Beta: Jennifer M (Shapedfromsin)
Chapter 4 - Tock
Legolas dipped the leaf-shaped oar into the Anduin. Everyone was irritable and angry today with the possible exception of Merry and Pippin. But they were being affected by sitting in the same boat with a morose Boromir and so very little liveliness was coming from their quarter. Frodo was feeling responsible for the eddies of distrust and unease that were invading the group; Sam was upset that Frodo wasn't eating; Gimli was worried about losing Galadriel's hair; Aragorn was saying nothing at all, to anyone, and he, Legolas, was feeling like he'd killed his best friend.
Boromir had arisen and followed miserably around in Aragorn's wake. Aragorn ignored him. He then shot Legolas a murderous glance that made the Elf even more unhappy. He actually liked Boromir, when he wasn't busy being jealous of him. Aragorn wouldn't look at him either which was just fine with Legolas as he was still angry with him. If he would just stop looking so grim, Legolas could be angry with him without feeling so worried about him too.
They were still two days from Rauros. Something would have to break soon, and Legolas feared the break would not be a wholesome one. There was too much tension growing within the group, like a wire that was being stretched tighter and tighter. Eventually he knew it must snap. He had tried to diffuse it when he confronted Aragorn about Boromir. But it had only winched tighter. And when Aragorn had stumbled back into camp too soon from his assignation with Boromir looking like he badly wanted to be sick, tighter still.
Aragorn had sprawled into his bedroll, curling up entirely inside of its folds. Then Boromir had trailed in and stood over the lump of blanket that was Aragorn for an hour, waiting to be acknowledged before, finally, giving up and retiring.
There was also a feeling of dread that was growing inside Legolas that had nothing to do with the tension in the group. It was an outside menace, an even more alarming danger than the threat coming from within. Legolas's heart quailed at the thought of what must be coming. He wanted to speak to Aragorn about it, but hesitated due to the strain that lay between them. Aragorn had not told Legolas about what Celeborn had said about the Orcs that bore the white hand, or that they were being tracked. He had been too preoccupied with Boromir and Haldir. So Legolas decided to wait to talk about it with him. The threat did not feel imminent... yet.
Again in the late afternoon they pulled the boats up onto a sandy bank to make camp. Tomorrow they would make it to Rauros, where they would have to leave the boats and strike out across country on foot once again. It was on foot that Legolas feared the attack would come and he would speak to Aragorn then. He wanted the Fellowship to be ready, for whatever was coming.
It was dark when Boromir noticed the log moving oddly in the current of the river. He knelt and watched it closer. Yes it was definitely bobbing strangely. He heard a movement behind him and Aragorn's voice sounded at his back. "It is Gollum," he said.
Boromir rejoiced silently at the sound. Aragorn was acknowledging him again. More, he had spoken to him. Boromir restrained the impulse to turn throw himself at the man. It would not do, here, in front of the others. Aragorn would not like it. So he gabbled something about the enemy, then in his anxiety, he could not resist using Gollum as a reason to promote the idea of going to Minas Tirith. The look of stubborn resistance on Aragorn's face as he refused the idea goaded Boromir beyond all caution and he railed at Aragorn, spitting out a contempt for the man that was in truth only a part of what he thought. The bitter part.
"You are afraid," he burst out. "All your life you have hidden in the shadows. Scared of who you are, of what you are." Aragorn shifted away, then swung back to snarl at him.
"I would not lead the Ring within a hundred leagues of your city."
Your city, Boromir thought miserably. Not our city. Not my city. Aragorn was back on the outside. Back with the beshadowed elves. Boromir's lip curled as he looked over at Legolas. Legolas helplessly listened as the winch tightened even more.
Legolas ran into the clearing as Boromir lay in Aragorn's arms. The wire had snapped at last and it had lashed out in the breaking, cutting deeply into all of them. Frodo had wandered away with Boromir creeping after him. The careful watchers, Sam, Aragorn, and himself, had failed to notice the two of them go until it was too late. Then the Orcs had come and all else was forgotten as the eight tried to come together to fight them. But the rifts were too deep, the Company too scattered, and the Orcs too many.
Now Frodo and Sam were who knew where, Merry and Pippin were taken, and Boromir lay bleeding from too many arrows, dying in the dirt of Amon Hen. As he ran toward the two men, Legolas heard Aragorn swear to save the city Boromir loved. Aragorn embraced his legacy at last in the arms of the man he loved and Legolas could only watch and ache to comfort him, his own heart breaking for Aragorn as the two men said their goodbyes.
