by Chloe Amethyst
Title: Best Laid Plans 1/1
"Best Laid Plans"
Determined to reach Imladris by nightfall, Legolas pressed his grey mare onward through the valley towards the Last Homely House. He had crossed over the High Pass a few nights past, the mountain tops still snow-covered though summer was but two weeks away, and now he was glad to have shed his cloak upon entering the valley, thankful for the warm sunshine on his face and tunic clad shoulders. In late winter his father had dispatched him as an envoy to Galadriel and Celeborn of the Golden Wood, and when his duties there were completed, he took the opportunity of his proximity to Imladris to arrange time to spend with the one he loved.
A year had passed since the last time he and Estel had been together, and his excitement grew with each step that Mithel took. Her pace seemed to quicken as she too recognized the verdant woods and pasture land that blanketed this Elven refuge. They became lovers soon after Estel came of age, having already spent much of the young Dúnadan’s adolescence as close friends. Whenever possible, they arranged to meet each other during their travels since their first lovers' tryst four years ago, though it was never enough to sate their desire for each other's company. The past year was a long drought, their duties as prince and young chieftain having taken up too much of their time for the pursuit of their hearts' desires. Thus as he and Mithel continued on, Legolas began to feel flutters in his stomach and tingles in his fingers that he knew to be result of nearly unrestrained excitement at the reunion to come.
Yet underneath that thrill of anticipation, there was also a bit of apprehension. Only last year, Lord Elrond revealed to his foster son the great secret of his true heritage, and of the awesome destiny that awaited him as the one who would again unite Arnor and Gondor and re-establish the kingdom of Men on Arda. Legolas learned of the revelation through secret letters conveyed by only the most trusted of Imladris' couriers, and Estel's tone in those missives, once full of light and enthusiasm, began to show hints of doubt and weariness in contemplation of the life he was meant to lead. Whereas Legolas had understood from a very young age what it meant to stand first in line to inherit the mantle of king, he could only imagine what it must be like for Estel to have no knowledge one day, and then told he was the savior of his race the next. The burden could be overwhelming for even the stoutest heart. As the months wore on, the self-doubt evident in Estel's letters only increased, and the boundless optimism and willingness to face any challenge that he always displayed as a child and adolescent seemed to be slowly eroding away. Legolas's inability to meet with Estel face to face to get to the heart of his troubles was especially confounding. He had to wonder what else about Estel had changed since he last saw him. Was he even still Estel, or had he truly become Aragorn, weighed down with thought of all the struggles and travails that name held for his future?
Finally, he approached the outbuildings that served the Last Homely House and saw two familiar figures leaning upon the top fence rail of a paddock next to the large stables as they watched a group of mares and their foals. One figure looked up, and the other, a mirror image of the first, looked up immediately after.
"Mae govannen, Legolas!" they shouted together and quickly moved towards him.
"Mae govannen, Elrohir! Elladan!" Legolas leapt down from Mithel's back and was quickly embraced by the twin sons of Elrond. "It's so very good to see you! Are you both well?"
"Aye, very well, my friend," replied Elladan. "Elrohir and I were just thinking you were due to arrive at any time. We trust you had a safe trip from Lórien."
"Indeed I did. Your sister sends her best, as do your grandparents."
"I hope Arwen was behaving herself," said Elrohir with a grin. "Please don't tell me she was nearly throwing herself at you again, Legolas!"
"No, indeed. Her youthful infatuation seems to have worn off, thank the Valar."
A groom arrived to lead Mithel away for some much needed rest, and the brothers ushered Legolas towards the house, all three briefly catching each other up on the news of their lives as they walked. Legolas followed the twins inside to a large sitting room a short distance from the entryway, and they settled into lavishly upholstered chairs. A servant appeared with fruit, cheese, and wine and poured them each a glass as they continued their jovial chat.
The whole time they conversed, Legolas's eyes were darting here and there, expecting his lover to appear at any moment, yet he did not. At the first lull in the conversation, he could stand the suspense no longer. "By the way, where is Estel?"
"Ah, yes...Estel...well...you see...Estel is...," stuttered Elladan most uncharacteristically. Legolas stared at him and raised one eyebrow in an uncanny imitation of Elladan's father.
"Estel is not here, Legolas," Elrohir calmly explained. "He was called away on urgent business of the Dúnedain a fortnight ago and headed northwest. Some sort of trouble with villages in dispute with one another and some raids. We were away at the time he left so we did not get the whole story of his errand."
Legolas's face fell in disappointment. Perhaps the long awaited reunion would not happen after all.
"But do not fear." Elladan seemed to have regained control of his tongue. "He sent word back to us just three days ago that he would not miss his meeting with you. He asked that we give you something." Elladan got up and walked to a small table to retrieve a piece of rolled parchment tied with a leather string. He handed it to Legolas who unrolled it quickly to read the contents.
