A/N - ugh. sorry sorry sorry. I know Ive neglected this fic terribly. Thank you for all the emails and reviews that have pushed me to keep trying. I know the ending to this story and really want to get there, but im not as inspired as I was. This chapter is unbeta'd, barely re read and probably quite awful. expect rewrites. I just wanted to get something up....

Chapter Fifteen, Alone?

The clash of metal upon metal filled the woodland clearing. Aewen twisted and spun, dodging blows and seeking a way to make her own attack. She tried not to wince as her broadsword took the brunt of a jarring blow that jolted every bone in her body. With a grunt of effort she lunged at her opponent, to find her attack blocked yet again.

He hardly even seemed to be trying.

Stepping back from the fight, Haldir wrinkled his nose in distaste. Lady, do try not to grunt so, this should be a dance, not a rut.

Aewen flushed. It is a great effort to protect myself and turn my blade against you all at once.

That is because you fight like a mortal. As if the sword is your protector, and you let it lead you. You are your own protector, and your blade an extension of yourself. Let your attacker come to you, feel where he is rather than looking for him, and your blows will be far more accurate.

Wishing to test his own swordsmanship skills, after so long working with only crude orcish tools in the jewel pit, Haldir had offered to teach Aewen some of the finer points of Elvish sword play. She was not unused to wielding a blade, but this was much different to any training she had experienced before.

They began with simple, slow movements, stretches and turns, that Haldir said worked to help the muscles remember their capabilities. It was not easy work, despite the gentle pace, and by the time he pronounced them done, the skin of both elves glistened with a thin wet sheen, from the effort of controlling their movements so carefully, for so long.

Gradually they moved into actual fights, Haldir at first calling out movements and instructions, then allowing her to show what came naturally to her. She had some training, and was creative in her attacks, but left herself vulnerable too often and was a poor judge of her opponents moves.

Close your eyes, he said.

Aewen looked at him curiously.

Close your eyes. If you cannot see me, your other senses will be forced into use.

Legolas and Tharel had spent the morning together, the prince attempting to learn of all the changes that had come to pass since his departure from Mirkwood. It was not without shame that he made his queries, forced to ask a near stranger for news of his own Kingdom.

Since the forest was split in two, the south falling under the rulership of Celeborn, the North remaining with Thranduil, the numbers of Legolas' people had begun to deplete. Some travelled to Ithilien, and there dwelt a while and helped rebuild the once beautiful place of the moon, so battered by the forces of Sauron in the dark times. They had eventually gone West, and so too had a great many others from the forest, building ships and setting a course along the straight road.

Thus when darkness entered the forest again, there were few left to defend it. Those who did not flee were killed or captured. It was a small mercy to Legolas that his own family had departed for the Havens along with the Lord of Lorien some years before.

It left him alone responsible for vengeance.

After hours of this dark talk, he once again sought the light that lifted his heart, and found his princess in a clearing, blindly sparring with Haldir. A finger pressed to his lips, he slowly approached, feet barely flattening the grass upon which he trod in his effort to remain silent.

When he was barely a foot behind his love, she spun toward him, eyes still closed, and her sword arm lunged forward.

The blade slipped smoothly between his arm and body, barely snagging his tunic, as Legolas froze. Aewen opened her eyes then, and smiled, admiring her handiwork, and Haldir moved to stand behind her. She is a fast learner, once taught correctly. he observed, Pity the creature that tries to take her unawares.

The Guardian grinned, However I think our lesson has been lengthy enough for today. If you will excuse me, I will go and find refreshment. bowing, Haldir left the royal pair, and walked the short distance to the swift running waters of the Celebrant, intending to bathe.

Someone was at the river ahead of him. Dark hair trailed in the water as Elrohir lay on the bank, staring down at his reflection. He lifted a cautious hand and touched the smooth surface of the water, watching the ripples distort his image and then gradually piece it together again.

I am broken he observed calmly, not turning, but aware of the silver haired elf's presence. Everything I began, it ended in him. My smiles, my sentences, my sorrow, my laughter. Now I am broken, incomplete.

He slammed his hand into the water again, sending tiny droplets of his reflection scattering, and got to his knees and Haldir crouched beside him.

Haldir shook his head, his azure eyes holding sorrow, but no pity. You begin and end here, he placed a palm against the other elf's chest, feeling the gentle pulse beneath his skin, You carried Elladan in your heart for so long that you forgot who you are alone. Now he has something you cannot share in, nor should you wish to, and you must learn to find completion elsewhere.

Elrohir smiled, the expression belied by a shuddering sob that he could not hold back. Haldir caught him in his arms as he wavered, and held him close until the shakes had passed.

How do you know so much? Elrohir whispered, No one...on one should understand this pain. Yet you speak as though your heart has felt as mine does.

You are not alone in being alone, my friend. Haldir answered softly, blue eyes locking with grey, All my life I have known loss, the pain of being sundered from family, and all my life have I striven to protect others from knowing it.

Haldir's Brothers could barely remember their Mother, but her loss and the memory of her face as she died protecting her children, would remain ingrained on his heart until the end of Ada.

It is like losing your own reflection. Elrohir sighed.

Again, Haldir shook his head. Nay, you will always be mirrored in my eyes. he murmured, and, looking, Elrohir saw the truth in this. His own face, wan with tears, stared back at him from the gentle depths of Haldir's gaze.

Then perhaps I am not so alone' a small voice whispered in his soul. He reached forward and cupped the Guardian's face between his hands. Thank you, Haldir. He said aloud, and held the elf's gaze as he closed the short distance between them, pressing his lips to Haldir's in a gentle kiss. He drew back once more, and smiled. Thank you.