Disclaimer: I do not own any of the recognizable characters; I am only borrowing them for fun for a little while. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.
Beta read by J. and Marsha. Thanks both of you for all of your hard work on this story!
"I do not need to ride with Hirgon," Halbarad stated emphatically.
"Yes, you do," Aragorn replied barely glancing up from the last of the supplies he was packing.
"I've been walking unaided for the last day and a half!"
Aragorn stood then and placed his hand on his cousin's shoulder. "It is only until we cross the river, Halbarad." His gaze sharpened as he studied him. Halbarad's coloring, temperature, and pulse had all been normal for well over a day which is why they were finally heading home. However, he was not willing to risk his cousin's health foolishly. "I explained this to you before. Hirgon's horse is the tallest and by riding with him I hope to keep your wound from getting wet. The water is filthy and I do not want to risk you getting another infection."
Halbarad bowed his head grumbling under his breath. He finally looked up again and sighed softly. "I will ride once we are on the other side of the river?" It was more a statement than a question.
"Yes. However, I will be watching you closely and if I think your leg is causing you pain then you will ride with someone." He raised his hand to stop the protests forming on Halbarad's lips. "I do not think it will be necessary, but it might because of where the wound is located." He gestured to the heavily bandaged thigh. "I would not have you in pain if I can relieve it in any way." A flicker of guilt crossed his face.
A call from Faelon interrupted the response that Halbarad was about to make and he watched, frowning, as Aragorn walked away. Several times in the past few days he had tried to speak with his cousin about the night of the battle and the senseless guilt he was carrying, but each time Aragorn had pushed him away. He would insist on speaking about it before they reached Dolomar he decided as he went to retrieve his horse.
Glancing around the camp as he walked to Faelon, Aragorn saw that the men were ready to leave. All signs of their camp had been carefully removed and the site restored as closely to its natural condition as was possible. An elf or another Ranger would not be fooled, but most men and orcs would not discover that they had stayed there. He gave Faelon a questioning look as he took in his horse's legs which were wet up to its hocks.
"I found a better place to cross, Captain," he said in answer to the unspoken question.
"You did not attempt to cross by yourself?" Aragorn asked incredulously.
Faelon shook his head. "No. But I rode down to where the orcs had been crossing. If they've been crossing there for as long as we suspect it must be the best place on this stretch of the river. The river widens there and so it's a bit shallower, or at least it appears that way. We won't know for sure until we cross."
"I doubt it would be worse than where we crossed," Aragorn said slowly and then nodded. "I want you to lead the way again. Halbarad is riding with Hirgon and I intend to stay near them." A flicker of surprise crossed Faelon's face but he said nothing. "I want to try and keep his wound dry," he explained and Faelon nodded. "We will cross as we did before, in pairs." He glanced meaningfully at Gilost and the older Ranger nodded his understanding. Aragorn had no doubt that Gilost would be able to hide his unease about the crossing from the men in the patrol. But hiding it from his horse was another matter and a skittish horse in the river could prove to be dangerous once again. While he knew the Ranger needed to overcome the fear generated by his near drowning, he was not going to leave him to face it alone either.
Untying the reins of his horse, Aragorn swung up into the saddle. After taking one last glance around the area he motioned to Faelon to lead the way to the crossing. The journey was swift on horseback and the patrol soon found themselves on the banks of the Bruinen. Aragorn eyed it carefully but knew that other than the fact that the orcs had used it there was little he could tell from here. It did appear to be somewhat wider than where they had crossed four or five miles upriver and the banks leading into the water were less steep. But if the water itself had slowed, it was not apparent to him. Still, if it was even a little shallower it would help and they had to cross somewhere. He turned to the men.
"We will do this much as we did before. Faelon will lead. Remlas and Laegrist will follow him, then Maldathor and Gilost. Halbarad is riding with Hirgon." He saw surprise in the eyes of the other Rangers, especially Hirgon's. Aragorn ignored Halbarad's muttering as his cousin dismounted. "Daedaen, will you lead his horse across?"
"Yes, of course, Captain." He took the reins Halbarad thrust at him and wound them around the pommel of his saddle.
"Why's he riding with me?" Hirgon finally asked gruffly. "Isn't he healed well enough to ride?"
