Disclaimer: Not mine, not mine, and . . . not mine. It belongs to George Lucas and J. R. R. Tolkien.
Obi-Wan awoke to the warmth of the sun on his face. They were outside. They were safe. Gandalf was safe.
To his surprise, it was Gimli who spoke first, smiling down at him from where he sat nearby. "Well, Lad, this Force of yours does seem to be rather useful, despite being a terrible nuisance at times. Well done, indeed."
"Thank you, Gimli," Obi-Wan smiled, sitting up slowly. He turned to Gandalf. "But none of us owe our thanks entirely to me. Surely you felt it -- that last burst before the end."
Gandalf nodded. "I did, Obi-Wan." He turned to Strider. "Did you know before?"
"It happened twice before, as Obi-Wan has said," the Ranger explained. "The first time was on the mountain. It was completely unintentional and I had no idea I had been the one. When it happened again, at the gate, I . . . I began to have some idea. It was obviously someone who had been with him on the mountain. That meant Merry, Frodo, or myself. Or the Ring, but that never seemed to me a likely possibility. Why should Sauron wish to keep him alive?
"At the bridge, it happened again, and I knew it was me. I could . . . feel the power, coming from somewhere, hidden deep within me." He turned to Gandalf. "I should have told you the moment I had any idea, but it did not seem to me as if it would do any good, until I was certain. It would only create more questions."
"It creates more questions, anyway," Obi-Wan said. "The one I'm most curious about is whether you can control these sudden outbursts of energy. You've already shown some control, because the pattern of the energy does not seem random at all. It has appeared in our moments of greatest need. I'm curious whether you will be able to summon them at other times, but I suppose only time will tell." He chuckled. "Strange. I should have guessed the first time one of your pebbles flew out of control. I knew you had abilities you weren't tapping, but I never guessed . . ." He trailed off into silence as his gaze drifted to Legolas, who was stirring.
Strider, obviously relieved by the change in subject, rushed to his friend's side. Legolas slowly opened his eyes. "How do you feel?" Strider asked.
"Terrible," Legolas admitted. "What happened?"
All speaking at once, the Fellowship related what had happened. The Hobbits were especially eager to retell the tale. Legolas listened silently until they had all finished, then nodded, as if their explanations had answered everything. But he cast a curious look at Strider, who had remained more or less silent. Strider avoided his friend's gaze.
Gandalf rose. "We should continue on. Legolas' injuries must be tended to, and I believe we could all use a rest in peace and safety."
Legolas appeared about to object, but seemed to reconsider once he realized where they would be going. Strider helped him to his feet and they set out for Lothlorien.
Down the path they went, a long path of stone that led away from Moria. around them were cracked stones and pieces of pillars. Suddenly, Gimli pointed off to the side of the road, to a single pillar that was broken at the top. "That is Durin's Stone!" he cried in amazement. "It is by that pillar that Durin first looked into Mirrormere! Come, Frodo! Come, Obi-Wan! We must not pass by without having a look for ourselves."
Obi-Wan watched the Dwarf as he sprang off down the path. Frodo followed willingly, and Sam behind him. Obi-Wan paused a moment to wonder why Gimli had invited him, of all people, then followed the Hobbits curiously.
They came at last to the water, beautiful and blue in the afternoon sun. Obi-Wan came up beside Gimli, who was staring into the water, and knelt down.
At first, he could see only the blue of the water. Then the shapes of the mountains and stones nearby came into view. Slowly, ever so slowly, stars came into view where they shouldn't have been able to be seen -- there were none overhead. In a circle they way, like sunken stones. Obi-Wan found himself strangely drawn to them, and was just as hypnotized as the others.
It was Gimli who at last broke the silence. "There lies the Crown of Durin till he wakes." He bowed deeply. "Farewell."
Frodo and Sam headed back along the path, but though he had said his farewell, Gimli lingered at the water's edge. Obi-Wan turned to go, thinking the Dwarf might want to be alone, but as he was about to leave, Gimli turned around. "You can stay, Lad. I am glad you came. Perhaps beauty is easier to appreciate in the light of day. You were as eager as the others to leave Moria."
Obi-Wan knelt down again by the water. "Perhaps. Yet I can appreciate that in times gone by, it must have been a glorious realm. It was not the place itself which troubled me, but that which we found there."
Gimli nodded. "It was almost death that we found."
Obi-Wan sighed. "Thanks to me."
"And yet, thanks to you, we escaped it once again. Every time this Force of yours creates a problem, it's there to help fix it. Perhaps there would not have been an avalanche on the mountain, but we would still have been forced to turn back. Perhaps the creature in the water would have found us even without you. Pippin may have played with the stones by the well even without your lessons." He smiled. "It's easy to blame someone for what happened. It's harder to accept that it may have happened anyway, Lad. Don't blame yourself. We all made it out alive, because of you, because of what you taught Strider.
"And what has happened has brought us closer. We are not simply ten people on a journey together any more. We've faced death together, and come out of it stronger. We are what Elrond said -- one Fellowship."
Obi-Wan stared at the Dwarf and smiled. "Thank you, Gimli. I know . . . I know it's not easy for you to accept me. But . . . I believe we can put that behind us." He looked once more at the water. "We should go back now, but when we have more time, you're going to have to explain this to me. I'm sure there's a very interesting story behind it."
Gimli nodded as they turned to leave. "That there is, Lad."
Obi-Wan and Gimli rejoined the rest of the Fellowship, and together they all set out down the path. The bright afternoon sun was warm and they would have liked nothing more than to stop and rest. Gandalf, however, insisted that the enemy might follow them from Moria, and that they had to keep moving.
