gabbled uncontrollably. "I didn't exactly know where it started but that's all I know, Legolas." Then she laughed nervously. "I know I shouldn't be doing this but— I have to be honest."

The words caught him off guard. He felt his heart stop as he looked at her in shocked silence. When he noticed her moistening eyes and after all the things she said, he uttered the very first word that came popping into his head.

"Why?"

Erendell stared at him, stricken. The moment the words came out of his lips, he knew that he made a mistake. He swallowed hard, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable, awkward. He scrambled his thoughts for something comfortable and sensible to say.

"What I meant was--," he stuttered, his flawless cheeks reddening a little. "I mean, how—could— Erendell, I made your life miserable," he babbled uncontrollably. Apparently, he wasn't handling this as maturely as possible. The Academy didn't actually teach him how to handle situations like this anyway. "I always make you cry, I pull nasty pranks on you, remember. I even tried burning your hair and I—" He stopped abruptly upon seeing the look on her face. It wasn't that he was pleased or anything it was just that he didn't feel anything but surprise, even shock. And he was confused. How could she love him? It just didn't make any sense! And he knew he was being mean. He inhaled deeply, trying to comprehend and sort things out. "I don't mean it that way, Erendell," he began softly. "But I couldn't say that I wasn't questioning your feelings. How could—"

"Do I even need a reason for that?" she interrupted, her once sparkling eyes already near-to-crying. Legolas just stared at her, loss for words. She looked at him and upon seeing his confused expression, pain immediately drilled her heart. He wasn't feeling the same way, she finally said to herself. Oh, what made her do something as foolish as that? What in Elbereth's name made her think that this beautiful Prince of Mirkwood will love her back? Surely, someone more beautiful and more suitable in Rivendell already caught his eye. Why hadn't she thought of that?

"It was just a dream," a voice inside her said.

"Yes and I dreamt too much," she said to herself, turning away from him. She never felt so embarrassed and humiliated all her life.

Seeing her pained expression, Legolas panicked. Sure, he was used to seeing her cry and he could very well handle it but then, this was already different. This was nothing trivial anymore. He stood there, not knowing what to say nor to do.

"Erendell, I—," he began uncertainly. When she didn't turn his way, he swallowed hard.

"What do you want me to say then?" he asked softly. Then he scrunched his eyes closed as a sudden urge to hit himself hard sprang within him. Everything was coming out all wrong!

"You don't have to say anything, Legolas," she said, turning to him once last time. There was a defiant look on her face that made him a bit worried. Although he couldn't comprehend what was happening or what he was feeling, he was sure as hell that he didn't want to lose his friend! Damn it all! Why did she have to make things so complicated?

"I just had to tell you and I already did. I wasn't expecting anything in return lest for you to love me back," she said, quickly turning around once again for him not to see the tears threatening to fall from her eyes. "It was just a way of setting myself free, Legolas. Free from thoughts of you. Think nothing of it since I did it because of selfishness. Now, I can have peace." And with those last words, she walked away from him.

"Erendell, wait!" he called out, his arm outstretched as if to stop her. Then to his relief, she stopped. Mustering his strength, he walked purposely towards her. When she felt his nearing presence behind her, she hardened her heart a bit more and resisted the urge to turn around and face him.

"There will be a counsel in Rivendell," he began as he slowly made his way to her. When he finally reached her, he stopped a few inches away from her slender back. He stood close to her, so close that he could smell her sweet scent. He raised his hand in an attempt to hold her by the shoulder and force her to turn his way but he held his hand back, deciding against it. "I am to go back there by the fortnight. I am to bring a message to Master Elrond, taking the stead of my father."

At that, Erendell closed her eyes but still she hardened her heart. Not looking back, she took one step forward. Seeing this, Legolas, against his better judgement, held her fast by the arm, not letting her go. "I just came home to say goodbye," he said sincerely, his voice deep and soft.

Erendell stopped short, her lips quivering. Then finally losing the fight, a single fat tear rolled from her eyes. She knew what Legolas meant by it. She knew that his going to Rivendell would change everything. Something about the way he said goodbye told her that something was not right. And with what's happening in Middle-Earth right now, Gollum escaping and the dark shadow arising… No, she shook her head. Pride swelled inside her heart, mingling with her pain. She already lost everything to this elf but her pride. And she wouldn't let him take even that away from her. She wouldn't give him the satisfaction of seeing her cry. Then gently wrenching her arm away from his grasp, she walked away from him wordlessly.

