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That Which They Defend: Part One



ONE: ALL THOSE WHO WANDER




All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken:
The crownless again shall be king.

--The Riddle of Strider, “The Council of Elrond,” The Fellowship of the Ring


When Jim awoke, the pain was gone. He found himself on the floor of a tent, swaddled in a blanket that smelled strongly of horse, being tended by a serious-faced young woman with long straw-colored hair.

“Welcome back, stranger,” she said when he flickered back to consciousness. “Aragorn fears you have had a poison of the mind, but Gandalf assures us you are healed. Know you who you are?”

“I’m Captain James Tiberius Kirk. My ship is—“ he began, then broke off. “I honestly don’t know where my ship is. Or where I am, for that matter.” He looked down at himself curiously; though still clothed in his uniform, which by now was rather the worse for wear, he was missing his phaser. He had a dim memory of Radagast removing it, setting it to overload, and it dissipating into nothing. And how did he know to do that? he wondered; he only hoped that this was a true memory and not a fever dream—he didn’t want to pollute this culture—His mind swirled once more and he forced himself to focus on the here and now.

The woman looked at him curiously. “We are far from the sea,” she said, “but right now we are in the Riddermark, almost a day’s journey from Edoras. I am come from Helm’s Deep with those others who have some skill at healing—we are few enough in number and there are many to be tended after the past battle.” She caught herself, as if she realized that he had no idea what she was talking about. “My name is Éowyn,” she concluded, “and we are on our way home.”

“Nice to meet you,” Jim said. He blinked as she ran her hands over him impersonally, checking his eyes and the pulse at his throat and wrist in the old-fashioned ways they’d been taught in Basic Field Medicine. The class had been required at the Academy; he’d taken it with Bones their first semester. Bones had hated it at first—a lot of it was simple stuff that was beneath his abilities as a physician. Jim had loved it though. The older man had been bemused by Jim’s intense desire to master the course—all of his courses, really—and at his request had supplied him with extra books on his PADD. Jim was a big believer in being prepared for anything—which turned out to be a good thing, considering—everything, really.

That was when a man swept dramatically into the tent. “Sister!” he said imperiously to Éowyn, “Gandalf has cast out the traitor Saruman, but the worm yet lives! He—“ He broke off, staring at Jim. Familiar hazel eyes were curious and shrewd. “I see the stranger has awakened.”

Jim stared at the man disbelievingly: that voice, those familiar features. “Bones!” he said in astonishment. “What the hell happened to you?” The man looked at him oddly—but it was Bones alright. Bones with long hair, a beard, fancy armor, a sword—

Okay, maybe it wasn’t Bones. But this man could have been his twin.

“His wits are addled,” the man said to Éowyn. He ignored Jim completely. He seemed deeply unimpressed. “You’ll take him with you back to Meduseld before we continue on—“

“Brother, no!” Éowyn cried in protest.

“Who are you calling addled?” Jim demanded, jumping up. A wave of vertigo swept over him, lightening darts flashing across his vision, but he focused on the man who was not Bones stubbornly until they passed. He held himself straight and tall; in his gold uniform, he knew he cut an impressive figure—even if he wasn’t armed to the teeth like the man before him.

The man in question reassessed him, no longer judging him as unworthy of his notice. He put his hand on the hilt of his sword, his head cocked to the side in challenge. “I am Éomer, son of Éomund,” he said. “Who are you to question me?”

Two more men entered the tent at that moment. Jim recognized them both from earlier—the older, white-haired man he had mentally nicknamed ‘Skinny Santa’ and the dark-haired man from before.

“Éomer, what goes on here?” said the latter, taking the scene in curiously: Jim standing stubbornly, Éomer with his aggressive stance, Éowyn looking on with a frown.

“Our friend is awake,” said Skinny Santa. He eyed Éomer until the man shifted, taking his hand off the hilt of his sword, though his impressive frown remained in place. The older man turned back to Jim. “Be welcome among friends, James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise.” Everyone stared at the old man, who smiled back serenely.

“How do you know my name?” Jim asked.

“What is a starship?” questioned the dark-haired man.

“A vessel of another time and place, Aragorn,” said Skinny Santa. Turning to Jim, he said, “I have had many names, and will have many yet, but for now you may call me Gandalf. And you are very far from home indeed.”

“Tell me about it,” Jim said. “I don’t understand—how did I get here?”

“You have been brought to Arda by Radagast the Brown,” said Gandalf. “I understand that your realm is very far from ours, indeed. Radagast is no fighter by his nature, and he made a grave error in judgement before the War started. I believe he meant well in bringing you here, and he certainly seemed the think your presence is important, but.” He paused, frowning. His bright blue eyes were wise, but they looked almost hesitant—unhappy.

“You are not from our world,” he continued after a moment. “You are in the land of Middle Earth, and you have come to us in a time of darkness and danger. And I fear you are unprepared for what awaits you—and what awaits us all.” He leaned on his staff thoughtfully. Jim felt again the curious tingling in the back of his mind, but this time he made an effort to mentally push back at the sensation—and it abruptly ceased.

Gandalf smiled, then. He looked impressed. “Perhaps Radagast was right,” he said. “Perhaps the Valar have indeed sent you to us in our time of need. But you are no Maia, though you be swift of mind and brave of heart.”

“Um, thanks,” said Jim. He had only followed part of what Gandalf had said—maybe the universal translator was malfunctioning? I wish Uhura was here, he thought. And Spock. He glanced at Éomer. And Bones.

“I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn,” said the dark-haired man. He wore black clothes that had seen better days and a gray cloak, and a large sword was belted at his waist. Sulu would kill for something like that, Jim thought. “Radgast said you would aid us in our quest, but you look like no Man I have seen before.” He frowned as he visibly measured Jim up much as Éomer had, and Jim again felt the distinct, unpleasant of feeling of being judged—and found wanting.” Are you a warrior of your people?” he asked dubiously.

“Yeah,” Jim said. He held his chin up a little higher. “I guess you could say that. I come from—we call ourselves the Federation. We’re made of hundreds of—nations,” he corrected himself quickly; he’d almost said ‘planets.’ This definitely seemed to be a pre-warp world, and while Gandalf seemed comfortable throwing around the word ‘starship’, Jim figured that when in doubt he’d best stick to the Prime Directive. “We desire peace among all peoples, but we fight to defend ourselves, and others.”

“Middle Earth is in grave danger,” said Aragorn. “Would you fight to defend the innocents of this country as you would to protect those of your land?”

