“Forest for the Trees”
by LadyAna

FIC: “Forest for the Trees”
AUTHOR: LadyAna (LadyAna5 AT aol.com)
FANDOM: LOTR (movies were the inspiration, but the books, the elvish name generator and encyclopedia of arda supplied the research)
PAIRING: Aragorn / Legolas
RATING: NC-17
DISCLAIMER: Copyright to Tolkien, Peter Jackson, New Line Cinema - this is solely for entertainment purposes and no profit is made from it.
WARNINGS: Slash (M/M), AU, first-time, angst, drama, romance.
SUMMARY: Aragorn shows his darker side, so that he and Legolas might survive a dire situation. How far will Elrond and Gandalf go to ensure Aragorn’s destiny?
DEDICATION: This story is dedicated to my favorite LOTR authors(You know who you are!) Also, The Theban Group, Thalassa, jayay58 and Elisa of “Lassegalenslaire” fame, Patty P, bandwench, tuxedo elf, Nimaweh, Catuskim, agrotora, Tien...and anyone else who plays with pics of our boys! Your LOTR photo-manips are always beyond beautiful!
SPOILERS: I can’t keep track of all the spoilers I use, so read at your own risk!
AUTHOR NOTES:
= = During his training as Chieftain of the Rangers, I’ve wondered how far Aragorn would go to maintain his morals and values.
= = UnBeta’ed.
= = Want to archive this tale? Fine, just let me know where!
= = Feedback is welcome, but please be gentle - I have a soft heart !
= =I tend to jump back and forth between book and movie canon and...sometimes I dismiss both entirely. Just don’t be surprised if things are a little changed around.

“Forest for the Trees”
by LadyAna

He had hoped leaving The Veiled Room would ease his troubled mind. Staring at the darkened forest in the distance, it did little to offer comfort. Despair plagued him, followed by a wave of unfounded guilt. His conscience ached from some unnameable infraction, even though the regret had no basis. Perhaps it was a side effect to the impotent rage and utter helplessness following him at all times. He’d lost friends and acquaintances along the path of becoming leader of men one day. Yet, he couldn’t understand why losing the Elf, *this* friend, left a hole in his spirit unlike any other. Then again, there truly was no correct way to act during such events.

There was a knock at the door and Aragorn told them to enter, not caring who it was. The slow, deliberate footfalls and rustle of robes told him it was the King of Mirkwood. He joined Aragorn on the balcony to gaze at the night sky and black trees that never fully saw the sun, even at high noon. At first, the monarch said nothing, having already asked in different ways for the key to the mystery tormenting them both and so many others. A gentle breeze stirred Aragorn’s long hair, the scent on the wind oddly familiar, like the burning of wood, but different. It left him cold, which was even more unsettling.

“Gandalf has told me the two of you will be leaving soon.” he rumbled in a deep baritone so unlike his son’s. The fluid cadence and accent were the same, however. “I wanted to thank you for being here...for trying to help.” Aragorn saw Thranduil’s eyes close briefly trying to rein in his sorrow. “He will be given the proper rituals...and I will send word when he passes.”

Aragorn let his head fall. He knew this day would come. He had tarried in Mirkwood long enough to watch the accursed foliage turn from cold, spindly twigs to withered petals to a explosion of fiery shades of beautiful decay. Such irony the only time the possessed forest resembled normalcy was when it was dying in autumn. Five months he’d watched and waited and hoped for a sign, a hint, a change, to no avail. For all his training spanning for so many years, teaching him to assimilate any role or disguise or title necessary, it was becoming increasingly difficult to assume the character of “Saddened, but Resolved Survivor”.

Suddenly, he gasped, his lungs flattening, his chest crushed. He brace himself on the banister, trying to breathe, his eyes going wide.

“Aragorn? Are you unwell?” The King placed a comforting hand on his back.

Desperation like he’d rarely known assaulted him, the hurt a tangible wound. Just as fast, the knot loosened and he pulled air into his chest, panting. “I...do not know. These spells having been increasing lately, where I am as if I am drowning, my strength sapped out of me. It do not last long, however, only a few seconds at a time. Gandalf and Elrond have told me it was stress.” Why did he not believe the two he implicitly trusted when they told him it was a severely strained mind causing such bodily harm?

“It sounds true, Aragorn, seeing what you are going through now. Once it is over, I am sure you will recover.”

Aragorn *hated* that. He despised the way so many saw this as an eventuality. It always rankled the Healer in him. Accepting death was only an option if living meant something worse than said dark end. And once again, he refused to surrender. “I must speak with Gandalf.”

*~~~~~*

Aragorn was staring at the fire, the eerily familiar smell he’d detected earlier filling the room. The Istari sat in a large chair, calmly smoking his pipe and staring into the fireplace as well. “What do you want me to say, Aragorn? We’ve had this talk numerous times. We must continue the search for Gollum. Understand, this is precisely what the Shadow wants, your distraction, for the stress to shift elsewhere.”

Frustrated to the point of weariness, Aragorn paced the room. “I do not understand why Elrond cannot at least try again!”

Gandalf pinched the bridge of his nose, squeezing his eyes shut in an obvious display of his own strained patience. “I told you before, Legolas does not wish to be cured. As long as he refuses help, all the Healers in Arda will not make nary a difference.”

Aragorn was standing, holding himself with his head down. “But I...I do not understand why he is doing this. I was with him the entire time and nothing to warrant this occurred. Yes, we went patrolling far beyond the protected grounds, but still nothing...happened to him.” There was that one time, he acknowledged, when they were apprehended by a gang of men for a short period, but they had been found by the Mirkwood Scouts before anything too awful transpired.

“Listen to me, Estel. You must respect his decision of silence. ‘Casting the Veil of Blind Insight’ is an Elven prerogative. If he declares revealing the reason for his fading violates his honor, it must be accepted by all involved.”

The future king was sick and tired of hearing the extremely obvious used as an explanation, or worse, a justification for such a dire outcome. “Yes, I know.” he said wearily. “As I should accept the logic for no trial, as would be the traditional rite, to ensure a pox of the mind has not taken him or perchance his fëa is being rotted away by some leech-demon nestled within.”

“He is of royalty, Aragorn. Of all peoples, he has the right to decline such invasive probing.”

Dread swirled in his stomach, making his limbs tremble. He once again battered his memory, trying to comprehend why the Sindar would choose to die without naming the vile scum responsible for shattering his life. It ripped Aragorn to shreds thinking of what the Elf could have suffered.

“Worry not, Aragorn, he will not be in turmoil much longer. Such is the case in these instances, unlike the full destruction of his will.”

Confusion pricked against his glum thoughts. “What...do you mean?”

“His purpose is noble, one of sacrifice. The Gods will take pity on him soon enough.”

He looked at Mithrandir, who was once again calmly staring into the fire. “How...could you know that?” Aragorn took a closer look and could see the eyes before him were hooded, glazed, not calm or resigned. “Answer me, Gandalf. How could you know such a thing when you have not even studied him?”

Now the gaze reflecting the flames was sad. “It is destiny, Aragorn. It cannot be fought.”

“May Sauron have destiny.” he tiredly muttered.

Gandalf shot to his feet, rapid cobalt eyes flashing, his mouth twisted in a grimace. “I will never hear you again state such blasphemy!”

He furrowed his brow at the irate Ainur. What was becoming of everyone around him? For those here in Mirkwood, to follow such utter nonsense as jumping into one’s grave was one thing. But even Gandalf and Elrond agreed to such folly. Why was everyone so amenable to the supposed inevitable death of the Prince? Yes, lost lives were expected in any war, but to simply allow those of status and promise to expire without a fight was obscene! Why wasn’t anyone *angry* at this travesty?!

“What...spell has been cast here? What is the meaning of no efforts to save his life?” he said furiously. “I do not know what has transpired to make death seem so very appealing, but I will not leave him. I will stay until he passes and I will not give up asking him to relent this aberrant sense of duty. You can wait for me or take your leave. I...am sorry, Gandalf.”

Gandalf reseated himself, looked to his left, a quick glint of a foreign emotion flashed, then it was gone. Aragorn caught it, however and displayed the same, it shaking him to the core. A ghost punched him in the stomach, crushing him and shouted the truth the Istari knew. The Elf’s heart had stopped.

The world grew garbled, Aragorn’s eyes blurred and his voice was shouting, screaming, the words distorted and backwards; he was on his knees, clutching at nothing, tears drenching his face, his formless pleas ending in low moans and then he knew nothing but darkness.

*~~~~~*

“We have done everything we can. I regretfully say we must cede this valiant endeavor.” Gandalf’s words came from far away, from the other side of a large room, the tone discouraged.

The voice of his father was somber, bitter to the ears. “Is that what I will say when all is lost?”

Mithrandir sighed. “Yes, the Shadow is growing, that I know. But the forces are still weak and will be for a while.” There was a pause before Gandalf said, “I know it is what you truly wish. I am afraid if this continues, all may be for naught, despite the alternative.”

“And how shall I explain my actions? ‘I thought it best’? Will that suffice?”

“It wasn’t your decision alone, you know that. We tried and now it should end.”

“Father?” Aragorn croaked, his throat dry and tight.

“He is awake.” said the Mage.

“Thank Eru.” He heard the two coming closer. His first sight was of Elrond. “I am very heartened to see you with us once more, my child.”

Aragorn always loved that endearment Elrond called him. Elladan and Elrohir he called his sons, but Estel was his child. It was a contradiction, yet seemed appropriately affectionate.

Gandalf helped him sit up and his body felt oddly loose. “Slowly now.” A cup was pressed against his lips and he sipped the sweet, cool water.

Once it was drained, he asked, “What happened?”

“I am not sure.” said Elrond.

He became fearful when Elrond said things like that. It was never good news when one of the best Healers in all of Arda did not know the reason for your ailments.

“You seem to have slipped into The Mourning Dead; half here, half elsewhere. It was good fortune you collapsed in front of Gandalf. He was able to keep you from passing.”

