Ivy stopped in the middle of the room, her fingers clenching around the shallow dish holding the candle.

"We're in your bedroom?" she managed to get out, pleased that her voice sounded halfway normal.

"Yes, my chambers," he said. "It may not offer the same level of comfort as the room in the other wing, but you will be safe here."

Leaving the fireplace, he set about lighting an assortment of half-burned candles tucked into other corners.

Watching the Elf move in the flickering light, Ivy tried to absorb how quickly she'd moved from an unwelcome intruder on Lee Greenwood's private plane, to being a bemused newcomer taking anxious shelter in the Elf-laird's bedroom.

"I'm sure it will be just fine," she murmured, deliberately shifting her to the new room she found herself in.

I'm in Legolas' bedchamber, she thought. His private place. Best have a look around since, Julien or no Julien, I may never pass this way again.

Holding the candle high before her, Ivy turned slowly to take in what the meager light would show her. All the while, she felt torn between trying to remain cool and the urge to gawk like some fangirl-stricken tourist.

For the moment, the fangirl won, and Ivy found herself drifting toward the huge, brocade-draped four-poster bed set against the far wall. Made of heavy, dark oak with slow spiral twists adorning every post, the full tester bed loomed huge in the flickering shadows. Complete with period hangings, buillion fringes and tassle tie-backs, it looked like something out of a movie featuring Henry the Eighth.

Considering how dark oak becomes with age, she thought, peering past the candlelight, it couldn't have been made recently. Unless it's reclaimed oak?

Her hand reached automatically to rest on the sturdy corner post as she passed round the foot of the bed. The spiraled wood was worn smooth under her hand, so that her fingers slid easily over the polished section. Someone's hand had been touching that exact spot for many, many years, just as hers was now, and she marveled at the intimate glimpse Legolas was allowing her into his life.

The bed was neatly made, and a flash of gold beyond the bed caught Ivy's attention. Leaning across the foot, she smiled to see the Elf's signature gold-adorned, bone-white knives ensconced in their quiver full of arrows leaning against the wall.

They're never far from his reach, are they? she marveled.

Surveying the rest of the room, she noted other furnishings that seemed equally old as the bed, made with equally expert craftsmanship. All of it - from the huge wardrobe and the built-in bookcases beside the fireplaces, to the beaten-up worktable and the carved armchairs before the fire - looked to have been handcrafted from the same dark oak.

It's a beautiful and decidedly masculine room, she thought, just as I imagined it would be. All Elven and...Legolas.

Approaching the bookcase nearest the fireplace, she smiled to realize it held, not ancient Elven tomes, but a motley collection of old knives, recycled arrowheads, and a haphazard stack of magazines on woodworking.

Sitting squarely in the middle of the magazines was a small, well-crafted carving of a wooden horse. Its graceful lines were frozen in a gallop, tail flagged and neck arched proudly. Bearing a crack halfway down its middle, the little horse looked so fragile that Ivy dared not touch it.

Blowing out his taper as the last candle was lit, Legolas came to stand beside Ivy and frowned at the clutter on the shelves. "It isn't the Four Seasons, is it?"

"It doesn't need to be. I think it's..." She hesitated, blowing out her own candle and setting it near the dusty arrowheads. Oh, don't be a fangirl, even if that is how I'm feeling. But what can I say that isn't all gushy? "This room really suits you. The furniture itself is fantastic, never mind the rest of it."

"Fantastic?" He gave her a quizzical look, and the firelight accented his bewilderment even as it emphasized the height of his cheekbones. "The furnishings here do what they were designed to do, but nothing more."

"I doubt you'd say that if you saw what's on offer this century." She shook her head. "Solid wood has become dear and modern is the fashion, which translates to a lot of cheap metal and glass and snooty marketing designed to make you think you're getting great workmanship when you're not."

"What has happened to the trees?" Legolas asked. From the look he was giving her, Ivy was sure he was dreading the answer.

"The Mortals have destroyed much of them worldwide to make way for development in some places, cattle and more profitable crops in others," she answered as gently as she could.

"I am familiar with the problem, for a forest so thick that rain and starlight could not pierce it once covered nearly all this land," he said sadly. "Is there no more dead and down wood for the craftsmen?"

"There is, but it comes at a price most people can't afford. If you want new furniture and don't know what to look for, you'll end up getting glued sawdust with fake, plastic wood grain on top. Or maybe you'll get a thin veneer of real pine over bologna board," Ivy relayed.

Returning to the bed, she laid a hand on the bedpost once more. "Wood furniture like this...heavy and beautifully designed so that form follows function, with secure wooden or iron pegs and dove-tail corners in drawers instead of's hard to find now. It's in antique shops or old homes owned by the wealthy.

Ivy's fingers returned again and again to smooth the well-worn, polished patch. "A lot of it's in heritage trust homes that are open to tours, so you can stare at it but not use it."

"I understand your grief," Legolas said softly. "A few years ago, Haldir relayed that families in villages below Lairg were mad to replace the furniture handcrafted by their Highland ancestors. Special-order catalogs were brought forth from chain stores and the pieces were all replaced. The old things were sold to the antique dealers. That which wasn't sold was chopped up and burned."

Swallowing hard, Ivy fought back tears at the thought of anything so beautiful being smashed into winter kindling. "Out with the old, in with the inferior?"

"You actually like these plain furnishings?" Legolas' gesture included the entire room.

"Your plain furnishings, in my opinion, are three-dimensional Elven art," she protested. "It's not only beautiful, it's also useful, which to some people is the best art there is." Laying her cheek against the bedpost, she closed her eyes and sighed in contentment. "Real wood is never cold, and there's something about it that's so comforting."

"Yes, exactly!"

Ivy's eyes flew open to hear the delight in Legolas' voice.

"Trees were my first friends in Mirkwood," he confessed. "Since the moment I grew big enough to take shelter in them, their hearts have protected and held me safe. I've fought long and hard to protect Ithilien's own."

Coming to share her bedpost, Legolas slid his hand upward to entwine his fingers with Ivy's. "My trees are all asleep now. You must return this summer and meet them in their full glory."

"I'd like that." Trembling on the inside as Legolas' thumb gently caressed her wrist, Ivy hoped her reaction wasn't noticeable on the outside. Sweet heaven, the last thing I want is for him to think I don't want him touching me. Tentatively, she tightened her own grip. "Do you remember when this bed was made?"

"Let me see..." The Elf's gaze went distant, and he furrowed his brow as he tried to remember. "This part of the house was completed in the mid-nineteenth century. I moved this bed then from the Stuart wing, and I remember having to move it from my room behind Ithilien's original kitchen before that."

He gave a wry smile. "Even an Elven back remembers dismantling a heavy bed like this and towing the bedstock and other pieces up stairs."

"Poor back," Ivy soothed. He's not letting go my hand! Her heart thrilled to the realization.

Staring up into the shadow-filled celure, Legolas considered. "I made it some time after Aragorn's death, but before Gondor fell. I believe it was after the wicked winter when we were forced to spend weeks indoors, through the cold and the dark, trying to occupy ourselves."

The Elf nodded, satisfied. "Yes, it was then that a great oak fell beneath the weight of the snow, beside the Falls of Eowen. I used its wood that spring to make myself a proper bed."

"You made this?" she breathed.

"I made everything in here." He grinned down at her, which reminded Ivy to check whether her mouth was hanging open in amazement.

"Even the little carved horse over there on the shelf?"

"Ah, no." Giving a soft smile, he gazed the short distance to where the little creature resided. "That horse is all that remains of the years I spent in Mirkwood. Gerdan, the captain of the guard, carved it for me when I was very small. I forgot to take it along when Mithrandir and I left Mirkwood, but the captain brought it back to me in Imladris when Thranduil sent the guard looking for me."

"Is Gerdan in Warra?"

Legolas shook his head. "He was among those who took his family Oversea soon after the War of the Ring. One day, I shall see him again, but for now, I must see to your sleep, Queen's Daughter."

"But I can't stay in your bedroom," she protested. "I don't want to put you out, and my father will have a fit and fall into it if I sleep in your bed. You know he will."

"Lord Elrond will likely be displeased with me no matter what, but this is the safest place available. Perhaps your father would settle for a compromise? My workroom is in the next room, just beyond the bath here." He moved to open the closed door beside the bookcase. "We would share only the fireplace as it serves both rooms, so that arrangement might accommodate both you and your father's sensibilities."

"And Julien can't reach here?"

"That is so." Not bothering to relight Ivy's candle as the fire was casting enough light for them to see by, Legolas led the way through the bath. "The workroom is not set up to be a bedchamber, but I shall move Elrohir's bed from across the way and make it comfortable for you in only a few minutes."

"You're going back into Julien territory for a bed?" she squeaked.

"No. While your father and mine stay always in this wing, the twins have rooms in this wing for casual visits between board meetings, so the bed I plan to retrieve for you is only down the hall. I will use Elrohir's bath as well, so we needn't share mine."

Breaking off abruptly, Legolas came to an equally unexpected halt. Ivy managed to avoid running into his back, but when he failed to continue on into the room, she leaned forward to peek around his shoulder.

The workroom was the same length of the bedchamber they had just left, but far less wide. An enormous wardrobe blocked the far door leading into the hall. Storage bins and labeled wooden drawers lined one wall, reminiscent of the sort Ivy remembered from a vintage nineteenth-century general store in Darby. They kept company with a beat up workbench and an absolutely huge, rough-hewn desk covered with drafting tools, woodworking supplies, and a ragtag assortment of oddiments.

Spilling off of the workbench was a haphazard pile of odd shapes buried in a tangle of black coils. Another twisted collection of even bigger shapes was stacked high on the floor to join and support the original pile on the bench. The firelight cast flickering shadows over the whole thing, making it impossible for Ivy's tired brain to make sense of what she was seeing.

"What is that?" she asked.

"I've no idea."

Creeping forward, he examined the haphazard pile of odd shapes more closely, while Ivy slid up beside him. Picking up one dust-coated item, he dangled it from what was obviously an electrical cord.

"What in the name of Mordor is this thing?" The Elf sounded confused and irritated.

The note of little-boy bewilderment underlying it almost made Ivy laugh out loud, but something warned her it would not be a good thing to do at this moment. Instead, she grasped the bottom of the thing and peered at it more closely in the light of the fire.

"I think it might be a really early fax machine," she ventured. "See, this tube went around and around, and it eventually sent the image of what was on it."

"I see," Legolas said dryly, and it was clear that he neither grasped the concept nor cared. "What I do not see is why it is my private workroom."

"Well, somebody put it here, and that someone would have to be...." She arched an eyebrow at him.

"Haldir. So Haldir is storing his obsolete office equipment in my chambers? Why is this...hideous invention...not in his chambers, as he will undoubtedly claim ownership of it as well as its motley fellows?"

