12. Chapter Twelve
A/N: Tomorrow is my birthday, but you are the ones getting the gift! Here's the next chapter....I hope you enjoy!
Laeriel opened her eyes, feeling Strider's gaze on her. "What?' she asked.
He dropped her hand, lowering his eyes. "Nothing."
"Strider, there is much we have to trust each other on. Do not keep things from me. Now what is bothering you?" Laeriel asked, reaching for his hand.
"Laeriel, I should not speak of these things to you…" he said, rising to his feet.
"Strider…" she said softly, reaching up to take his hand in hers. "Please…"
He looked down at her, her hair shining in the firelight, the blue of her eyes sparkling. With a soft groan, he knelt back down beside her, his fingers still entwined with hers. "Laeriel…I…"
Laeriel searched his eyes, the steely grey depths piercing hers. What she saw there should have frightened her, but it did not. His passion filled the depths of his eyes and suddenly she realized that she could get lost in them. She could and did. And she did not want rescued any time soon. Laeriel felt his fingers tighten around hers and suddenly she felt herself being pulled toward him. She watched as he pulled her into him, then her eyes closed of their own accord just as his lips caressed hers.
"Laeriel…." he murmured, his mouth covering hers in a fierce kiss that took her breath away.
Laeriel felt his free hand snake into her hair, pulling her closer still to his body. His tongue slipped between parted lips, playing with hers. When she moaned, Strider deepened the kiss, his arm leaving her hair, wrapping about her shoulder.
"Ow," she whimpered, flinching from his touch.
"Laeriel….the wound. I am sorry…I did not think…." he stammered, seeing the tears that formed in her eyes.
Laeriel placed shaky fingers to his lips, silencing his apology. "I will be fine," she told him, smiling through the tears that were shining in her eyes.
Strider wrapped his hand around hers, turning it so he could kiss the inside of her palm. "I want you, Laeriel. More than I have the right to. But for now, this cannot happen. You need to heal."
She began to protest, but he shook his head, leaning in to kiss her gently on the mouth. "When I make love to you, I do not want you flinching from my touch. We have time. Rest, let your body heal."
Laeriel let him push her down to the bedroll then she watched as he began to straighten up their camp, making sure the horses were taken care of, the venison was packed away, the fire banked for the night. When he returned to her, she moved aside, making room for him beside her.
Strider glanced at her, and then moved his bedroll over beside hers; taking care to make sure they touched. Then he laid down beside her, turning on his side to watch her, the firelight casting a warm glow on her skin.
"Sh….I just want to watch you," he whispered, reaching out to trail a finger down her cheek. "You are so beautiful…"
"I am not…"
"Laeriel, you said you would try to be obedient. I said you are beautiful. Now behave yourself and just take the compliment."
Laeriel laughed lightly, and then nodded, closing her eyes. When she opened them again, she found him staring at her, his eyes heavy with unfulfilled desire. She inched closer to him, reaching for his hand. When their fingers touched, she curled hers around his. "You should rest, Strider. You had a long day."
"I am not worried about myself. I worry about you. You are still seriously injured. And you faced down a wolf today."
"Your wounds are not healed yet, either. And you killed a stag, lifted it to the back of Salo, cleaned it and prepared it for drying."
"You caught lunch, prepared a fire, cooked…"
"You cleaned up the campsite, took care of the horses…."
"I am not going to win this battle, am I?" he asked, bringing her hand to his lips.
A series of wonderful sensations ran up her arm and Laeriel had to suppress a sudden urge to shiver. She stared at those marvelous lips, wanting them to do more than just kiss the inside of her hand. "No, you are not going to win this battle. Do not be so stubborn. I know what those claws did to your ribs. They were not just merely a scratch. You have some deep gashes there."
"And I suppose your shoulder is just a mere scratch as well?"
"No. If you had to sew it up, I assume it is an awful mess."
"It is. Which reminds me, I should look at it. I bet you pulled the stitches today with all the movement you did."
"Okay, but fair is fair. You look at mine, and then I will look at yours," she said, sitting up while he went searching through his pack for the things he would need to rewrap her wound.
