The Mirror
by Peaceangel

Title: The Mirror
Email: earthdanser AT
Beta: Tularia
Pairing: FPS: Aragorn/Legolas
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters and make no profit from them.
Summary: Reflections on the purity of Elves, sanity, and darkness. Legolas is injured and must confront what he fears most.
Feedback: It is greatly appreciated.

Chapter 1

Pain flashed behind his eyes. There had been a battle, yes. But he could remember almost nothing of the trip over the rocks that loomed around him. He knew he was hurt. There was blood on his hands and on his clothing. The back of his hair was wet and his fingers came away bathed in crimson when he probed at the hurt there. The world swam out of focus and darkness settled uncomfortably around him.

When consciousness returned the brightness of the noon sun had past overhead and the air was growing cool. His body felt like a block of stone, like a part of the rocky landscape around him. He was lying in a bright pool of red blood. Moving his eyes around made him dizzy so he closed them, but the spinning remained. A prickling sensation down his spine bade him to not grow complacent. There was some lurking danger still, but of what or how he could not recall.

The chill sensation of the fine downy hair, standing on end, at the back of his neck, made him finally open his eyes. He blinked several times but the bleariness was difficult to dispel. He could hear something but when he strained to catch it the sound ceased. He had to get out of here. He had to move. The feeling of urgency grew stronger. Aragorn would be upset with him for getting into this predicament.

His shoulders ached, there was a sharp pain in his side and there was an unsteadiness in his gut that warned he might need to retch. He had been trying to lift his head to see something of his situation but the effort was making the nausea worse. He lowered his head carefully back down to the ground with a moan, feeling the dry gravelly pebbles grate into his smooth Elven flesh. He could not move. At least, not right away, so he concentrated on breathing. His lungs felt like they could not drag enough air into himself and his throat was dry.

When his eyes opened again he was startled to see a gray mass coalesce some distance before him. It was lying on the ground several yards away and a dark black trail behind it suggested it had been dragging itself slowly toward him for some time. The black pool of Orc blood under the creature was thick and wide like an oil spill from one of Saruman's machinations. It spouted from a mortal wound delivered by the Elf's long blade. That was when the thing had grabbed him, unexpectedly, and plunged its sharp teeth into his neck. They both fell backwards over the cliff and tumbled an impossibly long way down amidst the jagged rocks to land here, a dusty bowel in the earth, surrounded by sharp teeth-like projections.

Legolas tried to focus his grainy vision on the thing. It wasn't moving. Not for the moment, anyway. But he could detect the slow rise and fall of the chest. It was alive and it was coming for him.

The knife Legolas had implanted into the thing was a killing blow but death was coming too slow for this servant of the enemy and, apparently, the thing still had some mobility. More than Legolas could say for himself. He cursed silently. He had been too confident. It was often so. The Ranger had rebuked him for it more than once. Elven superiority was unappreciated, Legolas had responded jokingly, but the Man would not have it. Aragorn worried for the Elf, too much so, sometimes. Legolas sighed, feeling guilty for what the Human must be enduring at this very moment. They were undoubtedly looking for him.

He eyed the Orc. He had to move. Slowly he dragged one arm, as if it was the most Herculean of tasks, across the dry hard ground. A pale white hand drifted into view, smeared in red gore. Elvish blood, he realized. He pressed his slick palm against the earth and tried to command his body to move. Although his mind could picture the motion his body was too broken to respond.

A rattling rasp of a sound gurgled up from the blackened thing on the ground. Legolas's eyes snapped over to the creature, that simple gesture making his head swoon. He fought to not black out again. Bile rose to the back of his throat. He swallowed and concentrated on breathing. When the dizziness passed and the world steadied he saw the Orc was awake. It was looking at him with sharp eyes rimmed in fire and its hideous teeth bared into a grimace. A long jagged scar ran from the corner of one disfigured eye down the length of its face.

"Not feeling so good, eh, Pretty Elf?" it chortled, in the black tongue, and the sound hacked into a cough. Blood spurted from the thing's mouth. But it smiled at him toothily amidst the splatter.

Legolas looked away, feeling sick. He had to move, he had to defend himself. His attention was brought back to the thing. It was scraping its way slowly across the ground. Its progress was slow, only an inch or two at a time, but eventually…if he did not move, it would reach him.

"You ain't so confident now are ye?" it rasped as it stopped to catch its breath. Legolas threw it a disgusted look, but in truth, he felt his cheeks burn in humiliation. The thing was right. He had been lazy in his movements when he attacked it. An easy kill…that's what this should have been. But the Valar perhaps saw fit to teach him some humility. How often had the Man said it to him? 'Being immortal does not make you invincible.' Legolas knew the Ranger grew exasperated with him.

He tried again to move his arm and managed to bring it this time up to his head. His fingers wiped at the blood on his face. He must be in bad shape. He dreaded what Aragorn would say to him when the Man eventually found him. The sound of the Orc relentlessly on the move again made Legolas sorely wish for the Ranger's presence at that moment. Despite the severe talking to he would get from the Dúnadan, he longed for the Human's strength. Pride not withstanding, this thing was going to kill him if help did not arrive soon.

"Aint no worries," sang the creature in a morbid tune, as it slouched its way along like an inch worm, "ain't no worries, little Elf, death's coming for you soon…" it coughed and sputtered on its crooning black notes. It gasped and lay still for so long Legolas began to harbor hopes that its filthy black heart finally gave out. But that hope died out quickly when it began to talk again.

"You's a pretty one…High Born, eh? I'll have some fun 'ere the darkness comes fer me… Elves. Elves. I hates Elves." It coughed again violently, gasping for breath.

