Six months had passed since the War of the Ring had ended. Six months since Scott's death, Boromir's death and Phoenix's demise.
With all the losses they had all suffered, moving on had seemed impossible but time had moved them forward anyway. Slowly lands were being rebuilt as the dead was being mourned and the scars of war were trying to heal. On a political level a lot of changes had happened, many of them influenced by the personal changes and choices made by the leaders of different countries. Most Elves had chosen to stay, some had left. Elrond had stayed for his daughter's sake, reinforcing Rivendell's strength and importance. Galadriel and most of the Elves of the Golden Wood had stayed as well as had Legolas's family and most of the Mirkwood Elves. Gondor and Rohan, the countries that had suffered most during the war, were being rebuilt with amazing haste, getting help from the Elves. The one who felt most alone had been Gimli who was now alone but Legolas had kept his word and the two friends had worked to banish Gimli's sorrow and loneliness in the light of a new future.
As soon as Gandalf and Ororo had returned to Gondor with Frodo and Sam, Faramir had been appointed the new Steward of Gondor. Still in sickbed Aragorn was the practical leader but until it was the right time for his coronation Gondor couldn't be without an official leader. Faramir was only too happy to let Aragorn tend to Gondor's affairs, having complete faith in the future King. His grief at his brother's death had almost taken his own life as his body had refused to heal and he had cradled his sorrow the way an Elf would. Eowyn's gentle encouragement, support and understanding had brought him through his darkest hour as Faramir realized that he wasn't alone. He had been so used to having only his brother and no one else. So used to being disregarded and looked down on by everyone but him that he had thought Boromir's death would mean the end of the only love and support he had ever had. Eowyn had patiently proven him wrong and had helped him through his painful physical recovery as well as through his grief and his nightmares. She had helped his mental healing after his torture at Phoenix's hands as he tried to come to terms with the fact that his own father had been witness to his agonizing ordeal and had wanted to kill him. Finding a safe haven in her, a new focus point in his life, Eowyn and him announced their engagement five months after Boromir's death, when Faramir was declared physically healed. The fact that they did this together instead of Faramir doing it alone spoke volumes of the equal relationship they shared, a unique thing among the human race of Middle Earth. Aragorn had been crowned King four months after the end of the war, having waited until Minas Tirith and the palace resembled its old glory instead of a war tired and half destroyed city. The ceremony had been glorious with a lot of fine guests, beautiful dresses, jewellery and everything in between. It had taken Ororo and Rogue's thoughts to a real fairytale scenario. After his coronation Aragorn had finally married Arwen and his smile of happiness had stayed on his lips for weeks to follow. Elrond had given his daughter away while Legolas had been best man. Aragorn had given Faramir the title of prince of Ithilien, as the title of steward was now no more. Having been given a new title and a new position, as the King's chief advisor, it was possible for Faramir to ask Eomer if he was allowed to court his sister. Eomer had smiled at him when he had asked and said that Eowyn had already talked to him and had said that if her brother didn't approve of her choice she would simply go through with it anyway. Faramir had smiled at this characteristic show of strength from the woman who had stolen his heart and when they had announced their engagement the month after Eomer had been the one who had cheered the loudest, knowing his sister had finally found a man who would support her instead of trying to tame and cage her.
Two other events had dominated the passing months. One was Legolas and Ororo's official signing of their marriage papers to make their marriage official in none Elven nations and the other was the birth of their child; neither had been easy. Legolas's father, though intrigued and fascinated by Ororo's beauty and power, was hesitant to allow a human not of noble blood to wed his son. While such issues had been overlooked during the war they began to become important again now that peace had been restored. As prince of Mirkwood Legolas had obligations and a position of power and his father was not happy to see that be shared with Ororo. Legolas's father hadn't been the only one who had been concerned. Aragorn had tried to discourage Legolas, reminding him that Logan, Rogue and Ororo were still trying to find a way back to their own world. Aragorn's only concern, as always, was his friend's health, happiness and not to mention his life but the young Elven prince would hear nothing of it. Logan and Rogue had been concerned as well but when Ororo had said she was happy and what truth was, that they might be here forever, they had wished her luck. The papers had been signed after Logan had done some claw showing and growling at Legolas's father…while the groom wasn't present of course. Almost six months after the battle Ororo gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. The baby quickly became a symbol of new life and hope for all of Gondor who had taken a quick liking to the unusually colored woman who lived with an Elven prince at the palace.
The palace in Minas Tirith had become a focus point for many of the people who had fought together in the war. Haldir had stayed there a month's worth of time and had then returned to the Golden Wood but he would often come and visit. His normal stoic look had shatetred at Merry and Pippin had been devastated at Boromir's death and when Aragorn had arranged a beautiful and grand burial for him three months after his death, though they had no body, they had cried for the man who had been their protector and friend and so much more. Even Haldir's normally stoic face had shattered into a look of deep grief when he had paid his final respects to the man who had saved his life. Merry and Pippin had left for the Shire after the funeral with Sam and Frodo who had been declared physically healed yet both, most noticeably Frodo, would always carry within them scars from the evil of the One Ring that nothing could heal.
