Disclaimer: Not mines. Make no money I. No sue, please.
Warnings: A/L Slash. No flame.
Author’s Rant: Minor note, there are no grammar mistakes. It’s all intentional, unless I screwed up somewhere, and I’m hoping I didn’t. Welcome to the next issue. Italics indicate thoughts.
Part 6 - Caught
The setting was the same, the stillness of the woods, and the vigilance of the watch, the anticipation and dread for morning when the cycle would begin anew.
The cycle of searching, of hoping hope against hope and experience and falling into the dull familiar pit of despair as the sun fell also.
Gimli had remained aggressively cheerful throughout the day, after starting the morning by punching Aragorn awake. He had planned the moment out, aimed carefully, and landed a fair blow to the Man’s shoulder without even making a sound. That the Man had clouted him awake the night before had not been forgotten.
Aragorn had awoken that morning to a cheerful grin and an aching shoulder where Gimli had ‘tapped’ him awake. His watch had ended at daybreak, when the Company broke and continued the search.
Legolas had been awake before Gimli’s shift was ended, and leaning against one of the many scraggly trees facing east, at least half an hour before dawn. No words were traded between him and the dwarf.
Gimli hadn’t even sniggered at the Look Legolas was scalding the defenseless trees with. Had they not been so ancient and enduring, they would burst into flame.
When he caught the quizzical glances that Gimli was sneaking, Legolas’ eyelids dropped, hiding his eyes and turned his head and shifted his body till only parts of his back remained uncovered by the old tree. Gimli blinked, and grunted; in either understanding or annoyance.
Most Elves were not prone to show their anger until they were ready to swear and die for it. That’s how you could tell if Legolas was angry, since his face would not indicate otherwise. His eyes didn’t narrow, didn’t sizzle or snap, but simply shut the doors and curtains, and hid themselves.
Hidden from the world, from people who would use what emotions he was feeling against him, from people that would be hurt against him. To control him, keep the anger and fire smoldering inside him, where it could hurt no one.
Aragorn had looked at Legolas only once, when the Man had arisen the and saw the archer’s back turned to him, the sunlight a faint white mist, his hands empty and still.
Neither had looked at each other the rest of the day, nor said any words. Since the day’s routine was silently, mutually planned to running at top speed, this was not unusual. The scenery refused to change, even Legolas had begun to tire of the decrepit, weary trees.
Gimli noticed Legolas lagging a little, not yet behind himself, as he was the slowest of the group, but still not racing along with Aragorn either. Aragorn usually led, with Legolas abreast and off to one side, holding back his speed for his companions while his eyes searched the ground and skies.
The sun colored the trees to the color of dog’s pelt, and the mist began to thin, sound gradually returned to the air. They burst out of the woods, and onto the green plains that Aragorn called Rohan.
Now the Elf was only a few steps in front of him, while Aragorn swallowed the ground in a distance-eating gallop. After a few hours of Gimli half-halting his run for fear of tripping on the Elf’s floppy sodding boots he began to scowl, as he did not have the breath to swear.
The Elf himself did not speed up, even after he gave a discreet jump to keep the Dwarf from stepping on him. His face no longer turned to the right, but his eyes still looked everywhere, thorough, desperate. His eyes lighted briefly, dishonestly, on Aragorn.
Then he stopped.
“GODS DA-”, Gimli shouted, a sound muffled by the back of the Elf’s legs were his head had hit and the ground. The Dwarf’s helmet caught the Elf in the back of the thighs, making the Elf’s knees buckle instantly and articulate, “Ngh!” Both fell to the ground.
Aragorn turned to check back.
“Stay!” he shouted. “Do not follow me yet!”
He ran a distance to the side, combing the grass.
“Stupid Elf! Ye dinna ‘ave to stop like that! Where in the ‘ells does he think he’s off to now? Run and stop, run and stop, all day long you, you, Tall people!” he swore condescendingly, “Why can’t yae make up yer bloody minds! That’s all I ask!”
Legolas looked mildly affronted and guilty and sidled away a bit. He still looked Elfishly aloof, and his eyes turned to follow Aragorn. Gimli swore some more in Dwarfish.
Aragorn returned before Gimli could begin his tirade on why Elves were naturally flimsy and fickle.
“The hobbits have been here. Their tracks lie yonder, and look what in the grass I found.” Aragorn opened his hand, a clover brooch inside it.
“It’s of Lorien, the same that the hobbits carry.” Aragorn continued. “I think that it was not lost idly, but cast for the finding.”
“So Pippin is alive, and wits too.” Gimli grunted. “Tis heartening; least we have not been running idly.”
“We should continue then, while they are still close and herded like cattle,” said Legolas quietly.
They ran on, till the morning faded into noon, and noon into night. Against the will of Legolas, it was decided to rest the night instead of searching in the dark in fear of losing the trail completely.
Legolas had the first watch. He often did, as at the end of the day he was often still restless, and the period of vigilance seemed to ease his nerves. He never confirmed this, and no one asked.
