Email: Aislynn.Crowdaughter AT gemx.net
When the snow first started falling, a few days ago, Legolas had been laughing. It was somewhat early in the year for snow, but then again, not completely unknown. And they were accordingly clothed and well supplied, after all. When they had broken camp this morning and found themselves surrounded by a world clad in white, Legolas had been delighted. He had even teased his companion by running around the man in circles on the smooth surface, mocking him merrily about his snail-like progress in the white depths. It had earned him some well-aimed, frosty missiles to his head and much good-natured grumbling, which finally escalated in an all-out snow-fight and a lot of laughter.
That was before Legolas danced too close to an edge at the side of their path, though. The snow below his feet gave way and he fell into a narrow, deep ravine that had been nearly hidden under the deep snow. He managed to grab a slender beech sapling a few feet down; and then, he dangled over a deep chasm. Many yards below, he could see the icy surface of some frozen water. The ravine was narrow, and normally he could have climbed up the rock easily; but the stone was slippery, covered with ice, and he could find no hold on it. And the sapling that supported him was too far down for Aragorn to reach him.
Unfortunately, they hadn't any rope.
Aragorn had turned pale with fear. Still, he did not hesitate. He shrugged out of his warm, furry overcoat and lay down at the edge, dangling the coat down to his friend. It was barely long enough, but finally, Legolas managed to grab it and wind it around his arm.
Using the coat as rope, Aragorn slowly hauled his friend up to the edge.
They had nearly made it, and Aragorn sighed with relief, when the overstretched material suddenly tore apart, and Legolas fell back again. This time, though, Aragorn managed to grab his hand and haul him up. For a few, terrifying moments, it seemed that Aragorn would lose his hold, too, but then, he found a tree-trunk under the snow that stopped his slide, and pulled his friend up again. Finally, the lay beside each other in the snow, breathless, shivering, but safely on solid ground again.
But the remains of the coat slipped over the edge fell down, coming to an halt only far below on the frozen surface of the ground; impossible for the friends to reach or to retrieve.
Still, after the first shock, their relief broke through and bubbled up in laughter. They were giddy, trading mock-insults and teasing each other about 'elven clumsiness' and 'shaggy ranger coats', when they continued on their way.
That had been in the morning, shortly after they had started on their path, and even then, Legolas had been laughing.
He wasn't laughing now.
During the day, the temperature had been rapidly falling, and then the storm had overtaken them in earnest. Now, they were caught in the midst of the tempest, with snow whirling around them like a wall, limiting their vision to a mere few paces, and the icy wind was biting at them and blowing in their face at every step, making progress hard even for the Elf.
At least, Legolas could still walk on the surface of the snow. His comrade was not so lucky. The man had to fight for every step, and the wall of whiteness he was struggling through was now hip-deep. And Legolas noticed with concern that during the last couple hours, the Ranger had been becoming steadily slower. The young Adan had been stubbornly trudging on, and had not complained, but he had been huddling deeper and deeper in his thin spare coat, and Legolas had not seen him checking their surroundings or even caring where they went for hours now. Aragorn had simply followed wherever the Elf had led.
Legolas was not sure he had not let them in circles.
He knew that they needed urgently to find some shelter, be it merely a place that would break the wind and allow them somehow to weather out the storm. As strong and sturdy as he knew Aragorn to be, he doubted the Ranger could hold out much longer.
And although in the swirling whiteness it was hard to tell, he also knew the day was waning. Night was approaching fast.
They needed to find a place where they could spend the night.
However, there was no shelter to be found.
They were in the midst of this forsaken vale of the Anduin, on the western bank, several days away from the wood Legolas called home, not to mention the great River barring their way in that direction; there had not even been a copse of trees around them for miles, when they had still been capable of seeing that far, nothing to at least keep off the worst of the wind. And the little human settlement they were heading for, on the slopes of the Misty Mountains, was at least another day's worth of traveling away.
They were indeed caught in the middle of nowhere, and to make things worse, Legolas was well aware that they were now completely lost. He had lost any sense of direction hours ago.
He paused a moment to get his bearings, then he looked over his shoulder to the man.
He drew in a sharp breath.
Aragorn was gone! He could not see him, anymore. He had been steadily walking ahead, trusting his friend to follow in his tracks as he had done for hours; but apparently, at some point, the mortal must have stopped or lost his way. For whatever reason, Aragorn was no longer behind him.
Greatly chiding himself, Legolas spun around an ran back on the path he had come. He felt cold fear well up in him, and soon he was nearly frantic.
Please, Elbereth, no!...
He did not need to go back very far. After just some twenty paces, he saw a dark shape ahead of him, and when he came close the shape revealed itself to be his Ranger.
Aragorn was standing in the snow, head bowed, and staring at the ground. He was not moving.
Legolas was there in an instant. He knelt down beside the Ranger, grabbing his shoulders, shaking him harshly.
"Aragorn! What are you doing, mellonamin? You cannot rest now!"--
To his alarm, the Ranger was slow to raise his head.
"Legolas," the man mumbled, "'s'right, 'm merely resting..."
Cold fear grabbed at Legolas heart. The man wasn't responding! Not as he should have, anyway.