Jim glanced at Éowyn. “If it was left to me alone, I would,” he said immediately. “But—“ He frowned, unsure of how to put this. Something pulled at him, and a memory of Radagast floated to mind. “The man who brought me here—he wanted me to fight, and to help you. I don’t know that I can, or even if I should,” he said honestly but with reluctance. “We have laws where I come from, laws about non-interference in other cultures. I want to go home, too. My ship—my people need me. And they will be looking for me.”

Aragorn nodded. “I hope for your sake, then, that they find you,” he said to Jim. Looking around at the others, he continued, “We must be on the move soon, and quickly.”

Gandalf continued to gaze at Jim steadily. “I know you feel yourself unable to fight among us, James T. Kirk,” he said, “but I’m afraid that you will have little choice in the matter. We are engaged in such a mighty struggle that the battle has come to us all, Men and Elves, Hobbits and Dwarves.”

Jim swallowed, but met Gandalf’s eyes evenly. “And if I refuse to fight?”

“You won’t,” Gandalf answered serenely. “It isn’t in your nature.”

Aragorn frowned at this by-play. He looked at Jim intently. “Friends and strangers both have fought and died these last days,” he said. “Is it in you to protect people from those who would harm them?”

“Yes,” Jim answered immediately. “But—“

“Then it is settled. You will fight for us. Or you will run in fear.” He smiled then, showing bright teeth. “You don’t strike me as the running kind, however. Now then,” he continued, turning to the man who was not Bones despite their eerie similarity, “Éomer, I will trust James T. Kirk to your care. Find him arms and a horse—it will not do to have a brother-at-arms fighting in his underclothes.”

Éomer nodded, looking at Jim appraisingly. Jim looked down at himself; he was still in his uniform. But he wasn’t covered head to foot in leather and armor or in robes, so he supposed he must look underdressed in comparison.

Aragorn faced the man’s sister. “Éowyn, Théoden has decided you will return to Edoras and then stay at Meduseld—“

“No!” said Éowyn fiercely, “I wish to go with you, and fight at your side!” Her cheeks were flushed. “I am a shield-maiden of Rohan. It is my right!”

Aragorn looked sympathetic, even sorrowful. “I understand, my lady. Your heart is noble and brave. But you are needed elsewhere, now. As am I.” And he beat a hasty retreat, Gandalf following with a brief nod to the two men left behind.

“I have faith in you, Captain,” the old man said as he left. “I trust it is not misplaced.”

Jim repressed a sigh. What a mess, he thought. He turned to the two siblings nearby, but they were talking quietly, oblivious to him. He felt like an intruder, but wasn’t sure where else to go.

Pursing his lips, Éomer regarded his sister solemnly. “His heart is elsewhere, Éowyn,” he said to her softly. She looked down, and Jim saw tears shining in her eyes. “Though I would be glad to have him as a brother in truth as well as in spirit, I fear it is not to be. Be brave, my sister. Look after that noble heart that beats within your breast.”

Éowyn looked up at her brother, said nothing, and fled as well. Éomer exhaled heavily as he watched her go. Then he turned to Jim. “Come, James T. Kirk,” he said. “Let us see what sort of warrior you really are.”

~

Outside the tent hundreds of people moved about: men and boys in heavy armor, women and children carrying baskets and bags of supplies. People stared at Jim in his gold tunic and black trousers; he stood out like a sore thumb among the heavily-clad warriors and the simply clothed civilians.

“Tell me, stranger, think you that come your time in battle, you will fight or run?” Éomer asked shortly.

“I’d rather do neither,” Jim said honestly, “but—“

“Then you will fight.” Éomer stopped and faced him. Hazel eyes regarded him solemnly. “Mayhap you think you won’t, but you will, James T. Kirk.” A dark glance, and then he was moving again.

“You can just call me Jim, you know,” Jim said as he followed Éomer through the camp. “It’s faster than my whole name.” The other man grunted, and led him to a series of tents where blacksmiths were working. One large man was methodically hammering dents out of a chest piece. Jim didn’t want to know what had caused that kind of damage, though he suspected he’d find out soon enough.

“This man needs arms and armor,” Éomer said to the blacksmith brusquely. “We will garb him as a Man of Rohan, and he shall ride among my Éored.”

The large man looked at Jim in bewilderment, then immediately began calling out orders to his men. There was a renewed series of clanging as they got to work doing—whatever they were doing—before he turned back to Éomer. “Aye, my lord. Anything else?”

“No,” Éomer said, eyes still on Jim, “That will be all.”

“What’s an—an Éored?” Jim asked. He didn’t stumble over the word. Uhura would be proud, he thought to himself.

They were already moving again. “An Éored is a fighting unit,” the other man answered, facing him frankly. “One hundred and twenty men on horses. I know not what you are made of, and wish no surprises. So I will keep you by me, and find out for myself.” He grinned then, darkly. “If you be friend and kith, it is my duty to see to your safety. If you be not, then I wish to kill you myself.”

Jim snorted. “Thanks,” he said sarcastically. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Got it.”

Éomer actually looked thoughtful. “I like that,” he said. “Come on, then.”

~

An hour later, Jim was fully clothed in the gear of the Rohirrim—the Horse-Lords, as Éomer had not-so-patiently explained. Helm, pauldrons, breastplate, greaves—he had it all. The armor pieces themselves were boiled leather, dyed a dark red and tooled in elaborate patterns, backed with bronze. The chainmail shirt and fauld were iron, as was the tip of the spear he had been handed.

Éomer was teaching him all this, though from his frustrated expression Jim could tell he was appalled that a foreign warrior had only the vaguest idea of how one put all this stuff on. Nonetheless, he named each item, explained its purpose and general construction, and soon Jim looked like a—well, a mini-him, as the Rohir continued to talk, explaining the War of the Ring.

“What songs do they sing in your land, James T. Kirk?” Éomer asked to start with. “Are they mighty tales of great deeds, or airy things of maidens fair? Be they plain or be they riddles?”

“All of those things, I suppose,” Jim said after a moment, puzzled. “All of them and more. The music of hundreds of pl—of lands, of cultures—it’s all different.Why?”

Éomer cast him a shrewd look. “You were going to say something else, weren’t you?”

“No,” Jim said smoothly. “I—“

Éomer frowned at him. “The first and last thing I will ask of you is your honesty, boy,” he said roughly.

“Who are you calling ‘boy’?” Jim threw back. “You’re not that much older than me Bo—Éomer,” he corrected himself hastily.

