Don't Wake Me Up

Chapter 14

Shrouded Thoughts and Bleeding Hearts

*There are a lot of perspective changes. Just a little heads up

Aragorn P.O.V.

I watch, unable to do a thing, as her world crumbles. It's as if she had climbed a mountain only to slip at the top and plummet all the way back to the bottom. Her hair is short and choppy and her skin is a myriad of blue and purple hues. Tears stream down her face and I know that whomever she lost meant the world to her.

She searches the horizon with the eyes of a child who just lost their mother. There is not fear written across her face, not terror, but innocence. The woman has been stripped away to reveal the girl, and the girl is lost amidst the waves of the endless western sea. She looks to me as if for answers, stricken beyond the point of being rational.

"He's gone…" Comes the whisper, falling from her lips like a breath of wind through the sky. The blood on the ground proves that she is not raving. Someone was here.

"Who?" At my question her eyes focus intently on mine. Her gaze penetrates my very soul as if searching every corner like I could be harbouring secrets about the one she lost.

"A ranger. His name was Alister." Her words are steady, her emotions betrayed only by the tears still leaving their salty trails down her face. She is begging for my help, and she knows I can't give any. There's something hard and cold about her gentle grey eyes, like a storm which blocks out the sun. And oh, there is one hell of a storm in those eyes.

The name sounds familiar, though it was not someone I knew well. I may have met him in passing. Her eyes once more regain their prior distance as she stares down at the speckles of crimson which stain the green of the grass, seeming to shine in the moonlight. I pick her up, knowing from her expression and the agony in her storm-cloud eyes that she needs to be away from this place.

As soon as I touch her she is screaming and I hold her tightly, stopping her from fighting me. Her wails reverberate through the silence presented by the night. The very stars seem to dim, as if unable to watch the agony she feels in her shattered heart.

By the time we return to Edoras the sun has started to rise. She rode silently through the night, the moon unable to bring light to her storm-cloud eyes. They shine silver no longer, the gleam having vanished as if it were never even there.

We're greeted at the gate by Legolas who looks to her and then to me. I can see in his eyes the worry and the fear but I cannot find the words to explain. I look away, unable to express the suffering I witnessed. I felt her screams more than I heard them, and I don't have the heart to tell him that.

Maids rush to whisk her away and before I can stop them she's gone, quickly and efficiently. I see Gandalf out of the corner of my eye and assign the blame to him, as he most likely arranged for her to be taken away. He beckons me over and I start the long walk towards the man, dreading explaining what I witnessed. How can I explain what I do not know?

Elsira P.O.V.

It's late afternoon when I wake up, alone in a small stone room and dressed in a light shirt and pants. The air is still and stagnant, the one lonely window on the far side of the room having been closed earlier.

I lie, staring up at the ceiling and contemplating what the loss really means. He begged me to get help, yet he was gone when I returned. He was too weak to leave, and if he died there would have been a body. He must have been taken, and I have no way to find him. I look towards the window once more, watching a small puff of cloud make its way across the sky.

"You can't sulk forever. You have bigger things to handle, and you knew from the start that people would-" I cut her off, pulling the pendant from my neck and hurling it across the room. I sit up, running my fingers through my hair as the tears return, feeling as though they are burning in my eyes. He wasn't supposed to die. I taste the salt of my tears and gingerly touch my lips as if I might be able to feel his lingering kiss. I can't.

Thoughts and memories flood me as I regret everything I didn't say. His smile and his laugh haunt me, filling me with pain and anguish. I want him back. I don't want memories, I want him. I'm choking in the solitude and silence which clings to the room.

I fight back a desolate wail, hating the agony which threatens to rend me in two. I shut my eyes, trying to fight back the tears before opening them only to hurl a pillow across the room, wanting to throw something larger. Wanting to break something.

I collapse back down onto the bed, knowing that I can't continue to act like this. I can't mourn this time just as I couldn't the last two times people died. I shut my eyes, trying to force the thoughts of him to go away.

I hear a knock at the door and I bite my lip, wiping the tears from my face. I blink away the ones in my eyes and sit up, pulling the bedsheets around myself despite being clothed.

"Come in." I beckon softly, my voice hoarse. It's Aragorn who steps through the door, much as I expected. He steps into the small room, closing the door behind him. With slow steps he makes his way to my side and I run my fingers through my hair, feeling fidgety from nerves. I don't know what I expect him to say.

"What happened?" I look up at him, watching him move towards me. He moves slowly, inch by inch as if afraid I might run or cry. He sits down by my side and I try to look as calm and serious as possible. A pitiful attempt due to the tear streaks on my face.

