Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings, nor NCIS, nor Spiderman. If I did I would not have had to fork over the money to get Lord of the Rings on blu-ray, and I would probably not be almost a whole season behind on NCIS.
A/N: *sheepishly* I hope you enjoy it, and don't hate me too much on the long wait? ~Lady Ryn
As they traveled along the foot of the tall mountain range that Ziva had always seen from Rivendell, she noticed she wasn't the only one in awe of the rugged beauty of the landscape around them. She caught the hobbits many times looking around in wonder, as well as Legolas, the latter surprising her most. The rolling green hills and rocky outcroppings here and there created a very picturesque scene, and the fellowship could see for miles while on top of one of the hills. The sunsets and sunrises were especially spectacular, with the sunsets casting a rosy glow on the snow-capped mountains above them.
About ten days out from Rivendell, Ziva had finally gotten up the courage to ask Legolas about his wonder with the country around him after watching him gaze contentedly around them for about the tenth time that day.
Legolas smiled before he started speaking. "As old as I am, I have not really seen much of Middle Earth beyond my forest, and I have never been this far South. It is a beautiful country."
Ziva nodded in agreement. "I have never seen anything like it." It was then that Ziva finally processed Legolas's statement of age and she suddenly narrowed her eyes at him, puzzlement and curiosity mingled in her features. "How old are you exactly?" she asked, trying to decipher any age herself. She had always known that Arwen, Elrohir, Elladan, and of course Elrond and probably all the elves in Rivendell were older than her, and she knew that elves aged differently than humans, but she had never specifically asked one of her elven friends their ages to have any guidelines to go by. Maybe, ninety something?
Legolas sent her a half grin before he answered. "Nine hundred and five." As Ziva's mouth literally fell open at the answer, Legolas's grin turned into a full smirk.
"Nine hundred and …"
"Five," Legolas finished for her. "And I'm not even as old as Arwen," he added, oddly smug.
Ziva couldn't quite wrap her head around that. Aging differently she got, but being practically a thousand years old, and yet not looking much older than her? That was just…..mind-blowing. And Arwen. She didn't even want to know that number. And to think that 100 was old back home. Legolas elbowed her in the side as they continued walking and nodded to Aragorn. "Aragorn's eighty seven."
"You are joking?" At Legolas's shake of his head Ziva shook her head. "That is it. I am not asking anyone else how old they are here. That is just….weird."
Legolas's musical elven laugh filled the air as they continued walking together over the rough terrain, though now Ziva's mind, having been reminded by Legolas's name dropping, drifted back to Aragorn and what may have happened between him and Arwen at their parting. As much as she wanted to talk to him, however, she wanted to get him alone. So far he had mostly been travelling with Gandalf, the two of them discussing routes and timing, so she hadn't had the chance. But she could wait. She was patient. Most of the time.
It took her a couple of days, but she was finally able to get Aragorn alone as the two of them brought up the rear of the company. As she had become more used to the land around them, she had began to pay more attention to their own company and notice that each day as they walked that almost as a rule Boromir was as far away as he could get from her, and Legolas and Gimli were as far apart from each other as they could get. It didn't change much from day to day and clearly showed who got along and who didn't. The hobbits, Gandalf, and Aragorn easily intermingled amongst everyone, but that didn't change.
However, as Ziva found herself walking alongside Aragorn, she noticed him keeping on eye on Boromir.
"You do not trust him," she stated, not even bothering to make it a question.
Aragorn shook his head as some amusement flickered across his face. "Of all the things you are, Ziva, subtle is not one of them."
Ziva shrugged and smirked. "I find being blunt to be the easiest path at times."
"Indeed." Aragorn continued walking in silence before he sighed. "I just don't like the way he looks at Frodo and I'm afraid of what he may do. I don't think he would do anything purposeful to hurt Frodo, but the Ring has corrupted the hearts of stronger men before, and I'm afraid of what it is doing to him."
"Well, I just do not like him period," Ziva responded, most of her attention now on Boromir as well. "He is an arrogant misogynistic man with too much pride."
