Betas: Aranel, Rhonda and Eleniel. Thanks guys.
I've had a number of betas for this story, as each person has had schedule conflicts that occasionally prevent them from being able to beta a specific chapter. So I would also like to thank Vi and Shell for their contributions as well.
Special thanks to my cousin Angie, who, although not being a major LOTR fan, has been reading my stories, asking questions, and making suggestions to help improve the story and build Lauren's background. For the medical aspects of the story, I relied on Shell to answer my many questions and tell me if I got anything wrong. Those sections would not be nearly so accurate without her help.
Disclaimers: I don't own Aragorn, Arwen, Elrond, the twins, etc., Middle-earth, or any concepts associated with Lord of the Rings. They all belong to Tolkien. The concept of the story and my original character(s) are all that belong to me.
Author's Notes: First off, I would like to reassure all readers that this story is complete. I wrote it about a year ago, and it's quite a bit longer than anything else I've written. I plan to post a chapter a week, depending on my schedule. I am still editing some of the later chapters, so I won't guarantee the chapter a week schedule, but you don't have to worry that the story will be left unfinished. The original version of this story had many song lyrics scattered throughout. Due to copyright concerns, the lyrics have all been removed. Since many of the songs were important to the story, however, I have in many cases paraphrased the song and simply listed the title and artist in parentheses. If you know the song or would like to look the lyrics up yourself, you will see why I used particular songs in certain places.
Chapter One - Unexpected meetings
King Elessar crawled into bed with a sigh of relief. It had been a long day, and he had had a difficult time convincing Eldarion that it was time to go to sleep. As he sank gratefully into the softness of the mattress, he felt Arwen's arm come to rest across his chest as she snuggled close to his side.
"Is he asleep?" she asked softly.
"Yes, finally," Aragorn said. "I think he gets his stubbornness from your side of the family. I would swear I have seen that same expression on Elladan and Elrohir's faces."
Arwen lightly slapped his chest. "No, I am sure it comes directly from you. I have never met a being as stubborn as you."
Aragorn gave her a slightly wounded look. "Not even Gimli?"
"Not even he is as stubborn as you," Arwen said firmly. She placed a finger over his lips to halt any further discussion. "And now it is time for sleep." She leaned over and gently kissed him. "Goodnight, my love."
"Goodnight," Aragorn responded, pulling Arwen close and letting his eyes drift closed. Within moments, he was sound asleep.
Aragorn spent a restless night wandering from one dream to the next, never settling down in one place for long. It was as if his mind searched for something he was unaware of. At some point late into the night, Aragorn found himself in an unfamiliar place and looked around in confusion. Where was he? He appeared to be standing on a beach, with white sand stretching off into the distance and the ocean reaching to the horizon, the waters at least five different shades of blue. The sun shone down on him from a cloudless blue sky. At the horizon, the blue of the water blended into the blue of the sky. Beyond the stretch of sand stood a wooded area populated with trees and plants that Aragorn had never seen before. The trunks of these trees stretched high into the sky before branching off into spreading leaves and bearing strange brown spherical objects. Though he did not recognize where he was, Aragorn relaxed. He could not be worried in such a perfect place. This must be another dream, for surely he had not been kidnapped and left in paradise. All he needed now for this to be a perfect dream was for Arwen to appear.
"Excuse me, you're standing in my sun."
The feminine voice behind him caused Aragorn to turn quickly around. However, it was not Arwen that he saw. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped as he took in the sight before him. A woman was reclining on a chair wearing nothing but two small strips of cloth. Aragorn quickly turned away again, his cheeks reddening in embarrassment.
"I beg your pardon, miss."
He heard the sounds of her shifting position behind him. "Fine, you have it, but you're still standing in my sun. Are you planning to move, or should I?"
Aragorn shook his head in confusion as he moved several feet to the side. This was turning out to be a very odd dream. He decided that he would not tell Arwen about this. If she found out that he was dreaming of a very scantily clad woman, she would not be happy.