Legolas looked at it in disgust but an idea began to form in his mind. If he could keep the thing talking as it seemed want to do …perhaps it'd talk itself to death. Surely there couldn't be too much more blood in the vile thing, he thought to himself as he eyed the black sodden ground.

"Why?" he ventured out softly, "why do you hate us?"

"Eh??? Is you, an Elf," black blood sprayed from its mouth as the Orc spat out the word like the vilest curse to pass it's lips, "an Elf …is talking to me? I am Orc, a spawn of the darkness…hee hee hee…or so they say…" it laughed, coughing and gurgling in the process. Legolas turned his head away in disgust.

"Look at me," it rasped, "why would I not hate you, Father," it spat at him.

Legolas was prepared for the insults and the vileness of the black tongue, and intended to not listen only to provoke speech. But the word stopped him. "Father?" he glared viciously at the creature. "What mean you by this?"

It gasped for breath and fresh black gore flowed from its hideous mouth. When it lifted its shaggy head towards him it spat, "Elf - Father, is it surprising…you abandoned us…you of the light. Pretty. Songs, and Poems and Listening to trees talk…and Proud, always Proud…" The thing's chest spasmed on the vile intensity of its hatred as it spat out the words like poisonous darts.

Legolas stared at it in shock. Why was he listening to this vile creature? Mindless Orcs…but this one spoke of Elvish things and Elvish ways. Yet it was said they were Elves once…long ago. Legolas shuddered, looking around himself for a weapon, for a means of escape…

"Ah…. don't like to hear it, pretty Elf?" it taunted in a grating voice. "It frightens you…you don't believe I remember you…" coughing and more blood stopped it.

Legolas's eyes snapped back to the thing in growing anger, his face feeling flushed. "What do you mean, remember me? What are you talking about?"

It coughed and spat a fat plug of bloody phlegm. "You are young…I look at you, I smell your sweetness, … and I remember… inside…the trees talked once…I remember the burn of the light…but you left us, Father. And now we are black as pitch and eat of dust…but I will eat of you ere the sun goes down tonight…" it crooned, its words slurring into a song.

Legolas shuddered. What was the vile thing saying? Had this disgusting and obscene thing once been of Elfkind? Nay. He shook with rage. "You lie!" he cried at the horror that crooned its death song at him.

His own chest tightened as he yelled and a fit of coughing shook his slender frame, jarring him with pain that radiated from his ribs. He almost passed out again from the hot poker he imagined was burrowing itself in his side. It laughed at him. He was losing this battle, he realized. He was losing a battle of wills to an Orc! Legolas closed his eyes, trying to bring his breathing under control. Beads of sweat sprang to his brow. Shuffling and scraping sounds made him start. It was moving closer.

"Ay, pretty, you fear it…this is what you could be…from the Elvish heart did this darkness spring…" The thing sang on in lurid tones as it scraped along the earth towards him. "Such was the spell…to bring forth the darkness that lieth within…"

"Nay…" moaned the Elf, head swooning, fever burning in his blood. "I am not like you…never…"

Black, cracked fingers, like claws gripped the loose stony earth and it slowly pulled itself along. "You left your own to die…proud Elf; leave few behind and save all the rest…that's what they did, little one, Spawn of the Betrayer…" it breathed in a harsh grinding voice. "You did this to me. I remember…like poison in my veins…the light that burns in you so bright…But the wheel has turned full round …Now, I will snuff out your light."

Legolas shook his head, fighting back nausea, "Nay, I did naught to you…I don't know what you mean… Lies! You lie!" His eyes searched frantically up the rocky walls of the ditch, unaccustomed to the feeling of panic. Where was Aragorn?

Laughter grated out of the black thing as it paused to rest, only two arms lengths away from him, now. "You did it, 'Father'." It said tiredly, "You did it…your kind did it…left us all to the dark lord…" It turned its reddened eyes to him as it panted, "Burn, burn…while you can, Child of the Eldar…the end approaches for us both."

It leered at him like a vision from a nightmare. Loathing twisted its already grotesque visage, yet perhaps a trick of the light played upon it, for some other more sophisticated emotion seemed to flicker there before it was submerged under the programmed hatred. It inched towards him, closer now, breath coming in short intermittent gasps. Legolas looked around but there was nothing…nothing he could get hold of…nothing he could do. His body felt frozen. His own burning lungs fought for breath.

The thing was dying. They stared at each other across the vast chasm of hate and fear that separated their two races. They were now only feet a part. And they were not alone. Death was with them too. But whom would it come for first?

The Orc's chest rattled and Legolas knew the thing's demise was imminent. But would it reach him before the end came? The Orc knew it too, for it glared at him and inched closer, its hand reaching for him, grasping…only inches away from closing on him.

It stopped to gasp for a breath that now would hardly come. They looked at each other. Inches, only, separated them. "Look upon me, Elf…" it rasped in pain, and Legolas gaped in horror for there was something else there he never thought to see…It could not be, and yet it was…something familiar, something Elvish. "Look into the mirror, pretty Elf," it said, sadness momentarily overshadowing the hatred, "I am you…do you not hate what you see?"

Legolas gasped and tried to shrink away from the reaching hand that grazed his skin. Blackened fingers touched his face, traced his smooth cheek, and traveled with a distant sigh, down the line of his jaw. The hand slowly closed with caressing fingers around the smooth column of his throat. Legolas might have screamed but he was captured by the glimmer…the stray ember…a single strand of light, in the pitch blackness of night …that was the Orc's disfigured face. The claw like hand stiffened, fingers curled in convulsion and slipped off his throat to freeze on the collar of his torn tunic. The Orc's vision bent its last on the fair sight of the Elf's glowing face as it inhaled its final rattled breath.

