"His eyes are open," whispered Aragorn in surprise. "I almost gave up hope."
Boromir stared curiously into the Elf's eyes. "They still look blank. Like he doesn't know we're here."
"He knows we're here..." Gandalf joined them as well, having heard Aragorn's words. "But he will return to us in little steps. His eyes are open, but his mind is still far away. Yet, it is a good sign. He has chosen life over death. The tales of your childhood made him return to us, Boromir." Seeing Legolas' open eyes, Gandalf felt hopeful that the Elf would eventually make a full recovery. It was beyond him how Boromir had accomplished this feat as it was unique. Not even the wisest of Elves had managed to bring back ravaged brothers or sisters. Wasn't it ironic that a Man would succeed where Elves had failed?
"When we enter Moria you must be alert, Boromir," continued Gandalf. "The darkness will weigh heavily on Legolas and it might urge him to draw back again. You must watch him closely."
Aragorn raised his right hand and stroked the fair hair. "Legolas will return to us, I'm certain of it now." Reassured, he rose to his feet and left, eager to take the first watch and to make sure that the mysterious attacker couldn't get close to the camp.
"Continue to talk to him and maybe he will drink now..." Gandalf nodded encouragingly. "I will tell our friends that Legolas is improving." He then moved back to the fire, giving Boromir and Legolas some privacy.
Boromir's gaze was locked with Legolas, and although the Elf's stare was empty, Boromir thought he saw emotion in the deep blue pools. "So you decided to open your eyes? Thank you, Legolas. Now drink some water or eat the berries the hobbits keep gathering. Every night they fill my hands with berries for you to eat. You shouldn't disappoint them."
Boromir brought a flask, filled with water, to Legolas' lips and let some drops fall on to the Elf's lips. His heart thumbed madly in his chest seeing Legolas swallow the droplets. "Aye, that's it. Now we're making progress." After letting Legolas drink some more, he removed the flask and pulled the cloak closer around them. His hands found Legolas' and he began rubbing the icy cold fingers. "So you liked my stories about Faramir? I have more of them..."
Boromir made sure Legolas rested comfortably in his arms and regaled the Elf with more childhood stories during the entire night.
Boromir's eyes tried to pierce the blinding darkness of Moria. They had been driven into the Mines of Moria by a creature in the water and they now stood panting in the darkness. Legolas still rested against him, lying in the sling Boromir had turned his cloak in. Suddenly Gandalf's staff came alive with light, illuminating their surroundings. His first glance was for Legolas and Boromir felt reassured seeing the Elf's eyes still open and yet there was a dark, restless gleam in them which hadn't been there before. "You don't like being here," Boromir whispered, "I don't like being here either... But I will keep you safe."
"It's a long walk through the dark of Moria," said Gandalf, leading them through the dark chambers. His concerned glance traveled to Legolas and then to Boromir. "Stay close. The darkness will consume him should he get separated from you. Stay close to my staff's light."
Aragorn signaled Boromir to take the second place in line, right behind Gandalf and Boromir obeyed.
While Gimli talked about ancient times and the Dwarves digging deep, Boromir concentrated on his charge. Legolas began to shift in his cloak, at times moaning softly. Gandalf was right; the darkness was tormenting the Elf. "Be reassured," he whispered into the Elf's ear. "You are not alone. The darkness can't have you. I will keep you here."
They marched for long hours, but then Gandalf motioned them to stop. "I don't remember this," the Wizard said, staring at three corridors in front of him.
Gandalf sat down to ponder this dilemma and Boromir used the moment to sit down as well, holding Legolas close. "I still got some berries. Eat them. They will remind you of the forest and the rivers." He placed one berry in Legolas' mouth, hoping the Elf would swallow. "It's been four days since you ate last, Legolas, and you will eat these berries, even if I myself must force feed them to you. Now swallow."
Surprised, Boromir watched Legolas swallow the berry. The threat had worked. "Now another..." If threatening the Elf worked he would continue to do so. "When Faramir was ill with the flu I had to feed him some porridge. He hated it, but I made him eat it..."
