15. Firm, Steady, Determined and Kind
"Legolas!" Cellinn fell to her knees beside the bed, taking his hand in her own.
He turned his head to look at her, wincing with the movement. "Hurts."
She could see the pain in his eyes and reached up to stroke his cheek. "Shall I summon Istuion to give you something for it?" He nodded ever so slightly, and she stood and nearly ran to the door. "Istuion! Istuion!" She raised her voice, "ISTUION!"
The healer appeared just as she finished yelling his name, frowning at her in dismay. "My lady, you cannot yell in such a manner. You will disturb—"
Cellinn cut him off by grabbing him by the arm and yanking him into the room. "He's awake and in pain! Help him!"
Istuion darted to the bed where Legolas lay blinking at them. "Prince Legolas!" Impatiently, she watched Istuion examine Legolas's eyes one at a time, bringing a lamp closer and withdrawing it. "How great is your pain?" The healer asked. "Squeeze my hand to show me." He then flinched as Legolas's knuckles turned white around his fingers.
Cellinn wrung her hands, biting her lip as she waited for something to be done. Her beloved hurt, and oh, how she hated feeling useless! But Istuion took quick action, asking Legolas where his pain was worst, then leaving to fetch his medicinals.
As soon as Istuion left, Cellinn strode back to the bedside and pulled the chair up close beside it. She longed to sit on the bed next to Legolas, but feared her weight would jar his injuries and cause him further hurt. Settling on the chair, she gently picked up his hand again and stroked his fingers. "You'll feel better soon." She smiled encouragingly at him, tracing down his thumb with her forefinger.
He closed his eyes, his breathing ragged. "Sorry," he whispered.
"Sorry? For what?" She continued stroking his hand, waiting for him to speak.
He licked his lips and attempted to speak again, but the effort seemed difficult for him. She then remembered the large lump on his head, and imagined it ached; so she shushed him with her fingers against his lips. "Shhh... 'Tis all right. You have nothing to be sorry for, love."His eyes slit open, and he seemed to plead with her. Such sorrow in those silver depths! "Legolas, truly, everything will be all right!"
Tears filled her eyes at his hoarse whisper. "Oh, Lass." She stood and bent over to place a kiss on his cheek, but he turned his head and caught her lips, gasping at the movement. "Be still!" she fussed, distraught, and kissed him again. "The wedding will wait until you are well. In the meantime, I will take care of you."
It took a moment for him to react, but his eyes widened. "You?" He rasped, glancing slowly down at himself. His gaze lingered on his bare chest covered by the bindings on his ribs, down his belly to where his bare skin disappeared under the covers at his waist. Cellinn felt her face heating as his eyes came back to hers, holding a look of wonder. "All of me?" And a mischievous smile twitched at his lips.
She sank back into the chair and covered her burning face with her hands, trying not to laugh. "Yes, all of you! As I've been doing all day. I-I…I even gave you a bath!"
"Shame on you," came his amused whisper. And when she peeked at him through her fingers, she saw one corner of his mouth was still pulled up into that crooked smile she loved, though his eyes were closed again.
"I did get an eyeful when I walked in on the apprentice getting things ready for it. But I kicked her out and did it myself." From the screen of her fingers she could see his shoulders shake slightly, but then he gasped and paled. "Legolas!" Her hands dropped and she reached for him as she realized his laughter had jarred his broken ribs.
It took him a moment to catch his breath and when his pain-filled eyes opened, he pleaded with her. "No laughing." And his eyes slid shut again.
"Sorry," she soothed, lifting his hand in hers and pressing her lips to his fingers. "I'll tell you about it later, when you're better." He gave her a pained smile; his eyes remained shut.
When Istuion returned, he brought a strong smelling thick, dark tea infused with tinctures and various herbs to help with the pain, inflammation and to speed healing of the broken bones and damaged tissues. But he and Cellinn had a difficult time getting it into Legolas. They had to raise him, propping pillows behind him, in order for him to be able to drink the tea, and that caused all the color to drain from Legolas's face. He groaned pitifully, causing her heart to ache. For a moment, she thought he might get sick, but he grit his teeth and breathed shallowly until some color slowly returned to his face. But after all their efforts to settle and soothe him, he refused to drink the tea, saying it tasted as foul as horse droppings.
