Disclaimer: Wakabe Writing Firm doesn't own Lord of the Rings

A/N: Computers still not here. Natsumi is silent. We're all on pins and needles, and need reviews to keep her happy before she snaps. Help please. - Sephora(Elf Secretary, Wakabe Writing Firm)

He is here again. It has been many years since this young one sought sanctuary in the shelter of my boughs. Perhaps it has been even longer since I have felt his tears fall onto my roots and leaves as he clings to my trunk from atop a branch high upon my self. He is no longer the small child of five, who seeks me to hide his shame as he cries silently for the cruel words of elflings that do not yet understand the ways of the heart. Nor is he the young man who has just been shown the truth beneath the lie that he called his life. He is not the wayward son who has returned to the only place he feels he can truly call home after so long of trying to deny his blood and overcome a hidden part of himself, who refuses to become the leader of a country in need of him. No, today he is none of those things. Today, he is simply a man who knows that all he loves is about to change, to die, or to disappear forever.

It is the first time I have felt his tears in a long time, and it is not a feeling that I revel in. They fall down slowly, just as silently as they did when he was a child who still had not been able to let go of the teachings of his mother- to never cry out, never let the monsters hear him as he hid. They are bitter, hot, filled with pain that seeps into the ground and is then taken in by my roots. I can taste his regret (for things that he could not control, that he cannot stop, that will never be). I can taste his pain (for who is going to leave him, who he must let go so that they can find peace, who he has caused pain and will cause pain for when he is gone from Arda). I can taste his anger (which he never voices, the things that he hates; that he is not enough to hold his ada on these shores, that he has never had true choice as to who he had to become, that he was not strong enough to save those he loved). But for all that he should be giving his grief to those that can help him, he does not. He never has. Even as a child he was not prone to going to his family with his pain. He could not seem to comprehend that though he was a part of them, that his pain mattered. Now, that trait has only become more pronounced, especially with the culture of Man. Though they can share grief, can express it, I know that they are still expected to hold it close to them, to never show what battles they must wage in their hearts and minds when tragedies and evil befalls them.

Such a burden, they bear- for the race of Man to teach them silence for their failures, secrecy for their pains. A burden that they should not have to. But they cannot hear my cry. They do not heed the calling of my brothers and sisters when they seek refuge in us. He cannot understand my whispers, does not hear my voice as I tell him that it will be all right. He cannot hear, so I am unable to help beyond simply existing.

How strange it is, that I have been the one that he chose to take refuge in. For all that he could have picked a tree that was more convenient, he chose me. It is a wonder that he was able to find me at the age of three, but to come again and again as he aged, I am in awe. I would that I could talk to him, that he could hear me saying that though he is losing his ada to the sea calling, it is not forever. One day, we will all be together again, the the ending of time. But what comfort can that give a grieving son? He still has long to live, and a country to look after. For all that he now has a spouse, that he has friends who will live with him still, it does not help with the pain of losing a third parent. Again and again must he stand the test of time and despair, adding a layer to his armor as he watches many die, and must fight against the despair within that comes from being of a people that do not have the safety of a place that offers peace to the soul; of a people that can drown in despair and misery and hopelessness but never die of that alone without the aid of a knife or a blade, or a simple and powerful refusal to live, a denial to draw breathe.

He speaks.

"Why?"

It is a simple word breathed against my trunk, one that is barely audible even to the elves. A simple word, but one that is not easily answered by even the wisest of them all.

I have no answer for him. I cannot explain why things are, because for all that I have stood here for centuries, I know not the ways of the hearts of elves, the minds of men, nor the habits of hobbits or the traditions of the dwarves. No, that is not something I can give him. I can only give him my leaves, falling around him in a swirl of colors to show him beauty when the rest of the world offers a darker look at life. I can only give him boughs and branches, shielding him from the outside world while he lets himself have a moment of weakness before he will once more replace the mask of strength and calm that he has not in his heart. I can give him my trunk, strong and large with the weight of years circling to ground him in the brief moments when he seems to exist outside of time with his grief. It is not enough- will never be enough. For him, there can only ever be brief moments where he can let go, but only ever in silence, in secret, away from prying eyes and keen ears.

He hugs me to him, his powerful grip digging into my trunk, as though he wishes to be able to tear me open so that he may crawl inside, where nothing can touch him. His face is pressed to me as well, and I can feel more tears flow down from his closed eyes, as the storm that has long raged within him finally peaks out in the safety of my shelter.

He will not stay long; he never does. This moment will pass, just as all others have, and he will go on his way. He knows that there are still many that depend on him, and more that he must face. The life he leads is not easy, and I would that he could return to the more blissful and innocent days of his childhood.

But it is not to be. Even now, when all the fighting for Gondor and Anor and Minas Tirith has been done, even when he has fought against the whole of the army of Mordor, he still must continue to live. He does not have the luxury of rest, nor will he have it for many years to come. There is still much for him to do, and what peace he can find will be a blessing. If he finds it in me, even if only for a few moments in the span of years, then I will be content to have been able to give him at least that small reprieve from the days of kingship that are ahead of him.

Ah, but I know that this may well be the last time he comes here, to find sanctuary with me. Though this place was home to him for many a year, a large part of his heart that resided in those halls close to where I stand will not be there anymore. They will leave, they will go across the sea to that place that is a healing to the weary and old souls of the immortals who can no longer remain safely on these lands. And though his brothers are still here, will remain for many more days before they must decide, it will be only for them that he will return. And perhaps that is for the best. If he can go to them, and no longer find peace in me with his troubles, then it is best. I would not have him seek me out when there are others who can give him kind words and gentle touches where I cannot.

Yes, that is for the best, that he finally find companionship and comfort from others in ways that he has only come to know in the solitude of his silence. And though he might not ever find it, though he may have need of me or my brothers and sisters, he will always be welcomed back into my boughs.

Yes, let him find his peace with me now, and then finally learn to have it with others- with his family, with his friends, who have always been willing and wanting to help share his burden. Let him find peace elsewhere, with the love of a family that will never be gone from him; for they are always in his heart.

Let him learn to find peace away from me one day. But for today, let him find peace under my branches, in my leaves, hidden from the rest of the world. Let him find peace with me.

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