DISCLAIMER: All characters and place names belong to Tolkien.
Author's Note: This story is based off of "A Light in the Dark Wood", by Java Green. She graciously gave me permission to try my hand at my own version. The link to her wonderful fic may be found at the end of this story.
I wrote this fic to commemorate the Lure's 75,000th hit. It is dedicated to Luthien, for exceeding my expectations!
In The Shadows of Lothlorien
Though the Fellowship had escaped the darkness of Moria, Legolas sensed that his own personal doom lay not behind him, but ahead in the waiting arms of the forest. As he walked beside Aragorn to bring up their procession, the Elf cast an uneasy eye about him. All looked well, but he could not shake the sensation that something ill was about to set upon them.
"You are concerned," Aragorn said, moving closer. "The Orcs will not follow us this far from the mines."
Legolas shook his head, scanning the trees. "Nay, 'tis not Orcs I fear, though I cannot name what bothers me. There is something amiss here. A warning on the wind. Mayhap we should not travel this way."
Aragorn studied him. "Lothlorien lies ahead. It is my hope that we may find succor there. Gandalf's loss has not been easy on the Hobbits. I would have them rest."
"Of course," Legolas hastily agreed. "The light of Lothlorien will be welcome, indeed. There is much grief amongst the Company. I have felt it."
Aragorn laid a hand upon his shoulder. As oft happened whenever the Man touched him, Legolas fought not to betray himself. "There is much grief in you as well, my friend," Aragorn said quietly. His voice was dry and soothing, brushing like a gentle touch over Legolas' frayed nerves. "Perhaps that is what is troubling you now." The hand squeezed. "Rest easy. We will reach Lothlorien tomorrow day. There, we shall find peace."
Legolas nodded and said nothing as Aragorn moved up to join Frodo. He swallowed, his eyes latching possessively onto the Man's broad back. Legolas knew he was being foolish. If Aragorn were to turn at that moment, the Man would see the naked longing on Legolas' face and naught but trouble would come of it. But Aragorn did not turn. And in a moment, Legolas had schooled his features and his heart. He knew where Aragorn's affections lay. The Elf would not pine over what would never be.
The sun seemed to set more swiftly that day. Perhaps the darkness that crept upon Legolas' mind made it only seem that way. When the Company settled upon the ground for the evening, Legolas found himself too agitated to sleep. He offered to take the first watch, knowing he would not wake any of the others until the sun arose the next day.
Grief made sleep fall heavily upon his fellows. Legolas looked upon them with a sympathy none save Aragorn would fully appreciate. Heavy of heart, he moved away from the sorrow that emanated from the small group. He sought solace in the trees, as was his wont.
Yet to his dismay, the forest did not provide comfort. If anything, the sense of danger lay greater here. He unslung his bow and notched an arrow, stepping forward on feet that made no sound nor left no mark. His eyes scanned leaf and trunk for signs of passage, for evidence of trespass, but found none. But he was certain there was something--
Blackness descended. He tried to spin free as a soft cloth was drawn tightly over his eyes. Several pairs of hands were suddenly there to restrain him. Hands that swiftly jerked his bow from him and gripped his arms on either side. The unwanted warmth of a body pressed behind. Two more strangers held his arms. He struggled against the unknown assailants, but when it became clear he was outnumbered, he opened his mouth to shout a warning to Aragorn. A blow to the stomach knocked both breath and intent from his body.
"If you value the lives of your fellows, you will not make a sound," said a melodious voice directly in front of him.
Legolas managed to stand upright, drawing shallow breaths as he fought for control of the pain that radiated from his stomach. "Who are you? How dare you lay hand upon me. I am the son of King Thranduil--"
"Oh, we know very well who you are, Prince of Mirkwood." The voice was smooth and unhurried. It held an undercurrent of silk and steel. "What we don't know is why you are bringing a Dwarf into Lothlorien. Have you no respect, *Elf*?"
Legolas did not miss the contempt the final word held. He raised his chin, refusing to be cowed. "Speak you of respect while you assault me? I know you are also Elves, most likely of Lothlorien. I wonder how the Lord and Lady would react to hear of my mistreatment at your hands?"
A hand ran down the side of his face. He jerked back reflexively. The cool voice laughed. "Strong threats from one in no position to make them." His face was caressed again and when he made to move away, a hand tightened in his hair, holding him firm. Legolas clenched his jaw as fingers traced his cheek. "I think perhaps you need to be reminded of exactly the position in which you now find yourself, Prince of Mirkwood."
The hand in his hair pulled back, tilting his head to bare his neck. As he jerked against those who restrained him, he counted at least three Elves holding him with the one who spoke still standing before him. Not impossible odds, but the blindfold about his eyes was further hindrance. He needed to somehow work it free...
He let out an involuntary gasp as wetness suddenly laved the skin of his throat. He thrashed back into the firm body behind him as the unmistakable texture of a tongue slid up the length of his exposed neck. Pain sparked on his scalp as the hand in his hair tightened to keep him immobile.
"We're here to impress upon you a warning," said the lips upon his skin. "Let this decide for you whether it is worth it to bring that dirty Dwarf into the fair light of the Golden Wood."
Legolas twisted, muscles straining, but could not escape the lips and tongue that tasted of him. Heat warmed the front of his body as the Elf before him drew closer. When a tongue swept wetly across his lips, Legolas recoiled.
"Nay!" he cried, fighting futiley against his restraint. He heard the sound of his own hair tearing free as the hand holding him lost its grip. A smooth, yet strong hand gripped him behind the neck, squeezing until Legolas cringed in pain. "Open to me," the Elf before him hissed, "or this will pass poorly for you."
The tongue slid along his tightly compressed lips once more. Legolas resisted, until the fingers around his neck clamped down painfully. He could not help the gasp of agony, nor prevent the invasion into his mouth. Anger and disgust twisted in him as his mouth was taken in a brutal kiss. He curled his own tongue away, trying to avoid contact with his assailant, but it mattered little. The Elf who kissed him laid claim to every inch of Legolas' mouth. The slick wet tongue wrapped around his in obscene mockery.
He tried to step back as the kiss lengthened. He came up against the chest of the Elf behind him. He shuddered as he felt an unmistakable hardness rub against his buttocks. Panic flared in him as his captor began to pump against him. The two sets of hands that gripped his arms on either side of him grew moist. His senses narrowed, Legolas easily smelled the rising scent of his captors' arousals.
