The trees that surrounded Rivendell were ancient and majestic as they shaded the lush emerald-green grass growing beneath them with their wide, leafy branches that spread to infinity. Diamond-bright waterfalls cascaded through craggy mountains, which towered over the last Homely Home of Middle-Earth. To look upon Rivendell was to comprehend perfection in all the infinite sense of the word and to see Rivendell, glittering like a flame-red jewel streaked with shades of glowing golds and heart-warm browns, on the brightest day of spring would make a blind man weep.
And yet, those who dwelt within Rivendell were more ancient than even the trees themselves and perhaps just as beautiful, if not more, in their own fey way.
Arwen Undómiel walked down the path that led from the house of her father's to the encroaching woods that lovingly encircled Rivendell. White moonlight streamed through the branches to play upon her flawless face, which had been called by some, the mirror of Lúthien, she who had walked the lands of Middle-Earth in another Age. Fireflies, brilliant and numerous, darted among the path, lighting the way for her with a green-gold luminosity.
She smiled, gladness in her heart to know that her beloved was near even if for a short while, at the tall man dressed in dark clothing who strolled next to her, his normally swift gaits matching her slow pace.
Aragorn smiled back and his face, weather-beaten from the elements he encountered on his many journeys, was still handsome though careworn.
"I like Master Frodo Baggins. He has an air of innocence, still unsullied and uncorrupted by that accursed Ring he carries, and his laugh reminds me of a lark flying unbound through the clouds." Arwen said to Aragorn, as she described her feelings about the hobbits to him. Even though she had known them for but a few days, already Arwen held deep and abiding affection for each one.
The little denizens of Hobbiton with Gandalf were presently having a guided exploration of Rivendell. Merry and Pippin insisted, haranguing Gandalf until he was ready to strangle their skinny necks but as it was, upon reflecting that the two hobbits might get into willful destruction and mayhem if left on their own, decided to supervise their 'exploration' instead. The last they saw of Gandalf was Merry and Pippin running circles around him, yelling excitedly that they wanted to see this or that first while Frodo and Sam followed in a more demure fashion but both grinning happily with the same anticipation.
It was the day after the Council of Elrond where Frodo so bravely and heart-breakingly decided to bear the burden of being the Ringbearer upon his shoulders and the day after this night, the newly forged Fellowship of the Ring will depart for Mount Doom, source of the evil that was even now insidiously creeping across the verdant lands.
"As for Samwise Gamgee, he shines. Oh Aragorn, he shines so bright and sometimes my eyes hurt to see him thus. His soul is one of the purest that I have seen." Arwen breathed with wonder. "Those who say hobbits are not beautiful are sorely mistaken."
"I am glad their spirits were not broken by the Ringwraiths during the long trek here to Rivendell. They...we, would have need of their courage and strengths in the dark days to come." was what Aragorn replied.
It was his way and Arwen's smile grew wider and gentler. She understood all that he did not say.
"Ill days ahead indeed but I believe, with all my heart, that Sam's love for his master will light the way for them." Arwen said softly, her face flushed with faith. "It is a good thing, their love for each other."
Aragorn lifted an eyebrow but said nothing and merely nodded.
They walked farther down the path, saying nothing for there was nothing more to be said and each knew they carried the other's unsaid words within their hearts.
So it was then that Arwen's ears, sharper by virtue of her elvish lineage, caught the sounds of voices before Aragorn did.
She stopped. She knew one of those two voices. And the other...
Arwen, the Evenstar of her people, started to grin a rather maniacal grin, while at the same time, tried to suppress her giggles with an effort.
Aragorn could have sworn the elf maiden's ears extended by a few more millimetres as she craned to hear more of the hidden conversation.
"What is it?"
"Shhhh! Not a word more and tread softly your feet. Over there." She pointed at another pathway, overgrown with spring shoots and scarcely seen in moonlight. But Arwen was born and bred in Rivendell and she knew every nook and cranny of the mountain stronghold as if it had been etched onto the back of her hand. That hidden path led down to a glade, where a tiny pond, silver and still, was situated.
"Come!" Arwen tugged at Aragorn's hand as they hurried down the path.
"Arwen, I do not think this is wise..."
