Title: Fair Friend
Author: Raina
Summary: On a rather stormy night, a confused and hurting person meets someone quite unexpected.
Disclaimers: I don't own this stage, I just write performances for it.
Warnings: Brief mild language
Beta: Tira Archer, MCross, and Nautika
Author's Notes:
This story was written for the MCI Jan. challenge: take one of the provided songs and write a story between 500 and 5000 words long that relates back to the song. Use of lyrics is optional. Must include one of the twins and Aragorn.

The song I chose between the two choices, was the song I'm With You, by Avril Lavigne. At the time I wrote this, I was under the impression that Fanfiction(dot)net did not allow songfics, but that's not quite true. In the end though, when I realised it didn't allow stories with songs and other things that were not in the public domain, I already liked how this had turned out and figured I'd just forget this being a songfic.

Someone's waiting to put wings

Upon your flightless heart.
--Rich Mullins

Rain falls all around in thick torrents that has such force behind it that the water droplets make audible split-splat noises upon impact while the sky above releases its fury upon an unsuspecting earth. I stand alone on a bridge, looking out into the swelled and angry river below me. One could throw a stick into the water and the twig would be gone from sight in an instant, carried away by these fast moving currents never to be seen again by the thrower. Not that unlike words spoken in anger - they come out and are carried off more quickly than one would wish, never to be retrieved. Like that stick falling from someone's hands, those angry words would be beyond recall in the twinkle of an eye.

Water drips out of my drenched hair onto my wet face, and sometimes the droplets fall into my eyes before continuing along their way, but I pay them no heed. I wait in the dark, waiting for my father to come - I thought he would be here by now. I had not departed on the best of terms with him, as it was just after a fight, but I find that I had expected he would come looking for me. However, there is nothing but the rain, no footsteps on the ground. I am indeed listening, but there is no sound.

And I have to wonder: isn't anyone trying to find me? Will no one come take me home?

I shiver as the chill from the wind and the rain sinks into my bones; it is a damn cold night, and its iciness is only increased by the emptiness I feel inside. I inwardly curse the frigid weather, hating this damned cold with every fibre of my soaked being. I stand here in the cold and dark, trying to figure out this life, wondering - what more could there be? Was there no end to fighting these wars? And I do not speak of wars with my father - the fights and the disagreements we have had and will have - but a fight for life against a darkness far headier than anything else in this world. As I stare out into the darkness, blinking rain from my eyes, my mind whirls with my contemplations, but my struggle to figure out life does not seem to have a solution.

Suddenly, my thoughts are interrupted as someone steps onto the bridge. I am amazed when I finally feel his presence, for I do not hear his footsteps on the wooden planks. A cloak drapes from his shoulders, and a hood hides his face inside its depths. His presence does not feel Elven - that seems the only logical reason for his silent approach - but still he carries himself as one of the Firstborn. I can sense no threat from him as he raises his hands in a placating manner, and draws nearer.

"I mean no harm, fair friend." He speaks with a warm, calm tone that conveys pure intentions and trust.

"As I can sense. You seem trust-worthy enough, and yet I know you not... who are you, dark traveller?"

Beneath the dark hood, I can barely see a smile. "One could ask the same of you. You seem a decent fellow, but I do not recognise your presence." He pauses, and I can feel his unseen gaze searching my face. Normally, I would never tarry this long with a mortal - as I can sense he is - but there is something about him that intrigues me, something that does not raise alarm or the feeling that I need to get away. "I do not say you are a foolish person, yet one would have to question the sanity of lingering in the cold rain."

That brings the briefest of smiles to my face, but my somber mood does not let it tarry long. "Sanity - I have long questioned the existence of my own." I say quite seriously.

"Well, whether it exists or not in yourself, I have to wonder why you stand so forlornly here in the rain. Is there someone you wait for?"

So, he has been watching me for some time. This thought unnerves me slightly, and at the same time I do not feel threatened by that fact. "If only you knew..." I am surprised to hear myself voice that thought.

The man beside me pauses for a moment, glancing around and letting out a sigh. I find it strange that the silence that follows is not an uncomfortable one, though there lingers in the air my unspoken problems. In the quiet moment that follows, my mind flies back to the argument between my father and myself. I recall how I left and wandered aimlessly all day and finally arrived at this place not long ago when the rain began to fall. I stayed here, waiting for someone to come and take me home. But no one came and now I feel the void deep inside of me, and I am seized by a feeling of utter cold - inside and out. I shiver.