His mouth was finally freed. Legolas spat in disgust. It earned him a ringing slap to the face. Dazed, he let his head drop. Against his ear, the hated voice continued. "Tell me you'll convince your fellows to avoid this passage. Tell me you won't bring that Dwarf inside and we will let you go, Legolas."
The familiar use of his name made him hate them all the more. "The Fellowship means more than you know," he retorted, raising his head blindly. "I have not the power to change our course, nor would I, at your shameful dissuasion."
A hand plucked at the throat of his tunic. "Then we shall have to do our best to change that. Remove his clothing."
Legolas renewed his struggles as hands tore at his clothing. He fought with them, his fists and feet finding their marks in flesh. Yet in the end, he could not overcome the odds against him. His tunic was jerked violently over his head. He hung, humiliated, as his leggings were stripped down his legs.
Panting with exertion, he could only wait, every muscle tensed. He was painfully aware of his bare flesh as bodies pressed around him once more. A hand slid down his ribs. He jerked away with a hiss. The hand returned to pinch a nipple. Legolas backed away, stumbling into the body behind him. Hands touched him though he tried to twist out of reach. Strokes along his neck, around his waist. A firm hand slid over his hip and down the curve of his buttock.
"Do not touch me!" he snarled as fingers dipped into the cleft of his buttocks. The fingers did not cease their path until they'd delved between and found the entrance to his body. "Nay!" he repeated with mounting desperation. A finger circled him, but did not enter.
"Mayhap I may make you beg for it," said the familiar, hated voice in his ear.
Before Legolas could begin to guess at his captors' next intentions, a hand curled around his limp sex and began to stroke it. Legolas ground his teeth together, determined not to make a sound as fire began to build in his groin. His body betrayed him as much as he tried to resist. Within the stroking palm, he grew firm and hard. A thumb swept over the head of his erection and he shuddered.
"Nay," he moaned, unable to pull his hips away for the firm grip on his flesh. Harder and faster the hand stroked him, making his knees tremble in response. He tried to keep himself still, but tiny shudders worked their way through his body. He felt the heat of arousal fan across his neck and face. "Stop this," he protested, sickened.
"But you look so beautiful when you are weak in your passion," the voice murmured. A tongue curled around the sensitive Elven point of his ear.
"Don't," Legolas whispered, pulling his head ineffectually against the hand fisted in his hair. He was panicked to realize that he would lose this fight, no matter the strength of his will.
Wetness continued to lave his ear, making him shiver with need. His erection swelled hard in his captor's hand. It throbbed with each knowing lick upon his erogenous zone.
"Don't what?" the voice whispered back. The tongue lingered over the point, pulling an involuntary moan from his throat.
"Don't do this to me. I have done nothing to you," he panted weakly. He shut his eyes behind the cloth.
The hand on his flesh sped up its pace, drawing a bead of moisture to its tip. "Then do not bring your companions into Lothlorien. It is so easy, Legolas. We do not ask for much."
Despair welled in him because he knew that what these Elves requested was indeed, too much to ask. "I cannot!" he cried in frustration. "Please stop this! I cannot turn them away from this course."
The hand on his erection fell away. Legolas dared a breath, hoping his words had swayed his assailants. A voice breathed into his ear, "Then neither can we turn from ours. Let us see how you look upon your knees, fair Prince of Mirkwood."
Legolas resisted the hands that pulled him down. A knee jammed into the hinge of his leg, effectively buckling his leg. The fallen leaves were cool and crisp against his knees. A yank of the fist in his hair and he was brought to all fours. Firm pressure kept his head down.
Every muscle in Legolas' body was strung tight with the unease of his position. When hands roughly pulled his knees wider, the cool night air brushed teasingly over the vulnerable opening to his body.
"Nay," he whispered, knowing no one could hear him. Knowing it would not matter if they did.
He bit his lip and tasted the copper flow as someone lightly caressed the globes of his buttocks. He heard appreciative murmurs from his captors and grew disgusted.
"Turn them away, Legolas." The voice that threatened to haunt his memory for many seasons to come was beside his head, separated from him by the fall of his hair. "You can prevent this from happening if you turn them away."
Legolas kept his silence. He had nothing to say that would make a difference now.
He heard a sigh by his head. "So be it," the voice said, though Legolas noted bitterly that the Elf sounded far from disappointed.
Then Legolas' thoughts fled as a sudden wetness slid along the crease of his buttocks. He cried out, trying to buck upright, but hands pressed upon his shoulders, holding him down. The unmistakeable softness of a tongue swept over the pale, pink skin around his opening. Legolas had never been touched there in such a way and could not control his body's nearly violent response to it. His erection, which had begun to wilt since he was brought to the ground, surged with angry need. It strained hot and hard against his stomach as the tongue dipped lower, lapping at the untouched skin behind the twin globes holding his seed.
"Ai," he whimpered, hating that his captors could feel the shaking of his limbs, the passion that transmitted through his skin in rippling waves.
"I wonder why you resist, when your body so clearly enjoys what we are doing to you." The hand in his hair tilted his head back to allow fingers to stroke his wet cheek. "I wonder how long you will fight after each of us has had his turn with you? When your fair body is filled to overflowing with our seed and your lips are raw from pleasuring us. Will you give in to us then?" When Legolas refused to answer, an iron grip seized his jaw. He moaned in pain as the fingers squeezed, forcing his jaw open. "Let us see, shall we?"
Legolas tried to jerk his head away, tried to prevent what he knew was coming. But a strength that could not be denied kept his jaw open, short nails digging into the skin of his cheek. Tears sprang to his eyes at the ache in his jaw as it was forced wider. He curled his tongue away, needing some attempt at resistance.
Hot, salty flesh pushed past his lips. Legolas gave a strangled cry as the foreign length of flesh filled his mouth and the spicy sent of arousal poured into his lungs. He gagged as the dripping tip of the other Elf's erection pressed against the back of his throat then pulled back slowly, tauntingly. His tongue had no where to flee. He tasted everything he did not want to: the salt, the musk, the other flavor that he knew was unique to this one Elf. Tears streaked down his face as the hard flesh in his mouth began to pump across his tongue in a regular rhythm.