An invisible voice spoke, as if someone whispered a secret in his ear. “Legolas! He is...still alive!“

Both the Istari and Elrond silently regarded to the prone man before them, their surprise evident.

“He clings to life still, but just barely.” said Gandalf.

“Yet his heart stopped.” There was a pause, the he saw the strangeness of the situation. He was in a completely different room now, as when the Elf nearly died. It had happened at the exact same time Aragorn blacked out.

As calmly as he could, Gandlaf said, “How did you know that?”

He confessed, “I do not know.” He could also see the two staring at him knew much that he did not. “What is going on here? What is it that remains hidden?”

Elrond sat on the bed. “As I said, we are unsure.”

“But there is something you are not telling me. Am I wrong?”

Gandalf looked at Elrond knowingly, who returned the stare, defeated. The Elven Lord turned away. “You are not wrong.”

Anger began to rise, but he squelched it long enough to hear their words. “Tell me.”

Gandalf sat of the bed opposite the Elven Lord. “You are not well enough, Aragorn. Let us wait until you are feeling better.”

That advice earned the Mage a sharp look from Elrond, who said nothing.

“It seems as if my caretaker does not agree with you, my friend.” Aragorn stated. Having a slim idea where this was going he said, “Tell me this, if we wait until I am strong enough, will the delay possibly increase my illness?”

The crippling silence told all. He sighed. “*Now* would you be so kind as to tell me?”

It was Gandalf’s turn to turn away. All of this pausing to hide was making Aragorn nervous.

“We...took some memories from you.” said the Istari.

A gnawing emptiness yawned inside him before the shock and hurt set in. “You...what?” When no answer came, he asked in the most injured tone, “*Why?*”

“We thought it necessary.” said Elrond.

“*Necessary*?!” he snapped, his anger spilling out. “What in all of existence could have occurred to warrant such an act?!”

“You had lost sight of your goal to be leader of men.” said Elrond.

He stared in disbelief at his foster-father. “How...could that happen? Since you told me of my heritage it has all I have strived to be! Why would I...” He buried his face in his hands, all of the news too overwhelming. And all of this on top of... He looked up, his face dazed. “Does...this anything to do with why Leoglas is dying?”

The Mage rubbed his face tiredly. “Yes. It does.”

Rage boiled up in him, betrayal fueling the anguish. “I cannot believe you did this! Explain yourselves!” He went to stand up.

“Aragorn, no! You are still unwell!” warned Elrond.

Isildur’s heir stood and promptly collapsed on the floor. Both Elrond and Gandalf came to help him up, his legs nearly useless. Once back in bed, panting hard, Aragorn observed them both, their stance, demeanor and well-being. Both of them were alarmingly calm in the face of all that had transpired. Their compliant attitude was more disturbing than if they were clamorous. “Father? How did you know I was not cured...if you do not know what ails me?” He turned his eyes to Gandalf. “And why would you tell me how I turned from destiny, since you took such great pains to keep me from knowing it in the first place?”

Gandalf ruefully looked at the morose Lord across from him. “It appears these events cannot be...effaced.”

“Tell me.” Aragorn said, getting impatient.

“It would probably be best to restore the memories instead of attempting to state it detail.” said Elrond.

“Then do so.”

“Aragorn, you are aware, if I do this, you will lose sight of your fate again. You will turn from your heritage and away from being King of men.”said Gandalf.

“And if you do not, then what will happen?”

“We...are afraid you would either lose all passion to assume said role of royalty...or die outright. The spells you’ve been having are sign of that. Their frequency is increasing and getting stronger.” said Elrond.

He was about to ask why, then declined to do so. He hoped mentally reliving it all would answer his mounting questions. “Father, look at me.” Elrond turned his sad eyes to his adopted son. “I will do everything in my power to continue what destiny decrees. I promise.”

“It is alright, my child. What happened to make this occur was not your fault.”

He tilted his head at that, but said nothing.

“Are you ready?” asked Gandalf.

Aragorn looked down, his head swirling. A lot of things began to make sense. Smells and tastes that were known to him, but mentally untraceable; the feeling of having been certain places at precise times, but thinking it impossible. It scared him to know this had something to do with Legolas fading. He tried to not be furious and deceived by the two before him, hoping breaking his trust was worth it. He was more than anxious to see what had compelled them.

“I am.”

Aragorn watched the Mage’s hand come closer, his heart beating madly, his eyes closing just before contact. Gandalf’s touch was slight, warm, his curled fingers just at Aragorn’s temple. And the world jolted back in time five months, to the fields leading away from Mirkwood.

He heard the sound of horses approaching in the middle of the night. His name was shouted in terror by Legolas, warning him to move...and he did, but a fraction of a second too late. It was enough for an on-coming horse to throw him, his head slamming into the ground with great force. A sweeping, silver form shielded him, easily thwarting the man on horseback. Then Aragorn was up, shaking off the pain, nausea and dizziness wracking his head, sword in hand, striking at those who were trying to end their lives. In seconds, he took in the scene around them. Men rode around, scattered but determined, as one after another tried to take them down. A man was screaming apart from the rest, back and to the left, to wound only, not to kill, that the bastard was his. Seeing their tactic, to keep them busy while they came from behind, Aragorn ran to his friend and back to back, they dispatched their attackers.

The fray, however, was not without difficulty, the men proving to be formidable enemies. More orders were screamed and it appeared the struggle was slowly ceasing. It grew quiet as a tall man with dark hair and dark eyes rode froward, his skin tanned with the effects of time and hard living. He was eyeing his men disdainfully, his anger mostly directed at one to his left. Aragorn rightfully estimated this was their leader.

“Aragorn! Are you alright?” the Elf whispered.

“I...do not know.” he honestly answered. “Give me a minute.”

“I said,” the leader barked to the man he’d been sharply staring at, “what is the meaning of this?! Why have you attacked these men?”

“Because he killed Ra without cause!” the blond man snapped, pointing at the Elf.

“That is a lie!” shouted Legolas. “He was about to kill my friend by trampling him with his horse. I ordered for him to stop, even jumped in his way. He laughed and kept coming, then attacked me! I had no choice.”

“That not true!” The blond man retorted. “He killed my brother and I *will* have his blood for it!”

The leader held up his hands. “Enough!”

As this exchange was happening, Aragorn was aptly assessing the situation. He conceded it was looking pretty grim. He studied the men carefully, their style of dress, their weapons, the way they carried themselves, their basic age and health. They were criminal vagabonds, thieving rogues who toured about, looking for towns and folk to rob and rape and, yes sometimes, kill. But they were not total savages, not completely without structure. They liked the darker things in life and that was their common bond, a warped sense of camaraderie. Lacking in a full conscience, yes, but more out of a desperate sense of self-preservation instead of a total amoral streak. That was obvious enough in the way they allowed themselves to be lead. If they were entirely cruel, they would not defer to anyone.

Aragorn could see it was a twisted brotherhood of sorts. A father figure was needed to guide them to all the ripe pickings chaos had to offer and defend them when they got in too deep. They were world-wise, not scholarly. Their fighting skills were well-honed, since there was nothing like bloodlust to improve one’s ability at mayhem. They probably were delighted with the madness coming from Mordor, since it made it easier to indulge all their perverted pleasures.

Aragorn knew these kinds of people exceedingly well for the simple reason he’d occasionally been one of them. Training to be a Ranger meant knowing your enemy so well, they thought of you as a accomplice. To learn their ways of felonious survival, tracking, hunting and killing, it was required traveling with them night and day and yes, committing the same crimes as they. For whatever persona Aragorn would assume at the time, he was usually able to keep the offenses down to a minium and play up the final result to much more than his actual actions. It was all for the greater good, he knew, and while such infractions genuinely made him ill, he refused to think of them long enough to let it shake him very deeply. In the fight against Sauron, it was a necessary evil.

The leader was talking to the blond man and it was revealed Legolas had killed Ra, the blond man’s brother...who wanted revenge. And sadly, there was little Aragorn or Legolas could do to stop them from achieving just that. With his head pounding as it was, there was no way Aragorn and the archer would be able to take out this many armed men on horseback.

The Ranger was distracted from his thoughts by the deformed grin of a man not far from Leoglas, who had a lot more on his mind than a simple kill. The man was predatorily eyeing the Elf, his thirsty gaze grazing over the fair skin and exotic features. It curiously stirred possession in Aragorn, ultimately banning the rake to touch an esteemed bloodline. It was then, from all those years of barbaric instruction and existing in the heartless wild, while in incognito, did he form a plan. First, he had to see to their immediate survival, to put the idea of their deaths to the side for a while. To do that, he had to throw them off their trail...and slip into their good graces. It was such quick thinking and the lack of fear to do what was needed...not what was right, that made him Chieftain of the Rangers. He sighed. They may be very good friends, but this was going to push that to the extreme.

The Elf was going to kill him for this.

Legolas was talking, debating the necessity of his deeds. Aragorn theatrically rolled his eyes, sighed heavily and with barely concealed impatience, placed a rough hand on the archer’s shoulder and yanked him back a good half a foot. Glaring at Legolas, he stepped in front and addressed their leader. “I apologize for my...’friend’.” he said with a judgmental gaze thrown over his shoulder. “He was doing what he was trained to do. He was protecting me.”

“That hardly excuses killing my brother!” the blond man replied.

Aragorn held up his hands. “I fully agree. I assure you, he *will* answer for this. May I borrow your whip?”

It grew silent. Obviously, this was not what they were expecting. Aragorn knew they anticipating a fight, protestations of innocence, yes; even pleading for their lives would not be invalid. But for the scruffy man before them to act equally offended was...unsettling.

Finally, the blond man found his voice. “What, you cannot fight your own battles?!”

Aragorn’s voice grew fluid as he slipped more into character. “Of course I can.” His eyes found that of the leader’s. “But it is always best to have a...companion at your back. Do you not agree?”