To Obi-Wan's relief, the Fellowship did not flock around him like a bunch of children now that their lives had been saved. Instead, they seemed strangely content to allow him to linger at the back with Strider and Legolas, who insisted stubbornly that he did not need any help. Nevertheless, Strider remained close enough to catch him, and Obi-Wan was ready to help, should he start to fall.
By the time they reached the Wood, they were a good deal behind the others. It was beginning to make Obi-Wan feel uncomfortable, almost as if they were trying to avoid them.
Eventually, Boromir made his way back towards Obi-Wan, Strider, and Legolas, looking a little guilty. "I didn't realize you were so far behind," he admitted. "I hadn't looked back for a while."
"What's happening, Boromir?" Strider asked. "Are they . . . upset that I didn't tell them?"
Boromir shook his head. "No. It's nothing you did, or didn't do. It's who you are. We all thought we knew, and now . . . now it's not so clear. It's not something anyone would expect from a ranger, or from anyone, for that matter. So everyone is . . . a little uncomfortable. It will pass, in time. But for now, it's as if you're a whole different man."
"I'm the same person."
"The little ones don't realize that, and Gandalf knows they need time. I'm not quite sure what Gimli makes of the whole thing."
Strider looked up. "And you?"
"I was . . . surprised. But some surprises are welcome, Strider. This is certainly one of them. These abilities of yours are amazing, far beyond any of us, except Obi-Wan, and I'll admit that made me a little uncomfortable, but in their own way, this could be the best thing that could happen."
Strider nodded, and Obi-Wan could tell he was just as uncomfortable as Boromir, if not more. "There's no hiding from it now," he said quietly.
Legolas nodded. "That's why Gandalf didn't press the matter." Obi-Wan nodded his agreement.
Boromir looked the three of them over. Everyone knew what was going on except for him, Obi-Wan realized, and Boromir didn't like being kept in the dark. But he was handling it well, with a patience Obi-Wan hadn't realized he had. He was waiting, just waiting, for the answer, and one of them had to tell him.
To Obi-Wan's surprise, it was Strider who explained, a little hesitantly. "There's something else I wasn't completely honest about, Boromir. My name is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. I am of the line of the Kings of Gondor, descended directly from Isildur, son of Elendil."
Surprise was obvious on Boromir's face before Strider had even finished. For a moment, he was speechless. At last, he managed a few words. "Is it possible?"
Obi-Wan nodded. "It's true."
Boromir turned on Obi-Wan. "You knew? You knew and you never told me?"
"I've known since before we left Rivendell," Obi-Wan admitted.
"I asked him not to tell you," Strider put in, jumping to Obi-Wan's defense.
Obi-Wan held up his hand. "It was my choice," he insisted. "We both thought you would be upset."
"You had to have known I'd learn eventually," Boromir exclaimed.
Strider sighed. "You're right," he said slowly. "But I hadn't counted on us -- all of us -- becoming this close. We have an amount of trust I never expected, and I feared the truth would . . . mar that trust."
Boromir turned a hard gaze on Strider. "Coward," he spat, then turned and hurried to rejoin the others.
For a moment, Obi-Wan felt a tug to follow him, to try to talk to him, but he decided against it. Boromir needed some time, time to cool down, time to think, before he could be reasoned with.
But it wasn't all Boromir's fault, Obi-Wan knew. Far from it. Trust had been broken, and wouldn't easily heal. If Strider had been open up-front, though, would that bond ever have formed? Would Boromir ever have accepted him?
For that was what Strider had wanted. He'd simply wanted Boromir's acceptance, as an equal. He'd wanted Boromir's respect, but, again, as an equal, not a superior. He didn't want authority. He didn't want to be King. But now there was no hiding. Boromir knew. The rest of the Fellowship would know soon.
Indeed, they soon found the rest of the Fellowship. They had stopped to rest in a clearing. Everyone was seated, except Gimli, who stood outside the group, fingering his axe. Frodo and Sam sat near each other, obviously tired. Merry and Pippin sat on either side of Gandalf, both drowsy and leaning a little on the Wizard. Boromir sat nearby, watching them.
Strider took a seat a little ways away. Obi-Wan was about to join him when Legolas took his arm and motioned down the path. Obi-Wan nodded his understanding and followed the Elf.
"What is it?" he asked once they were far enough away.
"Thank you for trying to protect Aragorn, but please don't. It was his choice to conceal his identity from Boromir. Until he fully accepts responsibility for that, the bond that was broken cannot be mended. The two of them must resolve this on their own."
"But I made the choice, too."
"As did I, and Gandalf, as well, but at Aragorn's request."
"So we just sit back and let each of them mope? That's the plan?"
"They need time, Obi-Wan, to resolve this. You and Gimli needed time to accept each other, and we all gave it to you. Do the same for them."
Obi-Wan nodded. "Just one question. Did you know it was him? Did you guess?"
"As you did, I knew he had potential. I did not realize the full extent of it, however. No, I did not know it was him."
Obi-Wan smiled. "Good to know we're in the same boat."
Legolas looked confused for a moment by the expression, but decided to let it go. "We should return," he said, motioning back along the path."
Obi-Wan followed the Elf, but when they arrived, to his surprise, the Fellowship was surrounded by an army of Elves. One of them was studying them intently. At last, he spoke.
"You can go no further."
Don't we love Haldir? Muahahahaha. How many of you guessed it was Aragorn? Sorry I haven't updated in forever, but we've been moving, and then the internet didn't work, and then fanfic didn't like our new e-mail adress and then . . . nope, that's it. It works now. Except I couldn't get the page breaks to work right, so now we have this --- instead. Oh, well. It works.