So finally folks....
This chapter is dedicated to my wonderful beta, Anarithilien. She has contributed so much to this and I cannot thank her enough. It would never have got to this point without her. So much love, dear. Enjoy the small gift- it really is not enough.
Special thanks to Spiced Wine and Melusine in particular for their unfailing support and extra contributions. They helped especially in this last chapter. And for Mienepies for the lovely artwork - which is such a very, very lovely gift.
And final, one last thanks to reviewers, especially those who post regularly and are so encouraging. Thank you to Curiouswombat, tanis and Aiwendiel, Erulisse, AndreaH, Azalais, eliz61, scarlet10, elftart, Lindariel and everyone else who took the trouble to review.
Warning: well...if you've got this far, there's not much point...but some explicit sexual content. m/m.
Chapter 45: Submission
Elrohir sat in a low chair with blankets huddled around him, dozing in the late afternoon sun. Elladan was with Imrahil and Eomer, hunting down the last Orcs in the mountains. Elrohir felt a fool for sitting here like an invalid when he should have joined his brother, but in truth that was what he was. There was still a residue of venom in his veins, like a thin slick of oil that coated everything. In his hand was a tin cup with water in it and he lifted it slowly to his mouth and sipped so coolness soothed his dry and burning throat. It seemed to him suddenly that the green of Ithilien was too bright, too dazzling with the sunlight pouring over the woods and trees, flashing blindingly off the river. There was wine within, and a jug of clear spring water alongside glass goblets and pewter bowls of fruit standing on an oak table near the back of the tent.
It could hardly be called a tent, for the coloured silks hung overhead were luxurious and rich and many heavy woven rugs and tapestries were strewn over sweet smelling rushes and straw so he had something warm and soft beneath his feet.
He did not care about any of it.
The shadows of the Web still caught in his mind, and there was an oily taste in his mouth from the venom. His limbs still trembled a little and he felt starved of air. It panicked him sometimes and he felt his lungs heave and gasp....Before, when it happened, Legolas had been there, spoken gently to him, touched him. The green-gold light had stroked him to sleep and a whisper of song wound through his dreams. But Legolas was not here...Aragorn had summoned him, and so, as always, he had gone.
Instead Elrohir gripped the arm rests and forced himself to slow his breathing, to push away the darkness, the memory of a Ring that burned his hand, a Crown that crushed him, that turned him to the grasping, clutching shadows of long dead kings, of wraiths...No. His Will lifted its own iron hand and crumpled them into dust. You will not haunt me.
He turned his mind then to those dreams where the horizon fractured and became pure light like silver glass. He remembered a shining white presence that had walked alongside him, had stared with him into that distance and considered it. It had been a friend who walked with him, he knew for it lay a shining hand upon his arm and turned him to look back.
His fingers relaxed and let go of the tin cup so the cool water spilled and seeped through the blanket to his skin. He did not stir but stared at the wet patch blankly for a moment.
There had been something more. He felt it just beneath his awareness, like an itch... something else but he could not remember. Just a flash of gold and a face turning towards him and his face was wet. He bowed his head and covered his eyes with his hand, feeling wetness but he did not know if it was tears or the spilled water. The dream figure's face turned towards him. He could not see the features but they were loved, there was a flash of golden hair, like cornsilk, finer, softer...not Legolas. And he felt an overwhelming sense of love that wrapped around him. He had not felt this safe, this loved since he was a child...
A low groan escaped him then. Mother. She knew. She had said as much through her words to Elladan. Forgive your brother, my strong one, for he cannot forgive himself.
He bowed his head in dreadful unrelenting remorse. She had held out her arms to him and he had fled...seeking death rather than her love, her forgiveness... Ah, what kind of man was he?
What kind of man indeed?
On the silver shores, he had chosen to take the way of Men, chosen blessed oblivion. And then the shining presence had turned him back, shown him the Elf in green and brown running desperately along the shoreline after him, calling but never reaching him. The Elf's hair was like winter grass and his feet ran lightly over snow and sand....and Elrohir had suddenly been surrounded by the scents of meadow grass and hay, of cool streams bubbling through the forests...the light was green like it shone through the new leaves of beech trees unfurling in the Spring air...sunlight....
Sudden heat flushed through him and he struggled to free his arms and threw off the blankets that hugged him. He let his head fall back onto the chair and breathed. How wrong he had been, and about so much!
He pushed down on his hands and slowly, painfully levered himself to his feet. He could not stay sitting here, still and thinking. He needed to be doing something, anything! He shoved himself up impatiently and lurched forwards, found himself on his hands and knees, weak and pathetic and sniveling like a whipped hound. He was disgusted with himself.
'Still running?' a voice enquired mildly.
He pushed himself slowly, painfully back onto his heels and glared up at Gandalf. 'What do you know of anything?' he snarled.
Gandalf moved slightly and as he did so, the light shone behind him and for a moment, he became a shining white presence. But then almost immediately he came out of the light and was Gandalf once again..
The Wizard stepped past Elrohir where he knelt still on the floor, angry and frustrated. Unconcerned, he seated himself in the chair occupied by Elrohir only moments ago and arranged his robe comfortably about himself.
'I know that you are afraid of yourself. And so you should be,' Gandalf said without preamble and tapped his fingers impatiently on the arm rest. 'I know you are afraid you have chosen the Way of Men and that it is irrevocable, and so you should be...' The Wizard leaned forwards and he held Elrohir in his sharp, blue gaze. There was nothing old or mortal in those eyes. 'I know you have chosen Legolas and that too, terrifies you. And so it should...Yes...' he said softly, and Elrohir saw how his power glanced through the mortal cloak of flesh. 'There is much to fear in living.'
Elrohir found his mouth full of saliva and fear and swallowed. But he had the blood of Melian in his veins, of Luthien and Galadriel. 'I am not afraid of you.'
Gandalf lifted a shaggy eyebrow as if amused. 'You have nothing to fear from me,' he said firmly. 'But there is much to fear in love.' He pinned Elrohir with his steely gaze. 'You can be hurt when you love. That terrifies you. You fear Legolas' heart is lightly given and thus, lightly he gives it to you.'
Elrohir felt a dreadful lancing pain in his chest and his nails dug into his palms. He knew the reputation of the Mirkwood Elves and their promiscuity. Legolas' attempt to seduce first Elladan and then him aboard the SeaSong, his pursuit of Eomer when Elrohir's own heart had teetered on the brink of love, all compounded into the fear of loving, the fear of hurt, of rejection that he feared perhaps as much as his own guilt.
'It is the way of the Elves of Mirkwood,' said Gandalf softly, with understanding. 'Their ways are different from Imladris perhaps, but Legolas has a loving and generous heart. And he is loyal to those he loves...perhaps to a fault.' The Wizard smiled a little sadly and Elrohir thought of Galadriel's warning to Legolas that he had ignored for Aragorn.
Then Gandalf smiled, and with utmost tenderness his hand cupped Elrohir's cheek, so strongly as to be immovable, but so gently. Light seemed to spark from his fingers but it was a warmth that Elrohir felt, not a burning. There was so much love that Elrohir felt overwhelmed, humbled by his own arrogant defiance of Gandalf, and he looked up into the blue eyes and found compassion.
'You must have hope,' Gandalf smiled and as he spoke, a flame kindled in Elrohir's chest. It was hope indeed.
'Yes.' He found there were tears choking him and he bowed his head humbly. 'I have hope.'
'Yes...I trust him with my life...' he paused, and looked up at Gandalf, suddenly understanding. 'And I think, with my heart.'
Gandalf nodded as if satisfied and leaned back in the chair. 'The Way is not shut to you until you take it, child. And there is always forgiveness. It is only you who does not forgive.'
Elrohir almost pulled back. Was this an echo of what Elladan had told him their mother bid?
Gandalf paused and stroked his hair gently. 'Such softness...' he mused as if trying to imprint the sensation, the feel in his memory.
When Gandalf had gone and Elrohir was left awaiting Legolas' return, he stood, leaning slightly on a cane he used to steady himself when walking beneath the great oak trees or along the riverbank where the willows trailed their long leaves across the water. It was three days since he had awoken and he looked out of his pavilion at the brightness and green that was Ithilien, cooler now beneath the setting sun.
So he had not made an irrevocable choice, not yet.
Expecting to feel ambiguity, he was surprised at the utter relief he felt instead and laughed wryly. He turned and limped within, reached for the tin cup for he did not dare use the glass goblets left for his and Elladan's use. With a trembling hand, he lifted the heavy jug and poured water into the cup. Water splashed on his hand, its coldness startling him, and he carefully put down the jug, hating his weakness. He drank from the cup deeply, carefully poured another and drank that too. The cold cleared his head a little and he wondered that Gandalf had known so much of him, even his fear that Legolas gave his heart so lightly. Weariness swept over him suddenly and he let himself sink back down into the low chair and closed his eyes in the warm sunlight, he let his head fall against the chair so his long hair streamed back and the lowering sun stroked his skin.
He tilted his head slightly for he knew that his beloved approached. He could sense him before he even heard him...like a scent, the green-gold light danced lightly over the woodland, skimmed over the deep cool grass and wound its way like a merry brook that gushed over wet rocks, through ferny glades over mossy boulders. Elrohir felt his stomach flip and a surge of intensity flooded him. He had no word for it- just an irrepressible joy and anticipation that made him want to shout aloud.
He heard the way the Song waved and moved around him like he waded through a pool. Elrohir paused...he had never thought like that before he had brought Legolas down from the Mountain. That was when he had let his own warmth and healing sink into Legolas' body and wrap its love and desperate adoration round the wounded soul. He had never even considered the Song before that...it had never struck him even as important...and perhaps he had merely deafened himself to it, refused it in his quest for vengeance and fury.
