Jeren knocked softly on the twins' door in the main hall. Elladan opened it, with a finger to his lips. Elrohir was asleep on his bed.

"See how he sleeps?" Elladan asked quietly. While he did not seem greatly concerned, Jeren could hear the slight unease in his voice. Elrohir lay there with his eyes closed.

"Is he well?" Jeren asked, whispering.

"He seems to be mending as he should," Elladan answered quietly, "though the Orcish poison is still affecting his mind somewhat."

"And he greatly resents," Elrohir said gruffly, "when people assume he is sleeping, just because his eyes are shut. I can hear you speaking of me as if I am not in the room."

"It sounds as if your mood has not improved with rest." Elladan used a normal voice, no longer attempting to be quiet. He picked up his book and opened the door wider so he could escape. "I think I will leave Jeren to cope with you now."

"That is probably wise, Elladan," Elrohir told him.

Elrohir focused his attention on Jeren.

"Come here, Young Lady." Elrohir propped himself up on pillows and made room for Jeren beside him on the bed, even though the movement cost him. He grimaced as he held his side.

Jeren sat on the bed gingerly, afraid the shift of the mattress might cause him more pain. But he did not react so she sat back against the pillows as Elrohir's arm came around her shoulders. She heard his quiet exhale, as he tried to act as if all the movement had not hurt him.

"I am glad you are here," Elrohir said. "I want to apologize for the scene I caused in the dining hall. As Elladan told you that Orcish poison has still got its hold on my mind."

"Would you have reacted much differently, had you not still been affected by it?"

"Probably not," he admitted. "When I saw the bruise on your face—I told Estel not to hurt you!"

Jeren could tell he was on the verge of another outburst, so she stayed quiet for a few moments.

"As you already know, he did not hurt me," Jeren stated.

"That is not how your face appears—" Elrohir said.

"—Appearances are not always what they seem, Elrohir," Jeren said, interrupting him. I told you then it was an accident."

"Yet you did lie to me," he said, now in more control of his emotions.

"I am sorry for that," Jeren told him. "And I promise to never do that again, no matter who orders me to."

Elrohir hugged her slightly. "You must do as ordered, Jeren. Always. That's what this misbegotten venture was supposed to be about. It turned out just as my father told me it would—badly."

"So the entire thing was set up by you. Why, Elrohir? Because I did not follow a few orders—orders that were not the best way to handle the situations I found myself in?"

"As you say," Elrohir said accusingly. Jeren thought he sounded much like Elrond could, when he was in a mood such as this. "Your leaving to rescue me alone was not just foolish, Jeren, it was dangerous. You know it as well as I do. You were told not to go, not only by your father, but by Elladan as well, yet you did it anyway. And I think you did it—not for spite—but to prove that you are an able warrior. All that it proved is that you are a reckless one."

"I did it because it was you Elrohir!" Jeren exclaimed. "I couldn't abide you being taken by them—I had such fear for you! And I knew not what they might do to you. Time was against you, and I could not wait for the others to be hale enough to seek you themselves!"

Elrohir tilted his head and looked at her from the corners of his eyes. So Jeren qualified her statements. "That was most of the reason, Elrohir—I cannot make you believe me."

He continued to look at her as if he knew she was not being honest with herself. "All right," she admitted. "Perhaps a small part of me wanted to show everyone I was a capable warrior. And I am. I accomplished what I set out to do, and no one was killed or hurt—" Jeren finished defensively.

"—By the grace of the Valar were you not killed. Only by that. When you set out, there were twelve Orcs from which you were trying to free me. A dozen Orcs—that's how many you expected to face—alone. The Valar's grace was upon you that day, since the twelve were only five by the time you found me.

"But all was well," Jeren tried to reason, "there were only five, whether by the Valar's grace or not."

"Do not profane that which I hold sacred," he said. His stern expression showed her just how wrong he thought her words. Long had she used the Valars' name loosely. She wisely kept quiet.

