Author's Note: What what! This must be my quickest update in living memory. Whee!

Super Brief Recap: Megs is starting to get a little bit home sick.

CHAPTER FORTYThe Fun Commenses

Meghan woke up in a pool of blood.

The first thing she did was roll over and vomit over the side of the bed. Then she started crying. Choking back tears and nausea, she peeled away the blankets to assess the carnage a little better. Her nightgown was ruined and the sheets had stained such a deep red that she felt flutters of panic in her stomach.

At the sound of her stifled sobs, Éowyn woke up with a start. "Meghan! Are you quite well?" she said, her eyes widening at the bloodbath that Meghan sat in.

"I started my period," she replied in a voice thick with misery.

"Oh my," Éowyn said evenly. She had already stood up and was now drawing a cloak around her shoulders. "I will fetch Ioreth. Meanwhile, take off that nightdress and wrap this around yourself." She stripped off the top sheet from her own bed and passed it to Meghan. "Ioreth will know best what to do. Are you going to be alright?"

"Yes," Meghan nodded, trying to keep the clean sheet off the sullied ones.

"Just a moment, then." With that, Éowyn swept out the door, just as imperious when dealing with feminine hygiene as when she defeated witch kings.

Meghan scrubbed the sleep and salt from her eyes and sucked in a deep breath. She really should have expected her period soon, but the volume and ferocity of this particular cycle shocked her. As she started to ease off the sticky bed, her lower back clenched in the most agonizing cramps that she had ever experienced. Fresh tears rose to her eyes and she had the sudden, profound urge to destroy something.

Slowly, painstakingly, and shuddering in disgust, she stripped off her nightgown and cleaned herself up the best she could. It felt like her uterus was attempting to crawl out of her body. She wanted to lay down and die, but instead she wrapped herself in the sheet and knotted it under her arms like a sarong to keep her hands free.

There was a rapping at the door, so she scooped up the long train of the sheet and trundled over to let Ioreth and Éowyn back in. This is kind of humiliating, she thought as she turned the knob and swung the door open. I feel like this is the first time I've – Legolas.

For one slow-motion moment, they stared at each other. It was just long enough for him to take in the bloodied bed, the room's general disorder, and the fact that Meghan was naked except for a sheet. In the next moment, she wordlessly screamed and slammed the door in his face.

There was a long silence on both sides.

Then, tentatively, "…Meghan?"

It took a lot of will-power, but she slowly managed to crack the door open and peek through the opening. She tried to fill the space with her body so that he couldn't see into the room again, forgetting that he was tall enough to look over her head.

"Good morning," she whispered, clutching the knot on the sheet tighter against her chest.

He looked completely unnerved, which for him meant a quirked brow and a downward turn on the corners of his lips. He kept his eyes very deliberately focused on her face. "Good morning."

"I'm afraid that I will be a little late to work today," Meghan said.

He opened his mouth and shut it a couple of times, like he was at a loss for words but scrambling to find them. Finally, with a slight clench of his jaw that told her he had formed a desperate resolution, he choked, "Do you need any assistance?"

Meghan gaped at him. "Did you just offer to help me clean up my menstrual blood?"

"Yes," he said, looking physically pained. "I know that you get sick. And, ah, blood in the general sense does not, well, for the most part it does not bother me so I thought that perhaps I could save you the trouble…" He trailed off, miserable.

She blinked a few times, then quietly shut the door in his face again. This time, she sank to the floor and leaned against the doorframe, torn between hysterical laughter and uncontrollable sobbing. He offered to clean up my period blood. In a horrifying way, that is the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me. Oh my god. Oh my GOD.

She heard footsteps approaching down the hall, and then Ioreth's authoritative voice through the door. "Land preserve me, young man, if you cannot keep away from that girl for one blessed minute!"

"No wait," Meghan said, twisting around to stand up and throw the door back open as quickly as possible. "Ioreth, you don't understand—"

"Young lady!" Ioreth looked so scandalized that Meghan immediately wanted to sink into the ground for shame, although she wasn't sure why. "You cannot be gallivanting about in the presence of a man in such a state of undress. And you!" Ioreth poked an accusing finger into Legolas' chest. "You should be ashamed! Sneaking about the Houses at this hour, when the sun is hardly up! Young people these days!" She threw her hands up in a gesture of despair and outrage.