He heard the way the birds sang, filling the air with birdsong as Legolas approached and he knew he did not imagine it, realised that it had ever been thus. In Minas Tirith birds sang whenever the Woodelf was near...and he thought too, that he heard the slow unending cadence of the oaks that listened even as he did, like weeds moving in the slow river. He smiled at himself for his lovesick fancy. The venom was still in his veins - a little. It made him perceive things that were not there, or that he had not realised before, said the healer in him, knowing that a small dose of any poison could indeed heighten the senses and do no harm.
He heard the light steps falter and halt, heard the sudden gasp of breath and the catch in his breath. He imagined the lovely face, green eyes full of delight and lust -- oh, he hoped lust too. Then the footsteps hastened towards him and suddenly there was a warmth beside him, a hand on his, fingers closing over his and a warm mouth pressed against his lips and he turned his face towards his blessed, beloved Legolas.
He opened his eyes slightly, for the setting sun shot rays of light through the tent, brushed low over the fields and meadows and glinted off the slow, winding river. The light was still too bright for him, he could barely see for the halo of light around Legolas, turning him to burnished gold.
'Elrohir. Rávëyon.' He said it like it was a prayer. And Elrohir winced.
'No... Not that. I no longer wish to hear you call me that.' He looked away for it evoked all the horror of the Nazgûl, the iron Crown, the Ring that burned him. He rubbed his finger, for even now he felt a burning on his skin, though there was no wound.
Legolas stared at him in consternation. 'Very well,' he said but Elrohir could hear a note in his voice of disappointment, perhaps fear. 'Elrohir,' he said more brightly, determined to find nothing for which to reproach Elrohir. 'It is enough that you are here. And it is still so soon.' Legolas knelt beside him and looked anxiously, adoringly up at him. 'But do not think of them, my beloved. They are gone and cannot hurt us now. They have been sucked into the Void and forever locked in that dreadful place.'
But Elrohir felt the slick of venom in his veins. The threads were gone but the poison had drained him utterly and he was so unused to love. He was unsure of himself but Gandalf had told him to hope. He was unused to that also. 'I...I need to tell you...why. I need tell you.'
But Legolas leaned towards him and that brought his hard, lean body into contact with Elrohir's thigh. 'Hush.' Legolas trailed long fingers down the side of his face, leaned against him, and Elrohir wanted to lose himself in sensation. 'Hush. Whatever you did, whatever I did, is in the past. Forget that. Think only of now.'
'You have no idea what I have done, how...unworthy I am of you. I cannot expect anything of you...'
Legolas put his long finger over Elrohir's lips. 'How can you think yourself unworthy? You have saved me over and over,' he said and his face was close and his long green eyes opaque with desire and love. 'You sacrificed yourself for me, took the Black Web to yourself so to spare me.' His breath feathered over Elrohir's cheek. 'I would have followed you. I told you when we stood before the Black Gates that if I fall, and come finally to the white shores of Valinor, I would find you.' He held onto Elrohir's arm as if he thought he might slip away, even now. And Elrohir saw again, as in a waking dream, the Elf in green and brown running, running, calling to him across the flat, gleaming wet sand but could not reach him. 'And if you are not there,' Legolas continued, pressing himself close with melting heat, liquid desire, 'I will search for you, wait for you until the Ending of the World. I will follow you to the furthest shores to be with you. I will search in the halls of Námo just to hear you, to dwell with you, even as a shade.' His lips parted and his pupils were wide and black as he leaned in. Elrohir stared, mesmerized as Legolas pressed his warm, full lips against his.
'I do not deserve...this,' Elrohir said quietly, and turned his head away. He sighed and said sadly, slowly so that Legolas might understand, 'My trespass...is beyond your comprehension. My sins are beyond your imagining. You cannot forgive me.'
'I have already forgiven you.' Legolas touched him then above the heart and drew three fingers across his chest in a benediction that made Elrohir want to weep. 'I am in your debt. Three times you have saved me. It is enough.' He felt Legolas reach out and caress his own pale cheek. 'It is enough,' said Legolas again. This time he cupped Elrohir's head in his hand so he could not turn away. This time he held Elrohir and kissed him deeply.
Fingertips, brushed lightly against his throat so Elrohir shuddered and he felt Legolas smile against his mouth. A tongue pushed forcefully into Elrohir's mouth so he was lost in desire, and clutched at the strong arms that caught him. When he returned the passion, a warm, full mouth pulled him in deeply, bruised his lips. When hands reached beneath Elrohir's thin shirt and stroked him, his flesh bulged, hardened and leapt under Legolas' touch. His long raven black hair was caught up and his head tipped back gently, he looked into a face so pure, so beautiful and strong. The long green eyes so full of love that he thought he might break.
'Forgive yourself, Rávëyon, for I already have,' Legolas leaned over him and kissed him again, more gently.
'I must tell you,' Elrohir clasped Legolas' hand, he felt he might burst if he did not confess, if he did not have Legolas proper forgiveness with full knowledge of what he had done.
He caught Elrohir in that strange green gaze that was utterly different from the Elves of Imladris. He was very still then, waiting. And then, slowly, as if he already knew, he said, 'Then tell me. And I will still forgive you.'
A caress on his cheek, a stroke over his brow, a lover's caress. And finally, now, cradled in such unyielding love, Elrohir spoke.
'I looked upon my mother's ravishment...' he stuttered and closed his eyes so he could not see the disapproval, the revulsion that must surely come. There was silence, but touches brushed against his eyes, his lips, a caress against his heart. 'I looked upon her ravishment and felt desire.'
The light touch faltered and stilled for a moment. Then slowly, the hand left his face and his heart shrank. He bowed his head. It would come now as he had feared all his life. His vanquishment. The absolute pronouncement of his doom, cast into the void like kinslayers, for was he any better?
'That was not honourable,' the voice of his beloved said. And now the hard, lean body moved away and he felt suddenly cold.
In the long moment of silence, Elrohir could barely breathe. He kept his eyes lowered, waiting. If a sword had struck him down in that moment, he would have welcomed it.
'Tell me.' It seemed that it was Námo himself come from over the sundering Sea to demand his account, to pronounce his doom as he had Feanor.
Elrohir let his head sink further and clenched his fists. A slick oil of pain oozed beneath his ribs from the last vestiges of the venom, like an echo of malice, but he welcomed it. He deserved it.
'I did not know it was her...not at first.' He heard his own voice, a shameful whisper. 'There was an Orc...'
And he was there again, the darkness sliding around him, viscous. Airless, close and humid. He felt suffocated.
...he eased open the heavy barred door. Inside the cell an Orc stood pushing up against a pile of rags and filthy matted hair, a shapeless huddle that whimpered and cried. The dark lust within him raised its head to listen. A pale breast showed through the torn fabric already filthy and stained, ripped into shreds, and he stared, though his sword glinted in the torchlight. The Orc was panting, thrusting itself into the shapeless form which moved, and hands clawed at the Orc. Elrohir held his sword before him and paused…
... He paused, watching the Orc thrusting, its mouth wide in lust and the whimpering form hanging loosely from its grip, pushed against the stone wall. Elrohir felt a horrible kinship, the power of violence, he felt himself swell under the erotic charge. He almost groaned when the Orc suddenly stiffened as it released, and at that moment Elrohir moved as if released from his own spell... The Orc turned suddenly and, seeing the Elf standing there, roared with rage. It dropped the ragged form and turned, dragging its iron sword from the sheath as it turned to confront the intruder. Elrohir simply, elatedly, lustfully slashed the Orc's throat so its blood burbled from the gash and the creature fell to the ground. He wanted to sink his hands into its gorged flesh, to tear its heart from its chest and thrust into it himself. The stink of its release filled the cell, horrible and familiar.
The ragged shape that stank of blood and semen now crawled away from him, mumbling and weeping. Still sunk in the bloodlust and violence of killing, he grasped its hair, thinking at first it was some female Orc or some creature corrupted by darkness and Shadow, for it seemed shriveled and wizened. And then…a long pale hand scrabbled towards the Orc's fallen sword, scrambling to hold it and the rough voice whispered brokenly. He bared his teeth in his rage, his desire for release driving his body, and he dragged her head back intending to…intending to…
Tangled filthy hair dropped around her face…and her eyes, unfocused and bright with defiance and tears had made him see her. His eyes widened in terror and he had nearly pushed her away when he realized the full horror of what he discovered.
'I am worse than any Orc. I should have died over and over.' Shuddering as he always did when he remembered, he wiped his mouth with his hand.
There was a silence. He could not look at Legolas, who was still, absolutely still. Silent. Thoughtful.
'What did you intend?' Legolas asked eventually. Elrohir could not look at him but he heard him shift and push himself to his feet. He knew Legolas stood for a moment looking down at his own bowed head, and then he heard Legolas walk slowly to the other end of the tent.
It was no wonder, Elrohir thought wretchedly. Legolas must despise him, find him an abomination!
There was a clink of glass. He glanced up.
Legolas had paused at the oak table at the other end of the tent, his back to Elrohir. He lifted a glass goblet with steady hands and poured wine. The gurgle of it was the only sound. Moss suede stretched over his wide strong shoulders, leather belt cinched in over his lean hips. Unconscious grace, lean strength, thought Elrohir in despair. How quickly everything had changed. He watched as Legolas drained the goblet, and turned to face him. Red wine stained his mouth.
Legolas stood for a moment looking down at the half emptied goblet, swirling it as if exploring the colours in the wine. Then he pursed his lips and looked up at Elrohir. 'Morgoth seems to have had a vendetta against your House - for his revenge reaches even beyond the Void.' He put the goblet down on the table and sighed. 'You said you dragged her head back, intending...what?' he asked quietly. 'You held back because it was your mother?'
Elrohir did not know how to answer. Legolas poured more wine, lifted the goblet to his mouth and drank. Then he spoke.
'Would you have raped an Orc? A female Orc? It would still be a rape,' he said accusingly. And when Elrohir did not answer he continued, 'Would you have raped a mortal woman? Or an Elf?'
Elrohir gasped. With a cry he struggled to his feet, wanting to flee, but Legolas moved swiftly, striding quickly back to Elrohir, and Elrohir found himself pushed firmly back into the low chair, a strong hand on his chest pressed him down.