Tossing aside the old fax machine and delving into the pile again, Legolas retrieved an old adding machine by its crank handle, and then kicked angrily at an IBM Selectric electric typewriter on the floor and set its top askew. It clacked once, in mournful chastisement.

"Haldir swore to me that my quarters remained untouched in my absence. The housekeeper only dusted occasionally - and that under his watchful eye - which does little to explain the computer on my desk, the dimmer switch that apparently crawled onto my bedroom wall all by itself, and this pile of filthy, obsolete electronics taking over my personal workroom."

Ivy looked up from her examination of a VCR that was as big as the IBM typewriter. "I think this is older than I am."

Poking down one of its huge keys, she jumped back in surprise the top shot upward with a loud 'ka-chunk', awaiting the insertion of a videotape.

"It's really an amazing collection," she said against Legolas' bristling. "If you give it another hundred years, some museum will come begging you for this stuff. Any techno artist would be ecstatic to have it now."

He gave her a sidelong glance of annoyance before tossing the adding machine back onto the table. "That may be, for Mortals have short memories and hoard such things to remind them of their technological extravagances, but I do not. I do not want this mess, and you cannot sleep with it in here. It cannot remain here."

He looked over his shoulder, back through the bathroom. "I will move it across the hall. Give me but a moment."

Turning, he strode out of the room. Now alone, Ivy could give in to the giggles that were now near to choking her.

Can this get any more surreal? she wondered. Legolas of the Nine Walkers is being invaded - and is seriously pissed off - by obsolete office machinery. I couldn't make this stuff up if I had to.

Gathering up the forlorn adding machine and a couple of dead computer power cords, she was ready to follow Legolas wherever he had gone when he burst back in.

"Here." Pushing her carefully away from the desk, the Elf spread over the floor the blanket Ivy had previously seen covering his bed. Legolas then plucked the adding machine from her arms and dropped it onto the blanket. "Let us load this up and drag it out. Before the night is out, I may dump it all in Haldir's bed."

"That ought to be interesting," Ivy replied carefully. "Especially if you like hearing him screech."

Legolas ignored her, focusing instead on moving the equipment. Each item was turned quickly in his hands, addressed with something muttered in harsh Elvish, and then added to the heap of rejects. Once the blanket was full, The Elf gathered up two corners and backed the laden blanket out of the room.

It took two trips, but finally the offending items were gone. Towing the blanket back into the bedroom, Legolas threw it over the desk to give it a wipe-off, and then seemed satisfied.

"Now we'll need a bed," he pronounced, "and you'll need some space in the wardrobe."

"Please don't bother with that," she protested. "I can curl up on the floor or a cot or something. It's late, you've done more than enough for tonight."

Turning, Legolas looked at her with an expression Ivy found difficult to read, but it certainly wasn't happy. "

"Curling up on the floor or elsewhere is not an acceptable option. It won't take long to make this room at least marginally comfortable." The look he gave her was intense, and just as unreadable beyond that as the one he'd given her before. "I'd have you in my bed, but that room has a balcony."

"Would you be in it with me?" Absolutely appalled as the revealing thought made its way out her mouth the moment she thought it, Ivy very nearly winced. "Um...for protection, of course."

"Of course," the Elf drawled, giving her a concentrated look that seemed to go on and on as he didn't say anything more.

"That room has a balcony." Ivy latched onto the last thing he'd said, hoping to get the conversation back on track before she revealed anything more embarrassing regarding her feelings for her host. "I'm not overly fond of balconies right now."

Despite the security she felt with Legolas, she couldn't help glancing back toward the other room and the unseen balcony that might aid Julien in another sneak attack. If he's got a death wish.

"Neither am I."

Startled, Ivy looked back to find Legolas standing very nearly on top of her. Is it my imagination, or did he just move closer - a lot closer - while I was distracted?

It wasn't her imagination. Neither were the warm fingers that captured hers, or the low, reassuring tone of voice the Elf now had, which sent shivers up Ivy's spine.

"This room is better for you."

His other hand enclosed hers as well, and Ivy had the feeling she might have to fight to get it back. As if! Came the thought. Looking up at him, she scarcely dared to breathe. He's so...magnificent...standing there in the firelight. For the first time, she didn't want to paint him. I want to....

"This room has only one window and no balcony," said Legolas, "so any outside access will be difficult. For Julien, whose athletic skills seem to be limited, I would say entrance is impossible. To reach you from the hall, he would first have to find the hallway. He would then have to pass my father's room and your father's room without being discovered. He would then have to get past me."

"Gotcha." She was fascinated with how he was stroking the back of her hand. I didn't know knuckles could be so sensitive. "Sounds good to me. Sounds very good."

She suspected she was on the verge of babbling, but her brain was too fatigued to care. Legolas kept stroking her hand, and that sort of affectionate gesture demanded a response, didn't it? If I keep talking, do you think he'll keep doing that?

"I just might be able to sleep tonight. Maybe. If the adrenaline will go away."

"Adrenaline?" He was listening to her so intently, the room seemed to fade away until the only thing filling her consciousness was him, his voice, and his touch.

Isabel wasn't kidding when she said he's intense, Ivy idly noted.

"Adrenaline," she confirmed. "Too many surprises tonight, but at least they're getting better."

She smiled brightly up at him and wished she was experienced enough with Elves - with males, period - to know what the proper response was when one of the Nine Walkers and your sworn guardian stood in the middle of his workroom, stroking your hand as if it was the only thing in the world he wanted to do.

Yeah, he's intense and... She stifled a yawn. Relaxing.

"But this night seems to be going on forever," she murmured, captivated by his pupils made huge and black by the firelight and wanting nothing more than to confide in him. "And I don't know what to do with it any more, and I'm so tired."

"I know you are."

"Tired of shouting," she revealed, "tired of being afraid, tired of not knowing what's coming next."

Legolas nodded. "I understand.

The next yawn wouldn't be stifled. "You know, my social training didn't cover any of this, and if you keep doing that, you're going to send me right to sleep."

A frown creased his forehead. "Keep doing what?"

Laying her hand over his, she caught his fingers. "That. Stroking my hand, because it's really, really relaxing."

Startled, he stared down at their entwined hands as though he'd never seen hands before. "I'm so sorry, Ivy. I didn't realize...didn't intend--"

"To what, touch me?"

"Of course I meant to touch you. I did not mean to...."

"Relax me so much that I started telling you all my secrets?" she teased, wanting nothing more than to reassure him since he seemed on the verge of true embarrassment. "Make me fall asleep standing up? Reassure me once again that I'm safe with you?"

"I did mean to reassure you." His worried eyes searched hers. "Ivy, I can be...impulsive...intense at times. I hope I have not offended you with my touch. Isabel--"

"Please, no." Not knowing how else to silence his fears, Ivy laid her fingers against his lips.

Startled into silence, he stared down at her.

What, has no one touched his mouth before? she wondered. I guess it is pretty brazen of me. His lips were warm, and she could feel his breath against her finger.

"None of that," she whispered. "Isabel's not here. I am, and I like your touch, so there. We both know you're not going to stop until this room does look like the Four Seasons. I can tell--"

"I thank you for your kindness this night." Capturing her hand once more, Legolas held it to his chest before bowing slightly over it. When he raised his head, his eyes were twinkling and a smile curved his lips.

What did I do to have that affect on him? she wondered. What did I say?

"The Four Seasons would be impossible," he murmured, "as I have neither bears nor fine chocolate to offer you. What I do have is a solid bed down the hall, and a wardrobe for your use."

With that, the Elf moved away to cast open the creaky doors of the huge old wardrobe and begin digging industriously inside. Pulling things out, he set them on the floor beside his feet.

"Hey, you don't have to do that," she protested, moving to his side. "I don't have much with me, remember? I'd be happy just sticking my duffle in the corner."

"Queen's Daughter does not camp out in corners."

Pausing to look over his shoulder, Legolas then set what was in his hands on top of the pile. Stepping away from the wardrobe, he dragged a carved chair away from the desk and over to the hearth. Grasping Ivy's hand, he towed her toward it.


"You are tired. Please sit and be warm. Once again, Ivy, I do apologize. This week has gone so very far south of the perfect, formal welcome you should have had. And I keep making things less comfortable for you, dragging you about and enlisting your aid in things that should not worry you."

"It's okay," she interrupted anxiously, perching on the edge of her chair and grabbing at Legolas' wrist when he turned away. I need to touch him again. "None of this is your fault, and I'm fine. I'm really grateful to you for taking care of me like this, but you can stop anytime now. All I need is a place to lie down and sleep and I'm good. Really. You don't have to stand on ceremony, okay?"

The blue eyes gazing down at her were filled with compassion tinged with sadness. Reaching down, he guided a strand of stray hair away from her eyes. Smiling down at her, he startled her when he began gently stroking her cheek.

"You should be given the finest we have to offer, not dragged about in the night trying to outrun one of our own. Our own. An Elf," he hissed in anger, only to visibly damp down his fury once again before continuing. "I will see you safe, I will see you comfortable, and I will have it done now. You rest here, and I'll finish swiftly. In the meantime, you might be interested in something."

"Something what?" she called after him as he strode back to the wardrobe to push back its doors once more.

Reaching inside, he carefully pulled clear a long something that rang in a rather suspicious way, then turned back to present it to her.

It was a sword. A huge sword, naked without a sheath, and Legolas was trying to hand it off to her. Carefully resting the sharp point on the stone hearth by her foot, he then tilted the hilt into her hand. "Just hold on to this, like so, would you?"

With obstinate single-mindedness, Legolas turned back to the wardrobe. Gathering up the things he'd removed from its interior, as well as a few more stray blades in their sheaths, the Elf carried them from the room. Entirely distracted by the weapon left in her care, Ivy let him go without a word.

The sword was not only huge, it was more than half her height and very heavy. It had to be Elven-made, for the elegant gold tracery on the blade was threaded through Elvish script. It glittered in the firelight and somehow refused to let her look away.

I must be more tired than I thought, she mused, because this thing feels like it's...vibrating. No, it feels like it's humming. I can feel it behind my ears as well as through the palms of my hands.

Okay, this is weird. Maybe all Elven blades do this? I don't know, but it's still weird.

Legolas reappeared in the doorway, having relocated the pile of things from the wardrobe. "There. We now have room for your things."

She didn't even look up as he settled her blanket full of meager possessions before the wardrobe, but continued staring at the firelight reflected on the Elvish.

Are those letters moving?

Smiling to see her so absorbed, Legolas took the liberty of transferring her things into the wardrobe. Straightening as the task was finished, he folded the now-empty blanket and set it aside on the desk.

"Ivy?" he ventured, concern in his voice this time.

She was still staring at the blade and turning it in the firelight. "Why did you give me this?"

"To hold it for me." Kneeling beside her, Legolas laid his hand atop the hilt. "And to see what you thought of it."

