Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lord of the Rings belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and J.R.R. Tolkien.
She slips from the light like a shadow, noiseless and quick. She wears a cloak of gray, a sword at her belt. She does not look back.
She escapes Imladris more easily than I had thought, and when we are beneath the trees her stride is merciless. The moon is high and the air is cold, a biting, breathless cold that does nothing to slow her. In the wood she is a nightmare, pale and swift in the sleeping dark. I follow her by the ghosts of her passing, the crush of grass here, the sway of a branch there, the scent of her hair on the wind at an odd turn of my head. By the hard white light of the stars I catch glimpses of her up ahead, running, all natural grace and effortless cunning, cutting through the green and the noise of the wood, running like wolves run, and I think it is not her I am following, but wolves.
I can think of nothing but her. I fear I have lost my sense, gone out of my mind with the memory of her in my arms. I know I am being foolish, that I am acting a child to be feuding so over a woman. A mortal woman! But when I think of turning from her, of letting her go and watching her with another, I grow sick with despair.
I linger at her door, at her window, hoping for a glance, a curve of her lips, the sound of her voice. I want her to look at me, speak to me, pay me the attention she gives so freely to the sons of Elrond. I want to see the shape of my name in her mouth.
I want, more than I have ever wanted anything, to pull her to me and press my face to her hair.
Up ahead, the gray of her clothes fades in and out of the trees. I give up quiet, rushing ahead reckless of cover or shadow, and whether or not she knew I followed her as she left Imladris, she knows now.
Perhaps she tires. Perhaps her injuries slow her. But now I see her only a length or so in front of me, and I throw myself into the chase.
We tear through the trees and the green growth, heedless and incautious, breakneck in our desperation. A heady rush flows upward from my legs into my stomach, into my head, and I do not know if I want to sing or to howl from this maddening fever. I forget all those things that had worried at me for days and days, forget all the coming troubles and devouring heartaches that we left behind at the edge of the wood, and all that means anything in the world is catching her.
Edain, mortal-kind. Short-lived and passing, life her a while to my all time. It is Luthien's pledge I would give up all that I am to make now, the same bargain Arwen would defy her father to strike.
She comes nearer, her gait becoming slightly awkward, and I realize that her bruises, her wounds, are paining her. This must stop. I adopt the lope of a hunting wolf, and the image flickers through my mind - the wolf running down his chosen mate.
I will give up my own race. I will give up my very nature. I will forfeit my right to life undying, to Valinor. I will turn my back and not regret.
I will break my father's heart.
She is in front of me, a few, frantic strides. I smell her hair, her sweat, her exhaustion. I smell the blood where her stitches have broken.
She glances over her shoulder, green eyes wide with something like fear.
A strangled cry in my throat, I lunge forward and grasp her cloak.
She cries out, in pain or shock I cannot tell, and is jerked back, off of her feet. I catch her, my arms closing around her, but the ground slopes unexpectedly here, the grass slippery, and I, too, lose my footing.
We crash down the hill, tumbling and rolling, knocked about together in a tangle of limbs and sheathed swords and unstrung bows. She struggles only briefly, but I lock my arms and grip her waist and shoulder. For a single, heart-stopping moment, in between one jarring fall and the next, I feel her muscles flex and a terrible strength tensing, as if I were holding a creature of iron. But it passes, and we are lying in a bruised, breathless heap in the roots of a great tree.
I shielded her as well as I could, taking the brunt of the ground, and now I lie half-upright in a hollow. She is huddled, shaking, in my arms. We are gasping for air, dirtied and grass-stained, and there are leaves and twigs in her hair. The expression on her face is that of one who has just stirred from a waking dream.
I make her squeak in protest when I push her off of me and into the grass, and then I follow, rolling over her on hands and knees.
My mouth catches hers.
I press her had back against the root we lie against. She makes a noise in the back of her throat, places a hand on my chest as if to push, but there is no space here for anything but this, our bodies against each other. I am drowning in the smell of her, the taste of her. My hand is in her hair, my mouth and tongue on her skin, and she arches her body and cries out in a way that makes my blood boil and a madness come over me.
I whisper into her skin, Mine.
A hand seizes my arm, pulls me up. I am forced violently back, a blow struck to my face that leaves my vision white. I shake my head to clear it and when it does, Elrohir is there.
He stands between us, his back to her as she stands shakily. He is utterly still, a black shape in the light of the moon and the stars. There is murder in his eyes, and I am so shocked by it that he strikes me again before I recover.
There is no elegance to this violence. We fight with our fists, too angry for skill, grappling with each other in sheer, clumsy savagery. I hear her yell, hear her fear and her own rising anger, but I cannot be distracted.
Elrohir. Elrohir, whom I always see with her, whom I always see standing too close to her, touching her, stroking her hair. Elrohir, whom I have seen touching her mouth.
The mouth I have tasted.
Elrohir and I are gasping with pain, bleeding, in only a few, short moments. We might kill each other here, but then she is between us.
We falter, dropping immediately back. She steps fearlessly forward, unafraid of our obscene violence, and her voice pierces like an arrow.
“Stop!” Her face is wet. I realize she weeps. “Stop! Stop! Stop!”
She pauses, gasps for breath. Bitter tears of frustration wash the dirt from her cheek.
I have never seen her cry. I have heard her laugh, rejoiced in her smile, suffered her frown, but I have not seen her cry.
“Stupid,” she shouts at us. “Bad! Stupid!”
She cries in choking gasps, shouting between her sobs. The childish words, said like a babe in swaddling would say them, ring stark and strange. Elrohir flinches, reaches out, and she shies away.
“Stupid!” she wails, and then there is a long, incomprehensible string in her own language.
I cannot bear it. I move toward her.
I stop. She stops. Elrohir is very still.
“No,” she says again, and now her voice is low and weary through the tears. “No.”
I cannot breathe.
She looks at me. She looks at Elrohir. Slowly, as if to herself as well as to us, she shakes her head.
“No,” she says, and there is a quiet despair in the word.
The anger, the fever, has drained away, and in its place I feel an emptiness I do not know how to describe. Elrohir's face is pale and stricken.
She backs away, favoring her right side. She wears an odd expression.
“No,” she says finally, and now with the despair is also a hopeless resolve. “No.”
I cannot breathe.
She is small, covered in dirt and leaves, with twigs in her golden hair. Her faces is streaked with loam and tears. Her skin is mottled green and yellow with fading bruises, and she limps slightly on her right. Her eyes are the green of my home in spring. She is mortal. She is madness. She is my mate.
She is walking away.