An Afternoon Shave

The midday sun beat down upon the homestead without mercy but a cool breeze had sprung up durring Eruviel’s walk and it was a welcome company at her back. Her hands tucked under the straps of her pack she trudged up the steps of Arathier’s house. Raising her hand she hesitated, remembering being chided for knocking the day before. Squaring her jaw, Eruviel lifted her chin and knocked anyways. She really needed to get over this whole feeling reluctant business.

“Its open, just open the bolt on your side!” Arathier called out from within.

Good, he’s in control, she thought with a small nod. Quickly unlocking the bolt on the outside she opened the door wide and left it to let in the breeze. Rath stood across the room, his shirt off, wiping the gleam of perspiration from his skin with a towel. The hollowness that had shadowed his face the night before had vanished and the light in his eyes chased away her doubt that he might be loosing the battle. “By the Valar, it’s warm in here,” she muttered, tugging at the collar of her shirt. “Forgive me for knocking. I –” She stopped and twisted her mouth to the side. For Orome’s sake, now I’m apologizing?!  Walking the the windows she began to open one after the other, the house filling with the cool, sweet wind.

Arathier smiled and leaned against the table. “Its nice to see you too Eruviel,” he chuckled. He tensed for a moment before scrambling to clean up the area he had been using to work out. “I am glad you came by.”

Eruviel took the bag from her back, nodding as a small smile escaped the corner of her mouth. “I told you I would,” she said simply. Looking to him her eyes wandered unbidden to his chest and she looked quickly to her bag, pulling out another parcel of food and fresh water. “I was thinking you might like that scruff cleaned off of your face,” she said with a roll of her shoulders. Tucking a stray strand of hair behind her pointed ear her eyes widened, the gesture reminding her . . . One thing at a time, Eru. You’re already being ridiculous. Handle one thing at a time. Color rose to her cheeks and she busied herself with unwrapping the meal she’d brought.

His eyes locked on her, Arathier smirked and nodded. “Sure, why not? Even I have a limit to how thick my beard should be.” Walking over he put his hand on hers, giving it an affectionate squeeze as he smiled down at her.

Eruviel looked up at him, her expression softening a bit as she saw it was all him. Not even a shadow of the wight lingered. “Bring up a chair, then,” she said as she took her hand back and pulled a small kit out from her bag. “Do you just want a trim or do you want a shave?”

“You can do whatever you like with it,” Arathier said with a roll of his shoulders. “I would prefer a trim but if you want. . . I don’t mind shaving it off.” He moved to grab a chair and slid it over to the table next to her, sitting down.

Eruviel unrolled the kit, pulling out a thin pair of scissors and a comb. Glancing at him out of the corner of her eye she smiled slightly. “I have never seen you without your beard . . . but if you prefer to keep it, I will just trim it for you.”

“Shave it all off,” he laughed, sitting back in the chair. “Eru, after yesterday. . . I know I–” He sighed and looked up at her. “I love you, ok? In my stupid reasoning I thought I knew what was best, and I realize now I was wrong. . .” He gave a heavy sigh and looked to the floor. “I’m just . . . I’m going crazy in here,” he muttered.

Fetching a towel she draped it across his chest and around his broad shoulders. “I know,” she responded quietly, beginning to mix shaving cream in a small cup. “I am meeting with an acquaintance later today. I am going to see if they can come and try, and I have another friend who is doing some research for me. ” Taking up the scissors she began to shorten his beard. “In the meantime I brought you a few books, and a new notebook in the event that you’ve filled up your old one.”

Arathier nodded, leaning his head to one side as she worked. “Thanks Eru. . .” His voice trailed off. Glancing up at her he gave her a curious smile before fixing his gaze on the ceiling. “Eru. . . Have you ever danced before?”

It took all her willpower not to bark a laugh. Did he really not know? But . . . of course he didn’t. To be honest she hadn’t danced since before the Dale trip, and she missed it. Giving him a curious look she brushed the stray hairs from his face. “I used to dance all the time, as a matter of fact,” she responded quietly, whipping the cream into a thick foam. It looked almost edible, and she chuckled, thinking Abbi might have attacked her with it were he here. “Purse your lips a moment.” Scooping up the shaving cream with a brush she began to lather his face. “Why do you ask?”

