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The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
Peredhil

A dilemma and a chance encounter

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Elladan didn’t trust her. Well, he didn’t trust anyone except for his Dad, but Elrohir was close. Dad had his own inner darkness and understood him and loved him. Elrohir was his light to his dark and loved him, but would never understand. Unlike Dad, he embraced who and what he was. The orcs that destroyed his Mom, but left her body alive had taught him all he needed to know about love. It was a vulnerability to a hostile reality. In all the universes, he’d never met someone like his father, someone who had chosen to be good despite having all the strengths and abilities to do otherwise. He knew he’d never have been strong enough to choose to love over and over and over, no matter how badly he was hurt. He didn’t like pain in his body or mind. He’d spent a very long time learning the ins and outs of pain in others, but the more he learned, the more he decided he’d rather be the one who did the hurting. If a good person refused to defend himself, then he needed a very very bad person willing to do it for him.

 

Elladan had decided even before he’d followed his Dad to the West, after Aragorn and his sister had both died, that when he came to Námo for judgment, he’d be able to point to his Dad as the only light in his darkness. In the darkness, it was cold, and lonely, but he worked very hard to ensure that he was the worst monster in it. Part of that was ensuring no one and nothing could get away with messing something that was yours. And no one was going to mess with his Dad’s heart and hurt it again.

 

He’d get to that captor in time, but all he could’ve done is killed his father. Mynx could finish what his Mom in her madness had started. He wasn’t certain just what magic she was using, but that it was effectively reaching past all the careful barriers Peredhil had developed over the millennia was quite obvious. Couldn’t be sexual. Dad was as asexual as he was, though for different reasons. Sex was all about manipulation and control, a sometimes rather disgusting necessity as a means to an end. For Dad it was an embarrassment. Along with many of the High Elves, he felt that love was at its most pure when it didn’t involve the animal lusts. Additionally, he’d heard the lectures in his youth from his Mom, before her destruction, about how it was demeaning and rude to the woman. Either Peredhil felt the same way, or deep down inside, he recognized the truth just as Elladan knew it, but was in denial.

 

So it wasn’t sexual, what was it? She had the beauty of a predator, which he could admire and respect. He knew that Peredhil cherished beauty in all things, but seeing people as art forms was a far cry from all the small things he was doing for Mynx, seeking to delight and make her smile. If it was a clerical thing, Elrohir would’ve been all over it. If it was magical, then it was more subtle and powerful than Peredhil’s defenses – and he refused to accept that.

 

He’d wait and watch. And if necessary, she’d have a terrible accident. He’d cry with his Dad; shedding tears was as easy as showing any other emotion he faked, but a quick cut healed the most quickly. It was the least a monster could do for his father.

 

***

 

Elrohir couldn't remember when he'd been happier. He'd prayed to any deity who'd listen, every place he'd ever been, for Dad to find heart's healing, and letting go of Mom was the first step. As long as you kept putting the knife back into the wound, it would never heal, but he felt that's what had been happening. He hoped that Peredhil would be able to hold onto the happy memories with Mom from before the Bad Time. Some of his happiest memories, before the Bad Time, were when he and Mom had wandered the Halls of Fire, listening to the songs. Elladan had always been off in some corner discussing weapons or tactics or the strengths and weaknesses of monsters, but he'd devoted his life to keeping Mom amused while Dad had been off fulfilling his duties. It was wonderful when Dad came home, he'd sit at his feet, helping 'Dan clean his weapons and gear, and listening as he reported on whatever had taken him away. Whether it was killing balrogs, hunting down werewolves, or a diplomatic mission, he loved how everyone, even the Powerful and Wise who'd left the West to come back, listened. There was never a doubt who was in charge, who was the most clever or farsighted. And when Dad would swing him up on his shoulders and stride down the halls, he'd beat his feet against his coat of mail in time to Dad's steps, and watch as people stepped aside with smiles and nods.

 

Dad was smiling with his own joys now. His eyes weren't the color of ashes burned and wet with tears. He was living in the now, and even asking for things like a favorite food instead of having to be enticed to remember to eat.

