"And here we are!" Legolas proclaimed, throwing open a pair of ornately carved double doors.
Mel squinted as the noonday sun flooded the dim hallway, momentarily blinding her. Legolas took her elbow and led her out onto a stone balcony. When her eyes adjusted, she gasped and ran to the railing to gape at the view. The colors of the valley, green and gold and orange and cream, were so perfect that it was almost as if someone had painted them on the landscape. It was impossible to tell where the city ended and the valley began. The sun glinted off the towers and sparkled on the waterfall that crashed out of the cliffs, sending rainbows of color swirling in the air.
Legolas joined her at the railing and swept out an arm dramatically.
"From here you can see all of Rivendell. It is one of the loveliest views west of the Misty Mountains."
"I notice that doesn't include Mirkwood." Mel said with a smirk at him.
Legolas grinned down at her.
"Ah, I see you have found me out." he said in a mockery of guilt, "I confess of all the kingdoms of the Eldar, I find I think often that mine is best. Of course, some might say I am not an objective observer. They are, of course, mistaken."
"Of course." Mel said dryly, rolling her eyes, "Naturally."
She liked Legolas. He had spent the morning with her, taking her through different rooms and courtyards, telling stories about this statue, and that painting. And he had never once made her feel any pressure to say anything. He had not questioned her about anything that had happened at the breakfast table. He had not even mentioned it. They had just spent a lovely morning together. Mel had enjoyed it, but it made her nervous too. Why was he doing this? There must be some motive, some reason. It was driving her crazy. Because she liked Legolas. She wanted to continue to like him. And she couldn't do that if she couldn't trust him.
"Legolas?" she asked, looked up at him, "Why haven't you said anything?"
He looked down at her, his blue eyes twinkling, a smile twitching at his lips.
"About what, Mel?" he asked with a faux-innocence that was almost insulting in its transparency.
"You heard me talking to the hobbits." She said, "And you aren't stupid. You know I made up that stuff about the rumors. But you haven't asked me about it once. Or anything about me. I know you've wanted to, you've hinted around a couple of times, but it's been pretty easy to blow off your attempts so far. You're not trying to hide your curiosity, either that or everything I thought I knew about elves and their unreadable expressions is a lie. But you're…"
She paused, not sure how to explain how she felt.
"I don't need to know anything more than what you wish to divulge to me, Mel." Legolas said, his face turned back toward the view.
A breeze tossed his smooth blonde hair for a moment, then quieted again.
"I know that Lord Elrond would not have allowed you to remain here if he thought you were a danger." He said, "I know that you have secrets. Everyone does. Those secrets are revealed in their own time, to those which have a right or a need to know them. I wished to spend time with you because you intrigued me, it's true." He said, turning his blue eyes back to her, "But I did not seek you out to deceive you, nor will I ever manipulate you in order to divulge your secrets. If you should ever choose to share anything with me, I will never betray your trust. Until such time, however, I am content with the knowledge that you are a kind young woman, intelligent and prone to laughter, and that I enjoy your company, as I hope you have enjoyed mine."
Mel stared up at him for a moment, once again rendered speechless. Well… Alright then. That settled that.
"Thank you." She said, and it seemed completely inadequate.
But Legolas smiled brightly at her as if she had said exactly the right thing. Mel smiled back. Yep, she liked Legolas.
He glanced up into the sky, and then furrowed his brow.
"Oh my, I didn't realize it had grown so late." He murmured.
Mel smiled and waved him off.
"I think I'm going to sit out here for a while," she said, waving at a stone bench overlooking the view, "You go. I'm sure you have a lot of things to do."
The elf-prince seemed conflicted for a moment, then he sighed.
"I do have certain things to attend to, and there is a… meeting, this afternoon…"
"I know." Mel said, enjoying watching his eyebrows shoot up in surprise, "I'll be there. Lord Elrond has requested my presence."
"Then I would ask that you take a seat at my side, if it pleases you."
