Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings and all characters belong to Tolkien.
Author's Note: This is the sequel to 'Inside the Darkness'. The drawing was made by Nellas
Part 6 - Father and Son
Thranduil pulled the hood back in place before leaving the dining hall and now headed for his son's rooms. He wasn't sure that they had returned from visiting the garden yet, but he was determined to talk to Legolas tonight.
Dinner had been a pleasant surprise. He had expected to be exposed, but Elrond repeating his dinner invitation had made him stay. To be more precise; Elrond had taken him aback in more ways than one. The half-Elf didn't look well. Elrond should be recovering a lot faster than he was, but worries kept the ruler of Imladris from healing. Elrond had seemed more vulnerable than ever before, and he had caught the half-Elf's remark to Glorfindel that he worried about being seen as weak. /It is his ankles. The fact that he cannot walk must be hard on him./
And then there had been Glorfindel, secretly reaching beneath the table to take Elrond's hand in his. Now that hadn't been a surprise. He had always suspected that Glorfindel had feelings for Elrond. What did surprise him was Elrond accepting those feelings - and returning them. /But no one should have to live without a mate./ He felt the temptation as well to take a new lover, but hadn't acted on his feelings, never encountering someone he could envision sharing his life with.
/And I regret betraying Elladan's trust... Seeing the betrayal in those young eyes made me feel guilty, but I had no choice; I could not reveal myself to him. I will make things up to him./
Thranduil reached the corridor his son's rooms were in and he came to a halt in front of the door to Legolas' quarters. Listening closely, he heard soft, steady breathing. "Ai, they are asleep..." He didn't want to wake them, but they had to talk tonight. After knocking on the door, he waited for them to wake up.
Legolas awoke startled, sat upright and locked eyes with Lurtz. "Who would wake us in the midst of the night?"
"Go find out," said Lurtz, slightly annoyed at having his sleep interrupted.
"You will have to let me go first," said Legolas teasingly.
Lurtz smiled, briefly tightened his hold before letting the Elf go, and kept a close eye on the blond as Legolas made his way over to the door. He loved the way Legolas melted against him when the Elf fell asleep in his arms.
Knowing that they were safe within Imladris, Legolas refrained from reaching for his hunting knives when he opened the door. "Hynduil? Is there anything you need?" Hynduil had saved Elladan's life and for that he felt grateful.
Lurtz pushed down the covers and got to his feet as well. He felt a little more suspicious of Hynduil than Legolas, and joined his lover at the door.
"I bring a message from your father," said Thranduil, seeing fear in Legolas' eyes.
Legolas involuntarily held his breath at those words. "My father sent you?" Dread and fear swept through him. Why would his father sent a messenger? /He is going to banish me from Mirkwood and he does not want to do it by letter. By Elbereth, I cannot bear the thought of never going home again./
Lurtz quickly wrapped an arm around Legolas' waist, feeling the tension and apprehension coursing through his lover's body. "Please enter and close the door behind you," said Lurtz, addressing Hynduil. None needed to hear how Legolas was disowned and banished.
Legolas leaned heavily against Lurtz, trying to not show his raging emotions, but his hands twitched nervously. "What message do you carry?" His voice trembled and his head slumped forward in defeat. "Am I banished from Mirkwood?"
Thranduil's heart went out to his son. "Do you have such little faith in me?" He pushed back the hood, revealing himself.
Legolas' eyes widened at the shock of seeing his father this unexpectedly. "A...da?" he stammered slowly.
Lurtz had heard the twins call Elrond that. "Are you Legolas' father?" He held Legolas even more protectively, glaring at Thranduil.
"Aye," said Thranduil. "I am Legolas' sire..." He raised a hand and gently wiped away the tears that escaped Legolas' eyes. Seeing the distress his son was in, he spoke quickly. "I would never banish you from Mirkwood, Legolas. You are always welcome at home. Your brother misses you, and so do I."