Legolas seemed to get the message, now eating the berries obediently. Boromir marveled at this development. It looked like the Elf's body was responding, but Legolas' mind was still clinging to death, refusing to surface yet. The oppressive darkness was getting to him as well and everyone had fallen silent, even the hobbits. He needed to hear his own voice to keep the darkness from devouring him. "I hope you will one day tell me about your older brother, Valthoron, and the tricks you played on your father. Gandalf said the two of you drove your father mad."
Aragorn looked up, smiled and then hid his face behind his hair. This was between Boromir and Legolas and no matter how much he wanted to help the Elf, it was now up to Boromir to keep Legolas' spirit alive.
Boromir looked up, hearing Frodo and Gandalf talking softly. Suddenly the Wizard jumped to his feet, announcing he now knew which corridor was the correct one. Boromir sighed. "Gandalf made his decision... Maybe we will leave this darkness very shortly, Legolas." He once more fastened his cloak as a sling around him and pulled Legolas close.
The nine companions walked through the darkness and suddenly Gimli released a keening wail which made Legolas flinch. Boromir, concerned, tightened his hold on the Elf. His eyes followed Gimli as the Dwarf ran in to a deserted chamber, finding his cousin Balin's grave. The party halted and Boromir whispered softly, "Aragorn, we shouldn't stop. We should continue to move."
Aragorn nodded, but couldn't help listening to Gandalf.
"We can't get out..." were Gandalf's last words. "We can't get out."
Suddenly Pippin bumped in to a skeleton, sending it and a bucket down a pit. The sound rattled all Moria and soft, but dooming drums sounded from the dark chambers of Moria.
Commotion in the corridor made Boromir draw his sword and he took a defensive stance. Now that he had to look after Legolas he couldn't simply charge at the enemy, he had to be careful now.
"Goblins and they have a cave troll!" Aragorn quickly barricaded the door.
Boromir looked at his charge. "I will defend you... but we could use your bow and keen eye, Legolas." But the Elf remained silent.
The battle had been ugly. They had almost lost Frodo, but the hobbit had more tricks up his sleeve than anyone ever suspected.
Boromir kept one arm folded around the Elf, and looked cautiously around him. Suddenly the floor and ceiling came alive. "Goblin men!" cursed Boromir. Hundreds, maybe a thousand, of the foul creatures suddenly surrounded them and he kept his sword defensively in front of him. "Legolas, we're vastly outnumbered." Fighting themselves a way through the crowd seemed impossible and he worried more about the Elf and the company than for himself. The hobbits weren't warriors... They shouldn't be slain in battle.
A roaring sounded erupted from the end of the corridor and the goblins turned about, suddenly moving anxiously. Another roar sounded and they scattered in all directions. Boromir frowned at finding all goblins gone. "What devilry is this?"
Gandalf looked puzzled, unsure what to make of this development. He sensed something old, some evil, but couldn't identify it.
"A... Balrog... is... coming..."
Boromir's eyes widened in surprise, hearing Legolas' soft murmurs against his ear. Legolas was responding! Those were the first words the Elf had spoken since the attack!
"A Balrog..." Gandalf repeated the word. He knew that the Dwarves had dug too deep and too greedily, and thus they had freed this ancient evil from its prison. Only then did he realize that Legolas had spoken those words. He felt joy at hearing the Elf's weak voice, but dread when thinking of the danger they now feared. "Run fools!" This was an enemy none of them could defeat and he wasn't sure he would emerge victorious if it came down to a duel. "Run!"
Running through the great hall, down the stairs, Boromir almost fell in to darkness when the stairs suddenly ended in nothingness. Aragorn pulled him back, steadying him and after exchanging a glance, they continued. They jumped, one by one, and the great bridge partly collapsed behind them. They froze in dread when the ancient Balrog appeared behind them.