"Of course it is not wise but I have to know!" Arwen hissed as quietly as possible. "If you are not coming, then I will go by myself."
Aragorn sighed and shook his head with resignation but he followed.
"What is it we are looking fo...huuupmh!" Aragorn started to ask but his words were lost in a surprised grunt as Arwen shoved his lanky body down behind a shrub that was dotted with dainty white flowers. "Arwen! I should think that this is hardly proper behavior..."
Arwen made no answer; instead she placed her palm over Aragorn's mouth and glared at him fiercely, one finger pressed against her own lips, her intentions clear.
Aragorn rolled his eyes with exasperation but kept quiet.
The scion of the line of Isildur and the High Lady of the elves then carefully tilted their heads up to peep over the top of the bush.
In the dim light, the reflection of the small pond was sprinkled over with tiny golden sparks as they reflected the stars of Elbereth shining in the night-sky above. Standing on the edge of the waters, Legolas seemed to be a creature woven out of moonlight and finely honed glass, his sleek limbs encased in the white tunic he wore.
"Legolas?" Aragorn could not help but speak with some puzzlement. "What is he doing here? And is that not..." The Ranger stopped when he realized with some shock the identity of the other person who was with the elf.
Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, was almost as tall as Legolas. Though not possessing of fair colouring like the other elf, he was darkly elegant with his bronze skin and gray eyes that were usually so inscrutable to those who knew him. Though he had fought alongside Gil-Galad and Isildur against the Dark Lord three thousand years past, his features remained youthful, and his hawk-like visage still powerful and striking after all the uncounted centuries that had come after and faded.
He was standing a few feet away from the other elf but his face was distant and unreadable.
"It has been a long time. Will you not greet me in welcome, my Lord?" Legolas was saying, his voice deep and honey-smooth with an uncharacteristic hint of teasing.
Arwen's eyes widened in anticipation and she clasped her hands together hopefully while Aragorn's eyes were similarly widened, though not quite with the same excitement as the elf maid's.
There was no answer from Elrond and his face became even more unresponsive if possible.
Legolas took a step forward and instinctively, Elrond shifted back so that the distance between them remained unchanged. A crack, a tiny seam but wide enough, appeared on those stone-still features and for a brief flaring moment, Elrond's uneasiness showed through. Then he masked it almost immediately and the Lord of Rivendell was standing there, armored with all his imposing dignity once more.
But too late. Legolas scented his prey's agitation and uncertainty and like the woodlands hunter he was, he made no hesitation to pounce.
A small confident smile hovering around his lips, he stalked forth once more, slowly, so as not to frighten the quarry. Judging by Elrond's stubbornness and hard-held pride, he knew the other elf will not allow himself a second moment of weakness through retreat and he was rewarded by his insight when Elrond stood firm his ground.
When they were inches apart, Legolas could catch a hint of the scent that emanated from the other elf. The elven lord's aroma was familiar and haunting and a brief wisp of thought went through Legolas's mind then.
It is the fragrance of Rivendell. Of the woods, the trees, the mountains, the waters. He smells of life...I would like to taste him...
Acting on his impulse, Legolas leaned forward until his lips were barely grazing Elrond's. But he did not kiss him, not yet.
In the bushes, Arwen stopped breathing momentarily while Aragorn groaned inaudibly and covered his eyes with one hand.
Minutes passed, and finally Elrond spoke. With each word he spoke, his breaths caressed Legolas's face like soft delicate feathers.
"This is not right. You should not be here and neither should I." Elrond's tones were cold and clear but his eyes held a different story. Dark still, like pools of gathered shadows, but no longer inscrutable and holding back secrets.
"Why not? You came when I sent the message. You could have chose then not to come but you did not." Legolas murmured, knowing with a glad, joyful knowledge that all he wanted, all he desired with a sweet jagged pain all these years, was going to be his at long last.
Just a step more and the trap would be sprung and there would be no escape. For either of them.
"I should not have come. I know that now. It...this is wrong." But there was no conviction in his voice any longer, just a strange helplessness and eons of yearning pain. It has been so long. He had thought that his heart had died alongside with his wife, Celebrían, but now it was awake with a vengeance and burning for something he did not know if he had the courage to recognize. For recognition was tantamount to admission and admission led to acceptance and that in itself was unacceptable. His position, his responsibilities to his people inexorably denied him the freedom to choose.