"Such a sweet mouth," the Elf purred, tightening his hold on Legolas' jaw. The hand in the golden hair tilted Legolas' head, opening his throat for a deeper invasion. "Mayhap we shall keep you with us--ahhh, yes--forever. Would you...like that, Legolas?"
Legolas moaned helplessly. The tongue licking at his entrance was driving his body to painful heights of need. The hot sliver of flesh darted into him, coaxing him open. Desire ripped through him, making him relax his muscles to allow a deeper invasion despite his mind's protest. Soft wetness pressed into him, forcing his body to arch in response.
"Ah, see how you enjoy this, little one. I think you resist us because you enjoy being taken too much."
Legolas' grunt of outrage became a choked cry as something blunt and hard pressed demandingly against the entrance to his body. He tried to twist himself away, but firm hands held his hips in place for the slow, painful push against him. His body gave way with resistance, his flesh parting with a fire that made Legolas cry out around the shaft driving down his bruised throat.
Stop! Stop! his mind cried out. But of course, the assault did not stop. Pain invaded him, opened him, laid him bare to the whims of his captors. Swollen flesh stretched him, slicking his insides with the sticky evidence of his assailant's pleasure. The fingers gripping his hips trembled with lust.
*Think of Aragorn.*
The thought came unbidden, spoken by a part of his mind that had long ago crawled away from this reality. *Think of the Man, and imagine that this is his touch within you.* Legolas' heart shrivelled at the thought. He knew Aragorn would never be this rough with him. *But if you imagine that it is he who is doing this to you, mayhap you can survive this.*
Though it seemed a blasphemy to associate thoughts of the Man he secretly loved with the hateful, hurtful things being done to his body, Legolas knew he had no other choice. He could not afford to lose himself to the trauma being inflicted upon him. The Fellowship would continue its task and would need Legolas to be strong.
So he fisted his hands in the dead leaves and forced himself to imagine it was Aragorn behind him. Aragorn's large hands, holding him in place for the thrusts that now rocked the Elf. Aragorn who was trying to find that place inside of Legolas that would bring him pleasure. Legolas arched his back to help him and at once the flesh inside him struck that bundle of nerves. He shuddered around the pleasure, allowing it to loosen his body, preventing more injury.
His arousal began to build anew as thoughts of Aragorn filled Legolas' mind. When a hot mouth surrounded his sex beneath him, Legolas moaned in acceptance instead of disgust. For he told himself it was the Man's mouth upon him, wanting Legolas to enjoy this. Wanting Legolas to come out of this with his mind and soul intact.
Aragorn grew rougher behind him. Aragorn's shaft in his mouth became stiffer, pushing more urgently between his lips. Legolas submitted himself to both without fight. When the flesh in his mouth pulsed and released against his throat, he swallowed and did not weep. And when the Elf behind him slammed deep one final time to spread his seed within Legolas' body, he did not cry out. Not even when the hands on his hips were replaced by another's, and a new shaft demanded entrance. Not even when the Elves laughed around him, amused by the apparent acquiescence of their prisoner.
Aragorn awoke before the sun rose, his dreams having disturbed him enough to drive him from sleep. Though he was unsure why, he looked immediately for Legolas. When he did not find the fair Elf on watch within the camp, Aragorn rolled to his feet and strode cautiously into the forest.
He found Legolas far from their camp, sitting upon the ground, knees drawn to his chest with arms wrapped around them. His back was to Aragorn, the long fall of his hair uncharacteristically tangled. Legolas was doing nothing so far as the Man could tell. Simply sitting upon the ground and rocking slowly back and forth.
The Elf started. Aragorn realized with some surprise that Legolas had not heard him approach. That was unusual. He took a step closer to his friend. "Legolas, what are you doing out here?"
"I am--thinking," the Elf replied. His normally fluid voice was scratchy, almost raw.
Aragorn frowned, drawing nearer. "You sound...upset. What is wrong?"
Legolas began to rock a little faster, shaking his head. "Nay, I am fine," he insisted in that peculiar, hoarse voice. "Please leave me be, Aragorn. I am--I am agrieved over Mithrandir."
Aragorn halted, cursing himself for a fool. Of course Legolas would be upset over the wizard's death. Legolas had known Gandalf far longer than had any of them. The loss would strike him particularly hard.
Sympathetic to his friend's need to grieve in peace, Aragorn turned to leave. As he did so, his eye caught a flash of white. He spied Legolas' quiver lying discarded within the bushes. Only a single arrow remained within, the others lay scattered haphazardly across the ground. A small frown touched Aragorn's lips. He had never known Legolas to be so careless with his arrows. He glanced once more at the Elfl's huddled figure. Something nagged at Aragorn, but he could not name it. Disturbed, he walked thoughtfully back to camp.
There was something amiss with Legolas.
Aragorn's eyes slanted once again to the Elf as the Company wove through the forest, searching for the borders of Lothlorien. As usual, the Man was struck momentarily dumb by the blinding beauty of his friend; Legolas could steal his breath. But this time, he made himself look beyond the fair features that were so similar and yet such a contrast to his own dark beloved. He looked deeper, to try to find what it was he found so curious.
His Elven friend had said nothing upon returning to camp that morning. He had spared the Man a reassuring smile, then turned his back with seeming deliberance as he set about brushing the long locks of his hair. His hair had become mysteriously tangled in the night and it was as if Legolas wanted the Man to witness the return to normalcy. Watching those golden strands slide free and glow once again, Aragorn had begun to think his misgivings were all in his head.
But when he had turned to begin preparations for their breakfast, he had seen something that troubled him deeply. Legolas' face was half-turned from him, and the Man could see the Elf's profile. Against the other's pale skin was an odd series of small, half-moon circles. They were faintly red, already fading upon Legolas' cheek. It was such an odd pattern of marks that Aragorn's mind latched onto it, worrying at their source.
"Did you encounter anything on your watch last night?" he had asked, feigning casual interest.
Legolas had paused, an inconsequential hesitation that by itself meant nothing. But taken with the other strange clues, had made Aragorn nervous. "Nay, I saw nothing. 'Tis quiet so near Lothlorien."
No mention of a struggle or encounter with a beast to explain the marks upon his face. Nothing to dissuade Aragorn from the growing suspicion that the small curves had been caused by nails being pressed too harshly into flesh.