 

Whatever Mynx was doing, Elrohir would bless her to all the gods if she would just keep doing it.

 

***

 

Nuncio lurked. Really, it was embarrassing in a way, a professional bodyguard to the most loved Boss ever. He didn't blame Guido for considering this a vacation. But he had standards, and he was a Bodyguard, so even though knew he wasn't needed, he hung around the recovery chambers. At first, he'd been as wary of Mynx as any other guinea pig around a tiger, but she seemed like a really good egg.

 

He'd seen the Boss in action before, just being himself and melting people he met. He knew it was sincere, and not an act, but he had to wonder, after having met so many many people, how the Boss could be truly interested in each new one. He had a knack of making a person feel like he was the only person existing, and that the whole universe was better for their existence. Since Mynx had been hanging around the Pen Keep, he figured that she must've had some form of hero worship for the Boss, since many did, but if she did, she wasn't goofy about it. Actually, to his observations, it seemed that, contrary to all his experience in following Peredhil, she held all the cards at the moment. But what he really liked was that she wasn't using Peredhil, or setting him up for humiliation, but seemed to actually care for him almost as much as he, Nuncio, did. A really good egg.

 

***

 

Guido sipped on another chilled drink, and chatted with the cute lemuira gals. Dey was a hoot, the rooster's new socks, and very eager to please. Since he loved having his fur groomed, it was working out well. Dis was da LIFE. Dat Mynx broad, she was keeping da Boss nicely distracted. Best rest in a long time. He wondered, if he slipped Toots a fin, if he could convince her to hang around once dey was all healed.

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The fourth week brought with it a couple of interesting developments. Primarily was the fact that Mynx and Peredhil both recovered enough that they no longer had to remain in constant contact, though it wasn't quite the clean bill of health the feline had expected. Although they didn't need to touch, they soon found that putting too much difference between themselves yielded the same result.

 

It was enough at least to give them a little more freedom, and the feline made full use of it to pursue the new challenge she'd set for herself: just what had happened to Peredhil to give him such a skewed and broken sense of self?

 

She tried interrogating his sons, but that was only met with middling success. Elladan tended to just stare blankly at her as soon as she started asking about his childhood memories of his parents, and Mynx had a feeling he was still trying to decide if she was a good or bad addition to his father's life. Elrohir was more willing to help, certainly, but what information he had wasn't exactly helpful; it wasn't as if his parents had bickered or had an openly antagonistic relationship - Elves were nothing if not diplomatic, apparently - and Peredhil had certainly loved his wife.

 

Given that they were talking about a person who was capable of loving the unlovable, and appeared genuinely confused by his feelings for Mynx though, that might not have been saying much.

 

She did learn some things, at least. The twins had been frank in their retelling of what had happened to Celebrian, and Mynx learned enough from them to form some theories - theories she knew better than to test out by asking Peredhil. Not that he'd be unwilling to talk about it, but he'd undoubtedly blame himself for all of it somehow and she didn't see the point in digging that up.

 

She also learned that for all their teasing, his sons didn't think there was anything fundamentally wrong with his behaviour. They didn't think he was broken, and Mynx’s one attempt to hint at such a fact only yielded a barked laugh from Elladan.

 

"So you have gone into heat around him then? Do we need to get your claws trimmed?"

 

"'Dan!" Elrohir hissed, thumping his brother’s arm.

 

"Right, right, he won't do a thing until Stripes here stops leading him on and gives him a straight answer." Elladan answered disinterestedly.

 

The feline ignored them. Little reason in defending her behaviour when Sunshine there had a point. Besides, she needed to get back to Peredhil anyway. He was starting to worry.

 

The other interesting development during that week had been Mynx’s sudden acquisition of an empathic bond with Peredhil. It seemed mostly dormant when they were touching, but as soon as the feline moved even a few steps away from him she began to pick up his emotions.

 

She hadn't understood it at first, initially thinking that Peredhil was projecting until she started to pay attention to just how different they were to his outward behaviour. He really was good at hiding his feelings, capable of smiling and laughing when she could tell he just wanted to cry with frustration, or affecting an air of disinterest that could rival Elladan while internally he was busy tying himself in knots. A few leading questions had told her that it was almost entirely one-sided too - The stronger their bond grew, the harder she was for him to read.