Slightly reassured, Legolas raised a shaky hand to touch his father's face. He couldn't believe Thranduil was really here. "Ada? I do not understand..."
"Why do we not sit down?" Thranduil felt concerned, seeing the pallor on Legolas' face. His son was distressed, shaking, and tears continued their way down his face.
Lurtz reacted at once, guiding Legolas back to their bed, where he sat him down. He glared at Thranduil, but a hint of surprise lay in that stare. He would never have guessed that the Elf in front of him was Legolas' father. The only thing the two Elves shared was the long, blond, braided hair. The silver, starlit eyes were strangely alluring, and Thranduil looked even younger than Legolas. "You could have revealed yourself earlier! Do you have any idea of the torment you put him through?" Lurtz rubbed Legolas' back with long, soothing strokes. "He hasn't eaten for the last two days because he was afraid you would banish him!"
Thranduil stood next to his son, studying Legolas. When his son finally looked up and met his gaze, he said, "I needed to know for sure that you had chosen a worthy mate. I watched the two of you..."
Legolas' breathing quickened. "You watched us?" Oh, Elbereth, why had his father done that?
"Be at ease, Legolas," said Thranduil, resting a hand on his son's shoulder. "I was pleased with what I saw. I think you chose well."
Lurtz's eyes widened in surprise. Thranduil was giving them his blessing? Making eye contact, he wondered about Thranduil. The elder Elf had hidden his identity - had watched them, and approved of their relationship?
Legolas grabbed his father's hand frantically and cradled it against his chest. Thranduil was forced to sit on his heels to maintain eye contact. Legolas mumbled something intelligible, but then grew quiet again.
Thranduil smiled reassuringly at his son. "Your brother sends you his best wishes and congratulates you on finding a new mate. I had to leave him in charge to visit here... I hope I still have a realm to rule when I return to Mirkwood," said Thranduil jokingly. It worked. Legolas smiled weakly. "I would never banish you from your home," he repeated, hoping to make Legolas understand that he was loved and welcome in Mirkwood. "You are my son, Legolas, and I love you."
Lurtz smiled, seeing understanding dawn in his lover's eyes. "Your father loves you," repeated Lurtz, caressing his lover's face. "You can stop worrying."
Legolas nodded slowly, squeezed his father's hand, but refused to release it yet. Slowly, things were making sense. "You saved Elladan..."
"Aye," whispered Thranduil. "Elladan was lucky that I was on my way to Imladris."
"And you helped him..." Legolas frowned. "But you never liked Elrond and his family."
Thranduil brushed a stray lock from his son's face. "You know me better than that, Legolas. I cannot turn my back on someone in need."
"And if you had known Elladan's identity?"
"I would have helped," said Thranduil. "My heart has softened through the years..."
Legolas nodded again. "But why the hood? Why tell us your face was scarred?"
Thranduil explained patiently. "I wanted to watch you and Lurtz... I wanted my identity to remain secret."
"But you told me now!" Legolas stared at his father in obvious confusion.
"I approve of your choice," said Thranduil, rubbing his son's knuckles. "Lurtz and you will always be welcome at Mirkwood."
Lurtz's eyes revealed his obvious surprise. "I never thought you would approve. I am Uruk-Hai and..."
Thranduil looked at both of them, answering Lurtz's question. "I told my sons to love unconditionally, and never turn their backs on love when they found it. I also taught them to not let other people's opinions stop them. I cannot blame them for following my teachings..." Thranduil stroked his son's hair, relieved that Legolas was finally calming down. "I already apologized to Elladan for not revealing my identity and... Legolas, do you understand why I did it?"
"Aye," whispered Legolas, smiling at his father. "You always were protective of us..."
"And even more so of you because you are my youngest." Thranduil smiled dotingly at his son. "Did I take away your worries?"
Legolas nodded once, but still maintained his hold on his father's hands. "Can you stay a little longer? I missed you..."
