17. Something Significant
Cellinn breathed deeply, not wishing to rouse from her rest just yet. She was much too comfortable. A hand caressed her hair and face. Her cheek lay on something warm that rose and fell in a steady rhythm, and she could hear a steady thump thump thump…
The sound of his voice rumbled in her ear. She smiled. It felt so wonderful to wake in his bed, in his arms, like this. "It is a good morning," she agreed, snuggling closer against him and wrapping her arm around his waist.
Legolas chuckled, his arm tightening around her shoulders. "This is perfect, is it not?"
She closed her eyes, enjoying every minute. "It is."
"I could lie here like this with you forever, except…um…"
Cellinn frowned. What was he trying to say? "What?"
"Linn…" he sighed, and she heard something like defeat in it. "I — I need your assistance, love."
She blinked. Wha–? Oh! She pushed up so she could see his face.
He gave her a sheepish grin. "If you can just bring me the chamber pot, I can manage."
She blinked again, both horrified and yet amused. She chose to laugh, kissing him lightly on the lips before she rose. "I know this shall be awkward at first…"
"It's awkward no matter how long one needs help for certain things." He folded his arms, looking so sulky that she laughed again. He looked like a pouting elfling sitting like that. A very handsome, disheveled, bare-chested…
She let her eyes wander over him a moment, following his bare abdomen to where the skin disappeared below the covers. With effort, she dragged her eyes away and reached for the pot. "I suppose it would be." She stood there fidgeting, uncertain what to do now. She hoped she did not have to stand here while he…he…
He winked at her. "If you want to change while I attend to this, truly, I can manage."
Despite his attempt at lightheartedness, she could see his cheeks turning pink. She grabbed some clothing and fled into the dressing room where she attended to her morning ablutions. When she returned, she dealt with the pot, and helped him dress in a large nightshirt, averting her eyes and blushing when the blanket slipped down, giving her a peek at certain parts of him.
He chuckled. "Nothing you haven't seen before!" he teased. She smacked him lightly on the arm and headed for the door to get their breakfast. The rest of the morning she spent snuggled beside him on the bed while they took turns reading from a book. It was perfect.
In the afternoon, Istuion came to check on Legolas's knee. He clucked and prodded, frowned and muttered to himself by turns. Then the healer looked up with a smile. "I do think we can begin some more intense exercises today if you are not in pain."
Cellinn smiled when Legolas's eyes brightened with excitement and he nodded with enthusiasm. But as it turned out, the exercises were not much more than Istuion had already been doing; only instead of the healer moving the leg, Legolas was required to make the movements while Istuion helped support the limb. He flinched and bit his lip at one point, the blood draining from his face, leaving him pale and panting.
She nodded as Istuion explained what he was doing and why, showing her how to hold the leg while Legolas tightened the muscles, supporting the joint. Then the healer supplied her with more tinctures of lengwaloth and belholch to be given at regular intervals throughout the day, as well as a vial of herbal oil for her to rub into the knee and the muscles above and below it to increase circulation and help alleviate stiffness. The strong smell permeated the room, and she wrinkled her nose. It was not an unpleasant smell, but a spicy mix of lavender, belholch, and chamomile, reminding her of fresh pine sap.
"I expect him to do these exercises twice a day as we've just done: in the morning and before he retires for the night," Istuion explained. "In a few days, we'll increase it to three times. I'd like to get him moving on crutches, but I fear we'll have to let those ribs heal a bit more first. It will set him back a bit with walking, but we'll try to make up for it with the exercises." Cellinn nodded, hoping she would remember everything she needed to do. Istuion eased her concern when he finished with, "I'll be back this evening to watch and make sure you've understood all I've said." Then the healer smiled, patted Legolas's good leg and left them.
Legolas slept most of the afternoon. The exercises and accompanying pain had exhausted him. Cellinn used the time to explore Legolas's rooms, though she longed to work on her tapestry. As yet, her loom had not been moved from her parent's rooms, and she had not really discussed such things with Legolas. Rarely had she even entered his rooms and never had she ventured past the sitting room until last eve, so she curiously explored, poking through drawers, looking at items on shelves (many making her smile as she found some small gift she had given him over the years), and opening doors she had not noticed before.
There was another door in the bedroom that led to a small room Legolas used for storage. Cellinn, however, could see the room had been designed for another purpose, and she flushed with delight even as she bit her lip in slight embarrassment. She could envision a rocking chair in one corner and a cradle along one wall…
One day, she mused with a smile, but not any time soon, she decided. She wanted him to herself for many years before venturing into the trials and blessings of raising children.
In the evening, Thranduil and Eirien joined them for dinner. With Thranduil's help, Legolas was able to sit in a chair at a table set up in the sitting room, though he complained about being carried. Thranduil would have none of his protestations, however.
