Disclaimer: Fanfiction. Not for profit. Too poor. Not worth suing. No infringement intended.
I am but human, I am flawed. If you should see a grievous error in the text, please inform me! And likewise, should you be so moved, kind words are appreciated :)
Thank you to Tammy & Kiren for beta'ing.
Thank you to Joy & Tpod for hand holding.
minuial* n. 'morrowdim', the time near dawn, when the stars fade
-Sindarin Dictionary, Hisweloke, Willis.
They were curled up with the innocence of sleeping children, huddled together under a single blanket for warmth. The snowfall had diminished, but was far from stopping. Some distance from them, nearer the fire, the hobbits huddled, but not so far that Aragorn could not keep watch over them while they slept. Merry and Pippin stirred in restless slumber, a blanket each; Sam shared one with his master, muttering in his sleep. Frodo himself seemed half-awake, watching the fire as his eyes slipped shut, then snapped open again as if expectant of some danger or merely the dawn. Boromir stood vigilant behind the hobbits, his own blanket sacrificed to Pippin, while Gandalf and Gimli were like twin rocks, hunched by the firelight, dark and solid shapes with craggy faces unmoving.
Against his side, Legolas stirred, the pressure on his shoulder lessening as he adjusted his position for a better view, perhaps, or better comfort. Any true discomfort was likely not the fault of his positioning, however. That they had opted to sit farthest from the fire had been not only out of deference to the others, but also for reasons they would keep private from the rest of the Fellowship.
"You look well," Aragorn finally said, as if this were their first meeting in a long while, though they had traveled together now for over a fortnight from Rivendell. He kept his voice low, his words in Elvish, such that only Gandalf might decipher what he said, and the wizard already perceived as much as he would find drifting on the wind.
The Elf's face, when it turned towards him, was serene as always, lit with some inner pleasantry that lingered. "As do you, Dúnadan. It has been some time since we had a moment to exchange many words."
He did not mention that it had been Legolas who had instilled the distance between them. In the eyes of Men, the incident between them was many years passed; for an Elf it was as it were yestereve.
Now as then, however, the son of Thranduil gave no hint of his distress outwardly. It was only familiarity and a keenness of perception that allowed Aragorn to find the shadow of regret still lingering in the near-black depths of Legolas's eyes. It seemed a mortal pain, almost, and a flicker of Arwen passed before him.
Legolas was not like the daughter of Elrond, however, in heart nor fate.
He clutched his corner of the blanket tighter to him, but it held off little of the chill wind that howled through the pass. "Elladan and Elrohir asked after you often when we went in pursuit of the Orcs. Your surety with the bow was missed, Legolas."
"I am sorry to have been absent as well. My father kept me close in those days of growing peril, Dúnadan." Legolas met his eyes; the prim line of his mouth formed the smallest of apologetic smiles.
"Protective of his youngest and most precious offspring," Aragorn said with fondness.
"Youngest, but older and wiser than you by far," returned Legolas. The jest danced at the corners of his mouth, but passed no higher.
An unfortunate change of wind blasted raking ice across their cheeks, forcing them to withdraw closer, the heavy blanket poor protection. When it finally settled, Legolas smoothed his pale hair back, and brushed the snow from his shoulders. "I would not speak of it again," he said finally, his gaze casting out once more into the dark, ever watchful.
"I did not wish to cause you grief, Legolas."
Legolas's smile seemed of the utmost sincerity. "And you caused none, my friend."
Were it that he could accept that statement as truth, that he could not see what he had done reflected back at him, well-hidden, but there nonetheless. He could curse the day that he had taken up with the fair-haired Elf, or the day that he had come across the peerless beauty of Arwen Undómiel, but neither would he curse, for neither would he regret.
He fingered the edge of the blanket, a trailing thread caught and twisted deftly for no other purpose than mindless distraction. "Once our friendship would have allowed no words to be held back."
The Elf did not look away. "I am holding nothing back."
"There is no need to lie to me, Legolas."
The Elf's nimble fingers broached the span between them in an instant and caught the silver pendant that hung around his neck. Aragorn's breath stopped, knowing the heat of Legolas's skin though they did not touch. "What would you have me say?"
Aragorn felt himself grow angry, fighting to control his words. "I would have you speak of that which pains you."
