?

Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

That Which They Defend, Part Four



FOUR: INTO THE WEST




What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?

Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come
To carry you home.

--“Into the West,” Fran Walsh, Howard Shore, and Annie Lennox, soundtrack to The Return of the King

Lothíriel turned a bright red, gaping at Éomer. She closed her mouth, compressing her lips tightly. “And what is your will, my lord?” she asked in a surprisingly steady voice.

Jim had to give her credit—as young as she was, she was doing a damn good job of maintaining her cool in a stressful situation.

The Horse-Lord looked at her for a long moment, expression very close to unreadable. Jim was sure that only he and Éowyn knew that Éomer was mentally floundering right now. “I am uncertain,” he said at last, “but I promise, I will think on the matter most seriously.”

“I am glad to hear it,” Lothíriel said dryly—so low she could barely be heard, in fact. “Well do I enjoy my—my personal matters being discussed in front of all and sundry.” Jim and Éowyn shared a sympathetic look at that. Éomer at least looked chastened.

Imrahil, oblivious, beamed at the Rohir. “I thank you, my lord,” he said. “Come, daughter, let us away.” He offered Lothíriel his hand, which she took. He led her off elsewhere, the girl turning her head back once to look at them curiously, before bending her head back down, conscientiously studying the white marble of the floor at her feet.

Their part of the table was silent. “Well,” Faramir said at last, “that was interesting.”

Éowyn looked at her husband-to-be with a mix of amusement and annoyance. “Is it now?” she asked. Turning to her brother, she said, “I know this may displease you, Eoh, but I think it may be a good match.”

“It…does not displease me,” Éomer said to Jim’s surprise.

“I am glad to hear it, near-brother,” Faramir said carefully. He placed a soothing hand on Éowyn’s arm; her scowl lightened somewhat in response. The Man crooked an expressive eyebrow at Jim, silently asking if he was okay. Jim forced a smile back and nodded. He didn’t look to see what expression Éomer wore.

~

Éomer was silent the remainder of the meal. Later that night when they were alone in their room, Jim couldn’t help but bring up the subject of Éomer’s possible marriage. “Isn’t she a little young for you?” he asked, trying to keep the sting of jealousy out of his words—and failing.

The Rohir grimaced at him from where he sat removing his boots. “We would reckon her a woman grown, my gúthwinë,” he said. “She is old enough to wed and to bear children.” He eyed Jim curiously. “Are your Women of the Stars so different from ours?”

“No,” Jim admitted reluctantly. His own mother had been in her twenties when she gave birth to him and his brother—but then, she had also been an officer in Starfleet, and had experienced much more that life had to offer than young Lothíriel had yet had a chance to. “It’s just—look, how do we even know what she wants? Her Father wants this marriage, but what about Lothíriel? She said she wants to study healing.”

“Aye, and it is a worthy thing she desires.” Éomer paused. “I would not resist her wishes in this matter. I told Imrahil as much, myself.”

Jim felt a burning in his stomach, an unexpected anger. “Could you love her?” He wondered even as he asked if he actually wanted to know the answer to that.

Éomer’s voice was soft in thought. “I believe I could,” he said. “In time. Aye.”

“Well, that’s just great,” Jim said. “I’m happy for you. Really.” And with that, he stormed back out into the night.

~

The coronation party was still going strong in the Hall of Feasts, he saw. He headed towards the brightly lit building, intending to obtain alcohol and get drunk. It was tempting to revert to his old habits and pick a fight to get some of the angry energy out of his system, but he tried to quell that intense, self-destructive urge.

Deal, Kirk he told himself firmly as he retrieved a tankard. You knew this was coming, so fucking deal.

Easier said than done. He filled the mug and sat in a corner, watching as the merriment continued. Most of his friends had already left, and the vast majority of those still present were people of the City itself, with a handful of other Gondorians among them.

To his surprise, the Lady of Rohan was still there. Or, no—she seemed to have done much as Jim had himself; retreated and then returned. She no longer wore her splendid white gown from earlier, but wore an older dress of light blue. She looked tired and unhappy, and when she saw Jim she quirked her lips at him.

“You too, huh,” he asked as she sat down next to him.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she admitted. “I worry for you and my brother.” Her mouth was tight as she frowned. Her eyes bore into Jim’s. “You two were so close once, like unto yon Elf and Dwarf there.” She nodded at Legolas and Gimli, who sat together at one of the laden tables, still squabbling cheerfully. “And now my brother’s face is like thunder, and yours is as a brooding cloud.”

“Yeah, well, he’s pissed at me,” Jim answered. “Angry,” he clarified at her confused look.

Éowyn frowned. “Why?”

Jim exhaled roughly. “Long story,” he said. The shield-maiden’s expression was implacable, and not unlike Uhura’s: he wasn’t going to be able to wait her out. “Fine,” he said, rolling his eyes. “He’s mad at me because I’m going to be leaving soon. And I’m mad at him because--” He broke off, then finished reluctantly. “—Because I’m stupid.”

To his surprise, she chuckled softly. “My brother is stubborn in ignoring that which he does not wish to acknowledge. He was ever thus,” Éowyn said in amusement, shaking her head.

A feeling like regret coiled in Jims’ stomach. You can’t stay, Kirk, he reminded himself once more, even if you wanted to. You have a ship and a crew out there. And hiding behind that thought was another: Bones. As close as he had come to the Rohir these last months, the strongest tie he had ever felt for another person remained his friendship with his CMO.

“When we were children at play in the fields,” Éowyn continued, “and it was time to return to the Hall, he was always reluctant to leave. He wished to remain there in the open skies, him and his steed.” She turned to regard Jim again. “The time for play has passed, has it not?”

“That’s one way to put it,” Jim admitted. “I don’t want to hurt him,” he added, more quietly.

“Then don’t,” Éowyn said. She met his eyes then, bright blue gaze to bright blue gaze. “Or if you must, make it brief.”

~

Jim didn’t return to Éomer that night. Instead, he finished his tankard of ale and retreated to the stables. Seren whickered at him curiously.

“I’m an idiot, girl,” he told the horse solemnly. “You know that, right?”

There was a surprised laugh behind him, and he turned in the direction of the sound. “You weren’t jesting,” Lothíriel said. She wore a plain-colored cloak over her green dress, familiar rucksack hoisted over her shoulder. It looked heavy. “You really do talk to your horse all the time.”

“Yeah, well, Seren is interesting,” Jim said with false lightness. “Lots of opinions about world events. More people should listen to her, honestly.” He eyed the girl’s rucksack. “What’s that?”

Lothíriel bit her lip, then held her chin up stubbornly. “I’m leaving,” she said. “I have done with others discussing my future, planning my life—and not asking me about any of it.”