"He is. But I do not want his wound wet if it can be helped and you have the tallest horse." Hirgon grunted and looked away. "But, Hirgon," Aragorn added quietly, "you also handled your horse well and I trust you to watch out for him." The older Ranger swung his gaze back to his lord and studied him for a moment and then nodded once. He held his hand down to Halbarad and helped him climb up onto the back of his horse. Once settled, Halbarad gave a small sigh as he looked at Aragorn who ignored him before turning to Faelon and motioning him on.
Following closely after Hirgon as they entered the rushing river, Aragorn shuddered as the image of Gilost being swept downstream flashed through his mind. He pushed the thought away and concentrated on keeping his horse in line with the ones in front of him. Glancing ahead to Faelon he saw that the older Ranger was nearing halfway and the water was not yet touching his horse's belly. Perhaps this way would prove to be a better crossing… "Steady," he murmured as he felt his horse's feet slip a bit on the uneven rocks of the riverbed. Perhaps not, he thought wryly as he concentrated on keeping his own horse calm.
The sound of a horse snorting and blowing caught Aragorn's attention and he looked to see that Gilost's horse was throwing its head up and down. The Ranger was speaking to it and the horse was still moving forward and he watched as Maldathor moved a little closer. But Gilost kept the horse until control and Aragorn let a small, relieved sigh escape his lips.
As Aragorn crossed the middle of the river, which appeared to be the deepest part, he saw the water was just lapping at Halbarad's calves. He glanced forward to see that the first of his men were climbing out onto the bank. Faelon immediately led them downriver a short distance, preparing for any accident that might occur. But, on this day, none did and soon all nine of the Rangers were safely on the west side of the Bruinen. They stopped briefly to let Halbarad mount his own horse before riding on towards home.
Aragorn stopped abruptly with his hand on the hilt of his sword. He looked around, his eyes straining to pierce the darkness to identify the slight noise that had disturbed him. After a moment he heard it again and he realized it came from one of the horses and he dropped his hand from his sword. He watched the men sleeping around the fire for a moment before he moved on, circling the camp once again.
A stirring among the men brought Aragorn's attention back to them and he frowned slightly as he watched Halbarad sit up and gingerly get to his feet. It was not time for the watch to change and his cousin did not have the next watch in any case. His frown deepened as Halbarad glanced around and walked stiffly in his direction.
"Is your leg hurting?" he whispered.
Halbarad shook his head. "No. It's just a little stiff, it will be fine if I walk around for a minute."
"Good. Can you not sleep? It is not your watch," Aragorn stated looking away into the woods surrounding the camp.
Halbarad did not answer for a moment. He just gazed at Aragorn with an intent, but puzzled expression on his face. Finally he spoke in a quiet voice. "Will you still not speak with me?"
Aragorn swiveled his head around and stared at his cousin. "I have spoken with you every day since we left home!"
"You know that is not what I'm talking about, Aragorn," he replied softly. "I'm talking about the battle and the guilt you feel because I was wounded."
"I do not feel…"
"Yes, you do," Halbarad interrupted him. "I see it in your eyes every time you change my bandage or if I limp a little. When we left camp a few days ago you watched me all day long. Did you not think I would notice?"
"Of course I watched you; I was concerned that you would be in too much pain to ride all day. I told you that before we left the camp."
"You did," Halbarad acknowledged with a slight nod. "And if it was only that one day I would have thought nothing of it, but it was the same all day yesterday and again today. But," he waved off the comment his cousin was going to make. "But, you are uneasy around me, Aragorn and, as I said, I read the guilt in your eyes every time that you look at me." He grabbed Aragorn's sleeve. "It was not your fault," he said in a low voice.
"Yes, it was," Aragorn hissed, jerking his sleeve loose. "I was… distracted and because of that you almost died!"
"But I didn't," he replied calmly. "You also saved my life," he pointed out.
"I should not have had to. You would not have been injured if I had been paying attention."
Halbarad frowned and shook his head. "You make mistakes, Aragorn… just like all of us do," he finally said uncertain how his cousin might take his words.
Aragorn looked at him then. "Of course I do," he snapped. He lowered his voice again when one of the sleeping men muttered and rolled over. "But this mistake almost got someone killed."
"Yes," he shrugged, "I'm sure that mistakes can lead to injuries." He paused in thought. "But," he reached over and put his hand on his cousin's shoulder turning him slightly so he could see his face. "I would do it again. As I told you before, I will willingly risk my life for yours. I would have done that for anyone on our patrol. Do you expect me to just stand and watch as someone is cut down by an orc because they made a mistake?"