Legolas looked up from the parchment with a relieved smile. "He wrote this upon concluding his business with the Dúnedain. He asks me to head north, about two days travel from this house, to meet him south of the river Men call Hoarwell near a human village called Thunorley. He has included a map to the spot he wishes to meet."
"Oh, indeed we know the village, Legolas," Elrohir told him. "And I would wager I know just where he plans for you two to spend your time together. It's beautiful country there, and when Estel was younger we sometimes took him with us on our visits to the villages in the north. Several miles from Thunorley is a clearing around a small lake where the we used to spend a few days from time to time after completing our tasks. Sounds like he wishes to introduce you to the place. We have many good memories from there of his childhood. Hunting, fishing, swimming in the lake, he trying to drown us, we trying to drown him...." Elrohir grinned. "Even Adar came up to join us a few times."
"And Thunorley is nearly abandoned these days except for a few remaining land holders, so you won't have trouble with any men wandering about. Nor has there been word of a troll sighting in those parts for long years past," Elladan added.
"Very well. I will embark on another journey, but thankfully a much shorter one this time."
"But not until you've had a hearty meal, some of Adar's best wine, and a good night's sleep in a soft bed in this house," Elladan insisted.
"Hannon le, for your hospitality. Of course I will wait to leave in the morning.
"We are very glad that you have made this journey to see Estel, Legolas," Elrohir said more solemnly. "He needs you, I think. This has been a difficult year for him. His spirits have been low, I'm afraid."
Legolas's worries were confirmed. "I noted in his letters that he seemed not himself at times and I've been concerned."
"There is much turmoil in his heart and mind, I think. When Elladan and I had just reached our majority, we struggled with our own sense of identity and the responsibilities that lay before us as the sons of an Elven Lord. I'm sure it was much the same for you. But I can only imagine how much more difficult Estel's situation is, raised in one world yet destined to lead another. Your visit will be very good for him."
"I hope to help Estel and your family however I may." Legolas paused and looked around him. "I have not even greeted your Adar yet. Where, pray tell, is he?"
"I'm afraid he's not here either. Glorfindel, Erestor, and he are traveling to the south end of the valley to visit the people, hold audiences, hear petitions, and all that ghastly 'Lords of the Realm' sort of business." Elrohir rolled his eyes, ignoring the fact that he would very well be doing the same one day.
"Hmm," thought Elrohir, a mischievous grin growing on his face. "Perhaps we should take the opportunity of their absence and our dear Legolas's presence to raid Adar's private wine cellar. No reason why we shouldn't entertain the Prince of the Greenwood with the best Imladris has to offer." He winked at Elladan who was sharing the same grin.
"Brilliant idea, dearest brother. I shall get the keys from Erestor's office. Perhaps with enough wine, we may coax out of Legolas what on Arda he sees in our little baby brother anyway!" Elladan teased him gently.
Legolas protested, "He's hardly a baby anymore, and certainly not little either."
"Well, you would definitely know more about that than we would, Legolas!" Elladan's peals of laughter rang out as Legolas turned ruby red from his neck to the tips of his ears with embarrassment.
"Come now, Elladan! Causing mortification to our guests is certainly not something for which the Last Homely House should be known!" Despite his protests, Elrohir laughed just as vigorously, and Legolas could not help but join in as one twin took each of his arms and led him from the sitting room to begin the hunt for Lord Elrond's premium vintages.
Legolas had been traveling for two days upon Mithel's back, following the map Estel had drawn for him and noting the passage of each landmark the man had indicated. He knew he must be very near the spot Estel had chosen for their meeting and the flutters and tingles were back in full. The twins were correct; it was very beautiful country. The wood he passed through was populated with mostly younger trees spaced much farther apart than they would be in an older wood. Obviously, this had been farmland decades ago, and occasionally he could still make out the remnants of a farmer's berm here and there where the ground had been built up into long, narrow hills to separate pasture lands. The ground between the trees was covered with bright moss, delicate curling ferns, and tiny flowers of pink and yellow. Now and then he would pass through a clearing in which meadow plants had reclaimed a farmer's barley field. His refined Elven hearing could just barely pick up the faintest roar of the Hoarwell, still miles away.
After stopping briefly at noontide to rest his mount and take his own refreshment, he continued on through the forest until he came to the edge of a wide meadow. As Mithel picked her way through the tall weeds and wildflowers, she suddenly shied as a flock of carrion crows took flight from something on the ground and surprised horse and rider. Legolas calmed her quickly and they continued forward with the Elf expecting to find a rotting deer carcass or some other animal now become the crows' feast.