"Thank you," the woman said. "But if you're going to stay here, do you think you could turn around? I feel kind of strange talking to your back."
Aragorn frowned. "Would you like to put some clothes on first?"
She laughed lightly. "A bikini is perfectly acceptable attire for the beach. Why would I want to put on any more clothing?"
"A bikini?" Aragorn asked in confusion. "Your …attire has a name?" He could have sworn that she was wearing nothing more than her undergarments. To hear that she did not wish to put on more clothes before a stranger saw her again confused him to no end.
"Of course it does. Just like a shirt or a coat has a name. Where are you from that you've never seen a bikini?" She gave an exasperated sigh. "I can't carry on a conversation with your back. If the bikini bothers you, I can cover it up." He heard more movement behind him, and then she spoke up again. "You can turn around now."
When Aragorn turned back around, he saw that she had pulled on a short sleeved shirt that hung to about mid-thigh. She stood before him and held out her arms to show off her new clothing.
"Is that better?" she asked.
Aragorn looked at the expanse of bare leg that she was showing. "Barely."
She shook her head and sighed. "It's a tropical beach in the summer. I'm not putting on any more clothes. If anything, you might want to take some off. A leather overcoat is a little warm for the beach, isn't it?"
Aragorn wasn't paying much attention to her words, as he was rather pre-occupied trying to figure out what the dark object covering her eyes was.
She stopped speaking as he stared at her, and a puzzled expression crossed her face. "What? Do I have something on my face?"
"Yes," Aragorn said. "What is that covering your eyes?"
"My sunglasses?" she asked in confusion. "They protect my eyes from the glare of the sun. You've never seen sunglasses before? Where in the world are you from?"
"Minas Tirith," Aragorn answered.
She cocked her head to the side. "Never heard of it."
"It is in Gondor," Aragorn continued.
Shaking her head in the negative, she said, "Sorry."
Aragorn felt almost insulted. "It is one of the largest kingdoms on Arda."
She frowned. "And here I thought I had such a good grasp on geography. I'm sorry. I've never heard of any of them."
Now it was Aragorn's turn to frown. "How is it possible that you have not heard of the name of the world in which you live?"
Her lips quirked slightly. "Most people I know call our world Earth. Is Arda the word for Earth in another language?"
Aragorn paused. "Yes, it is. But you do not call it Middle-earth?"
"No, why would I call it that?" She took a step back and slowly looked him up and down, assessing what she was seeing. "Worn leather coat that looks hand stitched, clothes of a style I've never seen, and I don't think they're made of a synthetic material, with leather vambraces on the arms." She spoke softly to herself as she catalogued her observations. She pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head as she caught sight of Anduril hanging at his side. "Oh, wow," her voice was soft, reverential. "You're actually carrying a sword. A beautiful one from what I can see." She raised her eyes to meet Aragorn's for the first time.
He stared into her eyes, stunned. Those eyes were extremely familiar to him. Aragorn found himself staring into Arwen's grey eyes. He barely heard her next words as she continued speaking.
"When you take into account your clothing, that gorgeous sword, your very unusual accent and the fact that you've never seen a bikini or sunglasses, the question becomes not where are you from, but when?"
Aragorn barely noticed when she stopped speaking. It was not until he saw the slight annoyance in her eyes that he realized she was waiting for a response from him. It took him a moment to catch up to the conversation, as all he could seem to think was that he had seen that same look numerous times in the eyes of Lord Elrond and both of the twins. When his mind finally caught up with her question, his forehead creased in confusion. "I live in the beginning of the fourth age of Middle-earth. What age do you inhabit?"
"I live in the year 2005 A.D. Somehow, though, I don't think our calendars are all that compatible. But I think it's safe to say that we come from very different times and very different worlds."
She turned around and sat back down on her chair, laughing softly and shaking her head.
"Is there something amusing in this?" Aragorn asked.