Elrohir's face relaxed slightly and he said, "Everything could have turned out much differently than it did. The Orcs could have remained together and you could have been captured. I might have had to watch as they did to you what they did before. Then they would have undoubtedly killed you. They might have even eaten you. And I could have witnessed it all. I would not wish that on my worst enemy, Jeren, and the odds that that could have happened to you that day—with me witnessing it all—were very high.

"I have lost comrades to them in that way before, though I only saw the aftermath, and they were not loved the way I love you." Elrohir's voice trembled slightly, as if tears were but breaths away. "Had I had to watch as they killed you—I may not have survived it."

Jeren looked into Elrohir's face—that familiar, handsome face that was so dear to her. "I am sorry, Elrohir," Jeren said honestly. "I had not stopped to look at it in that way."

"That is what I mean, Jeren. You must accept the wisdom of those who are in a position to think of these things. That is all that I ask. Perhaps one day, you might be in a leadership position. But by then you will have the experience you need to be a good leader. You will know the odds and when to take them, and not take foolhardy chances needlessly."

Jeren bit her lips to stop them from trembling. She was so near to tears, thinking about not only what Elrohir had just told her, but also of all she was giving up—her dream to be a ranger with the Dunedain—now that it might be attainable. She could never be any sort of leader, the way things stood now.

"I thought I was gentle with you, but you are about to weep, Jeren," Elrohir said. "Does the Orcish poison cloud my mind so thickly that I no longer know when I'm being foul and when I am not?"

Jeren took a breath and smiled, perhaps somewhat falsely, and willed the tears away. "Of course you were gentle with me, Elrohir. Have no fear of that poison's hold on you."

"Yet something is amiss," he told her. He paused. "I asked Estel to go find you because I wondered why you rejected his offer to hold a vote for you. Why was that, Jeren?"

Jeren tried to think quickly of something she could say without revealing the truth, but could think of nothing. She finally blurted, "I tire of fighting Orcs." She'd had to struggle to keep her voice from quavering.

"You just swore to me that you would never lie to me again, and here you are doing it for a second time in one day!" he said, not able to hide the annoyance in his voice. He gave her a little shake with the arm that was around her shoulders. In a much kinder tone he said, "Quit fighting against saying whatever it is—and you may as well let those tears fall as they will. Tell me what has made you change your mind so abruptly."

She closed her eyes and the tears did spill. She lifted her hands to her face, trying not to sob. After only a minute, she had her control back. That ever amazed Elrohir—that she could be weeping one minute and all but serene the next.

"I know not how to tell you, Elrohir," she said, sniffing and wiping her eyes with her fingers.

"There is no 'how', Jeren. Just say the words that are troubling you."

She decided to do as he told her. She knew he would never leave her be until she did.

"I cannot fight with the Dunedain rangers and endanger your life any longer."

"What are you talking about, Jeren?" he asked, clearly puzzled.

He obviously did not remember any of the rambling he had done the other night, after he had been wounded. Would she have to tell him of it? Every single dreadful word of it?

"After you'd been wounded with the poisoned blade, you spoke freely, whatever came to your mind. You told whoever would listen that you feared your ability to fight was leaving you. But after you considered that for a few minutes, you decided that it was more likely that you were worried about me during the battles, and that is how you came to be wounded—fretting over me and not concentrating on your enemies as you were fighting them."

"I said that? Out loud?" he asked her in a disbelieving tone. If Elrohir had ever blushed, Jeren had never seen it, yet she thought that now his face was a little more colorful than usual. "That sounds like nothing I might say."

"You may think I've gotten into the easy habit of lying to you, but such is not the case. You did say these things. You can ask anyone who was with us and they will tell you the same thing." Jeren turned to look him in the eyes. "And I cannot put you in peril, if your attention is being ruined by my presence. 'Tis not fair. You have been fighting with the Dunedain for centuries and I am not even a ranger."

"If it is the case—that I am distracted worrying over you—then that is my concern, Jeren, not yours. It is something I must learn to live with and correct on my own, not something you should have to try and manage."