Cellinn had rarely heard Legolas use such language. She gasped and rebuked him for making a fuss when the healer was only trying to help.
"Drink it yourself and let me be then," he told her. Not once did he open his eyes, so he could not see the tears that formed and slipped down her cheeks. But she was glad of that! She did not want him to see how his words hurt. He was not himself, and she would remind herself of that frequently if necessary. She needed to be firm, steady, determined and kind if she were to help him — even when he did not want it.
So she dumped the now cooled tea over his head and walked out. Istuion's laughter followed her.
"Please Naneth," Legolas gasped, "tell her…I didn't mean…." he endured her mothering as she washed the sticky tea from his face and chest. His hair proved more difficult and would require the healers to change the bedding when she finished. She stayed quiet while she worked, which gave him way too much time to try to think, and thinking made his head hurt worse. He loved his mother, but he longed for Cellinn and her tender regard — at least the regard she had shown before drenching him in that foul-smelling slop! Legolas had not spoken to her in such a way in years! If ever. And he had no idea how to make it right when he ached so badly he felt his head would burst.
The door creaked open, and he glanced up to see Cellinn entering the room. She did not look one bit chagrined about soaking him in his tea! In fact, she carried a new mug of the foul brew. Walking to the bedside opposite his mother, she sat in a chair placed there, and then she looked up at him. Legolas found himself drowning in blue eyes full of determination.
"I brought you some more tea for the pain, since you spilled the last cup."
He blinked, not sure he had heard her correctly. He had not spilled the tea — she had dumped it on him! He opened his mouth to tell her so, but she spoke first.
"I'm sure you'll be more careful with this one, since your mother has done such a fine job of washing you clean of the last. It would be a pity for you to wear another cup. While Istuion was amused that you spilled the first cup, he has admonished that herbs are not to be wasted." She smiled sweetly at him.
From the corner of his eyes, he thought his mother stifled a laugh. He scowled at her then turned back to Cellin. He wanted to shake her. "You spilled it," he whispered, giving her an accusing glare.
"Did I?" She seemed to contemplate that a minute before responding, "No, I'm sure it was your fault." Then she leaned forward and kissed his lips. All his ire melted away in her touch. "I'm sorry," she whispered, pulling back and giving him a helpless look. How could he not forgive her? Truly, could he blame her? No; he had been an arse.
"I'll drink it," he told her contritely, but mentally he added, if I can keep it down! It tasted as foul as he remembered, but he forced himself to drink the whole cup. His stomach roiled, but somehow, he managed not to be ill. He was rewarded by Cellinn taking over his care for the remainder of the day. When he was not dozing she helped him sip water, wiped his brow, spoke softly to him and sent Arandur to fetch various items from his room to give him something to look at in the bare healing room.
His mother stayed nearby and shooed Cellinn out when it came time to deal with more personal matters, for which he was thankful. Legolas felt in no condition to deal with embarrassment on top of his injuries. Not that having his mother help kept him from blushing any less, though she often enlisted the help of Arandur, Istuion and once even Thranduil, for which he was grateful. He had a good mother.
He slept on and off during the remainder of the day. He had been awake for about an hour, Cellinn sitting beside him stroking his fingers, when his mother entered and explained he needed to sleep for the night. He sensed Cellinn's reluctance as she released his fingers and stood.
"I'll go to my room now," she whispered. Legolas had rarely seen her look so forlorn.
"Stay," he whispered back. "Stay with me." But she shook her head as tears filled her eyes. He did not understand, and he could not reach her to wipe the wet trails away.
Legolas felt he had been dumped off his mount as she fled the room.
With her went all the comfort he craved, all his peace. When his mother explained the reasoning of her departure, he understood, but he did not agree. His heart resisted defiantly. He wanted Cellinn! Needed her!
To his mother's and Istuion's vexation, Legolas slept little that night. He pined for his love, her soothing touch and tender whispers. Even the short periods he managed to sleep, he dreamed he chased her futilely through a dark mist, her form just out of sight, but her voice tempting him onward until it faded away.
He woke crying out her name, drenched in sweat and shaking, his pain so intense he could not keep anything in his stomach. His mother's attempts to calm him proved vain, and finally, as the sky began to lighten to grey, she sent for Cellinn. Only when her fingers traced his brow did he finally succumb to an exhausted but peaceful slumber.