'It was not an Orc or a mortal woman! It was my mother!' he cried in anguish.
Legolas looked down at him, fixed him with his long green eyes, and frowned slightly as if perplexed. Then he tilted his head slightly as he did and his long hair slid over one shoulder, brushed Elrohir's hot skin. 'It is the rape that is the crime, Elrondion. It is misfortune that it was your mother.'
'Misfortune!' He shoved at Legolas, hard, struggling out of the Woodelf's grasp. But Legolas had always been the stronger, he remembered suddenly the fight at Linhir, the same long green eyes staring down at him, the whispered words...the strange, low hum that reverberated through him...as it did now...snow on mountains...high peaks....an eagle's cry...
Elrohir stared, and fell back against the chair, folded in on himself, hugging his hurt to his own fragile heart.
Then, as if he knew Elrohir's thoughts, Legolas shifted and moved closer, stood over him so Elrohir felt his warmth, smelt the suede and leather of his tunic and belt and boots, smelt below that, the musk and meadow-grass. 'Would you feel this remorse if it had been an Orc? A mortal woman?'
And then he became steel. His generous mouth thinned and he spoke to Elrohir as if he were one of his forest warriors. 'Do not mistake me, Rävéyon, for still I call you thus. It was dishonourable to stand and watch whether she be Elf or mortal or Orc. And it was misfortune that it was your mother. But what was your intent? Would you violated her if it had not been your mother? Would you have killed an Orc, or simply lifted a mortal woman from the dirt and blood and earned all the gratitude of her short mortal life for rescuing her?'
This time, Elrohir was still, the Elf's hand pressed against him. He realised it was above his heart and he felt the thunder in his chest. Legolas called him on the crime of rape...but he had not raped.
No. He had not. But he had hesitated, he had watched long enough. The question burned him; what was his intent? He stared at the blazing shadow that stood over him.
...The ragged shape that stank of blood and semen now crawled away from him, mumbling and weeping. Still sunk in the bloodlust and violence of killing, he grasped its hair, thinking at first it was some female Orc or some creature corrupted by darkness and Shadow for it seemed shriveled and wizened. And then…a long pale hand scrabbled towards the Orc's fallen sword, scrambling to hold it and the rough voice whispered brokenly. He bared his teeth in his rage, his desire for release driving his body, and he dragged her head back intending to…intending to…
...to cut the throat of the creature of shadow, the abomination, that had rutted with the one that lay dead at his feet. To drink her blood if it helped him to find his mother...
Like blessed rain in a dry desert, he felt the relief. He was guilty, but not of what he believed himself to be. He spoke, slowly, haltingly. 'I did not rape...For a moment in the heat of my blood, I...watched for a moment,' he realised, felt the truth of it in his bones. 'I pulled her head back, to kill another Orc in hatred of their capture of my mother.'
He felt the tension in Legolas and the pressure on his chest eased. Elrohir breathed deeply like he had been starved of the clean air, filled himself with the scent of meadow grass, let himself think of the clear forest stream...but Legolas had not finished. He kept his hand steady on Elrohir, holding him in place.
'Yes.' Breath stirred his hair. 'But there is more...You still hesitated. You watched.' He was unrelenting. 'You enjoyed what you saw.'
And now, the second blade pierced him more thoroughly than any sword. 'You have dreamed of violence,' Legolas continued.
The moment of shock obliterated all else and numbed Elrohir. Shame flooded him, hot, cringing, unbearable and his head sunk to his chest. Legolas held him still, warmth from his hand over Elrohir's heart.
'Have you not tarried in the shadow of Dol Guldur? I thought you had*. Did you not have other dreams? Did you not dream of me?' Legolas caught him now in his hard gaze, like green ice.
Did you not dream of me? Ah, Elrohir felt his heart shrivel and he wished now he had not been turned back from the white shores, away from the sea of silver glass where he could find oblivion...For here was the confrontation of everything, each of his sins, his transgressions, taken out and studied... Indeed, he had dreamed of Legolas...Here was the reckoning.
...Fire and flames rimmed the darkness and in the hellish glow he saw the promise that burned; the red glow on the Elf's skin, bound, struggling, naked, helpless, subdued…ah, no. Not quite. He thought of the flames reflecting in the Elf's eyes and knew that Legolas would glare back defiantly, his generous mouth snarling in disgust. Elrohir saw the bloody smear where he had hit him already across the mouth. His hand drifted lower and stroked across the welts he had already left on Legolas' skin so there was more blood. He trailed his fingers through the blood, through the swirling painted yára-carmë of the Elf's skin…and gripped him hard, his lean hips, dragging him forwards. And then with a sudden thrust, he impaled his victim helplessly on the spear of flesh so it tore into the captive Elf, tangled his fingers in the wheat-pale hair and dragged his head back, muffled the cries with his own mouth.
'You dreamed of my torment...The Nazgûl showed me. And you spoke of this in Osgiliath. You asked me, what if I had not been willing? You called me Yôzâira. I do not know what that means.'
Elrohir's heart pounded beneath Legolas' hand and he felt light-headed. Gift of Longing. That was what it meant...How could he speak of this; his hubris in believing that he could trick the Nazgûl, his secret desires, secret violence? How could he tell Legolas that he thought to lure the Nazgûl to the Mountain but they taunted him with his failure? That Sauron had used his own dark lust against him and almost conquered him?
And the words, like shades, or wraiths, escaped the Void like vapour, and insinuated into his own thoughts like the Nazgûl that had spoken them...and he was plunged back into the storm on the cold mountainside, with the black riders striding through the rain, gleaming wet swords lifted before them...
How is it you are so undone by this Elf when you have starved yourself in contrition all these long years? Your Yôzâira. You deny your own violent nature. Do you think Death will be enough to purge you? Nothing will ever be enough.
Elrohir cried out and covered his eyes with his hands. No, nothing could ever be enough! Nothing could ever purge him! Elrohir heard a sound that seemed to come from the Earth itself and knew it was the depths of his own damnation.
'I have dreamed of you.' He admitted and bowed his head in shame.
There was a slide of cool, long pale hair and a strong hand cupped his face, lifted him up. Barely able to look, trembling, he looked upon the face of his beloved, his doom, and expecting retribution, he found only love. In the clear green eyes, he found only compassion and strange understanding.
Legolas brushed against him, suede and meadow grass. 'Do not imagine you are alone in your secret desires, that none other knows such regret and guilt. Do you think anyone can live long years in the forest, fight within reach of Dol Guldur and be not touched by Shadow.' Legolas paused, then he turned his head slightly and looked away. 'I have seen the darkness in men's souls.'
He stood so close now, his thigh level with Elrohir's shoulder, his eyes half-closed and looking down. The sun had sunk lower and red light glowed and reflected off the silks of the tent.
'When my Lord King ordered us to march upon Erebor, do you think we would have...hesitated, had he ordered us to fall upon Dain's army and baste ourselves in the blood of the Khazad?' Air crackled between them and Elrohir opened his mouth, aghast. Legolas paused and his hand stroked once across Elrohir's hair, almost unaware. 'Gimli was there that day.' Legolas spoke in a low voice, thoughtful, intimate. Almost curious. 'He fought in that battle alongside my folk, against Goblins and Wargs though he... I, knew it not.' He let his fingers brush Elrohir's cheek, sifted now through his long black silk hair as he spoke and he seemed to Elrohir no longer the Legolas whom he loved with all his being, but some otherworldly thing from some strange place of legend, and he thought of all the warnings he had ever heard of the silvan Elves of Mirkwood, their fey wildness, their savagery, not of the High Elves, not quite of the Sindar either.
His fingers caught the long silk of Elrohir's hair and tightened suddenly. 'I have endured months of Isildur's Bane.' He leaned down towards Elrohir, close so his breath stroked Elrohir's skin. 'Can you think what it whispered to me? Can you imagine what it promised me? Do you know what I thought I might do?'
Elrohir smelled him, musky and aroused. Suddenly the air felt too close, darkness folded him.
'I have known the Ring and Its whisperings. It told me to do...dreadful things...made me want things I did not know I wanted....'
Legolas shifted slightly so he stood before Elrohir and Elrohir, almost mesmerized, had no choice but to look up. The scent of the leather and suede and musk overwhelmed him then and he stared up at the tall Elf, shadows crowded round him. He looked up into the bright, piercing eyes that seemed in that moment to strip him to the bone; he, Elrohir Rävéyon, of the line of Luthien and Galadriel, of Finwë long gone and naught but bones and the long lament of the Noldor.
There was a slither of leather falling to the ground and the slip of silk.
Elrohir gasped for the moss suede tunic and silk shirt were pooled on the floor, cast carelessly away and Legolas stood half naked before him. He stared at the Elf warrior, long wheat-pale hair sliding over his naked shoulders, yára-carmë gleaming silkily on his warm skin, and Elrohir imagined for a moment those strong hands bound, and the body writhing in torment and he found he could not bear the idea of Legolas in any pain, ever. And he hated himself for those dreadful thoughts.
'I know what is in your mind,' Legolas murmured and he leaned over Elrohir, placed his strong hands on the armrests on either side of Elrohir so he could smell his skin, his musk and that indefinable sweetness that was Legolas. 'Do you still dream of me? Do you still see the flames, my skin painted with blood and fire? Do you still seek to assuage your own pain with mine?'
At first, Elrohir could not speak. He stared at the lean, wiry form, broad archer's shoulders, muscles, smooth skin painted and the swirls and delicate angles and wild colours. The dragon's eye glinted at him, coyly, and seemed to move and shimmer. Long, long pale hair swept down over one shoulder and the Elf lifted one hand and caught Elrohir's face, held him still so he had to look up into the long green gaze and the full, parted lips.
Elrohir shook his head. 'No...I would die first.' He was fixed by the green of the Woodelf's eyes that were like beech leaves unfurling in the Spring, that were grey like the forest stream over slate and granite, wet pebbles and cold, clear water. He wanted to bow down and humble himself, reduce himself to the unworthy slave he was. 'I will die first,' he said again.