"Aragorn, we cannot rest! You must move on! Come on, mellon, you cannot stay here!--"
"Just a moment," Aragorn mumbled. "'Ts 'warm..."
Legolas felt panic grip him. No! This could not be happening!
As a people who were less affected by the cold than men, it was rare for Elves to suffer from exposure or from hypothermia; but still, it happened. And Legolas had seen the responses of comrades so affected before. Worse, he had been among some of the patrols in their woods who found similar affected travelers or woodmen, close to death or dying, if those mortals had been foolish enough to lose their way in freezing weather.
He knew the symptoms.
If he would not get Aragorn out of the cold, and very soon, the man would die.
Legolas knew one thing for sure: He could not let this happen! Not if he had any means to fight it.
Frantic now, the Elf rose again and looked around, sending a prayer to the powers of the west.
'Elbereth, Lady of the Stars, please hear me! Help me now! Take my life, if need be, but please, spare his! Give me the means to save him! Please, Lady, it cannot end like this!'
He needed to find shelter! Any shelter, no matter what kind, but he needed to find it, and to find it now!
Nothing. All he could see was a wall of swirling snow; and dark, barely visible forms among the bouts of whirling whiteness.
Looking harder, Legolas thought he could make out some outline of a darker form ahead in one direction. It was big, and unmoving, and hard to make out clearly; but if he was lucky, the form might mark some boulders, or perhaps a line of trees.
Legolas turned back to Aragorn
"Come on, mellon! It is only a short way, some steps ahead! Come on, there we can rest for the night!" he coaxed.
How far the place was ahead, he had no idea; but he had to get Aragorn there, fast, and he had to get him moving.
Except the Ranger wasn't moving. He merely nodded his head and mumbled: "'kay." But he stayed in his place and did not start to trudge on again.
Legolas cursed. He gave up on his attempt to coax Aragorn into any action. Instead, he jumped down into the Ranger's tracks and grabbed him. Cursing, he heaved the man up and tried to place him on his own back.
It was no use. Aragorn struggled, if but feebly. "'can walk," he mumbled, but when Legolas set him down again, he made just a few steps, far too weak and too slow. He must have been further gone already than Legolas had feared.
This was not working! Frustrated, the Elf gave up on his plan to carry the Ranger. For a moment, cold despair closed over his mind.
Then it was replaced with grim determination.
No! He would not let the Ranger die! There had to be a way...
He stepped on the smooth surface of the snow again. Then he quickly slipped off and unpacked his bedroll and spread his blanket out on the white surface. Next, he coaxed the Adan into lying down on the blanket, making sure that Aragorn's own coat was spread over him. As he had hoped, the blanket somewhat spread the weight of the man, and the snow was dense enough to keep the weight. Aragorn's body sank down a bit, but not as deeply as he would have without the blanket.
Legolas stooped and grabbed the blanket, Then he began to pull.
It was hard work, and it was awkward, and all too soon he was bathed in sweat and his own clothes became damp and very uncomfortable; but he made due progress. Whenever he made a short stop to turn around, the dark shape was closer and grew in height; after maybe an quarter of an hour, it turned out to be the tree-line of a copse, as he had hoped, heavily clad in snow, but still dense enough to provide some protection from the worst of the icy wind. He continued to drag his precious cargo until they had made it between the trees. Then, he rose again to catch his breath.
The copse was small, but it had grown around some big boulders, which broke the wind even further. There was some ledge under which Legolas could spy some dry ground. And even better: when he had dragged the blanket with his fallen comrade there, he saw under the ledge the dark mouth of a cave.
Sending another prayer to Elbereth, this time with his thanks, Legolas knelt and swept the Ranger up in his arms. This time, Aragorn did not protest. In fact, he was hardly responding anymore.
Legolas knew he had to be fast.
__________ o ___________
The cave was small, dry and unoccupied. It consisted of a narrow opening between two boulders, as high as a man was tall, and half as wide; the opening led into a broader cave that then narrowed into a short tunnel; and at the end of that tunnel was a mouth which led into a broader, better protected grotto. The ground in that grotto was dry, and made up of earth. Apparently, the cave was known to mortals in these parts and had been used as a shelter before, because there were some dry leaves on the ground and at one side rested a small pile of dry wood.
Sending his thanks to the Lady of the Stars, Legolas gently lowered his comrade to the ground and set himself to work. He spread his coat out to place Aragorn on top of it. Then he quickly unpacked the bedroll of the Ranger and carefully wrapped it around his friend. Only then did he go to start a fire. Finally, he had a small fire burning. He used his own, wet blanket to block the entrance as best as he could and returned to his stricken companion. Carefully settling beside Aragorn under the blanket, he gently took the young Adan in his arms and settled him against his own torso.
"Aragorn, we are safe. You must awaken. Please, mellon, come back! Come back to me!"
No response. Aragorn's lips were blue, his breathing low. Legolas felt for his pulse; it was there, but it seemed much slower than it should. The body shivered, but only slightly.
Aragorn's clothes were damp and nearly drenched from the coating of ice and snow on them. Legolas doubted that they would do much to keep him warm.
Making a quick decision, Legolas began peeling the Ranger carefully out of his clothes. He worked quickly; Aragorn could not afford to lose more warmth. But now it was time to take some desperate measures.
