Chapter 12 – What's Love Got to do with it?
"What's Love Got To Do With It" – Tina Turner
You must try to ignore
That it means more than that
What's love but a second hand emotion?
… Who needs a heart,
When a heart can be broken?
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The early morning sky lightened to grey, preparing for Anor's arrival. Legolas took a deep breath and slowly let it out again. He folded his hands and contemplated the drawn curtains. It seemed as if Rhinure was still asleep. Legolas was not surprised given how late she had returned to her room; he had been listening for her ever since he retired, but he was disappointed.
He had hoped. Legolas signed again, this time, in self deprecation. He had hoped and once again it has led to heart ache. When he would learn? What had he expected? That Rhinure, too, would be awake, unable to sleep away from him? That she too would feel the same restlessness as he and think to submerge it in activity?
But he had been so certain. When he had awoken it was as if an itch had lodged under his skin, forcing him to get out of bed and see her. And now, he was standing outside her room listening for some sound of movement, like an adolescent fool outside his wife's chambers, a green youth hoping for a glimpse of the Wood's fairest maid. Ah well, if he was to be a fool, he might as well wait no longer.
Rhinure turned from her vanity in surprise when Legolas entered the room, brush poised in the air.
"You are awake."
"As are you, my Lord. Could you not sleep?"
"No. What of you?"
"I could not either. I was a little restless so I thought I would get an early start to the day. There is much to do before we leave."
"Indeed." Legolas grimaced as Rhinure turned back to the mirror. "You seem unsurprised to see me."
"In fact I would go so far to say that you are uninterested in my being here at all."
Rhinure put down the brush for it trembled, but just a little, and turned back to him. "Then you must excuse my behaviour, my Lord. I am not used to having you in my chambers. Since you come here so infrequently, I know not how to bid you welcome."
Legolas was tempted to make a few suggestions but refrained as he was certain they would not be welcome. Nonetheless, his eyes wandered to the appropriately sized Queen bed.
"I did not say anything, my Lady."
Rhinure folded her arms, tapping a slender finger on her arm.
"I was only wondering when last I was in your room for more than a few moments."
Rhinure started, realising that Legolas had spoken true; their moments together in these chambers had always been cursory, except for one brief memorable night.
"Nothing to say, my Lady, in your defence?"
"What need have I for a defence? It is you after all who insists on keeping me in your bed. What is it, my Lord? Are you afraid that you would be at a disadvantage in mine?"
"Ah, my Lady. How could it be I at a disadvantage when that invitation is never tendered? No matter how I try, I forever await you at your threshold, hervess nín."
Rhinure glanced back at Legolas, feeling the bite in those words even though the tone stayed playful. "Then I have been remiss indeed, my Lord. Welcome." Rhinure rose from the vanity again to greet Legolas, clasping his hands in welcome though her grip was tighter than strictly polite.
Legolas stroked his thumbs over her knuckles, taking her words as permission to look over her chambers with frank curiosity, which would have offended his prickly wife in any other circumstance. So bare her walls, so empty her shelves. Where were her mementos, the little knick-knacks which proclaimed this her home?
"Something displeases you, my Lord?"
"Did you bring nothing from Tirnen, Rhinure?" Legolas asked, glancing over her shoulder to see perhaps if her vanity held any secrets. In the pale morning light, only her karha glimmered amongst the bare surface.
Rhinure glanced back as well, understanding the frown on Legolas' face. "I did not have much to bring with me, my Lord."
"Nothing, my Lady? No trinkets, no baubles, even from your mother?" It was the wrong question to ask, Legolas realised as soon as he had asked it, for Rhinure's face shuttered immediately, locking him out as effectively as a barred gate. "My Lady, I did not mean to pry."
Rhinure calmed herself and answered that careful apology. "Worry not, my Lord. It was not the question that displeased me." Before Legolas could ask further questions Rhinure distracted him by adding, "Though they are not much, I brought some things with me."
"What things are they?"
"A few clothes, a couple of pieces of jewellery and this." Rhinure held up the brush she had been using, the ivory handle yellowed with age.
"Of course, my Lord." Rhinure placed the brush in her husband's hand.
Legolas turned over the brush, noting the delicate filigree work on the back and the slight chip near one end which has been carefully repaired.
"It was my naneth's, given to her by her Bonded on their wedding."
Legolas smiled, "It is beautiful."
"Thank you." Rhinure stretched her hand out. "May I have it back, my Lord? I need to finish getting dressed; there is much to do today and I would like to get an early start."