Logan had been the driving force behind trying to find a way back for Ororo, Rogue and himself and through it all Scott's absence, the lack of his calm leadership and control, had been sorely missed. Together with Aragorn, Arwen, Legolas, Gimli, Faramir and Eowyn when they weren't visiting her brother who was now the new King of Rohan, the remaining X-men lived at the palace in Minas Tirith which were frequently visited by old friends from the war. In between helping with the rebuilding they would talk about how to get back. Though Ororo did her best she found she was happy here which was why Logan was the one pushing them forward. He had no great desire to remain in Middle Earth forever and neither had Rogue. Even living like a princess had its downsides. Taking a warm bath took forever as the water had to be warmed by the servants. There was no radio or TV and entertainment of any kind was very rare. Also travelling took forever unless they could get Ororo to fly them somewhere and as her pregnancy had advanced she had not had the power to do so. There had even been a point where Ororo's pregnancy had brought her so much pain that despite Ororo's distaste for the idea since she wanted the baby then an abortion had been talked about as the possible only solution to save her life. Though humans and Elves could get offspring then it was the humans of Middle Earth they had mated with. Most women of Middle Earth were strong women, used to a hard life. Ororo was delicately boned and bearing the child of an interracial encounter might be more than she could bear. Luckily they had been proved wrong, despite the fact that Elves were pregnant 15 months and she went 12, overdue for a human but too early for an Elf. The lack of medical equipment had made the birth a living hell for Ororo with nothing to take her mind off the pain. Though when she had held her baby in her arms she had forgotten about it. The proud parents had decided to call the baby Aigle Katherine Ann. Aigle meant light in Greek for she was their light after darkness and Katherine Ann had been Scott's deceased mother's name and Ororo had wished to remember her fallen friend in this way. Legolas and she had agreed that if the baby had been a boy one of his names would have been Scott.
Logan's thoughts returned from the past when he reached the palace after having helped rebuilt some houses at the east end of the city. "Honey, I'm home," Logan called playfully as two guards had opened the front door to the palace for him, letting him into the impressive front hall. He stood looking up towards the grand staircase and had to admit that the reconstruction work now almost finished on the palace was magnificently done. The palace was no longer the dark and gray massive building it had been. It now shined with life and colour, having been restored to stand as a symbol of Gondor's grandeur and glory.
"Logan!" Rogue yelled happily, grinning widely as she appeared at the top of the stairs and ran down and into Logan's arms who smiled and span her around before he put her down and kissed the top of her head ever so softly.
"Missed me?" he asked softly, half teasing.
"Always," she replied and hugged him close, careful that her chin touched only his shirt. When first she had seen Logan in the finer, more regal robes he had been given after the battle she had thought he looked strange, used to seeing him in the plain versions of Middle Earth clothes. However now she thought he looked like a prince and her, dressed in yet another long dress with long tight sleeves, a fairytale princess.
"Logan, my husband bid me say that he wishes to discuss the progress of the reconstruction of the eastern part of Gondor with you in the library before dinner," Ororo said as she appeared at the head of the stairs, holding her daughter safe in her arms. Dressed all in white with diamonds around her neck, in her hair and ears, she looked every inch the goddess she had been thought to be.
"Okay. I'll go see him now then." Logan pressed one more kiss to Rogue's hair before he with a playful gesture kissed her gloved hand and gave her a little bow. She laughed as she recalled the diplomacy and tact lessons they had all been given a few weeks back now that the political game was coming back as the main power in Middle Earth instead of brute force.
Ororo flew slowly down with Aigle in her arms and landed gracefully beside the couple. "Hey darlin'. Have you been good to your mom and your Aunt Marie?" Logan asked the small baby, his eyes and voice softening as he looked at her. She grinned at him and made a noise as she reached up her small hands towards him. Aigle had pointed ears, both not as prominent as Legolas's but her skin was a soft and beautiful warm brown colour which alone would bring her a long line of suitors. She seemed to be growing normally for a human so they couldn't say yet if she had gained her father's immortality.
"She has been wonderful," Ororo said with mother pride shining in her eyes.
"But we need to get back home soon," Rogue complained. "It's boring here. All I'm expected to do is sew or pick flowers or paint or something like that."
"Didn't you and 'Ro help rebuilt the houses to the west?" Logan asked, letting Aigle play with a finger on his right hand. Ororo was regaining her strength and helped fly debris away and move heavy objects with her mutant abilities.
"Yes but there wasn't much I could do," Rogue admitted. She didn't regret she had given up the powers the Ring had given her but at times she would realize that had she had those magical powers she would have been much more useful.
Sensing her thoughts Logan added, "Faramir told me yesterday that he really appreciated your help on the yearly state budgets for Gondor."
"Yeah…" She was unconvinced. Since they were now all living at the palace they would all eat together so they had all gotten to know each other better and she knew how sensitive and kind hearted Faramir was. He would have asked her to help him to make her feel better and from what she had seen then she doubted he had really needed her help.
"We did build Aigle a pram earlier today. Or began on it," Ororo said helpfully.
Rogue frowned a little. "I'm still not sure if we ought to give this culture too much of our knowledge. Prams probably wouldn't have been discovered for hundreds of years…"
"We are still not sure why we were brought here in the first place," Ororo reminded her. "I think we can safely say that we were not sent back when our purpose, to help win the war, was over for we are still here."
"I talked to Gandalf again the other day and he insists he neither has the knowledge or the power to send us back nor to have brought us here in the first place. His theory is that Middle Earth itself, the spirits and the magic in this Earth, in every living thing in Middle Earth, intensified his silent plea for warriors to come and help defend Middle Earth and that brought us here…the best defence a large but still limited magical energy source could find," Logan explained.
"I don't suppose he can tap into this universal energy again?" Rogue asked, by now used to debating magic as a matter of fact instead of a fantasy element.
"He claims he can't."
"You believe him?"
"I see no reason for him to lie now when the war is over."
"It would help our case if we knew for sure where we are," Ororo said thoughtfully, absently letting Aigle play with her long white hair.