Behind him, Legolas said, “We are-“

“Silence!” Aragorn barked, his hand rising as if to strike the Elf. He abruptly turned to the blond man and said, “See what happens when you speak to him? He forms an opinion and that is the last thing I need from one I possess.”

Now the leader’s curiosity was piqued. “Are you saying you own that creature?!” with a nod towards the Elf.

Aragorn nodded. “He is mine, bought and paid for. I have the deed.”

“You are daft!” said the blond man. “He has no bindings, no restraints. What’s to keep him from just walking away from you!?”

It was the leader’s turn to speak. “Not all those who walk in servitude sport chains and shackles, Brai. It is obvious the Elf has been broken, most likely not long before you got him.”

Aragorn’s tone was a bit humorous. “Well, he wasn’t *too* tainted by the time I got him. Just enough to kill most of his will, not all.”

“You do know that means he’ll die soon. If not weeks, maybe only a few months.”

So, Aragorn thought, this man knew of the truth about Elves. Once mated, even through rape, an Elf was eternally bonded to that person. That was why so many of the First-Born gave up their lives after such an assault.

“Yes, such an irony, don’t you think?” Aragorn woefully asked, while approvingly gesturing at the archer, “And here they are so known for their immortality!”

At that second, the leering fool who’d been dying to feast on the Sindar stuck out his hand, letting his fingers trail down the golden tresses. He growled, “Then perhaps we can take it out in trade.” The archer swallowed hard, and Aragorn knew the Elf was trying his best not to hack off the man’s hand faster than his eyes could follow.

Aragorn’s sword slapped down flat on the letch’s wrist, painfully dislodging the contact. “Do *not* touch what is mine!” he roared, his eyes glinting steel. The fool reared back, grasping his hand. Arrogantly, Aragorn stood erect again, sheathed his sword and faced the leader, as if they were having a completely normal, causal conversation with a friend, confidant...or a brother. And the leader fell for it outright.

With a slight smile, the leader said to the man whose ego had been injured, “Let him be, Eol.” Nodding toward the Elf, he said, “He is probably grateful for you, seeing you do not pass him around like a pouch of smoke after an evening meal. But one of the First-Born, a slave to a man? That is highly unusual.”

Aragorn returned the grin. “Having such a beauteous creature all to myself is part of the allure.” He let his own fingers graze over a fine, satin cheek, the blue eyes fluttering closed at the touch. “As you can see, when I saw him for purchase, I simply could not decline.”

“And such good fortune is truly a boon.” said the leader. “I am known as Daz, this here is my second in command, Brai. And unfortunately, the man killed was his brother, Ra.”

“Yes, I had assumed as much and...” A massive wave of dizziness came over Aragorn from his injury, cupping his head in an obvious show of discomfort.

“Are you well?” asked Daz.

Aragorn stifled his laugh. How utterly pliable the human mind was, he thought. No more than five minutes ago, these men were ready to rape and kill them. Now that their leader thought of Aragorn as a malevolent associate, he was inquiring about his health. It was imperative Daz not discover his trauma for fear he might see through Aragorn’s ruse. These men were ignorant, not stupid. He went with it, further concocting said tale to aid them through this. “Ah, well...yes...I hope. My name is Shulay and...I am lacking in my supply of medicinal herbs...to treat my chronic malady. I was on my way to obtain more from a friend by the name of GolPoi, when I felt too tired to continue and we stopped to rest.”

Daz was smiling. “GolPoi? I know of the ‘medicinal herbs’ he sells to treat such ‘chronic maladies’! Of what nature, drink, smoke or roots?”

Aragorn let his head dropped guiltily. “Ah. You found me out. I do drink and smoke, but my love is the root.” It was a common term amongst the less cultured as a reference to those who consumed certain plants as a narcotic. He told them this to lessen any threat he might still be to them. Now he was simply a slave-owning addict. Realization alighted “Shulay’s” face and he said, “I know where that buyer currently resides. He could pay you for items you wish to sell, what you might have obtained during your travels. I have a few items of worth myself. I could give to you them as payment.” Turning his attention to Brai, Aragorn said, “Of course that is no consolation to the death of your kin, but I can at least offer some monetary amends.” It was apparent this offer was very tempting and it was warring with Brai’s supposed honor he had for his bloodline.

“Where does this buyer dwell?” asked Daz.

“Towards the Kingdom of Mirkwood, but not as far. He moves around much, but I have heard that is his latest whereabouts.”

Daz nodded. “We were headed that way. You can accompany us, if you wish.”

“Daz!” Brai protested. “What of Ra?!”

Aragorn turned to the archer and with a scowl, said, “If your men can wait, I will have my friend dig his grave...since he is the cause for all that has befell us.” He could see the slight shiver that went through the Elf at the convincing tone and demand of Aragorn’s ludicrous accusation.

“He was stupid enough to get himself killed, Brai. It is not as if he hasn’t something of the like before.” said Daz. “We will help, Shulay. It would take your ‘friend’ hours to do alone.” He got down off his horse and came towards the incognito Ranger, his hand outstretched. “It is good to make your acquaintance, Shulay.”

Aragorn smiled and took the leaders hand firmly in his. “As is yours.”

Fully assessing the silent Sindar, who kept his eyes low, Daz said, “What do you call him?”

“If you need to speak to him, call him elfling. It reminds him of his place and that only I can call him by the name I gave him.”

Daz nodded. “Very well. Alright men, some of you come help the elfling dig. The rest of you take a break.”

With that several men dismounted and with Brai, went over to the body of Ra. Aragorn took Legolas by the arm, caught his eye and said loud enough for the others to hear, “You will help these men fashion a grave for their fallen kin. I’ll be with Daz if you need me. Do *not* speak to any of them. Understood?” Mutely, the archer nodded. “Go.” said Aragorn and pushed him in the direction of the other men. Aragorn went to stand by their leader as the Elf retreated.

“Such a fetching trophy...” Daz mused. “How *did* you obtain him?”

“Truly?”

“Speak on.”

“I was staying at small Inn for the night,” and he added with a wink, “avoiding the local constable,” causing Daz to chuckle, “when the card game we were playing lasted until the wee hours of the night. It was down to me and one other player and I bet him a mad sum of money. He could not meet my wager so he had his friends bring forth the deed of his best acquisition.” He nudged the leader, his tone fierce, “I was never so glad I had perfected the art of bluffing!”

They both laughed, then the leader asked, “And he just let you have him?”

Aragorn grew sheepish. “Well...at least for the night. It was a real shame I had to wait to indulge myself with him, taking my leave of them instead of returning to my room.”

Daz shook his head, smiling and said, “Yes, and I see he is dedicated to you. In that case, I will be keeping one eye on you and the other on your elfling.”

“Fair enough.”

“Can we start a fire, Daz?” one of the men asked.

“No, we do not have time for that. Let’s get this grave dug and on our way.” He turned to Aragorn and said in a low voice, “Despite his rashness, it was a grievous blow losing Ra. He held his own and brought us good tidings. I am hoping this will appease Brai.”

“My sincerest regrets, Daz. If you wish, I can offer my protection while I am with you.”

“That would be appreciated.”

Aragorn’s vision swam and he fought to keep his eyes open, his hand cupping his head once again.

“Here,” said Daz, reaching Aragorn a waterskin, “have some of this.”

Aragorn took it and pretended to gulp some of the harsh spirits. It would not do to grow sleepy with his head injured as such. “Thank you.” he said, handing it back to the leader. “That will ease my longing for now.”

“I hope your craving for the root is not too strong.”

“Nay, just enough to prick at my nerves.”

They stood there, watching the men dig and continued idle, comradely chatter. It took a while to forge a makeshift grave, but with several at the task, it went smoothly. Aragorn kept his eye on the archer, making sure he was fine and that no one was bothering him. It was at this point he noticed Legolas’ horse, Olwë, was missing. All the while, he was hoping, since this forest was supposedly cursed, could they please be attacked by Orcs?

“We are finished, Daz.” said Brai.

“Good, then we will be on our way.”

Once Aragorn mounted his own horse, he went over to the Elf who was standing away from everyone, unsure and demure. Aragorn extended his hand, “You have served me well, my friend. Since your reckless actions have caused your horse to flee, I will allow you to ride in front of me instead of walking.”

Aragorn expected the Elf to be suppressing serious rage upon hearing said words, especially as a reward for digging the grave of the man who tried to kill them!

Legolas calmly came forward, head down. “Thank you, Master.” he said, the words akin to warm honey.

Aragorn blinked, as an uneasy prickle traversed his skin. That humble address was frighteningly genuine! It was...disquieting Legolas was playing this part so well. Honestly, Aragorn didn’t believe the Sindar would compromise their disguise. But he didn’t think the Elf would be so accepting as to nearly filling in the script! Perhaps that was his subtle revenge, to be so convincing it would fluster Aragorn, making staying in character difficult.

“Very good. Now come up.” With that, he placed the archer in front of him on the horse.

They started and Daz called out, “Hey, no giving the elfling your horn while we travel.”

Several men laughed at that and Aragorn joined in their mirth, retorting, “Ah, now I see this trip will be a long-suffering one...and very hard to resist!” He leaned into the Elf, distracted by his hair, which smelled of spicy flora and fauna and the firm body molding to him. Ignoring that, he whispered, “At least we are alive and on our way.”

“Your talents are many, Aragorn.” he calmly stated. “I am rarely surprised at your range of alternate identities, but this one...I did not foresee.”

Aragorn was rather surprised himself. He anticipated his friend to be beside himself with fury. Evidently, Legolas was more or less tolerant of his disrespectful deeds. On more urgent matters, he speculated their hopes of survival. “I can only hope the Mirkwood scouts can find us. If not, we will have to take the chance to escape.”