Lurtz stepped away from the two Elves, wanting to give them some privacy, but halted in his tracks when Thranduil's eyes sought out his.
"You do not have to leave," said Thranduil, addressing Lurtz. "You are a part of this family now."
Lurtz felt at a loss for words. The last thing he had expected was for Thranduil to accept him unconditionally. /He must love Legolas deeply if his son's happiness means this much to him./ Lurtz pulled a chair closer to the bed and sat down, watching father and son; Thranduil's appearance still puzzled him. How could it be that the ancient Elf looked this young?
Thranduil allowed Legolas to pull him onto the bed. Resting his back against the wall, he pulled his son into an embrace, gently stroking the long hair. They had often fallen asleep like that before Legolas had reached maturity, but usually Valthoron had been there as well. The absence of their mother had made it so much more important that they had felt loved, and Thranduil had often despaired when Legolas had given him a lost look, missing his mother. "Go back to sleep, Legolas," said Thranduil softly, feeling his son's body relax against his. "All is well."
Legolas still trembled slightly, and he reached for Lurtz, who promptly took hold of his hand, caressing it. Feeling loved and cherished, Legolas smiled, and it remained on his face when he drifted off into sleep.
Lurtz and Thranduil's gazes met and it was the Uruk-Hai who spoke first. "Did you mean it? Am I now a part of your family?" Or had Thranduil merely -pretended- he accepted this relationship?
Thranduil sensed Lurtz's disbelief and apprehension. "I meant it. I would never lie to my son. You are welcome at Mirkwood as well."
"He was so afraid you'd disown and banish him." Lurtz smiled adoringly at Legolas, who looked at peace in his sleep.
Thranduil frowned. "I did not realize he was that worried. Maybe I should stay a few days until he fully realizes that I am sincere."
"Legolas would like that..." Lurtz leaned back in the chair, watching them. The frown had faded from Legolas' face, making him look even younger. "All that matters to me is his happiness. Your son is very special and precious to me."
Thranduil grinned. "Aye, I raised him well! He turned out to be a very skilled warrior and a compassionate and intelligent Elf."
Lurtz grinned as well. "You did a good job." It amazed him how easily he got along with Thranduil. A welcome surprise.
Thranduil continued to stroke his son's hair, occasionally mumbling reassurances when Legolas' sleep became restless. "I am here, Legolas..."
Lurtz's eyes closed involuntarily, feeling relieved now that he knew Thranduil approved of their relationship.
Thranduil noticed that Lurtz had fallen asleep as well, and watched over them until the sun rose again.
"Elrohir?" Erestor entered Elrond's study, never expecting to find the Lord's youngest son behind his father's desk. "What are you doing here? Morning has come and you have not slept yet." Neither had he. Since Elrond's kidnapping, Erestor had looked after all affairs, bothering a recovering Elrond as little as possible.
Elrohir looked up from the reports he was reading. "Orcs were sighted near the northern borders. We need to increase the numbers of patrols. We cannot allow them to slip through."
"I will look into it," said Erestor calmly. "Get some sleep, Elrohir."
Elrohir shook his head. "I am not tired." His eyes closed as a yawn proved him wrong. "Well, maybe I am... just a little." Studying Erestor's face he noticed the dark circles beneath the brown eyes. "You look tired as well."
Erestor shrugged once and sat down opposite the desk. "Elrond is sorely missed. A lot of matters are urgent and demand careful planning."
"And now you have to do that all by yourself. Ada cannot help you."
Erestor smiled. "Usually it is the other way around; I assist your father, Elrohir. I take my directions from him."
Elrohir leaned back in his chair, placing the papers aside. "Ada will be bedridden for at least three more weeks."
"I was thinking about that..." Erestor moistened his lips, suddenly acting nervously. "When I was a child I once slipped from a cliff and broke both my legs. Even with my healing ability aiding me, it still took weeks to recover. My father designed a chair on wheels for me so I could still move around. Maybe Elrond would like one as well?"