“Leaving,” Jim echoed. He looked at the girl dubiously. The princess was quick-witted, but she’d also spent most of her life behind city walls; she wouldn’t get far before Imrahil, or perhaps Éomer, found her and brought her back. He shook his head, wishing he’d brought another tankard of ale in here with him; his head ached. “All I wanted was some peace and quiet,” he muttered to himself. Louder, he continued, “Alright, Princess, give up, get yourself back home. Shoo!”

The girl flushed angrily. “Shoo?! What am I, a barnyard animal? Who are you to treat me thus? And what do you here at this time of night, anyway?”

“I’m trying to keep you out of trouble,” Jim answered. “Maybe you’d last a day out there on your own, maybe two, but not more than that. You can’t have enough supplies there to get as far as Dol Amroth.”

“I’m not going back home,” Lothíriel answered. “I thought I might go to Ithilien, or mayhap even venture west to Lindon.”

“What about your studies?” Jim asked, taking another tack. “Is there another place to study healing there?”

She blinked, looking surprised at that. “I—I know not,” she said honestly. “I just—I know I can’t stay here.”

“And why’s that?” Jim sat down heavily on a bale of hay in the corner. He nodded at it, and she sat down next to him after a moment’s hesitation, placing the rucksuck at her feet.

“You were there, Jim!” she said, mortified. Jim repressed a grin; Lothíriel sounded very much like an embarrassed teenage girl in that moment. “You heard my Father—saw what Éomer thought. And I’m a complete—complete—“ She gestured emphatically as words failed her.

“I’m not like other girls, Rodorbeorn,” she continued. “I don’t care about spinning, or sewing, or dresses, or any of those things. I like books.” She turned to look at him directly. He saw for the first time that her eyes were a light blue, growing brighter with enthusiasm as she spoke. “I like plants and herbs. I like—I like learning new things.” She shook her head. “My mother died when I was a baby. I have two brothers. They and my Father have been away fighting the Southrons and the Haradrim most of my life—I barely know them, nor do they know me. Father is learning, but—I think he doesn’t like me that much,” she concluded quietly. Her face burned with embarrassment, anger, and a self-digust that reminded Jim way too much of himself, years ago.

Poor kid. He felt his lips twitch upwards involuntarily at that thought. “Lothíriel,” Jim said gently, “look at me.” She did, hesitantly. “Do you like yourself?”

She opened her mouth, closed it again. “What?”

“You heard me. Do you like yourself?” She stared at him. “Look, it’s a simple question, with a simple answer. Either you do or you don’t.”

“Aye,” she said at last, looking at him oddly. “Aye, I suppose I like myself well enough, though others don’t. But I don’t understand—“

“Lothíriel, you have to like yourself before others do, okay?” God, Kirk. Listen to yourself. He shoved that thought away. “And believe me,” he continued, “plenty of people like you. You think Éowyn makes girl talk regularly?” She stared at him. “Well, she doesn’t,” he went on, “and Éomer likes you too. And so do I.” He grinned at her then, feeling something within himself lighten. Because it was true: he did like this girl, he found to his surprise.

“The Lady Éowyn told me that you are his closest friend,” Lothíriel said. She looked up at Jim, biting her lip shyly. “That he speaks to you as he speaks to no one else. And I have seen it, the way you look at one another, how you can—can talk without speaking, it seems. Tell me about him—about how to—to—“ She broke off with a frustrated cry, and stamped her foot. Though a childish gesture, it was strangely amusing and Jim laughed despite himself. Lothíriel flushed, then laughed with him. “I know that he fought beside my Father at Pelennor Fields. My Father wishes us to marry, and I know nothing of him beyond that he is now King of Rohan.”

Jim sighed, looking at the girl with sympathy. “How old are you, Princess?” he asked.

She flushed again. “I have eighteen summers,” she said. She looked him in the eyes then, daring him to mock her. “How old are you?”

He laughed again. “I’m twenty-seven,” Jim said. “Now, do you want to marry Éomer, or not?”

“I want to—“ She paused. “I don’t know what I want,” she admitted. “The War killed so many. I count myself lucky to be alive and to marry freely, and it is a worthy thing to cement the alliance of Dol Amroth and Rohan, and augment this Age of peace—“

“You sound like a diplomat,” Jim said. “Which is, you know, awesome and all—but try speaking as a person here for a few minutes. Seriously,” he said as she raised a dubious eyebrow, “I’m a neutral party here.”

“Are you?” she asked. “I’ve heard rumors that you and King Éomer are—“ She flushed again, and went silent.

“Lovers,” Jim supplied. “And yeah, that’s true enough.”

“I see,” said Lothíriel quietly. She sounded disappointed. Jim felt unaccountably guilty then.

“Look,” he said, “we’re good friends. That’s what friends do—together—sometimes,” he stumbled. He tried a different tack. “Éomer’s a good guy; he’s brave and smart and honest.” These were qualities Jim had learned to admire in his friends—indeed, were the same things that had drawn him to Bones, and also drew him to Lothíriel now. “If you guys get married, I’m sure you’ll get along great together.”

“And you’d have no objection to this marriage?” Lothíriel asked dubiously.

“No,” said Jim—and surprised himself by meaning it. “You’re brave and smart and honest too. You’re talking to me,” he explained when she raised a quizzical eyebrow, “not just listening to gossip. Relationships are all about that stuff.”

“You sound like the master of such things,” she said dryly.

“Yeah, well.” Jim shook his head. “I’m gonna go back home soon,” he said. He felt the familiar pangs in his chest when he thought of home then: his ship, his crew. Bones. A sharp needle of guilt stabbed him—he hadn’t thought of Bones in a long time before now, he realized. “I’m not needed here anymore.”

“They say that you come from the stars, that you captain a mighty vessel that sails among the heavens as our ships do upon the seas.” Lothíriel’s eyes were wide and thoughtful. “Is this so?”

“Yeah. Yeah, it is.” Jim looked away. “It seems very far away now,” he found himself saying. “I’ve been here for only a few months, but it seems like a lifetime, now.” He tried imagining the corridors of the Enterprise, remembered walking his familiar paths through the ship—off the bridge, by his Ready Room, down the hall to Transporter Room One, around the corridor to Stellar Cartography… The mental images of those well-known places were suddenly sharp and distinct in his mind’s eye.

Seren nickered curiously. “Will you take your steed with you?” the girl asked.

“No,” Jim said regretfully. He got up, going to Seren and scratching familiarly behind her ears. “She’s someone else I’ll have to leave behind.”

Lothíriel stood up and joined him, placing a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. “It pains you so to leave,” she observed. “Can you not come back?”

“No,” Jim answered. “I really don’t think I can.” Seren’s eyes were dark, blinking at him solemnly. “You two could go together,” he suggested suddenly, turning to Lothíriel. “If you really want to leave, you could take Seren. She could look after you—she’s smart like you wouldn’t even believe.” It was true, too—though only part Mearas, Seren was extremely clever and empathic. Jim would miss her, too, when he had to leave.