"You should not be outside any longer in this rain - Elven resistance to the elements or no." He speaks quietly and reaches out a hand.

And suddenly, I have no desire to be here any more. Glancing up into the man's hood, I know he could take me to a place I have never been. There had always been a distrust between me and mortals, but this one did not feel like a mere mortal at all. All feeling leaves me and all I want is for this person to take me by the hand and take me some where new. 'I don't know who you are, but I'm with you.'

I can see only friendly concern when I look at the man, and thus I do not fight him when he reaches out a hand and gently clasps my own. "Let me lead you to a place out of the elements, fair friend."

He pulls me back across the bridge towards the slippery, muddy ground and a path that leads to a place I do not know of. Once we are beneath the trees, the fury of the storm is lessened somewhat. The leaves above bow under the weight of the water and will give way to sparsely dripping rain to the ground below. My mind feels strangely hollow and my emotions numb; I find the desolation of the forest around us to be fitting to my current state, however twisted it may be for me to think that.

As we walk, I find myself not paying attention to where we are heading or how long we have been walking - a fact I am puzzled over. Why am I so easily trusting this man, this person from a race that I do not care over much for?

Finally, ahead I can see lights, blurred by the swiftly falling rain. The lights spill forth from windows of locked up houses, where the occupants have hidden themselves from the storm outside. My companion leads me towards one of these buildings, and I can hear the sound of jovial voices resounding from it. There is a certain smell that leaks from the slightly ajar door and I pull up short beneath the porch overhang, realising where this man is taking me and finding that I am not sure I wish to enter, especially considering that Humans tend to have strange reactions to seeing one of my people.

The mortal stops and glances back at me, but I cannot read his expression as his face is still hidden from view beneath his hood. "Forgive me, I should have known you would not be comfortable going inside a tavern as you are..."

I wonder how he knows this.

"I know from experience that Men can be quite leery around anyone different." He offers as explanation. "I think I have a spare cloak, if you would be more comfortable that way." Without waiting for me to reply, the human shifts out of his pack and rummages around for a moment before pulling out a relatively dry cloak. Suddenly, as he looks up, I get the feeling that he is eyeing me. "You don't seem very inclined to talk, which is fine with me as I would never push you to do so, but I fear that I had better have your permission before I try to put this on you."

Though my numbness keeps a smile from my face at his words, I do give him the slightest of nods as acquiescence. But instead of letting him help me put it on, I reach out and take the cloak from his outstretched hand, and drape it over my shoulders, clasping its brooch together to hold it in place by myself. I pull the hood up and over my head, hiding my long - wet - hair and pointed ears. The man beside me - I wonder what his name is - reaches up and pulls the hood lower, further concealing my face from view.

Then he turns and walks towards the door, easily pushing it open and entering the bar. I follow, feeling a little uncertain - but not nearly so as I had before he had given me the cloak - although I am striving to make sure that none see my doubt. Inside the tavern, the air is warmed by a cheerful fire that lights all but the corners of the room and the atmosphere is clouded with the lightheartedness of these Men enjoying their tankards.

My unnamed companion weaves through the tables, glancing here and there. I am confused at this - then I realise that he is looking for an available spot to sit. I glance around the room, searching for a place. But I note after a moment, that I am also looking for a face... is there any one here that I know? It is doubtful, but nevertheless I find myself searching. Naturally I find no one, and even though I am slightly acquainted with the man leading me toward a table in a dark corner towards the back of the bar, I feel suddenly very alone and out of place in this world. I have always hated being alone, and now when the mortal takes a seat and props his feet upon another chair at the table - looking quite the opposite of how I feel - so relaxed and at home; like he belonged there - those feelings of loneliness are grounded home.

There is no one here familiar to me, and there had been no one that had come looking for me. Everything in my life seems to be chaotic recently, nothing has gone right in a long time. And all of this suddenly seems to crash down upon me and I stagger slightly before taking a seat at the table.

"You do not seem entirely yourself, though I cannot say that as fact since I do not know you."