Aragorn had said nothing. It was not his place to question Legolas. They had a friendship, albeit an oddly strained one. Legolas unnerved him for reasons he was afraid to admit. Reasons he did not want to think on.
Nonetheless, he would do anything for the Elf. Just as he would respect Legolas' privacy. If his friend chose not to speak, Aragorn would not press him on the matter.
He would regret that decision the moment they came upon the Lothlorien Elves.
The Company was caught unprepared. As if conjured from the air, arrowheads stabbed at them, hemming in their small group. Aragorn and the others froze as pale-haired Elves materialized from the forest. Legolas had an arrow already notched beside him, but Aragorn noticed that it trembled ever so slightly.
A tall, handsome Elf stepped forward. Aragorn took a breath, recognizing him. "Haldir of Lorien," he greeted. "We have come for help. We need your protection."
Gimli growled, "Aragorn, these woods are perilous! We should go back!"
A sneer of distaste twisted Haldir's face as his eyes fell upon the stout Dwarf. "You bring a Dwarf to the foot of the Lady, Estel? You should know better."
Aragorn started to reply only to be distracted by Legolas' gasp upon hearing Haldir speak.
"Well met, fair cousin," Haldir said softly, looking intently at the other Elf.
Legolas became pale. Bright spots of unexplained color bloomed on his cheeks, making his blanch all the more apparent. Legolas' hands tightened upon his bow. For a horrified moment, Aragorn feared his friend was going to let loose with his arrow.
"Legolas!" he hissed warningly.
The Elf seemed to come to his senses. He wrenched his gaze from Haldir. His eyes were wild when he turned them on Aragorn.
"I am fine," Legolas insisted raggedly. "I am fine."
His repetition convinced Aragorn that he most definitely was not. Something was terribly wrong with Legolas. Aragorn had never seen the normally placid elf this distraught. But to his regret, now was not the time to delve further into his friend's apparent distress.
"We seek the Lady's protection," Aragorn said to Haldir, forcing himself to forget Legolas for the moment. "The Ringbearer is with us. Surely she will not turn us away. Any of us."
Haldir pulled his gaze from Legolas with obvious reluctance. He looked down upon Gimli with barely disguised contempt. "If you will vouch for him, we shall let you pass. However,"--Aragorn thought he saw the Elf's gaze flick briefly back to Legolas--"we cannot allow the Dwarf to look upon the Naith. He must go blindfolded. If he will not submit, then so must you all be similarly blinded."
"Nay!" Legolas cried.
"I will not walk blindfolded like a thief," Gimli growled. "Not for the whim of Elves."
"If there is no other option, we shall all suffer the same," Aragorn told the angry Dwarf.
"Nay!" Legolas choked out again. "I will not!"
His bow, which had begun to lower, lifted threatening, an arrow cocked in the string. Immediately, the air grew thick with tension. Aragorn felt the arrows aimed at his back. Arrows aimed also at Frodo.
He stepped quickly to the Elf's side. "Legolas," he murmured quietly, trying to catch his friend's attention. Legolas was staring at Haldir, a mixture of fury and fear on his face. Aragorn lightly cupped the Elf's chin and turned his face, forcing Legolas to look at him. The anxiety in the blue depths worried Aragorn. "You do not do this alone," the Man told him gently. "I will be with you. I will not let anything happen to you."
He wondered that he should be saying these words. What reason would Legolas have to fear his fellow kin? Yet Legolas was clearly afraid. And enraged. Possibilities began to cloud Aragorn's mind.
Legolas remained unconvinced, his tongue flicking over his lips nervously. Aragorn found his eyes riveted to the action, then forced himself to the matter at hand. "Legolas," he said more sharply, "remember why we are here."
Legolas blinked, as if shadow were clearing from his mind. "The Ring."
Aragorn nodded, releasing him. "The Ring. This is about us as individuals no longer. This is only about the Ring. If it helps you, remember that I shall be here with you. I shall let no harm come to you."
Legolas' lips twisted briefly with something Aragorn had never thought he would see on the Elf's face: bitterness. "Do not be so sure," Legolas whispered.
Aragorn stepped back a pace, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully. What had happened to his friend?
"Let us see this done with," Legolas said woodenly. "Do as you will."
Aragorn wanted to put a halt to this. He had never heard Legolas like this, with defeat in his voice. It went against all that the Man knew of the nature of Elves. Yet the surrender was there. It was on Legolas' face as Haldir stepped up to him with a strip of cloth stretched between his hands. It was reflected in the odd way that he cringed from the Lorien Elf's touch. Defeat. Despair. The latter made Aragorn nearly open his mouth in protest. Then his eyes fell upon Frodo and on the silver chain that peeked from beneath the Hobbit's cloak and he knew that he could do nothing. Whatever his misgivings, the Ring must go to Mordor. It did not matter what price was paid to take it there.
Aragorn's eyes were bound with cloth. "Do not fear for your step," he heard Haldir murmur to Legolas. "I will see that no harm comes to you while you are in my keeping, dear cousin."
Legolas's reply was voiced too quietly for Aragorn to hear. Haldir laughed in response. It was a strangely unpleasant sound. Perhaps Aragorn only imagined it to be.
The Elves led them with care despite Gimli's vociferous concerns to the contrary. Aragorn kept a hand upon Frodo's shoulder before him, ensuring that the Hobbit was safe. With his senses narrowed, Aragorn's hearing became acute. The birds and beasts of Lothlorien filled his ears with music. He could nearly picture in his mind that which he could not see.
Yet as bright as he imagined the Golden Wood to be, he knew that it also carried a shadow. For he heard it. It whispered constantly to Legolas as the Company was led further into the glade. Aragorn frowned, for the sound of Haldir's whispers reminded him of the call of the Ring. Like that insidious voice, this voice held only malice. Aragorn did not understand the tension between Legolas and Haldir, but it did not matter. He wished to tear the blindfold from his eyes and put a stop to whatever was happening between them.
He heard Legolas say, "Do not touch me." He heard desperation in the words. There then followed a soft sound, like a muffled sob and Aragorn knew without seeing that Haldir had ignored the command.
*You do this for the fate of Middle Earth,* a voice reminded Aragorn firmly. *Your personal feelings pale in the face of that need.* But in spite of that knowledge, it took every shred of his strength to follow along passively, blind and helpless. A dark truth had begun to form in his mind and it made him thirst for blood.