And he had stood there, doing nothing, his body turning cold. His insides told him to go after her but strangely his legs stubbornly resisted his brain's commands to move. If he was to go after and stop her, then what next? What should he say? What should he do? And so with those realizations, he was rooted to the ground, watching her slender form slowly disappearing from his sight.

After that painful goodbye, he never saw her again.

Two weeks after that, with his dear friend, Glayden Goldenstaff, he journeyed to Rivendell.

~*~*~*~*~

"I wonder how— how she is doing?" he asked himself aloud, jumping off from his horse. But, his mind asked a different thing. "I wonder if she is still feeling the same way?" He shook his head and took the reins of his white steed. Walking, he gently led his horse towards the passageway into Lothlorien, thoughts about her swimming inside his head.

It was not that he didn't love her, it was just back at that time, he didn't know what love was. He didn't know the feeling. He wasn't sure of what he felt for her but he was sure that he couldn't stand being away from her since there was a pang of pain inside him when he went schooling far away from home. Back then, that very feeling confused him but still, he chose to ignore it. It was understandable though; he was in the prime of his youth, a very young elf lad who cared nothing but hunting, spending his time with his friends and doing rash, stupid and puerile things that now he was not really proud of. And worrying about love and courtship and such things were far from his mind.

But in spite of it all, he was so sure that there was something special in her but what to make of it, he couldn't really tell. He was just sure that there was something beautiful in her but to find it, he didn't bother. He didn't even mind binding himself with her and start a family when the right time comes. After all, they grew up together and were so used with each other that he couldn't really imagine spending his life with someone else other than her.

Maybe it was love.

Maybe it was not.

But there was one thing that he was so sure of.

She was a friend, his very own good and dear friend.

Until he went away to war.

He thought he could forget her. By convincing himself that she was angry, hating him and blaming her for making things very complicated, he thought he could get rid of her. But he was wrong. During the days with the Fellowship, he found himself thinking of her, night and day, day and night. The very thought of her brought him no peace since every single memory created a big, empty space inside him that grows bigger and bigger every single day. Although it didn't affect his disposition during a fight, still he found himself thinking of her after everything's all over and done with. And not long after that, the big empty space became a hollow hole inside his heart, full of longing and ache. He felt desire but at the same time he felt reluctance. He felt joy but at same time pain. Actually, one emotion contradicted the other and it was during those turbulent times that he came to realize exactly what it was that he was feeling. Funny to think that inside that void, black hole of loneliness, that very 'feeling' surged up and grew inside him. He was able to understand and accept everything that he almost laughed at the irony of it.

He fell in love.

And it scared him.

Deep in the confines of his armor, he was nothing but a coward. Erendell had been brave in telling him what she really felt. No elf maiden would be in her right mind to admit her true feelings for an elf lad. Usually, it would be the lad first but not the maiden. It was a risk she took and in spite of it all, that very thing she did made such an impression on him. Aside from being flattered, he admired her courage. And soon that admiration turned to longing and the longing turned to love.

Now he fully understood why, that even though how many times he made her cry, that even though he had hurt her many times, always putting her behind him and not beside him, she was still there for him with a ready smile on her face. She stood behind him, ready to catch him if he falls, asking nothing in return. She had been a good friend, accepting everything with her sweet silence until the she felt the need to be honest.

"She was right," he thought, walking aimlessly inside the lovely woods of Lothlorien. "You don't need a reason for it. You just feel it." He looked up upon hearing the sweet chirping of the birds above him. It was near to autumn and he could see nothing but orange and gold all around him, the leaves near to falling from the Mallorn trees' lonely branches. He sighed. He liked Lorien better in the spring. Everything about him looked melancholy but then again, with the new found feeling, he found the autumn sky more beautiful than the last time he had been there with the Fellowship. Somehow, the air seemed fresher, the sun more golden and the grass greener.

Now he decided to be brave and honest just like her.

He was about to make his way to her cousin Haldir's dwelling to ask about her, when suddenly someone called his name.

He turned around.

"Legolas Greenleaf! Is that you?"

His eyes widened upon seeing a familiar face. It was clear to him that she was walking leisurely in Lorien's fair, golden woods, singing softly to herself. On her was a long delicate light blue dress made with the finest elven voile one could ever see. It was so delicate that it swayed lightly, to and fro, with her every step. In her hand was a pair of her dainty slippers, dangling carelessly in the air.

Then she stopped, their eyes meeting for the first time after so many years.

