"I knew you'd come," she spoke softly just after closing the door. Brannon turned to face her, the woman he'd fallen in love with so many years ago. Only, he wasn't aware of it then.
"Was there any doubt?" he asked her, smiling. Elanor crossed the room swiftly, wrapping her arms around him.
She fit against him perfectly, and the scent of her was heavenly. They held each other for a long while, the tang of the sea air drifting on the breeze through the window. They both called Pelargir home, and they'd known each other since childhood. But his path took him away from her when he was sent to Minas Tirith to be a soldier in Gondor's army.
At first, he made frequent visits to home, and she came to him at the White City. Then the visits became less frequent, but letters were sent, keeping the messengers busy. Finally the visits stopped altogether, and the letters were less frequent. One of his friends told him that absence often makes the heart grow fonder, and sometimes he thought he was right. Brannon knew his work as a soldier of Gondor would increase, and it did. He missed Elanor, but soon she was only a memory to be remembered when he was lonely.
It was then he met the woman who would become his wife. Naniel was bright, witty, and charmed him every single day he was in her presence. His friends joked with him about it, kept asking him when he'd marry the girl. A year later, he did. He was happy with her, but after another year, he knew it wasn't Naniel he loved. His heart belonged to another; someone he'd almost forgotten. Elanor.
Brannon was wounded in a skirmish and honorably discharged from the army. Naniel was happy. She hated him being in the army where he could be killed. He hid his disappointment and decided to move back home. To Pelargir. Naniel put up a protest, but in the end, she came. She had to. Brannon gave her no choice. He was going with or without her. His reason to her was that his family was there, and he wanted to be closer to them. His private reason was Elanor. Naniel didn't know about her, and wouldn't know about her. He'd sent a letter to Elanor telling her about… everything. A week before leaving Minas Tirith, he'd received a letter from her telling him where to meet her once he was able to. She hadn't married. She waited for him.
Feeling Elanor move against him brought him out of his memories. She smiled up at him and ran her fingers lightly over his face; over his eyes, his nose, his lips and chin. Then traced the curves of his ear, tickling him. He ran his fingers through her long, blond hair; golden as the flower she was named after. Their eyes met, brown meeting blue, and he bent to kiss her hungrily. Her arms tightened around him, pressing their bodies closer. For years they met this way, in this very room. The innkeeper knew them both and kept the secret safe. In fact, there were others who knew and kept the secret. For all he cared, the whole entire city could know their secret, including Naniel, and he wouldn't care. He had his Elanor.
"So close, and yet, so far away," she whispered when the kiss ended.
"I was remembering."
Elanor understood what he meant. There were many nights when Brannon would be lost in his memories, though she could only guess why. He was always happy when he was with her, as if they'd never been apart. But there were times when she'd catch the look of regret in his eyes. He told her once, when she'd asked him about it. His regret was in marrying a woman he didn't love. He regretted the fact that it took so long in finding out who he truly loved. The first night of his return to Pelargir, he'd sought her out, coming to her here, and he told her. He knelt in front of her with tears in his eyes, apologizing that he hadn't seen it before, that it was her he'd always loved. Elanor was both surprised and relieved, and overwhelmingly happy. She knelt down in front of him and confessed her love for him. From the moment they first met, she loved him.
She felt herself being picked up into his arms as he carried her to their bed. His need for her was plain in his expression, and she let him undress her. Truth be told, she rarely wore anything more than the simple homespun dress when they met here. She even left her hair unbound. The less time it took to get out of her clothes, the more time they'd have to love each other. She thanked the gods it was mid-summer and the breezes were warm. But she shivered under his touch; gentle and soft caresses over her exposed skin, lingering in the most sensitive areas. When she could manage it through her shallow breathing, she begged him to join her, helping him take off his clothes. After another hungry kiss, she clung to him and moaned his name as he entered her. In this alone, she knew that Brannon was hers, no matter what a piece of paper might say.
Hours later, they lay facing each other, talking about nothing and everything. They teased each other with their hands, and laughed in the joy they brought each other. They even enjoyed playful wrestling matches that eventually turned into making love. When the morning birds began singing, and the sun prepared to rise, he pulled her against him tightly, kissing the back of her neck, making her shiver again.
"I hate leaving you," he whispered, his fingers twining with hers.
"Then don't," she responded, taking a chance. He took his fingers from hers and gently turned her to face him.
"She'll find out about us."
"I don't care, Brannon. Not anymore."
"Why?" Hope mingled with tears in his eyes, along with the love she knew was hers. She looked in his eyes boldly, yet bit her bottom lip with a little anxiety.