"I think it's huge. And really, really old. And beautiful, and weird and scary." Lowering her head and closing her eyes, she drew a deep breath. Opening her eyes, she stared across at him. "Legolas, I swear this thing is humming, like it's alive or something."

He smiled then, and it wasn't a social smile or one of those 'isn't she cute?' smiles Ivy had seen too frequently from certain Elves this weekend, but a smile that reflected a great, almost proud satisfaction.

"Ah, very good," the Elf all but purred. "The sword recognizes you, then. Do you like it?"

"Yes, because I think it's amazing--" she stammered, tilting the sword toward him in hopes he'd take it back. "And no, I don't like it, because this whole thing is scaring me. Why would it know me?" she demanded. "What aren't you telling me? Whose sword is this?"

"The blade is not alive," he explained, pushing the sword back toward her, "though it does possess a certain power of its own. And yes, it is very old. It knows you because you are Aragorn's heir. This blade is Anduril, and I suppose it now rightfully belongs to you."

"Belongs to me? Oh, no, you are not giving me this sword," she protested vehemently, only to pause and stare at him in open disbelief. "Wait, you're telling me that you had Anduril just shoved in a closet?"

"It had to stay somewhere," Legolas replied mildly, "and I did not say I was giving Anduril to you. I said that, as Aragorn's rightful heir, it now belongs to you. And Anduril agrees," he added, nodding at the sword.

Ivy began another protest, only to think better of it and close her mouth while her gaze flickered from the sword in her hand to the Elf before her, and back again.

Aragorn's heir, Anduril, and they say I'm an Elf? All the things she'd been told over the past few days collided in her mind to gibber at her tauntingly. Yeah, right.

A whimper escaped despite her best efforts, and Ivy looked in sheer desperation at Legolas.

"Too much?"

Numb, she nodded.

"Then we shall discuss it another time." Patting her wrist, he then rose gracefully from the floor. "Our efforts would be better spent by getting a bed set up before you drift off to sleep and topple out of your chair."

"That sounds good," she agreed. And harmless.

With that, the Elf turned to head out of the room again.

"Wait! I'll come with you." Rising, Ivy tried to follow him, but found the weight of the sword to be far more than she anticipated.

"Here," she called out. "Take this thing back and put it away, okay?"

Lifting the sword made both the blade and her arm muscles tremble most embarrassingly. "Hey, Legolas, a little help here?"

Struggling to set the tip back on floor, Ivy next tried dragging it, but within two steps she had made a terrible gouge across the wooden floor, and cringed in horror.

Legolas popped back into the room, and she looked up at him pathetically.

"I can't even pick it up, much less carry it. Please put it away, okay?"

"Of course." Coming to her, he gently pulled the hilt from her hand. "It is an impressive blade, isn't it? But I much prefer my knives."

So did I, she thought. What I saw of them on the plane, anyway.

Anduril was carefully restored to the wardrobe while Ivy chewed her bottom lip, waiting for the next, inevitable adventure lying in wait.

"I'm taking apart the bed across the hall," said Legolas. "Would you prefer to wait by the fire or come with me?"

She very nearly leaped to his side, her fatigue forgotten at the idea of being left alone again. "I'm right behind you."

She followed the Elf out of his bedroom, down the hall a bit and into yet another dark room, pausing along the way while Legolas lit wall sconces from the candle she'd had possession of earlier.

The warmth of Legolas' rooms did not reach this one, and Ivy shivered while watching Legolas pull the mattresses off of another huge wooden bed. Tipping them easily against the wall, he was now pulling big wooden pegs out of the footboard to unfasten it from the frame.

"Here, would you hold these please?" he asked. "It will not go well on the other end of this excursion if I lose them in the darkness."

Scooping the pegs off of his palm, she carefully tucked them into the pocket of her jeans.

"All safe," she assured. "What else can I do?"

"Can you carry these?" He nodded to the planks fitted into the bottom of the bed box.

"Sure." She stepped carefully over his feet as he knelt, trying to pry out the pegs from the other side. Tucking a plank under each arm, she headed out. "I'll be right back."

"I'll be right here." Laying down the footboard, Legolas moved toward the headboard.

He'd finished prying loose all the pegs by the time she returned, and had all the pieces ready to move.

"I'll help," she offered, grabbing one end of the footboard before he had a chance to object.

Legolas merely nodded before lifting his end of the board, and his muscles made easy work of it. Ivy suspected he was more than likely keeping her close rather than actually needing her help, but it still made her feel better to try.

Towing the footboard down the hall and into the workroom, they set it gently against the wall before returning for more bed.

The headboard followed, then the side-rails, and before Ivy knew it they were assembling the half-headed oak bed like a medieval puzzle in her new room. It wasn't anywhere near as massive as the one Legolas claimed, but it was old and beautiful and had been made hundreds of years ago by the same loving, Elven hands that were now tucking it back together for her.

Standing back, Ivy paused to watch Legolas, bent intently over his task. Firelight poured highlights over his golden hair and high cheekbones. That long hair spilled forward over his shoulders to caress those powerful, elegant hands as they worked, restoring peg to hole with careful determination.

Oh, I must remember this, must remember everything, she thought, close to tears at his beauty and the awe she felt at being allowed to watch him. I have got to draw this. For as long as I live, I can't ever forget this.

Darting closer to help him steady the headboard - close enough to see his long lashes shadows against his cheek, she also saw that the firelight revealed the hollowness of his cheeks and the circles beneath his eyes.

Remembering how he'd looked in New York, fast asleep on the hotel room floor, Ivy realized the Elf was just as tired now, if not more so.

He's more exhausted than I am, she realized sadly. And he's been so patient with me.

All too soon, Legolas rose to his feet. "If I may ask your assistance?"

"Anything," she said, meaning it.

"The mattress is rather unwieldy and is better handled by two." Blue eyes held her gaze, and his expression of encouragement was another thing never to be forgotten.

"I’m ready," she managed to choke out, and found herself reaching out to take the hand he offered.

Legolas' fingers closed around hers, strong and comforting in their gentle grip. "We'll soon have you safe and warm and tucked into bed. There are only a few more little things left to do."

Uh huh, she managed to think in reply. Take your time, Legolas. Magic comes in unexpected places, but it's sure here with us tonight. I know I'm going to crash soon, but, tired as I am, I don't want this to end.

He led her back down the hall to the far end of the box spring leaning against the wall before grabbing the opposite end between his hands.

"You have only to guide your end around the doorframes while I push."

"Gotcha." She nodded. "I can do that."

"Do let me know if I am going too fast," he cautioned. "I don't want to knock you over or into something."

She laughed outright at that. "I've been pushed and knocked over by all kinds of things, like cows. A mattress doesn't worry me."

"The thought of harming you worries me, so tell me. Ready?"


With that, the mattress was in motion, and Ivy found herself running backwards trying to stay ahead of it. She managed to push it around three doorframes with only a few bouts of her squealing and his laughing at her, and then they were through the bathroom and into the workroom, and then Ivy discovered they had actually made it to the bed.

Tossing the box spring onto the bed box was almost anti-climatic after that, and they stopped to look at each other for a moment across the expanse of the bed.

"One piece left," said Legolas. "I left the linens on it, and I know they're clean since Elrohir hasn't been here in ages. So we've only the blankets and coverlets to restore after that. Almost done, Queen's Daughter."

She grinned up at him. "I'm wide awake now. No worries."

He eyed her skeptically, but turned without comment to head out of the room and down the hall once more.

They were to share the same end of the mattress this time and drag from one end, but Legolas took off with the entire mattress before Ivy was ready, so that she ended up running alongside it rather than guiding her side.

"Hey, wait for me!" she protested.

"Don't want to wait." He grinned back at her as she grabbed for her side of the unwieldy thing, but was gracious enough to slow down a bit while propelling the mattress down the hall.

They were still laughing in exhausted glee when Legolas' end of the collapsing mattress collided with the doorframe into his room. The Elf impacted with a startled 'oof!', while Ivy bounced off her side to stagger back into the hallway.

"Are you okay?" she gasped.

"Quite well, thank you for asking."

Their eyes met across the top of the mattress, and they both began laughing even harder than before.

A moment later, the narrow door at the end of the corridor beyond Legolas' room opened. Elrond stepped through, his robes shifting about his ankles, and his raised voice cut through their exhausted merriment.

"Just what, may I ask, is going on here?"




All laughter died, and Ivy and Legolas stared like startled rabbits at the owner of the commanding voice who was demanding instant explanations. The candlelabra Elrond carried added additional drama to the scene as the flickering light played over the distinguished lines of his face and threw his nose into sharp, aquiline relief.

I don't think this is a scene I'd care to paint, thought Ivy. Elrond's brought forth the Eyebrows of Doom again, but we haven't done anything wrong. We weren't doing anything wrong the last time, either. I mean, a bit of hysterical laughter never hurt anyone, did it, so what's he all glowery about?

Maybe he doesn't laugh?

The stairwell door opened behind Elrond, and Erestor stepped out only to fetch up against Elrond's immovable back.

"Might you move on?" asked the chef.

"My pardon." Sweeping his robes out of the way and being careful to hold the candelabra safely away, the Elf lord stepped aside.

One glance at the tense, frozen tableau also blocking the way was all Erestor needed. Shaking his head at the unsmiling miscreants and their silent but damning mattress, he maneuvered around the mattress to continue down the hall.

"Goodnight, Elrond. Ivy, Legolas. See all of you tomorrow."

"'Night!" Ivy called after his retreating back. The others did not respond, and Ivy looked back at Legolas only to discover he had bowed his head and was stealing a furtive glance at her.

So young and vulnerable did he look in the flickering candlelight, and so complete was Ivy's exhaustion, errant giggles threatened to burst out all over again. Biting her lip and coughing to keep them at bay, she hugged her end of the mattress to keep it from collapsing on the floor and looked down at her feet.

"The chaos was easily heard as I came up the stairs," Elrond relayed. "Again, I ask, what is going on up here?"

A sober Legolas straightened with his dignity intact once more. Boldly meeting Elrond's gaze, he announced with all solemnity, "Ivy and I are moving Elrohir's bed into my workroom."

"And why are we moving my son's bed at one o'clock in the morning?"

"So that Ivy may sleep comfortably."

Running her finger over the mattress edging, Ivy nodded in agreement when Elrond's baleful gaze shifted her way. He actually look startled for a split second before the closed-off, critical expression took control once again. Elrond's eyebrows remained doomed, and his fierce frown didn't soften in the least.

Why have we been called into the principal's office? And what can I do to distract him? Again.

"Legolas has the coolest bed," she ventured. "Have you seen it?"

For the first time since she'd met him, Elrond ignored her completely.

"Why would Ivy be sleeping in your workroom, of all places?" Raising his hand, he forestalled Legolas' explanation. "A moment, please. Do not mistake me, for I am glad to find my daughter after discovering the door to her room standing open and her bedroom deserted. This, after I distinctly recall you were seeing her safely to her room. That said, I do question why she would be in your quarters, and why you are planning to let her sleep in your workroom."