"But it is not fair!" Jeren said again, more passionately.

"I've never known life to be fair, Jeren," Elrohir answered. "You more than anyone knows that life does not always turn out as we might wish it." He touched her face softly. "After what you endured at the hands of the Orcs, you did not fade into the background, hiding and being afraid of shadows. You could have done that—so easily. But you did not. You fought. And you learned to fight them. You face your fears every time you go on the battlefield. And now, you say I cannot face mine? Think you so little of me?" Elrohir shamelessly used the words that Aragorn had said to him just a short time ago.

Jeren felt as if the weight of the world was lifting from her shoulders. She smiled at Elrohir and threw her arms around his neck.

"I love you, Elrohir," she said. "I could not love you more if you were of my own blood. If I had a brother, I would want him to be just like you."

"I love you, too, Young Lady," Elrohir told her. He disentangled himself from her, but he kept hold of her hands. "Years ago, I encountered a very ill child, broken and disheartened. But your strong will and determination have helped you grow to be a vibrant and thriving woman. It has almost been like watching you be born again. Were I to ever have a daughter, I would hope she would be quite a bit like you."

Jeren felt the tears well in her eyes again, but Elrohir would have no more of that. He all but shoved her off his bed. "Now, you go find Estel and get him to call that vote for you."


Jeren went to find Aragorn, unsure of where he would be. She had checked the hall as she left the twins' room and he was not in the alcove. She truly had no idea where to begin in her search.

So she started in the stable; he had been riding when last she saw him. It seemed the logical place to commence the hunt. His horse was there, but Aragorn was not. The stableman was forking hay into a stall, so Jeren stopped to ask him if he'd perhaps seen the Chieftain—mayhap knew where he had headed?

But the stableman knew nothing, only that the Chieftain had ridden in about fifteen minutes ago and had left his horse with him. He did not know where Aragorn had been going after that.

Jeren was completely perplexed. Where would I be if I were the Chieftain? Other than at my desk? Or in the stable?

Her stomach growled loudly and Jeren suddenly realized that she was famished! It was well after noon, and she'd had nothing to eat since before they left Rivendell this morning. So she headed to Elen's, to perhaps beg a small meal from her. She knocked at the door of the last cabin on the left.

Jeren heard quick, small feet scampering to the door, with Elen's scolding, "Do not run in the house, Jamesica!" filtering through the window. Her cousin opened the door, her gap-toothed grin lighting up her face as she saw that it was Jeren coming to call.

"I see you have lost something, Jamesie," Jeren said.

Jamesie smiled wider, "Yes! Afternoon before last, I was tussling with Jack and he knocked my tooth out! I did not even have to yank at it once! I thanked him, although Mama did not!"

Jeren laughed as she stepped over the threshold of Elen's cabin. She spied Elen in a chair by the hearth, her mending on her lap.

And Elen saw her. And the bruise on her face. "Jamesica, go out and play, please," Elen said distractedly as she rose.

"But mama," Jamesie all but whined, "I want to stay and see Jeren."

"Another time, daughter. Now do as I say."

Jamesie, dejected, scuffed her feet as she headed outside.

Elen said, before Jeren had any chance to explain—although Jeren would have no truthful explanation—, "I see it is true."

"I broke the Chieftain's directive. I was guilty and I took the punishment I knew would result. 'Tis nothing, Elen."

"Doesn't look like 'nothing' to me," she said angrily.

Jeren kept forgetting she had the blasted bruise on her face. It fairly shouted 'the guilty' as she met anyone. And it also announced Aragorn's guilt, plainly for everyone to see.

"I'd heard when I was out and about, that the Chieftain had gotten liberal with his punishment of you," Elen said. "But I'd not believed it. I never would have thought it of him. For shame!"

"I'm the guilty one, Auntie," Jeren said quietly. "And I got someone else in trouble, too. I was not the only one disciplined today, you know."