The other man snorted. “As you will,” he said, “but never change your words to me. Speak your mind or speak not at all. Agreed?” Jim frowned, but found himself nodding hesitantly. More quietly, Éomer continued. “There is a song in the land of Arda. A riddle, rather.” Quietly he began to recite:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.


“Have you anything like that in your land, James T. Kirk?” he asked when he was done.

Jim thought for a moment. “It sounds like—it sounds like a prayer,” he said at last.

“A prophecy,” Éomer said. “Gandalf spoke of it many times when he visited my Uncle—he thinks—“ He broke off. “It describes the Return of the King of Gondor,” he said at last. “I believe it may be Aragorn, in truth. My sister certainly does.”

Jim blinked. “I’m not sure I follow,” he said.

“We are at War,” the man said shortly. His expression was intense, his glance dark. “A War of all the free peoples of Arda and the light against the darkness of the Enemy—of Sauron and his ilk.” He was silent a moment. “If we lose, then all the people of this world will die, and our songs will be silent, and our memories faded to naught.”

Memories of the Battle of Vulcan flitted through Jim’s mind. He remembered the horrifying sight of an entire world folding in on itself, vanishing to nothing. Bones had told him about the cries the Vulcan refugees had uttered as their world was destroyed, the telepathic bonds shared among them ripped brutally away. Some who had survived and been beamed aboardship had died later from the sheer shock of it all. It had been two years since that tragedy, and the Vulcans were still struggling to rebuild from what remained of their culture. The outlook was—grim, to put it shortly.

“I get that,” Jim said softly.

“Do you then?” asked Éomer. The man eyed him thoughtfully.

Jim nodded, silent still in contemplation.

“We’ll be marching back to Helm’s Deep soon,” the other man said after a moment. “And from there on to Minas Tirith. Whether to our doom or to our glory, we know not, but we will go nonetheless.”

Both men were quiet.

“So what’s this called again?” Jim asked after a moment, forcing his voice to be light. He pointed at a piece of armor on his arm.

“Vambrace,” Éomer supplied, and then he was in instructional mode once more.

As he listened to Éomer, Jim couldn’t help but feel his lips quirk upwards in a faint smile—the man was so like Bones in voice, gesture—attitude. “Your pauldron is loose,” the man said, and he pulled at the armor piece that covered Jim’s left shoulder and upper arm. “You look like an infant,” he added as he tightened the piece in place, and Jim had to laugh at that, it was just so damn familiar. The man’s eyes glinted dangerously at him. “You think I jest?”

“No,” Jim said, sobering immediately. “No, sorry, I just—I have a friend, back home,” he said. “You remind me of him, like you wouldn’t even believe. You sounded just like him right now.” Jim abruptly felt very alone, then, almost sick with it. Oh, Bones.

Éomer frowned, his fierce expression softening ever so slightly. “I pray we may return you to him, then,” he said shortly, after a moment. “Now, then” he continued, “try this sword.” He pressed the weapon into Jim’s hand. “Please tell me you know how to use one,” he added without much hope.

“I do, a bit,” Jim said, swinging the sword about carefully in experimentation.

Though swordfighting wasn’t an area he was particularly drawn to, he had taken several advanced hand-to-hand combat courses at the Academy. He had even become an assistant instructor for the advanced courses in his second year. After the Battle of Vulcan he had met regularly with Sulu to work on his fencing—clearly, the use of blades was something that would come in more handy than he had thought.

Federation swords, though seldom used, were modeled very closely on the Japanese katana, and what’s more were made of an adamantium alloy—lighter and harder than steel, and thus ideal as a collapsable weapon as well. The sword Éomer had handed him, though, was hard iron—but surprisingly light. Jim had always heard that ancient-style weapons were heavy, but this one was not; it probably weighed only about five pounds or so. It made sense, he reflected; armed cavalry would need light weapons to fight on horseback. He swung the sword again, more confidently. Back and forth, up and down: he cut in careful arcs in the basic moves of swordsmanship. It made a certain metallic sound as it cut through the air, firm and deadly.

“Good,” Éomer said in visible relief as he watched Jim move. “You might not get killed, after all.”

Jim grinned slightly at the other man. “Your confidence in me is touching. I might get a big head from all of this.”

A ghost of a smile played over the other man’s features, and he let out a sound that might almost have been a laugh. Jim grinned a little wider at that, but to his dismay that open look quickly melted, replaced again with that cool, business-like expression. “Now then, follow me,” Éomer said. “I will give something more into your keeping as a Rider of Rohan.”

Jim obligingly followed the other man nearby to another part of the camp, where a temporary paddock had been set up to hold dozens of horses. They were gorgeous creatures, Jim saw. Many of them were dark chestnut in color, their flanks and chests gleaming in good health. Éomer whistled, and a bay mare immediately trotted up to him. Her reddish coat shone in the sun, and her mane and tail were a shiny black. She had a neat white star on her forehead. “This is Seren,” Éomer said. “Her grandsire was a Mearas. She is close kin to my own Firefoot.” A gray roan whickered at that, joining them.

“Yeah, you’re a beauty, aren’t ya, girl?” Jim said softly to Seren. He held his fist out for her to sniff delicately. Seren exhaled on his knuckles, her brown eyes appraising him. Then they blinked, and Jim knew they were friends. “I’m pleased to meet you, Seren,” he said, smiling as he scratched behind her left ear. Seren leaned into his touch, closing her eyes briefly in pleasure. He smiled at her; he’d forgotten the simple pleasure of bonding with a creature like this. He keenly felt a sudden desire to ride at a gallop, to feel the wind in his face. Seren whickered inquiringly, as if following his thoughts.

“You know horses?” Éomer said behind him. His tone was much warmer now, Jim noticed.

“Yeah,” Jim said, eyes still on Seren. “I—grew up with them.” This was a partial truth. There were horses back in Riverside, but not on Frank’s farm. The horses he had known were the ones that belonged to his Aunt’s family on Tarsus… He pushed those thoughts away, concentrating on the here and now. “I haven’t ridden in a long time, though,” he said instead.

“She approves of you,” Éomer said. “Come, let us ride.” With that, he vaulted atop Firefoot in a single, smooth motion, trotting his steed in a circle around Jim and Seren. Seren whickered at Jim curiously, as if to ask So are we going or not?

Grinning companiably at the beautiful animal, he mounted her easily—though not so fast as Éomer had done—and shot a challenging look at the Rohir, an expression that declared that he was not weak, and that he could do this. Call me boy , eh?

Éomer nodded, as if he was reading Jim like a book. Clicking his tongue at his mount, he cried out, “Haa!” and was off, Jim following him shortly.