Moving forward, Elrond held his candelabra aloft as though to find the answers written on their foreheads. "While it would have been nice if you had informed me ahead of time that you were bringing Ivy up here, I do not think the planned arrangement appropriate at all. Do you?"

Ivy couldn't help but stare at Elrond's dominant display of misplaced protectiveness. Legolas's chiseled features grew stony, and he was clenching his teeth so tightly that the hollows beneath his cheekbones were even more pronounced, and Ivy feared he might break a molar.

"Actually, I think the plan to have her sleep in my workroomis highly appropriate," he clipped out. "I will explain in due course, but right now Queen's Daughter needs a safe and comfortable place to rest."

With that, Legolas hauled back on the mattress to angle its position in the doorway, gave the recalcitrant thing a sideways shove, and set his shoulder against it. Ivy jumped back as the mattress shot past her into the bedchamber, which had the effect of leaving her alone in the hallway with a very irritated Elven lord. Looking after Legolas, she looked back to stonefaced Elrond and decided instantly to follow her protector into the gloom.

"Gotta help assemble that," she offered with a weak grin, which went unanswered by His Imladrean Majesty. Darting after the Mattress Express, she heard the sound of robes whispering as their owner followed her, but Ivy didn't dare look back.

Legolas had gotten the mattress into the workroom by the time Ivy caught up with him. She resumed her place at the bottom of the mattress as Legolas angled the head toward the bed. It worried her that he wouldn't even look at her now.

"Here, I'll help pull if you push."

"You've done enough manual labor for tonight, daughter. More than enough. We will finish it." Elrond's tone was smooth, commanding, and very much designed to reassert control over the situation. Standing at the edge of the hearth, he surveyed the accommodations with obvious displeasure. "Legolas, I am still waiting for an explanation as to Ivy's new accommodations." "

Swinging into the room, Glorfindel came to rest beside Elrond. "I figured you two had to be up here. There's no place else Legolas would hide you, Ivy." He cast his son a warm smile that somehow managed to include her. "Who will finish what, Elrond, and what accommodations are we discussing?"

"Finish assembling that bed, and Legolas is to offer explanation as to Ivy's sleeping accommodations."

"I can manage the bed by myself!" Legolas snapped. "In matter of fact, it's done already."

Gripping the bottom edge of the mattress with both hands, he lifted it high, only to have the thing run into the footboard at an angle and refuse to go further.

"Let me help," Ivy murmured, only to find herself caught between a mattress that would not move, and her father gliving ever closer. I don't think he's coming to help.

"Oh, not another talk, Elrond," Glorfindel protested, stepping up to help center the mattress. "I grow weary of such talks, and I'm sure these two do as well. Isn't it obvious what is going on?"

"I don't think anything is obvious," insisted Elrond, "and I am awaiting some details from your son. If Ivy is to sleep in anyone's rooms, it shall be mine."

Resting his hands on Ivy's shoulders, he gently tried turning her away from the housekeeping efforts. "Let go, daughter. Glorfindel and his son can handle things from here."

"But I want to help," she protested, only to have Elrond's fingers tighten over her collarbones.

"Ivy cannot sleep in your rooms." Legolas sounded more weary than affronted now, and Ivy felt hurt on his behalf. "Your room has a balcony, and this castle's balconies have proven unsafe in the last hour."

Legolas has been through just as much as I have over the past week. He needs a break, Dad. Wishing she dared speak the words aloud, she moved forward, not deliberately shaking off Elrond's touch as refusing to be restrained by it.

"Yeah, balconies can be a problem," she agreed, grasping her end of the mattress once more.

"Ah, so Julien did come calling?" asked Glorfindel as the three of them set about fitting the box spring and mattress neatly between its rails. "I thought as much after we heard him slam the front door again and come wailing like a banshee through the halls." Gathering up the tumble of bedding laying on the desk, Glorfindel threw it onto the bed and scowled as Legolas reached for the fitted bottom sheet. "Hang about. Ivy needs fresh linens."

"These linens should be clean," said Legolas. "Elrohir hasn't been here in a few years, and the bed has not been used."

"I believe you, but I don't trust Bridie. Unused the sheets may have been, but how long have these so-called clean sheets been on this bed? This house is as dusty as any other, the seasons come and they go, and that woman is completely lazy where any Elven comforts are concerned, unless they're for her dear Haldir."

Legolas met his father's gaze with an expression of growing horror. "I know the ones in my hutch chest are clean. Let's get those."

The minute father and son left to retrieve sheets, Elrond moved to escort his daughter to the chair beside the hearth. "I know you are tired, please come and sit down. So this relocation is because of Julien?"

"Of course it's because of Julien," Glorfindel called before Ivy could reply.

Eagle Elven ears, she thought, taking the chair Elrond insisted upon, but refusing to outwardly acknowledge how good it felt to sit down.

Glorfindel reappeared an armload of sheets and blankets, while Legolas followed carrying a small bedside table.

"You heard idiot Julien wailing in the halls, didn't you? Crying for his 'Weddy?'" Pulling a sheet free, Glorfindel set the rest of the linens aside. "He was dripping blood all over Haldir's carpet, so we'll soon be hearing about that loud and long, too. Here--" he added, turning to his son and holding out one end of the sheet. "You get that side, and I'll get this one."

"Wait--" Ivy protested. "I can make my own bed, you don't have to do that."

Embarrassed by their efforts, Ivy got up to join the domestic scene around the bed. Settling on her shoulder, Elrond's large hand pressed her back down into the chair.

"Please, Ivy."

And so, she was forced to passively watch two powerful Elven Lords tucking in sheets and spreading blankets for her.


"They have it all well in hand," he murmured. "You rest. You're exhausted and you've had a traumatic evening."

Glancing up from the task, Glorfindel assured, "Don't fret, Ivy. We Elves take care of one another, hmm? While we ready your beddy, you might tell what happened to get Julien in such a state? Elrond and I are dying for the details."

"We were in my room eating dessert when Julien climbed onto my balcony, opened the door and came in," she explained in a rush. "Legolas said hello, and Julien jumped off the balcony when he saw him." Squirming in her chair, Ivy shifted her shoulders under the heavy weight of Elrond's hands and glowered. "You can let go. I understand I'm not going anywhere."

Looking abashed, Elrond removed his hands but remained standing like a sentinel beside her chair.

"There you are, Elrond. Legolas was there, just as he said he would be, Elrond. My son was protecting Ivy and is still protecting her. No worries." Glorfindel smoothed out the blankets as Legolas reached for the coverlet Ivy had brought from the other room. "You might want to stop chucking the poor fellow off of balconies, though. It's starting to get monotonous."

Legolas placed the pillows on the bed with great care, then shook his head. "I did nothing to Julien this time. I suspect he knew he was in trouble and tried to outrun me. He missed his footing on the icy rail while attempting to leap from one balcony to the other. I saw him perch there a moment, flap his arms madly, and then he then he went down like a stone. I never touched him."

"He was trying to fly," Ivy said helpfully. "And he left his credit card as a calling card."

Pulling it from his pocket, Legolas tossed the small card onto Ivy's new bed. "Julien used it to pry open the balcony lock, and then he dropped it."

Glorfindel snatched it up to angle the face of the card toward the candlelight. "And here, Lord Elrond, is the needed hard evidence to support the ricidulous sort of story that only Julien could inspire. Oooh, look at that, Julien's name is right there. He's clearly lost it, in more ways than one," he added in mock concern.

Mischief danced in Glorfindel's eyes. "Lost little card like this in the wrong hands could cause Julien unimaginable harm, couldn't it. Best we destroy it for him, lest some criminal make off with it."

"And what would that accomplish?" Elrond was clearly not happy with any of the answers he was getting, and his mood was not improving.

"It would cause Julien anxiety and no little inconvenience trying to get it replaced," said Glorfinde. "And it would keep others from tapping into his funds. Unfortunately." Glorfindel moved toward the fireplace, but Legolas held out a hand to slow his progress. "Wait, don't burn it. Plastic stinks."

"Oh, too right. Well, shall we just bury Julien's little card in the manure pile when we check the horses?" Tucking it into his pocket, Glorfindel settled back on the bed, though he did still give the flames a longing glance.

Ivy laughed at his expression, and Elrond's attention instantly turned back to her. "Did Julien dare hurt you again? Has he damaged your faith in us even further?"

Elrond had clearly taken care to shift his mood out of anger before he addressed her, and the open concern in his eyes startled her. Reaching over, she tugged on the sleeve of his robe with what she hoped might pass for reassurance.

"I'm fine." His expression told her that he wasn't believing any of that, so she hastened to continue. "It was scary having him break into my room like that - and so easily, too - but thanks to Legolas I don't think Julien managed to set one foot in my room, never mind get anywhere near me. I know it would have been bad if I'd been alone, because Julien's so angry with me and he threatened me earlier...."

Her voice trailed off as the full impact of the potential horrors washed over her, but Elrond slide a companionable arm about her shoulders and she watched Legolas move around the bed to pull up a chair and perch on her other side. Swallowing hard, Ivy held his worried blue eyes and forced a smile back onto her face.

"You were right there, and you made me gather up my stuff and brought me here..." Ivy glanced up at Elrond. "Legolas says Julien doesn't even know this wing exists, so I know I'll be safe and comfy here. With all of you."

Silence greeted the end of her explanation, and she tried another smile on her dubious audience. "Really, Adar. It's fine."

"She will be safe in here, Elrond. I swear it."

"She would be equally as safe in my rooms," the Elf-lord growled, "and I would prefer her there." His folded arms and very erect stance spoke of a refusal to be swayed on the issue.

"Your rooms have a balcony, this room does not." Legolas cut through Elrond's arguments, silent as well as voiced. "If Julien is to reach Ivy now, he must discover how to reach this wing, get past my father's door and your door, penetrate the room I am occupying since he cannot gain access to this room in any other way as that wardrobe has been positioned across this doorway for untold years, and know to move beyond the bath into this room." Legolas tilted his head. "Do I make my point? Julien simply cannot reach Ivy in here."

"Not unless he can climb outside walls like Spiderman," said Ivy.

Three bewildered looks answered that quip.

"Okay, nobody's seen the Spiderman movies," she muttered. "Never mind. But if anybody's interested, I'm not really happy with balconies right now. Julien might have another credit card, and he's really, really mad at me."

There was a moment of silence, and Ivy got the feeling the Elves might be somehow conferring among themselves without words. Finally, Elrond nodded.

"Very well. If Ivy would be more comfortable in this room, then this is where she will stay."

Ivy exhaled in relief and even Legolas looked pleased, but Elrond held up a finger in warning.

"However, I will watch over her through the night."