Legolas looked at Rhinure, at the unbound hair falling across her shoulders. "Here, let me."
"No! My Lord …" Rhinure made to stop Legolas as he got down on his knees. "You need not bother …"
"I wish to, my Lady." Legolas ran reverent fingers though the heavy scented locks, relishing the feel of them on his fingers. "Let me."
Rhinure's protest died in her throat as her eyes met his. She nodded and turned back to her mirror, leaning forward slightly so that her face was hidden in the shadows of her hair. With the gentlest of touches, Legolas gathered Rhinure's hair and started brushing it. His fingers ghosted across her cheeks as he lifted a few wayward locks back from her face. As he plaited her hair into its customary neat braid, he dropped a quick kiss on her neck, causing Rhinure to spin around.
"There, all done." Legolas overrode Rhinure. "No need to thank me, my Lady. It was my pleasure."
Rhinure's eyes narrowed as she thought about calling Legolas on the kiss, but then thought better.
Legolas swallowed as a serious looking Rhinure bent forward, placing her hands on his shoulders.
"My thanks for all your help, my Lord."
Her breath teased Legolas' face, causing him to veil his eyes before she had even more reason to remonstrate against him.
"Since I cannot return the favour …"
Legolas shuddered as Rhinure ran her fingers over his warrior braids, brushing her fingers over his sensitive ear tips.
"Let me instead offer this as payment."
Legolas opened his eyes just in time to see Rhinure's mouth brush against his. Before he could even savour the feel of her lips, the slight pressure was gone. "That was not fair."
"Any why not, my husband?"
Legolas rose. "What happened to our pact, my Lady?"
"Were you not the one to point out its subtleties? Besides," Rhinure threw one last arch look at Legolas, "are you truly complaining?"
Legolas groaned in defeat as Rhinure swept out of the room. He brushed his lips, which still tingled, brief though the kiss had been. He pressed his lips, hoping to capture the kiss for just a little longer. When her taste had faded too quickly from his mouth, he left the now empty room.
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"Your Highness, you must stay still if we are to correct the fall of this train," the dressmaker admonished.
Rhinure stilled and turned an impassive face to the woman. "I fail to see why the train must be so long that I cannot see its end from the corner of my eye."
"Your Highness," the dressmaker sighed, "you are a Princess now and your clothes must befit your stature."
"It is impractical. As are half the clothes choking this room, which you would have me take on the journey to Gondor." Rhinure pointed towards the pile she had just gone through. It had taken the better part of the morning to get through them all, making her thankful that she had started the day so early. "Why do I need three dresses for one day, let alone peignoirs, lounging robes, bathrobes, night-robes, and robes that I have no name for?" Rhinure bent and picked up a sheer robe made of a warm cream colour and trimmed with a sapphire blue satin. Such a frivolous little garment. Instead of preparing for her departure and speaking to her Company, she was stuck playing dress-up.
"That, my Lady, was made on the Prince's request." The dressmaker took the offending garment from the Princess and laid it carefully with the rest of the lingerie.
"Why would Prince Legolas interest himself in these matters?"
"I believe that this, as the rest," the dressmaker pointed to the pile she had just placed the robe on, "are meant for his private viewing only."
Rhinure's eyes widened in comprehension and then narrowed at the site of the blush on the other woman's cheeks. Too many people seemed to take an interest in Legolas and her, especially about private matters such as these.
"I wish to end this fitting now. I have other urgent matters to deal with."
"Your Highness, there are still many clothes that need to be completed. You cannot leave now."
"You have completed more than enough dresses for my trip to Gondor. The rest can wait."
"But … your Highness! Think of the impression you must make. Think of …"
"I think enough. Fear not, I know what impression needs to be made. Besides I am confident that you will choose the best of these clothes to aid me, knowing that I cannot overburden the horses."
"You are leaving it to me?"
"And why not when you have displayed such care and good taste already?"
The dressmaker beamed and nodded, "I will not fail you, your Highness. I know how best to bring out the colour against your fair skin and dark hair. Not the materials I would usually use but I have found you look best in rich jewel tones. Though, once in a while, a romantic, soft outfit cannot go amiss if done with some subtlety that I am famous for…" The dressmaker's needle flew across the cloth as she chattered on.
Rhinure closed her eyes and began her count to hundred again, wondering how much longer this would take.
"Sleeping on the job already, your Highness?"
Rhinure started at the question, causing the elf kneeling at her feet to clear her throat in displeasure and tug at Rhinure's train to keep her still.