“Just a thought.” He pursed his lips for her, giving her another curious glance. “How about . . . if we get this wight out of me, we dance.” He smiled softly and closed his eyes. “Yes . . . that would be nice.”

Taking up the razor from the kit she began to carefully shave one side of his face, her hand steady and confident. “I didn’t know you danced,” she commented, a small smile curving up her mouth.

“I don’t,” he chuckled, “so it will be funnier for you.” He opened his eyes and looked in hers. “I just . . . I want to do all the things I never took the time to do with you. I want to go swimming more often, dance. . . make you dinner, and tell you how lucky I am to have you.”

Eruviel gently took his chin between her thumb and fore-finger and turned his head to the side as the tips of her ears turned pink. “Hold still,” she mumbled, adding a bit more lather, her eyes focused on her task as she began shaving the other side of his face. You really can’t let me be angry, can you? The night before he had burned it all; the masks and hoods and the list of names . . . . It had taken a long struggle to be at peace with the deaths of the mortals that she surrounded herself with, but she had not quite come to terms with being left by the Dreadward, and Androvorn, and Milloth, all saying it was for her safety. It was a bitter seed she had not quite rooted out and the internal conflict it caused might have been what made her the most angry. “I need time,” she said quietly. “You make me feel terrible for still being angry, but I need a little time to sort things out in my head.”

“Don’t feel terrible, you’re doing the right thing,” he said with an understanding smile. The smile waivered for a moment. “Do I still have your love?” he asked in a low voice.

Silent for a moment she tilted his chin up and began to shave beneath it, wiping the razor clean on the towel every now and then. She finally nodded in response. Standing back she looked over his face, checking for any spots she might have missed. She would not lie about that.

A weight seem to lift from his shoulders and he nodded once before running a hand over his cheeks. “W-Wow. . . I haven’t been clean shaven since I was . . . eighteen?” He smirked as he wiped a bit of shaving cream off on his trousers. “It feels weird.”

Eruviel ‘s smile brightened some and she pointed the razor at him. “I still have to shave off your mustache. Hold still just one more second.”

Nodding, he held still as she worked and closed his eyes again. “Eruviel, thank you,” he said quietly as he relaxed into the chair.

Cleaning the razor off she surveyed his face with a rather proud expression. Not a single nick. “What are you thanking me for?” she asked as she dampened a cloth, wiped the last flecks of shaving cream off of his jaw and removed the now dirty towel from his shoulders, taking care not to spill more bits of hair onto the floor.

Arathier smiled and planted a small kiss on her cheek before she could turn away. “For everything,” he said simply, giving her a long look.

Eruviel met his gaze. Her ears turning pink again she nodded and proceeded to fold the towels and put them in her bag to wash later. Setting the few books, Rangers log, and new notebook to the side she looked up to him. “Is . . . is it painful?”

Arathier nodded slowly. “Yes. . . but there are worse things.” He was still looking at her. “I never wanted this to happen, Eru. . . I never did,” he said, his voice full of regret as he walked towards her.

“It is not your fault. You had no idea it was Mornenion who had broken into the house when you went out to face him, and it was not your fault for anything they did to you . . . including this,” she said, gesturing with an idle hand.

Arathier looked down at her, his brow furrowed and eyes filled with a dozen thoughts. “I love you, truly I do. Till death.”

Eruviel watched him for a moment before smiling sadly back at him. Reaching a delicate hand up she cupped one side of his face, brushing her thumb over where his beard had been. “It suits you,” she said quietly. Pulling her hand away after a moment she looked out the open window to the lengthening shadows of evening. “I will try to have someone here tomorrow or the next day,” she said quietly. “Is there anything else I can bring you?”

Arathier shook his head. “No, all I need is you here.” He walked away to stand by the fireplace. “I guess I will see you later then, love.”

Eruviel let out a sigh as she slung her bag over her shoulder. Closing the windows she double checked to make sure he had everything. You can’t keep doing this, she told herself. Pivoting, Eruviel walked back across the room. Placing a hand on his arm and rising up on her toes she pecked a kiss on his cheek before going back to the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Closing and bolting the door behind her she leaned back against it, scrubbing her hands over her face. She wasn’t sure what she wanted aside from a quiet and a calmed spirit. Go home? Go to the Tenorbekk’s? Go for a walk? Padding down the steps she shoved her hands into her pockets as she strode out to the road. Yes, a walk sounded like a good place to start.

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