Slowly, he felt long fingers smooth his hair, touch his face, his lips, smooth the frown between his eyes. There was a low humming that reverberated so deeply, he could barely hear it at first and it grew...he heard the cry of eagles high above the snow peaked mountains, his song...
'I cannot imagine how you have lived with this all your long life.' The sudden compassion in Legolas' voice was unbearable. 'How lonely you have been. How afraid...
'You have saved my life three times now, Rávëyon. Three times. In Minas Tirith when the Nazgûl had me entranced. Then upon the Mountain you fought them off - though I know you brought them down to the Mountain too.' His long green eyes were narrowed. 'You sought to lure them to you, I know that now. And then you took the Black Web to yourself and that was the fullest sacrifice. You have atoned.'
A lazy smile and Legolas tilted his head. 'But you will submit to me,' he said.
Elrohir's eyes widened at all that it implied and found Legolas' hand rested over his heart. The other hand lifted Elrohir's long hair away from his rounded ear and the Woodelf bent to lick the rim so a delicious shudder went through him.
'Yes.' Legolas tilted his head slightly to one side, 'I have never had one so bright and fiery as you. You will submit to me. I want that from you. But you will not bow.'
Elrohir pulled back but found his own hair still caught in the strong archer's fingers and he could not move away. Not taking his eyes from Elrohir's, Legolas sank to his knees, between Elrohir's thighs. He pushed his hard body between Elrohir's thighs so his belly pressed against Elrohir's groin so he thought he might burst into flames.
'You will submit to me,' Legolas said again and pressed his warm lips against Elrohir's mouth, closing his long green eyes and kissed him deeply. He felt Legolas' fingers press him into his arms bruisingly, and he winced for his skin was still sore and his veins swollen but Legolas made no attempt to be gentle. Fingers tangled in his hair, tugged on his scalp and his head was wrenched back. Legolas kissed him hard so their teeth clashed and the Woodelf didn't seem to care. He pushed his tongue into Elrohir's mouth, so lost in passion that Elrohir could barely breathe.
Legolas broke off for a moment, looked at Elrohir through half closed eyes. 'Submit to me Rávëyon. Give yourself utterly. It will be enough.'
Then he leaned down to lick slowly against Elrohir's lips. The warmth sent a jolt through him, from mouth to belly and loins, like lightning. His chest heaved and he felt a sweep of lust and desire mingle with a soaring emotion that swelled in his chest until he thought he might burst.
He closed his eyes and said, 'Yes.'
'You love me.' It was a statement. Legolas thrust his hand beneath Elrohir's tunic and grasped his bulging, hot flesh firmly, sweeping his thumb up and down the bursting, throbbing length of him. Elrohir threw his head back in ecstasy.
'...Yes...' he managed to gasp.
'Mithrandir called you back,' Legolas murmured, close now, and his breath ghosted over Elrohir's ear so he cried out. 'But you came back for me.'
Elrohir licked his lips but found Legolas already there and he was kissed again, so deeply he could barely breathe. And then Legolas stroked a calloused hand up and down so a surge of desire thrust its way through Elrohir's balls and cock and belly. He was stroked again and he shuddered and grasped Legolas' hand, writhed upon a spike of lust and ecstasy.
'Yes. I came back. For you.'
'You will stay for me too.' It was a statement not a question.
Legolas lowered his head and swashed his tongue where his hands had been and Elrohir grasped his head. But it was so fleeting and Legolas lifted his head and kissed Elrohir hard on his mouth so he tasted his own sweat and heat.
Legolas suddenly pulled away and pushed himself back up to his feet. He stood before Elrohir now in nothing but breeches and boots. The dragon curled and slid over his muscled hard chest, writhed around his lean flat belly and disappeared into the breeches to slide round his thigh... Elrohir remembered...and he felt himself gasp with shameful desire. Legolas fumbled at the laces of his own breeches and pulled them loose. His hard, needy cock sprang free.
Legolas leaned forwards so Elrohir could smell the salty musk.
'Submit to me.' The words murmured again in his ear and warm breath brushed against his skin. Elrohir looked up into the beloved face, long green eyes and the spike of lust again pierced him through.
'Yes.' He bowed his head, wanting.
Legolas breathed and half closed his eyes as if in agony. He caught Elrohir's hands in his and took a step back, bringing Elrohir forwards. Slowly, weakly, Elrohir knelt in submission, surrendered.
He took Legolas' hard erection into his mouth. There was a light taste of salt on the skin. Like the Sea. He glanced up to see Legolas'' head thrown back and his lips parted in ecstasy. Elrohir swirled his tongue once and there was a pulse, thick release spurted, broke upon him like a wave and he thought he heard the gulls cry.
Legolas was still standing before him, but his head was bowed in satiation, hips jerking slightly still, eyes half closed and his hand over Elrohir's head like a benediction. Suddenly he tensed and looked towards the tent opening. He suddenly smiled, blindingly, and whispered, 'Shall we announce ourselves?'
Elrohir stared, puzzled and then he heard them too.
Legolas stuffed himself back into his breeches, and Elrohir felt the world tilt in sudden dislocation. Too different. Too quickly. Too mercurial. Legolas glanced at him as if he could read his thoughts and lifted an eyebrow in wry imitation. Then he laughed loudly, heartily. 'We are even after that!' he said grinning, reminding Elrohir of how he had left Legolas wanting in Osgiliath. But he knew it was not a punishment. Legolas wiped his hand quickly on his own breeches, snatched up his shirt and dragged it on.
'...he is not being very patient,' came a voice beyond the tent. 'He will keep trying to get up and move about when he should still be resting.'
'Aragorn,' said Legolas smugly with a quick look at Elrohir. 'Come to tell you off and tuck you in nice and tight.'
Another voice rumbled outside. 'Aye, it will make the venom stir in his veins again.'
'Nana Gimli,' Legolas said, smiling even more widely. 'Come to check that naughty little elflings are in bed at bedtime.' He caressed Elrohir's cheek for he knelt still before Legolas as if worshipping. 'He will insist he stays with me to make sure you do nothing that will exert me or pain me. I fear he cares not at all for you!'
Elrohir, still stunned, penitent, rocked back on his heels, prepared to do as Legolas bid but the Elf had already stepped away, and stood now, calm and serene, immaculate, as if nothing had ever happened.
There was a scuff of boots outside the tent and both Elves turned to look.
Aragorn entered and he merely glanced at Elrohir kneeling on the floor, eyes stunned and wide still. The Man's eyes went straight to Legolas.
'We have news,' he said. 'I thought you would want to hear it.'
Legolas had climbed to the top of a tall tree and was leaning on its trunk, cradled in its boughs and gazing North as if he could just see the edge of the forest and Home. Aragorn had told him the little news he had; that there had been a tremendous battle in the forest and that Celeborn and Thranduil had met beneath the eaves of the wood. They had parted ways then and the messages from the Golden Wood told that battle still raged in the Northern parts whence the goblins and Orcs of Dol Guldur had fled, wreaking revenge on the Woodelves. He thought if he looked hard enough he could see the smoke rising up from the Northern forest. He wondered how long it would take him if just took Arod now and rode for home.
He remembered the yellow and sulfurous smoke, figures running, a glint of steel, the screaming from the woods, Orcs pouring through the trees, black silhouettes against the infernal backdrop of the burning forest. The stench of death, of burning meat. There was the unmistakable sound of a terrified horse screaming somewhere not far away.
'You should see what they have done in Mirkwood. You have abandoned her and now Orcs rape the children of your dead warriors.' Saruman's Voice twisted and slithered over him even now, wrenching his heart.*
He knew that Elrohir would have wanted to follow him, to comfort him, but their love was still young and tender and he did not know if he wanted Elrohir to see him like this. It was too raw.
Gimli was below. He heard him arrive a little while ago but he did not wish to speak, not yet. But when the tendrils of pipe smoke drifted up to him, he closed his eyes and leaned his head against the trunk.
'You have news also?' he said, knowing the Dwarf would hear, for he did indeed have ears like a bat when he wished.
'From the little I hear, he is alive and that is as much as I can hope for.'
A late evening swallow whizzed overhead, scooting up from the South and her high chattering call was answered from somewhere by another swallow. There. They swooped and scissored the deepening blue sky. The leaves were green and cool, there was the smell of Spring and sap rising.
'I am glad,' he called down, and he was.
'And your father too is well.'
'I am glad too.'
There was a pause and he heard Gimli sigh and settle. 'Nothing Saruman told us was true then,' the Dwarf said softly. 'It was almost a month ago we were in Orthanc listening to that snake's lies.' He snorted softly. 'Do not let him stretch his dead white hand here, Legolas. Do not let your heart tremble at the thoughts he seeded there. Saruman is safely guarded by Fangorn and I for one am glad he is stuck there to live out the rest of his miserable life.'
Legolas breathed out slowly. Gimli was right. It was the full moon last that they rode in the cold night through the sentinel huorns and Ents, such marvels he had only ever heard of in the old songs. And his father had met with Celeborn after then. How could Saruman have shown him the truth? He shook his head at himself for his foolishness.
'Ah, we are far from home, you and I, Legolas,' Gimli said gruffly. 'It makes us all fools and our hearts too easily moved.'
Legolas smiled slightly and he let the slow Song wind about him then instead. How could he grow to love so much a Dwarf? he wondered for the thousandth time. But he did. For Gimli was Earth and Fire where he himself was Air and Fire. Gimli's Fire was different though; It was a crafting, making fire...not the fire of life, of Nature. It was molten stone, it was liquid fire like a river of gold from the Mountain. It was a fire that eased a crease in iron like it was silk or linen. A voice of gravel, of a river running over gravel...Its warmth was like a hearth or forge.
'Belêsen,'he whispered so it fluttered in the new leaves of the oak and threaded down on the drifts of air, smoothed the Dwarf's glossy hair and beard and floated in his breath.