"Keep on moving! Take Legolas and the hobbits in to safety!" Aragorn pushed Boromir toward the entrance. "Gandalf and I will deal with the Balrog. Keep running and don't look behind you."
Boromir wanted to protest, but the expression in Aragorn's eyes was determined and he signaled the hobbits and Dwarf to follow him. Behind him, he heard Gandalf command the Balrog to return to the shadows, then there was a loud thud and Gandalf told the Balrog once more that the ancient evil wasn't allowed to pass. Suddenly noise and screams sounded from behind him, but he didn't dare look, knowing that he would turn around to help his friends and he couldn't do that. Aragorn depended on him to take the rest of the party to safety.
When they entered open space, Boromir finally looked over his shoulder. Aragorn was behind him, but Gandalf had disappeared and he instinctively knew what had happened to the Wizard. Gandalf had lost the battle and the Balrog wouldn't release his prisoner ever again.
Looking at the hobbits he found their faces stained with tears. Frodo was walking away from them, wanting to grieve for their old friend alone. Gimli looked shocked and as his eyes met Legolas he saw that they were swimming, releasing tears.
"Boromir, Gimli, get them to their feet." Aragorn hated pushing them on, but they didn't have a choice. Gandalf had given his life to buy them this head start.
"Give them a moment!" protested Boromir, having trouble to keep his own emotions in check. Especially the little ones deserved a moment of mourning! He gently touched Legolas' face, letting one tear slip on to his fingertip. It seemed precious to him and he rubbed it between his fingers. Tears... Legolas cried for Gandalf, but the Elf hadn't cried after he had been viciously attacked.
"These hills will be soon be swarming with Orcs!" said Aragorn. "We have to get moving." He wished they could sit down and mourn Gandalf's passing, but time was a luxury they didn't have. He couldn't let Gandalf's sacrifice be in vain!
Boromir reluctantly agreed that Aragorn was right and he pulled Sam and Merry to their feet. Gimli was ready to move on, but the Dwarf's eyes revealed his grief.
Aragorn guided Frodo back to the company and Boromir groaned at the grueling pace Aragorn set. Looking at Legolas' face he found that the Elf's tears had stopped, but the formerly expressionless eyes were now filled with regret and pain. He hated seeing those emotions in Legolas' eyes, which should shine with energy, but at least Legolas was now showing his emotions. The blank stare that had worried him was gone now. Legolas was returning to them little by little.
Aragorn had decided that it was too risky to make a fire tonight so they now huddled close in darkness. The hobbits clung to each other, making sure they stayed warm by sharing their body warm. Gimli stood guard, needing a moment of privacy to deal with his feelings concerning Gandalf's death. Aragorn sat beside Boromir and stole glances at Legolas.
Seeing the Elf's open eyes filled with him with hope, but his heart was heavy, mourning Gandalf's passing. He didn't know what the future would bring now that their guide was lost. He decided to head for Lothlorien to see the Lady Galadriel. Maybe she could offer him advice, but it would take them a few more days to get to the enchanted forest.
"I'll miss him," whispered Sam... He had grown fond of the Wizard. "And his fireworks."
The other hobbits mumbled in agreement.
Aragorn looked at them and realized they needed encouragement. "Aye, we lost Gandalf to the Balrog, but we regained Legolas. The Elf's slowly returning to us." Privately he wondered how Legolas had known the Balrog was approaching. Had they met before?
"He is?" Frodo's eyes sought out Legolas and he smiled, finding them open.
"He even ate some of your berries, young hobbits," said Boromir encouragingly. "Losing Gandalf is most unfortunate and we will mourn his passing, but this Elf needs you. Needs you to gather more berries."
The hobbits nodded approvingly. "We will find more berries!" They were delighted that Legolas had eaten their berries and felt proud that they were able to help.
A nagging sense of guilt continued to eat at Aragorn. When they had found the ravaged Elf, he had automatically assumed Boromir was the perpetrator, but now that he saw with how much care Boromir tended to Legolas he realized how absurd that idea had been. Boromir was clearly incapable of hurting the Elf. "Boromir..."