The air thickened around him and his heart beat wildly within his chest as he strained for breath. His eyes grew blurry with unshed tears, and his gaze lingered on the vacant face of the enemy that had called him 'Father'. The expression of grief still stamped upon it. He hated it. He hated it with all his heart! The tears burned his eyes and scalded his throat. With his remaining strength he pushed the hand off him and then the blackness took him. He felt it blanket over him and he did not know if this was a darkness from which he would awaken.

"Here! Down here! Aragorn!" before Gimli could call again the Man barreled past him, almost knocking the Dwarf over on the slippery rocks. The Elf lay unmoving at the bottom of a gulch that dropped suddenly twenty feet. A dead Orc lay next to him, arm extended toward the Archer, its blackened hand at the Elf's throat. The two bodies lay in a mingled pool of crimson and black. Had they killed each other?

Gimli swallowed as he watched the Ranger slip and slide his way down to the bottom of the rift. If the Elf was dead…

Nay, he could not think it. Gimli, son of Gloin, had grown fond of this particular Elf. The shield of aristocratic aura had worn off quickly enough and the charm of the being had invaded Gimli's stout Dwarfish heart. Nay, he thought again, as he picked his way carefully down the sliding rocks beneath his feet, the Elf was not dead.

The independent Archer was stubborn. Legolas would not leave them…he would not leave Aragorn…not when so much remained to be done, not when the Man needed him. They had not spoken of it, of course. But Gimli had eyes, did he not? Even if they pretended all was proper, the Dwarf knew, and for their sakes he hoped they would not waste too much time getting to it.

The Man had reached the immobile Elf and was turning him over with shaking hands. Gimli ran up to them, as Aragorn frantically bent his ear to the chest to listen for a heart beat.

"Come on, Legolas, come on," the Man whispered urgently.

He looked up at the Dwarf, anguish written on his face, "He's not breathing, I don't hear a heart beat…but the flesh is warm. Help me, Gimli!"

"But …what can be done?" stammered the stunned Dwarf. Legolas…dead? Impossible! This Elf would never abandon his friends…

The Dwarf's thoughts were in a jumble. Aragorn grabbed at his hand and pulled him down to kneel in the red puddle, next to the prone figure. "Here!" cried the Man, taking hold of the Dwarf's wide hands and placing them palm down over the Elf's chest. "Press here, pump the chest to restart his heart…"

Gimli looked at the Man as if he had lost his mind but braced himself on his knees and prepared to do as he was told. Aragorn was a healer. And he loved the Elf. If any could bring him back the Man could. Gimli watched in astonishment as the Ranger inhaled and brought his mouth down over the Elf's fair lips. At the Man's motion Gimli pumped on the spare chest, with a Dwarfish prayer on his lips, willing the heart to resume its work.

Chapter 2

Time floated in and out of his awareness. Finally, he dared to open his eyes, with a silent prayer to not behold the horrid visage of the Orc that still lingered in his mind. His face was wet. Had he been crying? He was in a dimly lit room, in a soft bed with clean sheets. He did not recognize where he was but the sound of snoring drew his eyes to the being asleep in the chair next to the foot of the bed. Gimli's face was half buried in the folds of his beard so that his snores were unusually muffled. Legolas smiled, his nightmare visions temporarily forgotten.

He started, however, in sudden fright at the feel of a hand brushing against the smoothness of his flushed skin.

"Shhhh…its just me," whispered Aragorn. The Man had been sitting silently by his side for two days and the dark circles under his eyes bore evidence of his vigil. A basin of clean water sat on a table nearby, along with a selection of herbs, bottled potions, and the accoutrements of the healer. The Elf's wounds had been cleaned and bound but the fever that had tormented him since they had brought the Elf to Rohan had continued to come and go. Aragorn picked up the cool wet cloth and wiped at the flushed face, as he had done for the past two days, while the Elf thrashed and mumbled incoherently about something burning. Finally the Elf was awake. The Man smiled reassuringly at him as the glassy blue eyed gaze turned on him in confusion. He brushed away the Elf's tears that relentlessly leaked from the entrancing orbs.

Legolas gaped at Aragorn, unable to speak around the tightness in his throat. He had feared he'd never see the Man again…nor any one else, for that matter, but it was the Ranger he most longed for when he feared death was closing in on him. Their journey had fostered an unusual closeness between Man and Elf. Legolas, for his part, felt baffled by the strange interplay of emotions that bounced between them: sometimes like friends, at other times like parent and child, …sometimes… like something else altogether. They anticipated each other unerringly in battle. They often seemed to turn silently to one another without the need for words. The Man frequently confided his fears to him, and Legolas was content to be a silent support. The Man cared for him, that much was obvious, and Legolas did not object except when it manifested in nagging about his independent leanings to take, what the Human would call, unnecessary risks.

Occasionally the Ranger saw fit to touch him in ways of comfort, Legolas thought. It troubled him. For although the Man had been raised by Elves, Legolas doubted Aragorn could guess at the effect those innocent touches could have on an Elf. Now he blushed to have the Man tend to him so intimately. He could feel the heat of the Human as Aragorn bent over him to adjust his pillows. He almost would have preferred the lecture, although he could not say why. Yet, the Man's strong hands were reassuring and comforting to his tired spirit. Legolas sighed to feel them warmly on his flesh, a familiar sensation of excitement starting to build within him.