"That's not how I heard it," Elen said, "and from the other horse's mouth, too. I ran into Rhyse before. He also claims 'twas his fault. I wonder; does Aragorn take any fault at all?"

"I suppose he does not," Jeren replied. "He broke no rules."

"He's broken my rule," Elen said with a crook to one eyebrow.


Elenmere entered the hall and accosted Halbarad right inside the door. He knew by the sight of her that she had some bee in her bonnet.

Her face was usually rosy, but today her cheeks were almost ruddy. Her brows were set in a scowlish 'V' and her lips were merely a line slashed across the bottom of her face. The air around her fairly crackled, as the atmosphere before a lightning flash.

She did not even wish him a 'good day' as was her normal habit. "Halbarad, where is the Chieftain? I need a word with him."

Aragorn sat as his desk, busily comparing one map to another, when Elen strode up. And she strode up with a flourish. Before she'd even stopped in front of his desk, she was asking him, "What do you mean, striking a young woman?" Her face was stormy and her voice harsher than he'd ever heard it before. He got up from his chair.

"Are we speaking of Jeren?" he asked her.

"Of course we're speaking of Jeren!" she shouted. "I left her not five minutes ago, and she's bruised—in the face of all places!" She bustled about, dusting his desk with her kerchief, lifting his maps to dust under them. "I never! I care not what she says about deserving it! No lady deserves a beating from a man!"

Elen stood upright and faced him once more. "If I ever again hear tell of you raising your hand in anything more than a greeting to a woman—especially to a niece of mine—you—you will have me to answer to! Are—we—clear?"

Elen's voice had ended on a shrill note, and it took all of Aragorn's will not to wince as it pierced his ears. He raised his eyebrows and answered, his voice wary, "Crystal clear, my lady."


Elenmere cleared her throat, then added in a much quieter and calmer tone, "I've baked some blueberry scones. Your favorite, I believe? Stop by later and we'll visit some more."

With that, Elen turned and made her way out of the hall.


Jeren resumed her search for Aragorn as soon as she'd left Elen's house. Elen had fixed her a small meal of bread and cheese—enough to tide Jeren over until the evening meal was served—and had left Jeren alone in the cabin to eat it. She said she had an important errand to run.

So Jeren had eaten hurriedly; she still had to find Aragorn, after all. As soon as she was finished, she tidied up the few dishes Elen had dirtied in order to feed her. And then Jeren had gone back to the hall.

She passed Elen on her way inside, who stopped Jeren long enough to drop a kiss on her cheek, but then hurried on.

Jeren saw Aragorn was at his desk in the alcove. She hesitated. Only a little over an hour ago, he had caught her with Rhyse—and had been none too happy about it. And her behavior toward him had been appalling. He had no reason to even speak to her now, much less do her any favors.

But she would not let that get in the way of her goal. She had dreamed of being a ranger for years. Now that she'd spoken with Elrohir, she could not let this argument with Aragorn stand in her way.

She gathered her courage and walked slowly toward him. He glanced up when he heard her footsteps, but then he continued what he'd been doing, as if dismissing her.

"Lord Aragorn, sir," Jeren said. "Might I speak to you?"

He looked at her long before answering her. She could see he was at war with himself.

"If you speak to the point," he finally told her. His stare made her look at her feet for a minute. But she again gathered her nerve and looked him squarely in the eyes. She'd faced Orcs and been victorious. What could speaking to one man hurt?

"I have reconsidered. If you would, could you hold the vote to see if I might have the majority to be recruited?"

Aragorn stood and again his stare preceded his words. "I too have reconsidered," he said, his gaze boring into her own. "I think it would not be wise to mix a woman with so many men, given what I witnessed on the riverbank this afternoon."

Jeren could feel her anger try to claw its way to the surface, but she consciously beat it back down. "I do not dally with every man who presents himself to me, my lord. I might not love Rhyse, but I like and respect him much. I do discriminate, although you might not believe that."

"Even were it only Rhyse, what keeps him from distraction when he needs be tending to his duty?" he asked her.