Éowyn, who had been watching the scene with a carefully passive face, took this opportunity to pipe in. "My Lord Elf," she said, taking Legolas' arm. "Perhaps I might acquaint you with the Houses of Healing. I understand that you had very little time to find your bearings during your brief respite here before."

A spasm of relief washed over Legolas' face, followed immediately by guilt. Meghan wondered if his emotions were obvious to the other two women, or if she had just learned to read him after so much time together. Either way, she shot him a reassuring nod, trying to telegraph with her eyes that she didn't mind him leaving. Given Ioreth's present state of indignation, it was probably for the best if he did remove himself from the situation.

"Thank you, Lady Éowyn," he said as she gently guided him down the corridor.

Ioreth, meanwhile, had bustled past Meghan into the bedroom and was surveying the damage. "Well, young lady, this is certainly quite a mess," she said matter-of-factly.

"Yes," Meghan cringed. "It seems a bit… excessive."

"Do you mean this is uncommon for you?" Ioreth had completely switched over to the crisp, businesslike mode that she reserved for patients. Meghan felt panicky again and avoided looking at the ruined bed.

"Well, this is a couple weeks late," she said, "and I never bleed so much. And my back is killing me."

"Last night," Ioreth began, and paused for a moment. "Were you intimate with your lover?"

"No," Meghan spluttered. "We haven't even talked about that yet! I mean come on, I don't even know if we're formally courting or whatever you people call it here. I'm not ready to start sleeping with him!"

Ioreth held up a hand for peace. "Do not think me indelicate when in truth I am only ignorant to the customs of Elves. Had you lain with him, perhaps this much bleeding would be cause for concern."

"Wait, concern? Is there something wrong with me?" Meghan put a hand on her stomach.

"No, child. You have been under such a weight of fear that your body slowed down to preserve your own strength. Now that the greatest of your worries is assuaged, your cycle is catching up. Do not fret yourself about it. Now, we must get this room cleaned up."

A half an hour later, the room was back to normal and Meghan was properly outfitted in the menstrual necessities of the time. Due to the bulky nature of the undergarments, Ioreth had brought a long grey dress for Meghan to wear. It fit a little too loose and the sleeves kept slipping down over her hands, but it reminded her of a baggy sweater so she didn't mind.

"Well then," Ioreth said. "I do not often allow this, but perhaps in your case an exception may be made. I suppose you may be absent from your duties today."

"I think I would rather be busy—" Meghan froze, a wave of cramps sweeping up her back and down through her abdomen. "Ehem, I would rather keep moving and stay busy. Just… just don't make me do anything with blood, please." She eyed the bundle of ruined sheets.

Ioreth gave her a slow, thoughtful smile. "Well done. You may turn out something more than a pampered Elvish princess, after all."

"Thank you, Ioreth, really." Meghan impulsively swept the older woman into a hug. "For this, and for letting me work here, and for not holding a grudge after I exploded in your face about the tea. You're only the third woman I've really met here and I'm so grateful that you've got my back."

"Well, to be truthful with you," Ioreth said, dusting off her skirt. "You put me in mind of my niece. I had no children, but I love her like my own. She has the same air about her that you do."

"Where is she now?" Meghan asked.

"She married a soldier of Dol Amroth two summers ago. It is difficult to travel that distance – or it was. I expect she will be here with her family for the coronation. But enough of this chatter; there is good work to be done. Let us go to the kitchens, I am certain there is plenty to begin with there."

"Actually, do you mind if I meet you in a little bit?" Meghan cleared her throat. "I may have, ah… traumatized someone earlier and I should probably reassure him that everything is alright."

Ioreth sniffed disdainfully. "You tell that boy that it is a natural part of life and womanhood, not something to be ashamed of."

"Right," Meghan said, who had zero intention of spending any more time than necessary to discuss the finer points of menstrual acceptance with Legolas. "He's just a little more sheltered than you and I, that's all."

"I will give you a half an hour," Ioreth said. "Then I expect you to present yourself to the head cook. You have said that you wish to work, so you will not be coddled."

"I understand," Meghan said with a smile. "I'll see you later today. Thanks again."

Ioreth nodded and headed out the door. There was something immensely comforting about her, even though she could be intimidating when the mood struck. Meghan pushed her sleeves up to her elbows and followed her out the door.