"No, of course not, but…"
"Cease, Aragorn," Halbarad said firmly and Aragorn's eyes widened in surprise. "You will listen to me. I know you're the Chieftain of the Dúnedain and my lord, but right now I'm your cousin… your older cousin and I want you to listen." When Aragorn said nothing, Halbarad continued in the same firm but quiet voice and his eyes meet Aragorn's unflinchingly.
"I could have been injured at any point in that battle. Any of us could have been and you know that. It is a risk that we willingly take as Rangers; you are only feeling such guilt because I was the one that was injured. And… maybe," he hesitated briefly because he wasn't certain on this point, "because as the Chieftain you planned the battle and someone was injured. But, Aragorn, it wasn't your fault that I was injured, it was the fault of the orc… he was the one that sliced open my leg, not you." Halbarad leaned against a tree with a small sigh. He'd said all he could say and now it was up to Aragorn.
Aragorn said nothing for a long time as he pondered his cousin's words. When he finally did speak his voice was soft, but his gaze was unwavering as he looked at Halbarad. "In my head I know you are right. That people do get injured and… killed in battles. But in my heart," he shook his head and sighed softly, "in my heart it is hard for me to accept. To see you in pain…" his voice trailed off and he finally looked away.
"Would it have been different if someone else was injured?"
"No." There was a brief pause. "Perhaps, but I would not see any of my men in pain if I could help it."
"I know. Aragorn, I'm not sure what to else to say but… this is going to happen again. You know it will," he said earnestly.
Aragorn nodded. "I do, of course it will happen again… many times. It is just… well, it is something that I have to become accustomed to. To make plans and send my men off to battle knowing that some will be injured and some… may not return." He took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair. "And yet…"
"Yet it is your responsibility," Halbarad finished for him.
"Yes… as it is yours to go where I send you," he said with a rueful smile.
"It is the duty we accepted when we received these," Halbarad said fingering the star on his cloak.
Aragorn picked up a stick as he nodded in response to his cousin's remark. "I wonder if Arath… my father felt this way?" he asked quietly as he swung the stick back and forth.
Halbarad shrugged. "He was much older than you and he'd led patrols for many years so he had a lot of experience before he became Chieftain. You can ask my father when we get home," he suggested.
"I might, but I suspect this is something that I just have to learn by doing. Glorfindel spoke of this, as did my adar, but it is not the same as seeing…" he stopped and shook his head deciding not to speak of that again. "I will say," Aragorn's smile could be seen in the dim glow from the fire, "that speaking with you has been helpful. I am sorry, though, that I did not do so earlier and that you had to force me to do so."
Halbarad shrugged again. "It does not matter, I'm just glad that you finally listened. You need to remember how much older I am," he said, grinning.
Aragorn snorted with amusement. "It will probably be the only time I ever do listen to you, so you should remember this night, Cousin."
Chuckling softly Halbarad shook his head. "I'm sure you'll find I know a few more things than you do, Aragorn. I think I could teach you a few things about hunting," he said grinning as he clapped his cousin lightly on the shoulder.
"I do not need you to teach me about hunting," he protested quietly. "I do just fine on my own. I always bring down a deer."
"Just not a large one," Halbarad pointed out. "At least not as large as the ones that I'm able to bring down - or the ones that Eradan gets either."
Aragorn gave a resigned sigh. "I believe it is time for you to return to your bedroll, you are still healing and I do not want you to suffer tomorrow because you did not get enough sleep."
Halbarad laughed and held up his hands in mocking surrender. "I'll go as long as you remember to come to me if you need counsel about tracking deer."
Aragorn pointedly turned and walked off to make another circle of the camp. Halbarad watched him for a moment, then a small relieved smile crossed his lips as he turned and made his way back to his place near the fire.
The Rangers rode hard, anxious to reach Dolomar before the sun set. The journey home had been much quicker without the need to follow the trail of the orcs and this fourth day found them nearing their destination. There had been no sign of orcs or men as they traveled and they were grateful for that. In mid-afternoon they stopped at a small stream to water and rest their horses for a time. After letting his horse drink Aragorn tied him on a loose rein near a patch of grass before joining his men. He listened to them talk as he leaned against a tree chewing on a piece of dried deer meat.