What he found instead chilled him to the core and he quickly dismounted and stared in disbelief. It was another horse lying on the ground, a familiar chestnut gelding wearing a saddle and bridle that were well known to him. This was Berenant, the horse Lord Elrond had given to his foster son on his thirteenth birthday. Horse and boy practically grew up together as Estel was given the task of both caring for and training his young horse so they would become as close as horse and rider could be.
But now here was Berenant in a shocking state. Great gashes were torn in his sides and his entrails spilled out onto the ground. Legolas could hardly believe what he was seeing and tried to suppress mounting panic concerning the welfare of Estel. The animal's body was cold and stiff, the blood now dried upon the ground, so this must have happened a few days ago. He carefully but fearfully scanned the meadow looking for signs of the missing rider but saw nothing. Reaching down, he took the saddlebags and half-full water skin that still hung from Berenant's saddle, laid them across Mithel, and began on foot leading her through the meadow to begin his search for his beloved.
Fortunately, the grasses on the other side of Berenant's body still lay partially trampled all the way to the trees, so Legolas knew the direction the horse had come from and followed it hoping to find some sign of Estel. Not knowing what manner of creature may have killed the horse, Legolas did not call out his lover's name to avoid alerting whatever it was to his presence. Instead he tuned his keen ears to every sound and focused his sharp eyes on each bit of ground and each leaf they passed for some sign.
As the afternoon wore on and the sun moved further and further westward, Legolas began to despair of finding the man. He found a few crumpled leaves and broken twigs that might mean Estel had passed, or perhaps it was a deer, but there was no continuing trail of clues as to his whereabouts. In truth, Estel had been trained by Elves to disappear when he needed to go unnoticed, and he could regularly do so as well as any Elf Legolas knew. Frequently they would play games with his brothers involving tracking each other, and Estel could outfox them, often as not.
With his worry steadily increasing with each moment that passed, Legolas and Mithel came to an area where the ferns to the right of them had most definitely been trampled by someone no longer concealing their path. Quietly commanding Mithel to stay still where she was, Legolas began to follow the path of the crushed greenery, hoping it was not simply another forest animal's trail he was following. Suddenly his keen eyes caught sight of something he most dreaded seeing: definite spots of red blood had fallen on some of the green leaves. He began to hurry along and found another berm, this one taller than the rest. Just as he crossed over it, he knew he had found the object of his frantic search. At the foot of an oak tree much larger than most of the trees in this forest, lay a brown, unmoving lump that Legolas instantly knew was his man.
"Estel!" Legolas called out, but there was no response. Upon reaching the still form, Legolas knelt down and brushed leaf matted dark hair away from a dirty, bloodied face. He lay his hand in front of the man's mouth and nose and declared his thanks to Elbereth to find him still breathing. Gently, Legolas turned Estel from his side to his back to get a better look at him. There was a long gash along the side of his head along his hairline as well as bruises on his face. Just above his right hip protruded the broken shaft of an arrow, the tip embedded in his side far enough away from any organs that Legolas felt some relief. Estel's pants were torn from his left thigh to his knee where a long, bloody gash could be seen. Legolas loosened his tunic to search for more injuries and noticed his right shoulder was hanging down at an odd angle, probably slipped from the joint. Bruises covered his torso.
Legolas returned gentle hands to Estel's face and tried to wake him. "Estel, Estel, wake up," he urged softly as he stroked the cheeks and forehead. "Estel! It's Legolas. I am with you now. All will be well. Open your eyes!"
Estel rewarded him with a soft groan and a slight movement of his head. His eyelids began to flutter and then squeezed together as if from pain, then slowly the grey eyes began to open. "Legolas?" His voice was but a whisper.
"Yes! I am here! What has happened to you?"
"Long story, had a fight," came the slow, quiet reply.
"I can see that. You can tell me the story later. For now, what is hurting most?"
Estel closed his eyes and spoke in a raspy voice. "Head. My shoulder. Most ever'thing...."
"Alright, I'm going to walk back to Mithel and retrieve my pack and some water. I'll be right back. Lie still." Legolas hurried off and bade Mithel to follow him to where the man was. He pulled his pack, water skin, and Aragorn's saddle bags off his mare's back and knelt next to Estel once again. After pulling the cork from the water skin, he reached one hand under Aragorn's head to hold it up slightly and held the water to his mouth with the other.
"Here, drink." Aragorn groaned with the movement of his head and the onslaught of dizziness. The first attempted swallows made him splutter and cough, but eventually a trickle went down his parched throat.
"How long have you lain like this, Estel?"
"Not sure." Estel paused and took another sip of water. "First night of the new moon...they surprised me."
"That was three nights ago. Who are 'they', and where are they now?"
"Dead. Men. Four of them. I knew them. Saw them last week at a village. We rode there to solve a land dispute among neighbors. Don't think they liked my decision."