 

She thought about telling him what she could sense, but decided to let him preserve his dignity until she could find a tactful way. He was mortified enough whenever his body gave away how attractive he found her, and continued to do his best to hide the fact. Mynx wouldn't dream of telling him no amount of careful dressing or strategically placed pillows could hide what her nose picked up.

 

He was reading in their room when she returned from talking to the twins, glancing up casually and smiling at the feline with a relaxed air. At the same time, she felt him both ease at the sight of her and tense up in worry that she was going to pick now to reject him.

 

"There you are. Have you been training?"

 

"Just talking to the boys," Mynx said, sitting down beside him and looking over his shoulder at the book, written in no language she knew. "What are you reading?"

 

"Oh. Um." He looked blankly at the page. "No idea, actually." He just hadn't wanted to look like he was waiting for her.

 

Sighing good-naturedly, Mynx lay back on the bed and laced her paws behind her head. "Would you read it to me?"

 

Peredhil grinned broadly in relief at having something tangible to do, and he turned back to the start of the book.

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A few more weeks saw Mynx’s full recovery, though not Peredhil's. It wasn't something he seemed particularly worried about - life-force was just something that came back to him at a slower rate, he said. But given that it meant he still needed Mynx’s presence, she had mentally categorized herself as still recovering too and continued with her thinking and research.

 

At least he was beginning to look better physically. Mynx made sure he ate properly at every meal to the point he'd stopped resembling a skeleton, and though his cheeks were still a bit hollow he at least had a full head of hair again.

 

"Don't think I've ever seen an Elf with short hair before," the feline commented idly at one point. Peredhil froze, unable to tell if she was complimenting or criticizing until she added, "It suits you."

 

"It... does?" He asked in genuine surprise, catching her attention yet again over how strange it was to encounter a member of the Fair Folk who thought himself anything but. And still the boys didn't think their father broken.

 

Mynx was beginning to wonder what his first wife was really like, particularly when he flinched.

 

Midway through the second month, one of the lemur-folk came running up to Mynx with a note in its paw, chittering in distress. After much pantomime and eventually taking her to one of the High Priests that spoke enough of a common language for her to understand, she discovered that the note had been on the end of an arrow that had appeared embedded in the forehead of one of the countless statues of Peredhil that were in the region. It took the feline a while to calm them down and convince them it had probably just been by chance and wasn't a declaration of war.

 

The paw print sketched on the note left no dispute about the intended recipient, and Mynx had brooded over its contents for a full day before finally going to see Peredhil.

 

"I have to go."

 

As soon as she said the words, she winced at the choice. Peredhil's slight smile didn’t move, but the surge of despair she felt from him was painful.

 

"Of course. I'll have one of the boys take you-"

 

"No. No no no, that's not what I meant." Mynx held up the note in her paw. "I have some acquaintances that need my help, and I kind of promised them I'd always come if I could."

 

"Oh!" There was some relief from Peredhil, but he was still clearly trying to understand where this left them. "Well if you promised them then of course you have to help!"

 

"Are you going to be okay, though?" Mynx frowned a little. "You're still not well, and if going will cause you to decline..."

 

"I'll be fine." The feline arched an eyebrow, and he sighed. "I'll be alright for a period. If you are willing to come back it won't take as long for me to recover any lost progress. Can I help at all? If you need assistance, or bodyguards-"

 

"Nothing so extreme," Mynx cut him off gently. "I don't think it'll take more than a month, but if that's too long-"

 

"No no, that should be fine," Peredhil said easily, not quite lying through his teeth. "Just take care of yourself, please?"

 

"I always do," Mynx said, studying his expression as she tried to make sense of his emotions. "Peredhil..." She began uncertainly. "Look, I don't want to leave things unresolved like this between us..."

 

"You need time. I wouldn’t dream of pushing this." He shook his head.