“Aye, James T. Kirk,” the girl said dryly, “I am deeply touched that you think me incapable of looking after myself, but are more than willing to trust my care to a horse. No offense,” she added to Seren as the animal snorted, “but I—I think I want to try to make things work here. Somehow.”

“So you’re not running away anymore, huh?” Jim asked.

She gave him a shy grin at his phrasing. “No, I—I think not,” she answered. “I think that perhaps I should stay and see what will happen.”

“That’s a good plan.” Jim smiled at her.

“And what about you, Rodorbeorn?” Lothíriel asked. “You never told me why you were here tonight, yourself?”

Jim sighed. It was growing light outside, he saw; dawn was only a couple hours off. “Éomer and I had a fight,” he said quietly. “He doesn’t like that I’m leaving.”

“You two are great friends,” the girl said gently. “Why should you argue about that which cannot be helped?”

“Good question. Wish I had an answer.” Jim sat down heavily on the bale of hay again. “I was planning on sleeping here,” he admitted.

Lothíriel was puzzled. “In all the White City, could a friend of the King find no better bed for himself than a lowly stack of hay?” she asked, sitting down next to him.

Jim snorted. “God,” he said, “it does sound pathetic when you put it like that, doesn’t it?”

“More than a bit,” the girl agreed. She grinned at him suddenly, and his lips twitched in response to her sunniness.

“Y’know,” he said thoughtfully, “I do love a lot of things about this world. The people here. But—it’s not—“ He broke off, frowning at Lothíriel, and tried again. “You’re a smart kid, and you want more from this world than it seems prepared to give you. You should study to be a healer—I think you’d be awesome at it.” He meant it, too. “You should be able to do what you want, and not what others want you to do. I don’t like it,” he concluded mulishly, settling back into the hay.

“You know, Jim Kirk,” she said, “I wish you were my brother. I quite like you when you aren’t being condescending. Or annoying,” she added for good measure.

“Yeah,” he said, yawning, “I get that a lot.” He closed his eyes; the hay felt unbelievably comfortable just then.

Lothíriel laughed at that. “Sleep you well, Man from the Stars,” she said gently. He felt the ghost of her lips on his cheek, was vaguely aware of the sound of her leaving. And then all was blissfully quiet and dark.

~

He came to all too suddenly, shaken awake abruptly. “Wha—izzit Christmas?” he blurted, blinking.

Éomer stared at him. His normally bronze complexion was pale from lack of sleep, and there were dark smudges under his eyes. “I’ve been looking for you, you—you foolish—“

“Oh here we go again.” Jim scrubbed his hands over his face, which felt raw and itchy. He scratched at his chin, feeling the stubbled growth—with luck he could shave tomorrow morning. “Can we skip the part where you yell at me? I’m really not feelin’ it this morning.” This was true enough—his head ached abominably. He must’ve had more to drink the night before than he had thought.

The Rohir exhaled heavily. “I do not wish to fight with you, my gúthwinë,” he said after a moment. “In fact, I came—I came to apologize.” He sat next to Jim, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I believe that I have been—unjust to you. It was ill done.” He paused, then continued more quietly. “I’m sorry for it.”

“Yeah,” Jim said. “Me too.” He looked at the Man then, really looked: Even exhausted and worn, Éomer was beautiful, and strong and caring, and—and he was so many things, but most of all he was not and never could be Jim’s. And now was the time to reckon with that. He looked deep into the hazel eyes that were so easy to lose one’s self in. “I’m sorry for a lot of things,” he said. “Now excuse me while I try to go do something right.”

~

Jim and Éomer had been sharing quarters in the Tower. The first thing Jim did was to return to them and pack up what few belongings he had and move them to another room. He saw to it that it was one far away from the Rohir’s.

Éomer found him quickly. “This is my sister’s doing,” he said, gazing at the small room that Jim now inhabited.

“No,” Jim said. “No, it’s not. This is all me, man.” He sat down heavily on the edge of the small bed, looking up at his friend.

“Does it have to be this way?” Éomer asked, though Jim could tell he already knew the answer.

“Yeah,” Jim said reluctantly. He sighed. “Yeah, it does. Look.” He smiled at the Horse-Lord, a small, bitter smile. “You and me? We couldn’t ever work, not really. This? Us? These last few months? This was a dream, man. A great dream, but a dream. And now we both have to wake up.”

Éomer frowned at him. “You have listened too long to the prattling of the Elves,” he said. “Speak plainly, or not at all.”

“Look, you’d be miserable in my world,” Jim said honestly. “You’re one of the Kings of Men here. We don’t have Kings on Earth, let alone Starfleet. There aren’t any horses in space and I—I like it here but I love being a starship captain more.” He exhaled roughly. “And that’s the way it is,” he concluded.

Éomer gazed at him evenly. “There’s truly no hope for us then, is there, my gúthwinë?”

“No,” Jim said. His throat was tight. “There’s really not.”

The Rohir nodded. “I see,” he said slowly. “Then this must be our goodbye.”

He kissed Jim, then. It wasn’t a playful thing, nor was it sweet, or affectionate, or loving or gentle. This was a kiss that tasted like unshed tears and a pained heart. It felt compressed, somehow, as if Éomer was trying to share everything he felt for Jim now and everything he would have felt in some other, better world, all in the space of a few moments in the here and now. All of this through the simple press of lips to lips.

Jim felt himself respond, though he hadn’t meant to. This was meant to be a clean goodbye—not messy and no more painful than it had to be. But Éomer’s mouth and hands were insistent, and oh God, Jim was going to miss this, and so they fell on the bed together as they tried to forget all the things they couldn’t be to one another, as much as they wished to or as hard as they tried.

~

The next day was the wedding day of Éowyn and Faramir. Jim tried to keep his distance from Éomer as much as he could, though he realized that he had somehow gotten into the habit of looking for the Man whenever he was on his own. He felt oddly at loose ends among the crowd of people celebrating, both Gondorians and Rohirrim.

He saw Éomer with the wedding party, clothed in a brilliant white tunic and a surcoat dyed the brilliant red and gold of Rohan. He was smiling at his sister’s happiness, and Jim’s heart hurt. The Man turned and saw Jim, lips freezing in their smile, before nodding his head slightly and turning away. Man up, Kirk, he told himself sternly. This had become his mantra of late. You chose this. Deal.

“Greetings, Rodorbeorn,” Lothíriel said, appearing at his shoulder. “Would you do me the honor of being my escort?” She held her arm out hopefully. He noticed that her body was stiff with tension, and wondered what had caused it.

“Cheerfully,” he said, taking it obediently. “Why do you need an escort?”

The girl grinned at him, blue eyes twinkling as she started to relax in his company. “My brothers were supposed to be accompanying me, but they saw some of their friends from the Southron campaigns and promptly left me in the company of yon fair maids.” She nodded her head at a group of Gondorian women, all dressed in the sober dark colors that many of the City’s natives seemed to favor, their hair covered in white wimples. They were whispering, holding their hands in front of their mouths as they did so—which of course made them only look more gossipy and unwelcoming.