They lay Boromir in the boat and watched as it disappeared into the mist of the Falls. Despite his sorrow at the loss of the man, Legolas's heart felt light and clear again. The feeling of dread had disappeared at last. It had gone when the Orcs attacked. Legolas always felt better fighting an enemy he could see and touch rather than a suspicion of disaster ill-defined. He felt whole again as he had not felt through many of the days of their journey. Since losing Gandalf to the Balrog in fact. He pushed the last boat into the water, eager to get away from this place of death, before the feeling of doom returned to weigh him down again.
"Hurry!" he said. "Frodo and Sam have reached the eastern shore." He turned and looked at Aragorn who was quietly donning Boromir's gauntlets. Despite this solemn gesture of brotherhood, Aragorn seemed past his loss. His tears were gone and he seemed solidly back in his sterile role of leader.
He was also not moving toward the boat.
Realization swept through Legolas. "You mean not to follow them," he said quietly. Aragorn looked up, watching Sam and Frodo disappear into the trees on the eastern shore.
"Frodo's fate is no longer in our hands," he said quietly, tightening the strap on the leather legacy on his wrist.
And so the decision was made. Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn would go to Merry and Pippin's aid and leave Frodo to make his way as best he could with Sam to Moria.
"Let's hunt some Orc!" Aragorn snarled, sending a thrill through Legolas.
"Yes!" Roared Gimli evidently feeling the thrill as well.
Legolas smiled at Gimli's vigor, but the lightness he had felt earlier was gone. He was uneasy. About Aragorn. It was true that Aragorn and Boromir had only had the one encounter. Perhaps his recognition of Boromir's weakness had cured his infatuation and he was even now thanking the Valar for his escape and renewing his pledge to Undomiel. But Legolas felt he should watch him. He wished he knew what he could do to help him. Aragorn would deny any need for help now, Legolas knew. He would just have to be patient and watch for his chance. Until then, all he could do was support Aragorn the best way he knew how. With his obedience.
Gimli tightened his hips and abdomen and forced his short legs to pump faster.
"Come on Gimli!" Legolas shouted encouragingly.
Blasted long-legged Elf. "Three days' and nights' pursuit," Gimli puffed. "No food. No rest. And no sign of our quarry but what bare rock can tell." And he had to take three steps to every one that the other's had to take. It wasn't fair. But he would show them that Dwarves were equal to anything.
Aragorn was like a machine, unbending, untiring, even the Elf seemed more human than the man. At least he looked back from time to time to make sure a body was still with them. He saw Aragorn lean down to pick something up from the dirt. A brooch! Gimli lost his concentration and tripped, rolling down a hill and out onto the trail.
"Come, Gimli! We're gaining on them." Legolas again.
Gimli hauled himself up and trotted off after them. If it was the last thing he did, he thought, he would make them pay. He wondered what exactly was driving Aragorn. Gimli loved the two littlest Hobbits too, but Aragorn was driving them harder in their pursuit of their rescue than he had in their guarding of the Ringbearer.
Gimli still felt the Fellowship had failed, no matter what Aragorn said about holding together. First Gandalf, then Boromir, then Frodo and Sam, and finally Merry and Pippin. It /would/ be good to salvage two of the lost. But he wondered if that was the only reason Aragorn ran so relentlessly.
And Legolas, just following along with no opinions, no concerns, no thoughts of his own. That wasn't like him. It was almost like he was determined not to question the Ranger. Gimli wondered what it was he was missing. For now, all he could do was follow, run, and breathe.
Gimli was still struggling to breathe although they had long since stopped running. But the air of Fangorn was thick and heavy in his lungs. He tried to keep his gasps quiet as he and his Companions stared at the apparition before them. It was too good to be true. It was some trick. It had to be. It could not be Gandalf standing before them telling them the Hobbits they had given up for dead, were safe and with a friend. But it seemed that the good news was truth and Gandalf was back with them. "At the turn of the tide," he told them. Hurumph! Gimli thought. At least now they could take a break and rest.
They made camp and released the horses to run free.
"Shadowfax will protect them," Gandalf said. "And horses of Rohan are trained to return to their riders. They will be back in the morning."
Gimli hoped so. It was not comfortable, riding double with Legolas, but it was better than running unendingly over rock. He definitely did not want to lose the horses.