It had been too long, yes. He had forgotten that his heart still beat...that is, he had forgotten until the first time he laid eyes upon Thranduil's son.
Looking anew at Legolas's fresh, unlined face, he thought, with a small absurd pang of resentment, that it was positively indecent for someone, even an elf, to be as beautiful as this prince of Mirkwood.
"Did you think of me? I did. I thought of you constantly, every second of every day that we were apart and my hands craved to feel, to learn the texture of your skin, your face, your...body." Legolas shifted his mouth from Elrond's to whisper into his ear instead. Elrond closed his eyes, the effect of Legolas's words weaving a dizzy enchantment upon him, each intonation of each syllable landing like fragile velvet kisses upon his skin.
He wondered, at the back of his mind that was still thinking clearly, if it would be too improper if the Lord of Rivendell suddenly melted into a puddle right there and then at Legolas's feet.
A tiny sliver of pink darted out from the elf-prince's perfect lips and briefly, like a butterfly descending upon a petal, licked the edge of Elrond's ear lobe.
Legolas laughed then, a husky, triumphant sound. "You taste exactly like what I have always imagined. Sweet as the waters that run through Rivendell. Sweeter."
Elrond closed his eyes and he did not, quite, gasped aloud but his body flinched as if struck. His hands clenched and unclenched by his sides until the knuckles shone bone-white.
And yet, he did not move away.
Oh Father, be brave! Arwen's own heart was throbbing in sympathy with her parent's obvious hurt and confusion while another part of her wanted to strike his dignified head until sense came roaring in. But she willed herself to be silent.
How could someone be as wise as her father and still be as blind as a Mordor bat?
"And what would your lips taste like?" Legolas was asking. Once more he moved his mouth to hover over Elrond's until both were inhaling each other's breaths, drawing in the other's essence within their bodies. A golden-white strand of unbound hair fell from Legolas's head to brush past Elrond's cheek and that ephemeral contact broke the latter's state of immobility.
"No! I will not allow this. You are by far too...too..." At a loss for words which was a rarity, Elrond settled for glaring at the other elf while mentally pulling together the tattered remnants of control over his self.
"Too young? And is the Master of Rivendell himself so aged then that I appear to be a babe just birthed? I have lived through several mortal life spans and I am no longer the stripling you first met when I came to your Hall, wide-eyed and eager from gazing upon the myriad wonders of Rivendell. You rejected me then when I first told you of my love and so I waited all these years for you to come to understand and accept that you carry the other half of my soul. Your obstinate and very misplaced sense of honor keeps us apart but no longer. I am weary of waiting."
"The dwarf, Gimli, said to me to take what you want today and damned be when tomorrow arrives. Good advice, coming from a dwarf. And appropriate in this state of affairs we find ourselves enmeshed in, would you not agree?" Legolas's words were becoming softer until they were almost inaudible and without waiting for a reply, he pressed his lips full against Elrond's tightly pressed mouth.
They did not stay close for long. Breaking the kiss, Legolas's head lowered and he darted little kisses and bites across the length of Elrond's neck, deliberately dragging his lips over warm, flushed skin. Elrond squeezed his eyes shut again, trying to force away the precarious sensations that were kindling an inferno inside him. But his spirit was weak, unable to withstand Legolas's pleasing assault on his senses and his flesh was weaker still and thus he gave an involuntary half groan, the traitorous sound escaping from his parted lips reluctantly as sparks of flames shivered down his spine.
Seizing his chance, Legolas covered the other elf's mouth and slid his tongue within. One of his hands slid behind Elrond's head to tangle his fingers within the silken mass of hair while the other arm wound around the waist to pull him closer, molding and fitting the contours of his lean body to Elrond's.
The unexpected and wholly tantalizing caress of rough, wet silk and moist heat against his own tongue caused Elrond to moan indistinctly again.
Eventually, stopping for air for even immortals creatures such as elves need air to live, Legolas severed the kiss first and while their lips were no longer joined, he kept his arms close around Elrond's body, luxuriating in the sensations of holding his love close. Elrond's body was tempered steel hidden beneath the robes he wore. There was nothing soft or pliant about the Rivendell Lord, he was all hard planes and harsh lines like that of a sheer mountain surface, but Legolas was looking forward to unsheathing that compact frame and exploring the firm, undeniably masculine, curves he could perceived under the garments at his leisure.