Boromir looked up questioningly. Legolas was moving restlessly and the Elf's hands twitched nervously. "Aye?"
"I owe you an apology..." Aragorn moistened his lips; his mouth had suddenly gone dry. "I should never have accused you of hurting Legolas."
"I accept your apology," said Boromir at once. "Though I regret you ever reached that terrible conclusion. Let us not speak of it ever again."
Aragorn gratefully accepted. "What you are doing for Legolas is a testimony of your honor, Boromir, but tell me, why did you so willingly accept this task, which isn't an easy one?"
Boromir drew in a deep breath. "Maybe it's because of Faramir. I used to take care of my little brother and although Legolas' looks are deceiving I see him as a youngster."
"He's over two thousand years old," said Aragorn amused.
"But he doesn't look a day older than twenty!"
Aragorn had to admit that Boromir made a valid point. Legolas looked awfully young; and it had made Boromir accept this responsibility. "Boromir, it's safe to say that Legolas will eventually recover thanks to your care... Do you realize what that means?"
Boromir continued to stroke the blond hair as he looked at Aragorn. "I do not understand."
Aragorn grinned. "Legolas accepted this bond that is forming between the two of you. Once he recovered that bond must be completed." The frown on Boromir's brow amused him. "He will expect you to become his mate, his lover."
Boromir gulped. "What?"
"Gandalf explained this to you, didn't he?" Aragorn's amusement faded slightly. "It's a bond for life, a bond between lovers." Did Boromir even like men? "I'm sorry I thought you knew..."
Boromir blinked. "I didn't give Gandalf's words much thought back then. I was set on helping Legolas survive and... Lovers?" He shook his head in disbelief. "Aye, the Elf's attractive and fair, but..."
"You fancy women?"
Boromir shrugged, careful not to disturb Legolas who was still cradled against his chest. "I fancy both men and women, but... an Elf? He will live long after I'm dead."
"They can choose to become mortal." Arwen had offered him her immortality.
Boromir shook his head. "I wouldn't want that..." He looked at Legolas, wondering why the Elf had accepted him. He would have understood if Legolas had accepted Aragorn... maybe even the wise Gandalf, but why would the Elf settle for him? Legolas didn't even like him!
The tension that had build between them was getting to Aragorn and he changed their subject. "We will arrive at Lothlorien in a few days. Maybe the wise Lady Galadriel knows a way to heal Legolas without you needing to bond first."
Boromir nodded. "I would not mind being bound to him. He's honorable and fair, but it would be unfair to Legolas to be bound to me. I'll grow old and weak while he will remain young. Such a bond can't be healthy."
Aragorn regretted ever telling Boromir. "Do not worry about it. I'm sure things will happen as they are destined to happen." Aragorn rose to his feet and left Boromir to his own thoughts.
Boromir slept surprisingly peacefully that night. His dreams, normally filled with soft whispering of the One Ring, were now filled with Legolas' voice, mumbling softly. He couldn't make out the words, for he didn't know any Sindarin or Quenya and he was at a loss to what Legolas was saying. The Elf was in his arms, clinging to him for warmth and Legolas' fingers tenderly caressed his. A sense of peace descended on to Boromir and settled in his troubled heart. For the first time in his life he felt at peace and comfortable.
"Master Boromir?" Gimli frowned, realizing how soundly asleep Boromir was. It was a good thing that he was standing guard. "Wake up. We are about to leave camp."
Boromir reluctantly opened his eyes, unwilling to leave the dream behind. He blinked once, recognized Gimli's face and shook off the last remnants of sleep. "I will be up and about in a few minutes."
"Do not hurry, Master Boromir." Gimli's gaze shifted to Legolas. "His eyes are still open... And his hands are clutching your cloak. I do think he will come back to us. And aye, that's a good thing. Never thought I would ever befriend an Elf, but I did!"
