Summary: In the dark it is both a blessing and a curse to remember what is bright and beautiful. Set in Moria during the Quest.

Pairing: Legolas/Elrond

Rating: M, to be safe

Warnings: Slash and angst

Disclaimer: All characters belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.

A/N: I'm going through my archives looking for previously unpublished stories. Here is one, for example!

Lingering

I think... that I am turning into stone.

I can no longer say for certain how many days and how many nights that have passed since we fled into the darkness. It is a troubling thought.

Yes, the snow was cold and cruel upon Caradhras – and the malice of the wizard's storm even crueller – but it seemed, as I ran lightly atop the icy crust, for a while at least, that we were making for the skies. We were closer to the Sun, then.

In the belly of the earth, there is only a dream of light.

Every time I inhale, the dust creeps down my throat. I breathe in rotting hopes, stinking fear and a twisted legacy, and the faint whispers of crumbling bones. Thick walls press against me when I close my eyes, and when I open them and behold their scars, I am brought to tears. As though I wished to cry for them – for a time that once was, for a kingdom that is now fallen. As if an Elf would ever cry for the Dwarves.

But there is a curious magic rooted in this place of doom for when I turn over on my bedroll and spy the shape of the son of Glóin across the broken floor, my heart softens. A little.

Yet, it is enough.

For, you see, I lose you sometimes. In the bowels of Moria it is easy to forget that the hand that pushed me out of the gates of Imladris is also the one that shall pull me back through them. And it is a necessity. I do not wish to wound you, but for as long as I wander through this perpetual immortal night, the memory of you is too painful to recall too often.

Perhaps, also, I do not wish to add to the wealth of history hidden here; mine are not the only heavy memories that these stones know.

So I keep you at a safe distance. I let the stones enfold me. I allow the winding steps to rise to meet me, the deep chasms to grin blackly up at me, and the high, invisible ceilings above to close in over me. For a while, in order to survive, I need to forget you. But even as I labour to distance myself from the memory of you, I keep thinking that whatever we find here, it cannot be worse that being parted from you. If I am right, I will live.

Then, as I am touched by something that lies beyond immediate troubles, my heart softens, and it is as though I can feel your fingertips trail down my cheek, partly in awe, partly in joy.

You have a way of looking at me, you know. Once you admitted that, even before my coming of age, your thoughts would oft return to me and your heart would beat for two. I believe I let your devotion fill my head; I floated two inches above the grass, I am sure, with my chin tilted towards the treetops of my father's woods. So proud was I to hold the Lord's affection, that I treated all others as inferiors for some time. You never saw any of that, being, as you were, already on your way back to the Valley, and by all that is sacred is that a blessing! I was young and foolish, and it took several long seasons for me to understand that a few kisses exchanged in a secluded corner of my father's halls hardly constituted the foundation of a marriage contract...

Aye, I lose you sometimes, in the dark. And then I lose myself.

This is a different spring. I see it in the way that the sunlight is muted. It should be bright and sparkly where it meets the rivers' surfaces, where it tangles in the thin white curtains that fall flowing to your floor, but with every day that passes some of its radiance is dulled.

I roll onto my belly and push the hair out of my face. Imladris is still beautiful, though. It is still a sea of gold and green, and high blue skies and laughter. The linen is rumpled but soft and I breathe in the freshness of the morning. Then I watch you.

You are... You are the centre of the world. You are Lord and Commander, Father and Friend. Healer and Herder. If you asked it of me, I would throw myself at your feet and worship the soles of your boots.

That you are not wearing at the moment.

I smile as a gentle breeze fingers your open robe and lifts it from your skin where it can. Your dark hair falls down your back and I imagine I can see the imprint of my fingers on it.

Your shoulders are broader than mine, your muscles more defined, your hands larger. Your jaw sharper. Your eyes wiser. Your heart more compassionate. Yet you sometimes look at me as though am I one of the Valar.