"You've seen us together, when attention is called for, my lord," Jeren said. She worked hard to keep her voice even and calm. Histrionics at this point would accomplish nothing. "You have no worry about distraction between the two of us. And I hope you have been around me enough to know by now that it is always duty with me, first and foremost."

Aragorn considered her statements. "As I told you earlier, 'tis not you I am worried about. Rhyse is distracted by you, whether you are by him or not. Yet it is not guaranteed that you will be voted in, should I call an election. I see no harm in at least doing that—if you swear I have naught to worry about when it does come to duty. I believe you have learned something about swearing and forswearing, am I not correct?"

At Jeren's quiet, "yes sir," Aragorn said, "Should you be recruited, if there is a next time you are caught by me breaking any rules—explicit or implied—you will receive the discipline you deserve with no quarter. Am I understood?"

Jeren could not help the tiny thrill she felt at his words. She was getting her chance.

"I swear, should I win the vote, it will be naught but attention from me when duty is called for; and broken rules will be punished. You are completely understood, my lord."






Such was how the voting went, when it did finally get going. Aragorn had called the vote for this evening. Jeren knew not how such things were accomplished. She supposed he told several men and had them announce the meeting to the others.

Each man was seated at every one of the long benches at the tables in the dining hall. Now as they went down the line, Jeren could know what every man thought of her, if they wished to comment. Aragorn had given each voter a minute to express his opinion about his choice. Halbarad held a watch, keeping the men honest to the exact minute they had. Some men chose to exercise that right and some did not.

One 'aye' said, "Any friend of Imladris is a friend of mine," while a 'nay' said, "No woman belongs in our ranks." In fact there were many such comments as both of those on either side.

As it stood right now, with forty-three votes having been tallied, there were twenty-three 'nays' and twenty 'ayes'. Four more yet to count. Very close, Jeren thought.

Neither Rhyse nor his father had voted as yet. She could count on one more 'aye', but certainly not Halbarad's positive vote. And Joem's vote still had not been counted. Jeren felt all but certain her bid was lost.

Another man stood. "Aye."

It was Rhyse's turn to be heard. "I say 'aye'; only fools would let a marksman such as Jeren be left out of our ranks."

Halbarad stood forward and, looking directly at his son, said, "This fool votes 'nay'. There's disruption enough in battle, without bringing one with us."

It was now down to Joem. Jeren knew she was lost. He hated her and Jeren may never know why.

Joem stood. "I have been told I have a big mouth," he said, and many of the men chuckled. As soon as all was quiet again, he continued, "But I have yet to be told I am stupid, at least to my face. She saved my sorry ass in the last mission. Stupid is what I would be, did I not vote 'aye'. She will be an asset to our numbers." Then turning to Jeren specifically, he said, "Welcome to the rangers, darling." As he sat down, the hall erupted with much cheering and grumbling alike.

Jeren stood there in stunned disbelief. She had won. She was now a recruit in the Dunedain rangers.


Moaning and groaning woke Jeren the following morning—though she thought the noises were coming from someone else. Her head throbbed and she was so thirsty her mouth seemed glued shut. She opened one eye just a crack, but closed it again. The sun was already up. It had been long since she'd greeted the day—after dawn had broken.

She tried to turn onto her back but could not. An immovable object—like so much dead weight—was smack up against her. As she awakened more fully she realized that the dead thing wasn't dead—it was another person—one that was alive.

She searched her aching mind to gather some inkling of the night before. She remembered going into the barracks with Rhyse to celebrate her recruitment. She remembered guzzling ale. After that—blank.

She could stay in the small bed no longer—her head pounded like there were drums beating a cadence inside her skull, and she had to get water. She lifted the covers to rise, but the arm resting around her middle tightened. Her bare middle—she was naked as the day she was born.

"Please lay here with me," Rhyse said sleepily. And he started kissing her neck.

She shoved his arm aside and sat on the edge of the bed, cradling her head as if it were made of eggshell and the slightest of movements could crack it wide.