But Legolas's eyes were held to the gift of Arwen that lay at his throat, and he turned it in his fingers. "More than a pretty thing, this bauble." Finally the token was released, slipping back where it had rested, warmer than before. "I have already told you, Estel, that I do not suffer." He straightened then, the flex of his muscles firm against Aragorn's side. "The time we have not seen each other has been long for you, surely you have seen more pleasant things than the past that we might share in?"
Aragorn calmed the storm within, but he could not force to his lips memories of the events passed since he had last met Legolas of the Elves of Mirkwood and journeyed a ways with him. "To walk the roads alone was a thing I had long grown used to; but once I had a companion and was deprived of him."
A relief seemed to settle into the Elf's face, as if he were satisfied at learning something. "Ah, Aragorn... Perhaps the grief is not mine but yours."
The snow licked their cheeks like a serpent's tongue, and the oppressive darkness bound itself around and between them, forcing a great distance though they pressed close against the other under their poor shelter. It lingered in the hollows of the Elf's cheeks, pooled in the darkness of his eyes, and with it was revealed the heaviness that weighted the light heart of Legolas Greenleaf.
"When you came to me, then as now, I saw the light of Arwen Evenstar reflected in the beauty of your face, but she had not turned from the Twilight towards you then. Often and pleasant were our journeys to Imladris and in the Hithaeglir, hunting Orcs, gathering what knowledge Mithrandir would have you seek. And finally, once you returned and I knew your heart had been answered; and happily I would see you know your long desire." But no happiness was in his voice, and were he not an Elf, Aragorn would have thought him ready to choke upon the words.
At their backs, the fire sputtered. Someone rose, prodding at it, but neither Aragorn nor Legolas turned to see who.
"That which passed between us is like the lives of Men, Dúnadan. Brief, a bright flaring twig in the snow; with passion it thaws the frozen ground around it, however briefly, but it goes out quickly and the frost patiently retakes that which it lost."
"And you are of the snow, Legolas?" he asked wryly.
The Elf gave him no answer. "It was not such a thing as to rival Arwen's troth to you, Aragorn."
"If not that, then something equally pleasant." He would have his answer, would hear those words such as he wished to hear.
Legolas's face lost its smile, but his mouth did not harden. "And yet in the face of such pleasantry, you would still demand to know of my pain? Is it not better to remember with fondness those things which were sweet, and tasted good on the tongue, than to dwell on things turned bitter?"
"Perhaps to know the sweetness, I must know the bitter also. Often I came to the gate of Thranduil and requested your presence, with the sons of Elrond or alone. And always I was turned away."
"So this meeting is that I might leave you with some bitter morsel, so that you might in contrast recall our past perils with some sweetness? I will not do this, Dúnadan." With these words, Legolas turned from him, resuming his watch, searching the impenetrable murk of snow and blackness.
Aragorn bent his head, clutched by heaviness worse than the despair of the Caradhras. He had said nothing he wished to say, heard nothing he wished to hear, and now the wail of the wind was the only thing that passed between them. He would have had healed the wound between them even as the blade of Andúril had been healed in the forges at Imladris.
He lifted his head finally and watched the skies as Boromir did, though he could see nothing past the thickness of the falling snow; knowing that the moon had not yet reached its apex in the darkness above, but hoping for the dawn to come soon nonetheless.
Suddenly beside him, Legolas stiffened, his breathing stilled and stopped with neither gasp nor sigh, as motionless as his body.
"Dúnadan," Legolas said softly to him, "There is something watching."
Aragorn looked towards Gandalf, but the Elf placed a hand upon his forearm, gently urging. They rose silently, shedding the blanket that had not warmed either of them, but he paused to meet the wizard Gandalf's eyes and nodded once. Solemn-faced, the old man nodded back, and Aragorn took to following the Elf who's light step had carried him far ahead.
"Slow, friend," he called out, his eyes seeking through the endless fall of white. "I have not your gift for walking atop even the softest drift."
"I would not lose our quarry," Legolas cried back. "For surely you have startled it with your shouting. I will return- go back to the company, mortal Man!"
But stubborn was the heart of the heir of Isildur, and though he was near defenseless and lame in the waist-deep snow, he made his way steadily in the direction he thought the Elf had gone. "Legolas, stop! There may be a company of orcs ahead that even you cannot see!"