But now you are looking out the window. There is a furrow between your brows and I see no trace of yestereve's smiles on your lips.

I smell of you.

I slip out of bed and pad across the floor. I am sore and my muscles protest, but I will not limp. The aches and pains of lovemaking are welcome gifts and I will be healed very soon. It was a while ago that we were together, that is all.

The robe does a poor job of hiding your body from my eyes. The silk is smooth to the touch, I know, but your face is so serious that I dare not press against you. Your grey eyes meet mine, and I see that you have been crying.

Gimli the Dwarf snores. I do believe that I told you he was likely to. I do believe you told me, in turn, that poor sleeping conditions would be among the smallest of our trials. I smiled then, asking for one more hour in your bed, to better prepare myself for the trying times ahead.

You took me in your arms and held me for two.

Boromir of Gondor is restless. He, too, feels the power of this place, but differently I think. In his mind are painted the images of his own land's ruin, of the downfall of his own people and the destruction of his world as he knows it. He speaks little with me but more with Aragorn. I wish I knew whether they trust one another.

I turn over again and stare into blackness. The stone cuts through my bedroll and into my shoulder.

What of my people? What of my father and my kin?

Have they any say in the fate that I am to choose for myself?

The Council is over and the air is tingling with formality. I have offered Frodo my bow. I am to serve him. I am to leave. It is a challenge: I mean to walk towards, and evade, Death.

Perhaps you knew it would happen for you do not seem surprised. You even smile as you name us Fellowship and bid us see to our preparations.

It is only later that I discover how I have made you suffer.

That night you open me and bury yourself deep in my body, and though there is pleasure, there is more agony. You are hard, yet broken. Eager, yet weakened. Your fingers leave bruises on my hips as you thrust into me even as your tears stain my neck.

I promise to – upon my return after the ultimate destruction of Sauron and the saving of the entire universe and the coming of all good – never leave you again. I make that promise time and time again as you fill me, and I spill myself over your pillow. My promises are pleas by the time you pull out of me and flip me over to lie on my back. You tower over me, tormented and hopeful. Aroused, yes, but I barely take notice when you enter me again, lifting my legs to your shoulders. All I can think of is how, come morning, I will be parted from you, and the fear cuts so deep that I am unable to appreciate that in this moment we are together.

You find your release somewhere in my depths. It is sweet, I suppose, but your vow that comes ghosting over my cheek – the one I shall never allow you to forget – is far sweeter.

There is a creak of leather and the soft rush of ragged wool upon stone. Somewhere in the darkness I can sense Gandalf move and a moment later, a small orange spark lights up a weary face not far away from where I lie. Second watch has begun.

I hesitate for quite a while. Turn my thoughts over and test my heart and courage. I never speak of you. We never speak of each other. And so our relationship has remained a secret for many, many years. I can name only three living souls who know of it.

In the end I rise. Days and nights pass during which I force myself to forget you, and I tell myself I could act no other way if I wish to maintain a hold on my sanity. I slip through the compact layers of ancient shadows, following the faint glow and scent of pipe-weed.

He is seated on the floor, his back to a pillar. I sink down beside him and he shifts to leave me some space on the smooth slab of stone he has found.

We sit for a while and the trail of smoke weaves into my hair. I do not mind it any longer. It comforts me, in an odd way.

I breathe in the traces of despair that are ever-present here and then words fall from my lips in a whisper.

"She is out there. Shining brilliant in a velvet sky."

He acknowledges this with a strangled grunt and for a moment the blackness seems to soften. Then he, too, whispers:

"He is waiting for you."

I blink away my tears. The Daughter and the Father. Our Stars.

He knows, Aragorn. It is a good thing. It proves that while we melt into stone, there is still a world on the other side.

Somewhere the sun still shines.

"I promise you, Legolas, I will take you for my own. When you come back I shall speak with your father and you shall be mine. Everyone will know how I love you."

How I love you.

End