Finally done, he quickly shed his own clothes, too, and took Aragorn back in his arms again, wrapping the blanket around the two them. Carefully rubbing the muscled body settled against his torso, he reached into himself and willingly raised the heat of his own body, in hopes to give some of it to Aragorn.
The skin of the man was far too cool under his touch; not as hot as on those occasions in the past when he had touched the Adan during one of their sparring matches or on some occasions in the bath. And the body in his arms was far too still, although Aragorn was still slightly shivering. His back was fully nestled against Legolas' chest. Legolas was well aware of the intimacy. He had dreamed about being allowed to touch the friend like this, to be with him this close, had imagined them spending the night together, sharing warmth and maybe more... all the time carefully and guiltily hiding his desires from his friend. He had feared what Aragorn would say, how the young Adan would react, if he learned of Legolas' desire. But whatever Legolas had imagined of such a situation, he had certainly not imagined it this way. He was all too aware of the danger, and he feared for the stricken Adan's life.
But oh, even cold and unconscious as he was now, Aragorn was beautiful! The strong and well-formed muscles under his fingers; the unfamiliar, scrubby hair, spreading on the chest and lower, to the groin; and there, between the Adan's legs, if he would just allow his hand to wander any lower, he would surely find...
Legolas gasped and swallowed. Angrily, he banished all such thoughts and returned to carefully rubbing the too-cool skin for warmth.
Aragorn's heart was given, after all, to the Lady Arwen. He was the chieftain of the Dunedain, the last one of that house in direct line. He would have to marry one day, and sire heirs. And even had the man been free, and had he returned Legolas interest, this was hardly the proper time for such thoughts! Aragorn was still in grave danger. He could die. Legolas had to get him warm. And he needed to get the man awake, and kindle his desire to fight again.
Desperate, Legolas began to whisper pleas and appeals, coaxing, urging, begging the mortal to come back, to wake...
To no avail. He was feeling his own heat reaching an uncomfortable level, and he began to feel a little dizzy; and slowly, slowly, he thought also that the body under his fingers was somewhat gaining temperature, if much too slowly; but he could not get Aragorn awake.
Nearly overwhelmed by desperation, Legolas made a decision. There was another way, albeit very risky; and by the rules of his own people, it was also rarely done. One did not enter the mind of another uninvited, especially if that one was bound or promised. But this was a special case. He had to risk it! There was no other choice!
Taking a deep breath, Legolas centered himself and searched within himself for the slight link which touched his mind to that of the Ranger.
Friendship, closeness, sympathy, and years of fighting back to back in battle, whenever they were traveling together, had formed strong ties between them; sometimes it was as if they could sense what the other was feeling, or if he was in danger, and at other times it was even as if they could read each others minds.
Of course, there always had been some parts of his own mind Legolas had previously carefully kept hidden...
It was hard, to find that link within himself that reached to Aragorn; at the place where his awareness of his friend should be, he felt only darkness, and silence, and something far too cold. And yet...
That was it, he suddenly realized. That was the very way he had to go!
Pressing his forehead against Aragorn's unresponsive skin, Legolas reached for that very place and plunged into darkness.
Cold. It was cold. All around him it was cold, no source of warmth, of heat; and it was dark. There was no light, here, nothing to pierce the cold, damp darkness all around. And he was all alone. There was nobody to give him hope, to lead the way; nobody to share himself with him, to share his burden... No one to give him strength... they were all gone, and he was alone.
He fought his despair. He would never again find his friend. He could not find the mortal. He had been a fool to take this way, to think that he would find anything here but his own, unfulfilled longing and loneliness. He had been foolish to think that he could help his friend. Estel was gone, and with him all hope had left the world.
And yet! He could not give up that easily!
Legolas grit his teeth and searched around again.
All gone. No one. And even if there had been friends, and love, he was not worthy to approach them; a lady, beautiful, but far above his station; and if he touched her, she was doomed to death; a friend, as strong as he, as beautiful as her, but ignorant to his desires, and all but unaware of any of his feelings , save innocent friendship...
Better then to sleep, to give in to the darkness, seek oblivion...
Legolas felt fire run through his mind when realization hit him. Estel! Those were Estel's thoughts!
He had no time now to contemplate just what they meant; he had to find his friend. Searching around himself, seeking the well-known presence of his friend, he shouted:
'Estel! Estel! Aragorn! I am here, Estel, brother, beloved, I am looking for you! You are no longer alone! Please, Estel, hear me! Please, I need you, please, come back to me!'
Light. A small glimmer, ahead of him, and at first hardly visible. A voice, shy, disbelieving, hesitant.
Legolas rushed in the direction of the light. When he came closer, the light became more intense, and he could feel a small glimmer of warmth accompanying it.
'Estel! I am here, Estel!'
Then he was there and found his friend, or the image his mind created of his friend on this weird plane. Aragorn was beautiful; even more beautiful than he was in body. Bright, glowing, full of light; a source of strength and hope, to all who held him dear and who enjoyed his presence. Even though now, the image was still faint, and somewhat translucent.
The figure turned to him, and stood in awe. 'Legolas! You are here. And, oh, you are bright. So beautiful...'