He watched as Gandalf sat by the fire. He would take first Watch, so Gimli and the others could bed down for the night. Gimli gratefully collapsed onto his blanket.
When he rose for his turn at Watch, Gandalf waved him back to his bedroll. "Rest now Gimli. You and the others have gone long enough without sleep. I will watch tonight. I feel as renewed in body as I have been in spirit. I've told the same to the others. Gimli looked around for the others, but they were nowhere to be found.
"Gandalf?" he asked in concern. "Where are Aragorn and Legolas?"
Gandalf looked up from his work. "Eh? I don't know."
"What kind of a Watch are you keeping Gandalf, if you don't notice when two of our group wander off?"
"Don't be ridiculous Gimli, I am not watching for them."
Gimli considered going to look for the other two then lay back down in fatigue. Gandalf was right, they could take care of themselves. He was going to take advantage of Gandalf's offer and catch up on his sleep. Not that he needed it of course, any more than they did. After all a Dwarf was the match of anyone else, man or Elf or whatever else came..." and suddenly he was snoring.
Aragorn sat in the shadow of an overhang of rocks, smoking his pipe and leaning against the cold stone. There were no trees or lovely glades out here on the plain of the Riddermark. He sighed aloud for the comforts of Lorien. His hand absently caressed the leather gauntlet hugging his wrist.
The darkness in front of him parted as a pale shape drifted into view. Legolas approached hesitantly and stopped in front of the seated man.
"Aragorn," he said. "I..." He stopped, unable to think of what to say. He hesitated to follow Aragorn when he heard him get up to leave. He wanted to offer comfort to the Ranger but didn't want to intrude on his grief. He wished he had kept his silence that night that he had confronted Aragorn. It felt good not to have to hide anymore, but it was playing merry Mordor with his friendship with the man. He had not felt comfortable around him since that night.
He had watched Aragorn for a while before approaching him. The man looked fine. There were no wracking sobs, no tears, no morose spirits. But his hands never stopped rubbing at the leather on his arms.
Legolas tried again. "If you would rather be alone... " he said uncomfortably.
Aragorn tapped the ashes from his pipe and tucked it into his jacket. "If I had wanted to be alone," he said, looking up at the troubled face of the Elf. "I would have told you as I left, for I knew you would hear me go."
Legolas smiled and sat down beside Aragorn, leaning back on the same stone as he. They sat for a moment in silence.
"Well," Aragorn said quietly. "You were right. About all of it. Boromir, the Ring, even the part about me not seeing things until something horrible happened. Not much next to Elves am I?"
Legolas was taken aback. He had forgotten some of the things that he had said that night. Especially the last part. It hurt to think that Aragorn had been mulling over his hasty words all this time.
"Even Galadriel can't see everything," he told the man, a bit awkwardly.
"No, perhaps not." He pulled up his knee and rested an arm on top of it. "My heart is not as heavy now that Gandalf has returned and Merry and Pippin are safe. But..."
"You wish there could be some way of finding him alive as well."
"Yes," he said colorlessly.
"He loved you."
"It must comfort you to know that you were with him at the end." Legolas looked at him. Aragorn said nothing, his lips tightening.
"I mean, he did die in your arms."
Aragorn's hands clenched and his body jerked in frustration. "No," he bit out.
Legolas looked at him in surprise at the sudden sound of hurt in his voice. "He..."
"I couldn't hold him," Aragorn cut in sharply. "Not like I wanted to." His voice broke and a sobbing breath escaped him. "The arrows... the arrows were in my way. I wanted to hold him tight. So tight that he couldn't leave me."
Legolas was startled by this first evidence of grieving by Aragorn. He uncertainly touched the man on his arm. "I am sorry, Aragorn."
"I know." Aragorn seemed to struggle and pull himself together. "You are a good friend, Legolas, and will ever be my friend. That has not changed. That will not change." They sat quietly together. Aragorn seemed back to his old self again, but the silence between them made Legolas squirm a bit.
"Aragorn," he said finally. "Take some rest. You have not slept in many days."
"I intend to. But I would talk with you again soon, Legolas. There are things that must be cleared between us."
Aragorn rose and left Legolas where he was. Legolas sat a while longer then followed him. He was apprehensive. He now wished that he had waited before urging Aragorn to sleep. 'Things that must be cleared between us?' That sounded ominous. It seemed when it came to Aragorn, all of the ways Legolas chose were perilous.
