Okay, this has got to be the only story where the summary made me absolutely Laugh Out Loud! Too clever, indeed!
“What are you looking at, Man?”
The Ranger’s slow smile reconfigured the rough topography of his weathered face. “I am looking at you, your highness,” he said mildly.
“Turn your eyes elsewhere,” the Elf commanded.
Turning his back, the Ranger continued to remove his grimy garments, disregarding the obviously offended Wood-Elf.
“What are you doing, Man?” the Prince asked in surprise.
“Can your Elven eyes not discern that I am disrobing?”
“Easily, but why are you removing your clothing?”
“I have been many days on the trail, Prince Legolas,” the Ranger replied. “I am weary, all of my joints ache, and I am filthy. A soak and a scrub are in order ere I appear before Lord Elrond. You do not disagree, surely?”
“Of course not,” the Prince exclaimed. “I would say a bath was long overdue.”
“I thought you might. So you will not mind sharing, will you?”
The Prince was about to tell this reeking tramp that he did mind very much indeed when the stranger peeled down his leggings and bent to pull them off. The Wood-Elf’s cobalt eyes widened at the sight of the prime piece of Man-flesh. This Ranger had the finest backside the Prince had ever seen. Deciding the view might be worth the bother, the Elf relented.
“The baths are for everyone,” Legolas said neutrally.
“Even filthy humans?” the Man teased.
The Prince raised his chin slightly in an unconsciously arrogant mannerism and the Ranger hid a smile. When the Peredhil had described the royal visitor and the prankish bet they’d made, the Man had been dismissive, disapproving even; suddenly he was determined. He would win the prize and go back to boast to Elladan and Elrohir that their little brother had bested them.
Easing into the water of the hot spring, the Man immersed his entire body. Surfacing, he sleeked the wet hair back from his face, and leaned on his elbows on the rocky rim of the pool. As casually as he could manage, the Ranger cast his eyes over the Prince.
“So you are Legolas Thranduilion of Mirkwood,” the Man said. “Rumors of your beauty do it scant justice.”
A bloom of rose stained the Elf’s lofty cheekbones. “I find it awkward accepting that sort of compliment for I had no hand in how I look. That was the doing of my parents.”
“I was not complimenting you, your highness,” the Man said. “I was but stating a fact. In my experience, beauty of the magnitude of yours, or Arwen’s, for example, could never be adequately represented in words or paint. It must be seen to truly be appreciated.”
Legolas shied back as the Man’s hand came toward him. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“It is also my contention that true beauty draws the hand as well as the eye,” the Ranger said. “My wish to touch you may surely be forgiven.”
“You may not touch me,” the Elf said firmly.
“What do you fear will happen if I touch you?”
“Fear! I do not fear you,” Legolas said.
“Of course not,” the Man’s tone was most unconvincing.
“What would be the purpose of touching me?” the Prince got back to the point.
“I would know if your skin feels like the satin it so closely resembles.”
The pink deepened in the Prince’s cheeks. “Why do you continue to flatter me?” he asked.
“Have I not answered that question? I am only stating facts; surely, that is allowed.”
Legolas’s eyes narrowed slightly. He could find nothing overtly untoward in the Man’s manner, but something about the handsome Ranger made the Prince edgy.
“Perhaps I should go and leave you to your bath,” the Elf said.
The Man caught at the Prince’s wrist as Legolas started to climb from the water.
“Please, do not go, Your Highness,” he said. “I am Aragorn, Lord Elrond’s foster-son, and I will cease annoying you. Indeed, I will be quiet as frost.”
Legolas sank back into the herb-strewn water. “Release my arm,” he said after a moment.
“I cannot,” Aragorn smiled.
“Do not be ridiculous,” the Elf said. “Let go of my wrist.”
“Truly, I am attempting that very thing,” the Man protested innocently. “It is a marvel to me as well, but my flesh is drawn to yours as iron to a lodestone.”
Legolas yanked his arm backward. Aragorn did not resist and was pulled hard against the Elf’s chest. With his free hand, Aragorn gripped the edge of the rock beside the Prince’s smooth shoulder. Face to face, almost nose-to-nose in the chest-deep pool, Man and Elf regarded one another.
Slowly, Aragorn released the slender wrist and ran his hand up the Prince’s arm. Legolas did not move a muscle as the callused palm grazed his shoulder and slid under his steam-damp hair. With the patience of a hunter in a blind, Aragorn leaned forward until the Elf could feel warm breath on the side of his neck. Legolas put a hand against the Man’s pelted chest and easily pushed him away. The Prince looked curiously at the Ranger. Mirkwood’s Prince had not met a human face-to-face in his all his long life and he was finding it exhilarating and exasperating by turns.
“Do you wish to kiss me?” the Prince asked for clarification.