The figure of his friend reached out and they touched. And suddenly, they were mind to mind, and in each other's thoughts, and there was warmth and light. There was closeness, and love, and strength; even though Aragorn's was still somewhat dampened.
'You are really here! And you are so very beautiful! You should see yourself, all the light. I can hardly believe it!' Estel's voice was like a song of joy. Then, there was sorrow mixed into it. 'But you should not have come. You do not belong here! I am caught here, and I cannot go back. I somehow lost my way...'
Legolas shook his head. 'You are not caught, Estel. And I do know the way. Come, touch my hand. Follow me back. You are needed!'
The mortal hesitated.
'Am I?' he asked, and Legolas felt his doubt and bitterness like a blight in his own soul. And again he shared the images and feelings he had encountered earlier in Estel's mind: a lady – Arwen – nigh on impossible to approach, and doomed to die if she ever stooped to really be with him; and the friend, who must surely be disgusted, if he knew -
- That last thought was hidden quickly, and was followed by shame.
Legolas took a deep breath. He took the hands of the mortal firmly in his own, and said forcefully: 'I will not be disgusted. You are needed, Aragorn, and you are loved – both by her, and by me. And I will never be disgusted by you, no matter what! Please, melethron, I need you! Please come back!'
Aragorn looked at him, astonished and hopefully. Then he answered regretfully:
'I fear I have not the strength...'
'Here, take some of mine!' Legolas offered, and let the mortal rest for a moment in his own, undiminished strength; then he proceeded to carefully transfer as much of his strength to the Adan's fëa, as he could.
It was almost too much. He felt his own strength dwindle, and yet he did not stop, giving of himself willingly, wanting the mortal to take as much as he could, as much as he needed; and he enjoyed this sharing, the closeness, the warmth...
It was the Adan who finally broke the contact. 'Enough,' Aragorn claimed, 'that is enough. I can make it now!'
Legolas felt the concern in the Adan's mind, his fear that he had taken too much, that Legolas would suffer. He quickly readjusted his facade and asked: 'You will come back?'
The Adan nodded. 'As long as I have strength left. I will not leave you, or the others who depend on me. Not if I can help it!' he promised.
Legolas nodded. He firmly took the human's hand into his own, and headed back.
______________ o ______________
Legolas woke in the cave, wrapped in the blanket, his beloved friend still nestled in his arms. He felt completely drained and exhausted. But Aragorn's skin was rosy again, now, his breathing came steadily and stronger, and his pulse had taken up. He was warm again. He was still not awake, but now he was sleeping peacefully and easily.
He was out of danger!
Allowing himself a deep moment of gratitude and joy, Legolas send another prayer of thanks to Elbereth, and to whomever of the Valar who might also had watched over them this night.
At least for now, Aragorn was safe.
And as long as Legolas was living, he would do whatever he could and what was in his strength to keep it that way.
Finally without fear, Legolas allowed himself to drift off into dreams.
________________ o _______________
Legolas worked quickly. He cut small branches from a fallen tree, gathering as much dead and broken wood as he could manage. The small pile of firewood he had found within the cave last night had dangerously dwindled, and he needed to get more, as much as was available, for it seemed that they would not be traveling again anytime soon.
At least, their food supply would last them for a few more days.
Earlier this morning, he had woken Aragorn and had fed him some sweet cram, mixed with water. Aragorn had taken the food half-asleep, and had soon drifted off to sleep again. Legolas hoped that the food would help replenishing some of the strength the friend had lost during the previous day's ordeal.
He was glad that Aragorn was safely sheltered in the cave.
The storm had not let up. It was still bitter cold, and it was snowing relentlessly. Outside the little copse, the wind was howling like a gathering of wolves, and sight was limited to just a few feet; the whirling whiteness was impossible to penetrate, even for Elven eyes. And even here, in the relative shelter of the trees, the chilling wind bit into the limbs and bones of the Elf mercilessly.
Luckily, there was some dead wood right under the ledge before the cave, and the fallen tree Legolas was working on right now lay close to the entrance of their retreat. Legolas felt glad, indeed, he had not to go far, because he felt the bitter cold and the gushing attacks of the wind very keenly.
Last night had apparently drained him more, then, than he had thought.
Of course, it did not help that he was out here without a coat, because his own coat still provided a bedding for Aragorn, and Aragorn's now somewhat dried spare coat, together with the Ranger's blanket, was spread over the Adan to keep him warm. So was the blanket that had blocked the entrance of the cave last night. Legolas had taken it down to allow some fresh air in.
Of course, thinking of last night, the cold out here might not be an entirely bad thing.
What he had felt in Aragorn's mind, in his soul...
For a moment, he allowed his mind to drift while his hand continued to cut off brushwood, twigs, and some flammable branches.
He had not expected the despair and loneliness he had encountered in the beloved friend's mind.
Legolas recalled a conversation he had with his friend last summer. Aragorn had spent the whole summer and the autumn in Greenwood, as he claimed he needed to hone his woodcraft and experience, before his way would take him south to explore the Edain realms there.