"I will be right here, Elrond," Legolas protested, gesturing at the conjoining doorway. "You know no one will get past me."

Elrond swept a critical, skeptical gaze up and down Legolas. "It is obvious that you are as exhausted as she is, and you must hunt in the morning. You must sleep, and I will watch over Ivy."

"He's right on this one." Glorfindel was now lying down on the bed with his arms folded behind his head. "You do need rest, Legolas. I don't think you've had any real sleep since you left Alaska, and even you cannot continue indefinitely without some sleep."

"I've slept," he protested. "I slept in New York. Didn't I, Ivy?"

"I saw him asleep in New York," she answered, "but I don't know that it was all that restful."

Legolas looked crushed at her lack of support, but she glanced over at Glorfindel who gave a subtle nod of encouragement.

"Legolas planned to be talking to Haldir all night while the faxes came through," she continuned, relentless, "but he fell asleep on the floor. He had his eyes open and everything. Kinda creepy. Haldir was shouting at him to wake up, so I picked up the phone. And then, Haldir made me wake him up."

Legolas' fierce scowl said she was not being as helpful as he'd hoped, but Ivy didn't care. He's going hunting in the morning and thinks he can do that on no sleep? She thought. No way.

"But yes, he did sleep."

"That was merely a nap, if that," scoffed Glorfindel. "Hardly a restorative sleep. No, my son. You will sleep, and I will watch over you as Elrond watches over Ivy."

Ivy bit her lip as she watched the expression on Legolas's face darken. Thankfully, he had shifted his gaze to his father. Getting up from the bed, Glorfindel stepped forward.

"It's not a bad battle plan if you stop to look at it, Legolas," he soothed. "First, you will still be on the front line. Secondly, Julien is hopeless at stealth, and you'll surely hear him if he somehow manages to get on this floor. If that does happen, both Elrond and I promise to let you deal with him."

The look he cast Elrond's way said 'Don't argue.' Thankfully, Elrond did not.

"But if you let Elrond and I help, let us also keep watch, then you and Ivy can both relax your guard. You know you must sleep, for if nothing else there is the morning hunt to consider, else it's back to oatmeal by dinner for all of us." Glorfindel grimaced. "Next up is the ceilidh and its accompanying issues the new laird must see to. Sleep tonight," Glorfindel urged, "and you'll be the better for it tomorrow, when Julien might dare to be up and about again."

Bowing his head, Legolas considered his father's words before giving a sigh and nodding. "Very well. You speak wisdom as usual, Adar. It is as you say - a wise plan - and Ivy's safety is paramount. You've no idea how I wish I could dump the little wretch in Gimli's cells and be done with him!"

"That would be fun, but ill-advised," Glorfindel commiserated. "Hopefully, this night will be the end of his macinations."

Ivy glanced up at her father, whose expression indicated he didn't agree with Glorfindel's hopeful assessment any more than Ivy did. A thought then occurred to Ivy that made her sit up straighter and reach out to touch Legolas' arm.

"Wait a minute. You're going hunting in the morning?" Ivy asked. "Deer hunting?"

"Red deer," he affirmed, "else we are out of meat according to Erestor. It happens every year we get this kind of snowfall. It's not a difficult hunt at all, but I must go out."

"With your bow and quiver and everything?"

"Yes." Legolas sounded bewildered.

"Could I go with you?" Ivy heard herself asking.

Legolas stared across at her, as though shocked she would even suggest such a thing.

She felt herself coloring in embarrassment. Did I just screw up somehow? Don't girl Elves hunt or something?

"I've been hunting before," she said defensively, as the other two Elves were staring at her as well, now. "With my grandfather. I know how to behave, really. Walk where you walk, don't talk, don't touch anything - that sort of thing."

"I will be going out very early," Legolas said softly. "The deer will be hungry after this storm, and they will be looking to feed at dawn."

"I can get up. I want to. Will you wake me?"

Legolas looked as if he simply couldn't believe what she was saying, and the other two Elves looked just as surprised.

"You sincerely wish to go out in the pre-dawn cold and deep snow to watch me shoot a deer?" Legolas asked.

"If you wouldn't mind? I don't want to intrude on your private time or anything like that, but I love being in the woods and I haven't been there since we moved...."

She let her voice trail off, starting to feel stupid for having asked. They're all looking so shocked with the newbie who's trying to jump into the guys-only club.

"Never mind," she mumbled. "It's okay. Just forget I asked."

"You know I must clean the deer?" Again the hesitant look in the sensitive blue eyes, the hesitation as Legolas waited for her to demand details, and the revulsion that would surely follow.

"Of course you have to clean it. And yes, I know what that means." She all but rolled her eyes. "Slit open the belly, but not too deep. Don't puncture anything inside. Tie off the ends and pull out the guts. Wash the insides, then skin the carcass. That about cover it?" She could feel the questioning stares without looking at Elrond and Glorfindel. "What? I went elk hunting with my grandfather."

Glorfindel's merry laughter broke the stunned silence, and he closed the distance and scooted in between Ivy and Elrond to wrap an arm around her shoulders, hugging her against him in approval so tightly that she gasped.

"The child knows what she's talking about. I do like this one, Elrond," he added with a grin.

"Hmphm," was Elrond's only reply. Ivy thought he might have had more to say, but Glorfindel wisely went back to his son after hugging her.

Legolas was a bit more quiet in his approval, but his worried eyes were now dancing, and he met her gaze squarely.

"In that case, I would be honored to have you join me." And he smiled at her - a shy but warm and welcoming smile that made her heart skip a beat. "You shall need warmer clothing, but I know where to find that."

"Then it's settled," Glorfindel proclaimed, clapping his hands lightly together to seal the invitation, "and you both need to sleep. Both for the benefit of our empty bellies tomorrow, and before one or the both of you collapse on the floor. Elrond, why don't you see your daughter tucked into her nice, clean, warm, safe bed, while Legolas and I do a final check on the horses?"

"Isn't that what I've been trying to do for some minutes?" the Elf-lord grumbled.

"Are you two going to bury the credit card?" Ivy asked eagerly.

Rising from his chair, Legolas exchanged a telling glance with Glorfindel.

"The manure pile is too frozen to bury the card tonight," said Legolas.

Glorfindel gave a mock pout. "Alas, you're right. We'll have to look in the stalls for a fresh dropping and stick the card in there before it freezes. We can then add it to the midden in the morning."

"If you two have concluded your juvenile plotting, would you go along so Ivy can get settled and get some rest?" Elrond gestured peremptorily toward the door, and both Legolas and Glorfindel began guiltily sidling toward it.

"I think we've been banished," Glorfindel advised Ivy in a stage whisper. With a wave, he shoved Legolas out and followed behind him. "At least the horses will be glad to see us."

Elrond followed them to the doorway, listening as their voices faded from the room beyond and were cut off abruptly as they made for the stairs leading behind the kitchen and out through the game room door.

"There we are, daughter. Peace at last. Let's get you settled in bed."

"Why did all of you stare at me like that when I brought up going hunting wioth Legolas?" she asked anxiously, still worried that she might have committed some Elven faux pas with her request.

"Stare at you?" Elrond replied. "Did we?"

"Yes. You stared at me. Glorfindel stared at me. Even Legolas looked shocked. Don't girl-Elves hunt?"

"Ah, that. I see."

"See what?" she persisted. "Where I screwed up?"

"You did not 'screw up,' as you put it. We were startled, nothing more."

"It seemed like a pretty big startled to me. It was like you were all holding your breath. Like I'd asked something awful."

"Firstly, it was a surprise that you wished to go out with Legolas. Secondly, it is a miracle that he agreed to take you."

"I know, dumb city kid is likely to blow his hunting trip and then we'll all starve." She felt like stomping her feet in frustration at having been so stupid, and starting to cry also seemed like a viable possibility. Stop it and grow up. You're tired and over-reacting, so just go to bed and forget about it.

"We were surprised that Legolas agreed to take you, because Legolas hunts alone." Elrond's voice cut through her latest bout of self-recrimination. him.

"He doesn't take out tourists?" she asked warily.

"He doesn't take anyone with him," Elrond reiterated. "Oh, his father will occasionally go out with him, but no others. Legolas hasn't taken anyone hunting with him since Aragorn died. Even after he became king, the two of them used to go out frequently, but joy of hunting with company seemed to have ended for Legolas when Aragorn passed on."

She could feel her mouth hanging open, and she knew her eyes were huge. Stop it. You must look really stupid, she scolded herself, but even that ever-present critical voice couldn't override the shock of this bit of news. "Legolas only hunted with Aragorn?"

Elrond's smile was gentle now, and only slightly melancholy. "Yes, only with his friend. And now with you, it seems. So it's best you get yourself to sleep so you are rested in the morning. Dawn comes...not so very early in Scotland this time of year, but early enough."

Ivy looked again at the massive oak bed that had started the last round of disagreements between everyone, then back at Elrond. "Are you really planning to watch me sleep again? I mean, it's got to be a pretty remote chance that weasel-boy is going to find some way to reach me tonight. I'm sure I'll be safe enough with all of the powerful Elf-Lords in their own beds."

"Indulge me." That melancholy smile again. "I want to be certain you are safe, even if the chance of harm is exceedingly remote. I've only just found you, Ivy. I couldn't bear it if something were to happen to you. Especially not if I could have been there to prevent it."

"Oh." He gets angry when he gets scared, remember? The angries are all gone. Now, he's just...scared somehing might happen even when it won't, I guess? "Okay. I'll just get my toothbrush, and...hey, where's my stuff?"

Ivy headed for the massive wardrobe, where she discovered her small pile of possessions had been sorted out, refolded, and stacked neatly on the dark oak shelves within.

"Are your things there?"

"Yeah. Legolas must have stuck them in here, but I don't know when."

So much for privacy with personal things, she thought. At least the hair dryer is still here. Pulling out her night clothes, she groped inside the gloom for her toothbrush. Turning, she saw Elrond hovering near the fireplace.

"Are you just going to stand there and watch?" she demanded.

He gave a slight, unruffled bow. "Of course I will give you privacy to prepare for bed. I will wait out here." Elrond glided into the bath and out the other side into Legolas' still-empty room. Leaning down, Ivy found she could still see his shifting robes through the flames of the shared fireplace.

Yeah, that reassures me all to heck. I wouldn't put it past him to kneel down and take a peek, just to make sure no boogeyman came in with the bed.

Clutching her things, Ivy snatched up and lit the candle in the dish that Legolas had originally handed her and made a dive for the bathroom. Locking both the doors securely behind her, she reminded herself, Legolas said to.

It's not like I think Elrond is going to leap in without warning. He's an Elf Lord, he's a gentleman. And he's my father, she scolded herself. It's just...I want my privacy!

Once ready for bed, she unlocked the doors and crept into her room again. Blowing out the candle, she it on the little table Legolas had brought in to keep company with the massive bed.