Aragorn silently shifted to sit on the edge of the bed next to the too pale Archer. His hands traveled gently down the Elf's smooth chest, feeling the binding around the broken ribs in silent assessment. Satisfied, Aragorn moved his hands tenderly up to the Elf's face. He cupped the heated cheeks in both hands and gazed down at the Archer.

Legolas's whole body ached terribly. He knew it had been close. The look on the Man's face told him, in fact, just how close. He shuddered; his mind traveling again to the image of the Orc, leering only inches away. The memory was so vivid he could almost imagine its breath on his face.

The Man's strong hands stroked his skin and hair, bringing him back to the present. Legolas trembled under the gentle touch, and closed his eyes against the sudden vertigo that made the room spin. He felt strangely exposed, vulnerable in a way he had not quite experienced before. He tried to hide behind his closed eyes.

"It's alright, you're safe now," Aragorn whispered reassuringly, sensing the uncharacteristic emotionality of the Elf, and clinically eyeing the poisoned bite at the juncture of the Elf's neck and shoulder, which pulsed with green weeping fluid. That was the cause for the Elf's delirium and fevers, not the broken bones and the wounds sustained from the fall. The Archer's façade of stoic confidence was completely eroded under the onslaught of the infection. When the Elf looked up at him, Aragorn held his breath as he fell into the hypnotically bright blue sapphires that gazed at him trustingly. He realized with sudden humility that he was being granted a rare unobstructed view into the childlike tenderness, which the proud Prince kept carefully hidden behind a cloak of Royal Elvish poise. Aragorn smiled at the unmasked sweetness and, throwing caution to the wind, impulsively bent over him to place a chaste kiss on the Elf's moist brow.

"We almost lost you, Mellon," he said quietly, ignoring the catch in his throat.

Legolas averted his eyes in confusion, touched by the simple gesture and troubled by it just the same. When he looked up at the Man again, his full bottom lip trembled, "I am sorry, Aragorn," he blurted guiltily. "It was my own carelessness," he began, but the Man stroked the flushed lip with his thumb to still its trembling, and hushed the Elf.

"Do not blame yourself, Mellon," the finger lingered on his lips then drifted to the curve of his jaw. "It is sufficient that you are here. Nothing else matters."

Legolas shuddered again, increasingly sensitive to the sensations of the Man's touch yet he enjoyed the lingering warmth it left on his shivering flesh. The Ranger was studying him with that penetrating steel gaze and an odd fear uncoiled itself within the pit of the Elf's gut. He knew he was not himself somehow. What if the Man could see something that should not be there? Legolas was not prone to such insecure thoughts and before he could wonder at it's origins a vision of the nightmare face of the Orc swam before his eyes. "Burn bright…Elf, but he will see if he looks long enough…what you refuse to see…" it's voice grated harshly as if the thing crouched in some hidden corner of the room.

"Legolas what is it?" Aragorn asked as the Elf began to shiver uncontrollably in his arms.

The Elf gasped and against his desire clutched tightly at the Man who now leaned over him in concern. Aragorn observed his reaction worriedly, apparently not having heard the voice at all. Legolas blinked in dismay.

"Nay…nay, nothing…" he mumbled, but Legolas felt his own panting breath betray him. His eyes flew around the room as if to assure himself it had only been his imaginings, as surely it must have.

Aragorn studied the sudden pinpricks of the pupils and the extreme pallor of the face, wondering what feverish musings had provoked the Elf's alarm. He pulled the trembling being into his arms and leaned close to the pointed ear. "It's all right, Mellon Nin, its all right…you have had a fever and the infection still rages in you, but I am here and wont leave you. The herbs I am giving you will throw off this sickness."

The Man pulled away from the Elf's clinging arms to pick up a warm mug of healing tea. Legolas began to relax slightly, knowing he could trust Aragorn. When the voice came again, louder this time in his ears, he nearly jumped from the bed. 'No herbs or medicines can cure this ailment, little Betrayer. You will know the darkness in your heart before this ends.'

"Nay!" yelled the Elf, as he pushed back into the pillows in sudden fright. But the Orc that bent over him only smiled its sinister grin. A dark crooked finger reached out to stroke his fair white skin.

"What? What is it?" said the Dwarf who suddenly came awake from his slumbers.

"He is hallucinating," said the Man, grimly, as he wiped at the thrashing Elf's brow with the cool cloth.

"He's burning up!" said the Dwarf who laid a surprisingly tender hand on the Elf's smooth cheek.

The Orc laughed over Gimli's shoulder. "How touching…you have won the heart of a Dwarf! You are a prize…the Dark Lord will be so pleased to steal such a brilliant heart as yours, little One."

"Nay…I will not…I am not like you!" cried the Elf at the leering thing. He closed his eyes as black blood spouted from the Orc's grimacing mouth.

"Legolas, Mellon, drink this…" said the Ranger. Aragorn was now kneeling on the bed and had lifted the slim body up into his arms so the Elf's head fell back on the Man's shoulder, golden hair like a spill of sunshine against Aragorn's black tunic. The Elf's body was burning in his arms, and the head thrashed on Aragorn's chest.

"Gimli, try to hold him still," said the Man, tightly, as he pressed the cup of herb tea to the Elf's mouth.

"Drink it, Mellon, it will help," whispered Aragorn against the point of an ear. Legolas distantly felt the Man's lips press gently against his ear and linger there. "Come on, Mellon," Aragorn whispered again, growing more worried by this relentless sickness.

"Elf!" Gimli called sternly as he steadied the Archer's motions, "Look at me, Legolas." To his own surprise, the Archer focused his fever bright eyes on the face of the Dwarf. Gimli pressed his advantage, "You are worrying this Man to death, now drink the potion and get better!"