They approached the city of Edoras. It had been many days and nights, and Aragorn still had not spoken to Legolas of what he wished to say. Legolas feared he had forgotten it. He continued to obey his every request, supporting him in the only way he could. And Aragorn continued to knead the leather at his wrists. Legolas did not follow Aragorn again from the camp. If Aragorn wanted to talk, he would have to say it. Legolas did not wish to push. Well, he did, but he wasn't going to.
He bided his time by getting to know Gimli better. The way the stout-hearted fellow had kept up in Aragorn's rocketing rush to the Hobbit's rescue had impressed Legolas even more. He had already been impressed with the way Gimli had fought the cave troll, and charmed by his head over heels adoration of Galadriel. Legolas was well on his way to a friends for life status with his staunch Companion.
As he and Gimli grew closer, Legolas couldn't help noticing another relationship forming. He tried not to mind the growing closeness between Aragorn and Eowyn. He liked her. It seemed he was fated to see the good in all of his rivals for Aragorn's attention. He could see that she suffered in her love of him even as he did. He recognized the look in her eye when she watched Aragorn when she knew the Ranger was not looking. He'd seen it in Boromir's eyes before and had felt it in his own. The only difference was that she watched as Aragorn touched the jewel at his throat. Legolas watched as he touched the leather on his arms. And Aragorn gave none of his thoughts away. And he did not speak with Legolas of anything but needful things. Legolas began to feel taken for granted.
Aragorn stewed. He already felt helpless and alone and Gandalf was leaving him again. Heading out to track down Eomer and the rest of the Rohirrim. A much needed task, but Aragorn still felt abandoned. He was to go to Helm's Deep in support of Theoden. Fleeing to Helm's Deep was not the path he would choose, nor would any of the others, but they would back Theoden in his decision because the man was in no condition to handle anything else. His mind had been taken hostage by the enemy and while it was gone his kingdom had been thrown into disarray, his subjects attacked and driven from their homes, his nephew banished with most of Rohan's best warriors, and his son killed. The man was in no condition to be disagreed with.
Aragorn felt the lack of Boromir more and more. The man might have had tainted opinions, but at least he had opinions. Aragorn missed the energy that came from pitting himself against another.
Gimli wriggled out from beneath the pile of Wargs and riders. Splinters and shards, he thought. He'd gotten trapped so early in the fight he hadn't been able to account for much. The Elf had obviously bagged more than he had, and as for the Ranger... Hmm, Gimli looked around. Where was the Ranger?
"Aragorn!" Legolas' sharp call cut across the moans of the dying.
"Aragorn?" Gimli called. Where could the lad be? A dying Orc gasped and laughed at Gimli's feet. Laughed? Why would a dying Orc laugh? If he had ill news, Gimli thought. He looked up as Legolas approached him and the evil creature.
"Tell me what happened and I will ease your passing," Gimli growled to the Orc.
"He's dead," the Orc choked and laughed again. "Took a little tumble off the cliff."
"You lie!" Legolas snapped then grabbed something from the fingers of the Orc. It was Aragorn's pendant that his Lady Elf had given him. Gimli looked at Legolas. He was white as pearlescent limestone. Gimli felt a little pearlescent himself. Aragorn's loss would be a disaster of unimaginable proportions. Gimli couldn't get his mind around the possibility.
Legolas scrambled over to the edge of the cliff and looked down. Gimli joined him there with Theoden. All Gimli could see was an impossible drop bound by sharp unforgiving rock. How could the lad have survived that?
Théoden's voice rang out. "Get the wounded on horses. The wolves of Isengard will return. Leave the dead."
Gimli watched as Legolas's head snapped around to look at Theoden in shock. Gimli knew leaving the dead made sense. They didn't have the men to withstand another attack. But he also knew how Legolas felt hearing those words. Leaving the dead meant looking for Aragorn was out of the question. Dead or alive, the man was on his own.
Gimli wandered the halls of Helm's Deep looking for Legolas. He was worried about the Elf. He was taking the loss of Aragorn very hard. Faith, he was taking it hard himself. Perhaps he was looking for the Elf so that Legolas could comfort him. Too many losses on this quest. And now here they were, immured here with the others. Rats in a hole. Gimli didn't mind holes, he was more used to them than being out in the open. But this hole felt dangerous. This hole felt deadly. He went out onto the top of the Deeping Wall and there was his friend, sitting and staring out over the aspect it afforded him.