"I'll not have you hopping around and jarring that leg!" his father insisted. "Istuion said, 'Carry you,' and carry you I shall. I'm still your adar, little one, and we'll do it my way."
Legolas sulked but submitted to the decree. To everyone's relief, his mood improved when he found his favorite dish — roasted venison tenderloin, drenched in rich gravy — was to be served alongside roasted root vegetables drenched in rich gravy, sliced apples and pears dotted with currants and a bowl of candied hickory nuts. After a leisurely meal, shared over much laughter and conversation, Thranduil and Eirien retired to their own rooms.
As Cellinn climbed into bed that night, curling up beside her husband without even blushing as she wrapped an arm around his lean waist, she could not help but feel utterly content. She fell asleep with a smile on her lips.
Many weeks later…
"You can do it!"
Cellinn's voice urged Legolas on even as she beckoned to him with one hand outstretched. He wanted to reach her, to snatch her up and swing her around in his arms as he once had. It felt so long ago that he had walked and moved freely. With a sigh, he gritted his teeth, set his crutches and placing only slight weight on his bad leg, took a step forward. He hissed through his teeth at the discomfort. Oh how he hated the cursed crutches! And the pain, and the stiffness, and not being able to walk and run and do everything he had been able to do before!
Cellinn cheered as if he had just won his first archery tournament instead of managing to take a step bearing weight. He glared at her, and her smile slipped a little. Mentally, he kicked himself. He would not take this out on her. He would not! She was only trying to help, and she had been so supportive. None of this was anyone's fault…
Anchoring himself with the crutches, he let his head fall back, closing his eyes. He almost wished he were still a child and could let the tears of frustration fall. Everything in his life at the moment seemed to cause him frustration. He needed help to dress, someone to fetch his crutches, needed the cursed crutches to walk, and had yet to see his wife naked…
"Just two more steps," her voice soothed. "Just two more and we'll call it a day."
"No," he ground out, dropping his head and opening his eyes to meet her gaze. She had moved closer. "Go back. I'm going the whole way today."
"You don't have to push yourself so hard—"
"Yes, I do." He grimaced as she flinched at his tone. He sounded so angry, but then, he was angry! Just not at her. He forced a smile. "I need to lose these cursed crutches, and I never will if I don't take more than three steps."
A tiny smile touched her eyes and lips. She stepped back across the room. "Then come on." Her smile turned seductive, though he knew she had no understanding of what the look did to him. "Come get your reward." She pursed her lips and blew him a kiss.
With a growl, he set the crutches and took another step, but in his haste, he misjudged and nearly tumbled to the floor. A strong grip kept him upright.
"While I admire your resolve, if you do not go slowly and take care, you'll end up re-injuring yourself. I know you don't want to spend more time in bed." Legolas glanced up at Istuion, who winked at him. "At least, not limited as you are now," the healer finished in a tone pitched for Legolas's ears only.
Heat suffused his face. "That is cruel, Istuion," he muttered under his breath, but the healer heard him and grinned.
"Soon," Istuion whispered, causing Legolas's heart to race. He locked hopeful eyes with the healer, but got a negative shake of the head. "Not until you're walking without the crutches, and preferably with little to no pain."
"What are you two whispering about?" Cellin called to them. Legolas glanced up to find her standing arms akimbo, one foot tapping. "Are you coming to me or shall I leave you two to your secrets?"
Taking a deep breath, he balanced himself with care and slowly moved the crutches to take most of his weight as he placed his injured leg forward and took another step. He groaned as the crutches dug into his ribs, but pressed on, ignoring the ache in his knee.
Legolas shifted beneath the covers, reaching up to run a finger lightly over Cellin's hand resting against his chest. She sighed and nuzzled her face into his shoulder. He smiled. He loved having her here, even though it frustrated him. He had long since wished he had let her dress him in his nightshirt that first night, as since then, she had accepted him sleeping unclothed. The shirt might have helped his body not get such ideas as it now held. He tried to force his thoughts to other things so it would forget such notions.
She moved beside him, rising up on her elbow. In the dark, he could not see her, but he could feel her regard. "What were you and Istuion whispering about today?"
"Oh," he shrugged. "He just warned me that if I wasn't careful I'd find myself cooped back up in bed."
"Then why was he whispering?"
Knowing she could not see his expression, he let his lips tug upwards in a grin. "He was teasing me, that's all."
She sighed and laid back down, but there was a tenseness to her that was not usually there. He let his fingers trail up her arm and shoulder until he found her face. He stroked her brow lightly, leaning over to place a kiss to the top of her head. "He was teasing me that I'd be confined to bed and not for certain enjoyable activities…"
He felt her stiffen even more, and frowned. "Cellinn?"