"It would please me very much, thank you." Mel answered, a little surprised, but not very. It was a very Legolas-like thing for him to do.
The elf-prince smiled, then took her hand and bowed.
"Until we meet again, Mel." He said, before he turned and glided away.
Mel watched him go with a little bit of jealousy. Elves were so graceful. It really wasn't fair.
She sighed and sat on the bench, closing her eyes and letting the murmur of the waterfall and the wind through the trees seep through her skin and into her bones. It was peaceful here, but the quiet only served to remind her that this wasn't home. There were no car alarms, no slamming apartment doors, no police sirens. Just the wind, and the trees, and the water. And it felt lonely.
She thought she'd be used to loneliness. She'd been living on her own, hundreds of miles from her family, for years. But this… this was different. No matter where she had gone, no matter how alone she had felt, her mother had always been just a phone call away. Her sisters had always been just a text message away. Now… Now there was just…
A door banged open close by and Mel jumped, her eyes flying open and her thoughts scattering. Boromir strode out onto the balcony and gripped the stone railing, leaning heavily on it, his head bowed. Mel watched for an impossibly long time as his shoulders rose and fell in long, deep breaths. He was upset. Mel felt a little guilty watching him. He clearly had no idea she was here. Should she say something? Should she leave? Before she could decide, he straightened his back and turned as if to go back inside. He caught sight of her and she could see that he was startled and probably embarrassed as he ran a hand through his hair.
"Forgive me, Lady Melody, I did not know you were there."
"I know," she said, and cringed, "I mean, I saw you and I was going to leave, but I just… sorry, I guess I should…"
She started to stand, but Boromir waved her back down.
"No, please, don't go on my account." He said.
Mel sat. There was an awkward silence. Then she slid over on her bench a bit and patted the stone beside her.
He relaxed minutely and took the offered seat, leaning back and sighing almost inaudibly.
"I am glad that you are recovering from your ordeal yesterday." He said, "Lord Elrond tells me that there appear to be no side effects of your… unusual journey."
"Thank you," Mel said, "I feel fine. Well, other than the fact that I have no idea what's going on and I feel like I might be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But yeah, I'm fine."
Another awkward silence. Mel stared down at her lap. She was twirling that stupid ring again and she fisted her hands in her skirt to stop.
"How are you enjoying Imladris, Lady Melody?"
"You don't have to do that." She said, looking up at him, "Call me 'Lady Melody'. We both know I'm not a proper lady and Mel is just fine."
"Melody is a lovely name," Boromir replied, staring out across the valley, "It rolls pleasantly off the tongue. And I think it suits you."
Mel rolled her eyes, but she was smiling.
"Okay, fine, but drop the 'Lady' bit. It's too much."
He nodded once in acquiescence.
"As you wish, Melody. Now tell me, what do you think of Rivendell?"
Mel looked out over the peaceful hidden valley.
"It's more beautiful than I could have ever imagined," she murmured, but that pang of loneliness struck her again, "But… This is gonna sound weird… It's almost too peaceful. There aren't a lot of people. I like being around people."
"Then you would love Minas Tirith," Boromir said, confidently, "There are many people of all different histories and places living there. It is always bustling and buzzing with life. And when you look out across Gondor from the watch towers as the sun sets…"
He trailed off, searching for words and Mel stared at him, mesmerized by his voice and his face, both transformed with passion and longing and desperation as he spoke about his home.
"It is one of the greatest sights of Middle-Earth." He said finally, sounding disappointed by his lack of eloquence.
Mel sighed and felt a little of his longing seep into her.
"I would love to see it." She said.
Boromir looked over at her and smiled.
"Perhaps one day I will take you. It would be a privilege to show you my home."
Mel felt her heart race with the possibility, but she stomped that hope down. She smiled at him, trying not to let her disappointment show.
"That's very kind of you, Boromir, but I don't think that will be possible."
For so many reasons…
Boromir's face fell, but he quickly masked it with an indifferent expression. His gaze returned to the valley.