She was looking at him, her clear lilac pools wide with surprise as if she was seeing things. She stood there as still as stone first, her eyes absorbing the sight of him. Then slowly, she smiled, the golden light of the Sun glowing behind her. He swallowed hard as he saw a splendor before him, so much like the splendor of fair Tinúviel of the Ancient Days. When he stood there just staring in wonder and doing nothing, she laughed.

"Oh good Varda! It is you!"

And she ran to him laughing still. Then without warning, she threw herself to him with abandon, not caring what the other elves would say if they saw her. She landed in his arms and she was laughing like crazy that if Arwen and Galadriel were to see her now, she knew she would never hear the end of it.

He quickly let go of his horse and when he caught her in his arms, he lifted her up in the air. She gave a startled cry upon feeling her feet off the ground but nevertheless, she giggled with delight and tightened her arms about his neck. The warm welcome surprised him because he was expecting her wrath even coldness but-- He shook his head and forced himself not to think of such thoughts right now. The important thing was he saw her again. Here she was, against his arms. Thinking about that, he found his arms wounding a little tightly about her. Settling her down on the ground once more, he closed his eyes.

"Just how many nights did I lay awake waiting for this moment?" he found himself asking as he buried her face in her sweet smelling hair. He smiled inwardly. Her scent never did change. She still smelled like vanilla and blossoms and all beautiful things. His lips, surrendering to temptation, moved a little as if to give her a kiss.

Erendell frowned at the sudden gesture but nevertheless he let him hold her a little longer than usual. Just thinking of the many days and nights that he kept her wide awake with worry, fear and concern, surely both of them deserved this moment, right? She closed her eyes and buried her face against his lean chest, inhaling the familiar scent of him.

And they just stood there in each other's arms, saying nothing for no words can express what they were exactly feeling at that moment. It was as if time stood still, the golden leaves falling all around them, as if guarding that very moment time had given them. Then out of the silence, Legolas murmured something against her hair.

"I have missed you, Erendell," he said softly. She looked up only to see a different sparkle in his eyes, a sparkle that she had never seen before. "I thought I'd never see you again."

She smiled, her arms loosening a little against him. "Let me take a closer look at you," she answered instead. And with that, her hands went up to his face. He closed his eyes as he felt her hands gently kneading through his hair then to his face. Her fingers then gently trailed to his cheeks, tracing the outline of his face with tenderness. After a moment of silence, finally she spoke.

"I see a change in you, my lord elf," she whispered, slowly letting her hands down. "The war has brought nothing but suffering, has it not?"

Legolas opened his eyes and stared at her. She was looking at him tenderly that for the first time in his life, he realized how beautiful she had become. He noticed the lovely sheen in her eyes on her small oval face. Her white skin felt soft and supple against his and her lithe body, a perfect match for his own. Without thinking, his hand went up to touch the luster of her hair and it surprised him to find it so soft and fine to the touch, tumbling like silver night down her slender back.

"How come I haven't noticed her before?" he found himself asking. Just then she moved a little against him and with her body so close to him and the enticing scent of her plus all the fervent feelings inside of him, a sudden gush of heat coursed through his body only to pool between his legs. Immediately, he let go of her before he could place himself in the most embarrassing situation his body could ever think of.

"You just don't know how many days and nights I prayed for this day to come, Legolas," she began after a moment of silence. She turned away and walked towards a nearby tree with Legolas following close behind her. "Fear consumed me everyday."

"And you need not fear anymore, my lady," he replied. Erendell turned around to face him. "I have come back, alive and well," he added, his lips curving into a little smile.

"And I thought you never will," she said, looking away. "Nobody bought good tidings after the battle in Helm's Deep. I was devastated to learn that my dear cousin fell and then my thoughts lingered to you. Nobody even told me—"

"I thought you hated me," Legolas said instead, ridding her of a very painful memory. With that, Erendell stopped and stared at him as if he had gone mad. The look pleased him; it gave him fresh hope. "Were you not angry at our last parting?" he asked quite frankly.

In spite of it all, she found herself smiling. "And you dare come back here and risk your life to face my wrath?" she asked.

"Indeed I do, my fair lady," he answered. He took one step backwards. "And here I am, standing before you, awaiting for your judgement," he said, smiling broader.

Erendell laughed. "Now, that is the Legolas I know," she commented upon seeing the grin on his fair elven face. "I'm glad that you haven't changed quite a lot after the war."