The woods match, she noted in yawning amazement. I wonder if he made these at the same time? These medieval furnishings really are amazing, I feel like I'm sleeping in a museum display, and they bang everything around like it's nothing special.

This is definitely a night I'm going to remember. For many, many reasons.

She remembered seeing Legolas' shining head bent over the bed, determined to make all as comfortable as he could for her, recalled watching father and son working together to finish making her bed. Closing her eyes, she let her fingers move in the air, taking care to sketch invisibly what she would later bring to life in her book.

They looked so much alike, it was like watching almost-twins facing each other like bookends...smoothing the sheets under elegant, long-fingered hands...golden hair falling forward, tinted red by the firelight...light and shadow playing across their features....

I've got to remember this. I've got to draw this, she told herself yet again, mentally adding her newest, precious memories to the growing file in her mind labeled 'must draw this.' If I only had my sketchbook, but I've no idea where that ended up.

Leaving off air-drawing, she crawled into the massive bed. The old wood creaked and groaned as her weight shifted on the mattress, and she wriggled in delight to hear it.

Oh, this is too cool, it sounds something between a ship and a rocking chair. Mom, you never mentioned the ancient furniture, either. Pulling up the blankets, she settled against the pillows and felt what was left of her energy fall away.

Another sound reached her and she rose up, frightened by the unfamiliar noise as well as by the looming shadow that blocked the fire's light and fell across her.

"It is only me." Elrond's deep voice soothed her. "I will be with you."

Stepping out of the firelight, he set a massive chair under the lone window beyond the bathroom door.

"You're just going to sit there and watch me sleep?"


Shaking her head, she plumped the pillows and sank back down as sleep began taking her again.

"I still think you just like to watch people sleep," she muttered drowsily.

The chair creaked as he settled into it, and his soft laughter reached her then. "Only if it's you, my daughter."

* * *

Awareness slowly nudged Ivy from sleep - awareness of something unfamiliar. She knew without opening her eyes that she hadn't slept nearly long enough, and knew that it was far from dawn.

The room was warm, and the fire was fairly high again, indicating that someone had added wood sometime recently. There was also a flash of light accompanied by a strange whooshing noise.

That commanded her attention in a hurry. What's in the room with me?

She debated the wisdom of revealing she was awake, but another whoosh ended the debate. Sitting bolt upright, eyes wide, she looked around the room.

What she found was Elrond, sitting in his chair across the room and turning Anduril in his hands. The blade caught the firelight again to throw another flash of light toward her. Turning the blade, he then swung it, cutting through the air and creating the distinctive sound.

Elrond with sword, her sleepy mind recorded. Not scary. Not dangerous. Just amazing. Look how easily he swings that thing, and I couldn't even pick it up. She watched the blade make another circuit, guided by his large, sure, and clearly very strong hands. Elf-lord with sword. Wow.

Another need made itself known, now that she was awake. With reluctance, she slipped out from beneath the warm bedclothes. She almost squealed in dismay at the coldness of the floor, but managed to keep from waking the rest of the house - barely. As she stood up, she noted that the sword came to rest, point down, on the floor.

Elrond leaned forward, watching her closely. "Are you all right? Did I wake you?"

"Gotta pee," she muttered, shuffling toward the small room.

A candle burned brightly on the sink, which was a good thing as she had forgotten her own little flame. Ivy noted someone had merely dripped wax onto the porcelain and stuck the candle into it to ensure it stayed uprighit. Hey, whatever works in the dark of winter, right?

The door leading into Legolas' room was open, and Ivy reached to shut it, only to hesitate.

Don't look in there, she thought. It's not right to look in there. Legolas deserves his privacy, even if I don't get much. You can't go peeking at him while he's sleeping.

For all the wisdom of her conscience, the urge to see if her friend was too strong. As was the urge to see if Legolas was actually sleeping in that massive bed, not to mention the urge to see his bright beauty in the firelight once more.

She crept forward on bare feel, trying her best to move soundlessly. Never know what elf ears can pick up. Might even hear me breathing.´ Even so, she took one careful step and then another, until she could see around the doorframe. What she saw make her gasp in surprise, and her heart ache.

Legolas was, indeed, tucked into the big bed. He lay still, which seemed to Ivy so wrong, somehow, as she knew him as someone in constant motion. His long hair was splayed across his pillow, the firelight sparking gold and red highlights in the strands and emphasizing vulnerable shadows under his cheekbones and in the hollows of his closed eyes. He looked so young - surprisingly young as he slept - nothing at all like the worried Elf or ultra-intense warrior Ivy had seen earlier, but still his expression was almost sad.

At the the side of the bed sat Glorfindel. He looked up at her as she crept closer, and offered her a small smile.

"What are you doing?" she whispered. "Is he okay?"

To her horror, Legolas turned his head at the sound of her voice. His breath caught, its even rhythm interrupted, and he clenched the wool blankets in his hand.

Glorfindel murmured something soft in Gondolic and ran a hand over his son's head, stroking down his hair. To Ivy's vast relief, Legolas let go the blankets and his deep, regular breathing resumed.

The legendary Elf then returned his attention to her. "Legolas is fine. He's sleeping, as you can see."

"Are you sure?"

"I am sure."

"But his eyes are closed," she whispered

"When Legolas is very tired, he will sleep with his eyes closed, as will all Elves."

"What are you doing?" she whispered.

Glorfindel looked down at his son with an expression of surprising tenderness.

"Elrond isn't the only one wishing to watch over his child," came the soft reply. "This is a luxury I've not had in a very long time."

Ivy felt suddenly embarrassed to have intruded on such a private scene, but didn't know quite how to extricate herself, much less how to look away from the unbearable, raw beauty of father and son. They're as mesmerizing to look at as Aragorn's tapestry. And who needs to sleep? I could look and look.

Glorfindel offered a tender smile. "All is well, Ivy. Now rest, as you've a busy morning ahead of you."

She offered an awkward little half-wave before ducking back into the bathroom and closing the door. That scene was so intimate, I'm not drawing it.

Once finished, she crept quietly out her side of the bath, only to find Elrond's eyes followed her every move. He sat motionless as a waxwork, Anduril's sword tip still on the floor. His large and elegant hand was closed about the pommel, and he seemed to be waiting patiently in the dead of night for her to crawl back into a bed that was several times older than her country of birth and standing in home of an Elf.

Once she had crawled back into the bed and settled down to sleep, Elrond lifted Anduril and swung it again in a motion Ivy realized had to be born of habit during wars - the scope and destruction of which she couldn't possibly imagine - and ancient training lost to the mists of time under Gil-Galad and only Elbereth knew who else.

Lying on her side, she watched Elrond manipulate the sword and refused to close her eyes against its fierce, flashing light.

"You know," she whispered to herself as much as to Elrond, "any other night this would seem really strange."

With that, she closed her eyes and fell into sleep under the protection of an Elf-lord and the song of Anduril.




Ivy came awake instantly the next morning when Legolas lightly shook her shoulder. Peering up at his silhouette framed against the light of the still-glowing fire, she muttered, "What time is it?"

"Six thirty. I let you sleep as long as I could, but sunrise is at eight-thirty, and we've to move quickly if we're to be in position before the deer are on the move."

"Okay." No warm shower this morning, she mourned. Certainly no time to subdue the hair. I'll just have to go as I am and hope I don't scare off the deer.

The Elf patted a lump of something at the foot of her bed. "I've loaned you my warmest clothes. Put them on over your own and meet me in my room when you're ready."

Her feet hit the cold floor before Legolas had exited the room.

"Oh, cold. Cold floor on the toes," she hissed, hopping as she dove for the closet to do as Legolas had suggested. Hastily yanking on the warmest clothes she owned, she turned back toward those Legolas had brought for her.

He's letting me wear his clothes? Pushing aside the pair of heavy woolen mittens, laying atop Legolas' pile of clothing, Ivy snatched up a heavy wool sweater and breathed deeply before pulling it on. Oh, but it does smell like him!

Butterflies fluttered in her belly as she realized not only would Legolas' clothes be keeping her warm, but she'd be spending the next few hours - perhaps even the whole day - with him.

Me! With the real Legolas! Alone! she squeaked to herself while grabbing two pairs of wool socks and digging beneath the bed for her boots. Just the two of us! This dream wasn't even on the radar last week, and just look where I am now.

Not wanting to keep the Elf waiting, she settled for only skimming a brush through her hair and staunchly ignored the fact that painful sleep tangles would be waiting when she finally got round to doing a thorough job of it. She briefly thought about braiding it back, but discarded that idea as taking too long.

Not only that, she thought, snatching up the mittens and hurrying into the bathroom, but maybe leaving it down will help keep my ears from aching with the cold. Declaring herself done after brushing her teeth, she stepped out into Legolas' room to find it as dark and gloomy as her own. Standing before the fireplace with its guttering fire, Legolas appeared to be finger-combing his hair. At least, I think that's what he's doing. He could be ripping through it like I saw him do in New York. Was that morning really only a couple of days ago?

"Is the electricity still out?" she asked.

"It is. There is no telling when it might be restored."

"Are you talking days or weeks?" She moved further into the room. "Don't tell me you have to wait for the spring thaw to get help up here."

Legolas smiled and shook his head. "It will not be so long as that, nor is it unexpected. We will manage. We did for years before the concept of electric wiring found its way to the Highlands."

Ivy very nearly gasped aloud as she ventured closer and saw that, far from ripping through his hair, the Elf was actually finished off the second of two braids that began at his temples and ran behind his ears to disappear into the length of his hair.

I can't believe he has braids like Legolas did in the movies. And he's wearing a brown tunic and tights, and knee-high leather boots? Oh, he has the most beautiful conformation, so clean and tight. I know he's a great mover, too, but I guess most elves are. She was stared openly at him, and he arched a quizzical eyebrow.


"Are your braids important?" she dared to ask.

"Very important. I would not want to use my bow without them."

"Ooh," she breathed, awed. "Are they some sort of ceremonial ornamentation worn only by Elven warriors?"

"Are they what?" He looked startled. "Alas, no. They are but a practical necessity for long-haired Elven archers to prevent them from being snatched bald when they release their bowstrings."

"Oh." She battled the urge to discard the practicality of his reply and keep the more romantic, if fictional, explanations she'd imagined. "That makes sense."

Legolas crossed to the bed after finishing off the braid with what looked like a stray thread from some shabby blanket. Raking back the curtains, he revealed his long, recurved bow and quiver laying across the mattress, complete with the set of long white knives and their well-worn knife harness.

"Oh, wow." Ivy crept up beside him.

Legolas turned to look at her, his expression confused. "It is just a bow, Ivy. You saw it before. On the plane," he prompted as she continued to stare at it.

She shook her head in adamant dismissal. "Didn't register then. Now, I can see the whole Elven hunting kit and know what it is. And it's yours. It's almost exactly like it was in the movies." Her hand hovered over the faded peacock tooling gracing the quiver. Her fingers twitched. "Do you mind if I touch this?"