When they had reached the Naith, their blindfolds were removed. The splendor of Lothlorien opened like a treasure around them. The members of the Company immediately moved forward, entranced by the sight of the magnificent forest. Aragorn should have been as enthralled with what he saw, but his enthusiasm was a wilted, empty thing. He waited until Legolas had stepped forward with the others, then strode purposefully to Haldir. Without a word, Aragorn snatched from the Elf the cloth that had bound Legolas' eyes. Haldir watched, his handsome face expressionless, as Aragorn ran the cloth between his fingers. As he had feared, it was damp.
Aragorn met the Elf's amused gaze and felt his insides clench around a sudden need to harm. "You have wrung tears from Legolas' eyes." His voice was little more than a growl. It did not carry beyond the two of them. "I know not what has taken place between you, but clearly you have hurt him. Whatever you have done to him, I will see that you receive your due, Haldir. Not even the Lady will be able to protect you, that I promise you."
The smirk ever-present on Haldir's face did not waver. "You care for him. You, who have been raised by Elves and should know better. You, who are betrothed to another." Haldir laughed, shaking his head. "How foolish Men are to lust after that which they may never possess. Do you think he could return your affections?" He sneered. "Does he even know, or have you kept it a shameful secret within your breast?"
Panic made Aragorn's palms moist. Hearing Haldir say the words, the Man knew immediately that they were true. Here was the source of his unease around Legolas. He...wanted Legolas. Had for a long time, in fact. The implications churned Aragorn's stomach. He hated that it was Haldir who had made him come to this realization.
"He is my friend," Aragorn answered coldly, allowing nothing of his inner turmoil to show upon his face. "I do not allow my friends to be hurt." Restrained violence was in his eyes and he did not attempt to hide it. "Ever."
His satisfaction came in the brief flash of unease that lit Haldir's eyes. The Elf abruptly turned his back, striding away from Aragorn. The Man let him go. He knew the message had been sent: Legolas was under Aragorn's protection. No one would harm what was his.
But...*his*?. Aragorn took a steadying breath. Yes, he had thought that. *His*.
Though it carried as much pain as pleasure, the word felt true.
The Company was greeted by Celeborn and the Lady Galadriel in a great chamber in the trees. Within the peaceful glow of their regard, Aragorn felt his earlier outrage and protectiveness fade to be replaced with a miraculous calm. He watched the Lady Galadriel's lips move with words of welcome for the group, while her voice murmured intimately to him within his head.
*You fear much for Legolas,* the liquid voice said to him. *Your concern consumes you.*
*I think that he may have been harmed,* Aragorn thought back.
Galadriel was looking fondly upon Frodo as she addressed the group, but the words in Aragorn's head continued for him alone. *Why is it you care so much for his welfare? In undertaking this quest, he has agreed to place himself in harm's way without complaint. Yet you find yourself willing to sacrifice the quest to assuage his pain.*
Aragorn's eyes slid to Legolas. The Elf's head was bowed, a look of concentration upon his face as though he, too, partook in an inner dialogue.
*He stirs...new feelings within me,* Aragorn managed. The burn of betrayal made his face hot. *It pains me in a way I do not understand.*
The Lady's eyes swung to him, sympathetic. *Place a name to what you are feeling,* the voice said, *and that which shames you will be less a betrayal than an acknowledgement of the truth.*
Aragorn's eyes fell to Legolas again. He wondered if he had the strength to do what he must.
Long had Legolas dreamt of seeing the Golden Wood. As his own land became overset with orcs and those foul creatures who hunted in the night, the never-ending light of Lothlorien became a fixture upon his mental horizon. He had always vowed that one day he would step foot beneath its leaves to gaze in awe upon its magnificence. And yet now that he was within its protective borders, given blessing to stay by none other than the Lady Galadriel, he wished only to be gone. Better to face the simple, honest danger of orcs, he thought, than to battle an evil sheltered by beauty.
He knew that Aragorn suspected something. The Man watched him when he thought Legolas didn't notice. But Legolas was ever aware when Aragorn looked upon him. It was like a touch upon his skin, comforting and pleasing. Legolas yearned to bask in that warm gray regard, imagining Aragorn's look to be driven by love. But the truth was cold. It was only because Legolas had not been acting himself that he warranted the Man's attention at all. If Aragorn ever discovered the truth, those gray orbs would harden as swiftly as did cooled steel.
Lying upon his back, Legolas stared up at the framework of leaves that canopied the Wood and tried to close his ears. The Lorien Elves continued to sing their lament for Mithrandir and it was slowly driving him mad with grief. He had not shed tears since leaving the darkness of Moria and felt now the painful sting in the corners of his eyes. He glanced sideways at his sleeping fellows, checking to see if any were awake. Not a one stirred.
Legolas took a quiet breath and allowed a bit of his grief to seep through his control, like water through a tightly clenched fist. He wished for nothing better than to vent his pain in the solitude of the trees, where none could see him and wonder at his weakness. But that very weakness kept him where he lay. For though he was loathe to admit it, he was afraid of parting from the Company. He was afraid of being caught alone. He was afraid of who might lie in wait for him.
He allowed the first tear to slide down the side of his face, disappearing into the thickness of his hair. The salty track had dried upon his cheek before the next tear slipped free. So much had been lost. Mithrandir had been the acknowledged source of their strength. His wisdom had given them all courage. Now, they would have to rely upon the leadership of Aragorn, and Legolas did not want to.
He did not want to because Legolas knew he would give the Man too much. He would make Aragorn responsible not only for his well-being, but for the condition of his heart. Aragorn had not asked for that and did not need it. Aragorn's responsiblities lay with Frodo. With Arwen. It was not the Man's duty to restore to Legolas the sense of peace he had known before crossing paths with Haldir. That duty could not be fulfilled by anyone.
Legolas' face was wet with tears as he thought back on his blinded journey into Lothlorien. Haldir had called him "lover", curling his tongue around the endearment with mockery. It made Legolas shudder to remember, for there had been naught of love in what Haldir and the other Elves had done to him. It had been about humiliation and domination. They had succeeded in both.