"No, not at all. They seem to have demonstrated their rancor all over your body. You men are a quarrelsome lot."
Estel took another sip of water and his voice grew stronger as his head cleared a bit. "Somehow I managed to slay them all 'though I was wounded. I didn't realize how badly until I started walking to find where Berenant had gone. He was also wounded when they surprised us but I don't know how badly. You must find him, too, Legolas. I fainted before I could."
Legolas picked up the man's left hand and held it in both of his own. "I am very sorry Estel, but I did find him, before I found you, in a clearing not far from here. He is dead, my friend."
A stricken expression crossed over Estel's face, and then he closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "May his journey after this life be blessed," he whispered. "I will miss him. He was a good friend to me."
"I'm going to tend these wounds now as best I can until we find some shelter." Legolas glanced up at the sky. Clouds were gathering and a cool breeze had come up. There would most likely be rain overnight. He opened his pack and pulled out some rudimentary supplies that he always carried with him when traveling. He wet pieces of torn linen first and washed the dirt and dried blood away from the wound on Estel's head and then wrapped it in more linen to keep it as clean as possible. He then did the same to the long gash on his leg after cutting away the left leg of Estel's breeches. Looking at the arrow wound again, he tugged slightly on the shaft as Estel moaned. The arrow's tip was in too far for him to pull it out. He would have to cut it free but that was best done within shelter, if they could find it. Next he turned his attention to the shoulder.
"Can you move your right arm at all?"
"Only if you wish to hear me scream."
"I'm afraid it has slipped its joint. What about your hand?"
"Feels numb." Legolas hoped it had not been too long to leave lasting damage to Estel's sword arm. While looking at his fingers, Legolas noticed a ring with a green stone he had never seen Estel wear before, but was obviously Elven made.
"I shall have to set the shoulder right, but you'll have to tell me how for I've not done such before." Though he was no healer, Legolas, like all his warrior-brothers, possessed a fair knowledge of the treatment of the most common injuries received in battle or while on patrol in the Greenwood. Shoulder setting was beyond him though, and Estel had been trained for long years in the healing arts by his foster father.
Estel fought to gather his wits for a moment, and then carefully explained how to go about slipping his shoulder joint back into place. He took several deep breaths to calm himself before Legolas lay his knee on his chest to hold him down, and then the elf grabbed hold of his upper arm, pulling the limb hard out and away from his body and then back towards his torso to get it back in place. The great wails that Estel let loose as Legolas worked the arm seem to spook every bird in the forest into taking flight.
After it was over, Estel was white-faced and taking heaving breaths. Legolas gently manipulated the arm to make sure it would move freely as Estel ground his jaws together. "I think you got it," he croaked out.
"Thank Elbereth that's over. And I'm sorry I had to hurt you."
"I don't expect it will be the last time as that arrow's tip still needs to come out, but it's alright. I'm so very thankful you are here. So glad you found me," Estel said quietly, looking up into bright blue eyes.
Legolas put his hands on the sides of Estel's pale face and stroked his cheeks with his thumbs. "And so am I. This isn't exactly what I was expecting for our reunion, but I cannot stand the thought of what might have happened had I not found you." It was only then that Legolas allowed the full weight of the situation to hit him emotionally. He had been operating in a manner of almost detached efficiency, as he would handle any crisis in order to stay calm and competent. But now the "what if" questions began to pour into his mind and he visibly shuddered as they assailed him with visions of what might have happened, perhaps even losing the one he loved most.
"It's alright, Legolas. You are here now," Estel said as he reached up with his good left arm to stroke his lover's face in return. "We will be fine."
Legolas had left Estel alone for awhile as he search the area surrounding them for any sign of shelter. He found none, but he did find the small lake that Elladan and Elrohir had described to him. It was indeed beautiful, filled with crystal clear water fed by an underground spring through which he could see fish darting about. As it was not too far away, Legolas decided to move Estel there and then put together some sort of shelter as they needed to be close to water. Too weak to walk and too dizzy to sit upon Mithel's back while Legolas mounted, Legolas carried Estel through the trees to the shore of the lake while the mare walked behind them. It was a painful, uncomfortable trip for the man, but Estel kept his eyes tightly closed and jaws clamped down, and would show no other signs of his discomfort.
After settling Estel upon a bedroll, Legolas took his knife and began cutting down saplings to build a rudimentary shelter. When he had enough, he plunged their woody ends into the soft earth and then wove the tops together best he could so they created a dome-like structure. Then he cut down plenty of evergreen branches and laid them over the top of the woven saplings to make the top as waterproof as possible. It was large enough so they both could just fit inside with their gear if sitting or lying down. After moving Estel in, he gathered kindling and pieces of fallen, rotting logs to start a fire outside the entrance. Pretty soon the fire was big enough and hot enough to keep burning even if they had rain during the night as long as he continued to feed it.