"Not at all."

He seemed more than a little amused and definitely in the mood to humor her, and she needed no further permission. Daring to run a finger over the faded peacock, she memorized the simple lines forming the arrogant creature.

"This tooling is beautiful. Who did it?"

"Haldir. He fashioned the quiver as well and has made each of my bows over the years, beginning with the one given me in Lothlorien."

Haldir? She hadn't expected that. Huh, who'd have thought it?

"This movie you mention. It seems to be rather important to you," Legolas ventured as she continued caressing the leather of the quiver. "Why is that? And what movie was it?"

"It's three, actually. A trilogy based on your books."

"My books?"

"Julien's books. You know - The Lord of the Rings? Surely you heard KiKi going on about it earlier."

He nodded in understanding. "And you seem to know it quite well."

"Hey, until last week it was the closest I'd ever get to Elves, and yes, I loved seeing all of you, even if you were played by Mortals. But this is so much better." She turned from her inspection of the quiver to look up at him. "Could I maybe see your knives, too?"

"Of course." Reaching down, he pulled one of the long white weapons and handed it to her. "The blade is deadly, so please take care."

The knife was heavier than it looked and perfectly balanced. It also bore intricate embellishments that flowed unbroken from its handle to the tip of its blade, and Ivy brought the weapon closer to her face, moving it in the dim firelight in an attempt to read the stylized gold lettering entwined with the graceful ornamentation.

"Mind your nose," Legolas warned.

She squinted as she angled the blade toward the light once again. "Is this Sindarin?"

"Gondolic. An inscription my father included when he made the knives. He gifted them to me a few days before I began traveling with Mithrandir."

"Gondolic..." she pondered. "No wonder it looks different. What does it say?"

"Something very personal." His fingers closed over hers to neatly pluck the knife from her grasp and return it to its sheath.

"You won't tell me what it says?"

"My knives will speak to you as they spoke to me, when you are ready," came the calm answer.

"When I can speak Gondolic, you mean?"

"Yes, if my father will teach you. And if he deigns to spend thirty years training you as a warrior."

She sighed. "Like that would ever happen."

"It is hard to foresee what will come to pass."

He replied so casually that Ivy actually had to wonder if it was a possibility. But that could be thought about later. For now she needed to focus on the Elf.

Beside his quiver lay two cloaks, almost lost in the deep shadows of the bedclothes. Picking up the first cloak, Legolas swung it about Ivy's shoulders. "This will keep you warm."

The material flowed soft and light between her fingers. Watching it settle about her ankles, just shy of her toes, she was startled when Legolas lifted her chin to set about fastening a green-leaf broach at her throat. Once done, the Elf turned away to give the fletching on his arrows a final inspection.

Lifting the hood of her cloak experimentally, Ivy basked in the warmth of her own private bubble. "This is different. Where did it come from?"

"Lothlorien." Legolas was busy looking over the fletching standing up from the quiver and did not spare Ivy's continued curiosity so much as a glance. Picking up the second cloak, he settled into it before setting the quiver across his back and buckling himself into its harness.

"Is it like the ones Galadriel gave the Fellowship?"

"Exactly like, as it is the original cloak she gave to Aragorn. I hope you can forgive the travel wear it shows, but it was hard used that year. Shall we go?" Slinging his bow over his shoulder, Legolas headed for the door.

Ivy froze in place. "This is Aragorn's very own cloak? The real one? I can't wear this, it's a Fellowship relic!"

"It is but a cloak, and cloaks can be replaced," came the patient reply. "The sun, however, will not wait this day. We need to be away."

"This cloak can't be replaced, it's special! What if I tear it?"

"Then it will have one more tear in it," he said reasonably. "It won't be the first. That cloak has been torn and repaired many times. One more is of no consequence, and if we wish to make an entirely new cloak, we can do that as well. Our weavers still produce the same cloth in Warra. Either way, it does not matter."


Legolas' expression was fast shifting into exasperation. "Ivy, you must either wear the cloak or remain here because I have nothing else that will ensure your warmth on this hunt."

"I could wear Haldir's stuff," she offered. "The same stuff I wore out to the barn."

"Wrapped up like an Egyptian mummy in its sarcophagus, unable to move or to see and still feeling the cold? I think not. You would never make it to the hunt site, nor survive the chill."

"But Legolas--" she protested once more, her hand clenched in the fabric and its unnerving history.

"I see that your choice is to remain behind. I am sorry, for I would have enjoyed your company." Giving a slight bow, Legolas closed the bedroom door behind him and was gone.

"Hey!" Running to the door, she flung it open. There was no sign of the Elf in the cold, dark hallway, but a door to her right was cracked open and pale light flickered beyond it. Darting the distance to peer inside the stairwell, she spied Legolas looking up at her from the steps below. He held a burning torch in one hand and gave a soft laugh.

"So you have decided to wear Aragorn's cloak after all?"

"Yes, you wretch!" she whispered, not wanting to wake the rest of the house. Carefully pulling the door closed behind her, she stomped as loudly as she dared down the worn wooden stairs and yanked on her borrowed mittens. "But it'll be your fault if I rip it on some nasty bramble-bush or get it muddy."

"I shall take total responsibility for its well-being if it will make you feel better. But I have also accepted responsibility for putting meat on the table, and we must go. Now," he stated firmly and continued down the stairs, taking the light source with him and leaving Ivy to follow or stay as she would.

Sighing, she began feeling her way down the dark steps.

"First you hand Anduril to me, and now you stick me in Aragorn's cloak," she muttered. "Legolas, you have got to stop doing stuff like this."

"Why?" His voice floated up to her.

"Because Aragorn was a king, and the belongings of a king belong in a museum or something. Behind glass, not being dragged around in the snow. Besides which, he was your friend, and the things he left behind belong to you. With you."

Finally reaching the narrow door at the foot of the stairway, she discovered they were now in the workroom behind the kitchen. "Oh, that's neat. Do you have many other secret passages in this place?"

"A few," he answered shortly before opening a door to the right of the one they had just exited. "This is the back door into the kitchen."

Legolas headed across the dark expanse. "Aragorn is your ancestor. As such, he belongs to you more than to me. Beyond the question of ownership, the things he left behind are things meant to be used. I see nothing wrong with your using them. In fact, I think it quite appropriate, even if they are a bit big for you."

"The hell!"

"Perhaps we can agree to disagree?" the Elf offered, turning beside the stove and holding the torch aloft to look into her face.

"Sure we can. As long as you get your way, and I keep using his things or you'll ditch me." she said sweetly. "I've got your number, mister."

Giving a soft laugh, Legolas opened the refrigerator and retrieved a small satchel. "This is yours to carry."

Taking it, she peered inside, but the all-encompassing darkness prevented her from seeing anything. "What is it?"

"Our breakfast." With that, Legolas led the way to the back door once more and out into the dark, frozen morning. Thrusting the lighted torch into the snow, he waited until it had stopped sizzling before heading down the path toward the barn.

"It's a good thing you glow in the dark." Ivy hurried to keep up with his long strides in the deep snow.

"The storm has moved on, and the moon is nearly full," the Elf observed. "Does it offer enough light for you to see by, or should I guide you?"

Glancing up, she saw that he was right. The moon was bright and the stars seemed clearer than she remembered them being in Montana. "I'm okay, but am half-tempted to say I need your guidance."

He gave her a sideways glance, and even in the pale moonlight she could see his puzzlement. "Why?"

Because I'd love having you touch me again, but I can't tell you that, she thought.

"Um...nothing," she said as he veered away from the paddocks to venture into the thick forest beyond. "Just my wonky sense of humor. But it would be easier if you left footprints or something. And hey, didn't Glorfindel say something about your feeding the horses this morning?" She pointed toward the snow-shrouded stable.

"I have already given them hay. I didn't think you needed to join me for that. We can feed them properly on the way back. And their stalls still need cleaning."

He wants me to feed horses with him? How neat is that? "Do you want me to hush now and walk behind you?"

"You needn't be silent quite yet, but it will be easier if you follow me. The game trail we are picking up is narrow." He continued on, only to halt a few minutes later as Ivy found herself struggling in the deep, pristine snow as they left the castle behind and entered the forest. "Do you need me to slow down?"

"What I need," she puffed, pausing to shake out the snow that had collected in the dragging edge of her cloak, "is to be able to walk on top of the snow the way you do." She gasped for breath. "Look, there's no way I can keep up, so maybe I should give up. I can find my way back to the castle. I've left a big enough trail for me to follow," she added, pointing with disgust at the disturbed snow behind her.

"Why don't you try walking on top before giving up?" he suggested, looking down at her from his two-foot height advantage atop the deep snow.

Oh yeah, right. You think I don't want to walk on the snow like you do? she thought. Like it's so much fun staggering through drifts up to my knees?

Taking a deep breath, she opted for a less antagonistic reply. "I don't walk on top of the snow because I can't." still colored her tone as she kicked at the snow atop a fallen log. She then flopped down on it and fought to catch her breath. "Don't you think I would if I could?"

"Have you tried?" Legolas demanded.

She looked up at him with some exasperation. "I step on snow, and I go down. It happens every time. Always has."

The Elf's arrows rustled in their quiver as he left the path to sling a leg over her log and sit before her. "Close your eyes."

"Close my--"

"Just do it, Ivy. Please?" The exasperation was now his.

She instantly did as he demanded.

"Thank you. Now envision the intricate latticework of snowflakes beneath your feet. How beautiful they are. How they will sparkle when the sun comes up. How they overlap, their fragile crystals interweaving to form this icy quilt upon the earth. Tell them you are an Elf and would be most grateful for their help. Ask them to support you on your journey, so that you walk atop their beauty instead of breaking through and destroying their beauty as would a Mortal."

"How do I tell them?"

"Simply ask. Whisper it aloud if you must. Have faith, the snow will hear you."

She did as she was told and added one more thing: I want to be with him, not back at the castle waiting. So please don't let me fail? She didn't open her eyes until she was finished.

"Now, stand up." Getting to his feet, Legolas stepped up onto the log. "Give me your hands, and come up here."

She did and found herself standing nose to chest with him. Not a bad place to be at all, she decided.

"We will step off of this log," he said, still holding her hands, "and you are going to walk on top of the snow. Come."

Obedient and trusting, she stared up at him and followed as if in a dance. Legolas smiled down at her. "You're doing very well."

She wrinkled her nose and held on. "Now what?"

"Look around and keep walking." Releasing one of her hands, Legolas guided her carefully around the fallen log and back to the path.

Looking down, Ivy saw that the snow was no longer collapsing beneath her feet. Glancing behind, she could see the awkward, broken trail she'd forged reaching to the long, but there was none leading away. She and Legolas traveled together on a lake of snow that was untouched by their passing.