Aragorn smiled softly before looking over at the Israeli. "He is an honorable man, Ziva. The two of you just got off to a rough start."
"Ha!" Ziva exclaimed. "That is an understatement." They walked in silence for a while until Ziva finally broke it again. "So you do not think he would hurt Frodo intentionally to get at the Ring?"
Aragorn emphatically shook his head. "Have you seen him with Merry and Pippin?"
Ziva had to agree with him there. Boromir had obviously taken a shine to the two young hobbits, and they had taken a shine to him as well. It didn't matter what Ziva thought of him on his attitudes towards her; she could not deny he was wonderful for the hobbits. He was so patient with them and was never too busy to help them out if they needed it. And the hobbits, when not bugging Ziva, were not too shy to bug him.
"That I cannot argue with," she said aloud. As they walked, she began to muse on the Ring, now that Aragorn had brought it up. She could not deny that there was definitely a pull that tended to try to make her gravitate towards Frodo as they walked. She could feel the evil, but also the power, which scared her, though thrilled her at the same time. The amount of power anyone would have possessing that Ring would be unimaginable, but Ziva shivered at the amount of evil that that person would also be touched with. That still did not keep her mind from wandering to what could be done with that Ring back home, but then Aragorn's words from the council would seep into her mind, effectively breaking that train of thought. That line from the movie Spiderman that Tony loved to walk around saying would also creep into her mind: With great power comes great responsibility, and she didn't think that anyone should have the responsibility of having that much power. As she had seen in her world, as well as what she had read of the history of this one, power was corruptible and therefore should not be used lightly.
As Ziva mused, Aragorn and her continued to walk in silence until Ziva shook her head, breaking her train of thought, and finally got up the courage to ask Aragorn what she had been dying to ask for days. "So what happened between you and Arwen?"
Aragorn sighed. "Again, subtlety Ziva." He didn't say anything more for a couple of strides, then began speaking again. "I tried to give her back her necklace and told her that what we had was a dream, and that she should sail across the sea….with her people." Aragorn's eyes and shoulders dropped with that, and Ziva could tell the great weight he was carrying with that. She had never seen two people so in love as Aragorn and Arwen, and she was sure that it had killed him to tell her that, and her to hear it. Ziva's heart ached for her friends.
"How did she take it?"
"Not very well."
Ziva studied Aragorn as they continued walking. "I should hurt you for hurting my friend, you know. She loved you entirely."
Aragorn's eyes closed in pain as his walking slowed. "And that is what made it all the more difficult."
Ziva continued to study Aragorn and things finally clicked. "Elrond got to you, did he not? Told you to let her go?" Aragorn's silence was all the confirmation she needed from him. A retort though was cut short by Gandalf's calling of a halt for the day. The sun was beginning to set, and the land was starting to cool in the failing light. They had reached a bit of an alcove amongst the rocks on this hill, providing pretty good shelter from any wind that may pick up. There was also some vegetation coverage and rock ledges that would provide ample coverage from unwanted eyes, if needed.
As the group halted, she moved forward up their little line towards Sam and Bill. Since Rivendell you could not separate those two, and it was touching watching how much the pony cared for the hobbit, and vice versa. As she reached Sam she sent him a quick smile.
"Let me help you Sam," she said, helping to lift the heavy packs off of the pony's back. Merry and Pippin ran over to help as well, taking items from Ziva as she pulled them off Bill. She saw their ulterior motives though as they started unpacking the food from the packs for dinner. "Do you two think if anything other than food?" she asked, humor lacing her tone.
"I'm insulted," Merry responded, looking up at her in mock hurt. "You know how much we love our pipe weed." At that Merry's face had broke into a grin and Pippin had outright laughed. They slowed down their unpacking motions though and didn't seem so frantic.
"Can you cook, Ziva?" Pippin asked, curiosity filling his face and voice.
"Of course," Ziva responded, pulling the last pack off of Bill. "I am a very good cook, or at least I was back home. Things are a little more complicated here."