Now it was time to deal with the arrow wound on Estel's side. Before beginning, Legolas brought back plenty of water from the lake and set some to boil in a small pot. He fished willow bark from his pack and added it to the water to brew a tisane that would help a bit with pain and perhaps sleep. He'd given Estel plenty of water but nothing to eat yet as he did not want to take the chance of it coming back up while he worked. Wandering away from their camp for a time, Legolas searched for and found the greenish-white flowered plant that men in these parts called clivers, everything but the roots being useful in a poultice for bleeding wounds. Legolas readied all he needed, moved it into the shelter, and then pulled the bloodied, tattered clothing away from Estel's torso, removing it completely with aid of his knife.
"I don't think the arrow point is in too deep, just deep enough that I can't pull it out without the aid of my knife. It shouldn't take long. First, drink this willow tea." Legolas held a small metal cup up to Estel's lips while he lifted the man's head with his other hand. "Good boy. Drink it all down." That got him glare in response, but Estel drank it all nonetheless. Lastly, he pulled more clean bandages from his pack and passed the sharp blade of the knife through the fire several times.
"Are you ready, Estel?"
"As much as I ever will be to have someone digging through my flesh with a knife. Go ahead, Legolas." The man looked around on the ground around him and found a small piece of wood to place between his teeth. Just before he felt the first cut, he bit down hard and stifled the yells and curses that wanted to come out.
Legolas was swift and the arrow point was removed very quickly. He held linen over the bleeding until it slowed, and then packed the wound with mashed clivers and covered it with bandages. Then he rewrapped his head and leg wounds with the clivers and clean linen. By the time he was done, Estel was completely exhausted and lay with his eyes closed. Legolas covered him with a blanket and then threw more logs on the fire just as the rain started to fall.
Softly, without opening his eyes, the man called to him. "Legolas, come lie down beside me." He did as he was bid, moving as close to the man as possible. Legolas lay on his right side facing Estel and put one hand upon his chest and caressed him.
"This is not the way I wanted our first meeting after this long year to be," Estel said softly. "I had envisioned something quite different. I wanted to swim with you naked in the beautiful lake, catch fish for your supper, and make love to you in the sunshine and under the stars as the moon shone on the water. I am so very sorry I have disappointed you, Legolas, and become your burden."
Legolas leaned over and gently kissed his lips. "I love you, thus you can never be my burden. You are not hurt so badly that we have to fear. Once you regain some strength, Mithel will take us back to Imladris, you will spend some time recovering, and then I will exhaust you all over again in much more pleasant ways. Only Lord Elrond's strongest tonics will save you then," he chuckled.
"Mmmm, I will hold you to that," the man whispered.
As Legolas lay next to him, listening to the sounds of the night, Estel was fitful. Just as he seemed to drop off to sleep, his shoulder would increase its ache, or the gash in his leg or the wound in his side would sting and burn. Sleep was impossible. Legolas took the tattered remains of Estel's shirt down to the lake to soak in the cold water. Then he wrapped it around Estel's shoulder to help ease the ache with the coolness. He made the man drink more of the willow tea, and then thought of another idea to help relax him.
Moving his body as close to his love as he could, Legolas's hand began a slow caressing of the bit of hair just beginning to grow on Estel's chest. Then he moved on to brushing his fingers across each nipple several times as Estel sighed in contentment. He moved his hand lower under the blanket and stroked the taught muscles of the man's abdomen, then found the beginning of the trail of dark hair that led lower. Estel's respiration gradually grew faster as Legolas continued downward, eventually finding that which he sought and taking his love in hand with gentle caresses.
"I don't remember my father ever teaching this method in one of our healing lessons," Estel said softly.
"That's because it's a protocol developed only recently in the Greenwood," smirked the prince. "Now be very quiet, don't move, and don't interrupt the treatment."
Legolas ran his hand gently over the shaft and then moved lower to stroke the soft skin of the sac beneath, and then moved back to the hardening length. After a year apart, the familiarity of this act was a comfort to both of them despite the trying circumstances surrounding the occasion. Legolas felt the first drops of pearly liquid and smoothed them over Estel so his hand could move even faster. Estel's breathing grew to louder pants, but he lay absolutely still and focused on the attention he received from the prince. Before long he was rock hard and fighting the urge to thrust upward into Legolas' hand.
Knowing his lover was close, the prince began an even faster rhythm and a series of moans were coaxed from Estel's lips. A few more strokes, then, "Legolas...aaah...I'm coming...," and pearly jets shot forth over the prince's hand as he continued his stroking. Strong shudders passed through Estel and Legolas stroked his chest with his other hand to quiet him and urge him to let the energy pass through and leave complete relaxation behind.
