WARNING: This is a hint of SLASH. While there is no explicit homosexual action, this story involves a man (male elf, really) in love with a man. If this bothers you, I am certainly not going to make you read it, and indeed kindly request that you take yourself elsewhere and read some of the lovely het works on ffnet. If you read the fic in spite of my warning, then donít complain to me!
Disclaimer: The Lord of the Rings, and all of its characters clearly do not belong to me. They belong to the amazing J.R.R. Tolkien. Iím merely playing with their minds... (evil grin).
Feedback: Please, please, please... yes, I am begging! I would like to know what you think of it - love it, hate it, donít get it- whatever! Just keep in mind that flames will be used to heat my very cold dorm room. (along with Lady Ariannyaís hot water bottle)
Author's Notes: Phew. Well, you have before you the last chapter of the Double Edged series. The suspense I have kept our poor boys in will be resolved... one way or another. I know this has been a long ride, and I thank you all for coming along on it with me. I hope you like. This probably will not be the last look we have of this universe, but I do want to work on my "Glimpses" for a little while. Anyhoo, here ya go - have fun!
Chapter 11 - Heaven
Dear Gods, what has happened? What have I done? For one crystalline second the world made sense, and the edges of the universe lined up within my soul. For one pure moment I touched the sun. I gained completion, achieved perfect, oh, with him! Then my heat burned the sun, and the light in his eyes disappeared. He fled, followed the lost light. And I am again alone, though the agony of solitude has increased tenfold, for now I know what it is to be without loneliness.
The sunset has faded, and the sky has been bleached to a pale, hazy blue, more deserving the sparkling parched heat of desert than the lush green this emerald glade. The brook beside our camp bubbles merrily, humming to itself and all of the world that it is on its way, after twisting through the innards of the boiling and heaving earth, finally awake and sparkling in the sun, in search of the sea. In search of completion. Dear Gods.
Was it something I did? I have joined my lips with others before, and never have they run from me so. But... I have never felt this hunger inside my soul, either. Perhaps he has seen the depths and strength of my heart, and was frightened. But that Aragorn should be so easily frightened...
Possibly I was mistaken. I cannot recall who initiated the kiss, but if it was me - due to my interpretation of his words, and the love in his eyes- and if my interpretation was false... I am certain that it was love in his eyes, shining with all its muted and tarnished glory. But, he did not say that its object was myself. He did not say he loves me... and, indeed I have not known him to fall sway to the harsh elegance of another manís body, but only to the soft comfort offered by woman. If I was wrong, and acted too quickly... yes. That must be so. He loves another. Some nameless, faceless woman, whom I nevertheless already pity, condone, and despise. Oh, Sun above... What have I done!
Muted warm browns, crushed jades, hectic emeralds, and tragic opal flashes swarm and coagulate in my streaked vision, running and blurring with my pain into a nameless void. Choked gasps and broken breaths (which could almost be mistaken for desperate sobs) force their way to my ears, and pierce my conscious. I feel my chest heave, my nose runs, and I know where such pathetic sounds originate. Pathetic. How utterly suiting. I. Am. Pathetic.
The single harsh cadence of the word forms a litany in my mind which worms its way, black and destructive, through my soul, forcing my feet to pound in concert with it. After finding myself so deformed as not to be able to love the worldís brightest jewel... To believe that I could trade one jewel for another, more clear and pure, more to my liking... The gods take offense when one refuses their gifts.
My feet enter a shock of cold and wet, slip on mossy rocks, stumble, graceless, and cease their headlong rush. I find myself shaking and dripping in the middle of the small, happy brook. I should regain my feet, run again, far away, where I can never again take such presumptions. I should take myself to a place where I can never again hurt him. Never again.
But my body refuses to obey the pleadings of my soul. Battered and bruising from my stupid but necessary dash through the trees and brush, while still exhausted from the lack of sleep, my trembling mortal body can only shiver in the water. Who says hell is a pit of fire? Hell is six inches of ice cold melted snow flowing joyfully over a broken spirit.