"Your Majesty, I did not hear you enter."
"Your Highness! Please … the dress …"
Rhinure turned to the woman and asked again, "How much longer will this take?"
"Your Highness, pray keep still. I have only a few more stitches left before the final alterations."
"Keep still, child. I would not have you wounded by an errant needle." Thranduil chuckled. "Or ruin this lovely dress. You have outdone yourself, Mistress. Our deepest thanks for making Our daughter bloom so."
The dressmaker preened at the King's praise and placed the tucks and nips quickly to impress his Royal Majesty. Rhinure rolled her mental eyes, wondering anew at the silliness of females around the Royal Family's men.
"There, all done."
"Let me see. Step down, my Lady." Thranduil helped Rhinure down from the stool, pivoting her gently so that he could see the fall of the train. "Charming."
"Do you truly think so?" Rhinure turned towards the polished mirror, looking at the deep blue dress which shimmered with silver lights.
Thranduil smiled at the eagerness in the young leader. "I know someone who will definitely agree with me."
Legolas placed a finger on his mouth to shush his talkative father as he watched his wife twist and turn in front of the mirror.
"Who? Oh … greetings, my Lord."
"Greetings again, my Lady. We meet again this beautiful morn, made all the more lovely by your lovely presence."
Thranduil rolled his eyes behind Legolas' back, appalled at the awful flattery, causing Rhinure's eyes to twinkle with an all too obvious amusement.
"Adar, I bid you not to ruin my compliments," Legolas sighed theatrically, following Rhinure's gaze.
"You do not need my help to ruin the compliment. It was bad enough to begin with. However, I will leave you both now. While she does not need to be told how beautiful she looks, you need all the practice you can get." Thranduil bowed to Rhinure and the dressmaker and left the room.
"Are you done, Mistress?"
"Almost, your Highness. I am still not pleased with the fall of the dress in the front. It is pulling a little and one has to be so careful to get everything …" The dressmaker trailed off when she realized Legolas was just nodding along but not listening, so engrossed was he in looking at the Princess. And blessed be, she was finally holding still! The dressmaker placed the final hooks, fixing the skirts and sighed in satisfaction. The Princess would shine like a moonlit night in this dress and prove that the Woodland elves were no less than any – immortal or Second Born. "All done."
"Oh, yes. Thank you. May I have a moment with the Princess?"
The woman nodded, making haste out of the room, hoping that the Prince would not ruin the dress. It was such a delicate material and he seemed in such a hurry after all.
Legolas looked at Rhinure, unsure of what to say now that they were alone, only knowing that she looked absolutely delicious in that dress. But then, to him, she looked so irrespective of what she wore.
"Do you like the dress, husband?" Rhinure smoothed down the already smooth silk as the silence stretched thin. Did his silence mean he did not like it? "It is costing you a pretty penny I am sure."
"Money never so well spent." Legolas responded automatically, the glib response bred into him. "Adar was correct. You looked charming."
"My Lord, I expected better."
"From the dress?"
"From you. Where is your fabled charm and wit?"
"Are you seeking compliments, my Lady? I would have not expected it of you."
"Why always do what is expected?"
"Well, then, I must say you look ..."
"Lovely," both elves finished simultaneously.
"We are now thinking alike too, my Lady. Will such miracles continue too?"
"Aberrations such as these should not be given so much importance, my Lord." Rhinure tossed over her shoulder as she turned away from Legolas.
Legolas grinned, loving this coquettish side of Rhinure. "And what must we do to make this the norm, hervess nín?"
"Perhaps we can start with an explanation to better understand how each thinks."
"I can agree with that. What would you like explained?"
Legolas blinked, looking down at the garment in Rhinure's arms. "It is a dress …" Legolas trailed off as he realized which garment in question it was; the cream coloured sleeping robe he had ordered on impulse wanting to see how Rhinure looked against the warm colour. If he closed his eyes he could see her in the robe, leaning over him unbound hair creating a fragrant alcove for them both.
He shook his head to clear it, "I was just thinking, my Lady."
"About fantasies and impulses to make them come true. I hope you will look as lovely in this robe as I know you can be."
"Is this your fantasy, Legolas? Is this how you would like to see me, dressed up for your pleasure?"
Legolas wondered if she was offended. He did not think so; he could feel her smile behind that impassive mask – but, it could not hurt to apologise if he was wrong. "My Lady, I did not mean to overstep any boundaries. This was, as I said, just an impulse."