They rode around the perimeter of the makeshift camp. From there Jim could clearly see the long trail of traveling folk who were journeying back home—at least for a while. He was relieved at how easily riding a horse came back to him. Seren responded to his commands, her gait beneath him smooth and fast. Jim knew he’d be sore at the end of the day, unfamiliar muscles stretched and beaten by horseflesh, but right now he felt strangely content.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a horn blowing nearby. Éomer straightened his seat on Firefoot, pressing his legs to the sides of the horse as he sat up on his mount’s bare back. He frowned, staring into the distance.

Jim looked around, and then he saw them: downwards from the steep hills they rode upon was a group of three dark shapes, mounted on creatures that looked like some odd cross between bears and giant wolves. “There!” he breathed, pointing. “What are they?”

Éomer followed his gaze. “Orcs,” he said darkly. He turned to Jim, his expression a strange mix of elation and disgust. “How they survived the siege, I know not.” He glanced behind them; four Riders approached, spears at the ready. One of them held the horn that they must’ve heard earlier. Éomer grinned at him suddenly. “What think you, James T. Kirk? Care you to christen your new blade?”

Jim stared at him. The—the Orcs seemed to be no threat, and were moving speedily away from them. They were outnumbered, almost two to one. They had made no signs of aggression. Jim shook his head—this was not what Starfleet was about—

Éomer’s expression turned to one of disgust as Jim said nothing. “Coward!” he spat out scathingly, and then he and Firefoot were speeding down the slope of the hills.

“Shit!” Jim muttered to himself, but he and Seren were already following.

Éomer threw his heavy spear, impaling one of the Orcs immediately. Closer now, Jim saw it was a hideous, dark-skinned creature with sharp teeth and black eyes. The stench of it was horrible. The wolf creature it rode fell to the side, then staggered up with a great shake of its bristled mane, howling.

One of its fellows gave a guttural cry as it attacked the Rohir, and Éomer swung his sword in a long arc, beheading it easily before turning to stab its beast in the neck.

The third Orc had run ahead of the others, meaning to escape, but it turned back upon hearing the death cries of its comrades. It screeched an ugly cry as it turned back, bearing a giant sword directly on the Rohir below, who was still dispatching the first Orc’s beast.

Éomer’s back was turned to the thing; he was in danger. And he either didn’t know or didn’t care.

Jim moved without thinking. He cast his new spear, catching the Orc in the shoulder. It fell back, and Jim urged Seren on, finishing it off with his sword.

A thick arc of ropey black blood spattered on his face and breastplate. The wolf creature growled, leaping up on its hindlegs, and a spearhead materialized from out of its chest. It fell to the ground with a heavy thump, Éomer behind it. The two men regarded each other solemnly over the bodies that lay between them; Éomer’s expression was unreadable.

“You did well,” the man said.

Jim blinked, staring. Then he understood. “You did that on purpose. To see what I would do.”

“Mmm.” The Rohir grunted. Jim felt angry, manipulated—disgusted. What sort of world had Radagast brought him to?

The air was redolent with the stenches of death, of Orc, of something that smelled like rotten meat. A saddlebag on the wolf creature, one that hadn’t been well closed, opened up, and out rolled a man’s head.

It had been partially eaten. Toothmarks stood out from the forehead of it in stark relief.

“Shit!” Jim murmured to himself in horror. He swallowed back the bile that was building in his throat.

“You see, now, what it is they do?” Éomer asked. He looked down in disgust at the carnage around them. The other Rohirrim finally joined them, surrounding the corpses. “Burn them,” Éomer commanded. He trotted his mount over to look down at the head on the ground. He stared at it thoughtfully. “That was Elfhelm,” he said. “Bury it."

You knew that guy? Jim almost asked. He swallowed the words back along with his disgust at the Orcs and the half-eaten head—obviously the Rohir had known the dead man if he had called him by name.

Suddenly this War everyone kept talking about was much more real to him. Could he really fight for them, as they wanted him--expected him to do?

They eat people, Kirk, he thought to himself. How do you weigh respecting another culture when people are being killed and eaten? Somehow this had never come up in the ethics courses at the Academy. He grimaced to himself in frustration, wondering what Pike or Archer would have done in a situation like this.

Because he, himself? He suddenly, desperately wanted to fight now.

Éomer pulled up Firefoot then along side of Jim and Seren. The other man looked at him thoughtfully. “You are no man of the Riddermark,” he said, “but you will not disgrace us. I am pleased.”

“Thanks,” Jim said, “you’re all heart.” He found his mouth twitching upwards in a smile. He felt something burbling up within him—the familiar elation of a fight won combined with the belated horror of the things he had seen. He pushed it away with effort. He stared at the dark blood on his sword, then dismounted to clean it on the grass.

“What?” he asked as Éomer looked at him in surprise. “I do know at least this much. You always clean your weapon before putting it away.”

The other man shook his head. “Come,” he said, “we will return to the others, and from there, home.”

~

The ride back to the city of Edoras, and the Golden Hall of Meduseld at its peak, was boistrous. The Rohirrim were still filled with the elation of their victory from the recent Battle of the Hornburg, as well as a tentative hope inspired by the would-be King—Aragorn, who rode among them. Even Jim, a stranger, could sense that hesitant, happy feeling.

It was at odds with their hatred of the Orcs, and the pleasure they took in dispatching their Enemies.

Jim had killed today. He hadn’t expected to, hadn’t even meant to, but—he had. He had broken the Prime Directive. And yet, what else could he have done? Watched a man die, or watched others die? Die himself?

It wasn’t in Jim Kirk to give up so easily.

He rode beside Éomer the rest of the trip. Jim was silent, ruminating on all that had happened. Was he really supposed to wait around for a wizard to show up and—and wave a magic wand that would send him home or something? Was he really going to fight in this War with the men he had met today—Éomer, Aragorn, and Gandalf?

The questions chased one another round and round in his mind, and even when they reached the city of Edoras, he had no answers.

Éomer, at least, was silent as he rode beside him. He let him be.

They stabled their horses when they arrived at Edoras, then proceeded to a building that acted as something like an armory. There, men worked at cleaning their armor and putting it away neatly. A tall Rohir gave Jim a rag and a small pot of some kind of oil to remove the Orc’s blood from his armor. As he cleaned he saw that marks were left behind—apparently Orc blood had corrosive properties if left in place too long. He was glad he had cleaned his sword earlier.