He stayed in the branches of the great oak tree all night, watching the stars wheel slowly overhead. Eärendil rode high with the moon and again he wondered if Elrohir believed it really was his ancestor up there in Vingilot or if he thought it was just a tale told by his father, needing to believe his own father had not quite deserted them. And finally, he turned his thoughts to Elrohir and his sad tale. The Noldor were so strange but he knew also that he could as soon give up loving Elrohir as give up breathing or longing now for the Sea..... He found himself half hard at the mere thought of Elrohir and the lingering sensation of ecstasy, for he had not even pleasured himself, certainly not been with another, since he had parted from Eomer...but that was gone now. There was only Elrohir...it felt now like everything else, everyone else had only ever been a rehearsal for Elrohir.
He heard the metallic chimes of stars dim and the opening chord of sunrise, faintly at first and growing until the first chink of yellow light appeared far off in the East...Harad lay that way he knew. The hot sand under his feet, the hot wind blowing across empty heat-stunned deserts...a flicker of something dwindled in him, like a vague memory that is fleeting and then gone... He did not snatch at it as it left him...
The first sunlight peeped across the still and sleeping land of Ithilien and the first bird awoke, fluted quietly and then as the sun rose over the far horizon, the blackbird sang its liquid, fluid notes.
Legolas felt the oak stir under the sun's light, and new leaves unfurl a little more,. He loved the oak trees but loved the beeches of the North still more. Far off, there was a flash of sliver and a cry reached him on the wind...the gulls were flying downriver to the Sea...
He followed them with his green eyes, green as the deepness of the Sea.
It was Gimli who brought him down from the trees, calling him so his dream-filled eyes turned downwards and slowly focused on the Dwarf. He descended the oak tree without realising it and the warm, square hand lay on his arm and gently steered him to where Frodo, Pippin and Merry gathered around Sam for he had awoken fully and was sitting up and smiling.
There was to be a feast later in the afternoon to celebrate the Hobbit's awakening, and already the camp was astir. Legolas watched but did little. His thoughts were slow like the river and he clung to the Fellowship while his thoughts dwelled on Elrohir, Home, the Sea...
There was a small vase of wildflowers next to Sam's bed. Legolas had gathered those himself a few days before, wanting to bring some pleasure to Sam and knew the little gardener would like that. But he had needed to be helped by Pippin to arrange them in a small vase, for his fingers were still a little clumsy then and slow from the poison that had filled his veins. When he knocked over the vase and water flooded everywhere, he had raised his hand to cover his eyes in despair and misery for the gulls were calling and he could not shut them out, no matter how hard he tried. The sight of the spilled water caught and gleamed in the sunlight like the little waves on the river...and if they were curious, the Hobbits did not speak of it for he was not the only one whose soul was wounded.
Now Sam and Frodo were sitting out on the cool grass on the riverbank and smoking pipeweed. Merry was telling them all the news in Minas Tirith, and Pippin, being the most hale and untouched, wandered off in search of the cooking he could smell and to find out when the feast would start for no food was laid out. When he returned empty handed he told them it was because everyone was busy preparing the feast.
'Why is there a feast today?' Pippin whined. 'They've had all these days to have one and why now?'
Merry scowled at him and nudged him hard. 'Because Sam was not awake,' he scolded and Pippin hung his head ashamed. 'Gandalf said he would fetch us when they are ready for us.'
Legolas lay on the riverbank and trailed his hand in the water like the long whips of willow leaves and watched the gleam of sunlight on the water.
'This reminds me of the days when we first left Imladris...' Gimli said and smiled. 'Pippin was always saying he was hungry and asking Aragorn when was second breakfast. It was the first time I had heard of it.' He tapped out his pipe and showed his even white teeth. 'Merry was just as bad.' He grinned as Merry poked him.
'What a long way we have come.' Frodo looked softly at his friends and then at Sam. Sam was watching the flowers nod on their long stems, a white petal floated on the water.
Elrohir leaned carefully against the back of his chair that had been so precisely placed on a high bank for him so that he might watch the ceremony. Above him, the three great banners of Rohan, Dol Amroth and the black banner with the white tree and seven stars flowed on the wind that came up from the West, like a blessing.
On the field of Cormallen before him, the Host was drawing up its companies and ranks, mail and weapons glittering in the sun. He could hear the shouts of their respective commanders' orders competing with each other as different companies were drawn up. Their various pennants and banners streamed and snapped, azure and sable and argent. There were so many he could not recognise them and did not care to. The Captains of the Host stood near a dais that had been raised and upon it were three high seats built of green turves. The lords and captains talked amongst themselves excitedly, loudly, above the general hubbub of the gathering Host. Knights in bright mail and tall guards in silver and black began to assemble below the green bank, and amongst them a herald with a long silver trumpet stood nervously and glanced down the long green sward that led down to the river. Elrohir watched half-interestedly as Aragorn climbed to the middle throne and seated himself carefully. He stood again to swish his cloak out of the way and settled again.
Elrohir turned away and stared back over the crowds. The pageantry was empty for him, meaningless. It was too noisy and crowded, and he wished he had been spared, but Aragorn had insisted, for this was to honour the Hobbits.
Impassive and steely, Elrohir lounged in his chair, deliberately creating the impression of physical power sheathed in casual elegance, aware of the effect on the gathered soldiers and courters alike. None approached him. None guessed the darkness of his thoughts. As he intended. He stared impassively across the crowds for his chair had been set high, and he could view across the crowded sward.
Elladan stood nearby, Elrohir felt his brother's blue calm was unsettled and turned his head to see what had stirred Elladan so. Imrahil was standing close, leaning his head towards Elladan and smiling at something he said. ... Ah, Elrohir smiled to himself and glanced sideways at his sweet-natured brother. Elladan was leaning slightly towards Imrahil and Imrahil was talking animatedly, his blue eyes soft, and a smile curved his full lips.
Elrohir leaned his head back on the chair in which he sat. He thought Elladan was almost unaware how Imrahil felt or of the Man's hopes. Perhaps he was not unaware, Elrohir amended, but struggling to see that this was beyond mere liking or friendship. Elrohir could feel the way the blue depths of his brother were stirred and deepened, the pouring of his desire like the heaviness of a waterfall.
There was the smell of the grass bruised and broken beneath so many feet, and the warmer, moister scent of the mud beneath. He breathed it in, for it reminded him of Legolas.
Suddenly there was too much noise, too many Men. Elrohir wished Legolas were there. He had not seen him since Aragorn had broken in upon them with the news that he had received messages from Lothlorien, that Celeborn had met with Thranduil beneath the leaves of Mirkwood and they had cast down the Tower... Legolas had disappeared and Elrohir knew he had not been wanted then...He had longed to comfort Legolas but perhaps it was too soon, and their love too young and tender, not strong enough to withstand Legolas' anger and bitterness that the Woodelves had been left to fight on their own once more. For that was how he would look on it, had he been in Legolas' situation. Elrohir could not see why Celeborn might not have lent aid to Thranduil but he knew his grandfather was wise in the ways of politics and war and trusted Celeborn would have done what was right for Lothlorien. Legolas might not see that.
Later he had looked for Legolas, knowing he would be amongst the great oak trees, that he would be watching the stars wheel in the empty skies. It was strange to feel the longing in Legolas' heart, and hear the Song of green and gold, of sunlight through the beech leaves and the cold grey stream plunging between the ferny glades and dells. Elrohir had found him but not approached, merely stood nearby, deep in the shadows when Gimli had coaxed Legolas down and taken him to the warm and unquestioning Fellowship of the Hobbits. Later he heard Legolas' song down by the river but when he limped close, his broken and wounded body leaning on that stick, he had heard the voices of the Hobbits and Gimli, and had retreated again, like a shade in the sunlight.
So he had stayed hidden away, cloaked in his love and shame. But the memory of Legolas' love, his forgiveness and acceptance, of his own acquiescence and submission, bathed him in warmth and love. He felt a softness in him that had not been there before, like some hard and frozen part of him had unfurled like a new leaf, and fragile, was seeking the sun's warmth.
Movement caught his eye then and he looked across to where Aragorn sat upon the green throne. He stared for a moment and a memory of a bright-eyed lad with tangled hair struggling with a sword too heavy for him, struck him with almost physical force. But the boy, Estel, had long gone and instead there was a mail-clad man on a throne. Anduril was laid across his knees but he had laid his helm aside. So high and glad of face he was, thought Elrohir sadly. Kingly, he was a lord of Men now, dark-haired with eyes of grey.
Elrohir had a sudden flash: The dark hair was silver, and that kingly face was lined and aged and the eyes dimmed, the light gone. Anduril would lie on his breast and Arwen, veiled against her own desperate grief, clung to his cold hand...Elrohir saw himself turn her then, lift her up and guide her through the deserted and grieving mallorns of Lothlorien...and then he waited while she slowly, deeply made her Choice...A faint light hovered and closed upon her. For a moment it seemed the glade blazed with light and there was a scent of earth after the rain, it reminded him sharply of Aragorn. Then suddenly, all the light seemed to leave and he was left, bereft...
He gasped and the world tilted. He leaned forwards and was caught by Elladan, who looked at him gravely.
'You should not have come,' Elladan admonished him but Elrohir closed his eyes and breathed slowly. The physical sensation would pass. But the grief, ah, the grief... How could he endure it? He saw his fingers clench Elladan's sleeve. 'What did you see?' his brother whispered.
'The end of...this.' He gestured to the pomp and ceremony, to the throne upon which their beloved Estel now sat and Elladan met his eyes and nodded thoughtfully.
'I have seen that too...And more.'
Elrohir lifted his head to meet his brother's grey, serious eyes. Elladan moved his head slightly and a softness and sorrow was on his face. 'Aye, I have seen the last ship sail. And those who choose to stay.'
Elrohir felt his heart clench and dreadful grief strike him to his core. 'Legolas...' he began.