"Lord Elrond is very wise," He said, his voice carefully neutral, "If anyone can get you back to your home, I'm sure it is he."
"He's agreed to try to help me." Mel said, her eyes back in her lap again.
There was another awkward silence. Mel fidgeted. She felt… bad. Disappointed. Like she was giving something up. She glanced back at the view, at Rivendell, and imagined gazing at a thousand different other views, Lothlorien, Rohan, the Glittering Caves, Mirkwood…
"I'll miss it." She whispered, and immediately felt guilty for it.
Boromir was staring at her, his gray eyes boring into her as if hoping he could peel away her skin and read her thoughts underneath. She ducked her head and let her fingers twirl her ring.
"This… This is my dream. A place I never imagined actually existed, and now I'm here and it's just… I'm going to miss so much. It's a shame, that's all."
Boromir stared at her for a moment, she could feel his eyes on her. Then he sat back on the bench and sighed.
"Then don't go."
Mel jerked and stared up at him. How could he…? Oh… Because he didn't… He didn't know. He could never know.
"I can't." Mel said, her voice coming out hoarse.
She cleared her throat and tried again.
"I can't, Boromir. The man who wrote about this place… He wrote history. I can't stay, there's too much at risk if I do."
Mel wasn't stupid. She didn't want Boromir to die. Even before she had met him and he had sort of rescued her, hell before she had even known he was real, Mel hadn't wanted him to die. And if she stayed, she wasn't completely sure she could be selfless enough to let him go without some kind of intervention. Without feeling like some kind of monster, sending a man off blindly to his death.
"It is your life," Boromir said with conviction "If Middle-Earth pleases you then you should remain."
"It's not about me." Mel said, standing up and moving to the railing, leaning over the side and letting the breeze blow her hair, "It's not about my life, it's about…"
"…the hundreds of other lives that are at stake. There's so much that can go wrong, Boromir." She said, "And I don't belong in it. No matter how much I know, no matter what I feel, there's no place for me here."
"You don't know that," he said gently, rising and joining her at the balcony, his shoulder almost touching hers, "You have barely been here one day. With time you could learn…"
"The longer I stay, the more likely I am to get comfortable," Mel said, keeping her eyes fixed resolutely on the valley below, "I'll start to say things, things will slip. Even the littlest things could spell disaster. I could seriously screw up the history of your world!"
"Maybe that is what you are meant to do."
Mel froze, not daring to look up at him. The idea was dangerous. Tempting.
"I do not believe that it can be mere coincidence that you are here, Melody. It cannot be, especially now, when such desperation and fear is upon us. There is something you are meant to do. But you will not find it unless you remain to search it out."
There was a niggling bit of truth in what he said, Mel had to admit. It couldn't be a coincidence, a freak accident. Things like this didn't just happen for no reason. There was something more going on and Mel might never know. Maybe… maybe it was fate. Maybe she was meant to stay.
But she shoved the feeling away. She needed to go home. Her mom and her sisters would be worried about her. She had to get home.
She looked up at Boromir… and she saw. She saw him at Amon-Hen. She could see it so clearly in her mind, desperation creasing his features, sweat dripping down his dirt-streaked face, his sword swinging in wild arcs as he fought to keep Merry and Pippin safe, the screams of the orcs as they fell around him. She could almost imagine she smelled their stink tainting the clear air around them. She saw the tall Uruk-hai as he stalked down the hill, bow in hand. She saw the black feathered arrows. She saw them bury themselves in Boromir's chest. She saw him lying on the ground, dying.
A tear escaped the corner of her eye and she turned away from the Boromir in the present, swiping the revealing tear away angrily. She couldn't stay. If she did she might change it, and she couldn't do that. That was the fate of this world. It was supposed to happen.
"I'm sorry, but you really don't understand." Mel said, turning back to him with a watery smile, "I can't stay."
Then she turned and she ran, ignoring Boromir's voice when he called her name, asked her to wait. She couldn't.