However that delightful task was not reserved for tonight. Any hunter worthy of his first bow should know when to reel back the bait lest it unsettled the prey to hasty flight.
When the somewhat dazed look retreated from Elrond's eyes, Legolas spoke and the weight of his voice reverberated around the moonlit glade.
"I love you. I always have and I always will. It is you that binds me to these lands still, not the baneful threat of the Dark Lord. Without you, there is no light or pleasures, which lies awaiting in the West for me. I chose to protect the hobbit with my bow because I know you wish it."
"Legolas..." Elrond could only whisper. Unbidden, his hand rose to lay the flat of the palm against Legolas's cheek, letting the warmth seeped through his skin and feeling the heat gather within to pierce like a pitiless blade into his heart.
"Fear not." The elf-prince smiled, understanding Elrond's unspoken anxiety. "I will come back to Rivendell when the Ring has been thrown into the fires of Mount Doom. All the hordes of Mordor cannot stop me from returning and claiming what belongs to me."
"I will not have you alone again for the rest of the Ages to come. I will be by your side. Whether you wish it or not." Legolas's grin changed to one of wry humor. "I would ask a token to seal the vow of which I give freely to you. May I kiss you?" His tone was formal but his eyes danced with mirth, hungry wanting and endless desire that had no boundaries.
There was no outward sign of it reflected but within Elrond's mind, a struggle of majestic proportions was taking place.
A thousand doubts and dreads screamed through him, shrieking as they tried to dig their keen-edged claws in, and they succeeded in wrenching his entire being apart...only to have his soul reconstructed whole once more by the single thought of 'he loves me'.
He was too weary to have his heart hurt so. He should and will reject Legolas for the second time for it was the right path to take and Elrond, son of Eärendil and Elwing, brother to Elros, had always walked the known paths.
He took a deep breath and what he said clearly, with his head held high, was "Yes, you may."
The dwarven race did, on rare occasions, give excellent advice.
No one noticed the squeak of joy that emerged from the nearby bushes as Elrond made his choice.
"Aragorn! Why, this is wonderful indeed!" Arwen hissed happily.
Aragorn had enough when the inevitable sounds of wetness as flesh bonded itself to flesh floated to where he and Arwen still crouched. His knees hurt from kneeling so long and he was starting to feel like a voyeuristic dwarf.
"Arwen, we should leave."
"I cannot...my knees are numb." Arwen replied with consternation. Trying to get leverage to stand, she clutched at Aragorn's forearm to heave herself up.
Aragorn, who wasn't expecting her added weight upon his own deadened knees, lost his balance instead and the bush obligingly parted to tumble the two out in a rolling, tangled sprawl of flailing limbs.
"What..?" Elrond tore his lips from Legolas's when he heard the muffled crash. Turning his eyes towards the direction of the sound, he was in time to make out two dark figures hurriedly separating themselves to stand from the ground. Then his vision sharpened to distinguish the shorter one of the two.
"Arwen?!" Elrond's normally sonorous and rich voice was perilously close to a yelp. He realized with a swift flash of intuition that his daughter must have been hiding there for some time or at least long enough for her to have heard and seen...his face turned red with scorching embarrassment. Pushing himself away from Legolas, he surreptitiously rearranged his robes, hoping desperately that he did not look like he had just been kissed to near insensibility.
"This, er, is not what it looks like." He coughed slightly to cover his immense mortification.
Darting a glance towards Legolas who shone in the dimness like a pale gemstone and who was presently wearing a very smug and self-satisfied expression of a cat who had caught an extremely delectable mouse, Arwen hid a smile behind her hand.
"No, of course not, Father. I am sure you and Master Legolas have important Council matters to discuss. Aragorn and I were merely out for a walk. Forgive us for disturbing you."
Moving forward quickly, she gave her father a hug. Reaching up on tiptoes, she murmured into his ear, "My heart is gladdened for you, dear Father."
Elrond's features stiffened when he heard Arwen's words, then softened fractionally as he embraced his daughter back.