'Legolas will take the last ship when Aragorn's time...' He did not finish. 'Let us not speak of this now, brother.' There was a pleading in his voice that Elrohir had not heard before. But he would not think of that now. Not with all that was ahead of him, and behind him. There was only one reason now for him to choose the Way of Men now, and that was if Legolas was not in his life.
He was aware of Elladan's love, his protection. Like a cloak, the blue calm was deep midnight, warm. It wrapped him in its tender love. He felt the peace and wondered fleetingly that it may not be he who stayed.
A peal of trumpet notes blasted into the air abruptly dragging him back to the present. A flurry of trumpets and horns sounded triumphantly, and the voices of thousands of Men lifted:
'Long live the Halflings! Praise them with great praise!
Praise them with great praise, Frodo and Samwise!*'
In the long aisle that had been left through the throng, leading to the green dais, two small figures appeared, hesitant, red-faced and eyes shining with wonder. Frodo and Sam, and behind them, Gandalf whose form trembled with light. Elrohir could still not see Legolas but Gimli followed the Hobbits as they made their way up the green sward.
And then, his heart leapt and banged against his chest, Legolas. His long, easy stride took him to the Hobbits' side. He was beautiful, thought Elrohir and he could not stop staring. Legolas stood for a moment, framed in the sunlight that streamed in from the West and he turned his lovely, sculpted face towards the sun and it seemed to Elrohir that the sun itself was half in love, for the light poured onto him, turned him golden, caressed him with its warmth, turned his long hair molten. And when he turned, his smile was the sweetest Elrohir had ever seen.
Did he imagine an intake of breath from the Men gathered with him or was it just his own deep infatuation, his absolute adoration? Because that was the only way he could describe how he felt upon seeing Legolas. His skin tingled and yearned for his touch and his blood thrummed and heart thumped in his chest.
'Close your mouth, besotted fool! You are staring.' Elladan said fondly.
Elrohir glanced at his brother but caught a glimpse too of Imrahil, standing close by and he watched Elladan in the way that Elrohir himself watched Legolas. And at that moment,
Legolas turned his head, scanning the faces of the crowds and suddenly caught sight of Elrohir. The moment their gaze touched, everything changed...Elrohir felt plunged into a furnace of passion, ignited, flaming desire pierced him, from his loins to his heart as if lightning had shot through him. He knew he gasped because he saw out of the corner of his eye, that Elladan had turned in concern towards him.
A slow smile spread across the Woodelf's full, sculpted lips. And it dazzled him, all Elrohir could think was his green eyes, the generous and lovely curve of his mouth, his long, long hair and the way he tilted his head slightly so it fell like a long veil over one shoulder. He remembered the swirls and abstracts painted on the smooth skin, that his muscles rippled beneath Elrohir's hand and the dragon had peered with golden eyes, knowingly. He remembered too, with chill fear, how the green-gold threads of light had shimmered and hovered, like fireflies over Legolas' cold and abandoned body on the bleak mountain side, and how he felt he would die if Legolas did not return. He remembered how the black threads had suffocated the green-gold and how Elrohir had reached in and taken the darkness like it was a cloak and drawn it to himself. He remembered seeing Legolas pierced by the arrow back at Pelargir and he thought him lost even though they had fought only days before. He had spent his convalescence taking out each memory of Legolas, looking at it this way and that, and he knew, without any doubt, that his heart and his soul belonged to Legolas. He would not wait any longer. He pushed his chair out and struggled a little to his feet. Elladan looked up in surprise and caught this arm.
'Be still, Elrohir. You are not strong enough yet.'
Elrohir paused unsteadily for it was a little true. Then he said, 'Leave me be, Elladan. You have no idea what I can still do.' He softened. 'You have your own heart to care for, and I have mine.' He closed his hand over Elladan's, and slanted his eyes towards Imrahil.
Elladan's lips parted slightly in astonishment and Elrohir took advantage of his surprise and slowly, a little unsteadily, he pushed himself up from his chair and stood leaning on the cane he had for that purpose.
He realised that now Aragorn was leading the Hobbits up to the green turfed thrones, that the crowd had spilled into the aisle and gathered round the steps where minstrels were beginning to play. Elrohir craned his neck to see where Legolas was. A flash of gold and a blinding smile. There. Talking to Gimli but he saw too that Eomer had made his way into the crowd and that he stood near to Legolas, and Gimli was looking up and talking to both animatedly and loudly in spite of the minstrels' song.
Anxiously Elrohir pushed past the gathered nobles and knights who clustered around and edged towards the small group. There was movement and jostling and the crowd were joining in the praise of the Halflings. Elrohir felt his limbs tremble horribly and for a moment he paused, leaning heavily on his stick. When he looked up he saw Gimli's bronze hair and beard and Eomer, but Legolas had gone.
He lifted his head and searched through the smiling faces of the crowd, flushed with heat and wine and ale that was being poured and with the songs being sung. But nowhere could he see Legolas. A small sense of panic started in his chest and he forced himself to be still...to listen...all he heard was the song of the minstrels at first...but he did not listen to the music or the words, for it was so much less than he wanted.
Then he heard a chord, a harmony of small notes winding towards him, like the scent of the forest and the sweet mulch of autumn leaves. He closed his eyes to listen and for his feet to follow but instead there was a touch on his shoulder and he looked straight into Legolas' long green eyes. He stared at him as if he were his destiny.
'I cannot wait any longer.' He felt his fingers caught in a strong grip through the press of bodies.
More dangerous, less wise. Elrohir abandoned all the wisdom of the Noldor and followed Legolas, as his forebears had followed Fëanor in the heat of his passion and glory.
Men parted for them easily, and some smiled knowingly, for who had not seen the kiss before the Morannon? They had seen how the Sons of Thunder stood in the vanguard before the Black Gate and were not daunted, like heroes of the First Age. They had seen how the Nazgûl charged against the black horse that galloped and galloped for its rider, and died, had seen his brother ride out in defiance and glory and challenge the Nazgûl. And all had seen the tall Elf with golden hair shoot down the Nazgûl, one fell beast after another so they circled him and fell upon him like ravening wolves. So those who had stood at the Morannon parted for them easily and did not murmur.
Legolas led Elrohir slowly through the long grass, the seeds still unripe and green and he brushed his hand over them as he passed. He led Elrohir to where the old willows bent their long leaves and lay them across water that gleamed silver under the low sun. The sky was crimson, glorious, and the wind came up from the West and trailed salt on the air, like a silk scarf.
They stopped on the river bank and Legolas looked out over the water, his fingers still entwined with Elrohir's.
'I will come back here,' he said in quiet decision. 'The land here is wounded, do you not feel it?' He turned to face Elrohir and caught him in the green gaze that seemed to have absorbed all the colour of the Sea. 'Together we shall heal it.'
Elrohir followed his gaze as Legolas turned his face towards the West and let the setting sun caress him with its dying warmth. It gilded him for a moment so he was all gold and Elrohir felt his heart would burst with love.
'I have to go, to Imladris,' he said but he smiled at the devastation in the other Elf's eyes. 'For a while...But I will come back.' He lifted his hand to touch his cheek, to stroke his fingers down Legolas' face, draw his fingers down his face to his throat and hovered over his beating heart.
Legolas caught his fingers and pressed them to his lips earnestly. 'You are not some notch on my knife,' he said as if reading all of Elrohir's fears. He did not look away. 'You are everything. You are the breath of me, the heartbeat, my reason. You came back for me as I came back for you in Minas Tirith. We must be together...What am I without you?'
Legolas pressed himself against Elrohir, the bulge of his desire hard against him. 'Feel how much I want you.' He grasped Elrohir's hand, pulling it back to rub against his erection. Elrohir sighed. And then Legolas' other hand stole to his own sex and stroked him through the fine material of his breeches, then searched beneath the waistband. When he finally touched Elrohir's skin, he felt he was burning.
'You have promised me submission,' Legolas kissed his jaw, his throat so Elrohir parted his lips, breathing heavily. 'Let me show you how much I want you, how much you are to me.'
Elrohir hesitated and pulled away slightly. He could not say that the mere smell of his own release had prevented him from even that small mercy that all folk give themselves. And he could not say that he did not trust himself.
Legolas paused and looked at Elrohir carefully.
'You have never done this before?' he asked gently and Elrohir could hear the smile in his voice and looked up fiercely.
But Legolas' face was so tender, so compassionate that all anger fled. 'Yes. I have,' Elrohir said for he was no blushing virgin. But he was no paramour either. He rubbed his face. 'Not for many years.' Not for years and years and years...not since that dreadful time he had tried, and returned in the winter alone. He did not say this.
'Then I will enjoy reminding you,' said Legolas softly.
Legolas' bright eyes looked otherworldly and strange even to another Elf. He stroked his palms flat over Elrohir's chest, smoothing over his nipples, slowly, carefully, as if he sensed Elrohir's fear. 'Do you not feel how we burn together?' he murmured, pressing his cheek against Elrohir's, and even the touch of his skin on Elrohir's sent flames of passion through him. Legolas lifted Elrohir's long hair and kissed the rounded ear as if it were exotic and sensual.
Suddenly Elrohir grasped Legolas round his waist and pulled him closer. He buried his head in his neck, inhaled the scent of grass and the deep forest. He almost groaned for the desire that pounded in his veins. 'You are like a storm to me,' he said passionately. 'You have come and disturbed everything and...it frightens me. How you make me feel. How I want to see you undone, naked and writhing against me.'
He drew back to look deeply into Legolas' eyes and saw heat and passion, and deep somewhere, a predatory fire that matched his own wild lust. He tilted his head on one side and Elrohir wondered for a moment if it was a conscious seduction. But then he was caught in the slide of the long pale sheet of hair and he stared, forgetting all else but the sensation of lifting it in his hands and letting it stream through his fingers, pool on his palms and slide across his own skin. He lifted his hand and let his fingers catch in it gently, lusciously.
Legolas lips parted and he leaned in, pressed even closer to him and the heat from his lean body stroked Elrohir's. 'I would be naked and writhing beneath you.'