At that, the smile died on his lips. Suddenly, he turned serious, his playful mood vanishing that Erendell turned to him with concern. "I have changed, Erendell," he said. He stepped closer to her and leveled his eyes with hers. "I came back because I had to see you," he whispered softly. "Do you hate me, Erendell?" he asked, this time his voice was low and husky.

She blinked and tried her best to look away but with the intensity of his gaze, she found her eyes not moving at all. Instead, she stood there dumbly, letting her eyes drink from the crystal blue pools staring before her. She swallowed hard upon feeling the tree against her back, his body close to hers, his face just inches away from hers.

"We were children back then, Legolas," she replied finally. "We grew up." And at that, she finally tore her eyes away from his. Legolas stepped back, quite confused.

"What do you mean?" he couldn't help but ask. Erendell looked at him first then she smiled and walked away from him, turning right. Legolas followed her, standing a good few meters beside her.

"I was angry at you, yes, I was," she finally replied as they took a leisurely walk around the woods of Lorien. They passed by several Mallorn trees, their paths laden with dried brown-gold leaves. A soft wind suddenly blew at them and instinctively, Erendell lifted her hand to hold her hair in place. "After all, you had hurt me and I was angry at you for that." Then she stopped and sighed. "But I never hated you, Legolas. That is the one thing that I couldn't do," she said, shaking her head.

"And I would've understood if you did," he replied as they continued walking. With that, Erendell stopped and turned to him, one eyebrow raised in question. With that, he cleared his throat and continued. "I have been an insensitive, coldhearted cad and—"

This time, she laughed. Legolas stopped and stared at her. "Well then, even if I hate you now, just hearing you say those words at yourself will melt my heart and give you forgiveness." Then she laughed again and continued her walk without even giving him a glance, singing softly to herself as elves commonly do.

He shook his head and smiled and just decided to keep silent. Erendell turned to him and without a word reached for his hand. She smiled and led him with her for a tour of Lothlorien to which he finally relented. They walked under the sinking sun, the sound of her voice melding with the gentle wind creating a sweet haven of stillness. They walked on and on, past trees and grass, their silence offering comfort, the presence of each other offering them solace. And for the first time in her life, Erendell noticed something different in him. They turned left and descended the concrete stone steps leading to the fountain, the soft tinkling sound of the water welcoming them. Upon reaching the well-known Mirror of Galadriel, she stopped and turned to him.

"Something is amiss," she said, deciding to break the comforting silence. Legolas looked at her and said nothing. "For the first time, I'm walking beside you," she continued meaningfully. Then she stood there waiting for him to say something. But when no words came out of his lips, she decided to speak. "What is it that you really came here for?" she asked.

He took a deep breath. "Was I that wretched before that you even noticed how I would place you always behind me and not beside me?" he asked softly.

Erendell shook her head. "No, you were not wretched," she replied. Then she sighed and looked up. "I just expected too much and misunderstood myself," she continued. Then she looked at him tenderly. "If you think that I regretted our talk before you left for Rivendell then you're mistaken. I never regretted that I said that I loved you, Legolas, because I really do."

At that, Legolas stared at her, his heart beating wildly against his chest. He waited for her to go on, his eyes not leaving her face. Then is she still—

"I loved you for as long as I could remember. And then Glayden bought tidings that you decided to go to war and I was beset by grief, cursing fate for taking you away from me. But then again, I realized that fate took you away from me to buy myself some time. Some time to think things over, time to realize everything and time to set my eyes on others which I overlooked before." Then she smiled. "That experience taught me to be brave, Legolas. It taught me that I could do anything if I wish to. If not for that then I would've followed my father and sail over Sea and never see you and anyone ever again. I decided to defy and not yield to my father's bidding and instead, I rode to Lothlorien and decided to settle with my cousins, much to their displeasure and dismay, of course," she continued remembering the look Haldir, Orophin and Rumil gave her when she popped in unexpectedly in their dwelling. She laughed.

Actually, Haldir being the forceful and stern one, half-dragged her to her horse, threatening to cut her hair and chain her in her room for a number of years if she didn't go back to her father. But even with his threats, she would not yield till she was fairly sure that she drove Haldir's thinning patience and sanity over the edge. Orophin, being the more temperate one, begged her to return to her father, saying that Middle-Earth was not a place for a gentle elf-maiden anymore. He even explained to her that these woods were not safe anymore because they couldn't tell when the Enemy would attack Lothlorien next. But even with the gentle persuasion of Orophin and Rumil's chivalrous offer to escort her back wouldn't make her yield. And so after was all said and done, the brothers just decided to keep their stubborn cousin safe within the confines of the forest.