His voice flung short into the grey night and returned to him made mocking by the stones of the Caradhras. He swung his sword in frustration at the white barrier before him; it seemed that nothing would be yielding to him on this cruel mountain.
Snow clung even to his lashes, frosted his beard and stung his lips. It seemed the frost was even upon his breath, cold in his nostrils and his throat and lungs. But still he forced himself forward, and once he thought he caught the lightest impression of the Elf's foot, not yet covered by the falling drifts. He worried for the company behind them, though they were certainly safe with Gandalf and Gimli and Boromir; and perhaps even the hobbits would be some threat now that they engaged in some swordsplay with the son of Gondor. What vanity compelled him to fear what would become of them should he fall and break his neck? Fool Elf! he thought, and then a shock was had upon him.
Out of the blinding snow fell a great dark shape, an amber-fletched arrow lodged deep into its eye. Around it a great cloud of white arose, lightly showering Aragorn with dampness as the unsettled snow came to rest on his skin and hair and clothing.
Laughter sounded in his ears, lightly mocking, and he was returned to a long ago moment, when he had wandered through Mirkwood with heavy heart at the words of Elrond and the scorn of Arwen. Then as now he had felt some of his weariness dissolve at the sound, in a manner that only Elves may touch the hearts of Men.
"Did I not tell you to return, Dúnadan?"
He scoffed. "Am I such a poor companion in your experience that you mock me now?"
Legolas appeared out of the grey, amusement playing on his lips. "How I understand your long lamenting now, for surely you must have been beaten many times by orcs without the singing of my bowstring. Did Elrond's sons rescue you as often as I did?"
He felt compelled to return like for like. "Well what of the time that you snared yourself fast by your hair--"
"--And you wished to *cut* it!" A flush of color crept up along the delicate edge of the leaf-shaped ears. Legolas made it sound like a mortal offense.
"Though I would have bemoaned it more than you, I assure you. Such fine locks are found on no mortal woman, even..."
"Compare me to a woman, will you?"
"Should I feel guilt? While the others are miserable behind us, I find mirth once again in your company."
"More guilt you should have for your remark, Dúnadan!"
Aragorn felt himself smile genuinely, it seemed, for the first time since they had left Rivendell.
"This is how it was between us and how it shall be again!" Legolas exclaimed, tilting his head down at Aragorn who was still entrenched deeply in the snow. "Mellon." Friend. It was a firm declaration of Legolas's intents after their discussion.
"Melethron," Aragorn said out of old instinct, before he could strangle the word in his throat. Lover. Legolas caught his eye, a strange shadow passing over his face, but Aragorn reached forth and patted a hand firmly over the toe of the Elf's soft shoe as if he had said nothing out of sorts. "So you have missed our hunts and rides, after all, lofty Elf!"
"I am caught," Legolas said, but it was awkwardly. Aragorn regretted his word, regretted his pursuit. Odd it was indeed that he was so consumed to know if some old passion still resided in the heart of his companion. He should have let it lie, kept the simplicity of the respect and lessened familiarity between them.
"I am sorry," he finally said. He kept his eyes held to the careful detailing of the Elvish shoe beneath his palm, drew his thumb over the soft leather. "When a Man spies a thing that he finds beautiful, he wishes blindly to possess it. Even that which is greater and more glorious than he might achieve. But that is not a thing of Elves, perhaps."
Legolas was silent long, but when he spoke his voice was light. "It is not uncommon for our curiosity to be piqued by a mortal. But to take up with him with any seriousness, that would be folly; for that would be for the mountain to love the flower, the turtle to love the butterfly. I could not possess you even if I would-- and I would be accounted a fool to admit what times I spent coveting you, Aragorn son of Arathorn, only a greater fool if I were to fall in love with... what... perhaps a Dwarf!" And with that he laughed gaily, as there were no shadow upon his heart, as if they stood in merry Elvish halls rather than in the icy passes of the Misty Mountains. Then he knelt one knee into the snow, leaning down so that his face was level with Aragorn's. "Yet here I have you trapped, far away from your Lady, with the confessions on your own lips of your pain in my absence. Perhaps I might I possess you, however brief, since I wished as blindly as a Man for it once?" His expression grew dark and terrible, cold and amused. But it did not last, and soon he was both melancholy and pleasant. "Nay, what you think your heart wants is only the loneliness of a Ranger too long on the road, away from warmth and women and beauty and song."