 

"When I get back we're going to have to talk about what you consider pushing," Mynx said with a smile, before blushing beneath her fur. "But if you're still sure you wouldn't rather run for the hills... I think I'd be willing to give this courting thing a try."

 

Peredhil blinked rapidly, his dark grey eyes lightening to match the feline’s silver ones and even welling slightly with tears. "Thank you," he whispered, looking away.

 

Mynx smiled shyly, not even trying to make sense of the knot of emotions she'd stirred. Touching his cheek, she placed a light kiss on the corner of his mouth, then quietly left the room so he could compose himself.

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He felt her leave, one moment a warm presence in his heart, then an absence.

 

After a brief discussion of the proper use of ancient irreplaceable artifacts, (never,) he called in the rest of his little family, and began to solicit advice on how to conduct a courtship.

 

"Mynx has agreed to let me court her, but I'm not certain what that involved. My last relationship was an arranged marriage. Anyone have any ideas?"

 

"Sure t'ing Boss! Catnip, flea collar, a premium raw steak, and den sweep her off her paws and consummate! Can't fail!"

 

"Thank you Guido," Peredhil said after a moment, into the stunned silence, "anyone else? Yes Nuncio?"

 

"Genetically, females are an ovum's vehicle for passing on genes, just as a male is a vehicle for the sperm. Now, approaching things from that view -

"Yes Boss?"

 

"Let's stick a pin in that and come back to it later." He looked at his sons expectantly.

 

"Let's wait to see if she even comes back," replied Elladan. "While she's gone and you're safely here, I've some unfinished business I'm going to finish." With a nod to his Dad, he strode from the room.

 

"Well, Dad," Elrohir mused, "most cultures have rituals, but that doesn't really apply. We've left ours behind, and she's the only one of her kind, according to her. I've had success with a series of thoughtful gifts, tailored to my understanding of the person. Something meaningful to them. It doesn't have to big or expensive, but show that you appreciate them. But you've already reversed things by marrying her first, and courting her after."

 

"Hmmm. Thank you. Speaking of gifts, are those genuine Elven Boots you gave her?"

 

"Of course! I wanted to maximize the chances of her saving you!"

 

"I know you've been using your pair as templates for those cheap knock-offs you've been selling at the Bizarre. Isn't that going to put a crimp in your plans?"

 

"You know about that?!" He wilted a little under Peredhil's knowing smile. "Of course you do. It's not like -"

 

"I'm not upset, 'Ro, the replicas are pretty good, and last about one-hundred years. For the prices you're setting, that's reasonable. Mynx?"

 

"Oh - I have another pair still. It's just going to halve production. It's all a game anyway, so it's not a big deal. I think I'll pull a page from 'Dan's book and use this opportunity to take care of business. Will you be alright?"

 

"Oh, absolutely! I still have my bodyguards." Peredhil smiled fondly at the giant guinea pigs. Guido swelled a bit and preened, and if fur could blush, Nuncio would glow.