"I will see you when morning dawns." he told her gently. It was no small thing, to have his daughter's blessings. It served to lessen his confusion and his worry that he had chosen wrongly and for that he was grateful to her.
"My deepest apologies for the interruption, Lord Elrond and to you as well, Legolas." Aragorn said stiltedly as Arwen moved back to his side. Consequently, he and the elf maid walked back onto the main path again, leaving the tranquil shroud of privacy to fall upon the glade and the newly made lovers.
Arwen visibly shimmered with merriment when they were out of earshot. "Father has at long last found someone. Elladan and Elrohir will be as pleased as I. He has been so isolated since Mother died." Then, noticing Aragorn's silence, she asked, "You are quiet, what is wrong, are you not happy for them? Legolas is your comrade and friend as well, is he not?"
Aragorn replied, his face set and wintry, "I never expected..." He trailed off.
"That Legolas loved my father and that the fondness was returned?" Arwen laughed. "Or that both are, by nature's decree, male? I pray you are not very scandalized. It is not so unexpected."
It was for me, Aragorn did not speak his thoughts aloud. No, it wasn't the particular element, that Legolas and Elrond was both male, which disturbed and unsettled him so.
It was jealousy, searing and rancid, flowing as if poison through his veins.
The seething emotion hit him like an Orc slamming an axe against his stomach, leaving him stunned with the gaping enormity of truths revealed. He had not known or rather he did not wish to know but it was beyond his ability to deny any longer. The reality had spilt opened before him when he witnessed the scene that unfolded before his eyes previously in the glade and unforgiving awareness struck with a heartsick lurch of mingled fear, rage and regret.
"Aragorn, tell me, what troubles you so?" Arwen's concerned voice pierced through his thoughts and he gazed down to look at the elf maiden. For the first time, his eyes looked past her faultless countenance to truly see.
Of Elrond's three offspring, Arwen resembled her father most. In spirit and character, as well as with her dark eyes and hair.
For a moment, he hated her, she who was so named the loveliest in all of the lands. He never wished for her to put such a heavy burden upon his heart, he had not demanded for her to give up her eternal life for him. He never asked.
But she did without his asking and the sacrifice was done, a pledge that could not and never be broken. He could not betray her thus. He had too much honor and pride to do so. And what made it more ruthlessly terrible was that he knew he did love her, in his own way.
He shook his head slightly, burying the simmering jealousy and bitterness towards Legolas, keeping these emotions locked away within his core where they would always remain, a dark, ugly streak, and where no one, not Arwen or anyone else will ever learn of their existence. He did not know when long-held respect and affection turned into another, very different, kind of love. And it was of no consequence now, the whens or the whys.
For there was no room in Elrond's heart for him; Legolas had ensnared it as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow.
In the meantime, he still had the friendship and trust of both and that was enough. It had to be.
"You told me that love will light the way for Sam and Frodo when they find themselves encased in darkness. I can almost believe you." Avoiding her question of his well being, he said instead as a twist, not quite a bitter smile yet, curved his lips.
Arwen looked at him, the man she loved with an ardor she had never known in all the years she had lived. "Then believe, you who holds my death in your hands." she said with conviction.
Aragorn hesitated; the air between them fairly crackled with potential lies and half-truths. Then he clasped her hand, twining his fingers with hers and held on tightly as they walked back together to the house of her father's while shadowy beasts, unseen but always would be there from this moment forth, were laid to uneasy rest.
Aragorn, son of Arathorn and Gilraen, rightful heir of Gondor, and whose blood carried the taint of Isildur, promised himself in the darkness then. He would see his own death staring in his eyes first before he broke that vow.
Arwen shall never know.
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Story notes: Bear with the Aragorn/Arwen bit in the beginning if you dislike that sort of thing, I swear on my Legolas figurine that there is absolutely no het mortal/elf mushy or sex scenes contained within and everything works out to an angsty and satisfactorily slashy ending, alright?
This is a fan fiction work based on the first LOTR movie, NOT the books! Which might account for the rather neo-formal language used : I know the books stated that Celebrían, Elrond's wife, was still alive in the Havens but to all purposes and intentions, she died a noble ( and extremely convenient ) death in my universe :b
Linked to Falling Stars.