14. Chapter Fourteen
Strider swam across the pool, chasing Laeriel through the water. They had returned their belongings to the cave and against his better judgment, had taken to the water for a swim. He knew they should be taking better care, watching the surrounding area for trouble, but all remained quiet and he had decided to just this once, remain carefree.
Strider returned his thoughts to the chase before him, laughing when she splashed water in his face. He had gotten close that time, his hand just slipping from around her ankle. With renewed efforts, he headed after her, intent on capturing her this time.
Laeriel laughed gleefully, wiggling out of his grasp once more, heading under the waterfall. If she could lose him long enough to slip under the surface of the pool, she could resurface behind him and gain the advantage. She felt the rush of water pulse over her, and then suddenly he was beside her, his arms circling her waist.
"Where are you going?" he asked, his voice rough and full of desire.
Laeriel looked at him, a blush creeping up over her cheeks. "I…."
Strider held her, his hands cupping her buttocks, his lower body tight against hers. He was hard again, their playing in the clear waters of the pool, bringing his desire for her back to the forefront. Without a word, his mouth came crashing down on hers, his lips punishing hers in a bruising kiss that left them both breathless.
He lifted her easily, and her legs wrapped about his waist instinctively as he settled her over him. He wanted her more than he had ever wanted another woman. He wanted her to scream his name. And yet, he felt himself slipping into a web of emotions he wasn't sure he would ever be able to escape. Nor was he sure he wanted to.
Surrounded by the heat of her body and the coolness of the water, Strider thrust up, filling her. He bent his head, kissed the valley of her throat, trailed his tongue along the cords of her neck, and tasted her flesh. He couldn't get enough of her.
"Laeriel by the Valar, I want you."
Laeriel felt the sudden rush of warmth flow between her legs, and cried out his name, her head falling to rest upon his shoulder. The desire had swept over her quickly, leaving her weak.
Strider felt the searing heat covering him and threw his head back. He echoed her cry, her name dying on his lips as he spilled his seed deep within her.
The night grew cold, the last of the gathered wood burning on the fire in the center of the cave. Venison cooked over the fire on a spit, the smell of the roasting meat filling the cave. Laeriel sat close to the fire, her knees drawn close to her chest. Strider was taking care of the horses, brushing them, their coats shining in the dim light. She watched the muscles in his back tighten and loosen with every stroke.
Ever since they had returned from their swim, he had been distant, quiet. He had found things to do, things to keep him occupied. He had cleaned the area that the horses occupied. He took them out to feed on the fresh grass that grew by the lake. He had cleaned his sword, sharpened his knife, and restrung his bow.
Everything but talk to her. After he made love to her on the bank, how tender and gentle he was, she thought the words he had whispered had been true. Now she was not so sure. Strider hadn't even looked her way since he had taken her under the falls.
Tears threatened to choke her as she sat there thinking and analyzing his actions. She had promised herself she wasn't going to take this interlude to heart. But when he had whispered those sweet words, they had pierced her heart and nestled close.
"Don't say that…" she whispered.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
Laeriel looked up, swiping at her cheeks. She sighed as he knelt beside her, concern written on his face.
"What is it?" he asked again, placing his hand on her face.
"It's nothing…." she said, turning away.
"Laeriel…the tears are not nothing. What's wrong?"
"I…was…well, you were…I mean…You've been so quiet…."
Strider lowered his head. He had been quiet since their romp under the waterfall. He had felt conflicting emotions; guilt, for betraying Arwen and joy, for finding a pure love with Laeriel. What he had finally realized, was that the two were completely separate. His love for Arwen was unrequited. She had no idea he loved her. Yet, Laeriel did. And it appeared she returned the feelings.
"Laeriel…I'm sorry. I have been thinking."
"There's someone else, isn't there?" she asked, knowing the stab of jealousy she felt was unwarranted. He had never said she was the only one. That there hadn't been another.
"Oh Laeriel. No….there is no one else," he said, feeling the truth of it in his heart. Arwen was just a dream. A boyhood fantasy.
"No?" she asked, staring up at him, her tears returned.
Strider looked down at her, pushing the love he held for Arwen to the far corners of his heart. This was his and Laeriel's time, their moment. And he truly loved her.
"No….there is no one else," he said, pushing her back onto the bedroll.
Covering her with his body, Strider rained kisses across her face, the saltiness of her tears on his lips. He heard her gasp and he pulled back, staring down at her. His eyes narrowed and he recognized the new tears as those of pain.
"Your shoulder?" he asked, sitting beside her.
"I didn't want to tell you…" she said softly. "It was feeling fine."
Strider sighed, helping her sit up. "You should have told me, Laeriel."
Strider helped her ease off her shirt, and then he removed the bandages. The wound underneath was red and festering. Muttering, Strider reached for his knapsack, pulling the sweet smelling athelas and the tiny pot out. Then he strode to the falls, collecting some water.
Once he returned, he cleaned the jagged tear, washing it with tenderness. When she winced, he dropped a small kiss on her shoulder. The water in the pot began to boil and he reached for the athelas, gently crushing it between his fingers. As soon as it hit the water, the air permeated with the sweet smell.
He finished washing the wound, and then rewrapped it. Handing her a small cup, he urged her to drink the contents.
"Strider…no. I don't want to sleep."
"It will help you….please. For me?"
Laeriel sighed, taking the cup from him. She sipped at it, frowning when he tipped it so she had to drink all of it. Handing it back to him, she had to smile. He looked pleased with himself. Breathing in deeply, she relaxed, leaning back against the bedroll. "What is that? It smells so sweet."
"It's called athelas. You might know of it as kingsfoil."
"Kingsfoil? That's a weed."
"Ah…yes. But it has healing properties. I will show you how to use it."
"Show me now?" she asked, stifling a yawn.
"Shh…rest now. I will show you later," he whispered, trailing his hand across her cheek.
Strider sat there, watching over her, love filling his heart. If he hadn't left Rivendell, he would never have known this feeling. Yes, he loved Arwen, but not like he did Laeriel. Was it possible to love two women at the same time?
Strider watched over Laeriel as she slept, worry etched on his features. She was warm to the touch, her brow peppered with beads of perspiration. He knew she had done too much, knew she should have been resting since the attack. He never should have allowed her to swim. And making love to her should have waited. Guilt washed over him, her quiet sigh alerting him that she was waking up.
"You're over obsessing…" she scolded. "I'm fine."
"You're feverish. I never should have…."
"Hush, Strider. I'm fine. It has nothing to do with you, our making love or even this wound. I had a fever as a small child. When I am feeling unwell, or in this case, am injured, it comes back. It will subside in a few hours. I just need to rest."
Strider glanced at her, his eyebrow raised, skeptical of her explanation. "Still….I should have taken more care to your well being."
"By the Valar, Strider! If you had taken any better care of me, I would be ready to string you up. I am not a very good patient."
Strider chuckled. "No, you're not. Now will you lay back and rest."
Laeriel groaned. She was tired of resting. She could tell by the darkness of the cave that much of the night had passed. And yet, he was still awake. Watching over her.
"You should heed your own words. You need to rest as well."
Laeriel shook her head. "No, you're not. You are about to fall asleep. Lie down here beside me…and rest."
Strider covered a yawn with the back of his hand, looking at her sheepishly. "All right. You are right. I am tired. I think all the activity today wore us both out."
Laeriel moved over, making room for him by her. When he lay beside her, she tucked in close to him, careful of his ribs. She laid her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. Feeling his arm wrap around her, she smiled. The feeling of safety washed over her and she clung to it. It felt good to be in his arms, even if it was for just a little while.
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.