He sat in the tall grass on a rising overlooking the camp, his posture lax as he inserted the feathers into the end of new arrows.
He fiddled with the wax on his fingers, watching it as the amber color turned lighter over the whorls and lines on his fingertips. His head jerked up and looked south, his posture still slouched and his fingers still slowly sliding wax covered against each other.
His eyes swept the undulating plains, the continuous sea of endless grass, the shadows the moonlight cast in the swells and risings, the myriads of green and yellow that made the back on one’s throat ache with the similarities and contrasts of two simple colors.
His hand rose to push back his hair absently even though it was all tied and laid back already. His hand lingered on the left side, pressing his index finger along a strip.
His eyes looking desperately, with embarrassment and rejection to the to the sky at the right, the clouds opening in slight places to show faint eddies of stars. His eyes traveled down to the horizon, to the east.
Aragorn breathed gently in the west.
Legolas’ lips tightened at the corners, and drew his hand away. He hesitated then, the muscles beneath his eyes twitching slightly, and moved his hand back to his hair and pulled a strand out.
He pulled it through his index and middle finger, watching the strand as it fell back to his face, the tip level with the corner of his mouth. He stared at the pale yellow strand, his eyes crossing in the effort, caressing the length gently between his index and thumb as they slid slowly down to the tip. He twirled the bit thoughtfully around his finger, the wax making the hair stay curled even after he drew his hand away.
His hand fell down in one straight movement, instead of falling at an angle as it usually did, the tips lisping over his neck and the hem of his tunic before rubbing the rest of the wax on the end of an arrow almost murderously, stabbing the feathers viciously into place.
He sighed silently, his shoulders rising and falling as his posture slackened to the point of painful. He brushed the strand behind an ear.
Strangely, his breathing reminded him of trees. Each inhale was a year, a new circle around the origin, the wet ash colored bark flecked with cracks of gray were the true color of the tree showed through. The bark would grow hard and scaly, monstrous, before breaking off to show the softer, cleaner bark underneath, the tree a majestic redwood or oak, a lord of the forest.
The sound was relaxing, had an echo quality to it. Antiquated. Before time. Before memory. The raspy, deep baritone, a comfortable charcoal color with phantasmal wisps of ash twisting in the breeze.
Yes, the breathing said, I have seen the world. It has yet to destroy me. I have yet to be conquered. I am strong. I am grand. I am Aragorn.
Legolas did not move for many hours more. He managed to finish one more arrow, and begin on a second, but no further. He kept pausing for long moments in between. A few hours after his shift was ended, he walked to the west.
He stood over Aragorn silently, watching him breathe. His ivory face showed no more emotion than it normally did, but his eyes were hooded. He started to breathe in symphony with the human without knowing it.
He sighed. Slowly, smoothly, he crouched down by the man’s side, looking at the floor in front of the other man’s torso instead of his face and perhaps not even seeing him then, ignoring him completely. Slowly, reluctantly, Legolas stretched out his hand to the other’s shoulder, and yanked it back. His throat worked, but his mouth did not open.
He retook his seat on the mound and stared up at the sky. He sang to the stars softly.
Aragorn awoke on his own, the slight stirring in the atmosphere awakening his subconscious, which awoke the rest of him. He rose, and looked to where Legolas sat still, staring at the stars with a half-finished arrow in his hands.
“You were supposed to wake me.”
Legolas slid to standing silently without facing Aragorn, turned to the east and laid his blanket down near to Gimli, and sat down on it, laying the unfinished arrow to one side. His eyes faded out of focus gradually, then he slid bonelessly to horizontal with his hands rising to cross his chest.
He vaguely resembled the arrows he wielded lethally. His ears came to their delicate sharp points, designed for accuracy and exuding elegance, uniqueness. The ivory paleness seemed alien and out of place among a place with so much wide space and bright days. The clerk was still visible under all that dirt and scratches, a paradox and mystery wrapped up in one deliciously tempting tunic and leggings. Damn. Perhaps what made his so mind-boggling erotic was his genuine innocence, his studious bearing and manners. The man would apologize to goblins for cutting their necks if he had the time. He was so nice! To everything. It was irritating. No one should be that nice and be living, it went against Nature.
His slim form spoke of tranquility, lying on the ground like that. His legs, so very long, stretched out, long…and slim…not bony or brawny, just very strong with a lithe strength…and very, very nice. Yes. Yeah…nice legs, no question. Right down to his feet, which did not sink in snow, giving all other walkers a perfect view of his legs, dashing to and fro, scissoring and bending, the calf muscles contracting and relaxing, and you couldn’t really see much of his thighs, but what you could see made up for a lot of that.
Not that anybody had really been looking, or anything.
The faint starlight shining from the sky and bouncing off the plains created a reflection in Legolas’ eyes; an odd striped combination of white starlight and flaxen shadows, with a dark blue-grey void between them. The diagonal lines of his hands added energy and vitality to the tranquil form.
Aragorn crept down from the mound, a dark shadow moving deliberately. With practice he moved his hand over the visage, fingers extended gingerly, close enough that three individual hairs in the collective strand moved in the current.