They traveled for a while and Aragorn frowned when the captain called a halt. “We camp here. Brai, your team take first watch.” The men began easily pitching tents, firewood and cooking pots, all that seemed to spring out of nowhere. Apparently, their arrogance made them have no qualms calling attention to themselves.

After dismounting, knowing they were being watched, Aragorn helped the archer down, pushed the blond hair out of his eyes and held both his hands. “Are you well, Camthalion? Do you wish to rest?” Legolas nodded, his face open and vulnerable, causing the Ranger’s need to obey ridiculous. He turned to Daz and said, “Might I trouble you for a tent?”

“But of course.” said the leader, tossing a sack to them. “The last thing I need is for you to take the elfling where everyone can see.” He chuckled at his own joke. “Don’t think even I could control them after that!”

“I will curb myself.” Aragorn said knowingly. “But it is the elfling I will have to fight off!”

That got a good laugh out of Daz, who was ready to turn away when Brai came up and said, “What about that payment, Shulay?”

Aragorn looked at Daz. “Of course.” He removed the elven leaf clip from his coat, handing it to Daz. The leader took it gingerly, clearly admiring the craftsmanship.

“That is it?!” snapped Brai. “A piece of garish jewelry?!”

“Quiet, Brai! Can you not tell...” said Daz, letting the moonlight play over the brilliant green and gold and silver, “...this is from the Elves themselves. The elfling gave this to you, didn’t he?”

“That is correct. It was one of the few things he had with him from his homeland.”

“Where was that?” asked Daz.

The Ranger went thoughtful, then said, “You know, I never got around to asking him.”

Smiling, Daz shook his head and clasped Aragorn on the shoulder. “Let’s get some food for you and your friend!”

As if the night couldn’t get any more bizarre, a soft, melodic voice inquired behind the Ranger, “Would you like for me to get you some food and pitch the tent, Master?”

Aragorn was lucky Daz had walked away since his mouth fell open a little. That nervous tingle was back in the Man at the submissive stance the archer was assuming. “N–no, that is not necessary, Camthalion. You can help me, though.”

“As you wish, Master.”

The night went on as the men began to settle in for a hot meal. Aragorn sat by Legolas as they ate stew made of dried meat, broth and a rice-like paste, which honestly wasn’t bad. He looked over and was perturbed to see the Elf’s fallen face. Some of his prior words and actions made the Man queasy. It was suddenly important to him his friend understand this role-play was needed for the time being.

“Legolas, you do know why I am doing this, right? There was no way for us to take them all on with my being injured. They were ready to kill us...or maybe even worse.”

The Sindar’s face became bright and clear. “Aragorn...I fully understand why you are doing this.” The tone dampened a bit, “I certainly would not have thought differently.”

Aragorn was a bit skeptical, noticing the dramatic changes in his friend’s mood. Nonetheless, he said, “I am glad, mellon.”

“How is your head?”

“Much better.”

“Good. Can we start killing them now?”

Aragorn smiled. *That* was the Elf he knew! “No, mellon. We will be away soon enough.”

They finished eating in silence and the future king watched the Sindar surreptitiously. The dour disposition did not return, the flawless face more neutral than anything. Aragorn hadn’t had time to think about what had initially brought them to this point. Legolas had quite possibly saved his life. True, it hadn’t been a grand, life or death rescue. Taking down a hasty man on horseback wasn’t exactly difficult and he was sure the Elf would see it as that. It hadn’t been the first time the Elf thought nothing of ending his own life to save the Ranger, even sustaining an injury in the possess. Staring into the small bowl, he wondered why that noble notion rubbed at him now. He’d done the same for Legolas, of course, although it had been quite a while since he’d had to. It strangely disturbed him to think of losing the Elf in such a manner.

His thinking was cut short when Daz stood and said, “Alright, men. We will start out at sunrise. Let the second watch take over.” With that several men climbed into their tents and some went up on the perimeters of the camp. Others dozed by the campfire, out in the open.

“I’ll see you in the tent, Legolas.”

The Elf shot him a look of alarm.

“What is it?”

Something akin to panic crossed the Sindar’s face. “I should keep watch.”

“Legolas, these men see you as my property. I would not allow you to sit alone. Besides, do you want to take the chance of any of them talking to you?”

The archer paled even more. “You are right.” he said and headed for the tent.

Inside, luckily there was enough room for both of them. Aragorn laid down and curled one arm under his head. The fey events suffered earlier left him drained. Danger aside, exhaustion weighted him down. His needed a respite and sleep beckoned him, his mind growing hazy. His head felt much better, so he did not think that would be an issue. He peeked an eye open to see the archer was across from him, mirroring his posture, eyes closed, his bright outline visible in the near total darkness, feigning sleep. Why did it warm him to know the Elf was watching over him? The most rakish urge occurred, to touch the blessed form, offer his indebted tidings, thanking him. He slipped into slumber after that.

*~~~~~*

“Aragorn!” the Elf whispered. “Wake up. I believe everyone is asleep.”

He blinked sleepily, startled to see how close the archer was to his face. His lips looked surprisingly soft and supple, his eyes a crystal-sky mix. He wanted to ask if the Sindar harbored a slice of Rana in his visage to account for that cool, mesmerizing glow. Shaking that off, he said, “Good. Then let us depart posthaste.”

They crept out of the tent, tracking skills on high, looking, listening for any movement whatsoever. Aragorn mused it wouldn’t take much to slip past the three watch posts. They had almost cleared the second base when a horn sounded. “Spiders!” someone yelled from a treetop. Aragorn cursed their luck. *Now* they were attacked! All around them, the knaves jumped into action, the ones from the trees descending in a heartbeat, making escape impossible. Aragorn turned to the Elf and said disappointedly, “We will have to help them.”

“I know.” said the archer just as regretful, grabbing his bow.

They did so, fighting off a small group of spiders that came at them from the north. Once it was all over, the men took count of the damage. There were some wounded, but no deaths. Aragorn could not understand why two of the men were staring at them so hatefully. That was when he saw Brai talking to the leader. This did not look good. Daz came up to them, his face stern. “My men tell me you were already at the second post when the attack came. Why was that?”

“Shulay” became contrite. “I apologize. My craving for the root became too strong.”

Daz was having none of it. “You lie, man. Earlier, you said it barely bothered you. I see your eyes are not bloodshot, nor are your teeth rotted as would be a man hooked to the root as you claim.” He came closer. “No one pining that much would get hard enough to ride anything but a horse, even as tempting as this Elf is.”

Aragorn continued his regretful plea. If Daz realized he had been deceived, his wrath could be vicious. “You are correct. I have been sustaining my habit with what I can find. It has been too long since I’ve had a full, fresh stub.”

“I find it highly convenient your ‘craving’ just so happened to peak when you still owe us!” said Brai.

Daz backed off a bit. “Search them!”

The men around them did so, while Aragorn’s eyes bore into the leader’s.

“What did you find?”

One man was on his knees, going through the Ranger’s pack. He shrugged. “Some dried herbs, stiff leaves, salves, tea, cloth...that’s about it.”

“Sounds like the works of a Healer to me.” said Daz. “How about the Elf?”

“Not much. Knives, bow, arrows, clothes and this charm.” He held it up for the leader to see. Aragorn had to fight to keep his face neutral. It was an amulet of Celebrimbor Sáralondë, the Elven God of Silent Loss, to give strength to those amorously bound to one unaware.

“More possessions from his homeland?” Daz asked sarcastically. He walked over to their property now on the ground, moving it with his foot. “In the end, my friend, no one that much in need of the root would carry a sword as extravagant as this.”

Aragorn lowered his head. Still attempting to be incognito, he became modest. “It...belonged to my father. It is all I have of him.”

“I will give you the chance to prove yourself, Shulay.” Daz folded his arms. “You need only do one thing to appease me.”

Aragorn eagerly lifted his head, his tone beseeching, “But of course. If it is within my power, I will-“

“Fuck the Elf.”

Aragorn and Legolas both blanched.

“If he is your whore, as you have led me to believe, then you will do so gleefully. If not...”

Aragorn made a mad leap for the leader. “How *dare* you think I would follow your crude orders!” Several men pried him off and threw him to the ground. He was up in an instant. “Fight me like the leader you claim to be!”

“Do you think I am a fool, Shulay, or whatever your name truly is?” He disdainfully eyed the Ranger up and down. “I saw the way you fought. I am handy with a sword, but I do not carry the talent you harbor. Hold them!” They were grabbed and tightly restrained, Aragorn staring at Legolas the entire time. Daz pulled a greasy knife from his boot, grabbed the Elf and sliced into his arm. The blood around the gash turned black and Legolas screamed in pain, falling to the ground.

“You bastard!” yelled Aragorn. “Why did you do that?!”

“Release them!”

Aragorn immediately went to the Elf.

Daz held up the knife, his smile sinister. “Coated with Orc blood. I keep a cache to interrogate prisoners or punish my men. The pain, I hear, is excruciating, more so for Elves. That wound is minor, as you can see.” His face turned into a snarl. “Disobey my order again and I’ll cut the Elf until you relent!”

Aragorn ripped off part of his shirt. He tried to wipe out as much of the offending slime as possible, creating a makeshift bandage with the rest. He knew of this sick game. It was usually two who would bet how many times they could cut their victim with an Orc blood coated blade before they died of the venom in their system or the pain itself.

“Daz!” interrupted Brai. “I should get to take them for killing Ra!”

Eol, the leering fool who’d been discouraged by Aragorn’s flat blade came forward. “*I* did not get to indulge myself either. I demand the chance to take them!”

“You cannot!” Brai protested. “He is mine! You would kill the Elf with your choice of ‘sport’!”

The Ranger could not believe this. Here they were, in Mirkwood’s forest, being held captive by those who were now squabbling over the “right” to rape and kill them.

“Enough!” snapped Daz. “You two know how this will be settled, Brai and Eol. If you want them badly enough, fight until one of you concedes, in as many rounds as it takes. And try to not kill each other. I truly do not want to have to dig another grave tonight.”