"Preparing for the attack?" Gimli asked, coming up from behind him. Legolas started heavily. "Eh, Laddie. Ye must be deep in thought indeed not to hear /my/ approach. Deep in the Deep if you will, heh, heh."
Legolas's smile was rather anemic, but then so was the joke, Gimli acknowledged to himself. He approached the Elf and laid his hand on his shoulder. Legolas turned and nestled his forehead against Gimli's chest. Gimli was touched at the Elf's reliance on him in his grief. Legolas was not normally one to be demonstrative. He placed his hand on the back of Legolas's head, stroking his hair awkwardly, then paused in anxiety. His finger was caught in Legolas's braid and Gimli couldn't think how he was going to get it out.
Suddenly a horseman appeared on the horizon carrying a rider that appeared huddled on his back. Gimli shook his finger free, covering the action by gesturing toward the rider. A long blond hair clung to his fingers and flustered, he hid it behind his back.
"Look," he said. "Another refugee. I wonder... man, woman, or child?" Legolas lifted his head and turned to look where the rider had started down the slope toward the Deep. Then he surged to his feet, focusing harder on the approaching figure.
"What is it lad?" Gimli asked in surprise.
"It is Aragorn!" Legolas crowed. "He's alive!" He sprang from the Wall and raced to a stair to rush down to meet the man. Gimli stood staring hard out at the figure. All he could see was a tiny black speck on a bigger black speck. Elf eyes were amazing, he decided, maybe even better than a Dwarf's.
"Come Gimli. We must greet him."
Gimli ran along in Legolas's wake. Suddenly the Elf turned. "Go to him Gimli! There is something I must get." Gimli continued forward wondering where Legolas was going.
Aragorn pried himself from out of Gimli's embrace. "Where is the King?" he asked him tensely. He had to warn him of the host that was bearing down on them. They were in more danger than anyone could ever have suspected. His rage and fear for all of them bubbled up, burning deep in his throat. He left Gimli behind in his haste to deliver the news to Theoden. Seeing the people around him staring at him in surprise and awe and getting in his way, exacerbated his apprehension. If the hoard had its way, everyone he was looking at was dead.
He neared the opening of the fortress and Legolas stepped out, shining brightly against the people Aragorn was viewing as dead. He was beaming happily.
"Le ab-dollen," he said, and handed Aragorn his pendant. Aragorn's eyes burned into him as they traveled from the jewel in his hands to the smile on the Elf's face. Then, "You look terrible," Legolas blurted out in consternation as he took in the extent of Aragorn's injuries. Aragorn began to laugh. Was there ever such a friend as Legolas, he wondered? His heart filled with thankfulness that he had the generous warmth of the Elf in his life. Losing him must not be an option.
"Hannon le," he responded, grinning at him and gripping his shoulders in happiness.
Aragorn watched as the men of Rohan were armed for battle. "Farmers, farriers, stable boys," he said sadly. "These are no soldiers."
"Most have seen too many winters," Gimli struck in.
"Or too few," Legolas added. "Look at them, they're frightened. I can see it in their eyes." He paused then continued in Elvish. "And they should be... three hundred against ten thousand."
Irritation shot through Aragorn. Didn't Legolas know? He knew this already. He answered Legolas in Elvish as well. "They have more hope of defending themselves here than at Edoras," trying to inject a note of positivity into the Elf.
Legolas made a frustrated movement at what he apparently thought was Aragorn's false hope. "Aragorn," he said, still in Elvish. "We are warriors. They cannot win this fight. They are all going to die."
"Then I shall die as one of them!" Aragorn spat out in anger... and in English, glaring at the Elf, abandoning Legolas and the Elves with his choice of language. Counting himself utterly among the humans at last. He thought of Boromir. The man would have been proud. Then he spun on his heel and left the room. He heard Gimli stop Legolas from following.
"Let him go, lad. Let him be."
Aragorn was grateful to the Dwarf. He needed to be alone right now.
It was an hour later that Aragorn entered the armory again to finish his preparations for the battle. He had not spent his time alone after all. He had spent it getting hope by giving it to a youngster who was terrified of what was coming. He had watched as the boy took back his sword from him and pelted off to his friends intending to pass on the words of encouragement that he gleaned from the Dunedain.
Aragorn reached for his own sword thinking about the boy, and all the other boys who would be in danger this night. His sword was handed him... by Legolas.
"We have trusted you this far and you have not led us astray." Legolas spoke in English. "Forgive me. I was wrong to despair." Aragorn appreciated the gesture. He already knew Legolas was with him. He answered him softly in Elvish.
