The clashing of metal against metal. Someone is running, and she is bundled in their arms. It is dark, but for the fire she can see the trees up ahead. She is held so tight, the world around her bounces with each frantic step. She screams into the chaos, panicked and terrified, her eyes burning from the smoke and from tears. She is squeezed, shushed, soothed as they pant and push towards the forest. A sudden stop and she tumbles to the ground, out of the protective embrace. She curls into a ball as a barrage of footfalls and shouting overwhelm her. She tries to see, to find the one who held her, but there are bodies everywhere.
Suddenly, arms grab her, pulling her away while she kicks and flails. Her hand closes over the hilt of a dagger and she pulls it free, waving it wildly as she is dragged away from the burning village. She screams.
Haldir was at her side, his hands on her shoulders shaking her gently as she screamed. When she suddenly drew her knife, he grabbed her wrist before she could bring the blade down on him, and he cupped her head with his other hand,
“Kalî! Kalî, wake up!” he shouted, his voice hoarse and groggy from having been ripped from his rest by her cries.
Her eyes flew open, and locked on his. After a moment, she choked and released the dagger in her hand. The look of terror and anguish on her face had Haldir’s own eyes beginning to sting as he pulled her hand to his chest.
He held her gaze, “Kalî?” he said softly.
She blinked, releasing a well of tears that had gathered in her eyes.
“Haldir?” she said, her voice trembling.
With that word something within him broke, and he realized that it was the first time he had heard his name on her lips. His hands still on her, he pulled her against his chest and wrapped his arms around her. She was shaking, sobbing, her hands twisted in his tunic and pulling, as if desperately trying to bring herself somehow closer.
He clenched his jaw, placing a hand on her head, smoothing her hair.
She had cried out for her mother.
It made sense that the revelations of the last day would have shaken loose some long-forgotten memories within her, and Haldir cursed himself for not considering earlier that this might happen.
She shook in his arms, as his own thoughts cascading when she gasped, “Is that what happened to her?”
He could only imagine what the dream had been about, but he hadn’t the heart to ask her for details.
She could not see his face, but he shook his head,
“I do not know, híril nín. I can not tell you.” He continued to hold her as her breathing slowed and her form relaxed.
He adjusted his seating, moving to lie her back down against her bedroll when she snaked her arms around his middle, pulling him down with her.
The idea of lying with her gave him pause, but he settled himself down beside her. He kept an arm around her as he lay on his side. She burrowed herself into his chest and with his free arm, he pulled his cloak over them. For a time, there was no sound save for their breathing and the crackling of the fire below.
Haldir struggled with his thoughts as their breaths fell in sync. As an elf, he had never been prone to impulsive acts of physicality. He may have comforted his brothers when they were much younger, but it had never come to him naturally.
Yet, he wanted to touch Kalî, to comfort her.
While he had not bothered himself with amorous thoughts in several hundred years, he was not immune to the occasional pangs of longing and loneliness. He had long resigned himself to his solitude, having never found companionship with the elleths in Lórien and been long convinced that none would ever seek it with him.
He wasn’t sure why it was Kalî that changed these feelings within him. Perhaps it was her flirtations and apparent interest, as he was wholly unaccustomed to such attentions. Perhaps it was because she was wild and unrefined; worldly, but with an air of innocence about her. Perhaps it was because she was the only person in a millennia that he could actually talk to. It surely didn’t help that he found her strangely, achingly beautiful.
As they lie in silence, he thought about how she had said his name. How hearing it had jarred him so violently. Since they had met, he had figured her refusal to address him properly was a tactic that she employed to prevent attachments, which made sense, given the amount of death she experienced in her life. He went out of his way to avoid attachments himself, though his reasons were entirely different than what he imagined hers to be. And he had been trying to keep her at an emotional distance since the very moment she accepted his help. Even after everything, he felt things were reasonably under control, until she had said his name…
She drew him out of his thoughts, stirring against him and placing her hands against his chest.
“Stay with me,” she whispered, and he felt her breath on his neck. He closed his eyes and took a deep, calculated breath. He ran a hand through her hair before pulling his cloak up over her shoulder.
“Öiale” he said finally, despite himself.
He had little doubt that she had heard him, but he was sure she didn’t understand what it meant. Regardless, she made no further comment, instead making subtle adjustments to her position to settle herself more comfortably against him.
Enveloped in one another’s warmth, peace returned.