Legolas obediently opened his lips to the cup pressed against them, ignoring for the moment the Orc that 'tsked' unhappily at the meddling Dwarf, and drank down the warm liquid that was poured down his throat. Aragorn flashed a grateful look at Gimli before settling himself more comfortably against the headboard and bringing the Elf up against his chest.

Gimli sighed in relief when the Elf began to relax against the Man and let his eyes slip closed. The Man's stray hand wiped at the damp golden locks that clung to the flushed face.

Legolas could hear the rapid beating of the Man's heart and knew that the Dwarf spoke truly. Aragorn was very worried for him. The Man's arms tightened around him like a bracing shelter against what ever might assail him. "It won't matter, little One," breathed the Orc. Legolas opened his eyes into slits and peered at the disfigured face. "He can't save you…and when you begin to change…" it smiled gruesomely, "he won't want too."

"Go away," he whispered, "you're dead."

"Dead? Do you think the Evil Lord would allow us to simply fade…or to go to the Halls of Mandos?" It leered evilly at him. Legolas shuddered as he peered at the thing from the safety of Aragorn's arms. "When he enthralled us…he enthralled both body and spirit."

“Nay, Little Elf…I have nowhere to go but here…with you, to usher you into darkness…my fate is tied to yours…you cannot fight the black tide."

The Elf burrowed deeper into the nest of the Man's arms with a moan. "I am here, Mellon Nin," whispered the Man against his brow. The Orc glared up at the Human angrily. But Aragorn went on, resolutely, "I need you to get better, Legolas." His voice was almost inaudible but the Elf heard it clearly and the silent plea behind the words washed over him like sweet balm. Legolas nodded tiredly against his chest. The Man's fingers trailed gently over the curves of the Elf's face and Legolas could feel Aragorn rest his cheek on top of the Elf's golden head.

Legolas sighed and hugged himself to the Man tightly, even as the Orc grumbled irritatedly by the foot of the bed. "Humans are fools!" it grated as it ambled around the room, pausing to look with mild interest at the objects on the table. "Always in love with the beauty of the Elves. Wait till he sees what you really are," it said, as it turned to him again. "When this fool sees what you hide deep inside, he'll gladly be rid of you then…and then, my Sweet, you are mine," it leered at him in anticipation.

Legolas moaned as the potent herbs warred with the Orcish poisons in his blood. "Nay, Aragorn won't leave me…" he said back to the thing, in his delirium. The Man's lips brushed the top of his head.

"I am here, my Love," whispered the trembling Human, very quietly against his silken hair. Legolas felt a tiny thrill to hear the forbidden words. Had Aragorn just professed his love?

The thing chortled at him, with a roll of its good eye. It leaned onto the bed, towards him, and gesturing its thumb at the Man, it said, "You don't really believe that, do you? He will probably kill you himself when it happens…you will see…"

Legolas scowled. He did not feel right, that was true, but could this thing be telling the truth? He shifted uncomfortably in the Man's arms and looked down at his own oddly tinted flesh. Why did it look like that? "The light…little One, the light…it burns out…" said the fiend, sitting next to him now. Legolas could smell it's putrid breath on his face. He tried to turn into the sheltering warmth of the Man's chest, but it grabbed his arm and pointed to the dark veins under his skin with glee. "You see! The blackness grows…soon all will see…even this deluded lover of yours!"

Legolas thrashed against the bold hand of the thing that gripped his flesh bruisingly. Aragorn tightened his hold on the delirious Elf. "Legolas, it's alright, I am here…Gimli and I are both here with you," he said urgently. The Man's lips brushed his skin and Aragorn's whisper filled his ear, "I am here, Melethron…I won't leave you…"

"Human love! Phah!" the Orc snorted derisively, as it glared at the Man.

Legolas pulled his arm out of the thing's grasp with a soft cry, and clutched his arm to his chest. Aragorn soothingly stroked the upset Elf, "It is alright, Mellon Nin, you are well." He stroked the Elf's arm reassuringly, noting the black and blue marks there. Aragorn traced them with a finger in curiosity, wondering that he had failed to notice them previously. "It's alright, Legolas, this is not serious."

The Elf buried himself in the Man's arms and with a soft sigh fell into a fitful slumber. Aragorn sighed and looked tiredly at the Dwarf. The unmasked worry in the Man's face made the Dwarf get up resolutely and sit on the bed.

"Aragorn, go get something to eat. He is sleeping now. I will stay with him. Go get some air," said the Dwarf firmly.

Aragorn looked down at the sleeping Elf and finally nodded. He laid the slumbering figure back against the pillows and disentangled himself from the slim arms. When he stood he looked down at the glowing face nestled amidst the spray of golden hair. His hand drifted down to stroke the pale cheek tenderly. He withdrew it, suddenly, as if remembering he was not alone and glanced at the silently observing Dwarf.

"Aragorn," Gimli said, knowingly, "you should tell him how you feel."

The Ranger stared at him for one moment, as if wavering between the impulse to be 'outraged', to blurt out denials of ignorance or to just smile in relief. Perhaps out of exhaustion, he finally chose the latter and clapped a hand on the canny Dwarf's shoulder. "Its not that simple, Master Gimli," he said tiredly, putting on his long coat.

"Oh no?" countered the Dwarf. "It seems very simple to me. Just be honest…everything else will take care of itself."

Aragorn stared at him again and with a nod, slowly left the room, his glance lingering on the sleeping form in the bed before leaving.

"No! No!"

Gimli approached the bed and sat down worriedly next to the delirious Elf. He laid a gentle hand on the Elf's hot brow. "Legolas, it is going to be alright…Aragorn brought you back from the dead and now he will heal you. He needs you, Elf. You must get well."