“They look nice,” Jim said, repressing a laugh. He beamed at the women sunnily, and they stared back in astonishment. Then, scandalized, they began talking animatedly.

“One never saw a nicer flock of geese,” Lothíriel said impishly, “unless they were already cooked for the solstice feast.”

Jim made a low whistle of amusement and mock-horror. “Remind me never to make you angry, Princess,” he said.

“You there!” A tall man with pale skin and light brown hair glared at Jim and Lothíriel. The girl stiffened next to him.

“Who’s that?” Jim asked, though he already had a hunch.

“Elphir,” Lothíriel said grimly. “My eldest brother.”

“What do you with my sister?” Elphir demanded as he strode towards them purposefully.

“We’re enjoying the wedding. How about yourself?” Jim asked in his most obnoxiously cheerful voice. He smiled widely, repressing the urge to call the man “honeybuns” or something similarly annoying. “Cupcake” was and would ever be his Head of Security. The thought of tall, hulking Harris in his red unifom, growling at this guy perked Jim up immensely, too.

“I asked him to be my escort, brother,” the girl said at the same moment. She shot Jim an apologetic look.

Elphir’s eyes darted between them, as if he couldn’t decide who he wanted to yell at more. Finally his gaze landed on his sister. “Would you bring dishonor on our house?” he demanded.

Lothíriel flushed at that angrily. “Might I remind you, brother, that you are the one who left me alone,” she said. “I saw my friend here and knew that he would keep me well until you saw fit to return. As if,” she added pointedly, “I could get into overmuch trouble at a wedding party.”

“You seem to be off to an awfully good start, sister,” Elphir said with a disapproving twist of his mouth, before glaring at Jim once more. “Who are you? Name your people.”

Jim stood straight and stiff, affecting the posture of a Starfleet officer at parade presentation. “Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise,” he declared proudly. “At your service.” He gave the man a little nod of the head, but no more, and gave him his most dazzling smile.

The Man frowned. “I don’t understand,” he said.

“He is kith to the Rohirrim,” Éomer said sternly, joining them. “That is all you need understand, Lord Elphir.”

“King Éomer, greetings,” Lothíriel said. She smiled at him pleasantly. “I wish you joy on your sister’s wedding day.”

“I thank you, Princess,” Éomer answered. He looked at Jim then, those hazel eyes boring into his. “How do you find the celebration, Rodorbeorn?”

Elphir looked at each of them in turn, scowling as he realized he was effectively being cut out of the conversation as the other two men flanked the girl, their body language closed. Éomer raised a single eyebrow at Jim, silently remarking on their mutually protective attitudes towards the princess.

“It was a beautiful ceremony,” Jim answered, lips quirking upwards in an honest grin. “The reception’s interesting, too.”

“Isn’t it just?” Lothíriel looked between them, realizing exactly what they were up to; she feigned calmness well, he thought, but he could still detect the rigid line of tension in her carriage.

“I must away,” Elphir said then. He shot another dark look at Lothíriel before departing. “Our Father is here, sister. Remember that.”

“Aye, brother,” the girl answered dryly. “I’m hardly like to forget."

“Nice guy,” Jim commented as they watched him leave.

Lothíriel sighed, shaking her head. “He means well. In fairness I did appall yon geese…“ She cast her eye back to the gossips nearby. “I probably shouldn’t have done that, but—“ She shrugged, an eloquent gesture that continued her thought for her. It was fun.

Jim chuckled. “I helped. It was funny,” he explained as Éomer raised a quizzical eyebrow.

The Rohir smiled at him, shaking his head, before turning to Lothíriel. “He is ever foolish,” he said fondly.

The girl grinned back at him hesitantly. “He is,” she agreed. “It is, as I believe he would say, his charm.”

“Damn straight,” Jim agreed.

Éomer snorted briefly in amusement, then his expression sobered to one of sincere apology as he made a bow to Lothíriel. “I—wish to beg your pardon for my behavior the other night, Princess,” he said. “I was boorish and rude. It was behavior unbecoming a King, let alone a Man of the Mark, and it was an insult to you. I am sorry for it.” Hazel eyes looked upwards at her. “Forgive me.”

The girl flushed a bright red. She turned to Jim, questioningly.

“He means it,” Jim said softly, answering her unspoken doubt. He gave her his best Confident Captain’s Look. “Trust me.”

Lothíriel bit her lip, gazing at Éomer once more. At last she nodded, her voice trembling only slightly when she answered. “Aye, you are forgiven, Éomer King.”

The Man stood straight once more, looking relieved. “I am glad to hear it, Princess,” he said.

“Right,” Jim said. He smiled at them both. “Let’s enjoy the party, shall we?”

~

Things were easier after that. Not much—far from perfect, in fact—but Lothíriel’s presence was a welcome distraction for both men. Éomer hadn’t spoken of the matter, but Jim knew that the Rohir was drawn to the princess. As for Jim himself? He admired her wits, her sense of humor, her simple beauty. In another time and place he would have been tempted to go after her himself. As it was they made an easy threesome, talking at length during dinners at the Tower, and one or both of them acting as her escort as they explored the city.

A week after the wedding party, Éomer and Jim went to visit Lothíriel, the Rohir suggesting that they go horseback riding.

Imrahil seemed bemused but pleased by the suggestion. “If my daughter is amenable, aye,” he said.

Elphir, who stood at the Prince’s side, was firmly disapproving. “Should she not have a chaperone, at least?”

“I’ll keep those two crazy kids out of trouble,” Jim said, beaming at them brightly. Éomer glanced at him from the corner of his eye; the Man was torn between amusement and irritation at Jim’s baiting his possible future brother-in-law. “Not that they’d get in any,” he added for good measure.

“Send for Lothíriel,” Imrahil instructed one of his servants, and Elphir glared at them darkly.

When the princess appeared, she grinned brightly when she saw them, before carefully rearranging her expression into one of carefully closed, maidenly modesty for her Father’s and brother’s benefit.

“My lady.” Éomer stepped forward and bowed to her briefly. “Would you care to accompany me on a ride outside the City? The Rodorbeorn has graciously offered to act as our chaperone.” His hazel eyes glittered at that.

“Aye,” Lothíriel answered. “It would please me greatly, my lord.”

And so they found themselves spending a pleasant afternoon on the plains of Pelennor once more, Jim on Seren, Lothíriel riding behind Éomer on Firefoot.

The Rohir had been horrified to learn that the princess had no horse of her own. “In Rohan we are riding horses when still babes at the breast!” he had said, bewildered. “And you are of a royal house, too!” Her lack of a mount seemed to almost offend him. Jim and she both laughed at that.

“Not everyone’s quite as horse-crazy as the Rohirrim,” Jim said. Seren gave a snort. “Yeah, I know. It’s too bad, isn’t it, girl?”