I thought... Oh Gods forgive me... I thought for that perfect moment that he understood. And that he wanted it too, when I bent my head and angled my mouth against his. I thought that it was right, that what I felt pooling in my stomach and clogging my veins was love. But love unrequited is not love. It is... pathetic. He let me do it - allowed me to violate his body and desecrate his soul with my unworthy skin and pitiful heart. Always the true friend. Perhaps he would even have let me continue, passively and gracefully fallen to the ground when I urged him down into deeper embraces and sins. But I saw the tear. I have seen an elf cry twice in my life. It costs them a piece of their soul. And I refuse to take anymore from him than I already have. He will not cry because of me again.
A soft keening reaches my ears, stretches inside, and grasps my heart with icy fingers. I cannot breathe. Much as I would wish to hide my head, my shame, to search for an impossible death, I cannot deny its claim. Though it is I who has caused such turmoil, it must also fall to me to soothe it, as best I can. Though my body protests, limbs aching and joints locking, I crawl to my feet, and wobble, unsteady. He plunged into the forest, and I could easily track his path, but the stream carries his whimpers to me. I shall follow the path, down into hell if need be.
For there is no one else here, and I have hurt him. Have assumed too much, and have taken what was never meant to be mine. It is my duty to find some solution. I will hunt him down, face him bravely, and lie with clear eyes, if I must. Though it shall twist deeper this evil blade that I have lodged in my guts. I gather up the razor sharp pieces of my shattered soul, and go in search of the one I love. To convince him that I do not.
Dear Gods, let me be able to make it right. Though I fear this shall prove impossible. His muffled gasps could make the earth tremble with the strength of their pain. I have betrayed him grievously. It will not happen again. Never again.
The sunlight carves out a path of twinkling starlight water which curves and flows intimately over the land. My feet follow silently, dragging my muddled mind which is far too busy creating horrific images and outcomes for this day to spare any attention to the encouragement the brook whispers. I fear what I shall find, am caught by a terrified fascination of trying to determine what look shall be in his eyes. Hate? Accusation? Betrayal? Confusion?
The water swings tightly around another curve, and he is there. Fallen to his knees in the middle of the creek which eagerly gurgles and bubbles about his legs. How he managed to get so wet, I do not know, and care little enough to try to guess. All that matters is that I have found him, and can try to correct my failing. His hands are clenched over his thighs, and he stars blindly at the trees which stand in the direction he must have been headed before he fell. His breath enters his body through a strained and disfigured mouth, and escapes in short staccato bursts which accompany the orchestra of rather pitiful noises. I doubt that he is aware of them. Who has this happened? I knew that my betrayal would bring a harsh blow, but this... he looks as though it has become too difficult even to hold together the shreds of sanity we are left with. I did not dream this would affect him so. Dear Gods... it should be me, it is me, collapsed and clutching at my soul. In this moment, more than ever before, I truly despise myself.
Soft hands touch my chilled skin, breaking through the cold, wet fog my mind has been trapped in. A hell of my own making... Soft, but carefully shuttered eyes seek mine as the hand (so familiar, so dear) tilts my chin up. Flushed red lips move... he is speaking, but I hear nothing over the obscenely loud chattering. Where is it coming from? Why doesnít he make it stop? A warm, brotherly arm wraps about my waist, and he pulls me up and out of the water, cautiously. He does not let our bodies touch beyond what is necessary. Does he think I would try to take advantage of him again if he allowed a more casual touch. Dear Gods, he must think so. Yet... Yet, he is here, supporting my weight with his graceful body. Delivering me from my hell, yet again. Coming back for me after all I have done for him. How could I ever think I might deserve him? Pathetic.