When he turned back to her, she slowly peeled her shirt off her shoulders, exposing the nasty bite mark. Swallowing deeply, Strider returned to her side, taking the medicinal herbs and a small pot for water out. "I just need to…um…heat up the water…." he stumbled over the words, his eyes straying to her bare skin. With a flush staining his cheeks, he turned his head, fumbling with the herbs, spilling some. By the Valar, she was beautiful and seeing her, half unclothed as she was, he wanted her. Wanted her lying beneath him, calling out his name.
He looked up at her and when she smiled, the tension he felt eased a little. There would be a time for them, but right now, she needed him to be thinking clearly.
"I am sorry, Laeriel. When I look at you, all rational thought flees and all I want is…."
"I know," she said, placing a hand on his arm. "But as you said, there will be time for that, when we are both healed. Now look at this wound for me so I can check those ribs."
Strider pulled his shirt down over his head, the wince that passed over his features not lost on Laeriel. Silently, she boiled the water, then handed him the herbs he asked for. She watched as he placed them in the water, stirring them gently, the sweet smell wafting through the air.
Pouring half of the broth in a cup for her, he handed it to her, smiling. "Drink it all. It will help with the pain."
She nodded, taking the cup in her hands. Slowly she brought it to her lips, drinking the hot liquid by small sips. When she noticed that he had yet to drink the remaining liquid, she frowned. "Yours as well, Strider. Do not think I missed the pained expression that crossed your face moments ago."
His lopsided grin told her he had not planned on taking the medicine. When she frowned, gesturing to him to drink, he finally acquiesced, lifting the cup to his lips. Once he began to drink, Laeriel turned her attention back to her own cup. The sweet tasting brew was pleasant and as she finished the drink, she yawned. "You put something in this…" she said accusingly, her eyes starting to drift closed.
"You need to sleep," he said, taking her cup from her, his own forgotten.
Gently, he held her by the shoulders, slowly lowering her to the bedroll. As her eyes drifted closed, he brushed the stray strands of hair from her face. Smiling softly at her in the firelight, Strider leaned down and placed a tender kiss on her forehead. "Sleep well, Laeriel," he whispered.
Strider dumped the remainder of the contents of his cup and settled back against the stone wall of the cave, his sword across his lap, his eyes trained on the entrance. He would keep watch tonight.
Strider woke with a start, sitting up, the blanket that covered him falling to the ground. Frowning, he realized he had fallen asleep sometime during the night and now the sunlight streamed through the water, washing the cave in a hazy glow. He glanced around, suddenly noticing that Laeriel was not in the cave. Struggling to his feet, he searched the nearby ground for his sword, only to find that it had gone missing as well.
Muttering a slight curse, he headed for the entrance to the cave. Had there been trouble during the night? Had he failed in his vow to protect her? He seriously doubted that if a band of Orcs had found them, he would still be alive. But where was his sword? And more importantly, where was Laeriel?
As Strider approached the mouth of the cave, he found his sword, neatly wrapped in a piece of cloth, the hilt sticking out. He picked it up, unwrapping it with care. The metal gleamed in the bright sunshine. Smiling, he shook his head. Laeriel had cleaned and polished his sword while he slept. The woman was full of surprises.
And just where was she? He had thought he made this sufficiently clear. He wanted her to stay in the cave. At least until her shoulder was healed. They were both still weak. Striding under the falls, he managed to stay relatively dry and came out on the path in the clearing.
Scanning the meadow, he found nothing amiss. No one had intruded on their campsite. They were safe for now. Now to find Laeriel. Strider bent down dipping his hand into the water. He cupped some in his hand and was about to bring it to his lips to drink, when he saw her.
Laeriel was sitting beside the pool, her legs dangling from the bank. She was playing in the water, her feet splashing the water up her legs.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Wishing I could take a real bath," Laeriel said softly. "I would love to get the dirt and grime off."
"Your shoulder wound is still mending. Getting it wet now would only damage the stitches."
"I know. But that doesn't mean a girl can't wish, now does it?"
"We need to go back inside. I will get you something to eat and heat some water so you can wash. I know it's not a full fledged bath, but it's the best I can do for now."
Laeriel stood and followed him inside. She wanted a bath, but the warm water sounded wonderful. And if she were honest with herself, her shoulder still pained her greatly. Maybe she could take a real bath in a few more days when she healed more.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.