“Horse-crazy?” Éomer frowned darkly, but Jim could see the warmth in his eyes. The Rohir was teasing him, as he had not done in some time. Jim grinned back at him.

“Women seldom ride in Dol Amroth,” Lothíriel said. “Though I confess, I wouldn’t mind learning.”

Jim could see the Rohir’s approving expression when she said that, though she could not. “I will see that a horse is found for you, my Princess,” Éomer said.

They were near the same stream where they had first met. Lothíriel looked at the flowers that grew there wistfully. “I wish I had brought my rucksack.”

The men exchanged a look. “Pick freely, Princess,” Éomer said.

“We have saddlebags,” Jim added helpfully. They ended up sitting comfortably in the sunshine as the girl roamed among the greenery, peering closely at the various plants that grew there in profusion.

She was pretty methodical in her selection, Jim noticed as he watched her work. When she picked flowers, she carefully chose those that had not yet completely bloomed. When she picked other herbs, she examined them closely for signs that they were being eaten by bugs, or were otherwise less than ideal specimens. Éomer was watching her too, he saw; they exchanged an amused look at the seriousness with which the girl was going about her work.

“What are you looking for, my lady?” the Rohir asked curiously.

“Throw-wort,” she answered distractedly. “One of the maids has a—a womanly complaint,” she hastily edited herself. She plucked a tall stemmed plant and showed it to them. Éomer took it in his fingers and held it this way and that, before handing it to Jim. It had wedge-shaped leaves and small lilac buds. “I’d hoped to make a tea of them for her.”

The Rohir gave her a small smile. “It is a commendable thing you do, lady,” he said. He stood up and peered into the greenery as well.

“What are you doing?” Lothíriel asked in surprise.

“I’m helping you,” Éomer answered, not looking at her. He scowled as he regarded several plants; he twisted a stem to pick up one that looked nearly identical to the throw-wort she had shown them, though the flowers of it were pink. “Is this what you need?”

“Aye,” she said, blushing as she took the flower from his hand and their fingers brushed.

Jim’s heart hurt a little, and he looked away as the girl and the Rohir continued to hunt for her herbs. This is a good thing, remember, Kirk? he told himself firmly. He needs an alliance, you need to get over it.

Seren whickered at him, then snorted. He smiled and scratched the horse’s nose affectionately, mood lifting as she nuzzled him back. “You’re a clever girl, you know that, right?”

“Tell me, Éomer King,” Lothíriel asked, “do all Riders of Rohan speak so to their steeds, or is it merely the Rodorbeorn?”

“My kith is ever talkative,” the Rohir answered, “be it to Men or horses.”

Jim shook his head good naturedly at their teasing. He leaned back into the grass as they continued to work, sprawling comfortably. “So what’s up with your brother?” Jim asked the girl after a while. “I don’t get him. What’s his problem? Why does he—act the way he does with you?”

“You speak of Elphir,” she said, frowning a little. She bit her lip thoughtfully as she came over and sat next to Jim—hitting the ground a little heavily as she took more care with her flowers than she did with herself. “He is my eldest brother,” she said slowly, “and we know very little of each other.”

Éomer joined them, carrying another bunch of her throw-wort, which he placed at her feet carefully before sitting next to her as well. She glowed at him, and he gave her a twitch of the lips in return.

“I think,” Lothíriel continued, “that my brother simply doesn’t understand why I can’t be like the other maidens—interested in dresses and babes and things. Don’t mistake me, I like dresses and babes well enough,” she said quickly to the Rohir, who visibly repressed a chuckle at her haste to reassure him, “but it just seems to me that there should be more to this in life.” She bit her lip hesitantly. “Is that odd?”

“I am a Man of Rohan, my Princess,” Éomer said. “We have ever honored those shield-maidens who chose to ride to war with their kith and kin. I think it fine that you care for your plants and your healing,” he added more softly.

Lothíriel blushed at that, growing very pink.

“So, your brother doesn’t get you,” Jim prompted her helpfully. “Doesn’t, uh, understand you,” he clarified.

“Yes,” she said quickly, comprehending. “Er, no, rather. He wishes that I was like those other maidens, and disapproves of me most fiercely. And so you have it.” She shot them an unapologetic smile. “Were I an ordinary maiden, I would be easily and respectably wedded, but I am not and so probably shan’t be.” She shrugged. “I would apologize for it, but someone told me I ought not do so.” She grinned at Jim.

“Damn straight,” Jim said, smiling at her approvingly.

“My gúthwinë is sometimes wise despite himself,” Éomer said fondly.

The two men looked at each other when he said the old endearment. Jim felt a familiar warmth in his belly, bittersweet. He pushed the accompanying thoughts away firmly.

“Yeah, well,” Jim said. He looked up at the sky. “It’s getting late; we should probably head back, huh?”

“I suppose,” Lothíriel said regretfully. The men helped her pick up her stack of plants, Jim putting them away in Seren’s saddlebags.

They rode back to Minas Tirith leisurely, the girl and the Rohir chatting amiably while Jim half-listened. Éomer sounded genuinely happy when he was with the princess, and Jim found to his relief—and, okay, a little bit of disgust—that he was truly pleased for his friend. Once he left, he knew, the Man would no longer be returned to that solitude which he feared.

When they returned to the prince’s lodgings, Elphir was waiting for them.

“Sister!” he said, scandalized. “What has happened to you?”

Lothíriel stared at him. She carried her armload of plants and flowers, holding them to herself awkwardly as if they were some sort of shield. “I don’t follow, brother?”

Jim and Éomer exchanged a glance. The girl was sunburned and had grass stains on her dress—oh.

“Yeah, we aided and abetted, didn’t we?” Jim said ruefully to the Rohir.

“Mmm.” Éomer made an agreeable noise, not understanding Jim’s wording but reading his intent clearly enough. His lips twitched. “Readsynne,” he said to Lothíriel. “You have received a gift of the sun.”

The girl looked at him blankly. “What?”

“You have a sunburn,” Jim translated.

Elphir glared at them. “Sister, how will we get you wedded if you choose to run about like a fool girl, prattling about with your greenery—“ He slapped at her bundle angrily; some of the buds and leaves fell to the floor.

“You dare!” Éomer said angrily, hand on the hilt of his sword.

“Hey! Back off!” Jim said at the same time, stepping forward slightly in a fight-ready stance.

Elphir glared at them, mouth twisting in dislike. He was silent a moment, perhaps having realized his error in angering two Riders of Rohan, one of whom was the King of the Mark—both of whom were clearly ready to come to blows over his sister’s behalf. He finally settled his gaze on Éomer himself. “My sister is at risk of dishonor because of you two. Would you have it so?”

“No!” the Rohir said immediately. “No, I would not.” He turned to the girl, who looked redder than ever from both her anger and embarrassment with her brother’s behavior as well as her sunburn. “Which is why I will marry her, if she will have me.”