Legolas had been delighted to spend an entire summer with his closest friend. Although the proximity had also made it hard to keep his newly kindled feelings hidden from his friend. During the last few years, Aragorn had become a comely young man, well formed and strong in body, skilled with his weapons, and bright of spirit. Legolas thought him beautiful. It had taken him some time until he realized he had fallen in love, and wished for more than just close friendship with the human; but the Adan seemed completely oblivious to his subtle advances. So, Legolas had kept his longing hidden from his friend. He would always prefer the human's friendship to his disgust.
Still, Aragorn had been morose at times, despondent by something he would not share, and Legolas was pained by his obvious suffering. Finally, one night, when Aragorn had been especially moody, he had coaxed the human to confide in him.
Aragorn was staring blindly into the night.
Legolas watched him. His friend's mind was apparently miles away. The whole day, he had been grumpy and close-mouthed, answering any question or remark only with one-syllable words, if he did at all.
Legolas finally had had enough.
He threw a twig into the fire. It was dry and gave an audible noise when it caught fire.
Aragorn started and looked up. Legolas held his gaze.
"Who is the one you are mooning over?" he asked bluntly.
"I do not..." he protested.
Legolas merely smirked.
Aragorn blushed furiously, and then looked down.
"Forgive me. I did not mean to be a bad companion. So, what about that tale to meant to tell me, about the Dragon?"
Legolas shook his head. "Oh, now. You do not get out of this so easily. Who is it?"
Aragorn blushed even deeper. But this time, he did not try to change themes.
"You'll laugh at me," he mumbled.
Dying of curiosity, now, Legolas shook his head. "Never!" he promised. "I shall never laugh at you! - Well, not about this," he then quickly added.
Aragorn gave him a skeptical look.
But then he looked down again.
"It's Arwen," he finally said in a small voice. "I met her in Rivendell before I left. I have thought of her ever since. I cannot stop thinking of her. She is the true likeness of Luthien Tinuviel, and I have lost my heart."
He blushed even further. "Go on," he said angrily, "call me a fool to even dream of pursuing her!"
Legolas felt a pang of jealousy, but he fought it down and said bravely: "I do not think you a fool. You have risen your eyes to a great prize. I do not doubt you will one day prove yourself worthy to her."
He had to swallow. Then he asked, hesitantly: "Does she return your love?"
Aragorn still studied the ground.
"I do not know. I hope! It has been a long time since I saw her last. Elrond has forbidden me to court her. But... I thought she liked me, Legolas. I thought that she returned my love."
Another pang. It was no mere crush, then, and no hopeless dream. If the lady Evenstar returned Estel's affection... And why shouldn't she desire him? Legolas could certainly see the attraction.
Before he could stop himself, he asked somewhat urgently: "And there is nobody else?"
Aragorn gave him a short, startled look; for a moment, Legolas saw an odd expression in his gaze, something he could not read. Then, the young man quickly looked away again.
"There has been no other woman that caught my attention, be she Firstborn or one of the Edain," he said. "And there will never be one."
But he did not look up when he said it, and for a moment, Legolas wondered at his meaning.
Then he abandoned the thought. Even if Aragorn was not as immune to other female's appeals as he claimed, in any case, Legolas would never have a chance for anything more than a brotherly friendship.
Bravely, he hid his disappointment and did his best to lighten up the mood.
"Do not give up on her, yet," he said lightly. "She may yet see your worth, and decide to give her heart to you, and if she does, she will surely convince her father to allow this alliance. I have met Arwen. She has quite a temper if she puts her mind to something. Remember who is her grandmother!" he joked.
Aragorn gave him a long look.
Legolas sighed. "I meant, I do not see why she should not return your love. And you are more than worthy of her, after all," he soothed.
Aragorn looked at him, as if he doubted his words or was looking for a hidden meaning.
Then he suddenly looked away again. He grabbed his blanket. "I am going to sleep," he decided. "Wake me when it is my time to take the watch."
And he wrapped the blanket around himself and lay down beside the little fire. Legolas looked at him, wondering if he had said something wrong.
Then he gave up. When Aragorn woke the next morning, grumbling that Legolas should have woken him to take his watch instead of letting him sleep through the night, their conversation of the previous evening seemed forgotten.
Aragorn never touched on that conversation again, although he still was moody some days; and Legolas did not bring it up again, either. But he had known his own desire, his feelings for the ranger hopeless.
But he had thought, then, that Aragorn's heart was taken.
And yet, what he had felt in Aragorn's mind, had read in his thoughts last night, could only mean...
Angrily, Legolas cut that train of thoughts, chiding himself.
Aragorn had been close to death, and completely exhausted. He was not thinking clearly. What he might have thought or felt in a delusional dream of agony was nothing Legolas could build any hopes on. Indeed, the Elf was disgusted with himself that under the circumstances, he could even nurse some foolish thoughts of desire and some hopes for himself.
Aragorn needed his help now, and his friendship, and not some lust-driven fool who could only think with his lower body parts!
Finished with the wood, and thoroughly chilled, Legolas gathered the wooden bundle and went back to the cave.
_______________ o ______________
Aragorn was awake, when Legolas came in. He gave his friend a concerned look.
Legolas dumped the firewood he carried beside the remains of the older pile, and knelt beside the friend, grabbing his shoulders.
"Estel! Bless you! How are you feeling?"