Legolas heard the Dwarf's voice as from a great distance. He finally dragged his heavy lids open and saw the floating face of the Dwarf fill his vision. He tried to smile reassuringly but his eyes widened in sudden alarm when he saw a dark figure loom menacingly behind the Dwarf. Looking very corporeal, the Orc heaved a large vase at Gimli's head. The Dwarf just had time to turn around before the blow fell and the Dwarf collapsed heavily over the Elf.

"Now, Elf. It's just you and me…as it should be." The thing pulled the Dwarf's hulking form off the prone Archer and leaned forward with a sneer. "After all…we're family."

Chapter 3

Legolas tried to scream but the thing grabbed him roughly and pulled him out of the bed, sending the Elf sprawling across the floor. It fell on him then, teeth gnashing, and lips and tongue assaulting his exposed flesh. They struggled on the floor, overturning the table with the glass bottles and basin of water in the process. It all came down with a crash as they fought on the ground.

The things strong fingers grabbed him cruelly, ripping at his clothing and tearing at his flesh. "You are sweet," it breathed, as it grabbed at him. It dragged it's mouth across the struggling Elf's exposed chest and ripped slashes into the Elf's sides with its long nails. Legolas thrashed helplessly and reached his hand out across the floor, groping frantically in search of something to clutch on to. His fingers closed on a long shard of broken glass. He thrust it up into the Orc with all his strength and it came off him with a surprised squeal.

It jumped to its feet, and looked down at the pulsing of black blood that issued from the wound Legolas had inflicted. When it looked at him again it smiled. "You can not kill me, you know. I am already dead…but I can kill you. Or…" The thing's smile turned even more malicious, if that could be possible, as it circled around him. "Or …I could kill your Human. That might be worth the pain of having to be stuck between realms, bound to your corporeal existence…Of course, tormenting you does give me pleasure…" Legolas gaped at the thing as it drifted through the opened door. He sprang from the floor and bolted after it, catching wisps of movement here and there as it rounded corners and climbed stairs.

"Nay!" he called after it frantically. "You can not hurt Aragorn, not if you are a figment of my mind…you aren't real! Or …or even if you are a spirit," he panted, uncertainty in his voice, as he followed it up another flight of stone stairs. The thing stopped on the high wall overlooking the dizzying courtyard far below. It smiled at him, knowingly. Legolas continued, more slowly, clutching his painful side. He stood to face it, "Even if you are a spirit…you can 't hurt Aragorn…"

"Ah, but I hurt the Dwarf, didn't I?" asked the Orc with a taunting grin. "Or...did you hurt him?"

Legolas stopped and gaped at the thing, his head swooning from the long climb and from the fever, which burned his face and body. "I? I did not…" but he stopped, confusion welling to the surface of his mind.

"Didn't you?" asked the Orc that stepped towards him now, slowly, menacingly. It placed a caressing black hand on the white flesh of the Elf's shoulder and slowly ran a greasy finger over the bite wound and down the length of the slender muscled arm.

"Nay…I would not," began the Elf. Legolas stopped and gaped at the blackened thing in growing horror. Had he done it? The fingers of the Orc traveled across his chest lazily, pausing to brush over a peaked nipple.

"Oh, but you would…" it crooned softly, "You would do anything the lusting darkness would bid you to do…the light burns out, Little One, …your light is almost gone." The Orc gestured to Legolas's arm.

The Elf paused and looked at the green flesh, at the blackened skin of his fingertips and gasped in horror. His long shard of glass was still clutched tightly in his hand and bright Elven blood poured from his sealed fist as it cut into his flesh. Crimson drops rolled down his wrist but as he looked closely, he could see it was mingled with something else.

He watched in disgust as the thick black liquid oozed out of his wounds and rolled down his arm. He slowly raised the glass shard and sliced experimentally at the skin of his other arm. There it peaked red, then slowly seeped out thick like oil, black and stagnant…no light remained within his veins.

"Nay!" he moaned as he sank to his knees. He hacked at his arm again but the same process occurred. "nay…"

"End it," breathed the Orc into his ear. "End it. End it…before you kill Aragorn…"

Legolas looked into the reddened eyes and saw a strange camaraderie there…a look of compassion and of understanding. He nodded, tears forming in his own changing orbs. He could feel it now, the Orc blood in his veins. He had to kill himself…before it was too late. The Orc slipped a consoling arm around his shoulders and nodded in encouragement as he guided the blade to the blackened artery in his arm.

"Legolas!" Aragorn burst through the open archway from the stairs and froze. The wind whipped the folds of his coat about him and the setting sun turned the sky a silver gray. In the glow of dusk, the Elf seemed a pale vision of dreams. His silver hair draped like liquid starlight about his white shoulders. The Elf was covered in blood and was staring at the shard of glass clutched in his hand, as he hacked at his own flesh.

The Man walked out onto the parapet slowly, cautiously, for the Elf was kneeling with his back against the stone railing that dropped down over the courtyard below. One false move and the Elf could fling him self over the edge to certain death.

"Legolas?" Aragorn approached the delusional being quietly. The Elf seemed not to be totally aware of his presence. Gimli had told him of the apparent visual hallucinations the Elf was having. It was what had distracted the Dwarf sufficiently for the Archer to clobber him with a vase.

The Elf seemed to be listening to something only he could hear, for he nodded occasionally as tears rolled down the sculpted cheekbones of the sweet oval face. Aragorn raised his voice slightly and called to him again, "Mellon, listen to me…not to …to that. I am here Legolas. Listen only to my voice." He held out his hand palm open to the Elf in encouragement as he took a step closer.