His cloak is off and folded around my body. The sun shine brilliantly, but the air that touches me is cold, icy fingers searching to steal the last shards of warmth. Somehow, entirely without my being aware of it (what is that atrocious noise?), I am resting against a tree, and he has incited some obliging sticks to crackle merrily in flame. Then he is back at my side, pulling my wet tunic off, gingerly, treating me as he would a frightened child or a skittish horse. The puckered skin on my shest feels clammy, cold and moist, like a snakeís belly. I cannot control the shivers that wrack my body. I know that I should try. After all, I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir to Isildur... it is quite unseemly for me to be drenched, shirtless, and shuddering in the middle of a forest. But, only Legolas is here to witness my weakness, and he has already seen the worst of it today. I cannot possibly lower his opinion of me any further. But... But, he pulls his own tunic over his head, (as I force myself, barely, not to gasp as the expanse of flawless white skin), then tugs it into place around me, and his smell drifts up, wafts into my nose and at the same time clears my head and muddles it further. He readjusts the cloak, wrapping me like a babe, but oh so carefully. Canít he see that I am in no position to accost him?
The pounding assault on my ears dims as my teeth still and cease their chattering. He is murmuring soft assurances that I can finally begin to make out.
"So sorry... shh... thatís right, let your body warm itself... gods... my fault... didnít mean... " I canít make out all of the words, and those that I can clash and clang inside my head in a tumultuous riot of color and harsh sensation. His hands flutter over my face, push the tangled and dripping cords of hair from my eyes, then withdraw. I know not if it is the cold that has so addled my brain, or if it was the shock of my actions against him, or perhaps I somehow hit my head... however, I am cognizant enough to know the one important thing. He is here. He doesnít hate me. Not if he followed me, pulled me from the water, and is trying to resurrect some pittance of self-preservation. He may not love me, but he does not hate me.
This revelation breaks through the cold sweat in my mind, and I lose my grip on the small bit of sanity the vague distanced feeling has afforded me. The whimpering noises that have been filling the air cease, and are replaced by a desperate gasped sob, as I launch myself into the arms that were hovering just out of reach. I know that he is shocked at my actions, and that I am possibly endangering this final shred of hope, but I have not the strength to restrain myself. He still cares enough to be here. And that is all that matters as the sweet embrace closes around me, the murmured words now mangled in my hair, and flowing between Common tongue and Elvish - gentle soft reassurances that itís all right, Iím going to be all right, heís so sorry. He pulls me close to his chest, and if I had the presence of mind, I would thank the Gods that made him the taller of us, for he is able to tuck my head under his chin, and I can feel his heart beat. Those three words resound inside of my befuddled head. "Iím so sorry." Mired in honey, sweet and sticky, insistently dredging up a reaction - a question. Why?
When I can finally feel my fingers again - somehow one hand made its way around his neck and is digging into the downy skin, as the other twins itself in the blond hair that cascades over his chest, directly over his heart - I force my lungs to accept a deep, shuddering breath, and pull away just far enough to meet his eyes.
"Why?" His eyes are amazing. I can read so much in them, and still understand so little. Concern, tender affection, wary caution, and confusion. I try to make my question clearer, but it take several attempts before I can wrap my trembling and bitten lips around concrete words. "You... said... You said sorry... why?" The shudders snap closed again, and his body stiffens against mine. Gods - have I hurt him again? His gaze remains locked on me, though, and I wait as he tries to find words to formulate an answer.
"I hurt you... I scared you, and I didnít mean to... I didnít mean." I feel as though I have been hit quite hard on the back of the head with a very sturdy tree branch. He hurt me? What? Scared? I was only scared when I saw that tear. And... what exactly didnít he mean to do?
My confusion must show in my eyes, because he stops groping for words, shakes his head, offers me a very small smile, and says, "It was my fault, and I am sorry. It wonít happen again." My mind is still not working as fast as it should. I know that he is saying something terribly important, and if I were myself, I could figure it out. I ask slowly, making sure the words are perfectly formed, "Legolas... what are you talking about? I was the one who... " but I canít finish my sentence, try as I might. Maybe, though, something of my meaning got through to him because those earth brown eyes which had begun to wander downward, away from my eye, suddenly darted back, and there was a new flavor to them. Hope? He blinks slowly, then shakes his head, blond waterfall tumbling, and speaks in calm measured tones.