Aragorn sighed. "Still dizzy," he said. "My feet are hurting. And I am still cold. What..."
"I shall look at them as soon as I have washed my hands," Legolas promised. "Let me just rekindle the fire and close the entrance."
"I can help..." Aragorn claimed, trying to sit up, but Legolas pressed him down again.
"Nonsense! You nearly died last night! You stay where you are. I take care of the fire, and then I care for you!"
Aragorn uttered a sound of protest, then he gave in. He watched Legolas feeding the embers of the burned-down fire with some remains of the dry wood, and then take off one of the blankets covering him and put it back before the entrance of their cave. Slowly, the temperature of the cave was rising again.
After a few moments, he said: "Legolas, what happened? Where..."
Legolas turned back to him.
"It was the storm," he said. "You nearly froze to death. You could not go on. Elbereth was merciful; she let me find this shelter. It seems to be in use by woodmen in these parts for such purposes."
He pointed at the pile. "The storm has not let up. I fear we will have to stay here for a few more days."
Aragorn looked at him.
"You were out there without any cloak or blanket?" he asked.
Legolas shrugged. "I am an Elf, remember? We do not feel the cold as much as you mortals do..."
"Nonsense!" Aragorn tried to sit up again, then gave up with a groan. "Legolas, come here!"
Legolas went very still.
"I have to prepare our meal," he then protested. "And then I bhave to look at your feet. You are probably suffering from frostbite..."
"Please," the man said.
Reluctantly, the Elf obeyed. Aragorn took his hands.
"Your hands are freezing," he observed, rubbing the grimy fingers. "So are you!"
Legolas looked away. He shuddered under the touch. Aragorn's hands felt hot on his freezing fingers.
"It's nothing," he claimed.
Aragorn just shook his head. He reached out and raised a trembling hand to the cheeks of the Elf.
"Last night I had and odd dream," he said. "I dreamed I was in a dark place. It was cold, and I was all alone. I was yearning to go back, to my friends, to you, but I had not the strength to move, and did not find the way; and all my thoughts felt leaden."
He paused. Legolas did not meet his eyes. He blushed and shivered under the Adan's touch.
Aragorn caressed the side of his face, hesitantly, as if he were hardly aware what he was doing.
"Then you came. You were like a bright beacon in the darkness, and you gave me warmth and strength. You urged me to come back with you and told me I was needed. And so I did."
Legolas said nothing. He was trembling, as if the Adan's touch brought him pain, as if he were frozen in his place and could not move even if he wanted.
Aragorn let his hand fall. "It was no dream, was it?" he asked. "You were really there!"
Legolas swallowed. Hard. "I had to do something," he said. "You were slipping away. I am sorry I entered your mind without your permission; I did not know what else to do. I had to bring you back..."
"Legolas," Aragorn interrupted him. The Elf flinched a little. The voice of the Adan touched his very souls, and was like a caress.
"Look at me!" The Adan said, "Please!"
Very hesitantly, the Elf obeyed.
Aragorn met his gaze with deep seriousness.
"I do not begrudge you that you saved my life," the Adan said. "How could I be angry at you for this? You took great risk in doing that."
Legolas looked away again. "It was no matter," he lied. "You would have done the same for me."
Aragorn did not answer. He reached out to touch the Elf's face again, then let it fall.
His raspy voice drew the Elf in, bound him in ways he could not fathom, and he looked at the man's face again, meeting his gaze. He found himself caught in those grey eyes like he was under a spell.
"Last night, when you gave me your strength in that cold place, you also called me your beloved. More than a brother. More than just a friend," Aragorn said. "I thought you loved me. That you wanted to be with me, as lovers do."
The Elf blushed furiously. Very gently, Aragorn asked: "Did I dream that, too?"
Legolas bit his lips and dropped his gaze.
"No," he finally said, "You didn't. But I never meant to impose this on you. The lady Arwen..."
"Legolas!" Aragorn said again, and Legolas could not help to meet his gaze again.
"You do not impose on me! Don't you understand? I love you, too! I have desired you for so long, I just did not think that you would return my feelings! I had no idea..."
Legolas was stunned. "You... really?" he asked, and then he said the first thing he could think of. "But... you said... Arwen..."
Aragorn grew very serious. "I do love her," he said, "though I do not know if she will ever love me back. There will never be another elleth nor any other woman for me. But I do love you, too! I know it is not the way of the Elves to share themselves with more than one, but I cannot help what I am feeling. I love you both. Can you not accept this?"
He knew that it would never be enough; that he would never have the Adan for himself, would always have to share him, be it with Arwen or another elleth, once Aragorn would have to marry to continue his line. He would never posses the Adan's heart alone.
But he also knew that he could as little deny the Adan now, as he could tear out his own heart. Even a part of Aragorn's heart was better than having no part of him at all.
Aragorn's hand returned to his face again, stopping inches before his skin. "May I – may I touch you?" the Adan asked.
Legolas nodded again. He closed his eyes when Estel's hand touched his cheek, caressed the sides of his face, touched his ear. "Estel..." he whispered. He allowed Aragorn's hand to travel to his neck, to pull him down to the blanket.
Gently, but forcefully, the human pulled his head down to the level of his own face.