"It worked!" She gasped. "I'm actually staying on top!"

"Of course it worked." He sounded amused. "You had only to ask."

Blinking back tears, she squeezed his hand and gave a watery smile. "So I really am an Elf?"

"I have told you so, and so has your father. You found yourself glowing ever so faintly last night, and now the snow agrees with our telling." He cocked his head at her. "The snow is quite honest, I think, so don't you think it must be true?"

"I guess...."

"You can keep up with me now." Legolas offered a dimpled smile before pacing ahead of her and reclaiming the trail.

I can talk to the snow and it will listen, and I belong among the Elves, she thought. The snow says so.

Following at Legolas' back, Ivy looked through new eyes at the frozen, absolutely silent trees engulfing them both. I'm following an ancient woodland Elf through an ancient Ithilien forest that's a frozen, beautiful other-world. It doesn't even look real out here. It doesn't even feel real because I'm not cold any more. Of course that could be the magic elven cloak here, but it feels real enough though, and nothing like the trees and swallow-you-up snowdrifts in Montana. Does Legolas talk to the trees as well as to the snow? Could he teach me how to do that, too? Oh, that would be too wicked cool.

Feeling bold, she reached out to feel Legolas' cloak flowing beneath her hand as it swung before her. She ran her other hand over his quiver and shivered before ghosting her touch over the hilts of the deadly knives above. I can see why he'd be more at home out here with his bow and his trees than inside that old castle Lee Greenwood calls home.

It was somehow a comfort to reach up and curl her fingers around the top of the graceful wooden bow laying across his back. Of course he felt it and glanced back.

"Am I going too fast for you?"

"No, I'm just making sure you're real," she whispered.

"Again?" The amusement in his voice was all too clear.

"I keep thinking I'm going to wake up in San Francisco, and you'll have been nothing but a dream. Where are we?"

"On the game trail that passes the Falls of Eowen."

"Eowen? The White Lady of Rohan?" she ventured. "Why did you name them that?"

"I didn't, Faramir did. He said they roared as fiercely as his wife did when he had infuriated her. He then added, under her angry glare, that the pool of water beneath them offered solace and comfort as she did to those needing it. The White Lady could be quite fierce," he added with a grin tossed back over his shoulder. "His jest fell flat, but Eowen was so amused by Faramir's efforts to take his foot out of his mouth that she let the name stand." He moved a few paces on before adding "Aragorn and I hunted this same trail."

"It's been here that long?"

"As long as the food and water remain, the animals will also," he explained. "Deer aren't very imaginative."

They walked on in silence for some time, Ivy taking in the crystalline stillness of the snow-clad forest glowing in the moonlight. The trail curved gently toward the base of a mountain ridge, eventually revealing a half-frozen waterfall flowing in glowing-white, moonlit beauty over a jagged black cliff.

Moving closer in her eagerness to see the falls, Ivy heard the sound of water falling into the frozen pool below. Trotting ahead, she stood on tiptoe at what she judged to be the edge of the pool. "Why can't I see where the water's falling?"

She took a couple more steps closer to peer into the eerie silvered darkness, only to yelp in surprise Legolas lunged forward without ceremony. Catching her shoulders, he roughly yanked back a few feet.


"You must not ever trust the ice, above or beneath the snow, at the edge of any river or pool," he warned, standing with his arm tight around her waist. "If it breaks, you will fall into the frigid water. The current will carry you beneath the ice shelf where not even I can reach you before hypothermia claims both our lives."

The terse delivery, along with an increase in the strength of his accent, told her he was serious about this, and that his fear for her was quite genuine.

"Oops," she whispered, clutching his hand. "I didn't know I was on the ice already. It just looked like more snow." She shivered and added softly, "Thank you."

"I thank you for not falling in. As for where the water is falling, it is just over there." He pointed into the shadows where the ice had formed a strange, jagged vertical sculpture. "The water still falls within the ice, for all waterfalls freeze from the outside in. There is considerable flow within the ice flume to feed the pool beneath, which is too deep and wide to ever freeze solid."

Ivy stood silent and stared in amazement.

"Did you not have such waterfalls in Montana?"

"Yeah, but I never got this close to them." She looked from the pool up at him. "Do the deer ever fall in?"

"Not often." He was still hovering close to her. "Deer cannot easily reach the water, but they have no need to venture over the ice as they've learned to lick the snow for moisture. The deer are not clever, but their collective memory is long."

Ivy stared intently at the black swirling water that could have claimed both their lives if Legolas hadn't been so vigilant. "It's so beautiful. And scary."

"Some have said the same about the Highlands in general. And we Elves. Myself especially, at least according to your mother's estimation."

Ivy wrinkled her nose at that, which earned her another smile, and then Legolas held out his hand. "Deer first, sights later. Come."

She took his hand and he tightened his grip, the better, she assumed, to ensure she followed when he left the edge of the pool. Crossing the game trail, he led her far away from the waterfall and much deeper into the woods. He seemed to consider each tree they passed until, nodding in seeming satisfaction, he stopped at the base of a very large oak whose branches disappeared into still-darkened sky above.

"My last hunting tree seems to have fallen since I've been away," he observed, "but this one will do."

"Will do what?" Ivy asked, craning her neck to look up into it.

Not answering, Legolas leaped to grasp the nearest branch that was growing at least three feet over his head. Swinging up onto it, he stepped a few feet away from the trunk before bouncing hard a couple of times and showering Ivy with snow.


"Sorry." He took great care to miss her as he scraped the remaining snow and ice off with his boot. Crouching on the branch, he gestured shortly down to her. "Throw me your satchel."

Oh please let me remember grandfather's lessons and don't let me throw like a girl, she prayed before launching the satchel upward.

Miraculously, it seemed to know it was to land in Legolas' hands. Catching the satchel with ease, he hung the strap safely on a nearby branch. The next moment, he jumped lightly down from the branch and was beside her once again. Bending slightly, he laced his fingers together. "Up you go."

She looked from his hands and up at the branch, which had to be close to four feet over her head. "Up? Me, up there? You're joking."

"No. It is quite easy. You have but to put your foot in my hands and let me lift you into the tree."

"It's too high," she protested, her gaze fixed on Legolas' chosen branch which seemed to have moved even higher up the tree.

"Perhaps you're right." He considered for a moment. "No matter. I will lift you high enough for you to grasp the branch. You can wait there until I am back in the tree and can pull you up."

"Wait? You mean hang there? By my hands?"


He looked serious. Ivy knew he was serious. She also knew that she had to do this, and the thought was terrifying. "What if I fall?"

"I will not let you fall. And the snow is deep," he added as an afterthought. He was still standing and waiting, half hunched over and with his fingers laced just for her.

"I, er...I'm not sure I can do this."

"Ivy...." That tone again. The one that said he was fast losing patience with her inability to comply with the simplest of requests. "It is as simple as mounting a horse. You have but to give me your foot."

"A ten-foot tall horse, yeah. This is easy for you because this is what Elves do. Elves wait in the big, tall oak trees for the deer to walk by and don't notice that their Elven hinnies are twenty feet off of the ground."

Legolas did not deign to reply, and he did not shift his stance. In short, he simply, silently refused to exchange his choice of tree for one that was a little lower to the ground. One that would be a little more reassuring for her.

Really, Ivy, what did you expect? she thought. That he'd have a nice, comfy blind built back here in the woods with a ladder for your short legs? Oh, and there would be Darjeeling tea brewing in front of the fire, and you'd lay there whispering secrets and eating scones until a deer got lured in by the Buck Bomb that Legolas doesn't have and doesn't need, and then he could take his masterful shot?

"I think I'm getting some sudden insight as to why Elrond chooses to stay behind in his comfy chair and lets someone else do the hunting," she muttered.

"You asked to come with me."

The Elf's voice was soft, his tone deadly. Ivy sensed that in the next moment he would unlace his fingers and take her straight back to the castle. He wouldn't say another word, but everyone would be eating ghastly lumpy oatmeal and turnip juice for lunch, and it would be all her fault. She cringed at the thought of telling Wendy and KiKi that porridge was all that was on the menu, and eyed the tree again. Elrond knew what I'd be doing out here, even if I didn't, and he thought it was okay, so it's okay, right?

"Oh, bloody hell." If it's a good enough word for Lord Elrond to use under pressure, it's good enough for me. Grabbing Legolas' shoulder, Ivy set her booted foot into his hands and tried to swallow the lump in her throat. "Just hold still, okay?"

"Of course." He then heaved her abruptly up into the air with what felt like the driving speed and force of NASA blasting its shuttle into space.

Don't you dare ask him to do this a second time! some wise part of her warned. She made a desperate grab with both arms at the branch that suddenly appeared in front of her nose and hung, swinging, for what felt like an eternity before Legolas swung up lightly beside her.

Grasping her arm, he murmured, "You have to let go if I'm to pull you up."

"Can't!" she hissed between clenched teeth. Her fear of falling had inspired her fingers to lock fiercely onto that branch, and they ignored her request to loosen.

"It's a simple thing to ask, and it's me asking."


"Ivy." Straddling her arms, he bent down and ran his hands down her arms which were desperately clutching the branch. His voice was soothing, his impatience tethered for the moment. "It's me. Legolas of the Fellowship, one of the Nine Walkers. Your protector, remember?"

"Name dropper." My voice is quivering like some scared kid on the high dive for the first time, and so are the muscles in my arms. I've got to let go, and this is so embarrassing.

His voice was so close. She wanted desperately to listen to him, to trust and obey him, but her traitorous arms would not. Whimpering softly, she closed her eyes and held on even more tightly.

"I will not let you fall." His breath warmed her ear, and his cold nose pushed aside her hair. "Trust me. Please."

His warm lips pressed against her temple and stayed there for the longest moment. "Please."

When those lips moved away, Ivy's eyes flew open.

"Did you just kiss me?" she asked, incredulous.


He kissed me. He admitted he did. Legolas. Kissed me. Why did he kiss me? Oh, I don't care why. He did! Her mind was suddenly awash with surprise and confusion and a warm, pleased feeling seemed to overlie it all. She forgot her paralyzed fingers, and the distraction was all Legolas needed to tighten his grip beneath her arms and lift her easily, safely and securely beside him on the branch.

Wrapping her arms around his neck, he smiled into her dazed eyes. "You and I are going to sit down now, across this great branch that is happy to protect and support us."

"Okay." Ivy's thoughts were so far away, she heard but didn't understand him. Did he kiss me because he wanted to, or because he wanted me to let go?

Without any argument at all, she sank down beside him, scarcely noticing where they were or how he was nestling her between himself and the very solid trunk. His hard-muscled thigh was against hers, and she sensed that if she so much as shifted one inch, he would be there to reposition her. She would not fall.

That's great, she thought, still in a daze as he unwound her arms from around his neck and carefully returned them to her. But I think I may already be falling.


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