Aragorn wanted him to be strong. What would the Man think if he knew of how weak Legolas had been? What did it matter what Aragorn thought of him, anyway? The Man did not care for Legolas beyond as a friend. If he thought any less of Legolas now, it would not hurt as badly as did the knowledge that Aragorn had not loved him even when he *had* been strong.
"Tell me why you weep."
Legolas sucked in his breath, blinking rapidly to clear the tears from his eyes. Aragorn knelt beside him.
"Aragorn!" he sputtered, quickly dashing the moisture from his eyes with the back of his hand. "I did not mean to disturb you, I--"
"Tell me why you weep!" Aragorn demanded in a voice that was strangely hoarse and thick.
Legolas cringed from the violence in the words. He did not understand. "It is nothing," he tried to explain. "The--the lament has left me distraught."
Aragorn's face twisted with pain. "Why do you lie to me?" he asked in a strained voice. "What have I done to deserve such falsehoods from you?"
"Nay!" Legolas protested, sitting up. He started to reach for the Man, then immediately dropped his hand. "Nay," he said more softly, "you have done nothing to me but be my friend. I admit that there is something troubling me, but in truth, Aragorn, it is nothing that you can remedy." He heard bitterness leak into his voice but could not stop it: "I weep over something that cannot be taken back. I wallow in self-pity, nothing more. I am sorry for having awoken you."
Aragorn stretched a hand between them and touched the moist trails upon the Elf's face. Legolas held himself still, unable to believe the soft caress and afraid to move lest it end. "What has Haldir done to you?" Aragorn asked quietly.
Legolas looked at him in horror, the touch upon his face forgotten.
"Do not try to convince me otherwise," Aragorn continued, his hand fully cupping Legolas' cheek when the Elf tried to turn his face away. "He has hurt you and though I may guess upon the manner, I would hear it from your lips."
Legolas tried to shake his head, but Aragorn's touch, though kind, was firm. "Nay, do not ask that of me," he whispered. "It is none of your concern. It is done with and is best forgotten."
Aragorn continued to stare at him. His brows had crossed, the corners of his mouth downturned. He looked away for a moment, as if gathering himself. When he looked back at Legolas, his gray eyes were deep with something Legolas dare not put a name to. The Elf's heart beat like a wild thing within his breast as Aragorn's thumb dragged lightly across his lips. "Haldir hurt you," the Man murmured.
Unable to speak in the face of the intense emotion in the other's eyes, Legolas could only nod.
"He hurt you in a...personal way."
Legolas swallowed, his face scarlet with humiliation. He nodded and felt a tear skate down his cheek.
"By the Gods!" Aragorn choked out, his voice contorted with pain. "I will see you avenged, Legolas. That I swear to you."
Legolas looked back at him, uncomprehending. "Why does it matter?" he asked faintly. "Why do you care? I will go on with the Company as before. Nothing has changed. Unless,"--he could hardly make himself speak the words--"unless it is *you* who feels differently now that you know."
Aragorn's eyes widened with hurt. "How could you think that of me? Do you not know how I feel about you?" He looked surprised then, as if unable to believe he had said that.
Legolas remained distrustful. "I know you think me your friend. And I cherish that." He tried to smile. "I would not want to lose that. No matter what befalls us."
Aragorn's eyes darkened. "Nay, I think of you as more than my friend." He took hold of Legolas' arm, pulling the Elf with him as he stood. "I am sorry that it has taken the disrepect inflicted upon you to open my eyes and realize what it is I feel for you. Come with me, Legolas. I would replace the taint upon your skin with something else."
Too weary and stressed to resist, Legolas allowed Aragorn to lead him through the trees. When he realized they were heading toward the sound of running water, he dug his heels into the ground, humiliation building within him.
"You seek to cleanse me," he murmured, sick at heart. "You think me foul."
Aragorn caught him against his chest before the Elf could fight. Though he wanted to resist, Legolas found himself pressing further into the Man's embrace, inhaling the soothing scent of his body.
"I do not think you foul," Aragorn's voice rumbled against Legolas' ear. "I want only to help you wash away the memory of what was done to you. If this bothers you, we will not do it."
Though the thought of remaining in Aragorn's embrace was too tempting by far, the Man was right. Legolas did want to remove the last traces of that experience, both from his mind and from his body. He nodded against Aragorn's chest and pulled away. Aragorn studied him carefully a moment, then took Legolas' hand and led him to the stream's edge.
Legolas stood uncertainly. He had never been ashamed of his body before, but knowing that Aragorn was aware of how he had been abused made him reluctant to bare himself. Though his body would have healed itself of the hurts Haldir and the other Elves had inflicted upon him, Legolas still feared something of their touch would remain in evidence upon his skin.
"Do not be ashamed," Aragorn said gently. "You are too lovely to have reason to be anything less than proud." He stepped up to Legolas and carefully began loosening the ties at the throat of the Elf's tunic.
Legolas watched him intently, shivering, but not from fear or the temperate air. How different this was from the last time he had been unclothed by another. Aragorn's touch was considerate, gentle. He lifted the tunic over Legolas' head with care. Hesitating only a second, Aragorn lifted the edges of the fine silk undershirt. Legolas fought the urge to wrap his arms around himself as he stood, bare-chested, beneath Aragorn's regard.
"Never mind his touch," Aragorn said gruffly, gazing upon him. "I would kill Haldir for simply having *seen* your beauty without permission."
"He had others with him," Legolas blurted, needing suddenly to explain why he had been overcome. Why he had submitted..."I could not fight them all, Aragorn. But I tried, I--"
Aragorn pressed a finger to his lips. "I know. You need not defend yourself to me. I know."
"I needed you to understand why I could not stop it," Legolas said, ashamed.
Aragorn's hand, which had been lifting towards Legolas' shoulder, fisted in the air and fell to his side. Pain darkened his face. "They will pay," he said simply.
A queer shiver of pleasure rippled through Legolas at the words. He had oft wondered what it would be like to have Aragorn at his defense, protective and caring. Now he knew. It was wondrous.
He turned his back on Aragorn and stripped off his boots and leggings. He felt Aragorn's eyes on him like the rays of the sun at its zenith. So different to be looked upon with concern than with a twisted desire. Self-conscious, Legolas waded into the shallow stream and sat down within its currents, the water reaching just above his waist.