Lothíriel stared at him, as did Jim.

“Do you mean it?” the girl asked. She looked shocked, but there was a shy look of hope, even happiness in her expression as well.

“Aye,” Éomer said. He picked a bit of leaf out of her hair. “Aye, I do.”

Elphir stared, shook his head, and left. “I don’t get that guy,” Jim said as he watched him go. He turned back to his friends, but they were gazing at one another, both with hesitant smiles on their faces. “Well,” Jim said, making them a little bow, “let me be the first to offer my congratulations.”

~

Éomer’s kith and kin were pleased with his decision, Éowyn in particular. “I am glad for you, Eoh,” she told the Rohir that night. “I think you two will suit one another admirably.”

“Long has she wished to plan my near-brother’s wedding,” Faramir said to Jim with a grin. She elbowed him playfully. “Have you chosen a steed for her yet?” he asked the Rohir.

“No,” Éomer admitted. “I have perhaps been o’er-hasty—I’d not planned to make a suit this afternoon.”

“Choose a steed?” Jim asked. He remembered Éomer’s seemingly off-hand remark from earlier that day: I will see that a horse is found for you, my Princess.

“Aye,” said the new Lady of Ithilien. “The traditional courting gift among the Rohirrim is a horse—preferably one suitable for breeding new stock.”

“Hasufel and Ceinder,” Faramir agreed, naming the horses she had brought to his marriage.

“My brother was ever-fond of Seren,” she continued. Jim shot the Rohir a curious look, but his expression was impassive. “Perhaps Blodeuyn?”

Éomer nodded. “Aye, Blodeuyn will do nicely,” he agreed.

“So,” Jim asked later that night, when he was alone with the Rohir, “was Seren a ‘courting gift’?” The Man did not answer. “Eoh?”

“I had not thought of giving her to you for that purpose,” Éomer said after a time. He frowned at the floor before finally meeting Jim’s eyes with his own. They were dark in the low light of the Hall, intense. He continued in Rohirric then, speaking with unaccustomed formality. “I did not mean for us to become so attached, my battle-friend. Though had things gone differently—aye, she would have been my courting gift to thee.”

~

Éomer and Lothíriel were married at the beginning of July. They returned to Edoras for the occasion, the ceremony attended by many of their friends from their adventures: the Hobbits Merry and Pippin, the Elf Legolas and the Dwarf Gimli, King Elessar and the Lady Arwen, and Gandalf the White.

“What think you, Man of the Stars?” Legolas asked at the wedding feast.

“We wondered,” Gimli said. “What?” he asked as the Elf glared at him. “We did!”

“I’m fine, guys,” Jim said. “Honestly, I am. I’m happy for Éomer.” It was true: he was. “They’ll have long, happy lives together.”

The two friends looked relieved at that. “Aye,” the Elf said with a smile for the new couple at the head table. “It is fit.”

“Hold now,” Gimli said. “Mark, and here comes a stormcloud.”

“What? Oh.” Jim frowned as he saw Elphir coming towards them. “What’s he up to now?”

The Man bowed to the three of them when he got to their table. “My lords,” he said to them all in greeting, before looking at Jim directly. “I have something to say to you—something I want you to know.”

“Great,” Jim said smiling sunnily. “Have a seat. Tell me all about it.” He wasn’t sure if he was relieved or disappointed when Elphir did so.

“I am afraid you have a low opinion of me,” the Man began, “and for what it’s worth, I do not blame you, for I have not earned better. But you are the closest companion to my near-brother, and I owe you both an apology. I have already made mine to him, and so I say to you now: I’m sorry for aught I have done to grieve my sister and you in these past weeks.”

Jim nodded. “Thanks,” he said slowly. “Now maybe you can tell me, what is your deal? Why have you been—the way you’ve been—with her?” he explained.

Elphir twisted his mouth before answering. “I have spent little enough time in the company of ladies,” he said at last, “let alone with my own sister. Since I was a boy I have been on campaign with our Father. Those women whom I have met have largely been those who—made free with men.”

Jim repressed a chuckle at that euphemism; for a brief moment he wished he could introduce this guy to Gaila—she would have delighted in taking him down a notch or eight.

“Those proper women of my station are—very different from Lothíriel. I feared for her virtue—and then I feared more when I saw how she looked on you and Éomer King. I mean no offense,” he added hurriedly as neither Jim, nor Legolas nor Gimli were pleased at Elphir’s lack of conviction regarding the morals of the Horse-Lord or of Jim himself, and their expressions showed it.

“Diplomacy, laddy. Ye need tae work on it,” Gimli said dourly.

Elphir looked suitably chastened at that, at least. “Aye,” he said, “aye, I suppose I do. Nonetheless, what I’m trying to say is this: I—I was wrong. I know that you and the Horse-Lord had no ill intent or designs on Lothíriel, and I am grateful for it. And—I wished you to know that.” He stood up and turned to go.

Jim watched him, then sighed to himself. “Hey, Elphir.”

The man paused and turned back to him. “Aye?”

“Thanks, man,” Jim said. He gave him a small smile. “You were trying to do the right thing. I get that.”

Elphir gave him a nod, and then went on his way.

“I’m glad Lothíriel doesn’t have any sisters, though,” Jim continued to his friends.

“Agreed,” Legolas said shortly.

Gandalf joined them. “My friends,” the wizard greeted them. “I trust you are all well?”

“I’d be even more well if Radagast was around,” Jim said pointedly.

The wizard nodded. “Fear not, Captain Kirk,” he said, “the Brown Wizard will return at the appointed day and hour.”

“Right. Lughnasadh, you said.” Jim repressed the urge to grind his teeth. “Are you sure?”

Gandalf’s eyes flashed ice-blue, and his expression was stern. “Doubt not the word of a wizard, Captain,” he said cooly. “I have told you aught I can.”

Legolas and Gimli flinched at that, looking away, but Jim refused to back down. “I’m not doubting you, sir. I just want to go home.”

The wizard’s expression softened at that, the fierceness he had projected melting away. “I know, Captain. Return to Minas Tirith before August. Your way shall be made clear then.” And with that, he departed.

“Wizards,” Jim said under his breath.

“Trust me, laddy, ye don’t know the half of it,” said Gimli.

~

Jim had expected the next few weeks to be awkward and had planned to return to Minas Tirith with Aragorn’s delegation, but to his surprise Lothíriel asked him to stay in Edoras a while longer.

“You are my friend, too, Jim,” she said a few days after the wedding. He was sitting outside of Meduseld, looking out over the rolling hills of Rohan as the midsummer sun sank lower into the distant horizon. She sat down next to him, looking at him thoughtfully. “When you are gone, I will miss you as well—though not as much as my Eoh shall.”

He smiled at the girl. “That’s sweet, Princess,” he said, “but all the same I think it would be better for me to get out of you guys’ hair and all—to let you have your peace,” he answered her unspoken question.