Elrohir plunged down and pressed his mouth against Legolas, hard and passionately brutal. And then there were hands on him, over him, unclipping, unbuckling, pulling fabric and shifting him until he stood mesmerized and naked, cleansed of the Shadow as the sky had been cleansed by the rain that had drenched the parched dry land of Mordor in the aftermath of the battle. He felt warmth and a wet mouth on his, felt his nipples pebble in the cold air, under the touch of an Elf he desired more than anything and he forgot himself...until he felt himself slammed against the trunk of an ancient oak tree.
He felt blood rush to his head and groin, lightheaded, full blooded - his whole being focused on lips and groin and fingers, hands, balls tightened, back pressed against the rough bark of the oak tree and he loved the feel of it and the crush of his beloved against him, hard and demanding.
Elrohir grabbed Legolas then and switched places, shoving him hard against the tree now and Legolas pulled at him, bore down on him, pushing him to the warm earth, cool grass, and Elrohir was fumbling at the ties of Legolas' well worn breeches, aware that in one place they tore easily and knowing he had done this before. He could not call what he did kissing, it was too wild, too violent but he felt Legolas return the desperate ravaging with his mouth, his hands. His throbbing sex rubbed against Legolas' thigh, a warm slick moisture on his skin.
He felt strong fingers stroke against his sac and then his rearing column of flesh and he arched his spine, a warm mouth on him and then the wetness of Legolas' tongue but he forgot all then and existed only as sensation, wetness and heat and unbearable building of ecstasy, and those long fingers stroked the crease between his buttocks and pressed into him. He tensed.
'Trust me.' The words whispered against his ear, wet with licks and tingling with bites. 'Yield to me. Submit. It will not be so hard for you.'
Elrohir hesitated. He had not imagined it to be this way around.
As if sensing his thoughts again, Legolas laughed softly. 'Is this way hard for you?' he asked amused and Elrohir baulked and pulled back. 'You promised me submission.'
'That was yesterday only.'
'No. It was not.'
He looked into wide green eyes and was aware that he heard a song of forests and ferns growing by clear forest streams over slate and granite and he heard his own song, the rhythmic pounding, the battle and fierce pride, like eagles flying keen-eyed and fierce, the wind under their wings, soaring high over mountains. He breathed.
'I will make it easier for you,' Legolas said and he licked his hand, his eyes on Elrohir's, and then sucked each of his long fingers. 'Come. It is always harder the first time but it gets easier.' He cupped Elrohir's face with his other hand. 'There will be pain. But you can bear it. And then there will be pleasure.'
He reached behind Elrohir then and his wet fingers stroked his entrance. 'Turn over,' he murmured, his breath hot and fast... And Elrohir turned and lay on his belly with his cheek pressed against the warm earth that was burgeoning with Spring, the buzz and whirr of small insects but his erection pressed against the hard earth and he moved his hips to rub it harder. Then he felt a delightful wetness and stroke along that crease, and fingers circled the pale skin of his entrance, pressed against it. The slick wetness of Legolas' fingers pressed and pushed in and he tensed.
Legolas leaned over Elrohir, kissing and biting his shoulder and neck, and with his other hand he pulled Elrohir up and back against him. Now the strong fingers stroked his own pulsing flesh that surged with desire and lust, the dark lust that wanted. Oh, how he wanted and strangely, he wanted to be filled, his mouth and his body to be taken and possessed by Legolas. He felt something blunt and hot nudge him then and then a terrible pain eased its way through him, a sudden stroke of fire up his spine and he cried out only to find his head pulled back and his cry muffled by Legolas' mouth, his tongue. Then something happened. He felt a thrust again and a jolt of...lust spiked him so he writhed and cried aloud again but again, Legolas was there, swallowing his cries and then again and again the pleasure-pain stabbed him with ecstasy and he ground his erection against Legolas' hot hand.
A hot breath murmured words that he no longer comprehended and he no longer knew anything for he was in some Other Place that was all sensation, all rising desire and lust and pleasure-pain....and suddenly that jolt, that spike again shot through him and he became liquid, molten, other....the fierce wild pain melted into something completely different....
After, his breathing slowed and he slowly half-opened his eyes to the bare earth, the dry soil and blades of grass still clenched tight in his fingers. He was aware of long strands of blond trailing over him, mingling with his own black hair, a burning sensation somewhere low in his body. Slowly he came back to himself and lay for a moment. He felt...like all the nerves and tangled knots of his body, of his spirit were smoothed out and silk in the warmth of the sun, like all the web of darkness and the taint of the Nazgûl had been purged from him, like he basked in pool of green-gold beneath the forest canopy and sunlight filtered down between the beech leaves.
He blinked and saw that Legolas lay on his side looking at him.
He saw Legolas licked his dry lips and then spoke as if this was all he had thought of during that devastating ecstasy. 'You said you had to go. When you come back,' he said, 'will you stay?'
Elrohir lifted a trembling hand to the lovely, strong face that he loved more than life, and stroked a long strand of gold, heavy silk, not like cornsilk, thicker, more lustrous. He found his own mouth dry and swallowed. 'I will stay for Arwen,' he said.
'Then I will stay for you.'
There was a long sigh like the wind on the Sea and Legolas bowed his head slightly, half-closed his eyes so his long lashes were dark on his cheek.
Gimli scowled at Ellahir who was talking animatedly, laughing and twirling a knife casually between his fingers. The candle light glinted off it annoyingly and kept flashing in Gimli's eyes whenever he tried to look at it for it was finely made and he wondered who had crafted it. But it annoyed him too because he did not know where Legolas was. Or Elrodan. And Aragorn was giving him meaningful and smug looks. Ellahir leaned towards Imrahil who looked besotted, his cheeks flushed and eyes following Ellahir's every move like a love-sick maid. Gimli stabbed a knife into the rare meat put before him, muttering.
The feast was in honour of the 'Halflings' as the Men of Gondor kept calling Frodo and Sam, and all the great captains were there, and at the top table, served by Aragon himself, were Frodo and Sam, looking still rather overwhelmed, and Gandalf looking impossibly smug and pleased.
Gimli growled to himself, spearing the meat and shoving it crossly into his mouth. He didn't mind Gandalf being smug, but he did mind the occasional smirk from Aragorn and his pointed looks at the empty seat next to Gimli, and then the pointed way he then looked at the empty seat next to Ellahir. The red juice ran from the meat dribbled irritatingly onto Gimli's fine velvet tunic. He chewed once and swallowed and speared a second slice of meat.
At least he knew which was which now that Elrodan was crippled and hobbling about on a stick. And at least it meant he knew where to find Legolas if he needed to. Most of the time. Which was all the more irritating that they were both absent and he couldn't find either of them. And it didn't mean that Aragorn was right either. He grabbed at his tankard of ale and gulped without tasting that either. Some of it slopped over his sleeve and he shook his head at his own disgraceful lack of manners and comportment. He was behaving like a Woodelf, slopping his drink and dropping his food down himself.
Calm, like the Mountain, he reminded himself and wished he was nearer good clean mountains, not these great jagged teeth that were tainted by Sauron's fire. Even in Ithilien he was aware of them. Their song of stone was discordant, clanging and angry like some great smith beating his fury on metal that should be tempered, soothed with khuzdul words and the sacred chants. It unsettled him. He quickly pattered out a prayer on the underside of the table, and tried to make it calm him.
At least he could have been calm for a moment, except something, someone jobbed his elbow as he lifted his ale and made him spill it down his tunic. He swore in Khuzdul.
'Very impressive,' said a cool voice by his ear. Legolas slid into his seat between Pippin and Gimli. His face was flushed and soft and his usually immaculate hair slightly disheveled. Pippin was grinning away delightedly and Gimli glared at him too. Patience of stone, patience of stone he tried to tell himself but Legolas looked so damnably pleased with himself.
'Where have you been?' he growled at the Elf. 'I was worried about you.'
Pippin grinned even more widely and reached up and plucked a bit of grass from Legolas' hair and quickly brushed more grass and small bits of stick from his back. 'In the Shire, we'd say you look like you've been dragged through a hedge backwards,' he said mischievously.
Legolas smiled one of his blinders, as Pippin called them, and said, 'In my home we say, spun by a spider,' he said very seriously. He picked a twig out of his hair and looked at it amused.
'Ah, of course,' Pippin said with equal seriousness. 'We also say tumbled in the hay.'
Gimli glanced across at the Hobbit. In Esgaroth, which he knew well, that had a quite different meaning. Surely Pippin could not think Legolas had sneaked off from the ceremony to...tumble in the hay! He tugged his silky beard wondering how to tell Pippin that he may offend people going round saying things like that. Not that Legolas would be offended. He would be amused. Pleased even!
'Hm. And I have heard it also said rolled by a Dwarf,' Legolas said.
'I have heard that too.' Pippin said conversationally over Gimli's gasp of outrage.
'All of it could be true,' the Elf added, ignoring him and reaching for a plate with a few slices of roasted meat left.
'You have missed all the best food, Legolas, because Gimli has been dropping it in his beard and spilling all the beer down his front.'
While Gimli was spluttering over his beer, Pippin loaded meat and some deliciously spiced vegetables onto Legolas' plate and filled his goblet with wine, for Legolas would drink wine not beer.
'I see that Elrohir has joined us too,' Pippin said helpfully and Gimli looked up to see the empty chair opposite that was no longer empty. Elrodan was lounging in it, one eyebrow quirked in imitation of his illustrious father. 'He is looking much better, don't you think, Legolas?' Pippin observed casually.
Gimli was aware that his own mouth was open as Elrodan casually picked a blade of grass from his immaculate black velvet tunic and smoothed his hair. Which was not quite as immaculate as usual. In fact, his skin was flushed and glowing, and he definitely looked better than he had for quite some time, Gimli realised. He stole a look at Legolas who was staring, no, not staring, gazing, definitely gazing at the elven warrior opposite him with something akin to worship. Legolas gave a small laugh and Gimli felt a lightness like green-gold brush his awareness. But it must have been that the sun shone particularly strongly and was filtered through the luxurious silks that lined the pavilion.