"I know," Logan sighed. They had talked about this many times before. "I think we covered all the options the other day: parallel universe, another planet, Earth's past or alternative past…I think we even talked about the possibility that we were living an illusion forced on us by a powerful telepath or that we or one of us were simply mad…or dreamin'."
"There must be something we have overlooked," Rogue mused.
"The only mysterious thing I remember is when Galadriel told me I would be the bridge between two worlds. She repeated this at Aragorn and Arwen's wedding," Ororo said, most of her mind on her daughter as she grinned at her and the small baby happily made noises than the new mother tried her best to see if they sounded like a word. While she spoke English and at times Swahili, her native language, with her child then Legolas would speak Elfish, or rather his Elfish dialect as she had learnt that like Chinese it wasn't really one language but many different ones. She hadn't yet mastered Legolas's native tongue but she practised. On the other hand he hadn't mastered Swahili either.
"We must assume there is some kind of logic to all this. After all there were factors to our advantage here…we look like the humans of Middle Earth and we all speak English," Rogue said, thinking.
"Maybe we just think we all speak English," Ororo thought out loud.
"Bridge between two worlds…We should bring her here and ask her to explain," Logan suggested his eyes on the baby.
"Yeah…"Rogue began when suddenly an idea hit her. "Of course! That's it!" She yelled excited.
"What is, darlin'?" Logan asked puzzled as both Ororo and him looked surprised at her.
"The bridge between two worlds… Galadriel didn't mean Ororo. She meant the baby and she didn't mean a bridge between humans and Elves because that would be Aragorn and Arwen and she didn't mean between us as strangers and them as native to this land because we were never supposed to stay here for good. She meant Aigle! Aigle is the bridge between two worlds," Rogue explained excitedly.
"Which two worlds?" Logan asked, a smile beginning to spread over his lips. He thought he already knew the answer but needed to hear it.
"Middle Earth and Earth….their home and ours. When Gandalf spoke of magic in every living thing in Middle Earth that included Aigle. Somehow she must possess some kind of energy or magic because of her mixed inherence which can safely connect the two worlds."
Ororo and Logan were silent for some time. "It does seem reasonable," Ororo admitted with some reluctance. She didn't want to face the choice a chance to go home would mean but she would never lie to her friends either.
Logan smiled widely. "You're a genius, baby!" he said and gave her a big embrace before he drew back. "My wife's a fuckin' genius," he said with pride shinning in his eyes, making Rogue blush at his openly admiring stare. He looked up towards the first floor, in the direction of Aragorn's study where Gandalf would often be, debating matters of state with the King. "Gandalf, where are you, you old devil?" He yelled happily. "Come here! We have an idea!"
"Now, remember…I cannot guarantee this will work," Gandalf warned for the nth time at least.
"We know, we know," Logan replied and made a dismissive hand gesture as if it was of no consequence.
It was two months since Rogue had voiced her idea and in those months everyone had gotten busy. Gandalf had felt there was an acceptable margin of error to the idea but, as he had repeated, he wasn't sure if it would work. In the two months he had worked to figure out how exactly such energy as what Rogue had suggested could be manipulated. Aragorn had sent for Haldir who had contacted Galadriel but the Elven Queen had said she didn't know how it worked. She had simply seen in a vision that through Ororo there would be a bridge between two worlds. Her visions weren't precise enough to help them with the hows and whys.
Gandalf had gotten the idea to try and use a mixture of his and Rogue's powers. Rogue would absorb a little of the baby's powers as Gandalf's magic was touching her aura. In that moment when Rogue absorbed some of the baby's powers Gandalf would mould the energy and seek the assistance of all the energy around him in Middle Earth to help him mould and form the energy to create the same kind of inter-dimensional portal that had brought the X-men to Middle Earth. Gandalf couldn't get the energy out of Aigle himself but the plan wasn't without risks. If the baby had no powers, which no one, neither Elf or wizard had been able to say with certainty, then Rogue's touch could be deadly. Furthermore, if that happened and Gandalf tapped into an energy of death he himself would be in danger as could Rogue if she could not control her powers and ended up absorbing the baby's death. Ororo and Legolas had both opposed the plan, fearful foremost for their baby's life and secondly for Rogue and Gandalf's health. However Rogue had raised a valid point when she had asked about the danger of them all remaining in Middle Earth. They did not belong here. What if Middle Earth or their own world was or would suffer from this displacement? Even if this was not the case then, as Ororo had mentioned, they had friends they had left behind, families…They had a cause that still needed to be fought for. If they never returned and their own world would simply pretend they had died then what about the fight for equal rights for all? For humans and mutants in all their diversity? With Scott and Ororo gone so were the X-men's commander and second in command. With Logan gone the X-men lost their greatest warrior. With Jean gone Xavier had lost his closest assistant in his political battle for equal rights. And finally with Rogue gone Xavier had lost one of his best supporters among the younger generation. All this put together could mean that the changes they had fought to bring about might never happen. Their own world could change dramatically and not for the better. On a more personal note Rogue's only hope for finding something to help her control her mutation was in their own world and both Logan and her had grown very tired of staying in a world which for all intents and purposes was still in the Middle Ages. Though it seemed nice looking at the life of a Middle Age royalty like they were being treated then Middle Age royalty still had far less comforts than a normal Western middleclass family and there were huge issues of breach of human rights and lack of equality everywhere despite Aragorn, Faramir, Legolas and Eomer's positive reactions to equal rights. Especially Faramir was pushing for change but a world couldn't and didn't change overnight. No one wanted to give up power and the nobility certainly didn't like the idea of sharing just a fraction of their power with the commoners, vetoing almost all the suggestions Faramir would bring before the council for change. There was also the fact that Middle Earth had no dentists, little medicine, no hospitals and people would die from illnesses and epidemics that had died out long ago on Earth. The average living age here was around fifty for the nobility and often only thirty-five for the peasants who with their hard life worked themselves to death. Added to it came the daily small irritations which by each passing day would seem more and more obvious to the X-men, especially Logan and Rogue who no longer had any reason to try and see the good sides of their unwilling stranding. There were no toilets, no bathrooms, no female hygiene items, no indoor plumbing or heat and of course no electronic devices of any kind.