The Elf finally looked up at him, and sprang to his feet with a gasp, "Stay away, Aragorn! Stay away…I don't want to hurt you, please!" The Elf backed up a few feet, closer to the stone wall.

Aragorn froze and put a hand up beseechingly, "Alright!…Alright, Legolas, just …don't move. Talk to me, Mellon. What is it…what is talking to you?"

Legolas looked askance at the Orc who now glowered at the Man. "Interfering Human!" it grumbled, "Kill him. Be done with it and then you will have peace."

"Nay!" cried the trembling Elf, as he clutched the sides of his head in pain. "Leave me alone…you are dead, you are dead…go away!"

Aragorn stepped closer to the hysterical Elf.

"Tell the Human to come no closer or I will kill him!" snarled the Orc, in rage. Why did this meddlesome Man have to interfere when things were going so well?

"NO!" yelled Legolas again, backing up as he did so. Aragorn froze. He raised his hand beseechingly to the Elf. Sweat sprang to the Man's brow as he focused on the disoriented Archer, who stood on the very edge of the landing.

"Legolas…please listen to me, Mellon, listen only to me. I wont hurt you. You have to trust me, …trust me Legolas…" said Aragorn, as he slowly drifted closer by another foot. He was only a few feet away but the Elf had pressed himself up against the stone balustrade. If he jumped the Man might not reach him in time.

Legolas paused and looked at the Man. Aragorn nodded reassuringly as he saw the glimmer of recognition in the impossibly dilated azure eyes. The madness that swam in and out of the blue depths was perhaps the most unnerving sight Aragorn had ever witnessed. He took another tiny step closer to the Elf.

Legolas shuddered violently, as another spasm shook him from within. When his eyes opened again he gasped in horror to behold his own blackened flesh. His entire arm was now like the Orc hide.

Aragorn watched helplessly as tears skated down the Elf's face as the Archer looked down himself.

"I am here Legolas," he whispered, blinking the tears from his own eyes. He took another tiny step closer.

Legolas did not hear him. His eyes were riveted to the evidence on his own flesh. The Orc leaned over his shoulder. "It is no use, Elf. I tried to fight it too… Soon you will be Orc. It is in your nature. There is only one way to assure the Human is safe…you know what you have to do, little One. We all have to do it…sacrifice for those we love…" The Orc looked at him now, eyes rimming with tears of sadness at their lot.

Legolas starred at the Orc and nodded sadly with understanding as he brought the sharp glass point up to the front of his own throat. "I know what I have to do …the light that burned bright burns no more…"

The Orc smiled in understanding, "The light that burned bright burns no more."

"NO! Legolas…Legolas, listen to me!" shouted the Man in alarm.

The Elf's eyes fell on him but only madness flashed in them now. He spoke to the Man with tears in his voice, "I am tainted, Aragorn, I know you can see it…I must do this, for you…to keep you safe."

"Wait!" yelled the Man as the Elf began to press the sharp glass to his throat. The Orc leered and leaned in close to the Elf as the point pricked soft Elvan flesh.

Aragorn leapt at the Elf, the glass sharp flew from the Elf's hand over the wall. The Elf regained his momentum with surprising speed and in a powerful jump hurled himself over the edge. His body jerked as Aragorn's strong fingers clamped around his wrist and snapped him back with a cry. He dangled like a rag doll as the Man clutched at his pale slim arm.

"Legolas!" screamed Aragorn. The Elf looked up at the Man's frantic face as if coming out of fog. He was momentarily stunned as awareness seeped through the fevered haze in his mind. Then his eyes misted over as he looked at the Orc that leaned over the wall next to the Man. It was snarling at him.

"Cursed Human, let the Elf fall!" it screeched in anger.

"Aragorn…" Legolas managed to make some contact with reality.

"Give me your other hand, Mellon," said the Ranger, tightly, as he slowly hauled the Elf up to safety. He clutched onto the Archer's two hands and pulled him up, over the edge, so that they both fell onto the hard stony floor.

Legolas was panting, as the Orc raged in fury over them both. Aragorn leaned over the Archer then, blocking his view of the tormenting shade, "Legolas…Look at me," he breathed. The Man took hold of his face with both hands and looked deeply into the Elf's sapphire eyes. "I told you I am here, and I am not going to go away…not now, not ever."

Legolas looked up at the Man, stunned, as Aragorn leaned over him and pressed his mouth to the Elf's lips. Legolas was too shocked at first to react, then slowly, he opened his mouth to receive the questing tongue that found its way into the hot depths. The Man moaned into the kiss, and brought his arms up around the Archer's slim frame.

The Orc sputtered in fury and hurled curses at them. Legolas broke the kiss and stared up into the Man's face. He shook his head, speechless, for the moment. Then the Orc's tirade broke through his stunned reverie. He glanced over the Man's shoulder at it.

"Legolas," Aragorn had taken his chin and firmly held him in place. Legolas looked into the Man's penetrating steel gaze. "What do you see?"

Tears welled up in the Elf's eyes, but the Man would not let him look at his tormentor. "It's him, Aragorn. The Orc. I killed him…but, he is here…he is linked to me…he was an Elf once, and I killed him!" Guilt burst forth in the Elf's sudden flood of tears. "I did it! I betrayed him!"

The Elf sobbed brokenly now, as the Man embraced him. When the Elf looked at the Ranger again, he sobbed, "His darkness is in me, Aragorn! You should kill me…before its too late, before I turn…"

"Mellon, it is an hallucination. There is no Orc. You are not turning." Before the Man could continue the Elf grabbed him urgently.