When he had been dressed as a Rider there had been some easy chatting and joking amongst them all as they worked and cleaned, but when everything was put away, Jim was left once more in his gold uniform. He felt distinctly out of place in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time—since he first went to the Academy, he thought. It was disconcerting.

One of the men looked at him curiously for a long moment before he finally spoke. “Is it true,” he asked, “that you are a warrior from the sky?”

Jim blinked at that. “Not exactly,” he hedged. He saw Éomer watching him from across the room, and he thought very carefully about what to say next. “But I do come from a—land—very far from this one. I captain a ship there.”

The other men looked at one another, hesitant and unsure of what to do with this stranger. “Good day to you, then,” the man who had spoken finally said awkwardly, and left. The armory was almost empty by then. Jim wondered where he was supposed to go now.

“You’ll stay with me,” Éomer informed him as if following his thoughts. “Come.” He gestured for Jim to follow him, not bothering to turn back to see if he actually did so or not. The Rohir strode through the halls, men parting and making way for him quickly, Jim dodging them in his wake as he struggled to keep up with the man’s movements in the unfamiliar, nearly labrythine constructions of the city.

“What, like some kind of house arrest thing?” Jim asked. “You want me to stay joined at your hip all night?”

Éomer frowned, but there was color in his cheeks. It was probably the cold—the city had been abandoned for several days after its evacuation, and in the early spring the heavy stone seemed to soak in the chill of the air. “You are my guest,” the Rohir said shortly.

“Oh,” Jim said. He felt himself going warm in embarassment. “Sorry,” he added. “I—sometimes suck at this whole diplomacy thing. Y’know?”

Éomer grunted, but he seemed less offended than he had a moment ago. “At least you are a better warrior than you are diplomat,” he said as he opened a heavy door to what appeared to be his bedroom.

It was a largely spartan room: a single bed with heavy blankets dyed a dark red and the fur of some animal draped across the end of it took up most of the room. A tall wooden wardrobe, elaborately carved with the decorative knotwork patterns the Rohirrim seemed to favor, stood opposite it. Éomer opened it up and rummaged for a moment, finally pulling out several items of clothing: an ivory-colored shirt, black breeches, and a short tunic of dark green cloth, heavily embroidered in red and gold.

“My sister made these for me some years ago,” he said, “but they will do. Wear them to the feast tonight.”

“I’m honored,” Jim said, and he was. He somehow hadn’t expected this bit of kindness—his old uniform felt dank and heavy with sweat and the day’s wear, and he was looking forward to putting on the new clothes immensely. He gave the other man a genuine smile, and Éomer nodded back.

There was a small, doorless room off to the side that turned out to be a primive bathroom—literally. It held a large tub shaped like a barrel, and after a moment a pair of servants appeared with buckets of hot water, filling it up. They added crushed herbs and what may have been flower petals to it: these added a sweet smell to the water in the apparent absence of soap.

“You first,” Éomer said shortly, and turned away to give him his privacy.

“Thanks,” Jim said. Another day he might have argued, but right now that tub was one of the best things he had seen in a long time. He stripped down eagerly, stepping into the hot water with a happy sigh. Abused muscles relaxed and his skin tingled faintly with the relief of being clean. He scrubbed himself thoroughly with a worn bit of rag, removing the day’s grit and grime of travel.

At last, he stepped out and dried himself with a heavy towel. Wrapping it around his waist, he went back into Éomer’s room. The man was lying across the bed, staring at the ceiling thoughtfully.

“When will they be back to change the water?” Jim asked curiously.

Éomer jerked slightly, as if alarmed. Jim realized the other man had been dozing. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

The Rohir grunted, and wordlessly went to the bath himself. He removed his dark red tunic unselfconsciously, revealing a sculpted chest and abdomen, lightly sprinkled with dark hair. A line of it began at his navel, continuing downwards to—Jim stopped that line of investigation firmly. Bad idea, Kirk, he told himself, turning away quickly. Just—no.

Éomer took a longer bath than Jim had done. Apparently the Rohirrim conserved bathwater, not unlike old Earth cultures like the Romans or the Japanese. In this case the first use of a bath was an honor of itself, for that was when the water was both cleanest and hottest.

Jim swallowed. Éomer had given him a horse, armor, weapons, loaned him his own clothes, and let him have a bath. The other man was keeping him close, indeed. Mulling this over, he dressed in the fine garments he had been provided.

When the other man came out of the bathroom some time later, he almost did a double-take. He stared so long that Jim almost started to feel insecure.

“What?” he asked at last, looking down at himself curiously. “Did I put them on wrong or something?”

Éomer shook his head. “They suit you,” he said shortly. He was silent as he dressed in his own clothing, donning a dark tunic the color of wine and a short black vest embroidered with gold over that.

“Come, then,” he said, not sparing him a glance as he walked out the door. Frowning, and unsure of what to say (For once, he could almost hear Bones’s voice in his head), Jim followed.

~

That night, as was to be expected after a homecoming as well as a victory narrowly achieved, there was a hell of a party.

Meduseld was filled with hundreds of people, all in their own finery. Jim blended in, and this relieved him immensely after the earlier awkwardness with the other Rohirrim. He didn’t want to be a figure of curiosity. The mood was odd—joyous, but conscientiously so, as if everyone knew this was the last good time they were going to have for a long time, so they had to enjoy it.

An older man presided over the gathering, his red hair going heavily gray. “That is Théoden King,” Éomer murmured. “My Uncle.”

“King?” Jim echoed, staring at the man at his side. “So that makes you what, a prince?”

Éomer grunted. “I am the Third Marshal of the Riddermark,” he said gruffly.

“Which means what exactly?” Jim asked.

The Rohir didn’t answer; his eyes were fixed steadily on the man before them all.

“Tonight we remember those who gave their blood to defend this country,” declared Théoden. “Hail the victorious dead!”

“Hail!” There was a loud and raucous cheer throughout the Hall.

With that, a dozen men entered the room through multiple entrances, barrels of mead and ale on their shoulders. The cheering grew even louder at that, and the room was suddenly flooded with the sounds of talk, singing, and music.

“What does it mean?” Jim repeated, struggling to be heard over the din. “Éomer?”

The other man turned to him, frowning in annoyance. “It means,” he said roughly, “that there are three commanders in time of war, we who lead our Éoreds to glory. I am the third and the highest. As of a few days ago, I am now the only Marshal. My prince and cousin Théodred is dead. My friend Elfhelm is dead. We drink to them, and to all our brethren.”