He scooped up a handful of sand to begin scrubbing himself when he heard the splash of water. He looked up and was startled to see that Aragorn had stripped himself as well and was striding through the water to join him. Heat flared in Legolas' face at the sight of the Man's well-muscled body. Aragorn was beautiful--scarred and faintly furred. His skin was darkened from the sun and showed the wear of a life spent outdoors. He was unmistakeably masculine and Legolas could not help the quick dart of his eyes to Aragorn's manhood. He quickly ducked his head. But not soon enough.
Aragorn chuckled quietly. "My body is not immune to your beauty, 'tis true," he said ruefully, joining Legolas' side in the middle of the stream. He touched Legolas softly upon the shoulder. "But though I am appreciative of your body, I would never take advantage of it. Never."
Legolas raised his head, struck by the unexpected note he heard in Aragorn's voice. "I know that," he replied, meeting the intense gaze. Feeling he had nothing more to lose, he said, "But what if I did not mind?"
Aragorn said nothing, merely studied him. As the silence stretched, Legolas felt the full weight of his foolishness. Aragorn had been trying to help him as befitted a good friend. The Man had his own source of beauty awaiting him in Rivendell. He did not need another.
"I--I am sorry," Legolas said weakly. "I do not think straight."
Aragorn remained silent, making Legolas blush all the hotter. But when the Elf made to rise, a strong, calloused hand stopped him. Legolas dropped back down into the water, his eyes averted. He watched the water eddying around him, counted the leaves that swirled past. He started with surprise when Aragorn raised a handful of sand from the stream bed and began to gently scrub his back with it.
Legolas was at first tense beneath the hands that washed him. But when it became clear that Aragorn was not upset with his ill-advised invitation, Legolas began to relax. He closed his eyes when strong fingers began to knead the tense muscles of his shoulders. He had not realized how much tension he had been holding within him until Aragorn managed to unknot the strained muscles. He sighed, letting his head fall forward as Aragorn worked on the back of his neck.
He became so relaxed that Aragorn's quietly murmured question did not even bother him. "How many were there?"
He knew what the Man referred to. "Four," he replied drowsily. "Though there may have been others who watched. I do not know for certain. My eyes were bound."
The hands upon his neck faltered. "And I insisted that you submit to being blindedfolded," Aragorn said, speaking as though to himself. "Blindfolded by the very one who had attacked you. I had no idea--"
"You did *not* know," Legolas reiterated, feeling some tension creeping back into his muscles. "You could not have. I kept it a secret from you."
Aragorn's fingers resumed their massage, drawing a pained gasp. The tenseness faded beneath the skillful touch. "They will all pay," Aragorn said, repeating his earlier sentiment. "By my blood, I promise you that."
And this made Legolas at last lift his head and turn around to face the Man. There had been something more than concern in Aragorn's voice and Legolas saw it echoed in the strong features. "Why is it you want to do this for me? I do not need you to find vengeance on my behalf."
Aragorn's face became vulnerable for the barest moment. What Legolas saw in that time made his heart spasm.
"It is a knife in my heart to hear that you had been assaulted, thus," Aragorn began slowly. "It is an even greater horror to realize that you could just as easily have been killed. So many things may pass in the space of one heartbeat to the next. I have taken too much for granted. Taken for granted that I would have time to sort out my feelings. Time to tell the ones I care for that I do." He lifted a damp lock of golden hair from Legolas' shoulder and caressed it between thumb and forefinger. "Discovering what was done to you has made me realize that I do not have that time, Legolas. I have to face what I have been afraid to, because I may not get the chance to, later."
Legolas' heart had stopped beating. His breath had frozen in his lungs. "And what is it you have been afraid to face?"
Aragorn took him by the shoulders. "This."
It was a kiss of such exquisite tenderness that if it hadn't been for the trembling of the fingertips pressed against his skin, Legolas might have thought it a dream. He melted beneath the cool lips that brushed gently back and forth across his mouth. When Aragorn's tongue pressed between his lips, asking for entrance, Legolas welcomed him with a sigh. He did not fight the tongue that met his, only wrapped his own tongue around it in shy greeting.
Aragorn kissed him as though he worshipped the Elf. Legolas had never been shown such reverence. It shattered barriers within him. It opened doors that had recently been slammed shut. It made Legolas want to trust again. Trust Aragorn with his heart and everything more.
He wrapped his arms around Aragorn's neck and pulled himself closer. Aragorn groaned at the touch, his hands leaving Legolas' shoulders. They slid down the slick skin of his chest, finding the hardened nipples and playing with them until Legolas twisted against him in wordless need. He clutched at the Man's neck as their kiss deepened, Aragorn's tongue seeking all the secrets of his mouth. Aragorn broke away to plant kisses down the length of Legolas' throat. Everywhere he touched Legolas, the Elf's skin seemed to burn.
"Ai, I have wanted this for so long," Legolas panted, burying his fingers in Aragorn's dark locks. He gasped as hot lips sealed over his nipple and began to suck. "Aragorn, you have no idea..."
"And who says that I don't?" Aragorn breathed against the Elf's skin. He coaxed Legolas to rise upon his knees, so that the water lapped across his pale thighs. Aragorn licked and kissed a path down the firm stomach, pausing to circle the indent of his navel. "I, too, know something of wanting what you believe you cannot have. I have looked upon his face for these past several months and been tortured by it." His tongue darted into Legolas' navel, drawing a whimper. "I will suffer no longer."
Aragorn took him into his mouth then. Pleasure exploded throughout Legolas' body, centered on those precious inches wrapped firmly within Aragorn's lips. He cried out as Aragorn swept his tongue around the length of him and drew him deep down his throat.
Legolas closed his eyes, wanting to shut out everything but the feel of Aragorn's mouth around him. He was afraid to believe this true, but Aragorn's words rang in his head: *I have looked upon his his face for these past several months and been tortured by it.* His face. Not Arwen's, but his. He tangled his fingers in Aragorn's hair, following the movement of the Man's head as it rode the length of Legolas' erection. *He does this for me,* Legolas thought in wonderment. *For me*.
And Aragorn did his job well. The Man set a demanding rhythm upon his shaft that left Legolas bracing himself weakly upon Aragorn's shoulders. His knees trembled, threatening to give way. Every flick of tongue against his flesh threatened to undo him.
"Aragorn," he moaned, pulling at the long, damp strands of the Man's hair. "Ai, Aragorn, this feel so good...I-I cannot take much more of this."