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With Mynx and both sons gone, Guido and Nuncio ensured one of them was alert and present with the Boss at all times. Like many with bodyguards, they were a background reality; he tended to forget they were there. But they kept hard eyes and ready paws, just in case.
So it was that they were the first to notice Peredhil’s increasing weakness. He was fine for the first three weeks. He did his daily workout, studied books on magic, and read for hours at a time. Sometimes he would wander the city, stopping to talk to the people and giving his blessing to countless babies and children. But his rest periods began to increase, and the workouts decreased.
By the end of the fifth week, the concerned bodyguards noted that he was actually sleeping, and spending more and more time in bed. They were concerned enough to approach him and inquire, but he assured he’d be just fine until Mynx returned But by the sixth week, they were having to carry him to the loo, and nag him to eat.
“Look Boss, dis ain’t right. You could push one of us to where ever she is, or send for one of da boys.”
“She said she’ll be back. She estimated a month. It is most probably Planar temporal distortion, which rarely exceeds a two-to-one ratio. I’ll contact her when it’s been eight weeks.”
“If you last that long,” Guido muttered darkly, and went back to glaring at the hovering Lemuirans.
“Where’s Nuncio with those blocks, anyway,” queried Peredhil, changing the subject.
***
She felt it the moment she came back. He was weak and exhausted, supporting himself magically. There were overtones of fear and anticipation, and a growing annoyance. And he was hurting. Her body forgot to limp, to curl around the aches in her left side, and she began to run through the palace. The moment she was framed in the door, she felt a wave of incredulous joy and lust that literally stopped in her tracks. Peredhil was propped up on pillows, looking far too thin, and had been quietly arguing with Guido, Nuncio, and several of the high priests. But his eyes were fixed on her, and she couldn’t look away. They seemed huge, glowing saucers of molten silver, and the intensity and desire were overwhelming. She felt as if she were suffocating in his love.
“Hello my wife,” Peredhil said in warm tones. He turned his head slightly toward his bodyguards, and continued, “See? She came back, just as she said she would.” A hint of wonder tinged the bond. What she felt from him was nothing at all like his demeanor. The Bodyguards seemed to be turning in slow motion as she started forward. One, two steps – then Peredhil spoke a word and she was teetering on the bed next to him. Energy and life seemed to crackle between them as he put a caressing hand on her calf, just above the Elven boot. His eyes were still fixated on her; the bond letting her know just how beautiful she was in those simmering eyes.
“Now that you’re back, I thought we could dine together, and you could tell me of your travels.”

Coughing to regain herself, Mynx sat down slowly next to him and considered their audience. "Do you think we could have a moment?" She asked the room at large.

 

The priests all bowed their heads and left quietly, but the guinea pigs stayed put until both a raised eyebrow from the feline and a quiet word from their Boss sent them reluctantly after the priests. Alone at last, Mynx considered Peredhil for a long moment before signing.

 

"How long?"

 

"Seven weeks," Peredhil admitted. "I would have sent for you if it had gone to eight."

 

Mynx’s ears flattened. For her, it had only been a little over three weeks. That's what she got for assuming, or thinking the bond would warn her with that much distance between them. "You didn't take care."

 

"I did!" He protested indignantly, gesturing to his prone state. "I've been resting!"

 

"Uh huh. You mean you started to rest when you began declining, you mean. And probably didn't tell anyone how bad things were until you absolutely had to." The bond flared briefly in guilt at her words, and the feline sighed. "Silly Elf."

 

"...How can you tell?" He asked in a mixture of amazement and frustration.

 

Mynx smiled at him, debating whether she should admit to the bond. Maybe better to give him a few more hours; he was already getting self-conscious and beginning to readjust the blankets. "Where are the boys?" She asked lightly instead, making herself comfortable and kissing his cheek.

 

Mynx thought Peredhil was admiring her chest - she was still learning to read his pupil-less, solid-coloured eyes - but she knew it for certain when he asked, “What boys?”
He corrected himself smoothly but the flare of guilt and shame in the bond told her a different story.
“I haven’t heard from them either,” he frowned, “I wasn’t really paying attention, but it has been a while.”

 

"Hrm." Mynx twitched an ear at that - she wouldn't have put it past at least Elladan to stalk her while he continued to form his opinion of her, but she was also certain that he or his twin hadn't been anywhere near the region she'd trafficked. Deciding she'd worry about that later, she shrugged and gave Peredhil another critical look. "You need to eat," she announced. "Just let me get cleaned up, then we can see about that." Coughing again, awkwardly this time, she reached into her shadows and produced a bottle of wine. "Maybe we can find something to go with this?"

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The bond flared again, this time with incredulous delight and wonder, then within the second crashed into disappointment and anger. The bond immediately smoothed out to warm delight, glowing love, and the ever-present undercurrent of lust that Peredhil was obviously trying very hard to ignore. He was really all over the place by her coming back. All this by the time she'd finished pulling out the bottle and showing him the label. His smile never changed and his eye color didn't flicker.

 

She couldn't let this one go. What if he was angry at her for such a stupid gift? Wine? He had bottles older than many civilizations. And if he was angry at himself, then she would not allow him to beat on himself. Not while she was around.