“Who would not? However, I am surprised you grant me the honor.”
“I am not asking you to kiss me. I am asking if you wish to kiss me.”
Aragorn raised his eyebrows. “What is the difference?”
“There is a great deal of difference.”
“Then let me be plain. I wish to kiss you.”
“I have never kissed a Man.”
Aragorn blinked. “But an Elf, surely.”
“Not the sort of kissing that is a prelude to joining.”
The Ranger felt a bit guilty. The conversation had taken the turns he wished when he had sighted the lovely scion of Oropher in the pool. However, Aragorn had assumed that someone of Legolas’s beauty and rank would be more experienced. The twins’ wager felt very unseemly now and the Man was on the verge of calling it off.
“Have I misspoken?” the Prince asked when Aragorn did not speak right away. “I do not wish to give offense. This is the farthest I have traveled and I know customs differ.”
“Offense?” Aragorn almost choked. “Nay, Your Highness. I was… taken aback somewhat by your frankness, but I thank you for the compliment of speaking to me so candidly.”
Legolas’s charming frown creased his forehead again. “How else would I speak?” he asked.
Aragorn’s slow smile returned. The bet with his foster-brothers was forgotten. The Man wanted to kiss the Elf for reasons that were entirely his own.
“You might speak without words,” Aragorn suggested, his heart beating faster at the Elf’s look of curiosity. “May I show you?”
Legolas was not completely naïve. The Elf knew the Man was teasing, but this mortal fascinated him now. With a fluttering in his stomach, the Prince regally nodded permission.
“Then I will tell you how beautiful you are,” Aragorn said.
Legolas held his ground as the Man leaned closer. Aragorn mapped the flawless features with his fingertips, delicately delineating the Elf’s forehead, eyelids, lips and the tip of the adorable nose. As the Ranger gently tucked stray tresses back, his hands grazed the pointed ears. Legolas grasped the Man’s wrists, and pulled his hands firmly away.
“You are very eloquent,” the Prince said with a hint of humor in his voice. “Shall I tell you what I find attractive about you?”
Aragorn nodded, closing his eyes as the Elf’s cool fingers framed his face. Legolas’s thumbs rubbed gently, testing the texture of mortal flesh over the prominent cheekbones. He ran his fingers through the Man’s shaggy hair and ruffled the close-cropped whiskers on the strong chin. Delicately, the Prince traced the lines of the Man’s mouth with fingertips.
Aragorn shivered as the Sindar’s gentle touch awoke something within him. The Elf had neatly, if unintentionally, turned the tables. Now it was the Man that was off-balance and blushing. Regaining some of his aplomb, Aragorn forged ahead with the innate self-confidence that made him a natural leader.
Asking permission with his eyes, the Ranger took the Prince in a warm embrace. Legolas’s eyelids drew down as Aragorn touched his mouth to the Elf’s. The petal-silk lips parted softly, and the Man knew he had never felt true desire before. Though Aragorn had wooed and been wooed by Elves, both male and female, Men and Women, none of these previous amorous encounters had sparked such a flame at his core. Simply by giving the Ranger his mouth, the Wood-Elf had very nearly caused the Man to swoon. With dawning wonder in his eyes, Aragorn drew back.
The Man saw the same awe in the Elf’s fathomless eyes. The Prince felt it too. This was not the simple heat of two healthy young bodies obeying the urge to couple. This was the ember at the heart of a nascent wildfire. Both Elf and Man felt the fire yearning to blaze out of control until it consumed them utterly.
“I must dress for dinner,” Legolas said abruptly, breaking the spell.
“Dinner?” Aragorn repeated. “Ah yes, dinner. You are right. I should finish my bath.”
The Prince got gracefully out of the pool, giving Aragorn the briefest glimpse of the most perfect body ever formed before it was veiled in green silk. Before he vanished, Legolas looked back over his shoulder at the handsome Man that stirred him so.
“Will you be attending the Council of Elrond tomorrow?” the Elf asked.
Aragorn nodded, smiling at this sign of interest. “I will be there,” he promised.
Legolas continued on to Elrond’s guesthouse where the twins intercepted him. Inquiring after the comfort of the Prince of Mirkwood, the Twain learned that their mortal brother had once again managed to come out ahead of them. With good grace, Elladan and Elrohir filled the Wood-Elf’s head with stories of Estel that was also Aragorn, Chief of the Dunedain, Isildur’s Heir and Heir to the throne of Gondor.
That night the Prince of Mirkwood and the Heir of Isildur slept well on soft beds in Rivendell and their dreams rose up and met and mingled, becoming one dream entwined, as were their souls. The next day, they attended the Council of Elrond and their lives, along with the lives of all the folk of Middle-Earth, were changed forever.