Rhinure shook her head. "I was not offended, just surprised."
"At how gentle your fantasies can be, how soft. This robe is as ... tender as the moonlit night when we first became as one."
"So you understand?"
"I accept it with thanks, my Lord. However ..."
Legolas swallowed at the glint in Rhinure's eyes. She walked towards him, causing his eyes to rivet at the sway of her hips. She stopped in front of him, holding the robe up between them, a silent promise and, perhaps, an acceptance.
"However?" Legolas prodded.
One side of Rhinure's mouth turned up and she wondered at the strange mood gripping her.
Legolas grinned, seeming to catch this strange temper from her. He looked so carefree at the moment that Rhinure wondered if this was what he looked like before her advent in his life. Rhinure traced his smiling mouth in wonderment; if only she could keep it always this way.
Legolas caught her hand and brought it to his cheek, stroking it gently. "My Lady?"
Rhinure cleared her head of such silly thoughts. "However, I was just thinking of how much more suitable Avari dress is, even in this."
Legolas' eyebrows rose in unvoiced scepticism.
"You do not believe me?"
"Let us just say that you and I oft have different ideas of suitability."
Rhinure leaned forward to whisper in his ear. "I promise, my Lord. You will approve of these." Legolas shivered, actually shivered, Rhinure noted in triumph. "Till later, my Lord."
And once again, Legolas was left alone in the room, aching.
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"What, again, my Lord? I almost believe that you are following me?"
Legolas bowed over his wife's hand. "I had just come to see if you needed an escort to dinner. I saw Ehtewen and Istion head towards the Hall without you."
"Yes, I send them ahead." Rhinure took the offered arm. "I thought they could use some private time since we head out in the morning."
"This is a surprise, my Lady. I do not think I have ever seen you without at least one of them trailing behind."
"That is not true, my Lord. They are not hounds to tail behind me every waking moment. There have been many a time when I have been alone."
"Now that you mention it, I must admit the truth of your words. It seems as if the hounds are faithful no more."
Rhinure's eyebrows lifted. "Or perhaps I do not see the need for such constant vigilance."
Legolas stopped short and looked down at her
"It is not as if I need a bodyguard with me in the Palace. After all, what could happen to me here? Amongst all these quendi?"
"Nothing, my Lady." Legolas pulled her a little closer. "And, as long as I am breathing, nothing ever will." Both elves stared at the other, knowing with mutual certainty that those words were no jest.
Herenion coughed to draw the couple's attention back to the land of the hungry.
Rhinure looked at the older elf and the back at her husband. "I see your faithful shadow is ever by your side."
"Yes, no matter how I try to have it otherwise," Legolas quipped, aware that Rhinure had not returned the vow he just made. How much power had he just handed her? Though, not speaking those words would not have made them any less true.
"I think we should head towards the Hall."
"As my Lady commands."
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"That was an exceptional meal, your Majesty."
"Yes, the cooks have outdone themselves even beyond what I thought was possible. It was a worthy send-off meal indeed."
"I know we will miss the food on our travels and, I am certain, even at Gondor."
The servers preened at the Royal Family's words, storing them to report back to the kitchens. They made all the hard work worthwhile.
"Your Majesty, may I be excused? There are a couple of last minute things I need to take care of before our departure."
"Of course, sell nín. The meal is winding down as it is."
Rhinure bowed her head in thanks. Before leaving she stopped at Legolas' chair to whisper. "Could you join me, my Lord?" Legolas twisted in the chair to look at Rhinure. "Consider it, my making up for being remiss."
"Was it not you that pointed out that I had never invited you to my rooms?"
Legolas almost choked on the wine he had unwisely sipped. He glanced at Thranduil to see if he had heard that naughty whisper but the King seemed busy in conversation with the serving boy. He looked back at Rhinure, who was standing patiently, waiting for his answer.
"My Lady ..."
Rhinure bent forward again, lowering her voice even further. "Do not worry so, my Lord. I only seek your advice." Seeing Legolas' obvious disappointment she added, "But I think you will like the recompense." Rhinure curtsied to the King again. "Do not make me wait long, Legolas."
Rhinure was barely out of the room when Legolas turned to the King. Thranduil cut him off with a wave of an impatient hand. "Yes, yes, you too may leave."
"Do you not have things to take care of tonight as well?"
"Yes, but ..."
"Then why do you waste time?" Legolas rose and bowed to the dining elves and the King. "And, Legolas ..."