Legolas leaned down to kiss him, lingering at his lips until Estel's breathing slowed again. He used a linen rag to clean them up and tucked the blanket up to Estel's shoulders. When he looked at his face again, the man was fast asleep, as he always was shortly after achieving release. Legolas settled down close to him on his own bedroll and let reverie overtake his weary mind.
The next morning Legolas came awake to find Estel in the midst of an ague, shivering violently yet sweating profusely. His brow was burning with fever and his cheeks flushed deeply. Legolas had hoped Estel would recover enough for them to be on their way by the afternoon, but it looked as though that would not be, but he supposed the fever was to be expected since the man had lain so long with his wounds untreated.
Legolas peered outside their small shelter with relief to see that the rain had stopped, and then he left to find an alder tree from which to harvest the bark. Finding what he needed fairly quickly, he returned to the fire in front of their shelter and began to boil a decoction to ease the fever and chills. He then went to the lake to rinse out several pieces of soiled linen and to fetch more of the cool water. Returning to the fire, he let the bark boil for a while before pouring the liquid into a cup and letting it cool a bit.
"Here, you must drink this alder tea. It will bring your fever down."
Estel pulled a face and glared at him. "Valar, Legolas! Haven't I been through enough already without you trying to force vile alder swill down my throat? Ada couldn't even make me drink that when I was child! I would rather burn to a crisp than submit to drink that!"
"My, aren't we cranky this morning. I'll forgive you as you are ill, but I must remind you that I am not your ada nor are you a child. You will drink this, all of it, because I refuse to play wet nurse to you any longer than is absolutely necessary. And if you wish us to play 'Corsair and Cabin Boy' ever again, you will not defy me!"
"Alright, you win. You need not get peevish. I'm sick, after all." Legolas couldn't help but chuckle at Estel's suddenly sheepish demeanor, but it was effective as he did drink it all down.
"There's a good fellow. Now drink some more water and then I want you to eat a little lembas. If that goes down well, I'll catch some fish from the lake for our meal." Legolas broke off a small piece of lembas after unwrapping it and handed it to Estel. He then took one of the linen rags and wet it in the cool water and passed it over the man's forehead, neck, and chest to cool the fire within.
The next few hours were peaceful as Estel grew obviously more comfortable and no worse. Legolas went down to the lake, and using only the sharpened point of a stick and his lightening reflexes, managed to spear a good sized trout that he roasted over their fire. He had a few apples remaining in his pack so he shared one with Estel. The man did not eat much, but it was enough to please Legolas with his apparent path to recovery. Regular cups of the hated alder tea reduced Estel's chills and he felt less warm to the touch. He even began to chat a bit with Legolas about his life and family in the Greenwood since they last were together. Perhaps tomorrow, they would be able to leave for Imladris.
As the sun began to sink low in the sky, Estel felt well enough to finally creep out of the shelter and sat down with Legolas by the fire, the two of them holding hands and occasionally exchanging tender kisses. The Elf told him of his short visit with his foster brothers at the Last Homely House and how they helped themselves to some of their Adar’s finest wine reserved for the most important of occasions, and how Legolas had left the valley with quite a headache the next morning. Legolas noticed that Estel had become very quiet after he mentioned Imladris, looking pensive and downcast since he related his tale.
"Is there something troubling you, Estel? Have I said something that causes you concern?"
"No, Legolas, it's not you. I was just thinking...of Imladris. We'll be there in two days or so. In the past, I would be very happy to be returning home, but things have changed so much for me in the last year. It's not always the source of comfort that it used to be when I think about...everything."
Legolas looked down and thought for a moment. "Every time I read and re-read your letters over the past year, I ached for you, Estel. I felt you hurting, your mind filled with worry, yet you would not reveal but a little of what you were thinking. At times I was desperate to be with you, but our duties would not allow it until now. Please tell me about the past year, how it has been for you."
"I am sorry I troubled you so, Legolas. How I ached for you, too. I've felt adrift ever since the day that I learned of my heritage, like I'm a small boat that has lost its moorings while a storm is coming. Yet I can't seem to wrap my mind around it all nor figure out what I'm to do about it. I often thought on you when I felt my worst, as you were the one anchor I could grab hold of so I would no longer be lost. Sometimes at night, when sleep would not come and all I could do was imagine the future and despair, I would force myself to put before my eyes every memory I have of our times together. I would conjure up your love in my heart to push out the worry, and then I could find rest as if I was really in your arms."
Legolas glanced down quickly so Estel would not see the tear that threatened to escape after hearing this declaration. Rarely was Estel so exposed to him as this, which only confirmed that he was deeply troubled.
Clearing his throat, Legolas ventured a response. "Many Men given the knowledge of a royal destiny would be full of joy at the news of such an inheritance. But for you, it weighs as a curse."
