Chapter Summary: Realizations and rash promises leave Aragorn honor-bound.
Chapter 3 - An Indecent Proposal
By Milady Hawke
“And for better or worse, Trystan took it. He went to his lover’s chambers that night, and thought on the apple, and looked at his love. ‘Yes, I would spare him the pain of separation,’ he thought, ‘but I will bear it myself. I refuse to forget my love for him. He has much to look forward to but I will forever look behind me at him. Though he lies in another’s arms, the memory of us at least will be mine.’”
“And so thinking, Trystan closed his eyes tightly and bit the apple, passing the piece from his mouth to his love’s in a kiss that would haunt him through all the ages of Arda.”
“Trystan left at first light, concealing his grief with great care as the lord looked on when he left, suspecting nothing but that Trystan and his love had both eaten of the fruit.”
“The days turned to years, and from thence, decades, and still the memory of the man veiled Trystan’s heart like the lengthening shadows o’er his woodland realm. But ‘twas not only his land threatened by this menace but many that felt the dark looming near. When the summons came to a parlay addressing the great evil creeping back into the world, Trystan went, back to the very elf kingdom where he’d met the man.”
“Legolas...” said Aragorn, canting his head to the side to appraise his friend for the first time.
A fell spark that Aragorn had not seen save only in battle burned in Legolas’ eyes, and his whole face seemed intensely clenched against a flood of warring emotions threatening to spill. As if squeezed by the grip of bone-chilled fingers, Aragorn felt his heart contract and his breath stop abruptly in his chest. This part of the story was starting to sound too familiar.
Catching breath again, he said, “My friend, pardon my discourtesy, but I begin to feel unwell from the wine. If you will forgive me, perhaps you can finish your story later.”
Legolas’ arm flew to bar Aragorn’s chest, halting him as he made to rise.
“Ah, yes, I’m sure the queen will ease you, but if you would have my story, you must hear it now or never,” said the elf, his voice coming rapidly, gaining a tremoring octave, his arm remaining firmly across the man’s chest. “I will be quick, then.”
Aragorn’s eyes closed slowly while his hands compulsively clenched and unclenched. This was not happening - this could not be true. Surely... Legolas did not mean... this was madness!
“Trystan was reunited with the man, and when in council ‘twas decided that a band would be sent forth on a secret mission to undermine this evil, and the man pledged himself to...”
“Do not aggravate yourself, friend,” Aragorn said with trembling restraint as he stood, turning his face away and stepping through the balcony arch.
In a second, Legolas was upon him with lightening speed, with feverish strength holding Aragorn’s arms to his sides tightly and forcing him against the wall with a grip the man could not hope to break. Legolas was up in his face then, inches away and following the movement of Aragorn’s head with his own as the man tried to look away, the elf’s searing gaze pursuing him as if he were quarry. Aragorn could feel Legolas’ moist breath caressing his cheek warmly and the heat of his body radiating between them. His heart raced wildly with excitement and fear, urging him to fight or flee, but knowing neither would avail him against an elf, he sank back limply against the wall.
“The elf was helpless not to pledge himself to the quest – for the sake of this man who had forgotten their love,” came the passion-racked voice that refused to stop but kept coming in broken, raging torrents.
“Through dangers unnumbered Trystan fought his way alongside his love to the very mouth of hell itself, to protect the man. And do you know what his reward was,” the elf nearly shrieked, “when the quest was over and the two were great heroes? Do you?”
“Among all the things the two fought for,” he sobbed, “the man fought most for the love of a lady, who he married. And the elf watched with a broken heart and yet stayed near his love until he could bear it no longer and he began to fade with the weight of his grief.”
A tremor ran through Legolas then that threatened to buckle his knees, forcing him to grip more tightly to Aragorn. Then suddenly, he backed away.
“But I can watch this no more, Aragorn,” said the elf in a low voice. “I will leave these shores for the Undying Lands, before my mother’s words can bear fruit. It is funny, is it not? That though I have fought to save this world, there is naught left in it for me?
Farewell, my friend. We shall not meet again in this realm.”
As Legolas said this, he touched his hand to his head and then to his heart, sweeping out from it in a final farewell. In that moment a mist covered Aragorn’s eyes and it seemed to him as if nothing of Legolas remained before him but a faint afterimage dying in the cool night air. He reached out a tentative hand, let it fall again. Unchecked, Aragorn’s tears ran rivulets down his cheeks.
The elf turned slowly as if to leave.
“It is... much... that you ask me to believe and accept,” the man spat out quickly. “I don’t know what to think of this story you’ve told me, but I do know this, that you have been my strength when my own failed and my dearest friend. You know this,” his voice trailed. “I have cherished you above all others, you and she alone – you mean no less to me.”
A thin smile twisted the corners of the elf’s mouth and his head nodded slightly in acknowledgment. Before the elf could turn away, Aragorn bridged the distance between them and found the back of Legolas’ neck with his hand, tilting their foreheads together.
“I am truly sorry I do not love you the way you wish. I cannot regret my love for Arwen, but if a part of my heart could love you now, it would.”
He wrapped his arms around the elf, holding him tightly as if his life depended on it and pressing his forehead into the crook of the elf’s shoulder and neck, burying it in the silky drapes of hair. He inhaled. It smelled like newly washed foliage after a summer rain. Aragorn wanted to memorize it, the scent, clean and new - a young, green scent that had soothed him to sleep many times in the wild as they lay wrapped together under one blanket. It could not be that this was the last time he partook of the strength and grace that was the true beauty of his friend. How could he deal with the loss of one dearer than brother? And he was indebted for so much but had never truly repaid that debt. Legolas deserved so much more than he could give; he must let his friend go.
But long moments passed, and Aragorn still held the elf to him, long enough to let the selfish fear well up in his heart, even as he hated himself for that weakness in his blood he was so well aware of. He looked up at Legolas, his arms still wrapped about the elf tightly.
“Is there nothing I can do to make you stay?” he said. “Must it be you or Arwen?”
The elf looked at him as if he were daft.
“Aye, but there is no choice,” he said. “You cannot abandon her now.”
Releasing Legolas, the man paced to the balcony rail and gripped it tightly, leaning slightly over.
“What about what I want?” he retorted. “Perhaps I am tired of always being noble. No one has ever asked me what I want. Not Elrond. Not you.”
Legolas’ brow furrowed in on itself at this. The man had a point. Was it not what he himself had said to Lord Elrond all those years before? Was he wrong then not to give Aragorn a choice, to let him be a mere pawn in the hands fate? His face tilted up to the sky in question. Earendil shone down from the far horizon. Sighing, Legolas steeled himself and turned the man around to face him.
“What would you give for the chance to keep me near?” he said. “Think well on it, Aragorn.”
“For the chance?” Aragorn looked puzzled at this. “If there is ought in my kingdom that might ease your heart, you know it is yours. I give you my word; you have only to ask. Speak on,” he urged.
“One night,” replied Legolas. “Give me one night with you, and mayhap I can teach your heart to remember, though your mind does not.”
A stunned look passed over Aragorn’s face, his mouth hanging open in a way that would have been comical under other circumstances. This was evidently not what the man had in mind.
“You are a king, Aragorn. Kings take lovers. It is your right.”
“But... it is my anniversary,” stammered Aragorn, “and I,” he mumbled to his boots, “haveneverlainwithaman. AtleastnotthatIremember.”
“Would you go back on your word? You promised me anything.”
“So I did,” said Aragorn. “So I did.”
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