"Yes, your Majesty?" Legolas stepped forward the King's command.
"Do not keep the Princess up too late. You leave early in the morning after all."
Legolas left the Hall with the King's throaty chuckle in his ears and a vivid blush on his cheeks.
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"Come in, my Lord. It is most unbecoming to loiter." Rhinure threw over her shoulder when Legolas remained in the doorway. "You cannot be that uncertain of your welcome."
Legolas shook his head and the paralysis gripping him. "That is not the uncertainty that plagues me."
"I do not want to trespass and cause offense."
Legolas was serious, even Rhinure could see that. With suspiciously shaky steps, Rhinure walked over and took his hands in hers. "Welcome, Legolas." She took him towards the bed where he could see a small pile of garments strewn over the coverlet.
"If you are looking for assistance in packing I would strongly suggest that you call for a maid, my Lady. Not only am I abysmal at such tasks but I would undoubtedly ruin such delicate garments." Legolas bent down to pick up one of the dresses only to trail off when he realised it was not one of the garments Rhinure had made at the Palace. This was a heavy black silk, almost free of any embellishments except for deep red work on the collar. In fact, it was almost masculine in cut.
"Rhinure, this ...?"
"Is for you, my Lord." Rhinure finished, putting the rest of the garment in his hands. "I know this might not be to your tastes, and you do not have to wear it, but I thought as my Bonded you should have it." Rhinure tucked a strand of hair back and continued, "I know I should have given it you on our wedding day but I did not finish in time. And then I was not certain if it would be appropriate..."
Legolas placed a finger on the babbling lips. "Was this meant to be a wedding gift?"
"Yes, it is our custom for the bride to present the wedding outfit to the groom and ..." Rhinure hesitated.
"I am sorry."
"I do not want you to apologise. It is my custom, not yours."
"One that I wish to share."
"You are, by accepting this now. It does not matter if you did not wear this at the wedding."
"I would have liked to present you with an outfit too."
"You did. Have you forgotten already?" Rhinure smiled, knowing it would distract Legolas.
"I did, did I not?"
"Yes, it was I who was remiss, not you."
"You do not need to apologise."
"I am not apologising ..."
"For apologising for things you cannot change is futile," Legolas finished.
Legolas smiled. "Thank you for the gift, I will wear it with a glad heart."
"You do not have to if you do not wish to. There is no obligation..."
"Hush." This time Legolas shut the lips with a brief kiss, leaving Rhinure blinking in adorable confusion. "And before you complain, let me tell you that a kiss is a perfectly acceptable way of giving thanks."
"I hope you do not thank others in such a manner."
"Not since I met you, dear one."
Rhinure nodded, satisfied by the answer and ignoring the endearment.
"Rhinure? May I ask a question?"
"What would have the Avari wedding looked like?"
"You are looking at it?"
"I meant for you."
Rhinure cocked her head. "Would you like to see?"
"But ... I thought ..."
"I meant, would you like to see something similar? You asked me today if I brought anything from Tirnen, which reminded me of some of the clothes I brought. I thought to maybe take a couple to Gondor. I wanted to ask your opinion as to whether you thought it would be appropriate."
Legolas nodded in approval.
"So ... would you like to see?"
"How you would look if you were home? Yes, without hesitation."
Rhinure picked up a discrete bundle from near the pillow and headed towards the changing screen. "Would you care to take a seat, my Lord?"
"Thank you, my Lady. I would love to." And, just because he could, Legolas swept Rhinure a full court bow causing her to shake her head at his silliness.
Legolas seated himself on the bed. The Valar only knew when he would get another chance to be in Rhinure's bed. He caressed the pillow she rested her head on and wondered at the secrets she must whisper to it. Did she ever murmur his name in her sleep for she missed having him near? As much as he did?
Legolas snatched back the errant hand before Rhinure could say anything. He looked up to explain but the words died in his throat, Rhinure's appearance robbing him of all coherence. She looked stunning in her Avari finery. The deep red skirts brushed the floor and Legolas could just make out sandaled feet. Delicate gold anklets tinkled as she walked closer.
"It is so I shall always have music with me."
"What?" muttered Legolas, still staring.
"The anklets. You were looking at them. We wear them to always have music with us."
Legolas smiled, "How quendi of you. In some things you and I are not so different."
"I supposed not." Rhinure stopped near the bed. "So, what do you think?"
Legolas looked again, this time noting the short shirt she wore which clinched her waist like a second skin. A long, embroidered veil covered her head, over her forehead just a little.