'Thorin's hairy balls,' Gimli groaned in realisation, and looked up, grinding his teeth to see Aragorn watching him with a smug look and raise his goblet meaningfully. 'I will never live this down.'
'What is Aragorn laughing at you for?' Legolas asked, pulling towards himself a basket of tiny loaves of delicately baked bread, meant to be eaten as delicious morsels, and a dish of yellow butter.
Gimli did not answer, he was too busy draining his own tankard of ale.
The Elf shrugged. 'He has hardly reason,' he continued, picking up the greasy meat in his fingers and shoving it into his mouth as if he were starving. The juice dribbled down his fingers and he licked it off in a manner that Gimli could only describe as lavish and extravagant. 'That song!' Legolas' fingers hovered momentarily over the tiny loaves of bread and then swooped in and Gimli watched in alarm as Legolas swiped the whole tiny loaf over the yellow butter.
Gimli nudged him with his elbow. 'Legolas,' he hissed. The Elf looked at him with concern and Gimli was forced to hiss at him again, 'Manners! You are amongst Men, not a pit full of Woodelves.'
'What? Oh.' Legolas looked down at the Dwarf's disapproving face and then around at the company. He reached down to his boot and whipped out a lethally sharp knife and thrust it into a creamy white cheese. 'Do you know I forgot where I was!' he exclaimed, eating the cheese straight off the blade and Gimli groaned. Why bother?
Pippin sniggered and Legolas wiped his hands on his tunic and then wiped his mouth on his sleeve and shot a dazzling smile around at anyone who was looking. Gimli mentally braced himself because Pippin had sniggered and that would have encouraged Legolas.
Legolas laughed loudly and called across to Aragorn, 'Praise them with great praise?' Did you write that that all by yourself?' Then he grinned widely and when Aragorn looked annoyed, he nudged Pippin who laughed with him. 'We thought so. Gimli owes me a very nice pocket knife he has.' Legolas brandished his own knife that glinted in the candlelight and looked like it could cut a hair in two. Pippin ducked nervously.
Gimli was delighted to see Aragorn looked slightly embarrassed; Imrahil was speaking to him and leaving the great table, but Aragorn looked distracted and was not listening to Imrahil. Gimli's good humour was suddenly restored. Legolas was safe after all, and if he had tumbled with Elrodan, well, they were both grown-ups and could look after themselves. Perhaps it had been a long time coming after all. He was not unfamiliar with some of the ways of Men. And Elves it seemed.
He carefully removed a crumb from his silky beard and handed Legolas a napkin, which he looked at in askance. 'Wipe your mouth,' he said gently and smiled. And when Legolas looked at him, he felt again that sudden flood of green-gold sunlight and someone must had crushed some herbs for a sweetness filled the air.
'It will be the influence of Elves upon your song-writing skills,Aragorn,' Gimli decided he would not be bested and put on a Pippin-ish seriousness. 'For are there not some of the greatest songs sung in the Halls of Rivendell?' he asked. Legolas was very still and cocked his head to shoot a knowing glance down at Gimli. Gimli laughed, showing his white teeth and his bright eyes gleamed.
'Indeed they do,' Legolas replied with feigned innocence. 'Most of them are long and very sad. But not all.' He cocked his head to one side and shot a teasing look towards Elrohir, and then back at Aragorn who was looking nervously at his brothers. But Ellahir was not listening, for he looked like he had just discovered something that he had not realised about himself and was staring after Imrahil who was passing behind Gimli and going out into the sunlight. And Elrohir only had eyes for Legolas and nothing he did could be wrong. But Aragorn was fair game, thought Gimli, and took a deep breath, making sure everyone could hear though he did not speak loudly; it was one of the Gifts of Mahal.
Legolas was humming something under his breath.
Then Gimli grinned, a broad Dwarvish grin at Legolas. 'Tra-la-la-lally down here in the valley, do you mean?' he bellowed with loud dwarvish laugh. 'I know it well!'
At last the glad day ended; and when the Sun was gone and the round Moon rode slowly above the mists of the Anduin and flickered through the fluttering leaves, the rest of the Fellowship sat under the whispering trees amid the fragrance of fair Ithilien; and they talked deep into the night. There Gimli learned much of all that had happened after their Fellowship was broken on that evil day at Parth Galen by Rauros Falls; and still there was always more to ask and more to tell.
They learned some, but Gimli knew not all, of what had befallen Frodo and Sam. But they were sparing with their questions, for it was too soon. And he remembered Legolas' words when Gandalf had fallen and he could not speak of what the Elves sang; for me the grief is too near. So it was for Frodo, and for Sam. And often they looked at each other with understanding and the same deep love he felt not only for Legolas, but all of his friends here in the reunited Company.
Gimli sat beneath the great oak trees, looking at each of the Fellowship with immense affection. Pippin was laughing and Gimli remembered how he had searched for the Hobbit amongst the charnel of the battlefield, fingers tapping against each other in the tiny movements of the Aglâbnâla. It was late, he thought, and the Hobbits looked tired. Pippin was flushed and loud, making dreadful jokes at Gandalf's expense and Gimli was suddenly so glad Legolas had made him go and find the Hobbit for had he not, Pippin would have perished in that distant and forsaken land.
Gandalf must have been having similar thoughts for he rose at last and said, 'The hands of the King are the hands of healer, dear friends,' he said briskly, shooting a look at Pippin and then more softly at Sam, who was struggling to stay awake. 'But you went to the very brink of death 'ere he called you back, putting forth all his power, and sent you into the sweet forgetfulness of sleep. And though you have indeed slept long and blessedly, still it is time now to sleep again.*'
'And not only Frodo and Sam here,' Gimli nodded towards Pippin, who was giggling uncontrollably. 'but you too, Pippin. I love you if only because of the pains you have cost me, which I shall never forget. Nor shall I forget finding you on the hill of the last battle.' He did not say how he had felt on half-carrying Legolas, with barely breath left in his body, how they had slowly, tortuously made their way along the bottom of the slag heaps to find a healer, how they had stumbled across Elladan and Legolas was frightened. He did not say how Legolas had gazed so fearfully at him and grasped his hand, made him swear not to leave Pippin in that forsaken land...and he had meant himself also Gimli took a breath and pushed those memories away. Instead he looked at Pippin and smiled. 'But for Gimli the Dwarf you would have been lost then.' And he knew Legolas understood for he turned and the moonlight shone in his strange green eyes for a moment. 'But at least I know the look of a Hobbit's foot, though it be all that can be seen under a heap of bodies.'*
Pippin grinned at him and threw his arm about Gimli, mumbling something incoherent. It sounded like 'You're my best friend, Gumli. No! Glumly...Gimlug...I love you. I really love you. Better than Mer.. well, no. Not better than Mer...What's your dad's name again? Groin?'
Merry smiled apologetically and started to say something but Gimli stopped him.
"Mahal willed it,' he said simply. 'When I heaved that great carcass off you, you looked for all the world dead,' he said gruffly and Pippin wobbled unsteadily on his feet, staring glassy-eyed at him. Gimli remembered though, how he felt the heat of the living and the cold of the dead - not The Dead as they had been at Pelargir. He let himself feel where there was warmth, energy, life amongst this slaughter and even now, the moment was sharp in his memory. 'A Dwarf always knows. Anyone else would have given you up. But there was the spark of life in you yet.'
'Now, it is only a day or two since you invalids were first up and abroad again,' he said gruffly, though he knew it was longer, it didn't matter. 'To bed now you go. And so shall I!'
Legolas stood then, brushing off the blades of grass and small flowers that seemed to cling to him as if they did not want him to go. He laughed lightly, and his eyes shone like Gimli had not seen before. 'And I shall walk in the woods...' He paused and smiled. 'And if my Elven-lord allows, some of our folk shall remove hither, and when we come it shall be blessed for a while...' He turned and looked upon the Fellowship, and Gimli was not alone in feeling it was a benediction. And no one questioned that the land would be blessed. 'For a while: for a month, a life, a hundred years of Men...' He lifted his face to the risen Moon and the white light stroked his hair so it gleamed. 'But the Anduin is near, and Anduin leads down to the Sea. To the Sea!' He turned in a circle in the moonlight, hands outstretched and head tilted back.
A shadow detached itself from the trees and slipped, limping, quietly away towards the river and Legolas' head turned and followed its path.
He smiled then, so sweetly, so utterly delighted that Gimli could not be sad at the Song that lifted from him then for he laughed and turned and gave Pippin an enormous and extravagant bow. Then he turned and went down the long slopes towards the river, following the shadow that slipped from tree to tree.
'Leg'les.. you're my best mate!' slurred Pippin, falling into Merry. 'Tell Elrodan...tell him.. I was never scare of him...'He giggled and tripped over and went down in a tumble of soft limbs.
Gimli looked upon Pippin's laughing, mischievous face, and turned towards Merry. He saw then that Merry had the same look of astounded delight that Gimli knew was upon his own. He felt a dazzle of white power briefly brush against his own thoughts and glanced up to see Gandalf's piercing blue eyes upon him. Gandalf nodded as if he too shared the same thoughts and drew upon his pipe. A smoke ring floated above him. The white smoke turned blue, then green then gold as it turned from an arrow, axe and sword, and then trembling to hold its shape it turned into a white ship with full sails...and the Wizard turned his eyes towards Gimli and smiled.
*Reference to Spiced Wine's fabulous spin off this, A Blood-Dark Northern Star.
*This is the vision Saruman showed Legolas of Mirkwood, in the prequel to this. On ffnet, Deeper than Breathing but grown up better versions on Faerie and AO3 as Songs of Rohan.
*Belâsen: My strength. A phrase from Avari, derived from primitive Quendi.
You'll have noticed too, smatterings of phrases from the book itself. I did not *as it was becoming intrusive.