"Actually, yes, there is. I always knew I was a little different, and this just proves it. I'm dreaming of the most beautiful beach I've ever seen, and instead of dreaming up a blond-haired blue-eyed beach bum or lifeguard to rub sunscreen on my back, I dream up a medieval knight or something."
Aragorn raised an eyebrow. "Your dream? I thought this was my dream. A rather odd one, but I do distinctly remember going to bed and waking up here."
"Well, I was here for a few hours before you popped in, so I'm pretty sure this is my dream." She paused briefly. "Are you trying to tell me you're a real person and not just some gorgeous ancient warrior I dreamed up?"
Aragorn flushed slightly at the gorgeous comment, but answered her anyway. "I am a real person. I have a life of my own, a wife and a son. I fell asleep and found myself here."
"A wife and son, huh?" she muttered under her breath. "Figures. Even in my dreams, all the good ones are taken." She looked back at Aragorn as he slowly sank down to sit on the sand in front of her. "Do you make a habit of invading the dreams of others?" she asked. "Because I have to say that this is the first time anything like this has ever happened to me. I don't generally know I'm dreaming when I'm dreaming, and I've never met anyone else in my dreams who was also dreaming." She didn't pause long enough for Aragorn to respond before continuing. "Unless this is the afterlife. Maybe I died after all. This certainly looks like paradise. But you know, I was kind of expecting heaven to be a little more crowded." She looked steadily into Aragorn's eyes as she went on. "Unless this is some sort of way station and you're here to escort me to heaven. Is that it? Are you some kind of angel, or a heavenly messenger? Are you the angel Michael? I think he had a sword."
He stared at her in confusion for a moment, not knowing where she would have come up with an idea like that. "No," he said slowly. "I am no messenger of the Valar, and I truly hope this is not any form of afterlife. I am not dead, but merely asleep."
She gazed at him with a serious look on her face. "If as many centuries or millennia separate our times as I think, then yes, you would have to be dead. As far as I know, people don't generally live that long."
Nodding, he said, "Yes, in your time, I would surely be dead, but it has not yet happened in my time. I do not understand how, but we must be talking to each other across the many years that lie between us."
"So somehow our unconscious minds connected in this dream world?" she asked in surprise. "That's more than a little weird. I assume this has never happened to you, either?"
Aragorn shook his head in the negative. "No, however, I as some of my kin before me, have the gift of foresight. I have never reached into anyone's dreams before, but it may be possible. Do you share such a gift?"
"Foresight? Like psychic abilities?" She shook her head. "No, I don't have any paranormal abilities, and to be truthful, I didn't believe they were really real. I've always thought psychics and fortune-tellers were frauds. It's like astrology and horoscopes. All the predictions are so general that anyone could read anything into it that they wanted. 'You will meet a tall dark-haired stranger', and such." She stopped and looked at Aragorn with her lips quirked into a wry grin. "Though that prediction would seem to be dead on, wouldn't it?"
He merely smiled at her observation. As she talked, he took the time to study her, looking for clues to confirm the idea in his mind. She had dark curly hair that was cut short, shorter than his own, not quite to her shoulders. Her skin was fair, but it was her eyes that he found himself drawn to time and again. There was a spark of mischief that he had seen often in the eyes of the twins, a light that always shown in Arwen's eyes, and he even thought he could see a hint of Eldarion's stubbornness in those familiar grey eyes. When she had pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head, he had seen her ears, and there was no trace of the elven points, but he would not have expected there to be after so many generations. But her coloring was that of his family line, the royalty of Númenor and of the line of Elrond and Elros. He interrupted her, not having been paying attention to her words. "You have such unusual eyes. Does the color run in your family?"
She stopped short and stared as she tried to figure out where the non sequitur had come from. She finally answered him. "Yes, they do. The color skips generations, but shows up every once in a while among my father's family. I think my great-grandfather had them. And when they show up, they are always accompanied by dark hair. Why?"
"What do you know about your ancestors?" Aragorn questioned her.
"Not much," she said. "I couldn't tell you anything about my family beyond a handful of generations, though I know some of our family came from England and some from France, although that was several generations back. Where is this line of questioning coming from?" Her eyes widened at the look Aragorn gave her and she studied him for a moment, taking in his dark hair and grey eyes. They were a match to her own and she realized what he was thinking. "You think we're related somehow. That you may be one of my ancestors."
Aragorn nodded. "In your eyes, I see my family. And it would explain somewhat how I found myself in your dreams. We have a blood connection."
She thought about it for a moment. "I suppose it's possible. I certainly can't disprove it." She looked more closely at him and now that she thought about it, she could almost see a similarity between some of his features and her father's. "So, am I supposed to call you Grandpa now? You may be my great, great, great, however many greats grandfather, but I think I'd feel rather strange calling you that."
"As I would feel odd having you call me that. You may call me Aragorn."
Her eyes widened as she realized that in all of this, they had never introduced themselves. "OK Aragorn. My name is Lauren Ellis. You can call me Lauren."
Aragorn noticed that Ellis was similar to Elessar, but knew he had no way of knowing if the one had come from the other. "It is very nice to meet you, Lauren."
A silence fell between them as they tried to think of something else to say. Aragorn asked a question that he had meant to ask earlier. "Why did you think this was the afterlife? Why would you think you were dead?"
She took in a quick breath and abruptly looked away from Aragorn. By the time she looked back at him, Aragorn had a bad feeling about what she would say.
"Well," she began slowly. "I had an accident, I think."
"An accident?" Aragorn asked her when it looked like she was not going to elaborate.
"It's the middle of winter where I'm from," she began slowly. "It had snowed early in the day but melted quickly. The roads were fine, or so I thought. I guess there was enough water left to freeze when the temperature dropped after the sun went down. I was driving home after meeting a friend for dinner. There must have been a patch of black ice or something. It all happened so quickly, but the last thing I remember was losing control of the car and going over an embankment. I saw the trees rushing at me, then woke up here."
For a split second, Aragorn found himself caught up in her memories. He was trapped, restrained in some sort of metal and glass box and they were flying toward a stand of trees at an unimaginable speed. As quickly as it started, it stopped, and they were back on the beach.
Aragorn stared at Lauren in dismay. He did not understand all that he had seen and heard, but he did not know how anyone could have survived the collision that had surely occurred.
Lauren shook her head abruptly and ran a trembling hand through her hair. "I'm sorry about that. I've really been avoiding thinking about it. I don't know how you saw that with me, but then, I don't know how any of this is possible at all. But one thing I know is that the accident was a bad one. I was going sixty miles an hour when I went off the road. Few people simply walk away from accidents like that. When you add in the fact that I'm here and not waking up in the real world, the signs don't point to anything good."
Aragorn wanted to say something comforting, but he didn't know what to say. Before he could think of anything, a strange feeling came over him. As he looked down, he saw his body fading away into nothing. He looked back up at Lauren in concern.
She shook her head in response to the question in his eyes. "You said you found yourself here when you fell asleep. You're probably just waking up. Don't worry about it. I have the feeling you don't belong here anyway. Enjoy your life, Aragorn. You never know when it will all come to an end." Her eyes held onto his, and he saw a glimpse of the depth of pain and sorrow hidden there before she and her surroundings faded from his awareness.
Once the beach had faded completely, he felt a hand on his shoulder, shaking him slightly. He opened his eyes to see Arwen staring at him in concern. "What is wrong?" he asked groggily.
"It is morning, and I could not wake you," Arwen said. "Are you ill?"
Aragorn sat up and shook his head to erase the last remnants of sleep. "No, I am well. I was dreaming, but it felt so real. I think I met our distant granddaughter, and she seems to be in trouble."
Arwen gazed at her husband. "Tell me of this dream. Maybe we can determine what it means."
And so he did.