Seeing this, the Ranger thanked Eru for the time to build a plan. Now he had to once again get the attention off of them and used the same tactic. “Daz!” The leader faced him. “I see I have little choice here to convince you, so might I gather our things and retire to the tent?”

Daz viewed him skeptically. “Yes, you may, but without your weapons. The tent will be guarded.”

“But Daz!” said a bewildered Brai. “What about us?” He motioned to the rapist, Eol.

“I do not give an Orc’s ass about you two.” said Daz. “I am tired of hearing about all this revenge killing when I know all you want to do is kill someone. There still is a chance you can have them, so get on with the fight. I will keep score.” A cheer went up among the men, obviously thrilled to see their kin dueling. The raucous hoard made a circle and the two men went to the center and began circling each other, knives drawn. Daz turned to Aragorn. “Are you going to take him out here or not? Get on with it!” He winked at the Ranger, “And take your time; Brai and Eol are excellent fighters. This could be a while.”

Aragorn seethed he wanted to kill that man. He collected his stuff, as did the Elf. Then he grabbed Legolas by the arm and pulled him into the tent. The Man fell to his knees and began rummaging through his pack. He pulled out a small vial and turned to Legolas, who was holding his arm. He removed the bandage and began pouring water over the cut, cleaning it delicately. The cut wasn’t deep, so the possibility of infection was remote and the salve would help dramatically. He then spread some of the contents on the wound, retied the bandage and turned to look for anything that could be a weapon in his bag. Behind him, he heard a strained voice, “Aragorn?!”

“Yes, I know, mellon. I am sorry. We will fight out way out.”

“Fight?!” Legolas snapped. “There is no way for us to take them all on. We will die trying!”

“That, to me, is a better alternative than seeing that rapist with the rotting teeth touching you. I am sure you agree.”

“Yes, of course.”

Aragorn shook his head at the pathetic lot in front of him. These ingredients were for healing, not inflicting pain. It did seem pretty hopeless as the Sindar said. But they had to try; time was fleeting to save his Elf.

“There is...another way.”

The words floated to him, causing chills to creep up his back and settle in fingers that began to tremble. “And that might be?” he asked as if he didn’t know.

When no answer came, he turned to see the panicked look on his friend. This was so unlike Legolas! The Sindar never had a problem going into battle, nor standing up to insurmountable odds. Now he appeared like a scared elfling. Like an...elfling.

“We could follow his command.”

“...by the Gods...” Aragorn whispered, his blood pulsing a chilled heat. “Legolas, you cannot be serious! I will not rape you to save our lives! I’d rather die!”

Legolas dropped his head. “I know it would be distasteful to you. I am just saying...it would not...be rape.”

Confusion compounded him so badly, he couldn’t think or speak. He began making rapid waving motions with his numb hands. This was too much to handle. “No, no, you are traumatized, my friend. It is making you speak nonsense.”

All the while Aragorn was talking, Leoglas removed the circle of suede cord from around his neck, caught the wild hands of the Ranger and placed in them the amulet of Celebrimbor Sáralondë. His head still down, he whispered, “How do you think I portrayed your slave so easily? Why do you think I wear this? I love you, Aragorn. I have for some time.”

The Ranger jerked his head up, his face lax from shock. “My Gods, Legolas! Why did you not say anything?!”

The Elf became stern. “How could I? I know you love Arwen! What use would have been?”

Aragorn fell on his butt as if struck, the truth washing over him. He hadn’t deeply thought about Arwen in weeks, months even. But there *was* someone who had been occupying his mind. And if he were honest with himself, that same someone stirred his body as well.

The Sindar was still passionately talking. “I will not keep you from your destiny, Aragorn! I will not selfishly doom the fate of men for my own foolish needs. You are too important to die here to simply save my honor.” His head dropped again. “I promise I will tell no one, if we live, unless you want me to. I will tell Arwen I seduced you; I’m sure she would understand. I know you would find...lying with me repulsive, I just wanted...” Reality finally hit him and he let the tears fall. “I am sorry!”

It made his heart cinch to see the Elf so distressed. He took the archer into his arms. “Oh mellon, you have nothing to be sorry for. You cannot help who you love. It is not your fault.”

“Then let me make it up to you.”

At this point, Aragorn wondered how many times a man could be befuddled in one night and still make it out sane. “How?”

Eyes down, breathing heavy, tears making his cheeks shine, he said, “Couple with me. Give them what they want to see.”

The Ranger was incensed. “No! I will not bind you to me and watch you slowly die for that filth’s delight.” There was more cheering from outside and it turned his stomach. He mused if they were to do anything, the fools wouldn’t hear anyway over the shouts for blood.

Legolas touched their foreheads together. “Then do it for me.” he pleaded. “Most likely, we are not going to make it out of this alive, Aragorn. You know that. This is our only chance.” His voice dropped to an almost inaudible level, “...my only chance.”

Aragorn gaped at the sacrifice this Elf was going to make for him. If somehow they did live through this, it meant Legolas would be his bondmate and since that love was not returned at the time of mating, the Sindar would die a slow death. And frankly, he knew the Elf would not believe any declarations of his love right now. Was that it? Did he love Legolas? This was all too much! Now it was his turn to let the sadness come. “I...can’t, mellon...cannot do that to you. I do not even believe...I could!”

I know it would be repugnant to you, just-“

“Will you stop saying that?!” He took the Elf by the shoulders. “You do NOT disgust me. I find you to be one of the most beautiful creatures in all of this land and beyond. How do think I concocted that story about you being my slave? Because it would be the most impossible event of my life, that someone as remarkable as you would willingly lie with me.”

The Sindar reared back, stunned. “You speak the truth...” he whispered.

“I do.” the Man said, breathing heavily. It was not an admittance of love, but at least it let the Sindar know this would not be a revolting event.

Faded cobalt perused the Human in total wonder, settling on the heated mist boring into him. The blue eyes dropped. Almost shyly, the Elf said, “And I do as well, Aragorn. I would take you.” With that, Legolas kissed him...and the lips were as soft and sweet as he imagined. Aragorn opened his mouth to protest and a wily pink tongue slipped in and smooth hands tangled in his hair. “Saes, mellon.” Legolas pleaded against his lips, “Love me.”
(Please)

He was certain the Elf cast a spell, for he found he could not deny this magnificent being anything. He tentatively kissed him back, then fully, letting the desire in him build, surface and be created anew. His own hands found the golden hair, burrowing deeply. “Oro dre th an cal imë.” he whispered. (By the gods, you are so beautiful.)

The Elf trembled, moaning, his lips now on the Ranger’s neck. “I have always loved it when you spoke my language. Sheer poetry, it is.” He bit an earlobe. “It would arouse me to no end.”

“Truly?”

“But of course. Did you think Elves truly needed to bathe that many times a day?”

Aragorn laughed at that, at the insanity all around them. Then scenes came to him of the Elf relieving himself of said tension and it fueled the fire within. He kissed him, removing his jerkin in one fluid move. The Sindar was deftly working on the belt in his trousers; silken soft hands dipped inside, cupping his sac, encircling his shaft, catching him off guard. “Oh! That is...do not stop.” He ceased speaking as Legolas began expertly stroking him.

“I watched you once...doing this, when you thought I was sleeping.” confessed the Elf. “I know it was wrong; forgive me.”

Instead of outrage, it was thoroughly exciting Aragorn his reserved Elf was quite a ribald being. What else salacity lie inside that supposedly prim and proper mind? He laid his head back, the pleasure flooding him. “Nothing...to forgive, my friend.”

Warm kisses traveled up his neck, occasionally sucking on the skin. Finally, he found the will to do his own exploring and let his hands roam over the thin, tight body. He marveled at the incongruous sensations his touch found. The skin was very warm and unbelievably soft; there was a trim, tapered waist and a small chest with dark nipples, with roping, lean muscles underneath. His fingers glided over a sensitive nub and the Elf gasped, causing him to duck his hands up under the Ranger’s own shirt and remove both that and his coat as well. Legolas’ eyes hungrily roamed over the Man, licking his lips, apparently not know where to start his feast. He slid his hands up his chest, curling through the dark hair there. Strong fingers took the Man’s nipple and rolled it repeatedly. Aragorn jerked at the sensuous jolt to his groin, which was once again being wonderfully stroked.

The reality of it was making the Ranger sick. He was loving what was happening; the Sindar was a exotic, eager lover, yet they were only doing this to survive. Legolas deserved better. He should be seduced, pampered, have every whim discovered and indulged until the Elf was pleading for release. “This is not right.” said the Man as he covered a brown nub, suckling deeply.

The Elf arched, letting out a slight laugh. “No, it is not.” he agreed.

“Let me tell you...how this should be.” said the Ranger, letting his hands slip into the Sindar’s leggings, his hands sweeping over full, round globes, very warm and pert. Lapping at the other nipple, he said, “I would bathe you, in warm oils and fragrant petals.” He stopped to blow cool air on the wet nub, creating chills. “I would use the finest cloth, cut from the most delicate and rare threads created.” His hands glided down the arms he wanted to cleanse. “I would clean your hair, brushing it through as I did so. The entire time, I would feed you delicacies of every kind.” His fingers trailed through the golden locks. “By then,” he said smiling, “I would have to dry you rapidly so I could take you in front of a fire on pelt of thick fur!”

“That,” said the Elf while kissing, exploring and touching, “has to be the most malleable bit of romantic nonsense I have ever heard.” He squeezed two handfuls of the Rangers buttocks. “Gods, I love it!”

Aragorn chuckled as his hands slipped down past the small waist, into the leggings, happy to find the Elf hard. He gripped it, causing Legolas to gasp loudly, smile fleetingly, then a full fledged grin alighting his face. The Sindar squirmed, curling his hips into the Man’s fist, eyes closed, mouth open. It took a few seconds for him to realize he was staring at the happy and aroused Elf, shocked his touch alone could do that. He nuzzled his neck, murmuring, “Do you like that?”

