Chapter 3: Realization
Garand slipped easily into the routines of palace life, and he was a comforting presence to Legolas, whose broken heart finally began to heal. His friend had an effortless way of making him laugh and lifting his spirit, which was appreciated not only by Thranduil, but also by the palace servants, who had been so very worried about their beloved Prince since the death of the Queen. Without exception, every member of the palace staff adored the King and his son, and all of them were more than willing to take extra pains to please them. Garand noted this, and he felt doubly honored to be the close friend of someone who inspired such love and devotion. He also felt the stirring of something else when he was in the presence of the King. Something that went beyond the sympathy he felt for Thranduil in his grief. The father of Legolas was august, and possessed a great strength of spirit, or he would never have been able to perform his duties as king and continue to be the dutiful parent, while coping with the violent fate that had befallen the Queen. Garand admired him greatly for this ….. and for his beauty. Sweet Varda, but he was magnificent! The younger elf became increasingly aware, with each passing day, that he was losing his heart to the majestic Thranduil.
The king was also aware that something had changed in him. He no longer felt that he trudged through each day’s duties, merely going through the motions, but once again taking interest, even delight, in the decisions he was required to make on a daily basis. He found himself excited about problem-solving, not dreading it as he had been for some time. Something else was happening to him, something that caused him slight apprehension, only because he had never felt it before. Attraction to another male. Not that he frowned on such feelings. It certainly wasn’t uncommon among the Elves, even marriages between two males weren’t uncommon, but the yearning he felt when he thought of Garand was new to Thranduil. He found himself eagerly awaiting the evening meal that he shared with Legolas and his friend, when he would ask how they’d spent their day. The enthusiasm and vitality of the two younger elves was infectious, and the King found himself smiling almost through the entire meal, even as he stole quick glances at the auburn-haired elf who sat to his right.
Of late, Thranduil had taken to watching his son and Garand in their leisure activities on the lawn outside his library. It began one afternoon, as he was reading through proposals submitted by the Council. He heard Legolas laughing in pure and unrestrained enjoyment, and he smiled unconsciously. When Garand’s lyrical laughter joined in, accompanied by the giggling of small children, Thranduil’s curiosity got the better of him. He rose and moved to the open archway that overlooked the grounds outside. What he saw caused him to grin openly, as he crossed his arms and leaned against the column of the archway. Legolas lay on his stomach on the grass, while a small boy, the son of one of the servants, sat astride his back, as if riding a pony. They both watched as Garand and another boy played a spirited game of Orc Hunt. The auburn-haired elf ran frantically back and forth, shrieking in an uncanny impersonation of an orc’s cackling scream, while the child fired imaginary arrows in his direction. Garand’s glorious cinnamon-colored hair was loose and swayed magnificently as he ran. When he turned to run in a direction that presented his backside to the King, Thranduil stared in fascination as the ends of the elf’s hair fell into a V-shape in the back, like an arrow pointing directly to the swell of his perfect buttocks. The smile slowly faded from Thranduil’s face as an emotion he thought was long-lost, washed over him. Desire. Heat flooded his groin so quickly that he stood upright with a start as his hand convulsively gripped the column beside him. Have you lost your mind, your majesty? That is the closest friend of your only child, you are lusting after. He shook his head in reproach and turned away, assuring himself that he was simply tired and that the longing he had just felt would never return. But it did return, time and again. When he saw Garand, when he heard his voice in the palace halls, and every time the beautiful young elf crept into the King’s thoughts. And Thranduil felt that desire most keenly, as he did now, at the evening meal, when Garand sat so intoxicatingly close. The older elf couldn’t possibly have known that it was every bit as difficult for Garand to sit near the object of his love and carry on a casual conversation, when every impulse in his body screamed at him to sit astride Thranduil’s thighs and devour his beautiful mouth until neither of them could breathe.
Then something extraordinary happened. Garand reached for the carafe of wine to pour more for himself and the others at the same instant that Thranduil reached for it, and their hands met in a highly-charged touch. Both elves felt it profoundly, and when their eyes met, the realization of the shared feeling caused them to smile shyly, as they withdrew their hands. In the next instant, their eyes flew to Legolas in apprehension, but he was busy tearing a chunk of bread from the plate in front of him, and hadn’t noticed. Thank the gods, Thranduil and Garand thought simultaneously, and they carefully avoided physical contact for the remainder of the meal.
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