"It is a curse. Just look at the world of Men. Constant fighting, collaboration with the enemies of the East, and they prey upon their fellows and other races like wild dogs on a hind. I was raised by the greatest of the lore masters in all of Arda. I know the stories, and I've seen Men for myself in the years I've ridden with the Dúnedain. There is very little of honor or nobility left in them. And now I am supposed to lead this dishonor and wretchedness when I'd imagined I would serve my foster father and Imladris for the rest of my days."
"And you were raised by Elves, and thus have all of our prejudices towards Men ingrained into you. That cannot have been easy for you growing up."
"Actually, I never thought about it all that much. I suppose I really thought of myself as an Elf in some ways, as ridiculous as that sounds. My actually being a man only seemed a sort of...technicality."
Legolas allowed himself a small grin at the thought of a little Estel running to keep up with his much older Elven brothers, ignoring for the most part their pointed ears or assuming he would grow them himself one day.
"You must know, Estel, that there are many good, noble Men in this world. I have met them myself in my dealings with their villages in and around the Greenwood. Mostly, those good Men keep to themselves I fear, for they are constantly under the tyranny of unwise and unjust rulers, sometimes corrupted by the evil that comes from the East. The only way those good Men can rise to fulfill their own destinies is if one of great nobility and courage will unite them. Men of noble character long for that day."
Estel's pleading grey eyes looked deeply into Legolas's. "Why on Arda would anyone assume I am the man to do it? I know of Ada's famed foresight, but I can only believe he must be wrong. I am simply Estel, not this greater hope that will one day lead armies and unite kingdoms. Only a few days ago I was trying to do my supposed duty and act as the chieftain of the Men of the small villages in the North and lead them as they seem to expect of me, and look what happened."
"You are so young yet, Estel! I know you don't like hearing that, especially from me, but you must give yourself time to become a leader." The man lowered his eyes and Legolas reached out to push the dark hair away from his face. "Tell me, how did Lord Elrond tell you of your heritage? How did it happen?" Legolas asked gently.
"I rose in the morning, expecting to celebrate my twentieth birthday in a normal way, with the twins playing pranks on me and then a feast in the evening with family and friends. But as I walked about the house, I noticed everyone looking at me rather solemnly, with furtive glances, even as they gave me their best wishes. All except Glorfindel, who kept beaming at me with a great, toothy grin and his chest swelled in pride. I was utterly confused and thought perhaps he'd been at the brandy a bit too early in the day. Then Adar called me into his study, gave me this ring I wear and the very shards of Narsil, and revealed to me my true identity. And in less than an hour, all I thought I knew of my past, all my expectations of the future, my entire being, changed forever."
Estel looked down at his lap and spoke very quietly. "And do you know what the worst part of it is?" Legolas shook his head and reached up to stroke Aragorn's cheek. "From that day, Ada began calling me 'Aragorn.' He has not called me 'Estel' since."
The full realization of everything Aragorn had been feeling since that day hit Legolas full on then. There he had stood on the anniversary of his birth, young enough to only have just said goodbye to his boyhood and still learning about what it means to be a man, and then suddenly faced with being named the savior of his race. He was still reliant upon his foster father to parent and guide him as he moved into a new world, and needing desperately from him the reassurances he had as a child. Then his father called him by a new name, one laden with an overwhelming future which traded his Elven upbringing for a new life among his true race. It must have felt as though his father had ripped his childhood from him. And he feared he might no longer know what "father," "son," or "home" meant anymore, nor did he believe he could look to those monikers for comfort now. Estel could not have felt more alone than in that moment, even if his father had never intended it to be that way. No wonder he had chosen this place by the lake, a reminder of happy, secure times with his adoptive family, for his reunion with Legolas.
Legolas reached out and gently pulled Estel to him, softly rubbing his back and hair as the man rested his head against Legolas's shoulder and hung on tight with his good arm. "I love you, Estel," he whispered into his ear. "I always will, and no matter where you go and no matter what struggles come your way, you will be in my heart. I will share this burden with you, Estel. I promise you will not go through it alone."
Estel clung to him even more tightly. "And I love you, Legolas. I don't think I could ever explain how much you mean to me. Words cannot measure my love for you."
They held each other quietly for a long time until Legolas spoke again. "Your father loves you too, Estel. But sometimes he has all the subtlety of a starving orc at a pig roast. I'm sure by calling you by your true name rather than your Elven one he thought he was honoring you, not pushing you away. When we get back to Imladris and you are feeling better, you must talk to him. You must tell him what you need from him, and I don't mean rings, swords, or visions of the future. Tell him what your heart needs." Legolas felt the man shudder slightly. "Do not worry. I will help you. I have long years of experience with a father much like him."