"Good," a voice said as Boromir moved past her, bumping into her. "You can cook dinner tonight then," and then she barely heard him say under his breath as he walked away, "and finally do something you are supposed to do." Ziva ground her teeth together, but kept her mouth shut. She was tired, the hobbits were hungry, and she was learning to pick her battles with him. As infuriating as he was, constant bickering back and forth between the two of them wouldn't solve anything or help anybody. As Pippin placed a large pot in front of her with hopeful eyes, Ziva smiled.
"Stew it is."
Legolas woke Ziva up a few hours before dawn. She yawned as she blinked sleepily while looking up at Legolas.
"Ready for my shift already?" she said through another yawn. She was used to waking up early to be able to run before work, but waking up this early after a light sleep and after walking for most of the last few days was brutal.
Legolas nodded as he stood up. "All is quiet. Do you want me to stay up with you for a bit to keep you company?"
Ziva shook her head as she stood up as well, running her fingers through her hair and wincing as she encountered a tangle. "I should be fine, thank you." Legolas nodded as he settled in to his bedroll. "Do you even sleep?" she asked, and Legolas chuckled.
"We sleep with our eyes open, but yes we do sleep."
Ziva shook her head as she headed up to one of the rocky outcroppings, settling herself in a cross-legged position. "Creepy." She stifled another yawn as she took in the landscape, seeing no movement. The snores and soft breathing of her sleeping companions reached her ears from where they were sprawled beneath her. Her, Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn, Boromir, and Gandalf took turns as lookouts throughout the night, letting the hobbits get as much much-needed sleep as they could. Ziva enjoyed this pre-dawn time though. In the cool and quiet she could think and just relax. The ache from missing her friends back home was still there, but it was not as strong as it had been and finally getting to do something besides sitting around Rivendell had helped calm her mind and the ache. She still missed her friends, but her sense of duty gave her a reason to be here at least.
As she breathed in the cool, crisp air she thought of all the mornings running in DC. She definitely preferred the quiet silence here, but what she would pay for just a cup of coffee and a long hot shower.
The minutes melded into hours as Ziva sat there surveying the land around her, smirking when Pippin rolled over quite violently, smacking Merry in the process. Merry, for his part, hardly even reacted, besides grumbling and rolling over. Gimli's snores easily drowned out everyone else's in his sleeping spot on the perimeter of the group, though the sound increased and decreased in intensity throughout the night. Besides their little group, however, all was quiet.
As the light started to creep over the mountains, she heard a stirring among their camp and her eyes flickered down to see Aragorn sitting up. Noticing Ziva watching him he made his way over to her, sitting down beside her. They sat in comfortable silence for a while before Aragorn finally broke it.
"You made a good stew last night."
Ziva smiled. "I try. It is actually surprising how well that all went together." Aragorn nodded in acknowledgement before stifling a yawn. "Could not sleep?"
Aragorn shook his head. "Too quiet. And I feel like something is coming."
"It is an odd feeling," Ziva said as she nodded.
The two sat in silence again until the sun had fully peeked over the mountains, bathing their camp in sunlight and causing everyone else to begin stirring. Pretty soon almost everyone was stretching out muscles sore from walking and sleeping on the hard ground, beginning to move around camp packing up and getting ready for the day. Except the hobbits. All four continued sleeping, blissfully unaware of the bustle beginning around them. Frodo was the first to awake, not too long after everyone else had woken up, Sam following not too far behind. After Legolas finished with all of his things he had approached the two humans sitting on the rocky outcropping.
"Go ahead; I'll keep watch now."
Ziva and Aragorn nodded while standing, Ziva hissing as her muscles complained of the movement. They had cramped up a bit sitting in that cross-legged position for so long, so she had to shake them out before she could properly make her way down to her bedroll to roll it up.
By that time Sam had already started the fire and began cooking breakfast for everyone. The smell of food finally awoke the last two hobbits who were very eager to help, then eat. The two young hobbits, once they finished, approached the two men who were sitting off together, smoking their pipes.
"Could we continue our sword lessons?" Merry asked, holding out his short sword. In their spare time, Aragorn and Boromir had begun teaching the two hobbits how to use their swords, and they had picked up on it rather quickly. Ziva always enjoyed watching the lessons, storing some tips that were thrown at them away for use later.