“People are dead and you’re holding a party?” Jim asked, frowning. Éomer glared at him. Okay, that sounded bad. “Sorry, that’s just—strange to me,” he said honestly.

“It is our way,” Éomer said firmly. “We are alive—we should celebrate that. Life and death are two sides of the same coin, though we would not have it so. We give homage to our friends, as they would do for us, were our places reversed.”

Jim refused to seem taken aback by the other man’s intensity. “Alright then,” he said mildly. “Let’s do this.”

Éomer quirked an eyebrow at Jim. He looked slightly surprised, as if he had expected an argument of some kind, but without a word he led Jim to a table where stood the Elf and the Dwarf—Legolas and Gimli—Jim had met briefly before. Éomer had explained about the various races of Arda earlier, and aside from the fanciful names, it wasn’t any different from another world of multiple races.

A light-haired Rohir was rolling a barrel nearby. Éomer gestured him over to their table.

“Erkenbrand,” he said heartily, slapping the man on the back, “uncask the barrel. Let our kith and kin drink together!”

“Aye, milord!” the Rohir said, hands already working at the cask.

Éomer handed each of them heavy tankards. “No pauses,” he instructed firmly. “No spills.” He looked at Jim briefly, a sharp glint in those hazel eyes.

“And no regurgitation!” Gimli said smugly.

Jim snorted, amused. The Dwarf eyed him. “Be ye game yourself, laddy?” he asked Jim.

Legolas frowned thoughtfully. “So it’s a drinking game?”

“I knew I liked this place!” Jim said with forced cheerfulness. Something about Éomer’s swift shifts in moods was off, but—maybe he was imagining things. The Rohir chuckled at his comment, and Jim looked at him in surprise. Éomer’s eyes were downcast as he filled their tankards up, and when he saw Jim watching him he looked hesitant, as if he’d been caught out in something for being good-humored. Nonetheless, a slight smile remained on his lips.

“Last one standing wins,” Gimli declared then.

“You’re on,” said Jim. He didn’t actually plan on getting drunk, but none of the others needed to know that.

The men around them cheered loudly. It was clear that the real contest was between the Elf and the Dwarf anyway. Jim and everyone else watched in amusement as mug after mug of mead and ale were brought to the men, each of which was downed methodically. Over time, an impressive row of emptied mugs began to line up neatly in front of the Elf, while the Dward cheerfully tossed his to the side when each was emptied.

“I feel something,” Legolas said finally. The Elf looked puzzled. “A slight tingle in the fingers.” He looked up at the others in consternation. “I think it’s affecting me!”

Éomer and Jim exchanged bemused smiles, awkwardness forgotten as they were caught up in the contest between the dueling friends.

“What did I say?” Gimli slurred thickly, seemingly half-buried in a mountain of empty mugs. “’E can’t hold ‘is liquor.” And with that, the Dwarf’s eyes crossed as he passed out on the table.

“Game over,” Legolas mumured.

Jim laughed, taking another sip from his tankard. He was still on his first draught, as was, he noted with some surprise, Éomer. They stayed with the Elf and the Dwarf, and were soon joined by the two cheerful Hobbits, Merry and Pippin.

Merry sighed in satisfaction. “This is even better than our days back at The Green Dragon,” he said.

“I know!” agreed Pippin. “These pints of theirs are brilliant!”

Jim laughed, and looked up across from him to see Éomer’s answering look of amusement. The other man caught his glance, and gave him a slight nod.

“Come with me,” he said. Jim followed.

Éomer led him through the hall of carousing men, past the tables where Merry and Pippin were now boistrously singing, and out into the cool evening air. It smelled like early spring and there was the promise of green growing things underneath the still frosty breeze. They continued to the bottom of the steps beneath the Hall, the old stone worn smooth by thousands of feet over the years.

“Come, my friend,” said Éomer. “Sit.”

Jim did. “Friend, huh,” he said. They both still held onto their tankards. Jim drank from his, the mead warm and honey-sweet on his tongue. “You were threatening to kill me earlier.”

“I wasn’t certain what sort of man you were,” Éomer said. His gaze on Jim then was sharp, appraising. “I have a better idea now.”

“You do, do ya?” Jim asked with studied casualness. To his surprise he found that he wanted Éomer to like him, that he himself actually quite liked the Rohir, though he had only known him less than a day. In another life, another world, they would have been friends. Any resemblance he has to Bones is purely coincidental, he told himself firmly. Nothing to do with it whatsoever. He sighed. Yeah, right.

“I do,” said Éomer, and Jim startled guiltily from his thoughts. “I think that for all that you act and prattle like a child, you have a man’s heart in you. I have watched you closely this day.” He looked away then. “I think that you will acquit yourself with honor on the field of battle.”

They were both quiet then.

“This War of yours,” Jim said after a moment. “How bad is it? Really?”

The man beside him was silent for a long time—long enough that Jim thought he wasn’t going to answer at all. “We stand on the brink, looking down into the abyss,” Éomer said finally. “All is darkness around us, and the light grows dimmer with each passing hour.”

Jim turned back to look at the Hall of Meduseld. Golden light streamed forth, and the sound of singing could still be heard. He turned back to gaze at the man next to him. “Do they know that?” he asked.

“In their hearts, yes,” Éomer said. “Their minds push away despair for this one night. Tomorrow we will build the funeral pyres for our fallen brethren.” He sipped at his mug. “And in the weeks to come we will do so again and again, until this battle is won, or until we have all perished.”

Jim frowned at that. In the back of his mind he could hear Bones’s low, angry drawl. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence. Pushing the thought of his friend away as best as he could, considering he was gazing at a near-mirror image of the man, he asked, “Are the odds really as bad as all that?”

Éomer’s expression did not change. “Death is likely,” he said, “and our chance at victory, slim. The true battle is not even with us, but with—“ He broke off, hesitating. “Gandalf trusts you,” he said instead. “I am not sure whether I do, yet, not fully—though I think that I would like to, despite myself.”

Jim gave him a short salute with his mug. “I get that,” he said. “If we were in the middle of a war and you appeared out of nowhere, I’d be hesitant too.” He paused. “Oh, who am I kidding? Spock would give you a mind meld and we’d know pretty quick whose side you were on.” He shrugged. “But for what it’s worth, I mean your people no harm. I joined Starfleet on a dare, but at some point it became something else. I realized I wanted to help people, as well as explore and discover new worlds--” He broke off guiltily, staring at the dregs of the mead in his cup. The stuff must’ve been stronger than he thought if was chattering about--

“Starfleet?” Éomer echoed, before drinking from his mug. He licked his lips thoughtfully before speaking again. “My sister said you were a Captain of a ship. Do you traverse the very stars then?” He looked at Jim directly, his gaze piercing, sharp. He would know if Jim lied—and would be infuriated. All the trust that had grown between them today, such as it was, would be lost.