Aragorn opened his mouth to protest, and found it covered for a moment with the softest of lips, barely parted, in a Mannish caress. Legolas's fingers held his chin tightly though they had no need to; Aragorn would have no sooner flinched away than he would have struck down his friend. The smooth callused fingertips drawn against his stubbled jaw were softer still than the skin of his cheek, guiding his head up, tilting him deeper into the kiss. He let out a long sigh when the contact was broken, as the silken-wet mouth grazed his own once more, then slid away.
"You would do this," he said breathlessly, "And yet dismiss it as loneliness?"
The Elf remained kneeling on the snow before him, studying him darkly before answering. "Yes and no, Dúnadan... For it seems that all who come to know you come to love you, and I have not such bravery that I would not admit that I love you in a fashion as well."
"And yet you cannot deny the truth of your heart, Aragorn, o beloved of Arwen. When we are all long gone from Middle Earth those who remember will surely sing of the Lady and yourself likened to Luthien and Beren."
"With equal doom at the end of the tale," he said morosely. "Perhaps my greedy heart can love more than one with the depth of my soul..." He plunged forth heedlessly, in realizing for truth the perceived plight of his friend, eager to make amend for it. "For it was not false, what I pledged so long ago."
Legolas shook his head sadly, the golden silk of his hair caught recklessly by the wind. "The time of my people fades and the time of Men grows stronger; I am happy now under bough and leaf, but even I will sail over the sea one day. I can feel it in my bones, a whisper of a song now, but I feel that it will only take a small thing to burst into full chorus."
"I would not have you leave me." The bitterness of once before was recalled to Aragorn, when he had realized that Arwen would long outlive him, when he realized the choice she must make if she were to remain with him.
"Alas," the Elf said, a weariness overtaking him, "Even when the song in my bones grows deafening, I know that I would stay because you have bid me to. Such a curse it was to have walked with you those many seasons, Dúnadan." His voice was neither kind nor unkind, but there was a truth to the pain that tainted it.
Legolas arose, gathering himself, and grew aware once more of where he stood and what lay at his feet. He nudged the dead orc over with his foot, and studied him curiously. Finally he looked up, broadly sweeping the winter-cloaked mountain pass with the darkness of his gaze, a slight furrow in his brow. "But one lone orc there was, sent to spy on us, for sure! And yet I will be wary. We had best head back."
Legolas leapt down into the path that Aragorn had slowly carved for himself, and looked in the direction of the company. They walked in silence for a while, together, and there was some small comfort to be found in the simple act. The snowfall had near-ceased, the wind tamed to something less biting and more stirring.
As they returned to the camp, it seemed the sky had lightened, deepening from black marred by violent swirling white, to a dreary grey.
"We have spoken until the dawn," Legolas observed, and ahead of them a weary company stirred and grew restless, half-heartened by the growing light. "And has your heart been answered, Aragorn?"
He was uncertain; he felt the night had been one great game of Elves who say both yes and no, and though he was used to the riddles he drew little satisfaction from it. "Do you grieve still? Did you ever?"
The Elf gave him the smallest of smiles. "Yes, Dúnadan. I grieved over what was lost, and what I could not have. But some scars never heal, some merely fade with time, and some are worn with pride."
"And your scars, Legolas of Mirkwood?"
Legolas took a moment in answering, but when he looked up once more, the pain seemed relinquished from his eyes. "I would wear them with pride, Dúnadan."
Aragorn clasped his shoulder once, and they went to rouse the company to tackle the pass of Caradhras once more.
Mini-Glossary (all words are in Sindarin (Grey-Elven))
Imladris - Rivendell, the Last Homely House, home of Elrond Half-Elven
Hithaeglir - the Elves' name for the Misty Mountains
Estel - meaning "hope", the name Aragorn was called by when he was growing up in Imladris.
Dúnadan - "man of the West", a Numenorean
Mellon - friend
Melethron - lover
Didier Willis, Ed. Hisweloke- Le Dragon de Blume, Boulogne, France, 2000.
Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers
JRR Tolkien, Houghton Mifflin, Boston MA, 1955, 1965, 1983.
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