In the end the decision became apparent when strange storms and tornadoes began to rage the east of Gondor out of season. Though it didn't necessary have to have anything to do with their staying in Middle Earth it was the most likely theory since the hurricanes were out of Ororo's control and Gandalf could not control them either. It was reasonable to assume that Earth would also be affected, maybe also with growing violent weather or an even worse disaster.
However knowing they had to leave and then do so wasn't easy. They now had friends here and Ororo had even more than that; she had a husband and a child. Leaving Legolas could mean his death yet staying could mean the death of two worlds. Despite their desire to remain together both Ororo and Legolas were acutely aware of their obligations to their worlds. However despite Legolas's acceptance that he might die, claiming and meaning that the few months he had had with Ororo was enough, then Ororo would not give up without a fight. She would not let the man she loved die. She had seen too much death already. She had consulted Aragorn, Arwen, Haldir, Elrond and any other Elf she could get her hands on. They had explained to her that there existed a magical, almost mental bond between an Elf and his or her chosen lifemate. That bond was, unless under extreme situations, only breakable in death. If Ororo left, her soul would leave as well and it was the soul that Elves connected with; not their physical appearance and bodies. This was how Elves could marry other races of any gender. They most often married humans as Elves and humans had most contact but some had bonded with wizards and a few with Dwarfs though the large difference in their values, Dwarfs with their obsession with gold, would often mean that an Elf would not find such a soul desirable. Still it was this searching for love, for someone to share eternity with, that meant Elves looked for a soulmate where physical appearance which included race and gender had no importance. Beautiful of appearance themselves they had no need for anything else but a beautiful soul in the person they chose to share eternity with. However this also meant that Elves connected very strongly with their lover when they had first found the soul that was perfect for them. So without the presence of Ororo's soul Legolas could whither and die since their marriage was still so new and he wouldn't have had time to try and form a mental shield to help him without her presence. However she had found a solution which had made her smile and cry at the same time. If she left Aigle with Legolas in Middle Earth instead of bringing her across which they had both originally agreed upon then the parental bond Legolas had with their daughter could probably save him. There was enough of Ororo's soul in their child for him to cling to Aigle. Yet the thought of parting from Legolas and her child was tearing Ororo apart and she had become more and more miserable, despite her attempts to enjoy the little time she had left with her family.
When the day had come where they would attempt to travel back it was way too soon for all of them, most of all for Ororo. They had known the date three weeks in advance but it was still too soon. The day had started with a mixture of excitement and sadness as Aragorn, Arwen, Faramir, Eowyn, Eomer, Gandalf, Haldir, Gimli, Sam, Frodo, Merry and Pippin had all joined them for breakfast in the palace's large banquet hall. The Hobbits and Haldir had arrived in Gondor a few days earlier to see the X-men off. The meal had been delicious, the conversation and company bittersweet, made even more so by the absence of Boromir and Scott. After the meal the X-men had chosen what clothes to leave in and each had chosen something that reminded them of the joys of Middle Earth instead of all the blood, pain and death they had also seen here.
Legolas had had Faramir, who was a great painter, paint several paintings of Ororo so their daughter would always remember her. He himself knew he would never forget his wife and needed no painting to remind him of the soul she carried within, the soul he had fallen in love with. Faramir had given Ororo a small picture, small enough to fit into the palm of her hand, of Legolas as a parting gift. The dress Ororo had chosen to wear as she travelled home was long and white and had been a gift from Aragorn and Arwen. It was also the dress she had worn when Legolas and her had been writing their marriage papers.
"Is everyone ready?" Gandalf asked and looked around at the three X-men, taking everyone's thoughts back to the present. They had moved to stand outside in the palace's beautiful garden, the Middle Earth residents standing off to one side with Gandalf standing with the X-men and Ororo holding her baby in her arms. Legolas stood just beside her, his arm loose around her waist but this simple show of public affection spoke volumes of the sorrow the Elven Prince was feeling.
"Now that we're here…I'm not sure I can do it," Ororo whispered brokenly, fighting to keep her tears at bay. It wasn't fair that she should leave all this behind. Her sense of honour and loyalty caught up with her and she felt ashamed for her thoughts. At least she was alive; Scott, Boromir, Jean…So many would never return. Would never do anything again. "I'm ready," she said loudly, meeting her friends' worried looks head on, a determined look in her eyes. Rogue moved towards Aigle, a look of deep sympathy on her face as she looked at Ororo. She removed her glove on her right hand and moved it towards Aigle, not touching her. Like Ororo she was dressed in a long dress, this one was green, and had been a gift from Eowyn after Rogue a few weeks back had won her first sword fight against her without the aid of the powers she had borrowed from Gandalf.
"You are certain this will not hurt my daughter?" Legolas asked worried, his eyes going to Gandalf.
"There is a risk to everything but Rogue and I have tried to practice on her husband and it has gone well," Gandalf calmed him and Logan couldn't help but grin a bit at this. Rogue had been reluctant to try taking a bit of Logan's powers and then transfer them to Gandalf but Logan had been insistent; his healing factor would protect him and it would help her in taking just enough from Aigle without harming her when the time came.