"We belong with each other, both privately and publicly. I want to share days as well as nights with you. I love you with every breath I take, and I can't stand sharing you with her."
"Can you wait just a little while longer?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"I want you as my wife, make no mistake about it. But I will only ask once I'm no longer wed."
"I've waited years to hear you say that to me. What's a little while longer when we'll live the rest of our lives together?"
They made love one more time, greeting the sun as she rose above the horizon. When they finished, they helped each other get dressed and Brannon went down to order breakfast. Over steaming tea and plates of eggs with toast and jam, they happily discussed wedding plans made even more joyous when they began talking about children. At mid-morning, Elanor left him as she always did, making her way back to her family's home. Nothing would be said until he was free of Naniel, but she couldn't help the silly smile that lit her face every time she thought about it. She was finally going to be Brannon's wife, and they wouldn't have to hide their love for each other any more.
It took another five months for Naniel to find out about them. She waited for his return one night and confronted him about it. Brannon told her the truth; his love for her was only the love of a dear friend and nothing more. Naniel raged at him for days, and when she wasn't angry at him, she tried everything to win him back. She eventually saw the truth in his eyes, and agreed to tear up their marriage contract and throw their rings into the ocean. It was done the following evening, during sunset, with the priestess as witness. Naniel packed that night, and stayed at an inn until the next morning. Brannon saw her leaving, embarking on a boat to sail from Pelargir to Harlond, and from their she would go home to Minas Tirith. He waited until the boat was safely away from the pier and halfway up the river before he raced back to propose to his Elanor.
In a small morning ceremony by the sea, two months later, Elanor walked proudly toward her love, her steps steadied by her father and brother. Wearing a simple crown of flowers on her brow, a pale yellow gown, and barefooted, she wished she could've been the somewhat slender girl she had been when he proposed. But she was already seven months pregnant with their first child, and Brannon still had a bemused look on his face when he looked at her. When she was standing in front of him, they exchanged their vows, trying hard not to rush through them. Rings were given, and the priestess announced them husband and wife. As they kissed, the sun seemed to shine brighter, the sea swelled to dance around their feet, and even the gulls gave their blessings with their call from overhead. Their family and friends cheered loudly, and followed the couple back to their new home for the reception.
Elanor gifted Brannon with a son two months later. A healthy boy they named Aidan.
Their family expanded with the birth of two daughters and another son. Brannon worked down at the shipyards while Elanor ran a small mercantile on Merchant's Row. As the years passed, they watched their beautiful children grow, find their own loves, and marry. Aidan took his father's job when Brannon was unable to carry on, and Darra, their eldest daughter, took over for Elanor in the mercantile. They moved further inland, but still within sight of the sea, and lived the quiet life of the elderly.
Elanor fell ill one winter, and never fully recovered. She hung on until the following spring, until another sickness put her on her deathbed. Brannon made himself sick with worry, then grief, promising that when she died, he would not be far behind. Their children tried everything they could to keep them alive, but it was no use. With resignation, they began making funeral arrangements. They had just one request from their parents; no matter what, they must not separate their parents from each other. If they were buried, then they must be buried together. If they were burned, then their ashes must be mingled before being cast into the ocean. Aidan and Darra made sure their wishes would be adhered to.
Their children were with them the night they passed into the realm of spirit; their mother slipping away first, and their father soon after. It was Aidan who wrote down their final words, spoken to each other, their voices as clear as they ever had been in their lives.
"I love you," their mother said.
"And I love you."
"Promise me you'll never leave me, Brannon."
"I'll never leave you, my Ella."
"Promise me you'll stay with me… forever." She pulled herself closer to him, huddling against his chest, struggling to breathe.
"Forever, my love."
Elanor breathed her last after he spoke the words, and tears streamed down his wrinkled cheeks until he, too, breathed his last.
Nearly everyone that knew Elanor and Brannon gathered on a rocky cliff above the ocean. Aidan and Darra held the single urn holding their parents' ashes, tears flowing freely, yet with a smile on their face. They had nothing but the fondest memories to share of their parents, and this is what they did, along with their younger siblings. The wind blew out to sea, and the sun was rising higher in the sapphire sky. At noon, Darra opened the urn and held the lid as Aidan held the urn ready. On the next gust of wind, he threw his parents' ashes out of the urn, and everyone was silent as they watched the ashes scatter on the water's surface.
No one could see the two spirits, but Elanor smiled up at Brannon as his arm wrapped around her shoulders and hers around his waist. He bent to kiss her lightly on her head.
"Together always," he whispered into her hair.
"Always and forever, my love," she replied.
Their children, and the crowd, began walking back to the city. With the next gust of wind, the spirits flew out over the sea, their laughter sparkling like the sun on the sea.