"It's a long story, to tell you the truth." I can't keep the quaver from my voice, eyes fixed intently on his. His lip curls in a small, reassuring smile and the tears fall. His arms are around me then, holding me tightly as he did before. I shake, body wracked with silent sobs. I'll tell him when I can gather myself.

Gimli P.O.V.

The elf's been on edge since Elsira left, and I'm willing to bet my beard that it's because of her absence. I knock on the door to the room that they've let him stay in, fist pounding against the smooth, unyielding wood. I hear a muffled response from the elf and walk in, not bothering to question what it is he said. There is something far more important than whatever he is doing currently working its way through my mind.

"Elf." I speak in the gruffest tone I can manage, looking at him. He is sprawled across his bed in an undignified way. He is wearing a light shirt and plain pants, and it is the most relaxed I have ever seen him. But somehow looking so relaxed makes him seem even more uneasy than I know him to be. I can practically feel his inner turmoil and he sighs heavily. It's pitiful. I close the door and walk over to him.

"Get up, elf. Stop laying around. Yer girl's back and yer here moping." He looks over at me and frowns, as if I were nothing more than a nuisance. My eyes narrow and my lip curls into an aggravated grimace.

"She is not my girl." His voice is quiet and devoid of emotion. I sigh, rolling my eyes in disappointment that he is taking that approach. I sit in a chair near his bedside and watch as he sits up to look at me, composing himself. To look at him, you wouldn't know anything was bothering him. I huff in aggravation before beginning what is probably going to be a much longer talk than I'd like.

"So yer goin' to deny it?" I ask bluntly, knowing full well where he wants to take this. He doesn't want to tie himself to her in a time like this. The elf is admittedly noble of blood and heart, but a fool for thinking that he can ignore his heart. A good fighter knows that an inferno in forge doesn't make consistent work. The inside must be controlled before the outside can be.

"It is not your place to tell me where my loyalties lie, dwarf." Legolas replies frostily. It seems I touched a nerve which I almost worry that I enjoy too much.

"No, but I can see plain as day where yer heart lies. So can anyone who bothers to look, elf. Pull your head out of yer arse and admit that you like the lass." I lean forward, letting my words sink in. I see anger start to rise within him, only to be replaced by something else. My words don't have the effect I want as I see the look of resignation enter his eyes.

"What would I say?" He lies back down, clearly frustrated. Were it anyone else, at any other moment, I would have told him to man up and apologize. But I find myself sympathizing with him for some reason, and my answer isn't quite what either of us expected.

"What you feel." And with that I stand up, intending to take my leave of the confused prince. I look back at him one last time, and then open the door before leaving. I close the door and immediately frown. That was far too deep and honest a conversation to be had with the elf. And now I believe it's time to best a few Riders of Rohan in combat and then drink myself under a table.

Legolas P.O.V.

I find myself alone once more, the conversation I just had replaying through my mind. It was out of character for him, but I believe that Gimli feels some sort of kinship with Elsira. I believe that somewhere deep down, he wants to watch out for her. Regardless, I wish he had not said anything at all. I do not want to have such conversations with a dwarf, or with anyone. I shut my eyes, wishing he had not mentioned what happened.

The way she looked at me haunts me, as I know those eyes. I wore that same expression when I lost Tauriel. I do not know what happened to her out there, but she lost someone that meant the world to her. Her eyes were dark and pained, her expression was that of anguish. It was like mine.

I sigh heavily, lying flat on my back and considering my options. Matters of the heart seem to be the most complex. I do not want to deny myself emotional bonds, but now is not a good time.

It is not a good time for her, either. After all she has been through, I imagine something more with me is not highly prioritized. It would be insensitive to pursue something more, and I know that it is not truly an option.

I hate that I do not believe that. I can tell myself a thousand times that I should not, and I know that I should not, but the way she smiles and laughs captivates me. I do not want to feel this, and I know it should, under no circumstances, be felt.

These feelings should not exist here. Should not exist with her. I try to make sense of it and I find my logic and reasoning failing me. I'm losing my mind and I can't bring myself to pull away.

I force the thoughts from my mind, trying to silence the storm. These thoughts have no place in our lives right now, as we have bigger concerns. We must survive before there is even a point to these musings. I only hope I am not the only one musing over it.

Elsira P.O.V.

I gather up the towel by my bedside and enter the adjoining room, my steps measured and numb. My story came out jumbled, always returning to Alister. To escape. To the world I was living in, as it truly was my world.

The room is dominated by a large bath full of steaming water which the maids must have readied. The mirror is fogged up and I stare at the blurry reflection. It doesn't look like me.

I should never have fallen for him the way I did. The knowledge hits me hard, choking me in certainty and drowning me in isolation. It doesn't make sense, or work right. It drives all the sense right from my mind and I choke back tears once more.