"There is nothing to forgive, Legolas." He smiled and Legolas grinned back in relief. The silence stretched out for a moment longer than expected. Aragorn felt himself sway toward Legolas whose eyes widened and jaw tensed. Then Gimli appeared.
"If I have time, I'll get this adjusted," he said and released the gathered folds of the mail, several inches of which hit the floor with a clank. "It's a little tight across the chest."
Then, just as the man and the Elf were laughing together at the irritated Dwarf, the silvery notes of a horn sounded in the Deep.
"That is no Orc horn," Legolas gasped, astounded to hear such beauty in a place of so much desperation.
The three friends ran from the armory in time to see Elves arriving at Helm's Deep. Aragorn lived up to his promise to Boromir to welcome Haldir with open arms the next time he saw him by throwing his arms gratefully around the astounded Elf. Truth be told, he would have done it no matter how he'd felt about the other. Such was his feeling of vulnerability and his delight in the support of his Elvish friends.
Haldir already knew of the loss of Boromir. Galadriel had seen it in her mirror and had broken it to him. Aragorn was relieved that he did not have to tell him himself. Tears burned in the Elf's eyes as he eulogized the man. It was strange, Aragorn thought. Seeing Haldir mourn brought up no feelings of grief for him where Boromir was concerned. He missed him, certainly, and was sad that he was gone, but it was a pale memory of what it once was. Like a healed over scar. Still there, but no longer so painful. Perhaps he was finally getting past his loss of the man. He stroked the leather gauntlets again. He would always love and miss Boromir in some ways. But it was good to be out from under the weight of his departure.
Haldir felt the Orc weapon slice into his back. He knew instantly that the wound was mortal. He began to fall, the world shifting into slow motion inside him. For the first time in the fierce battle, he had time to look around. He wished he hadn't. Death and destruction assaulted his senses. The unseeing eyes of rows and piles of beautiful Elves met his fading gaze. They had sacrificed themselves for this fight, as had he, he realized at the last. He wondered if Middle Earth would survive this loss. He had wanted to help save it. But now he feared it was over for all, not just for him.
"Boromir," he gasped. Perhaps he would see his love again, Haldir thought as the light of the world dimmed. It was odd how close he had gotten to the man in so short a time. That was not Haldir's way. He coupled quickly and casually with many, and rarely risked his heart. But there was something about the Gondorian. A hidden torment. A secret sadness. Something they had not spoken of. Haldir knew he was but a respite for Boromir, but he had lost his heart to him anyway. He had missed him intensely after the Company had left.
It was very strange, he thought. Everything was moving so slowly. He was still falling, in fact. He vaguely heard Aragorn screaming his name and someone caught him before he hit the ground, gently lowering him onto the flagway. But his sight was dark and he could not see whom it was had caught him. It did not matter anyway. The fight was lost as far as he was concerned. He wondered what the Havens looked like. Now he would never know.
Aragorn sat wearily on his horse, in a line with Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, Théoden, Gamling and Eomer. The fight was over; they had won. But the price had been staggering.
"Sauron's wrath will be terrible," Gandalf told them. "His retribution swift. The battle for Helm's Deep is over. The battle for Middle Earth is about to begin. All our hopes lie with two little Hobbits, somewhere in the wilderness."
Aragorn looked over at Legolas, nodding solemnly at something Gimli had said to him. It was time he talked to the Elf. Of many things. Haldir's death had made Aragorn realize his time was limited. Trouble was on its way. Aragorn did not want to lose his chance again.
Legolas sat on the bed in his room at the Golden Hall brooding on Frodo and Sam. He hoped they were still well, although he didn't see how they could possibly be. He spoke a plea to the Valar, to guard them and guide their footsteps on the path they needed to tread.
"Send them friends in their dark times, when the friends that wish to, cannot aid them," he prayed. A knock on the door interrupted his supplication. He finished it quickly then called to the unknown to enter. The door opened and the form of Aragorn filled the doorway.
"Come in, Aragorn," Legolas said in surprise. "How can I be of help?"
He watched Aragorn slowly wend his way across the room, stopping in the middle. Legolas looked at him curiously. Something was different. Then he realized... no gauntlets. His eyes flew up to Aragorn's neck. No pendant. Legolas straightened up on the bed. This could be interesting. Aragorn cleared his throat edgily.