"Let me kiss you," he begged.
Legolas complied without resistance.
Lips met lips, hesitant at first, and the touch was electrifying, sending sparks all though Legolas' whole body, right to his groin. He gasped, and Aragorn took that as invitation. Mouth fastened to mouth, their tongues met, and Legolas tasted sweetness. The kiss was deep, and intense, and it made Legolas tingle; it was not like any sensation he had ever felt, and nothing he could ever had imagined. He had never kissed anyone before, never like this! Fire ran through his body, set his nerves aflame, and made him long for more. Never, in his wildest dreams, had he imagined that their sharing would feel like this, like sparks, running all through him, settling in his groin, generating a heat and warmth he had not known before. It felt as if he was born for this, as if he had waited for this very feeling for all his life. Aragorn's hand on his own body was like a hot caress, setting him on fire, making him want more. The fingers of his lover wandered up to his ear again, and he moaned. Slowly, the enormity of the situation made its way into his mind: these were Estel's lips on his own, Estel's hands roaming over his body, Estel's breath hitching when his own hands started to respond and began to stroke over the human's skin... he had dreamed of this moment, had imagined sharing himself with Aragorn in such a way, but never could he have imagined anything like this.
Aragorn's hand stroked over his back, Aragorn's mouth drank his breath and then left his lips to settle on his sensitive neck; Aragorn's thumb caressed the line of his ear, making him moan again, yearning for more... there was a voice, his own, chanting inside his head in a wordless song of joy, and he could do nothing but give himself over to the feeling.
Then, suddenly, to his disappointment, Aragorn's hands stilled on his body and he felt himself pushed a little off.
Startled, he looked at his partner. But Aragorn did not look disgusted, or even troubled; his eyes were hungry, gleaming, pools of desire, and Legolas could see the love and lust shining in them.
Lust for him!
"You," Aragorn said, "have too many clothes on."
What? Oh, yes!
But something in Legolas' mind clicked at that, and he woke a little from his glorious haze.
He hesitated. "You are barely recovered," he protested feebly, "You need rest..."
"Please," Aragorn said. "I need you!"
There was nothing he could set against that.
Aragorn began to pull at the laces of Legolas' clothes, and Legolas hurried to assist him. Laces gave way to clever hands, clothes were shed, and soon there was nothing between them than naked skin, nothing to hinder their sharing. In a last reasonable thought, Legolas spread the blanket over the two of them; then he began his tender assault on the human's body, exploring the beloved form with mouth and hands, kissing, licking, stroking; learning every inch of skin and every scar, mapping every reaction and making the man under him writhe and moan. Every gasp, every shudder, every hitched breath drove his own excitement higher. His mouth followed the line of the strong collarbone, closed over hardened nipples, licking them to attention; his hands stroked down the man's sides, following the soft lines of the ribs, the narrow hips, and around to the hard buttocks; his tongue licked along the well-formed muscles of the chest, the slightly furry line of the breastbone, down to the navel, and dipped in. Aragorn gave a moan, and bucked a little, his hands burrowing deeper for an instant in Legolas' shoulders; then, Legolas left the belly-button of the man and traveled down to the hard, needy length he had neglected until now.
For a moment, he marvelled at the hardened flesh, and his mouth watered. So like and unlike his own, more slender member, and yet... he gave into his need to touch and stroked over the member with one hand. Aragorn gasped, and bucked again. Then he moaned. "Yes, yes, like this..." he begged, "Don't stop..."
Legolas blew on the sensitive flesh and grinned at the gasp that elicited. Then he stopped teasing and gave into his desire, and his mouth closed over the hot length, exploring it with lips and tongue.
Aragorn drew a sharp breath. In the next instant, his hands buried themselves in Legolas hair, nearly painfully. "Legolas..." the man moaned, "Beloved!--"
Legolas needed no further urging.
Following his instinct, he began to massage and caress the beloved flesh with mouth and tongue, swallowing it whole nearly to the hilt, then leaving off again, swirling his tongue over the sensitive head, setting an ever increasing rhythm. He let himself be guided by Aragorn's reactions; the gasps and moans, the urging hands of the man telling him what his partner liked and needed. Meanwhile, his own hands stroked over Aragorn's sides, his belly, his buttocks, his thighs...
Suddenly, Aragorn's hands, still buried in his hair, gently urged him to stop, pushed him off.
Puzzled and concerned, Legolas complied.
Aragorn's face was flushed, his pupils completely dilated. "Legolas," he breathed, "stop, please, no more... not like this, I wish to... may I...."
Legolas looked at him, bewildered.
Aragorn found his breath again. "May I... may I be within you when I...?"
Within? But... Oh!
Suddenly understanding, Legolas blushed. He swallowed; then he nodded.
Aragorn's eyes widened, then he asked: "Come here; set yourself astride my stomach. Yes like this! Wait, we shall need... Do you have anything to ease...?"
Legolas looked at him, still bewildered. Then, understanding dawned.
He blushed furiously. "I have some grease, for my bow," he offered.
Quickly, the Elf reached over to his pack and retrieved the small pot, handing it over to his lover.
Aragorn hesitated. "Are you sure about this?" he asked, "I do not want to hurt you..."