"Aigle does not have a warrior's strength," Legolas reminded him but stepped a little away from Ororo anyway, having faith in Gandalf and knowing that Rogue would rather die than hurt his little girl.
"I'll be very careful," Rogue promised, having the fear herself that she might hurt Aigle. She took a deep breath to calm herself. "On your signal," she said to Gandalf who nodded. He moved to stand beside Rogue, preparing himself to manipulate the magic around him, closing his eyes and reaching out to touch the magic of Middle Earth, asking nature Herself for help. After some time which Ororo and Legolas had used to share an almost desperate embrace, his arms closing around her from behind, Gandalf opened his eyes. "Now," he ordered and Rogue quickly touched Aigle's cheek with the faintest touch before quickly removing her hand. Gandalf closed his eyes again as he found the energy Rogue had harvested and began to mould and fold it. Rogue felt like someone was tearing at her heart and she gave a yell of pain. It hadn't hurt this badly when Gandalf had taken Logan's powers from her and she assumed it was the baby's Elven and therefore to her foreign, powers that made it hurt so much. Logan was at her side at once, his strong arms holding her close.
"Shh…it'll be okay, baby," he whispered, trying to be strong for her but her pain was tearing him apart.
"Oh, God!" she yelled as another spasm of pain hit her and her legs gave way under her. Logan eased them both to the ground and she clung to him as if for dear life. He stroked her hair and mumbled nonsense words of comfort. It seemed like forever but was probably only a few minutes when Rogue lifted her face from his shoulder and wiped the tears of pain away from her eyes.
"I'm fine now," she assured him and smiled, trying to ease the worry and concern she could easily read in his eyes and on his face. He nodded relieved and kissed her still gloved hand. She turned around in his embrace and looked at Legolas and Ororo, her eyes focusing on Aigle. "How is she?" she asked worried.
Ororo looked down at her daughter and smiled fondly. "She's alright. She didn't seem to feel any pain."
"Thank God," Rogue mumbled and felt like she could breathe easier. Hurting Aigle had been her greatest fear about this plan. All eyes turned to Gandalf and they heard a sudden sharp 'swoosh' sound. Three meters from Gandalf he had created a strange hole the size of a door that seemed to be made up of standing whitish, almost glowing water.
"Wow," Rogue mumbled, saying what they were all thinking. She made a movement in Logan's arms to indicate she wanted up and he rose, helping her to stand. She gave him a smile as thanks and to indicate she was really all right before she returned to stare at the glowing portal, Logan's arms closing around her waist and she leaned back against him.
"Are we sure this will lead us to Earth?" Ororo asked, her arms instinctively having tightened around her baby in a protective gesture.
"No but it is the most reliable conclusion. I felt Aigle's energy help create this portal and her energy was foreign to me," Gandalf explained seriously.
For a few minutes no one moved, as if everyone were fascinated by the magic they saw and the fact that they were finally here, saying goodbye yet not before they had been forced to say a final goodbye to so many friends on the way. Because of their losses and the people they would part with, it was a bittersweet moment.
"Well…let's get going," Logan said, releasing Rogue from his hold and going towards the portal. They had all said their farewell to the others but Logan stopped in front of Gandalf. "I owe you one," he said and offered his hand. Gandalf smiled a little and shook it, knowing those words covered a multiple of meanings like 'I now think of you as my friend' or as Wolverine would say, a member of his pack, people he cared for and protected.
"You have all done so much for us that the titles and gold Elessar King gave you can never fully convey our gratitude. Middle Earth will miss you," Gandalf said heartfelt as Logan drew back.
"Yeah, well…" Logan looked uncomfortable in the face of such praise. They could only take very few objects with them; only what they could have on their persons. Dressed in his finest clothes from Middle Earth, a set Rogue enjoyed to see him in, saying he looked like a prince, Logan had only taken a small Elven dagger and three coins from Gondor with him; one proclaiming Boromir as Steward which had never been in use but had been only a few prints made in his honour after his death, one from Faramir's short reign and one from Aragorn's kingship. "Just tell Faramir that I'll be back to let him taste my claws if he does go through with his idea of creating statues of us all," Logan complained good natured.
"I will," Gandalf agreed, by now used to Logan's way of teasing and knowing that Faramir would make the tribute statues anyway as it was his way of feeling connected to his friends. He had already started working on a statue of his brother, his dedication in wishing to have it turn out perfectly would probably mean he would work on it for a couple of years. However, when done there was no doubt that it would be the statue that touched the viewer the most of all the statues in the royal garden.
Rogue came to Logan, having put her glove back on. Her right hand found his and he gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. "Ororo?" Rogue gently prompted and Ororo reluctantly drew out of Legolas's embrace. She planted a soft kiss to Aigle's forehead, tears falling down her cheeks as she handed her daughter to Legolas who took the precious bundle and held her close to his heart.
"Nîn meleth…My beloved wife," Legolas said softly as he gave her a long kiss, trying to put all his love and all his pain of her departure into that single gesture.
Ororo gently stroked his cheek. "How can I leave now when I have just found everything I have always been looking for?" she whispered, her voice betraying the agony she felt within.
"I ask myself the same but we cannot let personal goals bring our worlds to ruin, no matter how hard that is," Legolas replied, his eyes and voice reflecting his own turmoil. Their eyes locked and they knew everything had already been said…there was nothing left to do. Ororo forced herself to turn away and with determined steps and tears down her cheeks she reached Logan and Rogue. She could read their concern easily and fought to put up a brave front as she wiped her tears away with the back of her hand.
"I'm alright," she assured but fooled no one.