"What I would give were the horse trough not outside, but right in this room," she mumbled. "I'd soak my head this very minute." She had her hands over her face, but parted two fingers, looking around on the floor. She finally found what she sought—her small clothes were there by her feet, beside the bed. She grabbed them up and hurriedly put them on without completely rising. After a bit more one-eyed searching, she found her tunic—also on the floor—right beside the door, so she stumbled to her feet and captured that, donning it as well. But her leggings were nowhere to be found—even with two eyes looking for them.

Rhyse smiled wickedly and dropped his hand to the other side of the bed, where he picked up her leggings and held them aloft. Jeren grabbed at them and put them on quickly. She stomped into her boots—quietly.

As Jeren reached for the door, Rhyse sat up and said, "Hurry back."

"No," Jeren said. "You get dressed and come down with me. I have no intention of coming back up here."

Rhyse frowned. "Please come back. I've something I want to ask you and it is a private matter—for your ears only. Return after you've given your head a good soaking. You'll feel better, I promise."

Jeren was gone for so long that Rhyse had despaired that she would return. She finally entered the room, closing the door quietly behind her. She leaned against the wall, opposite the bed, and slowly—slowly—slid down it until she was sitting on the floor.

She had obviously crawled completely into the trough; she was wet from head to toe. She'd probably not bothered going to the pump to get water; she'd more than likely just drank what the horses had left.

"You could come back to bed," Rhyse said seductively. "Of course, you'd have to take off all those wet clothes."

"No, I could not," she replied. After a moment's silence she said, "I do not recall exactly what went on here last night, Rhyse, but whatever it was, it should not have occurred."

"Worry not, Jeren," he told her. "Nothing happened that either of us might regret."

She looked at him as if she thought him daft. "You expect me to believe that—when I woke up with us naked—in bed—together?"

"Ah, but only one of us was completely naked," he replied. Rhyse lifted the covers and while his chest was bare, the rest of him was covered with his leggings. "You divested me of my tunic and shirt down in the stable." He frowned. "Come to think of it, I hope they're still there."

"I hope so, too!" Jeren said, and she bolted out the door to find them. She came back moments later with both in hand, thankful that the stableman had not found them first. She tossed them on the bed within his reach.

"Get dressed, Rhyse," Jeren said. "Then we must talk."

"Can we not talk as I put these on?" he asked her.

"I suppose so." Jeren took the place she had vacated—against the wall opposite the bed, on the floor.

"So we ended up in my bed—with me naked and you half so—but we did nothing?"

Rhyse tossed back the covers and picked up his shirt, shrugging into it. He looked a little discomfited before he said, "I did not say we did nothing, only that we would not rue what we did do. I shamelessly could not keep my hands off you. I am sorry for that, but the temptation was just too great, and you were much too willing—Valar were you willing." He'd put so much emphasis on that last phrase, he almost sounded near tears.

"Sometimes when I am with you, I think my hands are creatures in their own right, but last night they were the only parts of me that touched you." Rhyse ran one of those errant hands through his tousled hair, as if remembering the restraint he had kept on himself last night. He obviously still found it overwhelming—even this morning.

"If I was so willing, why did you not fulfill my desires?" she asked him.

"When we are together—I want all of your senses aware," he told her. "I want you to remember it when it happens with us."

"You are so sure it will happen, are you?" Jeren asked.

"I love you, Jeren," he said quietly. His expression was such that Jeren did not doubt him. "Of course it will happen."

"Rhyse—" Jeren started.

"—I know you are about to tell me you have no time for romantic pursuits," Rhyse said. "You are a recruit now. You will be a ranger after you pass your tests. When we are neither on duty, we have all that time to ourselves." He paused for a minute. "I was going to ask you, but I think I'll just tell you—I want to marry you, Jeren."

Jeren could not believe she felt like weeping. Perhaps it was this blasted headache! Or maybe it just made her unbelievably sad that she was going to hurt Rhyse in this way.