Lothíriel gave an unladylike snort. “You speak as if Éomer would have a moment of peace without you,” she said. “Well do I know how well he loves you, Rodorbeorn.”

Jim felt himself flush, and looked away. “Yeah, well, he’s a good friend,” he said gruffly.

“Jim.” Her voice was gentle, and she took his face in her hands, moving his head so that he had to look directly at her. “He is more to you than that, as you are to him.” She shook her head. “And while you are no Beren and Luthien to pass at your parting, nonetheless, neither of you do yourselves any favors by pretending you are aught but what you are.”

“I don’t think either of us are pretending anything, Lothíriel,” Jim said, pulling back in annoyance. “We’re trying to be adults about this. Éomer has his marriage to you to think about, and I’ve got to go back home. Thinking about what we are, or were, or whatever—it’s not going to make that any easier, or help anyone. Trust me.”

She frowned. “Do you have someone waiting for you back home, Jim?” she asked. “Someone like—like Eoh?”

“No one’s like Éomer,” Jim said softly. He continued with more confidence, “I have lots of people to get back to, though. My ship’s crew complement is over four hundred.”

“I didn’t ask about your crew, Captain,” the princess said. She gave him a small smile. “I asked if you had someone special—that meant more to you than others.”

“There’s Bones. He’s my best friend—I’ve known him since the Academy.” He felt unaccountably guilty, then—as if he were a poor excuse of a friend indeed for somehow getting sucked into a different universe and kept there for months against his will, instead of being aboard the Enterprise where he belonged. “And then there’s Spock, and he’s—that’s a complicated story.”

He wasn’t about to even attempt explaining time travel and alternate realities to Lothíriel. Just—no.

“Anyway,” he continued more quickly, “I suppose the best friend I have back there is Bones. He’s my Chief Medical Officer—my Warden of Healing,” he explained when the girl looked puzzled. Her expression cleared and she nodded for him to go on. “He’s—I suppose you could say he was the first friend I ever really had. He’s never let me down, not once.” His lips twitched. “Éomer reminds me a lot of him, actually.”

As he said the words, something hot and then cold flushed through him. Bones.

Lothíriel nodded her approval, oblivious to his sudden inner agitation. “I am glad you have one such as him to go back to, then,” she said with a sigh of relief. She leaned her head against his shoulder. “I can take care of Eoh once you have left, but I worried about who would take care of you.”

Jim slipped an arm around her, pulling her close to kiss the top of her head affectionately. “You’re a sweet kid,” he said, pushing away his confusion. “You know that, right?”

“I know not what you mean, Rodorbeorn,” Lothíriel said with a small smile, “but I choose to take your words as a compliment.”

~

The next few weeks sped by.

Lothíriel and Jim observed as Éomer conducted the business of his kingdom with Erkenbrand or one of his other retainers—the girl listening with interest to the matters of statecraft which were all new to her. The Rohir was a good King, Jim knew—not that he’d ever doubted it for a moment. The Man was patient and canny, genuinely concerned for the happiness and the welfare of his people.

And his wife.

Readsynne, what are you cooking?” Éomer teased the girl as she worked at boiling a mixture of herbs down to a salve. He wrinkled his nose at the sharp, astringent scent of it. “Mean you to starve me, my wife?”

The new Queen grinned at that, gesturing at the line of small game Jim held; the two had spent a pleasant afternoon hawking. “You’ll only starve if you have so little to show from the hunt!”

“For pity’s sake, woman!” The Rohir snorted, then picked her up and spun her about playfully while she laughed. “Oromë the Hunter himself couldn’t please you, my sun maiden!”

Watching Éomer and Lothíriel moving so easily from friendship and affection to genuine love was bittersweet for Jim. He was glad his friends were happy, but limited in how much he could share it. Rather than stand by and be an awkward third wheel, he took it in turn to join the Rohirrim in their patrols along the borders of Fangorn. The Riders of Rohan welcomed him on these short trips, and he joined them in singing their songs of battle, of victory, of the beauty of Rohan. At night, he fell asleep in his pallet listening to the low melodic rhythms of Rohirric, and he woke up in the morning with the sound of men working companionably together.

Nothing could be more different than Starfleet.

Nothing could be more similar, either.

Lothíriel found him in the stables after he returned from one such venture. “Lughnasadh is in two weeks, Rodorbeorn,” she said.

“I know.” His voice was low and rough. He cleared his throat. “I know,” he said again, louder.

“My husband is going to miss you,” the girl said, “as am I.” Seren whickered, her big brown eyes soft as she nuzzled him. This was her way of saying that she was going to miss him, too.

Lothíriel cocked her head at him, mouth pursed in thought, then thinning as she came to a decision and continued. “I wish you to come to our bed, before you go.”

“You’re okay with this?” Jim asked before fully thinking it through. Yes, he wanted Éomer, only desperately, but—

“Aye,” said Lothíriel.

“Éomer too?” If the Rohir wanted— Jim swallowed, overcome by a sudden, intense longing to be with the man again.

“Aye.” The girl smiled at him, a strangely comforting expression, as if she knew exactly how he felt.

He knew then, with a confidence that surprised him, that his mind was already made up—that there had never really even been a doubt as to how he would answer—from any of them.

“When?”

He went to their quarters that night, bringing along a wine sack for good measure. He felt nervous and giddy, as well as annoyed with himself. He had done this before—hell, on vacations on Risa he’d gone to parties with more participants and acrobatics than this.

But he hadn’t loved anyone on Risa. And he had to admit, a part of him did love Éomer—and Lothíriel too.

So it was easy, then, to join them—easy to touch both of them, to take delight in their joy in one another. Making love to the girl was surprisingly easy—she moved with a newfound confidence, taking her pleasure from both of them in a way that was both simple and honest, and just plain hot in a way that more practiced women weren’t.

And of course, Éomer: the familiar lines and angles of his body, his taste and scent. Jim thought he couldn’t get enough of him.

The night ended too soon.

“I won’t forget you,” he murmured in the dark of the morning, later, before leaving. “Either of you.”

Lothíriel smiled at him in drowsy, pleased acceptance, and the Rohir was quiet. He took Jim’s hand in his, clasping it tightly.

And then they both let go.

~

They returned to Minas Tirith the last week of July. The night before Radagast was to return, Lothíriel made an announcement.

“I am with child,” she said, glowing a little.

Jim grinned, giving her a delighted hug. “Congratulations!” he said, beaming at the both of his friends.

Éomer looked at his wife fondly. “She is certain it is a son,” he said with no small amount of pride and pleasure.

Lothíriel smiled up at Jim. “We’re thinking of naming him after you,” she said.

Jim flushed with delight. “Thanks,” he said, “but please don’t. James Tiberius is the worst, trust me.”

She grinned impishly. “Just as well,” she said. “I think I prefer the name Elfwine.”