She hadn't gotten more than a few paces into the hallway when Legolas appeared from a side passage. He looked like a kicked puppy and Meghan had the simultaneous urge to hug him and laugh at him – so she did both.

"Are you alright?" he asked, holding her like he thought she might break.

"Legolas," she laughed as she drew back a pace to look him in the eyes. "Bless your heart. I'm sorry you had to see that this morning."

The anxiety was starting to fade from his expression. "You look nice," he offered. "I have not seen you in a dress since Edoras."

"Thank you," Meghan replied, heart in her throat. This must be love, she thought, if he can make me this happy when I'm bleeding out of my vagina.

"So what sort of pots shall we be scrubbing today?" He took her hand and put it into the crook of his elbow.

"Stew pots, most likely," she sighed. "I saw a whole fleet of them last night after they served dinner."

When they got to the kitchens, it turned out that the chore of the morning was actually prepping more stew for later that day. Legolas fell to helping Meghan with a good will, even though nobody quite had the nerve to give him directions about what to do. The head cook was a seasoned veteran, not easily surprised by even the most outrageous spectacles, but the sight of a princely Elvish war hero peeling and dicing potatoes was enough to send her muttering into a corner.

The days spun out into weeks, and they fell into a comfortable, happy rhythm. Meghan spent most of her daylight hours working in the Houses and whenever Legolas could get away from "affairs of state" he joined her. And always at night they shared dinner with some or all of the Fellowship, and laughed and talked together well into the evening.

Afterward, Meghan remembered it as a time of deep contentment, despite the thread of uneasiness that she couldn't seem to shake. But as the weeks turned into a month, and then two months, and she still didn't wake up back in her old world, the disquiet faded into a dull ache that she knew was simple homesickness.

Late one morning, Meghan was steadily working through a colossal pile of sheets to be folded. She half-wondered where Legolas was, since he usually came by that time, but shrugged it away. He's probably just busy with the coronation stuff, she thought. The spring was fading into a rich summer, and it felt like the entire city was buzzing to crown their new king. Still, Aragorn waited, and Meghan was beginning to suspect why.

He's waiting for her. She smiled, catching the corner of a sheet and tucking it neatly into the folds. She must be wonderful, if they would wait so long for each other.

Thoughts of love and romance inevitably led to Legolas, and her smile shifted to a thoughtful half-frown. The past two months had been hardly short of magical, but she couldn't help but remember what Aragorn had said about Elvish courtships sometimes taking years. Legolas was simply too much of a gentleman. There had been no discussion about their future together – or if they even had a future.

I suppose with all the kissing and such, we're practically engaged by these old-fashioned standards, she thought. But I wish he would say where we're at. And he always stopped it at just kissing. Once when she had reached up to unlace his jerkin, he smoothly caught her hands and continued to kiss her like nothing happened. He even put a limit on heavy petting. It was confusing and frustrating and it made Meghan feel a bit silly.

I shall chalk this up to bad communication, she thought with a nod. All couples have to learn how to communicate. Next time I see him, I'll just sit him down and discuss things frankly and openly.

This decision made, she retuned into her surroundings. A group of several teenaged healer acolytes were clustered at the end of the room, just within earshot. It seemed like they hadn't noticed Meghan, who was half-buried in the pile of sheets.

"They arrived last night?" one asked, grey eyes shining.

"No, early this morning," returned another, who was clearly the leader of their clique. "I heard the sound of their horns as I dressed."

"It is so marvelous that there are more Elves in the city," sighed the third. "I wonder if they are all as beautiful as the Elvish prince."

Meghan was a little stung. So only the Elvish prince is beautiful? What about the Elvish tagalong girl?

"They should be," said the ringleader in the familiar, high school tones of superiority because she knew something the others didn't. "It is the delegation from Mirkwood, and the one of the company is Prince Legolas' older brother."

It suddenly felt like the air had been sucked out of Meghan's body in a devastating wave of anxiety. Her first, panicky thought was, I'm going to meet part of his family already? She haphazardly tried to straighten her hair, then froze as the second thought bloomed.

His brother has been here for hours and he didn't come to tell me?

If anybody caught the silly pun in the title, I will give you a cookie. :)