Taking a chance, Jim swallowed and answered honestly. “Yes,” he said. “My ship is known as a—as a starship. She’s called the Enterprise.”

Éomer was silent for a moment, staring at him. Then he nodded to himself, and Jim felt like he had passed some sort of test. “This is an incredible thing you tell me,” he said. “And yet, no less wild a tale than my Uncle ensnared in sorcery, battles between wizards, and the destiny of the world in the keeping of a Hobbit.” He paused, and Jim realized he had let something slip—not that Jim had any idea of what it was anyway. “So then, James T. Kirk. Tell me of your ship.”

“Oh, man,” Jim said. He started smiling as he thought of his crew, his friends. “She’s the flagship of the fleet—the best there is. My crew—they’re awesome.” The words fell out of him then, as if by telling his story he could bring his friends here with him. “My first officer is a Vulcan—his name is Spock. He’s a genius, and brave, and loyal. And my chief engineer is this guy called Scotty—he’s crazy but he’ll defy the laws of physics, and then there’s Uhura—she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met in my life, and she can translate any language you throw at her, it’s amazing. And then there’s Sulu and Chekov—God, they’re great guys. And then there’s Bones—“ his voice hitched on the name, but he kept going on as if he couldn’t help himself—“he’s my medical officer, he’s brilliant, brave, stubborn, funny as hell—“

“This man is more than a friend to you,” Éomer said, and Jim realized he’d been rambling.

“He’s like a brother to me,” Jim said. It wasn’t a lie, but it was far from the truth as well. He couldn’t explain it any more than that, either. Bones had always been there for Jim. He’d taken the Kobayashi Maru with him all three times—the only cadet besides Jim to ever do so. He’d gotten Jim aboard the Enterprise before the Battle of Vulcan, putting his own career at risk. In the six years they had known one another, a day hadn’t passed where they hadn’t at least shared a meal, if not a shift or an adventure. Bones was— Jim realized that it had been some time since he had spoken, and Éomer was staring at him. Jim blinked, smiled, looked away. “Bones is special,” he said at last.

Éomer nodded. “He is your gúthwinë,” he said. “Your battle-friend.”

“I suppose that’s one way to put it,” Jim said after a pause. “Yeah.”

“A man’s gúthwinë is his most trusted companion,” Éomer explained. “Should a man fall in battle, his gúthwinë will take care of his horse and his woman.”

“In that order?” Jim couldn’t help himself. Éomer glared at him. “Sorry.”

“You fell from the skies,” the other man said. “We Rohirrim are creatures of earth. I can’t expect you to understand.” He looked away, into the distance. The night sky was dark, the few stars out shedding little light. The moon hung just past its zenith—it looked very much like Earth’s own moon, though Jim knew it was not.

“I get it,” Jim said after a while. “Trust me. I’d die for any one of my men. If their families didn’t have anywhere else to go, I’d figure out something.” He paused. “We aren’t as different as all that.”

Éomer looked at him thoughtfully. “No,” he said. “No, I suppose we aren’t.”

~

As if the mead had opened up some sort of floodgates, the two men found they couldn’t stop talking.

“I fear for my sister,” Éomer confided, to Jim’s surprise. “She wants so much to be a warrior and a shield-maiden, but she knows nothing of fighting—not the truth of it. She knows only the songs of glory that have filled her head since we were children, and has lost herself to dreams of honor and triumph. Were she to find herself in true battle, with the madness that comes with it—the blood and the screaming—I fear she would run, and be slain herself.” He paused, then continued more quietly. “I fear before this is over, that I will lose her as I lost my cousin.”

“What was he like?” Jim asked. “Théodred, right?”

Éomer smiled slightly; it quite transformed his face, Jim noticed. “He was like a brother to me,” he said. “Éowyn and I came to our Uncle’s house when we were very young—our Father dead in battle, our Mother lost to sickness. I remember Théodred came to my room the first night I was here, and he brought two little carved horses with him. ‘This is Eras and this is Herod,’ he said, and gave one of them to me. ‘We will ride together one day, you and I, and we’ll be great warriors and have mighty adventures.’ And we did—and then he died.” He shook his head. “He was buried only a few days ago,” he concluded, almost with wonder. “I was not even here to sing his grave-song.”

“Let’s do it,” Jim said, seized with a sudden inspiration. “Now.”

“What?” Éomer stared at him.

“You want to sing to your cousin, let’s sing to your cousin.” Jim realized distantly that he was drunk. “Here, you sing to your cousin and I’ll sing to my brother.”

“Your Star people sing songs?” Éomer asked, as if surprised. “You sing songs?” This was said with a bit more astonishment than Jim would have liked.

“Of course we sing,” Jim said, nettled. “Just—differently,” he added for good measure. A vague disclaimer was no one’s friend, he supposed.

That was how they found themselves at Théodred’s tomb. The stones were yet freshly set upon the earthen mound that seemed to be like a mauseoleum, the dirt around it still dark from its recent upheaval. The hills were dotted with white flowers.

Spring and new life were coming, despite the darkness and threat.

They silently regarded the flowers and the grave before them.

“So,” Jim asked after a moment, “how does this work?”

“A grave-song is sung once, and once only,” the Rohir said. “The words are formed by the singer at the time of its performance—not before.”

Jim stared at him. “Wait,” he said. “You’re gonna have to make a song up off the top of your head?”

Éomer frowned, took a deep breath, and began to sing.

Jim couldn’t understand a word of it—the language was different, with rounded vowels and clipped consonants, melodic and harsh at the same time. Though his voice was pleasant and deep in speech, in song it became deeper and lighter by turns as he sought to hit certain notes and—rather often—failed. In some parts he faltered or wobbled on a note as tears threatened, but he continued on stolidly.

He sang with feeling, and when he was done, Jim saw, his face was damp, but easier, as if some burden had been lifted from him.

They paused together when it was over.

“Your turn, James T. Kirk,” Éomer said after a moment.

“Oh boy.” Jim took a deep breath and let it out. “Here goes nothin’.” He closed his eyes, searching for some memory of a tune he could follow as he put words to it. A melody came to mind, and quietly, he began to sing.

I’m sorry, Sam, for leavin’ you,
Leavin’ like you left me.
I meant to be the bigger man,
Not a soul lost at sea.