"And you seem to know a lot about the Firstborn and yet you are not one of us." I drop my voice low to assure that none other than my companion hears me. The mortal reaches into a hidden pocket and pulls out a pipe, promptly stuffing it with pipeweed and lighting it. Taking a long pull on his smoke, the human relaxes even more into his chair - and yet somehow I get the feeling that he is still on his guard, keeping a sharp eye on the going-ons in the tavern around us. The light from his pipe dimly lights his face beneath the hood and I get a glimpse for the first time of his strong features and intense gray eyes.

"Would it surprise you over much if I told you I was raised among Elves?"

This is not the response I am expecting - though to be honest I do not know what kind of answer I had anticipated - and I blink dumbly for several seconds before gathering my thoughts. "This news surprises me greatly, for I was not aware that my people associated so with your own." And yet somehow, his explanation makes sense.

A can barely see a wry grin around his pipe at my words. "You are associating with me."

"Maybe so... but I meant that I had not known that one of my people would raise a mortal." It is only after these words leave my mouth, that I realise they may offend him. Ai, Valar! Why can I not keep the things I will regret saying to myself? I am experiencing such confusion, and I think this may be affecting how I am treating people. Or maybe I am out of my mind, for it certainly feels as if I am not really here but rather watching everything through a stranger's eyes instead of my own.

Sure enough, I can now feel his intent gaze watching me closely. "I have to wonder what it is about Humans that you hold against us."

"That is my own concern."

"I think it might make it mine in a way, seeing as you seem to hold the race of Men in such high prejudices and I am one of them."

"And I do not feel like talking of them at this time. Besides, I do not even know your name."

Our conversation is interrupted then as the bartender makes his way over to us and inquires as to what drink we strangers would like to have. "House brew." Is the reply from the human beside me. I glance sharply up at him from beneath my own hood, not sure I want to even taste whatever the 'house brew' may be. The stranger glances my way before turning back to the bartender. "And my friend will take a white wine."

The bartender raises an eyebrow at this, but does not question us. I turn my gaze back to the man beside me, curious once more as to how he would know to get me something else. "Strider... you can call me Strider." He mutters and stares off across the room at the fire; at first I am confused, until I realise he is picking up the thread of our earlier conversation.

After a moment, Strider returns his gaze to me. "And you?"

"You can call me..." I am not sure I want him to know my real name just yet - besides, I can sense that he has not told me his real name either. Then again, what should I tell him to call me? Suddenly, a name bounces into mind. "Baimeldir."

Strider raises an eyebrow at this, but I just give him a wry grin. "Very well." He replies.

-----------Time Jump: Year 1 of the Fourth Age------------

"That is how you met?" Elrohir asks.

I smile and nod my response before letting my gaze drift to the fire. Elladan, Elrohir, Arwen, Aragorn and myself are all relaxing in one of the halls of Minas Tirith. We have all been sharing stories for some time now, and letting the toll of the War of the Ring wash away and allowing restoration to set in.

My gaze returns to my friends as Arwen shifts deeper into Aragorn's hold and tilts her head to smile up at him. "You never told me how you met."

"You never asked," is Aragorn's rejoinder, before sending a sly smile my way. "I never knew it would be a story that would interest you."

Arwen lets out a disapproving sound and lightly slaps the newly crowned King's arm. "And why would it not interest me, Estel?"

"Oh, I don't know." Strider shrugs noncommittally, and I have to laugh at my friends.

"Well, I am glad you two met... Your friendship has meant something drastic to you both and has saved you, I can see." Arwen's voice has turned serious, and her look is far away. Aragorn glances down at his wife, before his gaze travels to meet mine, and we both nod. After a moment, Arwen seems to return to this room and she smiles once more up at Aragorn. "You put wings upon a flightless heart, my love."

"He did indeed." I whisper. Strider's gaze locks with mine, searching my eyes for the truth behind my words. A moment passes before he smiles - and then a comfortable silence falls among us all.

"So, when did you find out who each other really was, Legolas?" Elladan turns towards me and asks, his eyes alight with interest.

I raise my wine glass to him, and nod my head towards him. "That, my friend, is a story for another day."

The End

A/N: 'Baimeldir', from what I was able to gather, means 'fair friend'. I am sure knowing what the name means enables that part of the story to make more sense.