"A chair on wheels?" Elrohir raised an eyebrow. "That does sound interesting. Would you be able to construct one?"
"Maybe," said Erestor, "I remember the design, but... I am not good at crafts. I was hoping you could build it with my instructions."
Elrohir wondered about the blush that crept over Erestor's face. /Why is he nervous? The idea sounds splendid; he has no reason to be./
Erestor unexpectedly rose from the chair and started for the door. It almost resembled an attempt to flee the room, and Elrohir acted instinctively. "We should build it together."
Erestor stopped in his tracks. "Together?"
The surprised tone in his former mentor's voice made Elrohir frown. /Erestor, you are confusing me. What is this all about?/
"I like that idea," whispered Erestor, quickly risking a look over his shoulder. "I will collect the necessary items."
Elrohir nodded. "Bring them here. I want to see the look on Ada's face when he sees this chair on wheels."
"I will be back," said Erestor in a soft tone, before vanishing into the corridor.
"What was that about? Why the blush? Why act surprised when I suggested building it together? Ah, maybe he did not sleep enough these last few days... That reminds me; I need to get some sleep as well." Elrohir got to his feet and closed the door behind him. The corridor was empty; Erestor had vanished. "I will tell him to rest... He has probably worked hard, forgetting to take the occasional break." Now that his father was still recovering, he felt it was his responsibility to look after the welfare of his people, and Erestor was a good friend... He would make sure Erestor rest as well.
Glorfindel helped Elrond to sit upright, pushing several large pillows around the half-Elf's form to make sure he was supported. "The cook sent some lembas and soup." He sat down beside his lover and handed Elrond the bowl filled with hot soup.
Elrond gratefully accepted the food; his stomach growled and he devoured it.
"Here, have some more." Glorfindel refilled the bowl and watched his lover eat the lembas as well. Elrond had woken a few minutes ago from a restless sleep. Thranduil appearing unannounced obviously kept the Lord of Imladris from resting peacefully. "You look worried."
Elrond finished the soup and lembas and handed Glorfindel the now empty bowl. "Aye, I am worried... about Thranduil and Elladan."
"I can understand your worry where Thranduil is concerned, but Elladan has made a full recovery. You need not worry about him." Glorfindel rested his back against the head end of the bed and carefully wrapped an arm around Elrond's shoulder, holding his love close.
Elrond briefly closed his eyes; remembering the blush that had played on Elladan's face earlier. "I am afraid Elladan might fall in love with Thranduil."
Glorfindel's eyes widened in surprise. "And how did you reach that conclusion, melme?"
"He blushed when I mentioned his savior... I think he fell in love with the stars in his eyes." Elrond leaned back, resting his head on Glorfindel's shoulder. "We need to keep a close eye on him."
"Elladan's first love," teased Glorfindel.
"It is the subject of that crush that worries me."
"Do you think Thranduil will... hurt Elladan?" Glorfindel considered the matter; it was impossible to predict what would happen should Thranduil find out about Elladan's crush.
"I hope not..." Elrond sighed concerned. "Elladan is still young and it is the first time ever that he developed such feelings. It makes sense; Thranduil saved his life and cared for him. Thranduil is his hero and..."
Glorfindel pressed his lips onto Elrond's, silencing his lover. "Do not worry too much, meleth-nīn. Elladan is an adult. We will try to keep him from getting hurt but..."
"It is a lesson he needs to learn... It won't be the last time that his heart will be broken."
Glorfindel's eyes narrowed, considering an option he didn't want to explore. "What if Thranduil develops feelings for Elladan as well?"
Elrond's stunned gasp echoed through the room. "He is of my age, Glorfindel... Elladan is nothing but a child to him. If he dares to play with my son's heart I will have him removed from Imladris, regardless of the consequences."