Boromir took hold of the water flask and placed it against Legolas' lips. His eyes widened, as Legolas swallowed eagerly. Curious, he studied the Elf's eyes again and he swore he saw recognition in them. "You spoke when the Balrog came upon us. Please speak again. I would like to hear your voice." The nervous twitch near Legolas' right eye betrayed the Elf. "You heard me! Why ignore me?" He actually felt angry at the Elf. "You hear my words, but you shut me out, why?"
Legolas' hand twitched in his and Boromir calmed down. "I apologize, Legolas. I didn't mean to grow angry with you, but seeing you like this pains me."
Legolas blinked and Boromir smiled pleased, taking it as a positive sign. Maybe the Elf was still to weak to speak and this was his way to communicate, or at least show that he had understood. "I can't imagine how hard this is on you, but you have my support, Legolas."
The Elf blinked again and this time the no longer vacant eyes sought out his. "You're coming back to us, aren't you? I just need to be patient. Close your eyes once for yes." His heart missed a beat when Legolas shut his eyes. "At least now I know you're still in there. I was worried when you were unresponsive... I wish Gandalf were here to tell me what to do next."
At the mention of Gandalf's name a soft whimper fled Legolas' lips. "Aye, I know you cared for the Wizard and my heart mourns his passing as well. The only thing we can do is travel to Mount Doom and destroy the Ring. Gandalf would want us to carry on."
"Boromir? We need to leave now." Aragorn gently squeezed Boromir's shoulder. "Legolas looks like he's getting better."
"He can hear me, and he understands my words. Closing his eyes once means yes..."
Aragorn was impressed. "I don't know how you do it, my friend. Ancient Elves failed to bring back their own and you accomplished the impossible." Aragorn smiled warmly. "Aye, you are right. His eyes are no longer vacant. Legolas knows we're here."
The Elf briefly closed his eyes and Boromir boomed with pride. He had kept Legolas from leaving them. "I will see to it that he makes a full recovery..." Even if that meant becoming lovers...
With Legolas resting in his arms Boromir fell in to step beside Gimli. The four hobbits were busy gathering berries and once their hands were full, they slipped the berries in to Boromir's pockets. He gratefully accepted the gift. "How much longer before we reach Lothlorien?"
"Aragorn thinks we will arrive there tomorrow..." Gimli studied Legolas' face. The Elf's eyes were alive and curious and settled on a cloud, following it. "Aragorn told me he's aware of us?"
"Aye..." Boromir smiled and pressed his charge closer to his body. Then his smile faded. "But he seems incapable of speech."
Gimli gave Legolas a long thoughtful look. "Maybe he's like a child. Maybe he needs to relearn everything... You'll need to be patient and to teach him. Consider him a newborn."
Boromir considered the Dwarf's words, which made sense. Legolas had been to the Halls of Mandos and back again. That would take its toll on the Elf. "Your words are wise, Master Dwarf..."
Gimli nodded. "Be patient with our Elf..." Gimli raised his axe and then joined Aragorn who was walking up front.
Boromir nodded absentmindedly. "That may be it." The Elf's eyes were wide and full of an unknown emotion. "I will teach you then."
Boromir rocked Legolas. The Elf had eaten a handful of berries and drank a healing tea which Aragorn had prepared. For the first time since this ordeal had started Legolas looked content. The twitching had stopped and his head rested comfortably against Boromir's shoulder.
"I wish I knew your thoughts, Legolas," said Boromir, fingering the blond hair. "You accepted me as your mate, but why? You must have a reason, which eludes me. I'm merely a Man, and you're an Elf."
Suddenly Legolas jerked in the embrace and Boromir acted at once, tightening the embrace. Seeing the confused expression in Legolas' eyes, he quickly explained. "I'm not rejecting you or our bond, Legolas. I'm merely wondering..."
Boromir held his breath as Legolas' hand weakly squeezed his. Surprised, yet pleased, Boromir smiled. "You must like me then. That's quite the surprise. At the council of Elrond I got the impression that you disliked me. Maybe I was wrong? Who knows the mind of an Elf?"