She laughed again with the memories. "Would you believe that Glayden followed me here?" she asked suddenly. "When he learned that I ran away, he followed me. And it drove Haldir into insanity again. It was like his house was being taken over by elf-children, he said." She shook her head, smiling sadly as fond recollections of her cousin filled her head. "You know very well what Haldir was like, yes? He never had patience with children."

"Why didn't you sail over Sea, Erendell?" Legolas asked instead. Although with his present disposition, he couldn't help but feel curious as well. Why did she decide to stay here in Middle-Earth during those tumultuous times, where there was loss of hope and the courage of men, elves and dwarves hung by a thread?

"What? Sail over Sea while Middle-Earth and half of my kin are toiling against the bitterness of war?" She shook her head. "No, I decided to stay and do my part." And with that, she raised her hands to him. Legolas instinctively took them and to his surprise, he felt it callous against his touch. He looked at them only to notice little angry scars on them. The once soft hands of a noble elf-maiden now felt rough and coarse to his touch. He looked up at her, confused. "I've done a little part in the war as well, you know. I helped the warrior Elves during the battle of Helm's Deep," she finally said.

He frowned thoughtfully that the elf-maiden laughed softly at his obvious confusion. After a moment of thinking, Legoals' face brightened. "You forged their bows and arrows for them," he commented with wonder, looking at her hands. He turned to her unbelievingly, his face filled with admiration. He let go of her hands and automatically reached behind his back for one of his arrows from his quiver. He held it before her. "You forged this," he said.

"I never knew you still had something left," she answered, looking at the arrow he was holding. This time it was her turn to frown questioningly.

"To tell you frankly, it was the only one left from the stock Haldir brought to Helm's Deep years ago," he replied.

She nodded thoughtfully. "Well, I forged it, together with the other maidens who decided to stay here as well," she answered lightly. "And I realized that it was not an easy task. I tell you those simple, little things are really hard to make which really surprised me. I never expected it to be that complicated." She took the single arrow from him and brought it close to her face. "I wonder how a simple, thin and delicate thing could take the life on an enemy with just one single but perfect stroke," she murmured bemusedly. Then she handed the arrow back to him. "Do you want to know the other reason why decided to stay?" she asked instead, her voice having that mysterious lilt on them. There was a playful but enigmatic gleam in her eyes.

At this, Legolas raised his eyebrows in question, his heart already hammering loudly against his chest. Erendell smiled at him. "I was waiting for you, my lord," she said cheerfully.

"You— were waiting for me?" he asked haltingly. Erendell just nodded. Then as if fate willed it, both of them uttered the same words in the wind.

"I have something to tell you."

Realizing that, they both laughed. Legolas, already feeling nervous, took a deep calming breath. "What is it that you want to tell me?" he said, smiling engagingly at her. Erendell grinned at him happily.

"You came just in time, Legolas," she began, her face already beaming and shining with happiness. Legolas looked at her confused. "My heart is glad because you just came in time," she repeated.

"What do you mean?" he asked, already feeling his body turning cold. Somehow, he didn't like how things are going one bit. Something's definitely going on. She was acting very, very different, as if nothing happened with them in the past. Well, yes technically nothing happened but then again, she looked and acted like someone who already got over with a past love, a past heartache. She was acting as if the past didn't matter anymore. Then much to his surprise, Erendell took his hands in hers and laughed.

"I will be wedded in three days," she finally said, her face glowing with happiness. "I will be wedded in three days with someone I'm hopelessly in love with, Legolas!"

He froze.

He stood there, doing nothing. It was as if time stopped. He stared at her blankly, her very words echoing inside his head. Strangely, he didn't feel anything. He felt numb. His blank eyes turned to her face only to see her laughing and beaming, looking even more beautiful with the radiance of happiness.

"I will be wedded in three days with someone I'm hopelessly in love with, Legolas."

His body suddenly turned cold, her words slowly sinking inside his head. He took a deep breath and he was surprised to feel a pain inside his chest, an unbelievable pain as if one of his arrows pierced the very core of his heart. He slowly let go of her hand as his chest twisted as different emotions swept inside him. There was pain and disappointment, frustration and regret. It swirled inside him, simultaneously that he felt something pricking against his eyes. Before it was too late, he realized that the only outlet for his pain were his tears. He quickly turned his back on her, heaving a deep breath.