"If I were a bride, I would come to you with my face veiled so." Rhinure pulled forward the covering so that it now shaded her entire face.
"So that only you would see my face until I became your bride. So that my first glimpse would be of you, my husband."
"May I?" Legolas fingers trembled as he lifted back the veil. "Beautiful."
"Greetings, husband." Rhinure cupped Legolas' face and kissed him.
Legolas groaned and swept her closer. His hands trailed up her back, causing the veil to slip off. Rhinure allowed his clever fingers to caress her back and nape but stepped back when they started to open the ties holding the back closed.
"Rhinure!" Legolas protested in frustrated anger.
"As did you. And I did not kiss you this time."
Rhinure bit her lip. Legolas spoke true but the moment had felt so right that she had been unable to stop herself. "I know."
"Rhinure." Legolas stood to take her back in his arms. Rhinure waited for the anger she knew would follow. What she had done had been wrong no matter how it felt. Once more, feeling had led her astray. Legolas would be well within his right to demand restitution.
Legolas watched the downcast head almost, but not quite, resting on his chest. It was such a pathetic sight that his heart squeezed in protest. He lifted his hand and felt her stiffen. And, just like that, Legolas went down in defeat. He was no more capable of reproaching her than he was of refusing her. The raised hand brought that stubborn, lovely head in contact with his chest and soothed it as if Rhinure were a child.
"You ... you are not angry?"
"Not any longer."
"Because, my love, you are you."
With a wounded cry, Rhinure pulled back from him, horror etched on her face.
"Rhinure, what is wrong? What have I done now?"
"Do not call me that!"
"What? ... My love? What is wrong with that?"
"Do not presume to take more than I am able to give. I will not allow it."
"Presume? Rhinure, it was an endearment only. Why are you overreacting?"
Rhinure took a deep breath and calmed herself. It was only an endearment, a worthless word. It meant nothing. Legolas did not love her and she did not love him. It was nothing to panic about. Calm, she would be calm.
"Unless you know it is something you will refuse to accept." Legolas mused in the face of her silence and laboured breathing. "That is the truth is it not?" Legolas stepped forward to clutch at her. "You refuse to love me or let me love you."
"You said it was only an endearment."
"Yes, but if it were the truth you would refuse to accept it." Legolas shook her. "Is that the truth? Is it?"
Rhinure clutched his forearms to steady herself. "Yes it is."
Legolas let her go as if burnt, wondering why he hurt. It was just a silly little nothing, a slip of his wayward tongue. Was it not? "Why will you not love me?"
Without thinking Rhinure enfolded her wounded husband in her arms, protecting him from herself.
"Why can you not love me, Rhinure?"
Rhinure shook her head. "You do not understand."
"Am I so unworthy?"
Rhinure cut off those untrue works with her mouth, giving Legolas what solace she could. She soothed the pain in him with her lips, winding her body around his to absorb the hurt where it belonged, deep within her. "I cannot my husband. It is I at fault, not you," she said between kisses, not breaking physical contact, taking and giving strength from the bond that existed between them.
Legolas protested but pulled her even closer. Rhinure led him towards to the bed and he followed. He accepted it when she laid him back and climbed beside him. He closed his eyes when cool fingers caressed his face, giving himself over to her.
Rhinure scooted closer, placing her face next to his, sharing his breath until it calmed. Her hands moved to his back, up and down and then back up.
After a few moments, Legolas opened his eyes. "You cannot love me."
"I cannot love."
"Legolas, it is shameful to speak of these matters."
"Shameful?" Legolas rolled over Rhinure, caging her under his body. "Do you feel me, Rhinure? My body pressing into yours, making it mine? Do you?"
"Then why this talk of shame between us? There can be no shame between those who are but one broken into two."
*~ But we are not one. ~* Rhinure swallowed the thought and turned her head so that Legolas could not see it in her face.
But in vain, for he knew what she was thinking. And, as suddenly as he had trapped her, she was free. Legolas sat up, and ran angry, shaking fingers through his hair.
"Wait." Rhinure scrambled forward putting her arms around his back.
"Because I am asking you to." Rhinure whispered into his ear. Before he could respond she slipped her fingers under his shirt, caressing his bare flesh, causing him to shudder. "Stay." Rhinure removed his shirt, kissing his back, working up to his ear.
Legolas' muscles shook with the effort it took to keep him still. "What of your promise now?"