Legolas unexpectedly smiled at him and Boromir swallowed hard, realizing that smile was only meant for him. "You want this bond to work, don't you? Why? What makes you think we will work out?"
But Legolas remained silent. The smile however, didn't fade.
"I won't betray your trust in me. Tomorrow we enter Lothlorien and Aragorn told me about the Lady Galadriel. She will be able to help you."
Another moan escaped Legolas' lips, making Boromir wonder. "You don't think she can help you? Aragorn said she is wise." But Legolas' eyes told him differently. "You think only I can help you?" Legolas blinked, confirming Boromir's thoughts. "Why do you put your trust in me?" It was the one thing that baffled the Gondorian. Secretly he felt like he shouldn't be trusted; the lure of the One Ring was too strong at times and he feared falling into shadow. So far, tending to Legolas had kept him safe. He tensed. Was that the reason why Legolas had put his trust in him? To keep the lure of the Ring at bay? How could the Elf know about the temptation he daily faced?
Legolas' head suddenly lolled to its right, limply resting in the crook of his arm. "I exhausted you. Rest now," said Boromir reassuringly. Tonight there wouldn't be any sleep for him as thoughts of Legolas and the One Ring battled in his mind for dominance.
Aragorn stretched, and relished feeling the warm sunbeams on his skin. Today they would arrive at Lothlorien, where Legolas would find some rest, for a sort while at least. He had to give Boromir credit where credit was due. The Gondorian had stayed true to his word and still cared for Legolas. Aragorn frowned, wondering why Legolas had accepted Boromir as his mate. But Elves were odd creatures and he still tried to understand Elrond and Arwen. Their minds worked in mysterious ways.
He rose to his feet, and walked over to Boromir. "I can carry Legolas. Carrying him must tire you."
But Boromir shook his head. "He's no burden to me and although I thank you for your kind offer I won't let him out of my sight."
Aragorn sighed. "As you wish." He admired Boromir's dedication but didn't want the Gondorian to exhaust himself. He needed Boromir's sword later in battle!
Suddenly Merry walked up to them and Aragorn smiled, seeing the fruits and berries the hobbit carried.
"Here, Master Boromir. We found some other fruits as well," said Merry, smiling.
Boromir took hold of a strawberry and slipped it into Legolas' mouth. To his delight, the Elf munched on it and then swallowed.
Merry smiled and returned to the other hobbits, telling them to gather more fruits along the way as Legolas seemed to like them.
"You are a fortunate man," said Aragorn thoughtfully. "An Elf's love is strong and Legolas will never desert you. I hope you realize that."
Boromir nodded. "At times I worry about that. Aye, I care greatly about him, but do I love him?"
"You will learn to love him," said Aragorn knowingly. "He will fill your heart will love."
And maybe Legolas' love would finally free him of the lure of the One Ring.
"The Lady Galadriel awaits you," said Haldir, watching Legolas closely. The Lady hadn't told him that the Wood Elf was wounded!
"We will follow you," assured Aragorn Haldir.
"Aragorn, we should leave this forest." Gimli glared at Haldir with obvious distrust in his eyes.
Aragorn turned about and lowered himself on to his heels. "Legolas needs rest, Gimli."
"Aye, you're right..." admitted Gimli. "Lead on, I will follow."
The companions followed Haldir and his men, and Boromir noticed the awkward glances the Elves gave him. He understood that they worried about one of their own, but he wouldn't allow them to take Legolas away from him. Legolas' eyes moved wildly in their sockets and he sensed the Elf's agitation. "All is well," said Boromir reassuringly. Acting instinctively, his lips brushed Legolas' brow, trying to deepen the bond that was forming between them. When he finally realized he had kissed Legolas' brow, he chuckled softly. "Aragorn is right... Loving you will be easy. No one will separate us, I promise. Not even the Lady Galadriel."
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