Haldir stirred, his eyes opening sleepily as he felt a weight against his chest. He pulled his head back slightly to see, just under his chin, a mass of black hair. Kalî. Her arm was wound tightly around his waist, her face buried in the crook of his neck. Against his chest, her breaths were soft and deep.
His thoughts were still cloudy and for a moment he was unsure how he came to be in her spidery embrace, but as he blinked away the haze he remembered her nightmare, and how she had asked him to stay.
Under his cloak he could feel the tangle of roots their legs had become in the night, his feet locked tightly around one of her ankles and her leg draped over his waist. His hands he found with fingers woven into her raven locks and the other hooked over the knee snaked about his hip.
It was a compromising position, to be sure, but he didn’t make any move to escape it.
Haldir considered the last two days. How this stranger in his forest had turned out to be so much more than an interesting distraction, and if she was who he suspected she was, he wondered if this… whatever it was that seemed to be developing between them would end before it had even begun.
Did he even want it to begin?
Would she choose to leave Caras Galadhon after meeting with Celeborn, regardless of what was discovered?
And, if so, would he just let her go?
The thought made his chest ache, and he sighed heavily as he drew her closer.
Kalî stirred, pulling her head back and blinking lazily at him. She squeezed her arm tighter around him, burrowing her face back into his neck as she mumbled a protest against the dawning light.
After a moment she sighed, “Let’s just live here.”
In that moment, it was as though they had awoken beside each other for years, and Haldir’s heart went from heavy to feather-light. Her easy comfort banishing his uncertainty and doubt.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
He pressed a kiss against her ear, his fingers scratching lightly against her scalp. His other hand smoothed up her leg, gently kneading her thigh.
Kalî’s eyes shot open and the earth beneath her vanished. She held fast to him, seeking to ground herself against the electricity of his hands on her. Her heart pounded against his chest, and she took a deep breath, filling her lungs with his warmth and scent.
Her eyes fluttered shut and she pressed a soft kiss against his neck.
She drew her head back again, looking at him now with black eyes. She brought a hand his face, brushing her thumb across his cheekbone, and then across his lips.
His breaths were quivering, out of sync with sound of his heart pounding in his ears.
She dragged her fingers lightly along his jaw, delicately tracing his ear, before gently pushing her fingers into his hair. The look in her eyes was heated as she gently pulled him towards her.
He felt her breath against his face as he drew nearer, and his wide, searching eyes fell to her mouth. The thin, silvery scars contrasting against the deep rose of her lips.
They each fell out of focus as they came together, mouths meeting soft, hesitant breaths. The connection was lightning on her skin, and she drew a sharp breath through her nose as she pulled him ever closer.
He moved his lips slowly against hers, his thoughts racing to intercept his speeding heart and his body, aching to get closer, deeper. His hand reached her hip and he dragged his nails across her flesh as she ran her tongue lightly against his bottom lip, drawing it into her mouth.
He groaned, his eyes drifting shut as she slowly released him through her teeth.
“Haldir!” a voice cried from below.
They jumped apart with a start, and Kali lerrr out a nervous laugh at the interruption. Haldir exhaled, tense and bewildered by the shattering moment.
He smiled oddly, blushing, “Um… excuse me, híril nín.”
Still grinning, and just as flushed, she nodded and pulled herself out of his embrace.
He looked her over for a moment, reflecting on the last few minutes before rising to his feet. He leaned over the edge of the flet.
“Yes? What is it?” he grumbled at the young warden looking up at him innocently.
“Duindir has returned with his report from the western march. I assumed you would want to debrief him before you depart for the capital?” the elf called.
Haldir sighed, running a hand down his face. He nodded at the warden below, who quickly departed. He turned then to Kalî, offering an apologetic look.
“I must attend to some things before we leave. I…” he trailed off, uncertain how to proceed. Kalî sensed his hesitation and spoke.
“Well, I’ll pack up here. And meet you below? We should leave as soon as we can, I get the sense we’ll be gasping by noon.” she said, already feeling the rising heat and humidity in the air. It seemed the weather would be even more unbearable today than it was the day before.
After a beat, she bit back a smile at her innuendo and looked away from the alarmed expression on Haldir’s face, trying not to laugh at his expense.
He shook his head, pawing at his uniform to straighten it, then began his descent.
Once he was out of sight, her composure shattered. Kalî pressed her hands against her face, her heart in her throat, and sucked in a groan.
Aglâr anÊru…..”glory of god” used here as a blasphemous expletive (holy shit/oh my god)