"I never promised not to seduce you." Wicked fingers loosened his hair, causing it to fall across his back. Rhinure buried her face in the golden mass, breathing in Legolas' special scent.
"And what of your promise to build something better with me."
"I still wish to. This is ..."
"This is what? A way of making me forget?"
"This is a way of giving you what I can, offering you something dear to me." Rhinure turned Legolas' head so that he was looking at her. "Do not refuse me." And she kissed him.
Legolas groaned and followed his wife down on to the bed, letting her win; knowing that to leave her now would break him more surely than staying with her.
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Late into the night, after both elves had exhausted themselves, Rhinure stirred from Legolas' arms. "It is late, I should go."
Legolas smiled, trailing lazy fingers on her bare arm. "Where will you go?"
"Your bed? The one we are in now?"
Rhinure bit her lip, "Could you ..."
"Leave?" Legolas raised himself up, shadows returning to his previously content eyes. "Only if you answer a question."
Rhinure looked back at her husband, immediately on her guard.
"Why?" Legolas' smile was a little hard around the edges, causing Rhinure to turn away. "Oh no, my Lady. As pleasant as this interlude was, I have not forgotten what led us here. I have not forgotten, despite your best efforts."
"That was not why I invited you to my bed!" Rhinure stood, wrapping the bed sheet around her in angry jerks. "I told you so."
Legolas leaned back on the pillows, folding his arms behind his head and enjoyed the view of an irate Rhinure with her eyes flashing and long hair swirling around her like a dancing halo. A cruel smiled played on his lips, making her clench her fists in anger. Anger that she deserved to feel. Anger that he hoped would burn her as much as her refusal razed him.
"I was trying to remind us of what was beautiful between us."
Legolas sat forward, eyes flashing.
"Obviously that means nothing to you." Rhinure swallowed," Obviously this was just a passing distraction, an 'interlude', meaning less toy you than ... than a good meal."
Legolas gripped a flying wrist. "Rhinure."
Rhinure tried to pry his fingers open while holding up the bed sheet at the same time.
"Careful, my Lady." Legolas helpfully tucked the sheet more firmly in place. "You would not want to end up back in bed again. After all, it is late."
Rhinure looked at him and then tugged at her hand again. "Let me go."
Legolas shook his head.
"I am tired."
"I have nothing more to say to you."
Legolas pulled Rhinure back into his arms. "I, though, have things I want to say to you." Legolas kissed her, holding her head in place until her mouth softened and allowed him full access. "Now, explain."
"Do not belittle what I ask by pleading ignorance now, Rhinure."
"Stop kissing me."
"Ttch, my Lady. You cannot tell me to back off now. Not after tonight."
"Tonight was different."
"Then give me what I want."
Rhinure swallowed, "I cannot."
Legolas hissed in pain. "Then, at the very least, explain why."
How to explain the unexplainable? The very thought of love froze her – the greatest taboo that she still upheld and Legolas wanted her to talk of it as it were a conversation over afternoon tea. "This is difficult for me."
"For myself as well, but I need to hear this. I need to know if you will flinch from me in fear every time I mention love. You are doing it again. Stop it; I want my Rhinure back, not this frozen woman masquerading as my warrior wife."
"Then stop talking of it."
"Why are you so afraid of the word?" Legolas mused.
"I am not afraid. I just do not believe in the word – it is meaningless." Rhinure turned her head, breaking eye contract for she knew he had reached further into her mind and soul than he had ever before.
"You are lying. I know it. You deny it in an attempt to avoid its very real existence."
"Oh, it exists, my Lord. But I do not believe in it. Love is a weed which chokes everything, which demands everything and returns nothing. It is an obligation without boundaries and so I deny it." Rhinure broke away from Legolas' arms and walked away from the bed, feeling a little cold now. She wondered if, perhaps, she had a left a window open.
"You, who puts so much credence in duty, denies love for it is another demand? Do you take me for a fool, Rhinure?" Legolas followed her into the middle of the room, turning her back to face him when he noticed her distraction.
Rhinure shook off his hands and stepped back, hugging herself against the chill. "It is a demand without limits, without control. Thus, I reject it. It is an emotion, the strongest one there is and therefore too dangerous to ever be let out. I know you do not understand because you are reckless with all your feelings, and therefore cannot appreciate the danger. If you gave this control to another – if you love someone, you will be left with nothing. You will become empty."
"That is rubbish."
"That is the truth."
"As you see it."
"How else would I see it? All truth is dependent on one's own perspective."
"This is not perspective, this is a twisting and tainting of what is true."