Estel pulled back and gave Legolas a small smile before they embraced tightly once again.
Estel slept peacefully through the night with Legolas by his side, and when dawn came he was feeling stronger and in much less pain. Legolas looked him over carefully next to the fire while he changed his bandages. "There's one good thing your mixed heritage has bestowed--you heal much faster than ordinary men because of your bit of Elven blood. We can travel now, thankfully. I'll begin breaking down camp and readying Mithel while you find some clothes in your pack."
Before Legolas could stand, Estel reached up with his good arm and pulled Legolas down to him. Pressing his hand to the back of the blonde head above him, he devoured Legolas's lips in a kiss that left them both breathless.
"My goodness," Legolas said as he pulled slightly away, panting heavily. "You are indeed recovering quite well."
"I have a most excellent physician, and I'd like to have even more of him right now," Estel growled as he nipped at Legolas's neck with his lips and teeth.
Legolas closed his eyes and moved his head so Estel could reach more of his neck even as his mind was telling him he should really put a stop to this. "Ummm...do you really think this is wise? You are still injured."
"No, but we Men aren't known for our wisdom anyway. You should take full advantage of that."
Estel used his good arm and his uninjured leg to maneuver Legolas until he was lying over top of him. Legolas carefully supported himself so his weight would not press on the worst of Estel's injuries. As he felt the hardening bulge beneath him at Estel's groin, the long year of waiting for his lust to be slaked sent any practical sense flying away, and all he could think about was feeling his lover moving inside him. He lifted off of Estel and quickly stripped himself of his clothes, then bent down again and got to work devouring Estel's neck and chest. Feeling the dark, wiry hair of Estel's chest against his lips drove him nearly mad with desire, but he forced himself to take his time and enjoy each of Estel's nipples thoroughly while his lover groaned and ground his hardness against him.
Judging by the look on Estel's face, Legolas knew his squirming was causing him equal amounts of pleasure and pain. "Lie still, Estel. I want you to enjoy this, not re-open any wounds. Bleeding tends to kill the mood." He moved further down his man's body as Aragorn let out a long groan. Suddenly remembering an important component to any bout of lovemaking, Legolas quickly clambered away from Estel and grabbed his pack. After a brief hunt he grabbed a small jar that would help ease the way to what he wanted.
The man watched his elf intently as he opened the jar and scooped some of the sweet smelling salve onto his fingers. Smiling down at him lasciviously, Legolas made a provocative show of reaching around behind him, inserting a slick finger and then another into his body. Estel thought his heart might stop at the sight of his lover on his knees with his eyes closed, lips parted, and back arched while he stroked inside himself. Then Legolas reached down and grabbed his lover's erection and stroked it slowly, like a sweet torture, until it was completely slick, all the time equally stroking his own hardness. Carefully straddling Estel and supporting himself on his knees, he took the man in hand and guided him inside his body, breathing deeply and pushing out as Estel deeply sank into him.
It had been a long time, too long, and Legolas went slowly. At first the cramping and stretching overwhelmed him, but finally he felt his channel relax, and he set a pace atop his lover. He felt like he had finally come home, and he made a silent oath that they would never be apart for so long again. But those thoughts and all others fled within moments and his mind emptied completely of anything not connected to the pleasure of joining with Estel. The man reached up to stroke him, but Legolas interlocked their fingers instead, stroking himself with his other hand, riding closer to completion.
Their moans grew louder and their hands grasped harder as they neared the edge. "Here I come," the Elf gasped out and spurted over Estel's chest and stomach. He kept up his riding motion as the last of his orgasm flowed through him, and then felt the hard flesh inside him twitch and release inside his body as Estel let out a long, throaty groan.
Legolas leaned forward onto his forearms and kissed Estel long and deeply, the sweat cooling on both their bodies. He pulled back a bit and gazed into Estel's eyes and stroked the sweaty hair away from his forehead. His lover looked genuinely happy, like his cares were at least forgotten for a few minutes, and most importantly none the worse for his exertions.
"I love you Legolas," Estel whispered.
"Good, because you'll never be rid of me. I love you, and whatever may come, I shall cling to you like green on a leaf." Estel laughed at his words and Legolas looked back at him with adoring, smiling blue eyes.
"But now we must be away from this place. I shall once again try to pack up camp while you dress. Please try to refrain from molesting me so I may finish my task," the Elf laughed.
After he dressed, Legolas walked away from camp to call to Mithel who had been wandering about grazing. She came to him and followed him back to camp. There he found Estel, still undressed, sound asleep on the ground, snoring.
"I should have guessed," he said to Mithel with a smile on his face. "Well, I suppose we won't be leaving until later. With this man, the best laid plans should only be lightly made."
Mithel - Grey Joy.