 

"Since we shared our life force," she continued casually, putting the wine into his hands and starting to take things off in preparation for her bath, "the funniest thing happened." Inwardly, she could tell she had his full attention, and the bond carried the intensity of his desire for her.

 

"Really? In what way?" He frowned in concern, and shifted the bottle to his far hand so he could begin tracing the patterns of her paw. The brush of his fingers sent tingles up her arm and raised goosebumps. He'd lowered his head to look at her paw, but she knew that he had a very wide peripheral vision. She took a tunic-stretching deep breath and let it out in a sigh before continuing.

 

"Yes, it turns out that I have something totally new to me, a sense of what another feels inside."

 

"Oh! Empathy! Our wed- sharing must've triggered it. I'd be thrilled to help you develop your gift."

 

"It seems to be very strong, and getting stronger, but perhaps," she paused to lift her leg up high and slowly peel a boot from her hind-paw, "it is because it only works on one person - you." Peredhil's hand froze on her paw. The bond filled with so many emotions she couldn't sort them out, then flickered low, then high repeatedly, like a strobe light. He took a slow breath and let it ease out, and the bond settled into an odd loving terror.

 

"That IS unusual. What happened here? This stripe is broader and has shifted."

 

"I'll tell you later. Why were you angry at the wine?"

 

"Wouldn't you be more comfortable discussing this after your bath? You must be tired."

 

"No, I'm quite certain now is good. Anger? Wine?"

 

He sighed ruefully and gave in with good grace. "I thought it was a gift at first, and then realized that I wanted it to be one so badly, I was projecting my desires onto you, quite rudely, and grew angry at myself. It's rude to paint another with my emotions, and distorts their reality. I owe you the respect of seeing you just as you are."

 

Mynx blinked at him. "It... was a gift," she said carefully, trying not to get distracted by the continued fluctuations in the bond. "I just didn't want to make a big deal of it if you didn't like it, and I've never seen you go near a bottle without offering it to everyone within sight." She shrugged self-consciously. "I'm not very good at this whole gift-giving thing, you know."

 

"I didn't know that. Me either, when it matters. And I do like it, and you, and I'm usually much more calm, and I'm babbling and shutting up now. Thank you. Thank you very much. I made some things for as well, while I was restricted. I... I hope they please you. They're not magical or expen-" He blinked as she laid a finger against his lips.

 

"I'd like to see them, please."

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From under his pillows, Peredhil pulled small wooden figurines. They were all of her, in different poses. At first, they appeared primitive, almost savage. Broad strokes, harsh edges that could've been smoothed in a minute. But on closer inspection, that must've been deliberate, for they were carved with exquisite tiny details, such as texturing to indicate her striping patterns, individual whiskers so fine as to be almost invisible. There were three of them: one of her reclining; one of her with a sword, extended in a lunge; and one of her gazing pensively out a window - her paws resting on the "frame".

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"...Oh..." Mynx was speechless for too long - she could sense Peredhil was starting to get anxious at her lack of reaction, but she was too stunned to think of any words. She'd never been turned into art before, and even with the rough design she could see how she might be beautiful in his perspective.

 

"Oh?" Peredhil prompted, unable to help himself.

 

Blinking, the feline swallowed and smiled at the Elf. "They're beautiful. Thank you, so much."

 

"You're sure?" He didn't look convinced. "If you don't like them, you can just-"

 

"I love them," Mynx reassured, before laughing. "I just think I'm going to have to up my game. Wine hardly compares to this."

 

"It's the thought behind the gift I care about," Peredhil said with a slightly giddy grin - she'd liked them!

 

"Well, I'll still have to think about better options." Nuzzling his shoulder, Mynx finally got up to go and take a bath.

 

***

 

It took Peredhil almost a month to get back to where he'd been when Mynx had left. He didn't seem to mind the enforced rest, though, as long as the feline stayed close, and she was more than happy to use the time to catch up on her own rest. The courting itself was gradual, though Mynx couldn't be certain if that was due to Peredhil's weakened state or his shyness. At least self-doubt was no longer a constant presence in the bond, but he still had his moments.