I reach out, my hand shaking, to touch the glass. My fingers inch closer and I harbour a small, deep terror that it will shatter at my touch. My fingers brush over the glass, leaving wet trails like the tear streaks on my face.

I can see myself more clearly now, the bruises and cuts drawing my eyes. My hair is short and messy. It's stringy and filthy, a gnarled mess. It's not sleek or shiny anymore, and there are streaks of lighter colour dispersed throughout it from the time I spent in the sun. My skin is darker in some places, lines lingering on my skin from the clothes I wore. My arms and face are darker than the rest of my body and I look away from the mirror, wanting to avoid my own image.

I undress, trying to avoid touching my bruises. I refuse to look at myself, dropping my clothes haphazardly across the ground. I lower myself into the water, immersing myself and feeling the heat soak into my bones.

I move mechanically, scrubbing the dirt from myself. I scrub myself down inch by inch, apathetic to the pain. I don't care that it hurts.

The smell of roses surrounds me, enveloping me in the soothing aroma. I lie back, staring up at the ceiling numbly for what feels like an eternity. The water slowly cools, tendrils of warmth slipping away to be replaced by a slight chill.

I finally gather myself and stand, stepping from the dirty water and drying myself off. I run the soft towel over my skin before once more staring accusingly at the mirror. I look awful, even clean.

I redress and brush my hair, hating the choppy and uneven way it falls. I pick up a small knife laying on the table and begin cutting my hair, trying to shape it into a long pixie cut. I cut little ends and shape it, but I can't get it to fall right. I cut little pieces, irritation growing within me until I give up, throwing the knife down and leaving the mess as it is. It doesn't matter, as long as it is out of my eyes. I run a brush through my hair once more, this time more frustrated than anything.

I return to my room, looking around with the hopes of finding my armour. It's not here, though my sword is. As I put my sword belt on a gleam in the corner catches my eye and I turn to fix my gaze on the pendant lying there. I walk over slowly and gaze down, observing the way the light refracts within the richly coloured gem. I reach down and tentatively pick it up by the chain before slipping it into my pocket. I don't want to talk to her right now.

I turn, opening the door with the intent of leaving the little room, and run directly into a strong body. I fall back before arms encircle me, catching me. Blue eyes gaze into mine, concern evident in them.

"Are you all right?" Legolas asks, eyes on me. I nod, eyes wide. I had forgotten the way he looked at me. It sets my blood on fire and I recall just how I felt about him.

"I'm fine." I reply quickly, forcing a neutral expression and pulling myself from his arms. I stand straight, leaving space between us. I know from the look in his eyes that he has something on his mind that I don't think I want to deal with. I smile curtly and move past him, keeping my eyes down. I rush down the hall, taking a left and hoping I can find my way through this place.

I move quickly, not daring to slow down for fear that Legolas will catch up with me. I don't want to have the conversation I am afraid he will try and initiate. I don't want to think about my feelings right now. Not after losing the only person I saw for a half of a year. The person who helped me become what I am.

My vision blurs but I don't stop, striding down the maze of hallways. It isn't long before I realize that I'm going in circles. This place isn't big enough for me to not be after having walked so much. I take a long moment to get my bearings, closing my eyes and taking a deep breath. I can't handle that right now.

I open my eyes and keep walking, looking for a way out of the large building. I spot a courtyard through a window and rush over, looking outside. I can see the door that gets me there, but I don't know how to get to it.

I make a guess and turn down a hallway, making my way down it until I reach several doors. I suspect one of them is the one that I want, and I turn towards the wall to my right. I try the door in the middle and find it locked, and then move towards the next. I try the door and find it unlocked, opening it to get a face-full of bright light. I blink against it, allowing my eyes to adjust.

The courtyard is made of stone, with no trees or flowers. It's barren, with a dirt pit for sparring and targets set up for archery. The courtyard is not for beauty, instead being practical and cold. The warmth of the sun soaks into the sandy-coloured stone, the dark brown dirt warmed yet lifeless. Aragorn and Gimli are speaking to a man in white. He looks familiar but I can't quite tell who he is. Aragorn's eyes meet mine and the man turns. My eyes widen and I stare, unsure of what to say in response to what I see.

"Gandalf?" I ask tentatively. He smiles and I run to him, hugging him tightly. He laughs, amused by my elation. I grin, thrilled to have my mentor back.

I step back and he looks me over, noticing what seems like every little change. "You look like you've got a tale to tell."

I nod, not knowing where to begin.

"Aragorn told me you left, where did you go?" His wizened eyes focus on me as the lines on his face deepen in attentive focus.

