1. Seeking to Please
The morning sun blazed onto the porch in Rivendell, illuminating it as brightly as a stage. Elrohir minutely adjusted the curtain that screened the nook he hid in, making sure he could see out into the sun-lit area while he remained shrouded in the shadows of the room. It had taken more than a day to arrange this 'accidental' meeting, and he did not intend to miss it.
Arwen's behavior, since Aragorn had ridden into the valley the day before yesterday, was ridiculous.
"He's returned! Estel is back for a visit at last," had run through the household.
Amidst the general rejoicing, his sister had given a sorrowful sigh, whisked her skirts out the door, and was nowhere to be found when the man was welcomed back into the house.
It's a kindness, Elrohir, he mimicked her under his breath as he waited. Seeing me would remind him of his folly, and perhaps open old wounds. No one would have taken any notice if she had simply welcomed him as a brother. She would see how easy it was, if all went as he planned.
Aragorn, in the twelve years he had been gone from Rivendell, had matured into as fine a man as any Elrohir had ever known. It was no kindness to him for Arwen to hold aloof while Aragorn visited. He rolled his eyes. His sister seriously expected Aragorn to falter at a glimpse of her perfect features and cause embarrassment for both of them. The Man had so few days to spend in Rivendell and he was no longer the callow boy who had run after her in the woods calling, "Tinuviel." Even then, Aragorn had known enough not to importune her, until he had unwisely blurted out his love for her on the day he left.
Elrohir longed for them to be a family together, and he had faith in Aragorn's discretion. If they could be brought past the first awkwardness, all would be well. Elrohir craned his neck to see down to the end of the porch.
Aragorn came around the corner on the right. His eyes widened as, a moment later, Arwen entered the porch from the left, struggling with an ungainly armful of warp sticks of various lengths for her looms. The bundle of finely finished, slippery sticks threatened to slide out of her grasp. She did not notice Aragorn standing in the middle of the porch with a delighted smile on his face. Elrohir grinned and settled back to watch. Another two steps and she would bump right into him.
Her head jerked up and she stopped abruptly. "Oh!"
"May I assist you?" Aragorn gave Arwen a slight deferential bow, and held out his arms to receive the bundle.
Elrohir saw dismay in her face and his grinned widened. Avoid him now, sister.
"No, thank you, Estel." She seemed rooted to the spot.
The man favored her with an easy smile. "Estel?" he queried. "It has been many a year since I have been called by that name."
She seemed taken aback by the reminder. She made a step to the side as if to pass, giving a slight inclination of her head. "Excuse me, Aragorn," she said coolly,
"Shh!" he admonished her, finger to his lips to request silence.
"Why?" Arwen's brow furrowed in confusion and she stopped, tilting the bundle of sticks out of his way.
He took a step to the side also, blocking her way again as he made an elaborate show of peering around the porch, craning to see behind the pillars and over the railing. Elrohir noted with approval the mischief in his eyes that invited her to share in the jest. "My continued existence is still a straightly guarded secret. Do not bandy that name where anyone may overhear it," he whispered seriously, though a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.
Elrohir silently applauded his brother. The combination of earnest tone, laughing eyes, and light banter should convince her her fears were needless.
Arwen stared at the man, puzzled. She looked as if she wanted to share his amusement, but was not quite sure if the admonishment was intended to be frivolous, for she knew it was a serious matter to the Dúnedain. To Elrohir she looked quite uncharacteristically helpless with her arms full of sticks beginning to slide and a perplexed expression.
Reassess him, Arwen, he is not the boy he was, Elrohir thought.
A short stick slid out of the middle of the bundle and bounced onto the ground.
Aragorn bent to pick the stick up and offered it to her, though neither of them seemed at all sure where it should go. He patiently waited for a signal to tell him what to do with it.
"Very smooth." He ran his hand down its fine finish to the carved finial, which he inspected carefully. "These are your work?"
"Yes, I made them. " Arwen struggled to get the sticks level as several more threatened to slide out of the bundle.
Elrohir recognized her dilemma but spared her scant sympathy. While Aragorn held the warp stick, it was impossible for her to simply flee. To push it back into the bundle he would have to touch her to steady it, as she had no hand free to take it. To remain aloof, she could neither ask Aragorn to accompany her, nor ask him to slide the stick back into the bundle she held, nor surrender the sticks for him to carry. Seeing his normally calm and self-possessed sister at such a loss – he regretted now not inviting Elladan to share the spectacle.