"Hmm?" she sounded uncertain.
"Are you still afraid?"
She squeaked an incoherent reply.
He blinked. Well, he should have expected this. Why would her fear just go away? They had not discussed it or even spoken of it at all. She still blushed if she caught a glimpse of him naked, always averting her eyes; and she was meticulous in making sure he did not see her in such a state, adding to his frustration.
He drew her closer, reaching out to lift her chin so he could kiss her lips. It was a gentle kiss, one to reassure her, and when he pulled back, he heard her sigh.
Then her words spilled out in a rush. "I wanted to talk to you about it before…before we wed, but then you got hurt…and-and everything happened so fast!" She let out a shaky laugh. "I guess I assumed we'd have plenty of time since you needed to get better first, but you're walking now, and Istuion is teasing you…"
He swallowed, remembering the healer's promise of 'soon'. His body leapt at the thought, and he nearly groaned. Discussing it when he was unable to act on it was probably not the best thing to do. It would only make him think more on it, and his thoughts dwelt there too much as it was. His frustration was becoming unbearable with her so close. But if he could set her mind at ease…
"What do you wish to know?"
"Everything," she whispered.
He blinked, opened his mouth, then blinked again. "Did your mother explain nothing?" he asked in disbelief.
"Oh she explained a lot…I think." She sighed heavily, sounding rather frustrated herself. "I understand the basic principle of what's to happen. I mean, who hasn't seen the horses in the spring?" Even in the dark, he could feel the heat of her face against his shoulder. "But there is much I don't understand, things she said I'd find out only through experience, by seeing. It's so confusing and it frightens me! I don't know why she couldn't speak plainly. Though, she might have. I found it hard to listen. It was so embarrassing! And she often rambled on and on about nothing or about what I should or shouldn't do and told me so little about what I could expect from you and…and…"
Legolas covered her mouth with his fingers, holding back laughter. "You're babbling," he said simply, removing his fingers and replacing them with his lips. Indeed, there were things that would be easier to show her than trying to explain. He looked forward to showing her those very things. In fact, many nights, such as at this moment, it was difficult not to take her hand and trail it down his stomach…
No, he could not think of that now. He would never stop at showing her his body's reaction to being so close to her. It would demand more, and he could not act on it. Not with his knee aching as it did after putting it through such strenuous exercise that day. This discussion would need to wait.
Grasping at a way to change the subject, he blurted out, "Have I ever told you how beautiful you are?"
"You can't see me in the dark!"
He grinned. "I don't have to. I can see you in my mind…" His voice trailed off as an image came unbidden. One he had long forgotten but remembering caused his mouth to go dry and his pulse to quicken. "The lake," he whispered to himself. He had forgotten that.
Many years ago, when he first began to take notice of the opposite gender, he had done something despicable…but also delightful. He had secretly followed the girls to the lake to watch them swim. It had been one of the few times Cellinn had joined the other girls, as the two of them had reached an age where swimming together had become improper. A slow smile turned his lips, and for good reason, considering the curves she had developed underneath that wet shift!
"What about the lake?"
His face heated. Did he dare admit it to her? Tell her what he had done? He had never told anyone! Indeed, while he had appreciated the view, his guilt and the strange feelings the view had elicited had kept him from following a second time, though he had wanted to do so. He had not understood the emotions, not until that day Cellinn had pushed him out of her life. Dare he admit it now? That even during those awkward years, he had been attracted to her? Found her beautiful?
"I — I…" He gulped, unsure what her reaction would be. She might get very angry with him, and rightfully so! But now that he had let it slip, she would never let him stay silent. "Well, um, many years ago, um, I may have seen something I shouldn't have…at the lake."
She suddenly sat straight up in bed beside him. "Legolas Thranduilion! Tell me you did not follow us to the lake!" She sounded horrified rather than angry. He felt her draw her knees up and wrap her arms protectively around herself. "Oh, I knew it!" Now she sounded forlorn.
He grasped for how to explain why he had done it. "I was curious."
She trembled beside him, and he ran his hand over her back in an effort to comfort her. She shrugged it off. "Of course you were. What male wouldn't be?"
Why did she sound like she was about to cry? Was she that upset that he had seen her swimming in a wet shift? True, it had revealed her shape, but it had been a muddy brown color, not translucent like the ones some of the other maids wore.
"She's so pretty. Why wouldn't you have wanted to see her…like that?" Her breath hitched.
Wait…what? See who?
He heard her sniff in the darkness. At a simple gesture from him, a single torch on one wall lit with a red, smokeless light, revealing her, arms tight around her knees, her face buried against them. A knot formed in his throat. He sat up and gathered her against his side. She fought him for a moment, then to his relief, gave up, leaning into him, trembling, sniffling…crying? By the stars! He had missed something significant, but what?