"Do you remember a night on the Mark?" he asked. "I said there were things of which I wished to speak?"
Legolas stared at the man. Did he remember? Was he jesting? Not a day had passed that Legolas had not thought of that conversation. Did the man mean that he would at last clear up the mystery of his words of that night? Legolas nodded to the Ranger. Indeed, he did remember.
Aragorn sat down on the bed with the Elf, facing him. "I haven't said anything before this, because it did not seem to be the right time. But Haldir's death taught me that time can run out, even for Elves." He reached across and took Legolas by the hand. Legolas's breath caught in his throat and a thrill ran through him at the touch of the man.
Aragorn hesitated and seemed to struggle to find words. Then with a gesture of impatience, he slid closer to the Elf and grasped a handful of the flaxen silk atop Legolas's head, allowing the strands to slide off his fingers.
"You still want me?" He rasped softly. Legolas nodded. "That's all right then," Aragorn said. "Because I want you too, more than even I did a few moments ago." He pulled gently at the soft golden mass and maneuvered the lips of the Elf to his own. "What do you want?" he murmured into the wet, darkness of Legolas's mouth. "What do you like?"
Legolas's body softened into the arms of the Ranger. Pliant and accommodating, he molded himself to the will of the man before him. "I love you," he breathed back into the other man's mouth as he took him into his arms. The urgent lips of the Ranger felt wonderful, so hungry atop of his own. "Do whatever you wish to me."
Aragorn's smile faded. "What," he asked the Elf, startled, "have I done to engender such trust?"
"What haven't you done?" Legolas said and pulled away, laying back on his bed, an open invitation to exploration. And Aragorn's hands did explore, reaching around and under restraining pieces of clothing. Legolas began to unfasten and slide out of his clothes so there would be no restraints between them, at least on his side. Aragorn was still fully dressed.
Naked now, Legolas turned his attention to uncovering as much of Aragorn's skin as he could. As he pulled and tugged at the clothing in his way, Aragorn's lips latched on to the bare skin on his neck, high up, so it would be hidden by his hair. Legolas shivered, the skin on his neck tightening as the warm lips touched him. Aragorn began to suck until the lustrous skin bore a bright purple mark. Then he kissed and licked the mark that he had made.
"You are mine," he smiled into the bright blue eyes that met his own. Legolas laughed at his possessive tone.
"I have been yours for years," the Elf said. "Without a mark anywhere but on my heart."
Legolas then pulled at the last piece of clothing on Aragorn. His breeches. Aragorn obligingly lifted his hips so the Elf could drag the pants down off of him. Now, both were free of clothing and Aragorn drew the Elf tightly against him as they lay down together on the bed.
"What finally made you decide that you wanted me?" Legolas asked, stroking Aragorn's muscular chest. Aragorn smiled and buried his face in the golden hair of the Elf.
"So many things," he said softly. "When you told me you loved me and asked me for nothing. When you continued to support me even when you were enraged at me. Your courage and ability to fight. Your beauty and grace and strength and skill. Your friendship. Your wisdom. Your generous ability to forgive my stupidity. But the decider... the decider was when you fought against me at a time when I needed you to. At the Deep. You galvanized me, Legolas. Helped me get ready for the battle to come."
"Well," Legolas smiled. "As long as you are sure that you know what it is about me that you like. Anything else? Please continue." Aragorn stared at him and burst into laughter.
"You are incorrigible," he said, nuzzling the tip of Legolas's ear. Legolas leaned into the caress greedily. Aragorn's calloused hands made their rough way down the satin of Legolas's skin to his hardness, gripping him gently, massaging and pulling at his length. Legolas's fingers stroked at Aragorn's bare wrists.
"No gauntlets?" He asked innocently.
"They will go back on after. As will the pendant," Aragorn said. "But for now, I am all yours. As for the future, I do not know. But for today, you are all mine."
"Done," Legolas smiled and draped his arms around the strong shoulders of the man. "Whatever you will give, I will take."
"You deserve more," Aragorn said with guilt lurking in his eyes.
"I will have more someday. Today I want you."
Aragorn smiled, dropping his head and looking up through his hair at the Elf. "Did I mention your devilish Elven wit?" He asked.
Legolas laughed in his throat and turned over, nestling the swell of his rear against Aragorn's erection. Aragorn's breath whistled in sharply.
"Take me today, Aragorn," he whispered, leaning his head back on the Ranger's shoulder. "Take me today. While I'm yours."
