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The Last Gift  by Ellynn

Authors's note: I don't know the exact time when Arwen's and Aragorn's children were born, or how many daughters they had (I am not sure if it Tolkien mentioned it at all), so I made my own assumptions; I hope that they are OK.

Thanks to Cairistiona for beta reading and making the story better. *hug*

- - -

At first, I wondered if I'd do it or not. Would it be even harder for them when they saw what I would send them? Or would they be happy to see us one more time, even if it was only indirectly, after they thought we were forever apart?

Should I let our long-past parting remain final, not opening the old wounds? Or would this gift be a balm for the wounds that hadn't healed at all? I suppose there is no way for me to find out. At least, not until the ultimate end of Arda, when it will be changed and the children of Iluvatar reunited.

But the truth is, it didn't take me long to make a decision. If our parts were switched, I know that I would be glad to get this gift. And my parents are not so very different from me; I know them well. So I started to carry out my intention to reality.

The first drawings were mine, of course. I took a paper block and a pencil and carefully wrote the date and place in upper right corner: Minas Tirith, June, Year 3rd, Fourth Age of Middle-earth. After that I drew a cradle and the baby in it. Eldarion, son of Aragorn Elessar and Arwen Undomiel. Small, round face. Eyes closed in a calm sleep. Several curls of black hair. Tiny hands showing from underneath the blanket.

The drawing was not bad, although it wasn't particularly good either, just like those that followed. Drawing, unlike singing, was never one of my better skills. For a short while I contemplated the thought of hiring a master of arts, but I dismissed the idea even before I had considered it seriously. For it was essential that I did it. Only I could interweave into the pictures that which not even the greatest master could: love.

A few weeks later, a new picture. Soon, another. And another. Eldarion in Aragorn's arms, safe and protected. Aragorn smiling to his son, eyes filled with love and warmth. Eldarion's first little teeth. First smile, showing little dimples in his cheeks. His first steps. The first birthday.

I also put a curl of his hair in a small box.

Time was passing, and my collection grew. When Eldarion was four, we switched roles for the first time. He drew and I was on the picture. That is, Aragorn and I. The pencil strokes were clumsy, but it was not the perfection of the drawing that mattered, but what my parents would see and feel from it: Aragorn and me holding hands, smiles radiating from our lips and eyes. They'd see how much my little family made me happy.

And with time, my family was not so little any more. Three years after Eldarion, Eilinel was born, and then Silmarien and Miriel. Many pictures of each little girl found their places in my collection, and as each grew, I included them into my plan and encouraged them to draw.

By the time when even my grandchildren grew up a little, the compilation piled up so much that it had filled a big trunk. Aragorn and I often looked it over, usually in the late evening hours in the lull after he had finished all of the the many daily duties lying on his shoulders. Every picture had its story that we lived anew; they elicited our smiles, and sometimes a tear. By now, almost all of Aragorn's hair turned white. And I knew that a moment was approaching when all would end.

- - -

When he died, a part of me irretrievably died with him. How do you continue to live after your heart has been torn out of your chest and laid into a cold soil? When all that's left of you is an empty shell that moves and breaths, but has no soul, for it has died? Soon, a day will come when life will forsake my body too. I will do it just like him: lie down and peacefully close my eyes, leave this world knowing I have lived a wonderful and fulfilled life, not regretting anything, knowing the end has come. But before that, I had one more thing to do.

The day after the funeral, Legolas followed me through the halls of the palace. I don't know if it was only my impression, but it seemed to me that all life had stopped, that the palace itself had died. The sounds died out, the colours turned grey. The elf walking behind me fitted in the picture: his face was pale, eyes empty. I knew he was as shattered as I was. Aragorn was much more than a friend to him; he was like a brother. I hope he'll find solace and healing in The Undying Lands.

I led him to the big chest stored in my private chambers. It was firmly closed. In it, underneath a wooden cover, lay my life in pictures. Mine, Aragorn's, lives of our children and their children. Every moment, put on the paper with love, was captured and frozen in time: every smile, every important event. Just like many unimportant ones, although that definition is not truly correct. For not only the first day of school, a birth or a wedding day are important; life is not a sum of birthdays and a list of big happenings, but is made of so many small things that are big in our hearts. And in our lives, every careless picnic, every watching of a sunset while we are holding hands, every moment playing with the children near the big hearth, has a special place in our hearts.

I didn't add any letter. The pictures spoke enough for themselves.

"Now that you are sailing to the West, dear friend, take this to them," I said quietly. "And tell them I love them with all my heart." He nodded silently.

I know my parents keep me and Aragorn in their hearts. But this way, they'll have even more. They'll have all of us beside them, always and forever. And I hope that, while looking at these pictures this last gift that I can give them and seeing love and happiness radiating from each of them, they will be able to understand how blessed my life with Aragorn was. And maybe they will feel just a little bit more at peace with the choice I made.

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