 

He nearly had a heart-attack the first night Mynx suggested he didn't need to put a sheet between them in the bed. A heart-attack, and then resembled a plank of wood as she snuggled up to him at night. No fear of being taken advantage of, even with her consent to pursuit.

 

Elrohir returned first from his venture, a few days after Mynx, and looked positively gleeful at the sight of his father now beginning to interact with a purpose around the feline, however shy. Elladan took another week, and returned with a slight limp, a "reverse-Mohawk" where a strip of hair had been burnt short, and an utterly neutral expression.

 

Although he barely seemed to twitch when he was informed that Mynx had indeed returned, and by appearances was serious in pursuing a relationship with his father, the feline thought she caught the barest hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth. Granted, he still watched her suspiciously, but Mynx liked to think that he'd softened enough to at least have a chance to explain any misunderstanding that might take place at this point.

 

Sooner or later she would have to talk to him, though.

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It was rather tricky to do, but Elrohir finally managed to get Peredhil alone.

 

"Dad! Quick! Take this and hide it!" He thrust a bundle at Peredhil, looking both ways hastily. "It's a courting present from you to Mynx!" Peredhil took the bundle since it was pushed against his chest to the point he'd fall over if he didn't.

 

"Ro, What IS it?"

 

"Whisper! She has ears like a cat!" They both paused, replayed what he'd said, and began giggling as the old expression took on new life. "Hee hee, because she IS a cat. Woman. Person. Hee hee hee"

 

"So, what is it? What have you done?"

 

"I went on a Quest for you, Dad! She mentioned she wanted Elven Gloves that worked like the boots. It took a while, but I found a place that had them, and got them for you to give to her. She'll love them." He beamed like a puppy that has presented a chewed leather shoe.

 

"Thank you," Peredhil managed to say with a straight face. It was a magnificent gift, and he looked forward to presenting it, but sometimes Elrohir made him want to pat him on the head and give him a treat. He could be so gleeful over the smallest things. "I look forward to giving it. You've really given a winner this time." He had to smile as Elrohir nearly writhed in happiness.

