"Game over," Legolas said, though his head felt muddled and his sight swam with so much drink. Gimli was already out cold, overcome by the very ale their game centered around. Plunking his ale mug down, Legolas looked at Eomer, who was trying hard not to laugh while looking admirably at the amount the elf drank. Clearly, he was amazed at this aspect of elves in general. Legolas smiled back, but movement caught his befuddled attention. Eomer caught his glance and turned to see what it was.
"She arrived with my sister, but I've only just now seen her," he said, turning back to find Legolas watching her every move. His eyes followed her as she made her way outside the hall. Then he scanned the room, as if looking for another.
"Her husband is still at Helm's Deep. His brother died there..." but Eomer, even guessing right who Legolas searched for, couldn't finish his sentence. Legolas set his sights on the now closing door, and he brushed past the Rohirrim Prince, grabbing his cloak as he went.
Entering out into the night air, he found her standing alone. She had wrapped her arms around herself, and he could hear the soft sobs. He watched her try to dash away the tears, but failing as more came. She had no cloak, and the wind blew her long, white-blonde hair back. It had been ages since he'd seen her last. Her figure was a little fuller than he remembered, but then she bore three children. Children that were already grown. Had it really been that long? To him, she still looked as young as she did during their time in Mirkwood. And she still looked as beautiful.
Dashing away the last of her tears, Rian turned to see Legolas standing there, gazing at her intensely. She was only a little surprised, but then she knew he'd find her here. The ale from the game affected him, but not greatly. Time seemed to stand still, until he moved, coming to enfold her in his embrace as new tears fell. She couldn't find the words to express how much she missed his companionship. She treasured the letters she received from him, even though they were few and far between. His friendship was dear to her, and now they were together again. And yet...
"I'm happy to see you, Legolas," she said as she pulled away. "It's been too long..."
"Aye, too long indeed," he replied, rubbing his hands along her arms, then severing the contact, backing up half a step. Silence was between them; a long uncomfortable silence. Each tried to speak, at the same time as the other, but nothing came from either of them.
"Oh, this is ridiculous," she said smiling and hugging him again. "It's never been this awkward between us."
"No, but your husband will be returning soon."
"Why should that make any difference?"
"I would not have him think I was trying to steal you away," he said, his eyes troubled as he took another step back to separate them. "Even if I am sorely tempted to do so." There, he had said it. He managed to think of a great many things over the span of time, and occupy himself with tasks for his father and now for Arda herself. But at night, it was a different matter.
"Legolas, I..." she started but he shook his head and she waited for him to speak again. It was obvious there was more he wanted to say.
"I know you are married, and I would not do anything to come between you and him. You know that," he said, his eyes looking at her, and yet not. "Your friendship means everything to me; it always has. But Rian, I cannot help the dreams that come to me."
"Dreams?" she asked in a half whispering tone.
"Yes. At first, they were infrequent, allowing me time to forget about them. Since we left Lorien, though, they've come almost every night, and sometimes during the day. Dreams unbidden and... unceasing. The closer we came to Edoras, the more they came." She listened, but offered no words, only nodding as if agreeing with him. Had she been dreaming as well? He couldn't be sure of it, and he was afraid to ask. "Dreams of us. Together and happy. Dreams that showed me that I finally won your heart. Dreams that showed me that it was I you chose to marry."
Rian saw the tears standing in his eyes before he quickly turned away from her. Legolas once professed his love for her. Long ago, the night of the Spring Ball in Mirkwood. She remembered the rose garden, the candles, the strawberries. It was his mother's rose garden, and it was his mother's ball gown she wore. Everything was still so vivid in her memory, even the shock and pain that crossed his face when she told him about her fiance. It was only a moment, but she saw it. Their friendship suffered through the tension, but they held on and it was as it had been before. Now, Legolas was telling her that he still loved her, as much as that night, and through the years between that moment and this one. At various times in her life, she often wondered why he never mentioned finding another woman to love, or even marriage. Now she knew why.
Rian walked over to join him, standing just behind him for a moment before standing beside him, as he looked out over the plains. She dared not look at him, for she knew she'd cry more seeing the pain in his eyes. But it was Legolas who brought her attention to him. He took her hand in his, then brought it up to kiss it lightly. To her surprise, a smiled tugged at his mouth, the heartache she saw in his eyes still lingered, and yet he was trying to smile.
"I remember seeing you, only briefly, when we first came here. Do you remember?"
"You came with Lord Aragorn, Gandalf, and Lord Gimli. Gandalf was leaning on your arm, like an old man would for support. Wormtongue tried to stop him from helping the King..."
"Yes. I was only able to spare a moment's glance, but I saw you standing with your husband and Eowyn."
"She rushed over before Gandalf rid Theoden of Saruman's grasp. I remember it. Why do you ask?"
"I was so relieved that you had survived all the turmoil this realm has seen. Your last letter came to me before I left for Rivendell. I had no way of knowing if you were alive or... dead. It gave me hope."
"And I as well," she said softly, returning his slight smile, then looking up at the moon and stars above. She had also not let go of his hand as he expected. "Promise me something, Legolas."
"Anything, my dearest friend."
"Promise me that, if we both survive this, alive and well, that you will come to visit us in Dor-en-Ernil. I cherish your letters, but sometimes they aren't enough." When he didn't answer right away, she looked at him. His smile disappeared and a pained expression covered his features. She was about to take back her request, knowing she asked too much of him. But he surprised her yet again.
"I will. I promise." He kissed her hand once more, and they stood quietly for a while longer. Then she gently squeezed his hand before letting it go. She left quietly, returning to the now quiet hall, the door snicked shut behind her. Legolas remained standing there, only Eru knew how long, but he heard the door open once more and he heard footsteps approaching. He focused his mind on his present task, locking away the time spent with Rian in his memories for later. Now, he had to concentrate on his present course.
"The stars are veiled," he said as Aragorn came to stand beside him. "The Eye of the enemy is moving..."