Michael felt more out of place than she ever had before.
Under Sarek’s indifferent gaze, she’d been discontent—unsatisfied, even—but at least she had known that she’d belonged beneath the trees of Mirkwood. Although she’d jumped on the opportunity for escape, practically running for Rivendell, the beginnings of regret stirred uneasily in her gut as she very consciously avoided looking at the fellowship.
She sat several meters away from their makeshift camp, achingly aware of the differences that separated them. She was wide awake and alert, and she knew that her companions thought her strange for it. Both of her hands gripped her bow with a white-knuckled intensity that the night’s stillness did not merit.
Continuing her intent gaze into the calm woods, she showed no reaction when Ash Tyler, Captain of Gondor, settled down beside her.
“You need not keep me company, Captain,” Michael said when the silence became agitating.
“I know you could probably keep watch on your own, but I am having difficulty resting, so I thought…”
His voice was soft and unsure. It did not reflect the near-painfully strong convictions he held for Gondor, which Michael had witnessed at the Council. She watched him out of the corner of her eye, observing the harsh soldier’s posture of his shoulders and the soft downward curl of his mouth. He was, perhaps, a study in contradictions.
When Michael said nothing, Tyler turned a little bit more towards her, earnestly asking, “How much sleep do elves require?”
“Not as much as humans,” Michael replied, wry despite herself. It was as much a response to his question as a reminder that Tyler surely needed more sleep.
Tyler looked away, slightly abashed. “I do not mean to trouble you.”
Michael shifted her weight, feeling awkward. It had not been her intention to make Tyler feel unwelcome. She felt woefully unprepared for the intricacies of this seemingly easy conversation, and she longed for Sarek’s blunt manner of speaking. She twisted her harsh grip on her bow. Lamely, she said, “You do not.”
Tyler offered a hesitant smile. “Okay,” he said, sounding hesitantly pleased.
Smiles, to Michael, had always seemed to very eerily human, but the expression on Tyler’s face made her consider that humans’ little gestures were fascinating, too.
She took one hand off her bow and placed it on the ground.