"Nay, Aragorn, look! Look at my arm…the light …its gone!" sobbed the Archer, hysterically.

The Ranger took the Elf's arm and examined it closely. He looked at the Elf, and gripped his face again firmly between his two warm hands, forcing the distraught being to look at him. "Listen to me, Mellon. Have I ever lied to you?" he asked firmly.

The Archer shook his head distantly, still preoccupied by the leering Orc, that watched from over the Man's shoulder quietly.

"You are not becoming an Orc. Do you hear me, Meleth? …If you were," asked Aragorn, " would I be doing this?"

Legolas gasped as the Man's hand traveled down his chest, tweaking his nipples, as the Ranger took his mouth again in a searing kiss. The Elf moaned in wonder as the Man's tongue plundered his mouth greedily. The hands traveled down his body until they came to the bulge in his leggings. The Orc moved agitatedly to and fro but made no sound as it watched.

"Ah, Legolas…" breathed the Man in excitement. "You are so beautiful, my Sweet Elf. Do you think I would want to taste you, to love you, if you were not your self?"

The Orc drifted further away. His form becoming diaphanous in the twilight haze.

Legolas felt constrained to reply but the Man's mouth was on his again. He moaned in increasing waves of desire, as the knowing hands stroked him, enflaming him. The Man's mouth nibbled at his ear as the hands freed his engorged organ. "Ah!," cried the Elf in pleasure, as the Man's hands played over his flesh.

"I have wanted you for so long," whispered the Man, ecstatically into the tip of upswept ear, finally surrendering to his deepest desire. His fingers gripped the Elf's sheath causing the Archer to buck beneath him.

"Oh, Aragorn," gasped the Elf, "I didn't know…but, what about…?"

The Man's mouth cut him off. When Aragorn's lips came off him, the Man whispered, "I want you, Legolas…will you have me? I want you to be mine." The Man's fingers continued to play on him, bringing him almost to the peak of pleasure. His other hand traveled down the feline curve of the Elf's waist to cup the mound of one buttock. A finger probed between his cheeks at the soft pucker of flesh.

Legolas's mind spun as the glorious light welled up within him and joy flooded his aching heart, but there was no sign of his tormentor. There was only the Human, who clasped him firmly in an amorous embrace. Legolas wanted to tell the Man how much he desired him, how much he loved him, but the probing finger slipped into the warm channel and the Elf bucked uncontrollably at the intrusion. Aragorn's mouth traveled down to suckle on a nipple as the finger pushed further into him, dragging across the sensitive bundle of nerves.

Aragorn moaned to feel the slender being in his arms at last. He lapped hungrily at the silken flesh, as he prepared his lover's channel to receive him. He inserted a second finger past the ring of muscle and the Elf groaned loudly. Aragorn pushed up into the tight space as the Elf ground down.

Unable to wait longer, the Man pulled his fingers free and sat up to loosen his own clothing, throwing off his long coat. He freed his stiff cock and pulled the Elf's bottom onto his lap. Legolas gasped, eyes drifting to the fading shade now several feet away. The Orc had no expression on his face…but a glimmer there seemed to shine through the darkness…a glowing strand like a thousand burning suns…

Legolas wondered at it, then his attention was brought sharply back to his lover, as Aragorn pushed the head of his penis into the Elf's hot channel. Legolas bit his lower lip at the momentary pain, then the thick shaft was filling him. He groaned in ecstasy as it pushed into him, completing him. Aragorn steadied his movements, waiting for the Elf to breathe again. "Are you ready, my Love?" panted the Human.

Legolas nodded, and the Man began to move. The thick Human cock dragged over his prostate and Legolas moaned loudly, as Aragorn pulled out almost to the tip then pushed back in again. His thrusts were maddeningly slow and then with a shuddering moan, the Human pulled the Elf higher and plunged into the soft pliant body. Aragorn groaned in abandon. His rhythm turned to hard rapid thrusts as he plunged into the writhing beauty beneath him.

Legolas's moans slowly became a high-pitched hum as the Human griped him, riding him hard. Legolas grasped the Man's shoulders and pulled himself to sit up as the Human took him. The Elf finally screamed, the tide of climax breaking over them both. Aragorn clutched the sweating golden body to him as he came with a grunt into the spasming channel of his lover.

Chests pressed together, they both heaved in exhaustion. Legolas let his head drop on the Man's sweaty shoulder, relishing the feel of Aragorn's strong muscled arms wrap tightly around his spare frame. He loved his protective Ranger. Tiredly, the Elf raised his head to brush a kiss across the Man's mouth. The Man pulled his coat off the ground and draped it over the Elf.

Aragorn's hands gripped him tightly, as the Man pressed his mouth against the Elf's bruised petal soft lips. When he broke the kiss, Aragorn looked into the blue shining orbs. "I love you," he told the Archer.

Legolas swallowed past the tightness in his throat and touched the Man's face in wonder. "Are …are you sure?" he asked, glancing down at himself fearfully. But his skin was silken white and unblemished. He was bathed in the light of a warm Elven glow.

"I am sure," said the Ranger. "I love you, Legolas. I want you to be mine, always."

The steel eyes bore into him and Legolas could not help but smile. He was in the arms of the Man he loved. Aragorn kissed him again and let his lips travel to the Elf's brow. "You are no longer hot, Mellon," he whispered. "I think the fever is finally over."

Legolas's Elf eyes traveled to the corner where the Orc had been standing. In the twilight, a strand of light winked at him in the darkness… burning bright. He smiled and nestled his head on the Man's shoulder.

"Yes," he sighed. "It's finally gone."




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