That first night proved the worst by far, though the following nights were trying as well. The first two days Cellinn stayed with Legolas, and a good portion of the nights also. But to keep tongues from wagging, she retired for the darkest hours. Those nights were wracked with vivid dreams that had him waking soaked in sweat and crying out for her. His mother would shush and attempt to comfort him, but he could not return to sleep until Cellinn was called. She sat beside him and stroked his brow or held his hand while whispering of her love and only then could he slip back to sleep. But when he woke in the morn, she was gone again, and waking without her there left him empty and aching.
It was too much. They should be married now! Today, he realized. We should be getting married today! He could hear the preparations for the Solstice festivities — celebrations that would not include their wedding. He sighed.
He wanted Cellinn to stay with him, but she could not for the appearance of propriety. As if he could do anything improper! Not that the thought did not cross his mind, but currently, any plans of foregoing a wedding and simply making her his wife were impossible to act on!
And he reminded himself, he wanted a ceremony.
As the next couple days wore on, however, he just wanted to have Cellinn as his wife. To have her stay with him through the long hours of night, banishing the dark dreams that haunted his rest. To have her snuggled beside him, holding him as he wrapped his arms around her. It would be enough, he realized one night, just to have her there, whether they could complete the union or not. To have her stay with him, even if only to be in each other's company. He had placed too much emphasis in his own thoughts on their joining, rather than just having the company of the one he loved. And with that insight, Legolas began to form a plan.
A week had passed since his accident. Each day Legolas grew a bit stronger, the pain receded a bit more and he could sit up in his bed and feed himself. His head no longer ached, his ribs were just sore, but his knee still throbbed, and he did his best not to jar the limb.
When he questioned Istuion about when he would be back on his feet, the healer just shook his head. "Not any time soon, my prince. We'll start some exercises in bed, but no weight bearing for a time."
It was not the answer Legolas wanted to hear. He wanted to be able to stand, if just for a few minutes. He thought and thought of a way around it, and eventually managed — through much pleading — to get some cooperation from Istuion, though Legolas also had to accept he would be doing little more than sitting for some time.
His mother was now suggesting the coming of Spring for the wedding, but Legolas was determined not to wait that long. But he would need someone to help him. He grinned and sent a note to Arandur and one to his father asking them to come at a time Cellinn would be out of the room.
He grinned as his father entered the room. "Adar."
Thranduil sat down beside the bed and observed him with a contemplative look. "You're planning something."
Legolas blinked. "What makes you think that?"
Thranduil's eyes narrowed at him. "I know you, son. I know when you're up to something and right now," he crossed his arms and sat back in the chair, "you are up to something."
"So I am," he admitted.
Legolas shook his head. "Not yet."
A few moments later, Arandur knocked on the door and came in. His brother stopped just after entering, giving him a hard look, then glanced to their father. "He is up to something."
Thranduil chuckled. "That's what I said!"
"Well?" Arandur crossed his arms, leaning back against the wall. "Spill it!"
Legolas told them his plans. Arandur chuckled, shaking his head, but Thranduil just smiled, his eyes twinkling.
"Alright. I'll see to it."
"Thank you, Adar."
Thranduil squeezed his shoulder and left. Arandur talked with him a few minutes longer, then also departed, having agreed to do his part.
Legolas smiled for the rest of the day.
Cellinn peeked around the door to determine if Legolas was awake. He glanced at her, his lips drawing up in his familiar crooked smile as he waved her inside. Gladly, she moved to sit beside him, taking his hand in her own and bringing it to her lips.
"Istuion said your father visited. Did you have a nice visit?" He nodded. "What did you talk about?"
"You." He gave her a look that quite unsettled her.
"You're up to something!" she accused, though she smiled despite the strange fluttering in her chest his expression elicited.
He grinned. "Why does everyone keep saying that? First Adar, then Arandur, Naneth and Istuion, and now you!"
"You have that look."
He laughed, and she noted he only mildly pressed his fingers to his ribs. He was healing well, and for that, she could abide his teasing. Though she really wished to know what he was up to.
"So what are you planning?"
His answer caused her breath to still and her heart to pound.
To Be Continued...