"Would you like to know who it is?" Erendell asked, oblivious to what's going on inside his heart. "You wouldn't believe who it is!" she laughed. She walked towards him and it took all his strength to contain the tears. Instead, he gave her one of his rare smiles.

"It is Glayden," he answered softly. He looked at her face for a long time and seeing it shining and glowing with loveliness, he resisted the effort to touch it with his hands, let his fingers trail against her cheek.

Her eyes widened in wonder. "Indeed you are wiser beyond your years!" she exclaimed happily. "Aye, it is dear, gentle Glayden," she laughed. "How did you know?" she continued, her curiosity overcoming her wonder.

Legolas forced another smile on his face. "I've seen the way he looks at you, Erendell," he replied softly. He looked up and heaved a sigh. "Ever since we were children, don't you remember?" he added recalling the many times Glayden would always come to Erendell's defense whenever he and the other elf-children would bully her. Even before, Legolas knew that Glayden's love was unrequited because Erendell never looked at him the same way. He just didn't expect that things would suddenly take a different turn.

"It was surprising, was it not?" came her voice suddenly. Legolas, shutting his reverie, turned to her. She walked away from him and made her way slowly towards the trickling fountain. "I never did exactly consider Glayden as a lover lest a future mate. Of course, he is never a soldier or a fighter unlike the rest of you rouges, being lousy with warfare and everything. I even wondered how in Varda's name was he able to pass the Academy before!" Then she frowned thoughtfully. "I have always considered him as an older brother, someone who would always take care of me, protect me…" Her voice trailed lightly. Then she shook her head and turned to him, smiling. "Fate really has a strange way of working things, don't you agree?"

Instead of answering, Legolas made his way towards her and without a word he took her hand in his and led her away from the fountain. Erendell, consenting silently, followed him but with a confused look in her eyes. They reached the last step of the concrete stair when finally Erendell couldn't contain herself anymore. She stopped and pulled Legolas to her gently.

"Where are we going?" she asked inquisitively.

"For a walk," the handsome elf answered.

"Whatever for?"

This time, Legolas turned to her and smiled kindly. "I need to give Glayden a wedding gift," he replied. "It is only fitting to give the groom a gift. Sadly, I wasn't able to prepare one so…" He looked at her face searchingly. Seeing the merry twinkle in her eyes, he curled his right fist and resisted the urge to touch her cheek. Instead, he let go of her and looked away. "A rosy bride." Was his only vague answer.

Erendell frowned. "I beg your pardon?"

He turned to her again. "A rosy bride," he repeated. "That will be my wedding gift to Glayden." Then he laughed softly. "Surely that will be the best gift that I can give him, will it not? The best from the pile of wedding gifts he would be getting later on," he added, looking at her eyes.

With that, Erendell found herself laughing again. She shook her head and briefly wounded her arms around his neck. "I am glad that you are here. I'm glad that you are my friend," she whispered in his ear. Legolas closed his eyes, the words bringing happiness but great pain at the same time. After a second, she slowly let go. "I am so lucky to be with my two best elves on this special occasion!" When Legolas didn't answer, she frowned, remembering something. She pursed her lips. "You were going to tell me something, were you not my lord elf?" she asked inquiringly. "Won't you go out with it?" Then she shook her head. "Ai, Glayden said my curiosity will be the death of him," she laughed. "And now I am starting believe him!"

And with that, Legolas felt his insides turning cold, his heart beating wildly against his chest. Should he tell her? Should he tell her how much he thought of her? Should he tell her how the very thought of her could bring dozens of contradicting emotions within him? Should he, right then and there, confess his love for her? Or should he just pull her into his arms and kiss her, kiss her passionately till that very kiss would make her understand all the words that he had been longing to say to her? He looked at her longingly, his mind battling against his heart. One word of it will change everything, he was sure of it. He could emerge as the victor and take the hand of the maiden. Or he could tell her and have her hate him for the rest of their lives.

"Legolas?"

He blinked only to see her face, waiting, anticipating.

"You may find it hard to believe but don't you know that every single second of this day, with us standing here together, minute by minute, you are becoming the world to me?"

Silence.

"My lord elf?" she inquired gently.

"You are looking so beautiful in that dress, you know? Your hair loose and your eyes sparkling happiness and mischief like they used to before. I know that we have known each other for a long time but now, its like I'm seeing you for the first time."

"Come now, Legolas!" Erendell called, shaking his arm gently. "Surely, it is not a big of a deal, is it not?"