Glorfindel decided not to push the matter. /But when I looked into Thranduil's eyes I saw real concern, real interest there. The fact that Elladan felt betrayed mattered to him. Elrond might not want to acknowledge this possibility, but there is a chance Elladan might become important to Thranduil. Ai, melethron, if only I could take you away from here for just a few weeks so you can concentrate on healing.../
"Nin bellas, what are you thinking of? There is a distant look in your eyes." Elrond probed the sapphire eyes. No matter what happened in the future, he could always depend on Glorfindel.
"I am thinking of how much I want to take you away from here and spend a few, quiet weeks with you... Just the two of us. Envision it; being away from it all."
Elrond smiled saddened. "I would love to spend time with you, but I am needed here. I cannot leave... There is so much to do, so much to attend to and... I am already behind because I cannot walk..."
Glorfindel placed a kiss on the top of Elrond's head. "But if there were a possibility you would take it?"
"Aye," smiled Elrond dreamily, indulging himself by imagining the impossible. "Within a heartbeat."
A wicked gleam appeared in Glorfindel's eyes. /Maybe there is a way.../
Thranduil slowly untangled himself from his son's long limbs and left the bed. Legolas was still sound asleep; the night's revelations had taken its emotional toll on his son. A noise made him look up and he found himself staring into Lurtz's eyes. The Uruk-Hai was already awake and watching them. "Here, take my place." He signaled for Lurtz to lie down whilst he headed for the doorway. "I will talk to Legolas later today. Please assure him that I love him."
Lurtz nodded once, lying down and pulling Legolas to his chest. The Elf sighed contently and never woke up. "I will tell him," Lurtz assured Thranduil.
Thranduil softly closed the door behind him, not wanting to wake his youngest son, and walked down the corridor, heading for the gardens. The sun was rising and he wanted to greet the new day whilst out in the open.
Drawing in a deep breath, he stepped beneath the trees. He studied the sky for long moments, sensing the rain that would pour down later today. A hesitant sun rose from the darkness, shining weakly. He placed his hands on the trunk of an oak and briefly closed his eyes, allowing himself to become one with nature for a short moment.
"What are you doing?"
Elladan's voice broke the spell and he blinked once. Removing his hands from the tree, Thranduil slowly turned around. "Is it not a bit early for you to be up already? I thought you would like to rest after suffering that blow to your head." Elladan stood half hidden behind a tree, watching him closely. Thranduil smiled, seeing the puzzlement in the twin's brown eyes. "You are wondering what I was doing?"
Elladan nodded once. Visions of Thranduil had haunted his dreams last night and he had risen early from his restless sleep, preferring to spend some time at the baths instead of wrestling with those visions in his bed. He had braided his hair and changed into a pair of brown robes. When he had entered the gardens, though he never expected to see Thranduil there. The elder Elf had been so focused on the tree and the sky that Thranduil had never heard him approach. Thranduil's bewitching eyes stared at him, and he was unable to pull himself away. "Aye, what are you doing?"
"I am greeting the morning sun and try to get in touch with nature again. It is easier in Mirkwood. The trees know me there." Thranduil signaled Elladan to join him. "Place your hands on its trunk..."
Elladan complied, but doubted he would sense anything. He trembled at Thranduil's touch when the elder Elf placed his hands on top.
"Now open your mind and reach out..." Thranduil felt amused, seeing the shy expression in those dark eyes. Surely Elrond had taught his sons to commune with nature?
Suddenly Elladan's eyes widened in surprise. "I feel something..." It felt like a warm embrace, and a hot wind swept through his body, warming him. "What is it?"
"These trees are ancient; almost as old as I am. You feel their wisdom, their contentment. They like being here... Imladris is a place of peace and beauty to them. They are strong and healthy and most of them talk to each other... and to us Elves. You did not know this?" Thranduil removed his hands and briefly rubbed Elladan's, which would be tingling with warmth. He recalled that sensation from the first time when he had reached out in this manner. Elladan was giving him a curious look and he smiled, trying to reassure the youngster. "You are strong enough to try this on your own..."