 

~~~

 

Later, alone with Mynx, Peredhil sighed as he played with a lock of her hair. She looked up from the book she was reading and asked, "What's wrong?"

 

"I don't like uncertainty and I believe in honesty and communication. Anything less may hurt your or my heart." She bookmarked her place with a claw, and nodded thoughtfully, letting him continue. "I don't know how you really feel about things. I seem to have an Empathy "blind spot" when it comes to you. But this is what I'm thinking and feeling. I am in love with you, which is biochemically a blink of my eye. But I love you as well. I don't know your details, your experiences, your past, or your thoughts, but I know that the shapes of our spirits, minds, and hearts fit one another like hands in tailored gloves. I think you're physically beautiful, and with our bond, you know I find you physically attractive and desirable. But for me, sexual congress is not a casual thing. I will not act on my lust and desire because I don't ever want you to think that was the foundation of our relationship, and I want our relationship to be a true marriage if we can. Plus, I don't want to settle for lust when I want the beauty of your thoughts, and the warmth of your heart even more than that incredible body.

"So I am committed to courting you, as if we weren't married, in hopes of winning your heart and mind. I don't know anything about courting, so your feedback will be important. I hope you trust me enough to always be honest and communicate; I've never been a mind-reader.

"As a token of my love and appreciation, I want to give you these Elven Gloves. They're actually a present from Elrohir, through me, but I feel they make a good gift to you, as you are as rare and precious as them."

 

Peredhil dug out the gloves and thrust them at her, blushing furiously.

 

"Here!"

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Mynx made a small huffing sound as the bundle was pushed at her, dropping the book in order to catch the package. Hugging it to her chest, she watched Peredhil with a rather bemused expression, one ear twitching thoughtfully.

 

"I thought we were already courting?" She asked. "What has this past month been, then?"

 

"I don't want there to be any cause for misunderstanding," Peredhil said. "You've been restricted here while I recover, and we haven't really addressed the topic since you left. Not properly, anyway." He shook his head. "I don't want you to feel trapped or obligated, simply because of what happened when I was trying to heal you."

 

"Trying to kill yourself, you mean," she teased fondly, smiling. "I'm not staying here out of obligation, Peredhil. Believe me; if I wanted out, I'd find a way. I'll admit I'm still... adjusting to the premise of having a suitor, let alone a husband. But what I told you before I left hasn't changed." Looking down at the bundle in her arms, the feline's smile became rather shy. "Thank you for these. I know you said it was 'Ro's idea, but the sentiment is all your own."

 

"I'd like to think I'd have thought of it eventually if he hadn't beaten me to it." Peredhil grinned, giddy with relief.

 

Mynx giggled at the look on his face. "So does this mean you're going to stop twitching at my touch, then?"

 

"Ahhh-ha ha ha... Are you hungry? I'm a little hungry. Maybe I could take you somewhere new for dinner?"

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Time passed, as it is wont to do, and they spent much of it in the other's company. First out of necessity, then out of curiosity. Mynx found it fascinating to listen to the "middle-aged" Elf talk about his life, mistakes and triumphs, openly with her in a ruthless honesty. In return, she found herself discussing things she'd never thought to share with another. Each found an understanding and acceptance they'd never felt before.

 

They fit together mentally, emotionally, as if shaped by a carver, but now they discovered what made that bump there, why there was that dimple there, and what had shaped each other to the person they'd become.

 

"What happens when you wake up some morning and discover I'm an animal?" They were sitting side-by-side, not quite touching, with their feet dangling into a pond. His toes didn't have the wrinkle adaptation that humans did. She stretched her hindpaws under the water, flexing her claws to their fullest extent.

 

"What happens when you realize that I'm literally thousands of years older, and have become peaceful and boring?" She shrugged his question away, intent on pursuing her thought.

 

"No, seriously. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a tigress." She turned slightly toward him and bared all her teeth. "I'm a predator, I'm covered with fur. Why would you want this as more than a slightly perverse fling?" She carefully didn't meet his eye, instead staring at his feet.

 

"And a lovely one, but peace, I understand what you mean." He paused thoughtfully, looking at her bent head, and continued, "Did you know that the Lemuirans were the apex species when I first encountered them? There are no predators because they'd killed them all, and were working on one another." Her head remained bent, but she swiveled an ear his direction. "They had a genetic birth defect, which I eventually fixed, but first I spent quite a bit of the time surviving their attacks and schemes. They were each focused on their own genetic lines, and all the pride and contention for resources that rise from genetic thinking of that type."

 

"They don't even have claws!"

 

"They were tool-users, and had weapons. And any farmer always has implements of destruction when desired."

 

"Must not have been much competition."

 

"Some of the pictures of the predators were pretty well adapted to their role."

 

"Then how?"

 

"When they are threatened, they emit a psychic field that pacifies anything near them. Then they'd just walk up and kill it. They still have it."

 

She blinked and raised her head. "Your point? You always have a point."

 

"It is short-sighted to judge by appearances." He gently traced her whiskers with a butterfly's touch. "I prefer to look at hearts and minds, at words and actions, and their results, over time. Many sentients say things, many things, but the impact of their actions and choices on others, consistently over time, is an excellent metric of what is inside." He 'booped' her nose with a slender finger, and she pretended to snap at it. "After a while, the body someone wears is just as meaningful as the clothing. And I think yours is very attractive." He looked toward the pond, to give her face a moment of privacy.

 

"Did I tell you yet about the Creche People of Doidern? They were each born with four bodies, and switched their mind between them at will ..."

 

Time passed, as it is want to do, and they were together because, regardless of the bodies they wore, or the ages they'd seen, it just felt unnatural to be otherwise. They separated to each pursue their own interests, but always met again. After a time when it wasn't quite as important as it had felt initially, Peredhil finally kissed her, and it only took a bit of cooperation on each side to make it work without bending whiskers or bumping teeth. They were to the point they could both laugh at the process.

 

Time passed, as it is want to do, and while walking hand in paw, they discussed the improbability of their ever meeting, which led to memories of the Mighty Pen Keep. By mutual accord, the next time they separated, they agreed to meet at the Keep, and perhaps make a home there - if anything remained.

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