She knew precisely how her words would cut at his heart, if he did indeed love her like he had said. Yes, she remembered exactly how it had felt, when Elladan told her that the love she had in her heart was lost on him.

"I cannot marry you, Rhyse," she said. "There are things to know about me that if you knew, you would withdraw your offer."

"I cannot fathom what those things might be," he said. "I do not think you could tell me anything that would change the way that I feel."

"For one thing, your father does not approve of me."

"Do not let what he said in the hall last night when he voted make you believe that."

"But I do know it as fact—from a reliable source who will remain unnamed."

"Well that fact is beside the point," Rhyse said. "He disapproves of me more than half the time. And more to the point, you would not be marrying him; you would be marrying me."

"I've just now been recruited. Who knows which missions I will be chosen for and you might not. We could be months parted. Even if I were to consent to such a thing, that is no way to start a marriage."

"Make no problems where none exist, Jeren," he said. "We will cross those bridges as they come."

"I could never give you a son—" she blurted, but stopped, wanting to see his reaction.

He frowned momentarily. "Why do you say such a thing, Jeren?"

"The Orc attack left me all but barren. Lord Elrond has told me that having children will be all but impossible for me. I might conceive—"

"—It matters not," he interrupted her, with a small shake of his head. "I am the son of a ranger and I would not wish that on any son of mine. His father would never be home. He would learn what he needed to know from others' fathers who took pity on him."

He suddenly looked as if he might have imparted too many details. But then he continued, "Children are not something I would miss did I not have them. But I certainly would miss you, were you not beside me."

"I do not love you, Rhyse," Jeren said, so quietly he almost did not hear it. "I love another, though he does not return my love."

"Then there is hope for us, Jeren," he said. "I have love enough for both of us, until your heart is free of 'this other', and then you can love me, as I know you will."

"That is the mistake that I made, Rhyse," she told him. "I thought if I just loved him enough, he would love me as well. But you cannot make someone's heart do your will. It must do its owner's will."

"Your heart will come around. You could say I feel it in my bones." He got up from the bed and walked to squat beside her.

"Rhyse—" Jeren began again, her eyes filling with tears.

He placed a finger on her lips, stilling them.

"I am not so blinded by you that I do not see obstacles. Aragorn and my father will no doubt go to great lengths to keep us apart. They might succeed for a time, but not for always. I'm truly in no hurry to wed—I merely wanted you to be aware of how I felt."

He went down on one knee and kissed her lightly on the lips.

"We will speak of this later—much later. Perhaps next year, if it takes that long. I will wait however long it takes. I know what I want Jeren, and that's you."

He stood then and walked to the door. Opening it, he looked back at her again, but he said nothing more.

He walked away, but when he did, he left the door ajar.

The End

A/N: I want to thank Elfinabottle, Song in the Woods, Teacalm, and Frieda for their kind and helpful reviews. I wouldn't have made it through this without them.

I would like to mention that I also write under the name Puxinette here in the LotR section. Or let me rephrase that—I have written under that name. I wrote Full Circle at the same time that I wrote A Simple Change of Heart. Those were the first things I had ever written, and believe me, it's easy to tell! Why I wrote under two different names, even I am not sure about. I guess I thought that the stories were entirely different, but as I go back and reread them, I realize they are pretty similar. Elrond and the twins figure prominently in both stories. I think it was the idea of rape in A Simple Change of Heart that I thought might put people off from reading anything else from Puxinette, so I chose another name.

I am in the process of editing both of those stories. I know they could use complete rewrites, but I don't have that kind of time. So I am just editing the worst things I come across, even though I know they each need much more work.

As I go through the chapters I am editing, I am dividing them where they need breaks with the "o-o-o-o" symbols. If there are none in a chapter—not even at the end—I haven't looked at it yet. So be prepared for the worst. That's IF you decide to give Full Circle a read. I only mention it at all because I am in the process of thinking up a story line for a sequel to it. Haven't gotten that completely thought out yet, but I'd truly like to try it.

Thanks again for reading Follow Your Heart.