Jim stared at her. “I take it back,” he said quickly. “James Tiberius is a way better name for a kid than Elfwine.”

The Rohir laughed at him. “Elfwine is a fine name,” he said.

Jim smiled, shaking his head. Suddenly he felt very alone, knowing he would have to leave these two behind. “I’m going to miss you both so much,” he said, not for the first time.

~

True to his word, Radagast appeared the next day. As did Gandalf.

“Sorry, sorry I’m late,” the Brown Wizard apologized. “I had things to take care of and they took—quite some time.”

“Of course they did,” Jim said with thinly veiled impatience. “So how are we going to do this?”

“We will need to make our preparations first,” Radagast said.

“Bide you an hour, Captain Kirk,” Gandalf said. “It will not be long now.”

Exhaling with irritation, Jim found Éomer. “I have an hour,” he said, swallowing heavily.

The Rohir nodded. “My wife sleeps,” he said. He was silent a moment. “I don’t wish to wake her.”

Jim shook his head. “No.” They stared at one another, silent, uncertain. And then they were together—tightly clinging, moved past words.

He wasn’t sure how long they held each other. It wasn’t sexual—far from it, actually. But finally the Rohir stepped back.

“You are not garbed as a Rider of Rohan,” he observed.

Jim shook his head. He wore breeches and a short blue tunic. “No,” he said. “I’m no Rohir, not really.”

“Yes, you are,” Éomer said. “You are the Rodorbeorn. You are my gúthwinë. You are one of us. Come, quickly. While there is still time.”

Jim followed the other man back to his quarters, where his arms and armor still were. He put the things on, astonished at how natural they felt now—as if he had always been meant to wear armor, to carry a sword. The Rohir handed his helmet to him at the end. “You spoke to me once of a man of yours who was like unto a gúthwinë of your own,” he said.

“Yeah. Bones.” Jim swallowed, feeling a rush of excitement at knowing he was about to return to his friend—accompanied by a strange feeling of guilt for being gone so long.

Éomer nodded. “I wish I could have met him, James T. Kirk. I would have been honored to meet a man such as he. But—“ He broke off then, his hazel eyes eloquently expressing all the things he could not voice. “But it is time for you to return to him,” he concluded at last, “and to your own kith.”

Eoh.” Jim couldn’t say any more than that. It was too much.

They looked at each for a long moment, long past the need for words, and then at last they returned to the chamber where Radagast and Gandalf were preparing to do—whatever it was that they were going to do to get Jim back home.

The room was not large, though exotic markings were chalked upon the floor. They didn’t match any of the alphabets he had seen since coming to Arda—not that that meant much.

“Just another moment, more,” Radgast said where he appeared to be measuring something on the floor, ticking off marks.

“It is time at last to return to your ship, James T. Kirk.” Éomer’s voice was gruff, his expression carefully neutral, but his eyes were dark with intense feeling.

“Yeah,” Jim said. He gave his friend a smile, and held his forearm out; the other man clasped it firmly as Jim returned the gesture. “I’m not going to forget you,” he said.

“Sing songs of our doings when you return to your hearth, my gúthwinë,” the Rohir said firmly. “Tell your comrades of the Horse-Lords of Rohan, of the glory we saw on the fields of Pelennor and of Morannon. Tell them—“ He paused, hesitating, then concluded, “tell them I envy their journeys.”

Jim nodded. His throat was suddenly tight. “I will,” he promised.

“Good.” The Rohir gave him a small, genuine smile. “I will miss you, Rodorbeorn.”

“I’ll miss you, too. Eoh,” Jim said.

Gandalf coughed, then. The two men shared a glance, and Éomer’s grip on Jim’s arm tightened briefly before releasing him.

“It is time,” said Radagast.

“I wish to stay,” the Rohir said to the wizards firmly. “I would see my friend off.”

The White wizard smiled at the man. “This you may do,” he said kindly, “so long as you stand to the side and be silent. This is a dangerous magic we mean to perform—your friend’s life depends on us.”

Éomer nodded, and made a short bow to both wizards. He shared a final look with Jim then, and Jim allowed himself a brief moment of regret for all the things that could not be. But sacrificing one’s personal happiness for ship and crew—that was, and always would be, the lot of a Captain.

And Jim couldn’t bring himself to regret that.

“With Olòrin’s aid, you will be returned at the moment of your leaving,” Radagast said. “And without the, ah, sickness you felt before.”

“Thank God,” Jim said in sincere relief, remembering the intense pain and nausea from his first entry into Arda. “Thank you,” he added carefully.

“I thank you,” Radagast said seriously, and to his surprise. “My powers lend themselves more to the way of bird and beast, but I’ve sense enough of the patterns of the world to know that, by the part you have played in the history of Arda, our realm has been saved.”

“But I didn’t do anything!” Jim protested. “Aragorn brought the races of the West together, and Frodo destroyed the ring—“

“Worlds are not always saved by heroic deeds, James T. Kirk,” the Brown wizard said gently. “You rode with the Rohirrim, and in doing so added one to their number—which is small enough, and yet, one man can save the lives of dozens and more through his very presence. You sought out athelas and brought them to Aragorn that he might heal his people, and among those whose lives were saved were the Prince and Lady of Ithilien.” He stepped close to Jim, regarding him seriously. “Believe you me, you did great things here.”

Jim swallowed, bowing his head. “In helping you, I broke the Prime Directive,” he said solemnly. “If I did change your history—this is reckoned a crime where I come from. I’ll report myself to the authorities when I return.”

Radagast shook his head. “Men are ever foolish,” he said wonderingly. He placed his palm on Jim’s forehead. “I give you the blessing of the Valar, that you will not be punished for doing that which we asked of you.”

“Thank you,” said Jim. He didn’t have the heart to tell them that no magic or blessing could save him from the wrath of Admiral Komack, so he just gave the wizards a small, polite smile.

Gandalf regarded him with great seriousness, and as usual Jim felt like the wizard could see right through him. “We all serve our purpose in this world, James T. Kirk,” he said. He smiled at Jim, blue eyes bright in his white face. “You are a most fortunate fellow indeed to walk across so many. Fear not, for your purpose has not been concluded yet.”

Jim couldn’t help but think of Ambassador Spock at that. “So people keep telling me,” he said.

“You should listen to them,” said Gandalf. He and Radagast exchanged a look. “We should begin.”

Jim stood between the two wizards, one on either side of him. They spoke—chanted, really, he supposed—in that language that sounded so familiar but the understanding of which remained just outside of his grasp. He was suffused with a tingling feeling, rather like being caught in a transporter beam. He looked away—and into Éomer’s curious, awestruck face.

And then he was gone.

Next

Comments

( 1 comment — Add your .02 )
suddenlyswept
Oct. 20th, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC)
*wibbles*

i'm seriously sad right now but have to say, all the anticipation has so been worth it :D
( 1 comment — Add your .02 )

Latest Month

July 2017
S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     

Tags

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow