Title: Always

Author: Jo Slater

Summary: The children have their take on the love of their parents, Ashk and Haldir.

Rating: PG

Time: Nearly three years after Stolen. Twins are 18, Nethin is 15.

Note: This is just a very short (four pages), fluff piece for Ashk and Haldir. The end is near, and I'm so upset about it! I'm such a pudd. Haha. Anyway, enjoy…Oh, and…

"Remember when…

The sound of little feet was the music,

We danced to week to week.

Brought us the love,

We found trust,

Vowed to never give it up.

Remember when…"

-Alan Jackson

Always

Ana

I dragged a hand through my hair, trying to focus my tired eyes on the book in my hand. Moss sat purring at my side, the old cat as lazy as he was fat, and I struggled to go on with the book.

It was a romantic story that I had managed to cry and laugh in. I couldn't imagine finding a love like the one said in this story – hidden by its dull, blue cover. It had been dusty when I'd found it buried in the library.

I looked up, finding the world outside my window to be dark with midnight. The late autumn breeze drifted by, bringing with it the pure scent of fall.

Moss suddenly got up and stretched. I looked at him as he jumped off the bed and wandered to the door, pawing it open and slipping out.

Distantly, I heard whispered voices.

I frowned. Who was awake so late?

My feet were silent as I crept over my wooden floor, the book still clutched in my hand.

"I don't have to tell you again, do I?"

My mother laughed under the whispered words of my father and I frowned again, sneaking down the hall toward the kitchener.

"You don't want to?" Ama asked, a smile in her voice.

Ada chuckled as I moved into the den. Outside, the balcony doors were cracked open and my parents were outside.

The moon trickled down on them standing there as I so often found them in the eighteen years of my life.

Ada must have just come home. He still had his Galadhrim cloak on. But, he had it pulled over my mother as well, encasing her close to him as they swayed on the balcony.

He leaned close to her ear, but I could still hear his whispered words. "I love you."

I smiled even as I had once grimaced at the affection my parents shared. Now, coming to my own age, I could only find it for the beauty it was.

Ama smiled at Ada, her face lifting to his. The moon shimmered on her pale skin and the twinkle in her eyes was unmistakable. She never seemed to age to me, but in that moment, she looked so young…So in love.

They kissed and I looked down at the floor, the book in my hand catching my eye.

I opened it. The illustration was delicate and beautiful…It was perfect, and as I looked from the drawn lovers holding each other close under the moonlight to my parents, some strange peace came over me.

The romance in the story was as real as the sun while I looked at my parents. And, perhaps I was too young to understand when they told me so long ago, but I knew now what they had been through. Their hardships had affected us all, somehow, but their love had always been what kept us together.

The world could be falling down around them, and they would never manage to part. Like in the stories Onduras teased me for reading, they had found true love. They'd made it their own, and they'd shared it all these years.

Perhaps one day, if I was lucky, I would look at another with the look my mother gave my father.

Onduras

"Do not pull so hard, son," Ada told me and I sighed.

I glanced to the side of the training ring and pulled on the bow again. I was going to hit the farthest target.

Ada cleared his throat and I looked at him before finally loosing the arrow. It hit the target, but missed the center.

"You use archery for practice, Onduras, not to impress a pretty Elleth," Ada told me in classic Westron.

I felt my face flush and I glanced toward the Elleth he was talking about; Netilia. She could knock me down with a look, and I knew it.

"Sorry, Ada," I muttered, picking up the quiver of arrows I'd put down.

Ada smiled at me as we began to walk away. "Do not be sorry. I remember the day when I did the same."

I couldn't help but chuckle. "You did?"

"Every young Ellon does," he told me with a slanted smile. "Your Uncle Rumil still does." He shook his head and I laughed. "And, to tell you the truth, you never stop. To this day, if your mother is watching, I'll make sure I keep her attention."

I grinned at my father. "You do?"

He looked at me and smiled. "I do. Small things only she notices…And she does indeed notice."

I shook my head in disbelief as we walked by the stables.

Ada's head turned with a tilt and I immediately knew he spotted Ama. He always had a way to him when he knew she was near.

I followed his eyes and spotted my mother with Black and Kali. Nethin was with her and they were laughing about something.

I glanced at my father and couldn't help but see that look in his eyes. He often had it when he watched my mother from a distance. It was a silent, calm look. There was some measure of pride there, deep, but it was mostly just…happy. There were few other words to describe it.

I looked up to Ada; I always had. And when I knew he was happiest with my mother and no one else in the world – not even me or my siblings – I suppose it gave me some kind of...hope. After everything he'd done in his life, it seemed his greatest pride and love was in her, and our family.

It was better than his rank, his command, or anything else. If I could, perhaps, achieve that, I would be like him when I was older.

"I was different before I met your mother, Onduras," Ada told me, his voice distant and I looked up to see Ama was staring at him. She glanced at me, and her smile widened before Nethin drew her attention away.

"She was, and is, the best thing that ever happened to me," he said, strolling on.

I followed him. "What do you mean you were different?"

"Ah, I'm sure you've heard the stories."

He was right, I had. But never from him.

"I didn't want a family…I didn't need love, and certainly not a mortal's love." He shook his head with a smile. "In the end, it was what I needed most in the world." He looked at me with wisdom deep in his eyes. "It took a long time for me to see, and she was patient."

If Ama was ever anything, it was patient…Ada always said that.

I smiled, but slowly it faded away.

…a mortal's love…

One day, Ama would die and leave us all. I dreaded to think the smile I saw my father have now would forever be gone with her. I had feared that silently for years…

"Ada…What will you do when Ama dies?"

He looked away from me abruptly and his smile faded. He cleared his throat after a moment. "A long time ago, I promised her I would stay here with you, Ana, and Nethin. I will do my best to keep that promise."

A cold churn took my stomach.

Ada swallowed. "I would see her again, one day," he murmured, mostly to himself.

I frowned. "Mortals go to the Grey Havens?"

My father stopped walking and his eyes stayed on the ground for a long moment before he finally looked at me again. "No, Onduras…They don't."

The pure grief in his eyes was shocking. I felt my own chest cave tight and I frowned.

My father and I stared at each other a long time and I shook my head. "We wouldn't see Ama again?"

He blinked painfully slow, and the grief in his eyes was gone an instant later. I knew he'd put on a mask of strength, and knowing that shook me to the core.

"We will," he told me. "If I have to walk all the ways of the dead, I will find her again, son."

It could be an eternity searching for her. No one but the greatest of Elves knew the ways the dead took after their life. Ada and I both knew that…Yet, I could see in his eyes he did not fear an eternity looking for her, and finally finding her.

But, I could truly see he did fear the days that would come without her.

Nethin

"I hate these things," I muttered to my sister as I stood beside her chair.

She looked up at me and shook her head. "If you would dance like everyone else, you wouldn't be so bored."

She, of course, had just returned from the ballroom floor. And if she thought Ada didn't see her dancing with Elrohir again, she was mistaken. I had no doubt Ada would be hunting him down by the end of the night.

I sat next to my sister as she chatted with our soon to be Aunt Litia.

My eyes scanned the room. Uncle Orophin was standing with several Wardens, talking and laughing amongst themselves. Uncle Rumil and Onduras were speaking to Lord Elrond – the ball was of course in his honor – and Ada and Ama were speaking with Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn.

My eyes lingered on my parents. As always, my father had an arm around my mother's waist even as he spoke to the Lady and Lord. Ama was idling fiddling with a new necklace as she listened to him.

Another song started and even from my distance, I saw Ama's eyes light up. She only had to look at Adar for him to excuse them both from the Lady and Lord's presence. I smiled as Ada took Ama's drink and gave it to a server. He led her to the ballroom.

"What are you looking at?" Ana murmured.

I glanced at her then back to our parents. "Ama and Ada."

Ana smiled and leaned forward on the table.

My father turned Ama slowly, the length of her gown swirling at his boots before he pulled her close.

I remembered days – long ago and recent – when they danced in the den of our home. It was a clumsy parade of the two, usually when they were trying to cheer one of us children out of a glum mood.

Their laughter always made me smile and I knew the memories of them whirling around the room – Pirate barking madly – would always be with me.

My family was strange compared to others I knew. We were not always refined and polite. We all had our fights and we all knew when there was no one else in the world, we could lean on each other.

When one cried, the other soothed; and when one laughed, we all laughed.

I knew days would come when we would all be far from each other, but in the memory of our youth, my brother and sister and I would all be close. We had become loyal to each other and friends under the guidance of our parents…

I smiled as Onduras sat down next to me. He flashed a grin at me before he looked at Ana. He followed her eyes and we all watched on as our parents danced with each other. Their years together swayed in their perfect steps, and their smiles were alive with nothing less than love.

Ada said something in Ama's ear and she only laughed softly. Her hand raised to his face, drawing down his cheek.

"If there was ever the fairest love in the world, it would be your parents," Litia murmured beside Ana. Uncle Orophin sat down next to her.

Ana smiled at her.

"She's right," Uncle Orophin said, taking a drink from Litia's chalice. "Not even we can war that." He nodded towards the dancing couple, oblivious to the lot of us staring on.

And they were oblivious to the others watching. Lord Elrond, Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn, and others all watched in the same quiet way we did.

Uncle Rumil sat beside Uncle Orophin. The two of them shared a look, smiling between one another before looking down at us, Haldirion.

Ana, Onduras and I looked at each other before smiling. I chuckled, my eyes lifting once again to my parents.

And I sat among my family, I watched the years slide away from my parents. Ama was young again and Ada was not the Elf he was just then…But, even in that, there was love.

With them – and our family – there was always love.

Always.

- - -

Hope everyone enjoyed. I know it was sappy, but the end is so near and I'm terribly sad!

The next update will be The Guardian; The Lady. At the moment it's a work in progress, but I hope to have it up by the 9th, or before.

Thank you for all your support. I can't tell you how important that is to me.

-Jo