“Y-yes...yes!” Legolas quietly panted. Aragorn moved his hands lower, to fondle the small testes, making the Elf arch. “Oh! Your hands...are rough.”

Chagrined his hands were not far from cracked leather, he said, “Sorry, mellon.”

“No, no, it is good; adds much to the rub. Oh, yes...” And there was that hypnotic smile again. Legolas arched back on his arms, pushing his hips up, his leggings falling down. Now they both could see the future king’s hands at work. Aragorn’s own length twitched at seeing his Elf nearly nude, the blond thatch of soft hair around his genitals now titillating. He had, of course, seen the Elf naked before, but certainly not for this reason.

Looking at his friend, Aragorn asked, “What would you like, mellon?”

Legolas leveled a steamy gaze at him, a slight smile gracing his lips. “Let me, “ he said coming closer, “have what I have craved for many a night.” He kissed the Man, nuzzling down his neck, then halting for a few seconds before buried his nose in the Man’s chest. He proceeded to rub his face vigorously into the wiry hair on his chest, then lapping the pale nipples. Aragorn’s eyes floated closed at the carnal sensations, opening them when the Sindar began tugging at his pants. He helped to lower them some and Legolas took hold of the Man’s shaft. He worked it a few times, rubbed it over his cheeks, smelling it and causing the Man to stifle a yell when Legolas finally put the head into his fiery-hot mouth. Aragorn had to keep from rearing back, the Elf’s mouth was so hot. A wave of inebriation came over him as the wet inferno took in more until it reached the root, a velvety tongue swirling around the engorged scepter. The Elf’s head began to slowly bob, gently, deeply suckling all he could take in, while whimpering and shaking.

Aragorn was panting through his mouth, gasping repeatedly. He placed a hand on the back on the blond head, the words coming broken and half formed, “Yes...yes, Leoglas...by Elbereth...wonderful, please...so good...” Aragorn thought he would come from the mere sight of his straining lance between those wet, pillow lips. When Legolas began to pet his taut orbs, he halted his friend, for knew he was not far from finishing.

Legolas languidly leaned back, eyeing the Ranger, his elfhood twitching in anticipation. Suddenly, Aragorn almost froze with uncertainty.

“What is it?”

Sheepishly, Aragorn admitted, “I’ve...never done this.”

The Sindar smiled, cupping his friend’s check, “Neither have I.” The Elf’s face fell a bit and said, “Unless you don’t want to.”

Placing his hand over Legolas’, he said, “Yes, I do, honestly...I just...” With that, he threw himself into it, also massaging his face between the dark nubs, licking each occasionally. Making his way down the tiny tummy, his heart began to beat wildly, seeing what he was about to do...and realizing he wanted it. His mouth watered at the idea, which became reality seconds later, his lips closing around it. The taste was thin, very faint, oddly making him want it more. He pulled up over and over again, letting the width of his tongue brush along the sides and curl over the head. The Elf gasped, panting like mad, and the Man could tell Legolas was smiling as he made the most deliciously erotic sounds. “Aragorn! Oh! ...yes, please...do that...I love it...love you...need it...oh, yes!” Within minutes, he bade him to stop for the same reason, that he did not want to give in just yet.

Aragorn took hold of Legolas and their eyes locked. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Grinning, he nodded lazily. He could tell Legolas was too far gone to decline; he was flying on libidinous delight, his skin a deep pink, his eyes fully dilated, his hardness aching to come, his body making its self ready for what was to follow. The bonding of elves during mating, “The Intimate Infinity Adherence”, was taking place. Sadly, Aragorn kissed him. “I wish I could do more...you deserve so much-“

Fingers were placed over his lips and the Elf said quietly, “Love me.”

Aragorn slowly nodded, kissed the Elf again. Legolas was moving fluidly, like a cat in heat and it fanned the flames in the Ranger. The Elf removed his leggings and moved back a bit. “Get the base salve.” He reached for the balm and poured a decent amount onto his fingers. Aragorn stopped breathing when the Elf lay back, placing either a foot on his sides. “Do you want me to apply it?” Legolas asked huskily.

Dazed by the sight before him, he said, “Show me how.”

Legolas laid down. Slender hands guided the thick fingers between the small mounds, to the warm, tight opening. “I will not need much...ah! Yes!” He reacted as the coarse skin moved over his rosette, dipping one digit inside. Leoglas began to move almost frantically for more contact, bucking his hips and twisting sensuously.

“Seeing you like this,” the Ranger confessed, “it incites me...greatly. It is nearly unbearable.”

His tone full of want, the Elf said, “Then I say, when you are inside me, liberate that animal you now have caged.”

Lust made the Man dizzy as two more fingers slipped inside the already loose passage. His stomach clinched in excitement, the tingle making his hardness jerk. “I promise...I will.”

He shuffled forward a bit and Legolas placed his legs on his shoulders. He couldn’t help but turn his head and kissing a foot.

“I thought I was the slave here!” joked the Elf.

“You are.” he replied with a wink and nuzzled a smooth leg. “And you are doing exactly what I want.”

The fever was starting to possess the Elf and he began squirming in need. “Take me, Aragorn...now!”

Pulling himself out of the trance the begging caused, he leaned over him, positioning the tip at the opening and pressed in. He gasped as he slipped inside with nearly no effort, searing heat wrapping around him and he had to take several deep breaths to keep from slamming into the Elf and coming within minutes.

“Yesss...ah!...mmmm...”

He opened his eyes to the most wondrous sight. The Elf was smiling, eyes closed and writhing on his shaft, totally elated, fisting the blanket beneath them.

“Galdor Telrúnya” He whispered. (So beautiful.)

Inflamed amethyst fluttered open. “Take me, Ranger.”

Nearly snarling, Aragorn closed his eyes, thrust once and the Elf let out a cry as it hit that small bump within, followed by constant moaning. Aragorn bucked his hips repeatedly, the delightful friction causing wild shivers. His will dissolved; he grabbed the slim hips and pounded into the slick channel, the passage molding to his shape, exquisitely milking it. “By Eru!” he cried out, reverberations of sweet joy coursing through him.

Through the amorous din, he heard the Elf plead in a strained, high-pitched voice, “Touch me, please...touch me...”

He slowed his pace to tunnel his fingers around the Elf’s rigid staff and pumped it furiously. The scream got caught in the Sindar’s throat and he curved up, eyes closed, mouth open. Aragorn watched as he timed it; a little firm caressing, some full thrusts, more pulling at him. Legolas began to smile briefly, for a second or two, at the sensual, dual dance the Ranger was performing. The pace increased, as did the mirth in the Elf’s face, his body tight and determined. Finally, the utter bliss washed over him and Legolas let out the most lyrical, mellifluous laugh as his climax soaked the Ranger’s hand.

It completely stunned the Man to see Legolas openly, unabashedly laugh as he came. The Elf never laughed like that! It was possibly the most intimate sight he’d ever witnessed; the flawless face was bright and jubilant, showing perfect teeth, his spirit relaxed, inviting, his entire being shaking with felicity. For a moment, Aragorn was glad they’d done this, just to see this moment. Slowly, Legolas came down off the joyful high, the slim body growing soft under him. Sated blue eyes opened and smiled at him. “Your turn, Ranger.”

Guilty, he knew he could not resist, did not want to. He let his hands slide up the small, sweaty chest and leaned his head to the side, watching the Sindar sprawled as such. Closing his eyes, Aragorn held back a growl and began to thrust again, surprise he was still held tightly in the sweet cleft. Fluttering of the Elf’s orgasm massaged him, making his breath hitch. Strong hands threaded through his chest hair, tweaking a nipple.

“Let it out, Aragorn. Set the beast free.”

At that, something fragile within him was violently shaken, like fine crystal splintering. The intensity tripled, making him lose all control. A vehement force surfaced, his entire form suddenly consumed in unbearable flames. With every buck fiercely caressing him, he became more undone. The ecstacy was searing him, he was becoming incoherent, his moaning louder. He snapped his hips viciously into the force unraveling his very essence, hungering, needing this abandon. Completion slammed into him, euphoria singeing the already frayed edges of his soul. His sac emptied almost painfully, his member spraying heavily inside the Elf. He collapsed on his lover, breathless, his limbs shaking. Long arms encircled him and he was calmed, rescued from the shattering bliss.

As some awareness returned, fear tickled at the back of his mind. He’d *never* felt that kind of pleasure or felt so vulnerable in his entire life. He knew such raw feelings were exposed during this time for elves. What was the reason for such a spiritual coupling for him? Utter dread pooled in his stomach as the flap of the tent was pulled back.

“Well!” said Daz, while smiling and kneeling on one knee. “I still think you are full of shit, ‘Shulay’, but at least you proved to me the Elf is your slave after all!”

Speaking through clenched teeth, his eyes closed, Aragorn said, “I am going to kill you, Daz.”

“Yes, yes, I get it. I couldn’t stay hard with the likes of me watching either. Now I must promise Brai something special to keep him from killing you two.”

The flap was closed and Aragorn said, “Let us dress before anyone else wishes to inspect us.”

They did so in silence and Aragorn was amazed at the content and happy Elf behind him. He was probably going to die, yet he radiated cheer. Then fear crept into the Sindar, mixing with the upbeat emotion, followed by a twinge of desperation, all based on what the future held. “Do not seal your fate just yet, my Prince.” His stomach suddenly clinched nervously and he spun around to face the Elf.

Surprise was visible on the Sindar as well. “You...could feel my joy. Then my sorrow...and I said nary a word, nor did you have your eyes on me.”

His eyes widened. “Yes.”

More shock bloomed in the Elf. “And now I feel your confusion!” He saw the blue eye searching while down, looking at nothing, ruminating. Legolas then closed his eyes and fell back, horrified. “By Eru...I did not think! Please believe me, Aragorn, I did not intend this!”

“What is it?!”