"It is time," Gandalf said and Logan nodded.
"Let's go," he simply said and holding Rogue's hand he moved to the tunnel. There was no pull from it; it was like standing before a mirror of glass. Rogue's free hand found Ororo's right hand, intending to keep the grip on her husband and her friend through the tunnel. Logan was just about to take the step that would take him through the tunnel when Ororo tore her hand to herself.
"No!" she protested loudly. Logan turned back towards her and she came to him, standing face to face with him.
"'Ro?" he questioned.
"Please understand, my friend," she begged. "I see the life I will lead back on Earth and I see myself as alone and lonely as I was before. I will never marry, never have children…never find anyone new to love. I will die alone as I will have lived alone."
"You will find someone," Logan protested.
She shook her head. "No." She foresaw his protest and held up a hand to stop his words before they were spoken. "Do not disagree with me; I know the truth of my words."
"What are you saying?" Rogue asked concerned. Ororo turned to look at her younger friend and gave her a small smile.
"I have more reasons to stay than to go. Scott is dead as are Jean. They were my closest friends. Unlike you I do not travel home with my beloved…I leave my family behind."
"I wish you to be happy even if it means I can never see you again but what about the growing storms?" Rogue asked.
"Maybe it is enough you two leave. Maybe I am now a part of Middle Earth. All the Elves I have met have told me my connection to the Earth reminds them of their own," Ororo suggested hopefully.
"There is also the theory we talked about some time ago…" Logan said thoughtfully. At Rogue and Ororo's questioning look he elaborated, "Our idea that maybe we are in the past so that maybe Scott and Jean will be alive when we return because they cannot die before they were born. This would then apply to you too," he said to Ororo. "When you have lived a full life with Legolas you would still die long before you were born and would be alive in our own time. To Rogue and myself, it would be as if you stepped through the portal with us." His logical explanation made Ororo fondly remember why Scott had always listened to Logan when he did in fact consider his options instead of letting his animal side control his actions and outbursts.
"The portal would in essence kill us so we could be reborn in our own time," Rogue concluded.
"Something like that," Logan agreed.
"It is just a theory," Ororo said but hope was in her eyes and voice.
"'Ro, everything about this is nothin' but theories," Logan reminded her gently.
"Logan, I cannot hold the portal open much longer," Gandalf warned, his voiced strained by the effort and Logan nodded his understanding to him.
"I can't say I understand how you can choose to live like this, give up so much but love…Love I understand," Logan said warmly, his eyes sweeping over Rogue who smiled back at him. "I understand all the trials, all the rules you'll break for love."
"I know," she said simply, knowing that Logan and Rogue would one day, as they grew older, have to deal with the fact that they would most likely never have children, never even have sex and that Rogue would die many, many years before Logan.
"I wish you would come with us but you must make your own decision and I'll support it, no matter what it is. If all things fail then maybe you can somehow create a new portal you could enter," Logan suggested, not sure if that was possible without Rogue but it might be.
"I could be risking the fate of two worlds. How would I ever be able to live with that? I would know how Middle Earth would fare but not Earth," she protested half heatedly.
"If you left you would know how Earth was but never Middle Earth," Logan gently reminded her. "Besides, as said, we don't know if leaving will end the storms here in Middle Earth. It might worsen them. We don't know if all of us needs to leave or just some of us. Every decision has equally many unknowns."
"Follow your heart," Rogue advised and Ororo smiled before her eyes settled on Aigle's in her father's arms. Aigle's reached out her arms towards her mother, a happy smile on her face as she mumbled nonsense words.
"I…" She knew what she wanted but she felt bad just considering it.
"'Ro, I've never seen you do anything for yourself. I've never seen you be selfish…There would be nothing wrong with being selfish now…just once," Logan said softly, guessing her thoughts.
She smiled at him and hugged him close, her decision made. "I will return. If the storms do not settle down I will leave as well, one way or another," Ororo vowed. If the storms settled down her natural death should bring her back. If not then everything would already be lost due to Scott and Jean's deaths in Middle Earth so she had to believe her death would set things right. Therefore, if they could not recreate the portal she knew she need only die to save both worlds. It would be a death she would not fear as her sense of duty and her feeling of guilt would make it an easily made sacrifice.
"Take care and be happy," Rogue said as she hugged Ororo as well. Logan again took Rogue's hand and Rogue waved to Faramir, Aragorn and the others who had remained at a respectful distance.
Legolas went to Ororo, tears like pearls glimmering in his eternal eyes as he smiled, his joy written all over his face. He balanced their daughter with one hand, embracing Ororo with the other, holding her close. She laid her arms around his neck and breathed in his scent, at peace with her decision.
"This time around try to play nice and don't go picking up any more glittering objects," Logan yelled and earned a heartfelt laugh from Gimli. His eyes softened when they fell on Ororo and her small family. "See you around," he simply said and smiled at her before he stepped through the portal, a firm grip on Rogue's hand.
"Bye," Rogue said before she too disappeared inside the portal. When both X-men were gone from view the portal closed itself and silence settled over the garden.
"Goodbye, my friends. I shall miss you," Ororo mumbled and sensing her mixed emotions of sadness and joy Legolas pulled her closer, his lips dancing over her forehead in a kiss as loving and soft as butterfly wings.