"There are no words to express what I'm feeling for you right now. The only thing that I can think of saying is I wish I could keep you all of my life, keep you all of my life to protect you, to make you happy…"

Erendell frowned at him. "You know, for someone who was very unruly before, surely that disposition doesn't suit you well."

"You know why? It's because I'm in love with you, Erendell. I am so in love with you…"

He smiled. "I guess I wanted to say how happy I am for you, Erendell," he said instead, ignoring the endearing words floating inside his very thoughts. With that, she thanked him softly, giving him a dimpled smile. He turned away and walked, with her afoot beside him. "May I ask when everything started?"

"Well," she began happily, "it was when he followed me here. At first, I thought that he was sent here for some business. I never realized that he went after me against the counsel of his father. His father already sailed over Sea without him. Apparently he was more worried of his mother, being alone in here with the war and everything." Then she sighed. "You don't know the hardships he had with Haldir," she laughed as the memories consumed her. "Glayden isn't made of sterner stuff, you know and Orophin and Rumil weren't making things any better as well. They knew, right from the start, that Glayden has feelings for me so they made his life a living hell!"

At that, Legolas had to laugh. He was having this mental picture of gentle Glayden clumsily holding a bow and arrow with the rest of the warrior Elves, trying his best to please the now fuming Haldir. He could very well see the infuriated face of the Captain, he could see how his hands would snatch the bow from him and clop him with it on his head.

"His sincerity touched me," she said after a while. "He told me that everything was hopeless, he was aware of that, but then again…" her voice trailed as her eyes caught a small squirrel munching on a nut, sitting beside one of Lorien's golden trees. Then she sighed. "He never gave up on me," she sighed, remembering how the Elf courted her. Then she giggled. "You could say that he courted me into submission."

"But he is half-elven and surely by staying with his mother here, he chose a limited number of years," Legolas replied wonderingly. "What was agreed upon?" he asked.

"Day and night, night and day I begged the Lady Galadriel to obtain the grace for me," she replied. With that, Legolas stopped in his tracks. He turned to her, his eyes wide with astonishment. Erendell cast her eyes down, biting her lower lip. "I chose a mortal life," she said softly.

He shook his head in bewilderment. "Erendell, that is—"

"I know it is madness! " she cut in softly. Then she shook her head. "Even I couldn't believe that I would so something like that. But then—

"You do understand that you're giving up a completely different life, an everlasting existence of happiness, away from grief and suffering," commented Legolas, turning to her with concern. "You do realize that you will not be seeing your father ever again, right?"

With that, Erendell turned away. "I know but—"Her voice trailed as she turned her head towards the orange sky. Then a lovely flicker of a smile began to surface on her lips; her eyes turning a little glazed as if her thoughts were being consumed with lovely memories. Then she turned to him, smiling gently. "He makes me happy, Legolas," she answered softly. "That is the only reason that I need."

And with that answer, Legolas smiled sadly, frowning. He turned away from her in order not to let her hear his defeated sigh. He never knew that she could love that much! And it touched him deeply. A feeling of sheer envy swelled inside him, mingling with the pain. It could've been him! He could've been the one elf to bring out that sort of smile from her lips. He could've been that person to make her that happy. He could've been that person standing in Glayden's place, being loved and cherished by this maiden. So many could-have-beens but… He shook his head as his thoughts lingered on. He sure hoped that Glayden knew how lucky he was. If he didn't, then he would really make sure of it… in a way that he wouldn't possibly dream of!

"Legolas, is something the matter?"

He turned to her, forcing such thoughts away. When he saw her concerned look, he forced out a smile and shook his head. "I was just thinking how lucky Glayden is," he whispered, his voice suprisingly heavy.

Erendell let out a laugh, a very contented and delighted laugh. It was a laugh of someone who loved and being loved in return. He couldn't miss light tinkle of her voice, the radiant glow of her face and by just looking at her, he couldn't bring himself to tell her. He knew that telling her his feelings would just confuse and disconcert her. The last thing that he wanted to do to her right now was to thwart that happiness and cause trouble. Instead, he found himself just staring at her.

She turned away from him to continue the walk. "We plan to settle here," she said, taking her fist light step. Legolas followed close behind. "We plan to bring the former splendor of Lothlorien back." Then she shook her head. "God knows how this place was terribly neglected ever since Lady Galadriel left for the Sea. Just look at those Mallorn trees! Before, during autumn, they don't fall but they do turn to gold and…" Her voice trailed on and on inside his head. She went on with their plans, totally unaware of what was going on inside his heart.