Elladan blinked, suddenly realizing Thranduil was rubbing his fingers. The contact caused even more tingling, and this time it pooled in his groin. Eyes wide, he felt himself hardening under the touch and he pulled his hands away, breaking the contact.
Thranduil wondered about the sudden loss of contact. Had he done something to upset Elladan? Or was Elladan still upset with him for lying about his identity? Was there a way to make things up to him?
Elladan grew uncomfortable under Thranduil's piercing glance and he quickly addressed the elder Elf. "Have you already talked to Legolas?"
"Aye, I told him that everything was fine. I will visit with him later today..." Thranduil suddenly recognized the expression in Elladan's eyes and took a step away from the half-Elf. /Ai, he cannot be falling for me.../
Elladan didn't dare make eye contact with Thranduil. Shuffling his feet, he felt his face grow hot. By Elbereth! He couldn't be blushing! Not again!
Thranduil wasn't sure how to deal with this situation. He didn't want to hurt Elladan's feelings, and decided to act as if he hadn't noticed. When Legolas had admitted his first love to him, Thranduil had consoled his son when the maiden in question had rejected him. He knew how painful being in love could be. "I will return to my rooms now. I spent the entire night talking to Legolas, and I need to bathe as well."
Elladan felt immensely grateful that Thranduil had saved him from certain embarrassment. Staring at the ground, he nodded. "Would you like some clean clothes? I can send a servant..."
Thranduil nodded, accepting the offer.
Elladan's blush intensified. "I will see you at dinner then?"
"You may count on me," said Thranduil gently. /Ai, Elladan, you are so young... And your first love should be someone your own age.../ He wouldn't encourage the twin, and hoped that the infatuation would quickly fade. /Once I leave Imladris he will forget me... And I plan to leave in a few days./ In the meantime he would act kindly toward Elladan, but at the same time he would keep his distance.
Elrohir studied Erestor's sketch of the 'wheel chair' they would construct for Elrond. "We should be able to do this..." Lowering himself onto his heels, he helped Erestor attach the wheels. Erestor's long, nimble fingers connected the wheels to the bottom of the chair and accidentally brushed his. Erestor pulled back as if burned and moved to the other side of the chair, breaking eye contact.
Elrohir cleared his throat. Erestor's behavior worried him, but he didn't know how to address this. "Are you feeling well, Erestor?"
"Why do you ask?" A worried glance appeared in Erestor's dark eyes.
"You seem... nervous." Elrohir frowned. Erestor was a mystery to him, and always had been. Glorfindel had been easy to figure out, but Erestor presented a riddle which he had never managed to solve. The raven-haired advisor had always been there, had always served his father, and had been their mentor as long as he remembered and yet the elder Elf remained an enigma. He always kept his distance, never spoke of anything personal, and seemed cold and distant, expect for moments like these, when he was unable to hide his concern. /And right now he worries about Ada... Hence the wheel chair./ Elrohir drew in a deep breath. "Are you sure you are getting enough sleep, Erestor?"
Erestor averted his eyes and stared at the floor. "The chair should enable Lord Elrond to move about as he wishes. My work here is done and I should leave now. There are countless reports to read and..."
"You do not want to see Ada's reaction to the chair?" His father would probably want to thank Erestor, but the advisor's body posture told him that the elder Elf was eager to leave. "You cannot work the entire time, Erestor. Join me and let us visit Ada. I am sure he will be delighted to see your gift."
Erestor sighed defeated, knowing Elrohir would get his way in the end, the half-Elf always did. "I will join you..."
Elrohir rose, and pushed the wheel chair toward the doorway. "Erestor?" His former tutor seemed tense, and only reluctantly moved toward him. /Something has upset you... What was it? I do not like seeing you in this way... I will find out what is wrong.../
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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