Aragorn studied the face, taking in the slender and sharp nose, sienna eyebrows, ivory skin. When he moved again, the blue in the eyes twinkled. Aragorn eyebrows pulled together, his eyes narrowed and calculated.
With unerring certainty sensors moved to strand, fingers in a pincer movement…and smacked the nose below the strand, hitting the bone and turning the skin a light conch pink.
Things moved quickly, at the same time.
The eyes widened till a thin sliver of white surrounded the irises, the edges of the man’s lips turned into a smile while his eyes flickered, a cold thumb clamped over the back of Aragorn’s wrist and the side of the hand pushed his palm up, threatening to snap the bone, and yanked Aragorn’s hand over the elf’s chest, pushing him slightly off balance.
A pause less than a second, which was all that was needed.
The dark circles under Aragorn’s eyes twitched inward once. The tips of his fingers flexed inwards once. Legolas’ left hand moved up to cover his face, Aragorn shifted his weight onto his right elbow that was centered in the Elf’s chest so his arm could realign itself more and lessen the pain. His left arm snaked between their bodies, clasping the Elf’s left hand by his face, in sight.
The struggle was between elfin strength and Human strength. Gravity and weight played a hand. Their arms crossed their bodies, one of Aragorn’s arms in obvious pain while his other arm supported his weight on top of the elf’s chest and held down his other hand.
By degrees, Aragorn pushed down on the elf’s left hand until it rested 5 cm from his shoulder, trembling.
Through a tight, yet low voice, eyes murky from control, Legolas said, “Get, off.”
Aragorn’s eyes by contrast stayed moody, emotions oozing in the depths but covered by restraint. Dark hair, with a hint of grey, stayed at an angle to the ground, though the owner looked straight down at the Elf. He had not shaved for some time, his fingers spotted with dirt and calluses, his chest a foot away from the Elf’s and his torso anywhere from 5 to 3 inches away from the other’s hip, as he was breathing heavier than he seemed. He was looking to the Elf’s face for the first time in many nights.
He smiled grimly.
In a raspy baritone, he said, “Play with your hair all you wish, but don’t play with me.”
The Elf gave what could have been called a snort but sounded like a sigh. “You came to me”, he pointed out.
The Man’s eyes lost what calm they had, narrowed, and murderous and intense hues darted and flew in them. His face did not lose its smile, though his left fingers did curl in tighter, while in reaction the Elf’s right hand pushed Aragorn’s wrist back to nearly a 90-degree angle. Aragorn’s shoulder twitched.
“Now get off.” Legolas inhaled, and said, “Please.”
The Elf’s voice did not indicate begging, or even heighten in pain. He was merely being polite.
A pause of five seconds, a searching of eyes, testing of nerves, of questioning. I really hate him.
Aragorn’s left hand uncurled a little, though it still held the other down. The Elf’s right fingers blurred; his hand now gripped around his wrist. Aragorn’s shoulder relaxed, and the grimness left his face, as did the mocking smile. The tension resumed, but at a lower degree.
“Well,” the human drawled, “then you’re gonna to ‘ave to let go.”
By mutual agreement, Legolas pushed Aragorn’s arms up and left, releasing them, while Aragorn rocked his weight back and stood while Legolas’ hand was still in the air. His left arm went back to the left, and lowered to his side. Aragorn turned.
“Do something about that hair,” Aragorn shot in parting. “Can’t shoot if you can’t see.” He turned his back and shut the elf out, turned, and started drifting away.
Legolas turned his face away, hooded his eyes, the wheels in his head turning. Then he bit. Or nipped. Quietly and politely, of course.
“I suppose that is how you found Pippin’s brooch.”
Aragorn spun around quickly, perhaps too quickly. He tilted his body back in hesitation so that his side faced Legolas. The muscles in his thighs fidgeted, and his feet almost turned back to the mound.
His eyes focused not on Legolas’ face, but on his elbow, and shrugged.
“That was luck. Don’t blame yourself.”
“Who said did I?” came the curt reply, coupled with the Elf’s head tilting back towards Aragorn, one eyebrow arched and his chin at an angle. His eyes stayed on the ground.
Aragorn blinked, and one knee bent awkwardly to put his foot farther back and closer to the mound, where the only companions and peers were the stars.
“I meant, do not trouble yourself for it. It was nothing special.”
Legolas tilted his head in the other direction, considering the statement.
“No?” the elf questioned. He was quiet a bit. “No, I suppose it wasn’t.” Legolas said thoughtfully, condescendingly. “Good night.” Legolas became horizontal in a sleek movement that Aragorn’s eyes couldn’t follow, let alone copy. He stood glaring at Legolas a moment longer than appropriate, before returning to the mound.
Amroth beheld the fading shore
Now low beyond the swell,
And cursed the faithless ship that bore
Him far from Nimrodel.
Of old he was an Elven-king,
A lord of tree and glen,
When golden were the boughs in spring
In fair Lothlorien.
--Legolas in Lothlorien, of the lovers Amroth and Nimrodel
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