"Do you think we've missed the wedding, Faelon?" Gilost asked.
Faelon shrugged and it was Remlas who answered. "I'm sure we have, Norgalad seemed eager and I doubt he would have waited this long."
"Tathor's patrol wouldn't have been able to stay very long either," Maldathor pointed out.
Gilost nodded glumly. "That's what I thought. Well, I'm sorry I missed it." Sidelong questioning glances were thrown his way as he stared at the ground.
A smile crept across Halbarad's face. He glanced quickly at Remlas with an eyebrow raised questioningly and when the Ranger nodded he turned to Gilost. "Are you more disappointed that you missed the wedding or that you won't be able to dance with Randiriel during the celebration?" he asked nonchalantly.
"What?" Gilost asked as he lifted his head and stared at Halbarad. His eyes widened as he glanced around the circle of men; some of whom were openly grinning. "It's my-my sister's wedding, Halbarad," he spluttered, "of course I'm disappointed not to be there for it."
"And you wouldn't have danced?" Remlas asked.
"Well, yes, of course, but so would you! All of you would!"
"Of course, of course," Halbarad said soothingly and with twinkling eyes. "But I would have danced with every young lady there." He paused and looked at Aragorn with a calculating eye. "As would Remlas and our captain," he said with a nod in Aragorn's direction. "I'm not sure about Laegrist," he said as he turned to the Ranger who had only recently moved to Dolomar from Taurnand. Laegrist shrugged and took another drink from his waterskin to hide the faint smile on his lips.
"But, you, Gilost, would have danced almost the whole time with Randiriel," Remlas pointed out.
Aragorn's eyes narrowed as he thought back to Mettarë. He thought that Gilost had danced with several of the young ladies that night, though perhaps he had paid more attention to Randiriel than the others. He, himself, had been trying to dance with all the ladies and had really not paid attention to what Gilost was doing. The sound of Faelon's voice pulled his attention back to where Halbarad and Remlas were still teasing Gilost.
"Why do you not marry her, Gilost?"
Gilost stood and looked from Faelon to Aragorn and back. "She's too young. She won't be twenty-five until almost Mettarë and I thought to ask for her hand then. After our betrothal year she will be ready," he said with a small smile.
"I thought so," Faelon said with a pointed look at the younger Rangers who only grinned in return.
Aragorn spoke up then. "You may want to ask her sooner, Gilost," he said quietly. The Ranger gave him a wary look, uncertain if he was being teased again. "I have not spoken with you or with Laegrist," he said glancing at the other Ranger who was sitting with Hirgon and Maldathor taking it all in. "But the two of you will be part of my patrol as I go to the other villages and meet with the other patrols." Laegrist looked surprised and then nodded. "Halbarad and Nestad are also going and we will leave four or five days after we get home."
"I was hoping you'd still take me and it's an honor, Captain," Gilost said, grinning. "But why did you say…"
"Because," Aragorn interrupted him, "my plans have changed and we will probably be gone at least two years." Gilost blanched and then nodded.
"Then I will ask her father and we'll get married when I return," he said stoutly.
Aragorn nodded and turned to Laegrist with a questioning look. "It'll be good to see some of the people from our village," was the young Rangers only comment.
Giving Laegrist a searching look and seeing a hint of excitement in the depth of his eyes, Aragorn gave him a brief smile before turning back to the others. "I believe our horses have rested enough, we should ride on if we want to make it home before dark." There were murmurs of agreement as they went to tighten girth straps and check bridles before the last leg of their journey home.
There were expressions of worry on the faces of the people that came out to greet them as Aragorn led the patrol into the village just before sunset. They had been gone far longer than expected and while that was not unusual, it was still cause for concern. Relief quickly took the place of that concern as the villagers noted that all of the men had returned.
Aragorn swung down off his horse and, after removing his pack, handed the reins to Rosruin with his thanks. Seeing Halhigal and Nimrie hurrying down the lane toward them he grabbed Halbarad's sleeve and gestured to them and the two young men made their way through the gathering villagers to meet them. Aragorn stopped when a hand was laid on his arm.
"Why were you delayed?" Nestad asked.
"I ran into an orc's blade," Halbarad glibly answered as he lightly patted his bandaged leg.