"Fare well," Gandalf mumbled, his eyes on the ground where the portal had been moments before. Only silence answered him.Epilogue
Sixty-seven years had gone by since Rogue and Logan's departure. The storms had settled down and Ororo had remained in Middle Earth. Aigle had grown up to have her father's immortality and easy grace as well as the amazing athletic strength of the Elven people but had inherited her mother's white hair and her eyes were totally white as well. She was able to fly or rather glide on the winds but could otherwise not manipulate the weather. She had been warned that if she married a mortal she would have to give up her immortality but she had readily done so when she had fallen in love with Faramir and Eowyn's oldest son, proving herself to be as sacrificing as her parents. Ororo and Legolas had had one more child, another girl, who had only a vague hint of pointed ears but had Legolas's hair and eyes. However she had inherited Ororo's mutant gene and had developed telepathy, one of the more common mutations back on Earth. Due to her mutation she preferred the company of Elves whose thoughts were ordered and pure and did not hurt her mind. Ororo had tried to teach her how to put up mental shields but as each year passed by she lost more and more memories of Earth and she couldn't recall Xavier's lessons, especially since they had never been relevant for her. This meant that often being in the company of men or other races than Elves pained her and even her mother's presence could pain her if she spent too much time with her. Ororo had a much calmer and more ordered mind than most humans and of humans she and Faramir, both having calm and gentle minds, were Ororo's second child's favorite people but they did not have the mental abilities of the Elves. Thus their second child, named Jean after Ororo's friend, were her father's child like Aigle had been her mother's.
Ororo and Legolas had gotten no more children but had often taken care of Aragorn and Arwen's since they lived at the palace. Aragorn and Arwen had gotten eleven daughters until they finally got the male heir they needed, a fact which especially Eowyn had protested against, finding it unfair that the youngest child would inherit simply because of his gender. Eowyn and Faramir had got only one child, a boy they had named Boromir Eomer, honouring their brothers who they loved dearly. He had inherited his father's gentle beauty and love for art and poetry but had his mother's fire when he saw an injustice. He was probably one of the most honourable warriors in Gondor, only fighting if there was no other way. He was also a great supporter for all his mother's causes, like better rights for women and his father's passionate cause to better the living conditions for the commoners. Faramir and Eowyn had their own palace but would spend many days at Aragorn's palace in Minas Tirith and over the years Aigle and Boromir had fallen in love. Forfeiting her immortality for her love Aigle also gave up her title as princess of Mirkwood to marry Boromir who would inherit his father's title as prince as well as his mother's titles and grounds in Rohan giving her the status as princess of Rohan and Ithilien after her marriage. Since Legolas was not the oldest or an only child Jean would inherit Legolas's titles and lands but given his own immortality she had quite a few years in which she could prepare for any royal duties, especially considering that Legolas himself didn't yet attend to any and he was over 6000 years old.
The years had seemed to pass by quickly. Ororo's thoughts would often wander to her friends and when Faramir had finished his statues she would come to the royal garden from where her friends had left and would sit and talk to the statues of her friends. She especially loved the one of Scott; he looked regal in royal Gondorian robes, a serious and protecting state over him but there was a sadness to his eyes that Faramir had caught masterly, remembering the pain Phoenix's presence had brought him. Talking to the lifelike statue had made her feel as if he had been resurrected in some way. For obvious reasons he hadn't done one for Jean as to Middle Earth there had never been a Jean, only Phoenix.
Ororo had spent her time learning to sew and learning about Middle Earth politics and history. She had learnt how to speak Legolas's Elven dialect and read Elvish literature as well as literature from the other races. She would try and come up with small inventions, like a primitive kind of indoor plumbing which had been inspired by the indoor plumbing in the Roman noble houses on Earth during the reign of the Roman Empire. She had tried to help create a more comfortable existence for everyone as she took the fact that Middle Earth had accepted her as a sign that she could give Middle Earth as many improvements from Earth as possible. The people of Gondor loved and admired her and she learned to love her new life. Legolas and her spent most of their time in Gondor in Aragorn's palace so Legolas could also enjoy his time with his mortal bond brother, Aragorn. Her only sorrow was the absence of her friends and the uncertainty about their fate. Had they reached Earth? Were they well? Was Earth alright? Had Jean and Scott returned to Earth upon their deaths? It was logical to assume that since the storms had ceased in Middle Earth that Earth would be safe as well but she didn't know for sure.
Now, in her 102nd year of life nothing could prevent her from sliding into a sleep from which she would never awake. She had asked Legolas to stay and not follow her into death. With their two daughters remaining Legolas had promised to try and do just that. Aragorn had from his ancestors inherited a longer life span than other humans and as long as he remained Legolas had vowed he would remain as well. Of the council of friends they had kept since the War they had had to bury Eomer who had died from a fever illness twenty years prior and Faramir and Eowyn had died four years ago, dying within days of each other, Eowyn following her husband. Frodo had left for the Undying Lands only a few years after the end of the War, unable to settle back into the quiet life of the Shire, having been too scarred by the War. Sam had wished to follow him but Frodo had wanted him to stay and as always Sam had done what he had been asked to do. However, the day Sam himself had died, more than forty years after Frodo, had been the first time since Frodo's departure that Ororo had ever seen the kind hearted Hobbit smile. Merry and Pippin had lived full lives at the Shire but hadn't been unmarked by their experience and had often visited Faramir at his palace, talking about his brother who they had all loved. They had never been able to get over Boromir's death and because of that Ororo had been glad that the two Hobbits had died before Faramir for his death, their last link to Boromir, would have grieved them greatly. Now, besides Arwen and Aragorn the only ones left from the War were the Elves and an ageing Gimli who Legolas would help to the Undying Lands within a few years.
When Ororo had felt her time was near she had requested to be moved to the palace garden from where her friends had departed so many years ago and Legolas had carried his dying wife himself, down all the stairs of the palace and out into the beautiful sunny autumn garden, filled with colourful flowers and beautiful statues, many of them of Faramir's design. Legolas had had a waiter set up a beautifully Elven carved and soft diva and had gently laid Ororo down upon it. He covered her frail and weak body dressed in the finest of night-dresses made from white silk with a soft white blanket.