Legolas steps into the courtyard and I feel as if my mouth is dry with anxiety. I avoid his steady gaze and start my tale, trying not to look at him. His eyes feel as if they're burning into me, piercing my skin and delving into my heart and wresting from me all the things that make me tick. I try to focus on my story but I find myself leaving out details. I brush over Alister, mentioning him but revealing nothing about the relationship I had with him. I find myself leaving out most everything about him except that he was my mentor.

Aragorn notices, I'm sure he does, though he says not a word. He leaves me to my secrecy and I am grateful. I don't know how to explain what I felt.

"I came back, and he…" I trail off at the end, unable to express what I want to say. He's gone, and I can't verbalize it. I can see the fascination in Gandalf's eyes, and the empathy in Aragorn's and Gimli's. Legolas' expression is still blank, making me incredibly nervous.

"Show me what you learned." Aragorn gestures to the practice field and I bite my lip, nodding. I know that he is trying to distract me. He knows what I've left out, and he has noticed the lack of emotion on Legolas' face. I know that Aragorn knows what's going through my head, at least to some extent.

I take him up on the offer, nodding my consent. Aragorn picks up a practice sword and I drop my sword belt, swapping it for two smaller practice swords. My current attire does nothing to conceal the muscle I have gained and I know that they've all noticed. I am leaner now, stronger and faster.

We step into the circle, my steps measured and cautious as we begin a slow circle. My footwork is precise, bearing intent and my eyes do not flinch from his. Blonde hair catches my eye and Aragorn strikes.

I parry the blow, performing a swift riposte before quickly stepping back. We continue our circling and I focus once more on him.

I move quickly, performing a series of cuts which ascend up his body, working his guard up before thrusting down low. He leaps aside, narrowly avoiding the blow and I see the smile on his face. Now the game really begins. I feel only uncertainty.

Aragorn strikes fast and hard, attempting to disarm me. I nimbly dodge, rolling to the side but coming up flat-footed. He launches a practiced series of attacks which I narrowly avoid before leaping back. I charge forward, feinting to the right before diving left, hitting my knees and sliding under a sweeping cut. I leap up to my feet and turn to launch a series of quick jabs before turning and dropping into a crouch, striking low before rolling back and regaining my footing. Aragorn is caught by my feint, and is kept on his toes by my furious barrage. He stares me down and I force back the urge to shiver at his cold gaze. He is an intimidating man when he wants to be

Aragorn launches into a series of heavy blows, staggering me and driving me back. He is stronger than me and I realize quickly that I can't take hits like this. I have to avoid them.

I deflect the strike before kicking out, knocking Aragorn off balance. I press the attack, knowing that he will beat me if he forces me to defend for any length of time. I continue to press the attack, throwing him back on his heels. I swipe diagonally at his waist before quickly switching my grip and striking at his head with the pommel of my sword. He defeats the attack by stepping aside and using my own momentum to throw me forward. I manage to kick his weapon aside as I fall and he lets it go, intending to finish the fight with his fists. I take the hint and drop mine as well before standing back up. I kick it aside and we face off with our fists.

He throws the first punch and I deflect it, pushing it aside with my left hand. I push it out further with my right while striking with my left, an uppercut to his jaw. I hit him hard enough to stun him and he grunts, not truly hurt. He underestimated me, but he won't make that mistake again. I have lost the edge gained from surprise. He is stronger and larger than I am, so if I want to win I'll have to strike fast and get out of the way.

I go for the joints, thinking to disable him. I feint another uppercut before dropping and sweeping my leg out. He catches it and picks me up, holding me upside-down. I twist in his grip and kick out, my foot connecting with his shoulder. He drops me and I land hard on my upper back. I manage to roll back to my feet but I'm beginning to tire. By the look of it, so is he. Without the adrenaline from real combat, fighting is not so easy.

Blonde hair catches my eye again and Aragorn sees my attention falter. It's a mere second, but for a veteran like him a second is more than enough time. His fist connects with my solar plexus and I double over, winded. I suck in air before feeling an elbow connect with my back, forcing me down. I hit the ground hard and roll to the left, trying to get away. He anticipates the movement and pins me on my back. I try and jerk out of his grip but to no avail. The man has a grip of steel.

He finally lets me up, helping me to my feet with a smile. I force a smile, trying to keep from looking at the blonde elf.

"You've learned much. Go get something to eat, now. The kitchens are down the hall on the left. I'm sure you need it." He is giving me a means of escape and I gratefully accept. I give him a small smile, nodding and then turning to make my way to the kitchens. He has a point, I am hungry, but more than anything I want to be alone. Legolas complicates things, and I'm not ready for that complication yet.