It was both a blessing and a curse when Aragorn heeded his words and released him. Drawing heaving breaths into his lungs, Legolas looked down upon the Man sitting before him. Legolas did not try to hide his emotions. It would have been an insult to them both. He knew the moment Aragorn read the intense love there. Aragorn took Legolas' hand and drew him down into the water with him, pulling him onto the Man's lap.
"I would make you forget," Aragorn said enigmatically, "and remember only me."
Legolas nodded, for he knew what was meant. "I wish it, too."
Blunt fingertips carefully brushed across his opening. For the briefest of seconds, Legolas tensed with remembrance of a rougher touch. But Aragorn's face before him, tense with concern and desire, alleviated his fears. This was Aragorn. Aragorn would rather die than willingly hurt him. That confidence allowed Legolas to relax against the fingers that probed him. When the first one slid inside, gently loosening him, Legolas bent his head and caught Aragorn's lips in a kiss.
"You cannot hurt me," Legolas whispered against that silken flesh. "Not as they have done."
"I would have you know nothing of pain for the rest of your life," Aragorn replied as he carefully slid in another finger. "Allow me to attempt such a promise."
Legolas pushed himself down upon the fingers that impaled him, feeling only slight discomfort when Aragorn continued to stretch him. He knew Aragorn would be hesitant to take him fully, so Legolas did what he needed to ease the Man's concern. Taking hold of Aragorn's engorged flesh, Legolas guided it to his body's opening.
"Take me," he insisted, stroking down the hardened shaft for emphasis.
Aragorn's eyes grew dark with lust. His lips parted to take a hungry breath. "Are you certain?"
Legolas nodded, his body tight with an urgency that hurt. "Please, Aragorn. I need to feel you in me."
The fingers left his body, leaving an ache in him that made Legolas bite his lip in desperation. But the lack did not last long for the steel strength of Aragorn's flesh pressed into him and slid slowly inside. Legolas braced his hands atop the muscled shoulders and threw his head back as he fully impaled himself upon Aragorn's erection. Aragorn filled him to overflowing. He touched and soothed every part of Legolas that had previously known only pain.
Aragorn lifted him with strong hands upon his waist, nearly pulling free of Legolas' body. Then the Man brought him down again, his hardened flesh striking that spot within Legolas that made the stars flash before his eyes. Legolas cried out, his erection jumping hard and aching between their bodies. Though he had imagined what it was like to be taken this way, the reality of it was beyond expectation. Aragorn was so deeply within him that he was almost *too* deep. Legolas sobbed as Aragorn raised him up and forced him down upon that unyielding flesh, filling him again and again. Water sloshed around them, the currents of the stream broken by the frenzy of their movements. The Man's eyes were focused upon his face to read his every reaction and Legolas found himself unbearably aroused by his own vulnerability. When a calloused palm wrapped around his straining erection, Legolas moaned and rode Aragorn with utter shamelessness.
*This* was desire as Legolas would know it. This was the way he wanted to feel Aragorn's touch upon him, not through the desperate fantasies of yesterday.
"I love you," he gasped, uncaring if Aragorn returned the feeling, needing only to say it, to have Aragorn know how important this was to him. "I will love you forever."
Aragorn's eyes blazed. He seized Legolas' mouth in a possessive kiss. Against the Man's mouth, Legolas cried out his pleasure as his body reached its pinnacle. His nerves sizzled as though burnt by the sun. He shuddered as his release bore through him, leaving him limp within Aragorn's embrace. The Man pumped into him thrice more, grasping Legolas to him as a gutteral groan tore through his chest. Legolas moaned as heat seared his body and cleansed him.
They sat, suspended in the water for a long moment. Legolas did not want Aragorn to leave his body. He had to force down his disappointment when the Man shifted him and carefully withdrew. But Aragorn did not leave him completely. Gathering the Elf in his arms, Aragorn stood and carried him to where their clothes lay strewn across the shore. Gently, Aragorn lowered him atop Legolas' garments and knelt beside him.
"Will you not join me?" Legolas asked, wanting so badly to hold Aragorn, yet afraid to grasp what wasn't completely his.
Aragorn stroked his cheek, smiling as Legolas leaned into the touch. "I will not leave you for long," he murmured. "I must see something done before I may continue on with you."
Legolas only nodded, afraid to try to interpret what the words meant. He remained quiet, watching as Aragorn dressed himself. When he was fully clothed, Aragorn knelt beside Legolas once again.
"Wait for me," he said, cupping Legolas' jaw. "I will come back to you." He kissed the Elf gently, then disappeared into the forest.
*You will help me,* Aragorn thought. It was not a request.
The liquid voice teased the edges of his consciousness. *I do not interfere in affairs of personal justice.*
Aragorn's hands fisted as he strode between the trees. *I ask only direction.*
*Caras Galadhon* the voice replied after a short pause. *What you do there will forever shape your fate and that of Legolas.*
Aragorn paid no heed to the warning. The course he had chosen was not a choice at all. It was what he *must* do. His feelings for Legolas would not allow him to do otherwise.
He found the Elf in contemplation of the twilight, his handsome profile turned to the sky. At Aragorn's approach, the Elf turned slowly. He seemed unsurprised. He had known the Man would come for him.
"Haldir of Lorien," Aragorn said softly, his voice terrible in its intensity, "It is time you paid for your misdeeds."
Legolas stared up at the sky and waited. He felt more at peace than he ever had in his long life. It was a peace of the body and of the soul. At long last, Aragorn had completed him.
He turned his head with restrained excitement as he heard familiar footsteps approach. His sharp Elven senses smelled blood upon the air. He knew suddenly what his lover had been about.
Aragorn stepped from the forest and their eyes locked. Aragorn's guilt--Aragorn's *triumph*-- was upon his face for all to see. Legolas sat up and simply stared at him. He did not shy away as the Man dropped to his knees beside him. When Aragorn brought bloodied knuckles to Legolas' face, the Elf did not turn from him in disgust.
"Because I love you," Aragorn whispered, tracing the line of the Elf's jaw.
Legolas nodded. He kissed the bruised, ripped flesh that tasted faintly of Haldir and he sighed.
"Because you love me," he repeated.
Aragorn's promise to keep him safe had begun.
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