"No chance that it will snag even the finest warp threads passing over it. Beautiful work. I have not the talent to do anything as fine as this," Aragorn said with obvious admiration for her craftsmanship. The sticks wobbled again. "Are you sure I cannot assist you?"
"I can manage," she said quickly, uttering the obvious untruth with indecision flickering in her eyes as she watched him. His face was open and inviting.
She stopped fidgeting with the sticks and regarded him with an exasperated expression. "If neither Estel nor Aragorn, what shall I call you?"
Playing for time, sister? See, he is still easy to talk to.
"Whatever you please, lady, for I am used to answering to many names."
"You serve a southern king, in… Rohan?" He nodded. "By what name do they call you?"
"They favored 'Useless Clod' while they thought I did not understand their speech. Though I hope I soon taught them otherwise." His tone was guileless but his eyes so knowing that Elrohir was hard put not to laugh and give himself away.
Another stick slid out of the bundle. "With your fists, no doubt," Arwen said one eye-brow skeptically cocked, though Elrohir could see a smile beginning to curve her lips.
Aragorn crouched to pick up the errant stick and looked up, wounded eyes hovering above a smile. "No, no. I assure you, I have become a model captain, and respected for the wisdom of my counsel. Thengel King would have my fealty if I could give it."
"And he summons you by calling for 'Councillor Clod'?" Arwen asked with amazement, her face finally matching his for guileless innocence.
His approving nod acknowledged her entry into the game, and he conceded the point with a grin. "Nay, the Rohirrim know me as Thorongil."
"But that is a Sindarin name." In her puzzlement her grip must have loosened because several sticks slid out of the middle of the bundle and hit the floor.
"And when they cannot wrap their tongues around it, they fall back on 'Clod'." He picked up the fallen sticks and added them to the ones he already held. "Though not usually in the King's hearing."
"You prefer that I call you Thorongil?" She was smiling. Elrohir's spirits rose.
"I?" Aragorn looked surprised. "Lady, you may call me by whatever name you choose. Thorongil, if that pleases you, or any other."
Arwen tilted her head to the side and contemplated him for a moment, suspicion suddenly rampant again in her narrowed eyes and pursed lips. Elrohir grit his teeth as the silence dragged on, until she burst into a peal of laughter. "So you no longer insist on a string of titles, Isildur's Heir, Lord of the Dúnedain?"
He gave her a small shrug and a captivating smile. "Do you forgive me?"
"What have you done that needs forgiveness?"
Aragorn cast his eyes down and shed his playful demeanor, when he looked back up he seemed taller and more grave. His grey eyes met hers evenly. "I remember forcing a quite passionate speech on you containing some remarkably grandiose phrases. I was very young."
"Perhaps I was also more cruel than needful," Arwen admitted, "for I recall cutting you off and not giving you a chance to finish. You had not acted like the others and your ardor surprised me. I do not usually let it go so far." Her eyes softened. "But I was right, was I not? Your opinions have all changed since then."
"Arwen, be reasonable." He stepped back and looked her over critically, his eyes dancing again with laughter. "I am well-travelled but I have not seen every woman! I do not think I can say, with any conviction, that you are not the most beautiful, though I have heard some descriptions of the Lady Galadriel that are very flattering. I admit the possibility that there may be a woman more beautiful, but surely you are still passing fair. No." He shook his head and sounded sorrowful, but his face was lit by a dazzling smile. "I cannot say I have changed all my opinions."
Look at him, Arwen! Be charmed. Elrohir held his breath waiting for her reaction.
Arwen giggled, and Elrohir let out his pent up breath. She quickly stifled her laughter.
"But you are no longer infatuated?" she insisted.
His smile never wavered and his eyes steadily held hers. "I am not infatuated," he assured her.
She hesitated for another moment then leaned the warp sticks against the porch wall. Handing him sticks enough to make the number he carried equal to hers, she said, "Then I accept your offer of assistance, Dúnadan."
His brows rose. "Dúnadan?"
"Has no one called you that before?" she asked. She picked up her half of the sticks and started walking along the porch.
"No!" He grabbed up his portion and started after her. "This seems an excessive number of warp sticks."
"I have many looms."
They passed out of sight, and Elrohir allowed himself a deep sigh. That had gone even better than he expected. Oh, he was clever, that brother of his. Aragorn had spoken only the truth; his love was deep and no infatuation. At least the way was smoothed now for them to be at ease with each other. The future would have to arrange itself. Aragorn would return to the south, but he would take with him the memory of a few smiles.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.