"And it was poisoned," Aragorn said a little more slowly. "It took some time for him to recover enough for us to travel."
"I knew I should have gone with you," Nestad said, frowning as he stared down at the injured leg.
"Do you doubt my abilities?"
Startled, Nestad looked up and then smiled at the glint of amusement in his lord's eyes. "No, no, of course not," he backtracked quickly and then changed the subject. "Were there many orcs?"
"Nineteen. But," Aragorn sighed, "I fear it may be a place they will return to. That area will have to be closely watched."
Nestad slowly nodded. "And we are spread thin already."
"Halbarad!" Nimrie cried as she stopped in front of the three men. "What happened? How badly are you injured?" She reached out tentatively toward the bandage on his leg but Halbarad gently took her hand and held it to his chest.
"I'm well, Naneth," he said soothingly. "I was sliced by an orc's blade and it was poisoned…" Nimrie gasped and her eyes widened in alarm but he was not going to hide the extent of his injuries from her, "but I'm healing well. Aragorn tended to me and I'm all right now." He pulled her into his arms, glancing over her head at his father and gave him a reassuring smile at his questioning look. Halhigal looked at Aragorn.
"Was his the only injury?"
"During the orc attack, yes, but," he lowered his voice, "Gilost almost drowned when we crossed the Bruinen."
"Drowned?" Halhigal and Nestad said at the same time and Nimrie moved away from Halbarad as she looked around for Gilost.
"The river was high and when his horse spooked he fell and the current swept him downstream. Maldathor had already crossed and was able to fish him out of the water."
"Thank the Valar," Nimrie murmured. "To have their daughter married and then to lose their son so soon after would be heartbreaking for Alpheth and Ladreníl."
"They did get married, then?" Halbarad asked.
"Yes," Nimrie said, smiling in remembrance. "Not too long after you left." She indicated the newly married couple speaking with Gilost.
"Tathor was anxious to return to his patrol area," Halhigal commented.
Nestad snorted. "Norgalad was anxious to get married."
"Hush, Nestad," Nimrie scolded him, though she smiled as she did so. She turned to Halbarad and Aragorn. "Come home now and let me make you supper."
"I will be there in a moment," Aragorn said as he spied Balrant from the corner of his eye. The small boy was bouncing up and down on his feet as he stood by his mother and father but his eyes were fixed on Aragorn. His face lit up as Aragorn smiled and beckoned him over. "Well met, Balrant," he said as he crouched down to be at eye level with the boy.
"Well met, Aragorn!" He shifted uneasily on his feet. "Did you kill all the orcs?" he whispered, fear darkening his grey eyes that had just been sparkling and full of life.
Blinking in surprise, he just looked at the young boy for a moment before he gave a small sigh and nodded. "Yes, we did, Balrant."
"Good, I knew you would! Now they can't come and burn our village like they did Culas's village," he said, grinning.
"No, those orcs will not," he replied only lightly emphasizing the word those. He stood and ruffled the small boy's hair as he looked down at him. "Come and find me tomorrow, I will have need of you in the next few days." Balrant grinned and skipped back to his parents. Aragorn watched him go with a trace of sorrow in his eyes; when he was Balrant's age he had never thought much about orcs, let alone worried they might come and burn Imladris. They were only mentioned in passing until he was several years older than Balrant.
It was strange, he mused, as he headed home, that his childhood had been so protected and carefree, yet once he had begun his training as a warrior he had quickly grown into that role and began going on patrols much earlier than any other Dúnedain man. Aragorn returned the greetings of his people as he passed them and he paused when he reached the house where he had been born. He wondered what his life would have been like had his father not died, if… he shook his head and walked on. His life was what it was and it was fruitless to pursue such thoughts.
As he strode past his grandmother's house, Aragorn was surprised that she was not standing on the porch waiting to greet him in her usual gruff manner. He grinned inwardly at that image and decided he would come by after supper… dragging Halbarad with him. With a slight shake of his head and a rueful smile, he realized that he would miss her while he was gone. He would miss many of the people of Dolomar which had become a second home to him – as much of a home as he would have for many years if his foresight was accurate. But he was also looking forward to seeing the other parts of Eriador and meeting the rest of his people.
Aragorn pushed open the door to his home and walked inside. Nimrie was bustling around the kitchen making supper while Halhigal sat near the hearth smoking his pipe. Halbarad was not in the room and Aragorn glanced toward his cousin's room and saw that the door was closed.