He tried to soothe her, holding her and caressing her arm, her face and hair. He did not think her reaction had anything to do with his spying on her in her wet shift. Or did it? Why did females have to be so complicated?
Finally, she stopped shaking and her breathing became steadier. She sniffed again, and he became aware that his shoulder was wet with her tears. He pulled the blanket up to wipe them away from her cheeks, pressing his lips to her temple.
"Linnaew?" he prompted, desperate to know what had caused her reaction.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm being silly, I know. It's normal. My mother assured me of that at the time, though I didn't know you had taken to spying on her while swimming!" Now she sounded angry. "How could you do that?"
"I was curious," he repeated at a loss for words. Who was she talking about? He had been spying on her! No other had held his interest in such a fashion. Oh, he had looked at the others, too, but they had not compared to his Cellinn! "What her? Who are you talking about?"
Legolas cringed. That conniving, self-absorbed, grasping… He stopped himself before he found himself cursing. Just the mention of that lady's name was enough to make him furious with her all over again.
Cellinn continued. "I know you watched her. Why wouldn't you? She was always so beautiful with her silvery-blonde hair and green eyes."
"I like blue eyes." He touched a tendril of her hair that had slipped from her braid. It was burnished red in the light. "And mahogany hair."
But she ignored him, too caught up in what she was saying. "I watched you watch them, but mostly her. I always thought you'd pursue her, but you never did." She glanced up at him through her lashes. "I'm sure she'd never have had any hesitation in bedding you."
Ire flared in his chest. "I have no desire to be bedded; I'd rather be the one doing the bedding, and certainly not Ninglorwen!" He felt disgusted at just the suggestion. "Why would you think such a thing?" he asked.
"I saw you! You watched the other girls, Legolas. You never looked at me like that!"
His breath stilled in his chest as he realized she had wanted him to; she had never shown the least outwards sign, but she had wanted him to look at her. He shook his head, drowning in eyes bluer than the bluest sky. "I was never interested in Ninglorwen, or any other girl for that matter." He brought the lock of hair to his lips, using it to tug her over so he could kiss her temple again. "There was only you."
Her brows drew together in a frown. "But…"
He lifted his fingers to her lips, stilling her words. "I made sure you never caught me looking at you in such a way. I didn't understand my feelings at the time. So if you glanced at me, I made sure to look at any other nearby. I was very confused by the feelings…" He gulped, tracing a finger down her cheek. "Cellinn, when I followed the group to the lake that day, it was to see you."
She blinked up at him, her expression turning to a look of wonder. "Me?"
He nodded, then grinned sheepishly. "Oh, I looked at the others." He dropped his gaze, feeling heat suffuse his cheeks and creep up his ears. "I was curious, but…" He glanced back up at her. "None of them compared to you, not even in that ugly brown shift your mother made you wear. Your hair tumbled over your shoulder…" He ran his tongue over his bottom lip, glancing down at her mouth, then lower. "And the cloth clung to you, and you were so beautiful." His voice grew hoarse as he remembered. He looked back up into her eyes, surprised to see more tears slipping down her cheeks.
He angled himself so he could cup her face in both hands, using his thumbs to wipe the wet trails away. Then he lowered his mouth to hers, and when her lips parted, he took advantage where he usually refrained: He let his tongue touch hers, and when she did not resist, he delved further into her mouth while drawing her closer to him.
She responded, wrapping her arms around his neck. Carefully, he lowered her back onto the bed without breaking the kiss, the weight of his upper body pressing against her soft form as he kissed and kissed her, losing himself in her caresses. Her hands trailed down his back and he shifted, pressing the whole length of his body against her side.
She gasped and pulled away just enough to blink up at him in shock. It was then he realized she could feel his response to her, pressed against her hip. His gaze burned into hers.
"That," he whispered, leaning down to kiss the corner of her mouth, "is what you do to me."
If it were not for the pain in his knee that reminded him he was in no condition to act on his desire, he would have shown her a lot more. Instead, with great effort, he withdrew, lying back in his place, tugging her over and tucking her against his side where she belonged. They did not speak; just laid comfortably in each other's presence, his arm around her shoulders, hers draped across his waist. As his heart rate slowed and his breathing returned to normal, sleep crept in. As he slipped into dreams, the torch went out.
To Be Continued...
lengwaloth – Sindarin. 'sweet blossom'. A word I made up for meadowsweet, an herb from which the main ingredient in aspirin can be found. Used for pain and inflammation.
belholch – Sindarin. 'strong root'. A word I made up for a plant I made up that exists in Middle-earth in NiRi!Verse. It is similar to modern day ginger root and has similar properties and smell. Rarely used as a spice for cooking, among the elves it is valued for its healing properties, including increased circulation and control of pain and inflammation.