"Weíve made a mess of this, havenít we? I came to find you so that I could fix this. I had every intention of lying to you, if need be. But I refuse to use you so poorly. You deserve so much better... "The voice trails off for a moment, as his eyes go soft and melted. Then, they harden again, and the voice resumes. However, the liquid gaze started a tingling in my spine, and the voice is only making it spread. "I misunderstood your words, and acted wrongly. I apologize. I did not mean to hurt you. I just thought... " Oh. Oh... I see. Suddenly the light from the sun and the blazing campfire are pouring through the air, and coagulating around him. I open my mouth hesitantly. If I am wrong, and I tear us apart again - I do not think that I could survive the separation. All ready, without him for five minutes, I almost managed to kill myself. Surely I didnít mean to...
"What did you think, Legolas?"
I stare into the piercing eyes. How can he be so formidable, soaking wet, and wearing half of my clothing? The self-flagellation I felt at finding him transformed into immense relief when he turned to my arms, and I saw that, though I despised myself, he did not. However, that relief is quickly dissipating. I know that I cannot lie to him, and surely if he can still stand me, such a strong and noble soul, surely he can hear my guilt as justly as he experienced it. But keeping our eyes locked is the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life.
"I thought that you were telling me that you loved me." The pupils have dilated, with cold or shock, but somehow, they look... heavy... aged. "And so you were disgusted." His words are a statement, not even giving me the privilege of a question. Where did he manage to find that answer? I shake my head vehemently, too much so. I know that I should tread very carefully, keep my sins as few in number as possible. "No, I was not disgusted, Aragorn. I could never... " I know better than to finish the sentence. His eyes are huge - how have I never noticed their size before? I think that possibly the fire has transferred itself from the cold and unforgiving ground to his living eyes. They burn through my brain.
"Why did you cry, Legolas?" Simple, direct, and impossible to answer. But I know that I owe it to him to try. "It was... I felt... "I give up for the moment, and shake my head in defeat. Better that I keep silent. But now I find our positions reversed, as he cups my chin in his hands, and forces me to look him in the eye. He will not accept my silence. I make one more attempt, open my mouth, turn off my brain for the moment, and let the words flow from the junction of my soul and my heart. "I was complete." That is all I can give him. The words are now his to do with what he pleases.
It is a shock, a jolt, a joy undeserved when his lips press against mine. They are as sweet, as tender, as precious as before, but so much more cautious. And his eyes. Are open. They are open and trained on mine, as if he wishes to be able to watch my reaction - to insure that there are no more mistakes. It is a struggle of the sweetest harmony to keep my eyes open and locked with his as I open my mouth to him, and meet his tongue with mine. There is no mad dueling, just a kind, patient and tender exchange of greeting. His hand trails down the side of my neck, fingers dancing around, behind my skull, and I do not try to restrain my moan. He pulls his mouth away immediately, but does not remove his body, nor his hands. The sense of fulfillment that he brings is creeping slowly up into my throat as the ragged pieces of our souls merge and are mended together.
He speaks carefully, slowly. "You did not misunderstand me earlier." A moment of silence for the words to sink into my fevered mind, and flow into my heart, lighting an everwarming fire. Then, softer, as I beg my eyes to convey to him everything that I feel, all that I am, "Am I misunderstanding you now?"
He is so strong, but the vulnerable tone twists in my gut. I retrieve my hands from where they have fallen upon his lap, work them through the hair above his ears, gently caress the tension-tightened temples with wondering thumbs, and place my lips reverently upon one eyebrow, then the other, then move down, to tangle my lips with his. My eyes still open, I pull back bare centimeters, and whisper across his lips, "If your understanding is that I love you, then you are not in error."
A tremor runs through his body, his lips expel a relieved gasp of air, and he pulls me back to him, eyes finally drifting closed as lips meet, hands stroke, tongues rove, the completion returns fully, and we two become the one that we have always been meant to be.
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