Legolas took a deep breath. Aragorn, within himself. Joined flesh. As one. Oh, yes, he did want this!
Aloud, he said: "Yes, I am sure. Please! I wish to feel you..."
Aragorn breathed deeply. Guiding Legolas to sit astride him, he opened the little pot and greased his fingers.
Pulling Legolas down for another kiss, his other hand stroked down his partner's back until he found the hard, round buttocks of the Elf, massaging, stroking; then he stroked along the narrow crevice between them, finally settling on the small opening that was hidden there.
Legolas gasped as the fingers of his lover found his most private place, teasing, circling, finally dipping in. He felt himself involuntarily tensing around the invading digit, but Aragorn paused, waiting a moment, and licked along Legolas' ear, whispering soothingly. Then, the narrow passage gave way, and the finger entered deeper, gently caressing the hard-muscled wall, pulled out again, dipped back in...
Suddenly, his lover pushed deeper in and touched something, and Legolas bucked against him in sudden pleasure. He gasped: "Aragorn! What-?"
His lover gently kissed his ear. "Shh... let me do this!" he whispered, and began gently and rhythmically massaging the narrow channel, in and out, soon adding another finger, then another...
Legolas felt himself floating in a haze of pleasure, overwhelmed by sensation. All that mattered was the hot mouth fastening on his, the hand stroking along his side, the fingers that caressed his flesh from within... when the fingers suddenly left him, he moaned in protest; but Aragorn's hands settled on his sides and gently guided him upwards, positioning him, then gently pushed him down. All he could whisper was: "Yes, please, yes!"
He gasped again as he felt himself finally entered by Aragorn's hot, hard flesh. It hurt a little, despite the careful preparation; but Aragorn stopped, and waited, and finally, his body adjusted. Then, Aragorn carefully urged him further downwards, slowly filling him completely, finally hitting that special spot, and he knew bliss.
Aragorn completed him in ways he had never known. It was as if he had finally had found home, as if he had been incomplete before without knowing.
Aragorn set a rhythm, slow at first, then ever faster; and all further thoughts fled in the haze of pleasure. They did not last long; it took only a few more thrusts to reach completion. When Aragorn finally came, he took Legolas with him.
Sated and exhausted, Legolas slipped off his lover's body and settled down beside Aragorn, pulling the blanket up again to cover both of them. Settling his head on Aragorn's chest, he listened to the racing heartbeat of his beloved, now slowly settling back to a normal rhythm. He enjoyed the gentle caresses of Aragorn's hands, becoming ever slower and finally ceasing when the Adan drifted into sleep. He resolved to stay a while like this and guard his lover's sleep.
He felt as if he had been borne for this, for this very joining, and this very man. He knew that whatever happened, there was no going back now. He belonged to this man. He belonged to Aragorn; whatever the cost, and whatever fate would bring them.
With that thought, he drifted into dreams.
________________ o __________________
The storm lasted two more days. When Legolas stepped out of the cave on the third morning, he was greeted by the sun. The storm was finally gone. It was still cold, but not completely freezing; and the wind was gone. Maybe, if he could work one of the blankets into a coat, he and Aragorn could risk traveling on tomorrow...
Eagerly, Legolas ran to the edge of the small copse – only to stop dead in his tracks, staying very still. Before him, at the edge of the copse, stood one of the greatest bears he had ever seen. Swallowing hard, Legolas reached for his bow – which wasn't there, he realized with a start. He had left his quiver and his weapons in the cave.
Very slowly and carefully, Legolas began to go backwards, carefully maneuvering in the direction of the cave. He had no weapon; but he had to defend Aragorn, until the Ranger was recovered enough to fight for himself. He had to...
A bear, awake and active at this time of the year?
He looked closer. The beast did not seem aggressive; in fact, his eyes seemed knowing, intelligent...
There was just one explanation. Legolas cocked his head.
"Beorn?" he asked.
The bear grinned.
_____________ o _____________
It took Aragorn a few more days to recover completely. Luckily, the frostbite of his hands and feet was minor, healing fast; and finally, he was well enough again to risk traveling. With the help of Beorn, the lovers had finally regained their bearings, and the shapeshifter had made sure to describe them the way. And so, they had no trouble finding the way to the small village on the slopes of the Misty Mountains where they had been heading in the first place. They took lodging at the local inn, sharing a room; and while there were two beds available, they had need for just one. They enjoyed a few more days of peaceful sharing with each other, but finally the Rangers Aragorn was waiting for arrived, and their peaceful time was up.
Two days later, Aragorn bade his lover farewell, since he was starting on his way down south, to Rohan; he planned to stay there for some time, then go on and explore Gondor, later. He did not know how long it would take, just that he had to do it.
Legolas was sad to part with him, so soon after they had just found together; but he did not worry much. He knew that they belonged together, and that Aragorn returned his love. So, he bade him a very fond goodbye, and went back to his home in Greenwood, where duty awaited him.
It took many years until the lovers met again; but their love survived the time of separation undiminished and would last all the time of Aragorn's life, and beyond. And they would endure many more storms together.
But that is another tale, and shall be told at another day.
-- The End --
mellon, mellonamin: Friend, my friend