Before Legolas could reply, there was some commotion outside. They were flattened, pushed to the ground, as the tent collapsed when someone literally fell on it. They scrambled out and took in the scene around them. The men were suddenly fighting an approaching opposition; several dozen Elven archers and warriors were everywhere, swiftly containing the pack of wild humans. Aragorn was about to grab his own sword to help, but he could see the men were backing down. Mirkwood’s armed forces had it well in hand.

Legolas spotted a familiar face. “Captain Telrúnya!”

The Captain turned to the Prince, came closer and bowed. “I am gladdened to see you well, your highness.”

“How did you find us?” asked Aragorn.

The Captain smiled and pointed to a riderless steed. “Thank Olwë, your horse. She returned to the Kingdom and fearing the worse, we set off in search of you. We found your camp and tracked you and the men here. I apologize for not attacking sooner. We were getting our bearings.”

“Did you need to slaughter our leader?” Brai yelled, while being restrained.

Aragorn and Legolas exchanged glances. So *that* was why they stopped fighting so fast! With Daz gone, they were without the guidance needed to win the battle.

The Captain turned and said, “I think it was essential, seeing you were holding the son of King Thranduil as prisoner!” A frightened gasp went up among the men. They were at least bright enough to know Mirkwood was an Elven monarch and harming any brood hailing from there would hopefully bring a quick death.

“We...we did not know!” Brai started to babble. “He could have told us!”

“As if you would have believed me!” Legolas shot back.

Brai sneered at him. “Are you not speaking out of turn...slave?”

Aragorn saw Legolas tilt his chin up, a regal gesture. Very quietly, the Elf said, “Release him.”

The guards did so, making Brai look around nervously. His eyes started to widen when Legolas slowly started to walk towards him. He stood in front of the second-in-command of this brutish legion, holding the Man’s gaze. The Sindar slapped him so fast, it left Brai staring stupidly and blinking rapidly. “You have wanted to kill me from the start for killing your brother, Ra. I will now give you the opportunity to avenge him. Fight me!” The Elf retrieved his blades and assumed a battle stance.

Fear was more than visible in the Man’s eyes. “I will not! As soon as I get in a good blow, your guards will kill me.”

“You forget you are fighting me, not one of your own. *I* will allow you to fight me without interference from the royal armed forces.

Pure hate graced his features. “You forget that if Daz allowed me my rightful chance, I would have tied you up and made you wish for death.”

Legolas nodded. “I see. You only have a spine when the odds totally are in your favor. You are a coward! Now I shall pity you...for you will soon be eaten alive by your own brethren.”

It was a true barb stating Brai did not have what it took to be leader, but he said nothing.

Aragorn went to obtain his pack from the collapsed tent. He kneeled and began to put the healing ingredients back where they belonged. He looked over...and saw the cryptically crushed amulet of Celebrimbor Sáralondë. He could see Legolas as he made over Olwë, thanking her, kissing her nose, fingering through her mane and promising a special treat once home. A shot of icy-fire went through him as the Elf flashed that full smile, the strong tingle settling in the Man’s groin. Aragorn then noticed he had been looking at the ground the entire time. He turned, only to see Legolas stop cold...and bring his stunned gaze up to meet the Ranger’s eyes. The Elf wasn’t just linked to him, as should have been the case.

Somehow, *he* was bound to Legolas.

Aragorn could hear the Captain telling Legolas they should leave. Legolas agreed, slowly mounting his horse. They headed out, Aragorn’s mind was so cluttered he did not care what would happen to the men who had held them captive. He looked ahead at the Elf, honestly glad Daz was dead. Aragorn had never been a murderous man, but Daz had seriously tempted him. Honestly, it scared him to think of this...connection he had to the Sindar, not understanding it or how it had affect them. Then a sadness mixed with the fear, as he began to wonder how they could be together with all that stood in their way.

*~~~~~*

“How can this be?” asked Elrond.

Aragorn shook his head. “It wasn’t until after Legolas and I had lain together did we consider my full heritage. A slight portion of my blood is Elven and therefore marginally susceptible to the same spiritual ties Elves acquire through copulating.” He gazed out the window of his room in Mirkwood’s Kingdom, having returned from his ordeal with the band of men a few weeks prior...and informing Gandalf and Elrond of what had come to pass. He could now tell himself he loved the Elf prior to said act and his ancestors solidified the result. Telling Legolas this was another thing. He thought the Sindar would’ve been happy to hear it. Instead, he seemed bittersweet.

Elrond looked at him sternly. “How can you refuse to fulfill your fate?”

“I did not say I would refuse. I said I would not wed Arwen. I refused to betray her by making her my bride.” He reflected on his cruel “role-playing” which started all of this. “During my many years of training as Chieftain of the Rangers, I have done...much wrong in accomplishing my fate, committed crimes to learn the ways of evil. At what point, I ask you, is beyond the pale? When do the requisite immoral deeds topple the honorable end?”

There was a moment before Gandalf asked, “How will you produce heirs to continue the lineage of men?”

Aragorn was stupefied, his mind churning with fury. “How will I...” He turned away. “How...can you think I would use Arwen as such a vapid vessel?!” He faced Elrond again. “That I would have so little respect and consideration, I would...” he nearly spit out the words, “...have her sacrifice her immortality to make her my broodmare! As King, it is not as if I will have a shortage of those willing to be the maker of my gets! Or would you have me lie about my lack of love for her? And is she a total fool? A good portion of her blood is Elven; would she not have the slightest inkling of my distress and loneliness?” He glared at Gandalf. “You told me I am to fight in many wars, great and small. Am I to withhold participating in these conflicts because my fate is so precious, allowing friends and comrades to die to have my life spared? How can leading Gondor be the utmost of my existence, if I am to face insurmountable danger to get there? Do you both plan to keep me in a cage, safe from harm and life?”

Gandalf’s eyes became reflective. “I have been fighting the Shadow for a long time, Aragorn. What if you and Legolas are called to fight Sauron together? How can you be his leader and love him as well? It does nothing but complicate matters, mottling issues that are of grave importance and need your full dedication! Furthermore, Gondor will not accept Legolas as your mate.”

“Gondor has many problems, my friend.” he countered. “Do you think they will accept me as I am with open arms after many of decades of war and strife? Who I take to my bed will be the last of their concerns. Legolas nor I would put all of existence in jeopardy for our selfish indulgences! Father, did you not tell me you envisioned Legolas would reside near me until my death? If I am to spurn him now, then how will your vision come true? You can attest to our love, but eagerly deny us the chance to be together!”

There was a soft knock at the door. “Come in.” said Gandalf.

Legolas slowly entered, his eyes down, his manner subdued. He came forward, saying nothing until he reached the three near the fireplace. “Aragorn, Gandalf, my Lord.” he acknowledged all with a nod. His eyes focused on Aragorn. “I need to speak to them...alone.”

Aragorn nodded, coming forward and taking the Elf in his arms, kissing him slightly, his lips and form molding to the Man perfectly. Their linking was not like that of the full-blooded First Born. It was more subtle, based on intuition, sensations and raw feelings. Yet, neither could deny a strong seed had been sowed and the flowering vine intertwined their minds, bodies and spirits, even if on the most basic level.

“Destiny *will* welcome you.” the Man vowed. With that, he left the room.

*~~~~~*

He blinked, realizing he was back in bed, with Elrond and Gandalf staring at him.

“So now you remember?” said Elrond.

“Yes...I believe I do. It is still a bit cloudy, but most I recall.”

“Then you see why we acted as such.” said Gandalf.

“No, honestly, I do not.”

“How can you? You had refused to follow the chosen path.” said the Mage.

His wrath began to surface. “I refused to condemn Arwen to a life that is a lie!”

The Elven lord abruptly stood and went to the window. He breathed deep, the tears finally falling.

“Father?”

“I...did not...” Elrond covered his face with his hand, then let them drop. “Forgive me, my child. I did not want to see her heart broken.”

The number of times he had seen his father cry were few and far between. It was very disturbing to witness. “Please explain.”

“Arwen knows what is happening. Her sadness is palpable and she has become very subdued. She would not speak of it. I asked her had she seen the future and she said yes. She knows your love for her has waned.”

Pity crept in, blocking Aragorn’s ire. He finally saw what this memory-blocking scheme partly was; a half-hearted attempt for a father to keep his little girl from being hurt. It must have been awful for Elrond, to know Arwen would agonize over her loss. Of course, Elrond wanted Arwen to come with him to the Undying Lands, but thought it selfish, so he desperately tried to keep her illusion of happiness. Basing it on Aragorn’s future was not unfounded, just not the sole purpose.

“This has been difficult for you.”Aragorn said. It wasn’t a question.

Elrond nodded. He looked at Aragorn, the tears on his face drying. “I was not sure this...would work, that the memories might surface in some manner. I wasn’t prepared for when you began to suffer. I am sorry.”

“As am I.” He sighed. His family certainly had its complexities. Having never met her until he was twenty years of age and even afterward, it had been arduous for Aragorn to know Elrond harbored a special love for Arwen that even her brothers envied. It was a bizarre scenario, for Aragorn to love Arwen to the point of obsession, only to be constantly hounded by Elrond to make sure he met the highest of standards, against incredible odds, to be worthy of their marriage. Through the years, as with the Twins, he learned to cope with their father’s unique fondness for his only daughter, making sure she did not feel slighted. It wasn’t her fault her father favored her.

“Aragorn, I do not agree with your bond with Legolas, but that point is moot.” said Gandalf, “I hope you are not too angry with me.”

He answered honestly. “It will take a while for me to fully rebuild my trust in you, Gandalf, but I understand why you did this.”

“One thing you should know, Aragorn.” said Gandalf. “Legolas readily agreed to this. He insisted on it, honestly. He was afraid if the Shadow learns of your connection with him, it may bring harm to either of you, crippling our fight for the future.”

He looked between the two of them. “There has been enough martyrdom here.” At their silence, he said, “Will you please help me stand so that I may speak to him?”