"And then, I do think that everything will be just fine. I mean, we are not planning to close Lothlorien's door to Middle-Earth though it won't be as opened as it was before. We plan to trade, interact with Men and Dwarves and especially those Elves residing in your colony, in Ithilien. With that—"

She was unable to continue when he completely lost the fight, raised his arms and hurriedly pulled her to him, just in time for her not to see the single tear trickling from his eyes. Her eyes widened with surprise as she found herself being enclosed in the circle of his arms, feeling the warmth of his body. When she felt his arms tightening about her in a different way, she frowned slightly. She was about to look up to him, to question him about the sudden action when suddenly, she felt something wet on her hair.

It confused her at first. Then realizing it, her heart twisted with subtle pain.

She bent her head and rested it against his chest only to hear and feel his heart beating, hammering loudly.

At that action, his arms tightened even more around her, as if he was afraid of letting her go. She heard him heave a deep breath, felt his lips resting on her hair, quivering…

And at that moment she knew.

No words were needed.

At that, she felt wretched. How could she have been so insensitive?

She looked up at him, smiling sadly. They stared at each other, sheer lilac eyes meeting blue teary ones. Legolas would've cupped her chin with his hands and bring his lips to hers. He would've asked for forgiveness for brining her pain in the past. He would've said how much he loved her again and again while kissing her, making her forget Glayden and their nearing binding. He would've taken her with him to Ithilien and from there sail over Sea to the Undying Lands, settling comfortably, living in each other's company for all eternity.

"I will always love you, Legolas," she finally whispered, bringing her fingers against his cheek, shattering his thoughts. He closed his eyes, savoring the last feel of her against him. She smiled at him. "You do know that, don't you?"

"Yes," he replied, slowly opening his eyes. He took a deep breath and gave her a defeated smile. "You will always love me and you will remain in love with Glayden for the rest of your days. You will live long happy lives and raise a family and have lots and lots of elf children, each one fairer than the last," he continued sincerely.

She beamed at the kind words. "I am so glad you are here now, with me, Legolas," she whispered. "I'm so glad you are here now."

"Me too."

And with that, he could say or do nothing else but close his eyes and bring his lips on her forehead. She closed her eyes as well as she accepted the last loving kiss from a dear friend. In her heart, she knew that she would never see him again, that simple kiss told her that.

"You take care, Legolas Greenleaf!" she said after the parting kiss. "You promise to take a lot of care, all right?" Then she laughed.

He smiled, finally letting her go. Surprisingly, he felt his burden lighten, as if a big weight was lifted off from his shoulders. There was disappointment, yes, but then again, there was understanding and acceptance. And just seeing her so happy, laughing and excited about her upcoming wedding, looking even more beautiful by the minute, made all the pain and sorrow melt away. Well, it seemed that it would only be just him and Gimli then. He frowned. Now that he thought about it, the Dwarf would surely press him for information when gets back.

He smiled faintly. Well, there was only one thing to tell him.

On that fine autumn day, just when the leaves were golden, he made her feel how much he loved her, made her feel special, told her all the things that no mere words can say, wished her happiness, took a risk that was so worth it… let go... and said goodbye.

He was not the one.

But then again, he had this wonderful memory, right? And nobody could take that away from him. He vowed to keep her safe forever, firmly locking thoughts of her inside his mind and his heart.

At that thought, he found himself laughing as well. Then stooping down, he picked something up and threw it at Erendell. She shrieked as a big worm landed squarely on her face. He laughed and ran with Erendell screaming and threatening behind him.

"Legolas Greenleaf, you're dead!" she screamed while running after him. She hurled one of her slippers at his direction but it was ill aimed. It landed on the soft grass instead, a little beside him. "That was totally immature!"

He laughed. "Look who's talking about being immature!" he called as he picked up her delicate slipper. Then shaking his head, he threw it back at her with a little surprise inside it.

It hit her on her right leg. She looked down only to see another worm clinging onto her dress. With a loathing squeal, she hopped around, tears of disgust on her eyes. "I thought you wanted to give Glayden a rosy bride and not a sickening one?" she demanded. Then she shuddered. "I hate worms! I hate worms!" she chanted again and again as she tried her best taking the slimy thing off her dress without touching most of its slippery body.

Legolas shook his head, laughing. "Whatever happened to you Erendell?" he asked with childish mirth. "You're screaming as if you're not used to worms by now!"

The End