Aragorn's fingers stroked the soft flank that rested against his thigh. "I have never done this," he said hesitantly.
Legolas looked back at him in surprise. "Boromir...?" He began, then winced at his clumsy mention of that name at this time. But Aragorn merely shook his head, undisturbed.
"Hands and mouths," he replied briefly. "It was to be a beginning." His hand rose higher to caress the defined musculature of the Elf's back. "Before that it had been... oh years since I have done anything more than kissing. And none of it was ever with a man. To be honest with you Legolas, just the thought of it is making it unlikely that I will succeed."
Legolas rolled away looking at Aragorn in concern. "Too repellant?" he asked.
"Too exciting," Aragorn answered, leaning forward to nuzzle the Elf's cheek. "I wouldn't last."
Legolas slid down the bed and took Aragorn into his mouth. The Ranger stiffened and fell onto his back, as if he'd been stabbed. Legolas followed him over, losing his grip on him, his hair streaming down around his head to pool softly on Aragorn's lap. "I can help with that, I think," Legolas said, taking him back into his mouth again.
Legolas was just getting started when Aragorn stiffened again, a grunting gasp escaping his lips and a warm thickness flooding Legolas's mouth.
"We're going to have to do that again," he said to Aragorn after he swallowed. "Later."
He positioned himself partially atop Aragorn, laying his ear over his heart and the Ranger reached down and stroked his hands over his arousal, slowly, patiently, and with an aching gentleness until at last, Legolas arched, feeling an intensity of release he had never felt with a rougher touch. They lay together quietly. The first heat of passion soothed, waiting for the next wave to lift them and send them tumbling again into one another.
"Legolas," Aragorn asked suddenly. "Since you know so much about me. How long has it been since you last...?"
Legolas felt a flush start in his cheeks. "Aragorn, time is relative to an Elf."
"I'm sure you get offers all the time," Aragorn pursued.
"Offers, yes. Many of them. As have you, I am certain."
"So when is the last time you accepted one."
"Aragorn, why is this important to you?"
"Well the more you evade, the more curious I am. What was it? Last night?"
Legolas laughed almost bitterly, "Hardly."
Aragorn's eyes narrowed. "Years?" Legolas said nothing. "Decades?"
"Aragorn this is foolish."
Aragorn moved away from the Elf. "How long Legolas?" He persisted. "I can tell you that, before Boromir, it had been almost sixty-six years for me. I forswore all lovers but Arwen one year after first I saw her."
"I too forswore all lovers after I saw someone." Legolas said hesitantly. "But in the length of my life, the time has been but the twitch of an eye."
"Who was the lucky one? Did you ever get together? What happened to the two of you?"
Legolas smiled. "So many questions." Aragorn's eyes pleaded an answer. Legolas relented. "Well, I met him when he was just a boy of sixteen. We seem to be in the midst of getting together, and evidently for today," a graceful finger stroked the purple mark at his neck. "I am his."
Aragorn stared at the Elf. "Oh, Legolas," he said sadly. 'Did I say you deserve more? You deserve all." He swept forward fastening his lips on the mouth of the Elf. "Guide me," He demanded. "I want you so much. But I want it to be magic. I want it to be right."
"It will be for me, my love, no matter how it is done."
Aragorn slid his body over, taking the path offered earlier by the Elf. He prepared the way carefully with a lotion from Legolas's bedside and then slowly, tenderly slid into the intense beauty of his friend. They lay still for a while. Joined. Connected. Together, at last. Then Aragorn began to move. Slowly at first, then with gathering speed and force. And Legolas gave back, as always, more than he took.
Aragorn knew that this was right. Arwen, Boromir, and now Legolas. All had been his loves and all would ever have his love. But right now, this was where he belonged. If Boromir was still alive, perhaps this would not have happened. And Aragorn acknowledged he would have been poorer for it. But he and Boromir were each so different, they probably would not have lasted as lovers very long, even without the influence of the Ring. And Legolas seemed to have been willing to wait as long as it would take.
Aragorn knew he had chosen Boromir with his heart. Arwen, he had chosen with his head. Who else was more right to be the Queen of Men. She represented everything that he could never be. She was without flaw. He didn't know what would happen if she was waiting for him when he returned to Rivendell. He would address that when it was upon him.
Right now, he wanted to be where he was. With Legolas. The one he had chosen with his heart and head together at last. It wasn't that he was inconstant or a fool, Aragorn decided. It had just been a matter of timing.
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