They both nodded. He stood with their help, wobbling for a minute, then timidly tested his feet for walking. It was slow going and he was tired by the time he reached the door. He opened it, clutching at the frame, panting.

“Aragorn.” said Elrond. “Think on him, then breathe deep. It will give you strength.”

He nodded, grateful. “Thank you, father.” He thought of his friend; his mischievous side...and took a deep breath, released it, the energy coming like dawn peeking at sunrise. He considered the Elf’s compassion and the Man’s vigor returned like the slow tide of the sea. He reflected on the Sindar’s passion for his hobbies...another deep breath, clarity rising as clear as a full moon. He focused on Legolas’ well-honed fighting skills, and the Man’s own spirit bloomed like spring. And lastly, he pictured his beauty. He released the air in a huff, the excitement surging through him. Sure enough, the Elf’s faint lifeforce thrummed through him and he made his way to the Prince’s room immediately.

He entered and shooed away the handmaidens who’d been taking turns praying over him. The entire bed was swathed in white veils, some in lace, most just sheer. A hollow, weak figure lie before him and, as always, it made his stomach roil that this was what the Prince had been reduced to. The Elf was moving, mumbling, his eyes unfocused and Aragorn went to his bedside. “It is I, my love. I am here...and I remember all.” He stroked the clammy brow.

It occurred to him in a rush. Why had Legolas done this? For who? He’d asked the same question several times and received no answer from the Sindar before his memory had been restored. Rage began to flit around in him that Legolas would be so eager to die, instead fighting for them to be together.

“Why have you chosen this road? Why did you insist I not remember?” he fiercely whispered. “For me? I never would have accepted it. So I may be King? You are not that naive.” He took the dying Elf by the shoulders, “Now that I know...tell me why!” he demanded.

Was it more of a silken thought sliding into his mind or did the Sindar really just speak? “Because...I wanted you to love me...freely. And to keep you safe.”

He shook his head. The Elf was dying because he did not want to trap Aragorn into a bonding and to keep their connection a secret from any who might exploit that very weakness. Shaking off the words, he said, “And what? Leave me to marry Arwen, not understanding my empty misery? Or make me susceptible to error from lack of focus?”

The white, cracked lips just barely moved. “But you love her.”

“Legolas, hear me. I fell for her when I was but a child by true human standards. It was because I heard her sing and laid my eyes upon her. How do you think I will love a friend I have lain with? A friend, that if I had been listening to myself, I loved at the start.” Dry blue eyes closed at that, pooling with tears and tiny spots of color began to return to the pallid cheeks. Aragorn stroked the back of his hand along the ashen face. “That is it, my love.” He thought for a moment, then said, “Think on me, my friend...and breathe deep.”

There was a firm knock at the door. Aragorn wanted to scream for them to leave when he heard a deep, rolling voice say, “It is I, Aragorn. I need to speak to you regarding my son.”

“Enter.”

The striking King opened the door and stood there. “May I speak to you in private?”

*~~~~~*

Aragorn turned to the weak Prince. “I will return soon.”

Legolas simply closed his eyes, with something close to relief on his sunken face.

He stood and met the King at the door. “Of course, your Highness.” Aragorn wasn’t surprised to see Thranduil confronting him so soon. They began to walk the halls of Mirkwood’s main castle. The King was unusually subdued, his face reading hesitation. They wound up on a parapet overlooking the forest. Aragorn remained quiet, ardent to hear the King’s account of everything.

Abruptly, the King said, “Elrond and Gandalf told me they had curbed the memory of the bonding, told me it was essential.” He looked out over the naked limbs that howled in the breeze, awaiting winter’s chill. “Legolas made me promise not to tell you. I had to honor his request.”

Aragorn nodded. “But you did not approve of it.”

“Nay.” He shook his head. “It was...sheer agony watching my son die of his own accord. Yet, I kept telling myself I had to respect his wishes of ‘Casting the Veil of Blind Insight.’”

He still did not understand how Thranduil could have accepted any of this silently, yet Aragorn knew not to interfere with Mirkwood tradition. “You did what you thought was right.”

He turned to face Aragorn and studied him. “You will make a fine King one day, my son. You are able to defer to beliefs you do not embrace and are open enough to see what you cannot change. Yet, you can still lead when needed. These are staple traits beholden to a steady sovereign.”

It warmed Aragorn greatly to know his lover’s father thought well enough of him to endorse his kingship and to call him his son. It helped to douse some of the rancor Aragorn held regarding Thranduil’s prior placid stance.

“I also wanted to tell you I just overhead your conversation with them.”

Aragorn thought that odd, at first, that his majesty would eavesdrop, but seeing how much his son was being affected, it made sense. “I hope you are not opposed to our love.”

He shook his head. “No, that is not my concern. I wanted to talk to you about something I know concerns you.”

“What might that be?”

“For starters, the fact that yes, as the forces grow stronger, the Darkness might be able to detect your bond with Legolas. I admit that is unlikely, but I also know you do not want to take that chance.”

Aragorn shivered at that, for he knew the King was right. How could they be together, even fight by one another’s side, if it would expose him prematurely to Sauron, placing both he and Legolas in danger?

The King’s hazel-green eyes shined as he said, “I can give you a few family secrets on how to fool the Shadow.”

“How do you mean?”

“I can show you and Legolas how to shield your link, even to the point where you could hide from one another.”

He was taken aback by such news. Aragorn had heard of such talents for some elves, but the gift was rare and never a potential for humans. “How would that be possible?”

“Aragorn, how do you think I have been able to withstand my very domain being overrun by the evil forces right outside my door? Yes, they chased us to this home carved into rock, but I have been successful in thwarting any true corruption of my people.”

He was completely stunned. The King was going to reveal how he was able to stop the encroaching Shadow to protect his son and his lover.

“Before you get any ideas about sharing the wisdom I will bestow upon you, remember, it does not always work for everyone.”

That hadn’t even occurred to Aragorn, of course, but he still asked, “Why is that?”

“I have no idea.” he said, sounding genuine. Do you think I would have allowed anyone else to be taken by the Black Realm if I could help it? Imladris is kept safe by of the sheer number of powerful Elves there and Lorien has the Lady of the Galadhrim, Galadriel. I am but one Elf of high birth, yet I have been able to keep my people safe. Why the rituals and rites work for me, I do not know.”

Aragorn was suspect of such claims, but decided not to pursue what he could not prove. “I thank you, kind sir. Such an ability would be of great use to us both.”

The King became serious. “Take care of my son, Aragorn. I am glad you were his choice, even if you were indentured into securement with him.”

“Your Majesty, I loved Legolas before we mated. That was why the memories could not be abolished.”

“That is good. I hope for you two many years together.”

He caught the King’s eye and said with conviction, “As long as I am within this world, I will be by his side.”

*~~~~~*

Epilogue...

He patted dry the skin that still held droplets of water, liquid soap and scented leaves. It was getting warm in front of the hearth, aided by the heavy, soft hide underneath. He frowned to see the all strawberries drizzled with honey were gone, so he picked up a slice of marinated duck and fed it to his lover.

“Mmmm, delicious.”

Taking a sip of wine, he said, “Yes, it is. Thank Gimli for me for making it.”

“I will.”

Lazily, blue eyes opened and the Elf smiled at him. “How is Faramir?”

“Very good. He has been seeing to things when I need to make my weekly visits to Ithilien. Or when you call upon me in Gondor.”

The Elf laughed a bit at that, causing King Elessar’s gaze to become heated.

“What is it?” Legolas asked.

“It is so odd.” he said, his hand gliding along a soft cheek. “You exude so much happiness while enraptured with arousal, I almost do not recognize you.”

“Well,” purred the Elf, “I am truly sorry I cannot be my usual, stolid self when you are deep inside me.”

That caused Aragorn to launch himself onto his prone lover, who snickered at the move. Letting his fingers trail over the golden hair, he said, “I am glad you are with me.”

“As I am.” Legolas became reflective. “You do not mind I do not reside with you in Gondor?”

“I knew you craved the greenery and nature of this place. How could I refuse you that?”

The serious visage on the Elf did not dissipate. “May I ask you something?”

“But of course.”

“Why did you not want me to participate in the Fellowship?”

The ruler of Gondor looked away, surprised by the question. It took him a few seconds before he said, “Truly?”

“Yes.”

“I was afraid I was going to die. The odds were so overwhelming at times, the last thing I wanted was to leave you in mourning.”

“I knew of that risk when I agreed to be one of the nine, as did you. And our link aside, you knew that the death of one of us did not decree the demise of the other.”

“I was still worried you would be in grief for all of your days.”

“Are you still afraid of that now?”

“Of course I am.”

The Elf raised up and took the Man with him, making them both sitting upright. “Aragorn...yes, I will mourn your death should you pass before I.”

He smiled a bit, realizing he hardly ever thought of that as a possibility.

“But once you are gone, then I will build a ship with Gimli’s help and we will sail to the Undying Lands, where I will stay with him until he, too, passes.” There was some definite moisture welling in his eyes as he spoke. “However, after that, I will go to Eldamar and be with all of my kin who have went there before me...and I will finally be apart of The One.” Now his eyes were shining with rhapsodic anticipation. “All sadness, despair, pain, anger; all will be vanquished from my very essence and I will know everlasting peace.”

Aragorn glanced towards the window, even though, of course, he heard no gulls crying and could not see the sea. “I hope the yearning is not too strong.”

The Elf furrowed his brow, but not in sorrow. “It can be. But it is a sweet ache.”

Aragorn smiled at that.

“What?” Legolas joked, “Did you think I would be depressed even in Elven paradise?”

King Elessar laughed. The long efforts of their struggle to be together were done. They were happy.

The End.
P.S. Okay, everyone - thanks for reading! I tried really hard to *not* have such a big, fat, sappy ending, but my muse was having none of it! :::smile:::

 

 

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