Rhinure shrugged. "As you wish. I was just trying to explain something I have always accepted as an unalterable constant in my life."
"Ah, my Lady. You do not know what you are denying yourself. Loving someone, sharing emotions as you call it, is the pinnacle of life's pleasures," Legolas knew he should not be surprised by how bleak Rhinure's life was but he was shocked nonetheless.
"And ephemeral like all pleasure," Rhinure shot back.
"But for some pleasures, one moment is more than enough. For one moment of true, shared love, I would gladly suffer a life time of torment," Legolas whispered, defeated by the wall she had put up between them.
Rhinure jerked forward, covering Legolas mouth with her fingers, appalled at the danger he courted. "You do not know what you are asking for. Do not tempt fate so."
"It was more of plea."
"Unwise elf." Rhinure stepped forward, ending the chase by letting him catch her again.
"Unwise and foolish, I know." Legolas sat on a chair. "Rhinure," Legolas paused, settling her comfortably in his lap and wrapping his arms around her before continuing, "Why this aversion to feeling? I know you are not without some emotion after all."
"I have no aversion to feeling."
"Did you just not deny love?"
"Love is the most pernicious of feelings. It brings nothing good to those caught by its false promise. Thus, and only thus, do I deny it. That does not mean I deny all emotions. In moderation, and with great circumspection, some emotions may be indulged in."
"But not shared?"
"Emotions are never shared. They are private."
Legolas sighed, "I do not understand you. You have given me everything, your Duty, your life, even your death. How can you not give me this then?"
"For Duty, while paramount, cannot be the sum of a life. Something must be kept back, something just for yourself." Rhinure forced the words out, struggling to articulate something she had never bothered to even think about let alone speak of. She looked up at Legolas willing him to understand. She was not being malicious, but this was the way things must be. This was the core of her very being and to change it would destroy her. If she could, she would give him whatever he wanted, but she could not – she dare not.
"What do you keep back for yourself then, Rhinure?"
"This, my heart. That is mine. What I feel, what I desire, that is the only freedom left to me, the only part of me that remains unpledged. On this little part of me remains unencumbered. And so shall it remain."
With that declaration there was nothing left to say. What could you say to someone who was so desperately trying to retain a small measure of identity, just a little piece which she could call her own? Could Legolas try to take even that from her when he had taken everything else?
"Goodnight my lady. I will see you in the morning."
"Goodnight, my Bonded. Thank you."
"As I said, some pleasures are worth waiting for."
x – x – x – x – x – x – x – x
Morning came all too soon and the Eleven company was ready to leave for Gondor, escorting their Prince and Princess. Legolas walked down the palace steps with his father, giving the King last minute instructions.
"I understand ion nín. I have done this before without your input."
Legolas smiled and shook his head. "I am sorry, Adar. I did not mean to imply that you could not." Thranduil chuckled, prompting by a sheepish grin from Legolas. Finally, he straightened, "May I take leave of you, your Majesty?"
"You are dismissed, your Highness. Return safely, knowing that We have things in hand in your absence."
Legolas bowed and turned towards the waiting company. Rhinure stood by her horse, patiently waiting for him to finish his goodbyes, black cloak wrapped around her.
"Do you need a leg up, my Lady?"
"No, thank you, my Lord." Rhinure squeezed the outstretched hand.
Legolas squeezed back, running a thumb over her knuckles briefly. "As you wish. Company, mount up!" Legolas swung onto his horse and nodded to the two waiting Lieutenants, Avari and Silvan, to lead them out.
x – x – x – x – x – x – x – x
Deep in the forest a troubled elf sat alone in the cold morning light, not noticing that his candle had gone out in the slight breeze. Frowning, Turgwaith looked at the table, wondering what he should do next. Without the Sacrifice and the Guards, would there be any point in holding a Council meeting?
"I came as soon as I was able. What was so important that you had to call me back from patrol?" Cothion swept into the room, removing his cloak and brushing off the rain that had collected on it.
In answer, Turgwaith moved away from the table, letting Cothion clearly see the object on the tabletop. The Heir and Commander of the Avari paled and fell silent.
Turgwaith pushed the shattered remains together, forming what appeared to be an old Elven blade.
"The Lost Ones are lost no longer."
x – x – x – x – x – x – x – x
Author's Note: Happy holidays and a great new year to everyone.
And yes, I was channelling Tina Turner when I wrote this. I love the song. And thanks to Nieriel Raina for beta reading the chapter.