"He's cleaning up," Halhigal said quietly.
"I will change his bandage when he is finished," Aragorn said and Halhigal nodded.
"There's hot water in your room," Nimrie informed him, "and some cloths laid out on the bed."
"Thank you," Aragorn said with a warm smile. "It will be wonderful to be able to bathe with hot water." She simply smiled and turned back to her cooking as he walked into his room and closed the door behind him.
As he tossed his pack on the floor, Aragorn heard a faint 'clink' as the bag landed. It took him a moment to remember what was there and he reached under the bed and pulled out the swords he had stored there so many months ago and laid them carefully on the bed. Unwrapping the shards of Narsil, he touched the hilt reverently before he rewrapped the pieces and set it aside; it was not yet time for that sword to be re-forged. As he stared down at the second sword on the bed – the one his father had wielded - Aragorn slowly removed the belt at his waist and then pulled his sword from its sheath and set the belt and sheath down.
Lightly tracing over the elegant lines of the elvish inscriptions on the blade with his finger Aragorn smiled as he remembered the day his adar had given him the sword that had been made especially for him. He had been fifteen and thrilled to have finally been old enough to have a 'real' sword that was similar to the ones his brothers wore. The sword had seen him through many difficult situations in the last six years and yet Aragorn knew it was time to lay it down and take up his father's sword instead.
Elrond would always be the father of his heart. The one who had been there for him throughout his childhood and the one who helped him grow into the man he was now. He was the one who had been there to comfort him during difficult times – when he was frightened or hurt or confused. His naneth and Elrond were the most important people in his life and Aragorn knew that his feelings for Elrond would never change.
But Arathorn was his father in truth and it was Arathorn's blood that ran through Aragorn's veins. It was through Arathorn that he was Lord and Chieftain of the Dúnedain and while Aragorn had accepted that responsibility, it was now time to embrace it fully as he went out to meet the rest of his people.
Aragorn sheathed the elvish sword and set it down gently before picking up the one his father had worn and pulled it from its worn sheath. The grip felt right in his hands even if the sword itself was a little heavier. While it also had been made by the elves and had elvish inscriptions on the blade, it was far older than his. He knew that besides his father both his grandfather and great-grandfather had wielded the sword. Aragorn swung the sword around experimentally for a moment. It had a good feel… a good balance to it and while it would take him some time to get used to it, he knew that he would quickly adjust to this sword of his father's.
There was a knock on his door and it opened at his call. Halbarad poked his head in the doorway and Aragorn gestured for him to come in. "Adar said you wanted to change my bandages," Halbarad said. "But you haven't even cleaned up yet." His brow furrowed as he looked at the sword in Aragorn's hand, it was one he'd never seen before.
"Whose sword is that? I've never seen you use it."
"It was given to me right before I came here," Aragorn replied as he returned it to its sheath. He set it aside and pulled his belt free of the sword he'd been using for so long and then put that sword and the shards of Narsil under the bed.
"What are you doing?" Halbarad asked curiously as he came and sat on the bed. He watched as his cousin worked the new sword onto his belt.
Aragorn paused and looked up. His hand lightly traced up and down the sword. "This was my father's sword. I think it is time I began using it, is it not?" he asked, his face set with grim purpose, a spark of excitement in his grey eyes.
Halbarad nodded, his expression matching his cousin's. "Yes, yes it is, my lord!"
Author Notes: I do hope that you have enjoyed reading this story and I thank all of you that have left me reviews, I certainly do appreciate you taking the time to do so. This story turned out to be much longer than I had originally intended, but I had fun writing it and I especially enjoyed developing all of the original characters. As to what I have planned (in case any of you are interested!), I still want to write a story featuring Aragorn and Éomer that is set in my AU where Halbarad survives the war, but it will be some time before I start writing that. I have a couple of stories I want to finish first. I am debating about whether or not I want to start another lengthy story and post it a chapter at a time as I have been doing. I may try to write half of it and then start posting so that there won't be these long delays (hopefully!) between chapters. Real life has just cut into my writing time and I don't like the delays any more than you do. I do not know if I will come back and write in this time frame again, though I certainly enjoyed writing this and there certainly are lots of possibilities for stories!
Thanks again for your support and encouragement!