Legolas then knelt beside her on the grass and stroked her face, pearly tears appearing in his eyes.
"Do not weep for me, husband. This is the nature of all things…the way all living things, big or small, must end their days," Ororo said softly, weakly and tried to stroke his hair but lacked the strength. Legolas caught her hand in his and softly kissed her palm.
"Yet I will not," he mumbled, locking eyes with her. She smiled faintly.
"No, my magical beloved. You will never grow old." Even in his grief he looked as beautiful as he had the first day they had met. While some humans who married Elves came to resent them for their eternal youth while they themselves grew old Ororo had never done so, never felt that way. Growing old and dying was a natural process that she had never tried to fight, knowing she wouldn't win.
"Nîn meleth," he whispered, a lump in his throat.
"Shh, love. Listen," she said and her eyes went to the leaves dancing in the wind and the treetops being moved by that same wind. "Can you hear?"
Rushing leaves, small animals, the smell of flowers…"Life, melda, life" he said with a longing almost desperate edge to his voice.
"Life and death," she corrected gently. Her eyelids grew heavy and she knew it was time. "You gave me the life I thought I could never have. You gave me love. I thank you," she whispered.
"My love will always be yours. Till the end of time," he said sincerely and held her hand close, holding it over his heart.
She smiled warmly, her eyes looking at his still young and handsome face. She still couldn't believe he had stayed with her till the end, loving her despite her ageing body yet that was how Elves loved, wholly and with their souls, having no concern for physical appearance. "I would have made any sacrifice to stay with you. I just pray no one else had to pay the price for my happiness."
Knowing this was her greatest concern Legolas stroked her now thin and grey but still beautiful long hair. "What words is it you use when you pray to your Goddess? Have faith? Have faith now, my wife…Have faith." He softly kissed her forehead and as he drew back she smiled at him, her eyes closing.
"You made my life worth living," she whispered softly, her voice fading.
"An eternity without love is a curse; not a blessing. You blessed my life," he whispered, tears falling down his cheeks when he realised her eyes had frozen, half-open they stared at him, never to move again. Her lips were slightly curved towards a smile and she looked peaceful, like a natural extension of the beautiful autumn day. The sun was setting, bathing the garden in rays of red and yellow.
"Nîn meleth… Lye inye melme," he whispered as tears blurred his vision. He had known she was dying but still felt a sharp pain in his soul when he lost the connection with her soul. But it was his heart that hurt as he realised this was the end. He remained kneeling by the diva, holding Ororo's hand, his head resting beside Ororo's on the pillow as the year's first snow began to fall. The sun rose and the sun set yet he remained. Aragorn came to get him on the third day when the ground was frozen and the two lovers lay beneath a blanket of snow. First then did he let go of the woman who had become his life.
Time went by, borders changed, countries rose and fell as the Dwarf race died with Gimli and the last Elves left the lands.
Years turned into decades. Decades turned into millenniums and slowly history became legend and legend became myth. A fairytale arose from the mist of time, telling about four magical warriors from another place with powers unseen to Middle Earth, a brave leader, a beautiful Goddess, a mighty man-beast with claws of silver and a sorceress tormented by her own powers. It told of the brave sacrifice of the leader of the men of Gondor and of the leader of the strangers. It told of the evil Phoenix, who was as evil as she was beautiful. It told the bittersweet tale of the man-beast and the sorceress who was wedded in love but who had been cursed for their forbidden passion so that they could never touch. It told a tale of an Elven prince and the Goddess, who sacrificed everything to stay with the Elven prince she had come to love. It told of a bloody and terrible war that had given birth to heroes and villains alike and which had given birth to the strongest of loves and the deadliest of sleeps.
Untouched by change, deep within ruins which had once been a mighty castle lay a beautiful flowery garden, filled with statues which even now, plagued by age, seemed to shine. Legend said that on a warm autumn night when one could hear the rushing of leaves and the sound of small animals. When one could smell the most bittersweet of flowers…then if one looked closely, one could see two figures in the garden, a woman laying on a diva and her Elven lover kneeling beside her, keeping vigil over her till the end of time.
The EndAuthor's notes
Nîn meleth – my love
Lye inye melme – I love you
melda - beloved
I'm not fluent in any Elfish dialect so if this isn't 100 procent correct don't kill me here.
On this last parts political views…I'm keeping with the X-men's vision of tolerance and peace. That's really all there is to it.
Well…here we are…After 3 years, almost 4, I was beginning to wonder if this day would ever come!
Yes. It's finish. This story is completed at around 300 pages. It's kinda strange that this story will no longer be a part of my life…
Since this story has been written over so many years I find it needs some major changes so I'm going to rewrite it in one sitting, making it just the way I always wished to present this novel.
If you're interested in reading the improved, longer and illustrated (I love pictures!) version please e-mail me (nadjalee2000 ) or leave your e-mail as a part of your comments and I will let you know when it is out and where to find it. I plan to have the rewritten version done within some four months time. The new version will include many new chapters as well as a longer ending. If you have anything you wish to see in a longer and more complete version of this story please let me know and I'll look into it.
Well, I guess all there's left to say is say thanks so much to all who has stayed with me. Your support and your kind feedback have meant the world to me. Special thanks to all my betas who has helped improve this fic. Thanks to Jonas for beta on this chapter hugs
Thank you all for staying with me. I hope you found it worth it and liked the ending.
As always feedback will save my life (or at least make my year smiles).