He’d left Sam after the horror that was Tarsus. In fairness, Sam had left him first, but Jim had stopped trying to find him again. At some point, he had given up on that part of his life: the family that was flesh and blood, rather than crew and ship.

Also, this making a song up for dead people thing? Was way harder than it looked.

You’re not dead and you’re not buried,
But you’re lost to me all the same.
I wish I could say I’m sorry,
I wish I knew your name.


Okay, that was better, he thought. Sam wasn’t dead, but in many ways, he may as well have been. They hadn’t spoken in years. There was too much between them—too many partings, too much pain—and though Jim knew his brother was somewhere on a colony world (and not Deneva, he knew—he had looked) he also knew his brother wanted no part of him.

I hope this new world treats you right,
I hope it’s everything you wanted.
I lost you in that other life,
The one that’s left me haunted.


Jim had found his rhythm by now, and carried it through to the song’s conclusion.

I hope one day you’ll forgive me, Sam,
Forgive all the things that’ve passed.
Forgive all the things I am,
And be brothers again at last.


He let the last note die away, then coughed. His throat was dry, as was his mug.

Éomer looked impressed. “That was a fine song, Jim,” he said.

“Thanks,” Jim said. “I’m thirsty,” he added.

~

They went looking for more mead then. The celebration was still going strong in the Hall, though Théoden, Aragorn, and Legolas were nowhere in sight. The Hobbits were still singing merrily, though they seemed to be getting tired, and Gimli was yet insensible underneath his mountain of mugs.

They tapped several casks before finding one that still held drink in it. Once obtained, Éomer led him back outside, and then into one of the nearby stables.

“It’s quiet here,” the man explained. “We can hear—hear ourselves talk.” He stumbled over the words slightly.

“And think,” Jim agreed. He sat down heavily on a bale of hay. The horses within whickered at them curiously.

“Exactly.” Éomer plonked himself down heavily next to him. “You’re smarter than you look, you know that? James T. Kirk of the starship—star ship.”

“Thanks,” Jim slurred heavily. “You’re pretty smart yourself. In fact, you’re pretty—pretty.”

“What?” Éomer looked at him like he was nuts.

“You’re pretty pretty,” Jim repeated. “You’re hot, man.”

“Hot?”

The Rohir was confused. Jim sighed. Must be the language thing again, he decided. Jim couldn’t understand Éomer’s singing and now Éomer couldn’t understand Jim’s speaking. When in doubt, he thought with surprising clarity, use the universal language.

Taking Éomer’s face in his hands firmly, he gave the man a kiss. The Rohir was still in confusion, but then his mouth opened up hesitantly to Jim’s. He tasted sweet—of honeyed mead. Jim breathed him in, and pushed him gently down into the hay.

Éomer yielded with a soft groan, pulling Jim to him tightly before rolling him over. His hands slipped underneath Jim’s tunic, warm fingers trailing lightly over his skin.

The cool air around them seemed warmer then, as intense as their labored breathing. Jim’s cock strained against his breeches, and for a brief, spectacular moment their thighs were pressed together, incipient hardness to hardness. But it was no more than that.

“We drank too much,” Jim said in disappointment.

“Foolish infant,” Éomer grunted, and kissed him again.

~

Jim woke up in the early morning hours nestled in a pile of straw. He was spooned around Éomer, the other man’s body warm against his. They were both still dressed, huddled under Éomer’s wine-colored cloak. The stables around them were cold, almost frosty. Their empty mugs were strewn in a corner.

He had vague memories of the two of them talking deep into the night, until the sounds of singing had faded. After his unsuccessful attempt at seduction, talking with the other man was surprisingly easy. In fact, talking with Éomer was not unlike being back at the Academy with Bones. Since he became Captain three years ago, he’d put a part of himself away—and he’d only just now realized it.

A Captain had to do that, though—he knew that. Had to remain cool, aloof, and prepared at all times. A Captain was the one man onboard a starship who couldn’t afford friends—not really. It was for the crew, who had to see their Captain in control at all times; it was good for morale. Though Jim could be looser with his intimates like Bones and Spock, nonetheless, he was a man apart.

He always had been.

Until now, he realized.

In Arda, he was someone different, all his own. No more and no less. The realization was oddly freeing.

“Good morning,” Jim said cheerfully.

Éomer grunted in response.

Just as suddenly as he had felt momentarily elated, Jim felt abruptly homesick. The scene reminded him too much of mornings at the Academy, where he and Bones would be out too late on a bender, and they’d awake, Jim ever the morning person and Bones unwilling to attempt anything polysyllabic before coffee.

Shit. He really missed Bones.

And shaving. He had three days worth of beard now. He scratched at his cheek absently. Only the Elf and the Hobbits were clean-shaven here, it seemed.

“Do you have soap?” he asked.

Éomer spared him a dark hazel glance, and grunted again.

An hour later, Jim sat in Éomer’s room with a bowl of water, a polished bronze mirror that belonged to Éowyn (Éomer had retrieved it from her room, and Jim was uncertain as to whether she even knew that he had it right now) and a sticky substance redolent of herbs that apparently was used in grooming the horses.

He really hoped he wasn’t allergic to that stuff, too.

Éomer wordlessly supplied him with an item that appeared to be the local equivilant of a pocket-knife, and sat back to watch him curiously. “This is a custom of your people?” he asked, voice colored with doubt.

“Something like that,” Jim said as he wet his face with a towel and then applied the herb substance. It actually worked pretty well as a shaving cream, and though it was a tricky job between the knife and the bronze, he didn’t look all that bad when he was done. If he did say so himself.

“There now,” he said. “What do you think?”

Éomer stared at him. Frowned. “You look like a child,” he said gruffly. “There are too many beardless boys in our ranks as it is.”

“Thanks, Bones,” Jim said automatically with his usual sardonic wit. “Er, sorry,” he added hastily. “Éomer. Really.” And he did mean it. “Thanks.”

Éomer just grunted in response again. There was a knock at the door. “Come,” Éomer commanded. An older man entered, bowing in his direction.

“Please, my lord,” he said hesitantly. “King Théoden requires your presence. A Council is taking place.” He bowed again, and left.

Jim followed Éomer to the main Hall, where Théoden, Aragorn, and Gandalf awaited them.

Next

Comments

( 1 comment — Add your .02 )
suddenlyswept
Oct. 20th, 2010 04:45 pm (UTC)
*pats Eomer*

KISSES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(even if jim did call him 'bones' the next day)
( 1 comment — Add your .02 )

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