"Of course," Boromir smiled, putting his pipe away and standing up with his sword in hand. "Alright, let's review stance again." Boromir then proceeded to go over bits and pieces of their previous lessons, such as stance and various parrying and attacking forms, while Aragorn called out tips from the side as they worked.
Also finished with her breakfast, Ziva settled herself down with Frodo and Sam on a rock overlooking their training session, Frodo and Sam both with a plate of food in hand. Despite the man annoying her to no end, she couldn't help but smile at how good he was with the hobbits. He was very patient with them, and was quick to reward when they did something well. He was also quick to correct (as was Aragorn), so his compliments meant all the more to the eager hobbits. Ziva was amazed to see the improvement already showing in them. Boromir was nothing if not a good teacher.
As they were watching, Gandalf had settled behind them smoking his pipe on the rock Ziva had used earlier as a lookout point. Legoals had settled to the side of him, still keeping a lookout, as Gimli settled below him with his pipe as well. Through the clatter of swords and quick instructions being given below her, Ziva heard Gimli start complaining. She had heard him ask of their route earlier, and as she did not know this land at all she hadn't paid much attention, but she did pay attention to his complaining.
"If anyone was to ask for my opinion, which I note they're not, I'd say we were taking the long way round. Gandalf, we could pass through the Mines of Moria. My cousin, Balin, would give us a royal welcome."
"No Gimli," Gandalf responded, a tinge of fear in his voice, "I would not take the road through Moria unless I had no other choice."
At the fear in Gandalf's voice Ziva had turned to look at him, and thus noticed Legolas running to another outcropping to look away South, his attention completely focused on the sky. As she squinted in the direction he was looking, so noticed a dark grey blob shape in the sky, oddly moving quickly towards them. It looked like a cloud, but something about it was off. Her attention didn't even waver when all the commotion started going on behind her with the hobbits and Boromir and Aragorn.
"What is that?" she asked aloud, drawing everyone else's attention towards what Legolas was doing.
"Nothing," Gimli responded gruffly, pulling his pipe out of his mouth. "It's just a wisp of cloud."
At that she heard Boromir behind her respond. "It's moving fast. And against the wind."
Ziva couldn't help but agree with Boromir there and continued to squint until Legolas's voice broke out, "Crebain, from Dunland!"
Aragorn almost immediately yelled, "Hide!" and everyone began scrambling like ants in an overturned anthill. Boromir was calling for Merry and Pippin while Aragorn was calling for Frodo as Ziva tried to grab as many of their things out in the open as possible to get them under cover. Though she didn't know what Crebain were, everyone else's reaction was enough to tell her they weren't good. As everyone ducked under something she could finally hear the flapping of many wings, and she could finally see what Crebain were. Large black birds, almost like crows, flew over, circling their area and cawing as they flew, and Ziva held her breath until they were gone. Along with everyone else Ziva finally crawled out from hiding after waiting a few minutes after the birds had passed, and her eyes flickered to Gandalf as he spoke.
"Spies of Saruman! The passage South is being watched. We must take the Pass of Caradhras," he finished, his gaze turning upon the snow-capped mountain above them.
As Gandalf looked up towards the mountain, Ziva's heart sank. Though she didn't quite get the idea that this Saruman she heard of was using birds as spies, she did get the new peril of their journey in front of them and the cold they were going to have to face. Being from the desert she had never been particularly fond of dealing with snow, and now with nothing more than cloaks and wool clothing to keep them warm, Ziva was not looking forward to having to brave that pass.
A/N: So I updated! I know I am a terrible, awful, no good author, and I am so so so sorry for going MIA for a year. I blame the TV show Once Upon a Time, but I guess that only accounts for the time since October. All your reviews, follows, and favorites are so very much appreciated, though they make me feel guilty each time I get one when I haven't updated in a while. So I sincerely apologize, and hope you all enjoyed this chapter. After reading all of your reviews, I am going to be sticking mostly to canon, though divulging here and there to of course accommodate Ziva in the group. I really hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as i enjoyed writing it, and as always I always appreciate any reviews!
Thanks for reading!