For IKhandoZatman, whose comments are ever inspiring, even though they are short.
A/N: Baby bunnies are called kittens.
The little elfling peered around the corner through his pale blonde locks. Quickly he scanned the corridor with wide blue eyes, then, seeing all was clear, turned around and, after giggling into his small hands, motioned to the others to follow him.
The others consisted of two small ellyth, one a dirty blonde, the other a raven head. Both were slightly younger than the little ellon who kept giggling and bouncing on his toes excitedly.
"Hurry up," he whispered loudly through his tittering. "Êli, Rîn, we don't want to get caught."
The blonde elleth sighed loudly. While it was clear that the little male elfing was trying as best he could to keep silent, his female counterpart saw clearly that such an effort was unnecessary.
"We wont get caught, Las," she said with a superior air. "Ada and Nana are in bed. They are sleeping. We will not get caught."
Little Legolas scowled at his sister. "They could wake up... or Galion could be awake... One does not know these things… " More giggling.
Rîneth, the dark haired one of the trio, who was enamored, even at such a tender age, of the prince of the Woodland Realm, spoke in her "beloved's" defense. "Las is right," she asserted. "I heard that Galion likes to sneak around at night and look for naughty elflings who should be in bed."
The princess looked scornfully at her best friend. "Who told you that?"
The other child looked down, pressing her chin to her chest. "Galion," she murmured into her collar, sensing that this might not have been exactly reliable information.
"Sshh!" hissed Legolas before his sister could respond. Girls could never stop talking. He rolled his eyes and turned back to face the corridor, scanning it again for any older elves.
The elflings tiptoed across the hall and up to the big door. Actually, the door was not really very big, but to the little ones it seemed large and heavy. Legolas turned the handle and the girls pushed hard while slowly the door swung outward into the king's enclosed garden.
The wind whispered through the trees and played with the children's hair as they scampered out into the shrubbery. Ducking under branches and crawling through flower beds, they made their way to the far wall, where a rabbit hutch nestled between two small bushes. Êlien reached the bunnies first and bent down to look at the small furry animals; Legolas and Rîneth stood behind, trying to look around her shoulders.
These newborn pets were descendants of the late and great Finwë, the beloved pet whom the queen had brought to the Greenwood when she had married Thranduil. That day the elflings had been disappointed to learn that although a new generation had been added to the family tree, they would have to wait until tomorrow to see the baby rabbits. Patience was a virtue which they did not possess in large quantities, so Êlien had come up with a scheme to creep out and look at them, undetected by grownups.
"Let's take them out and hold them!" whispered Rîneth excitedly, trying for the sake of secrecy not to jump up and down.
Êlien turned to face her exuberant friend. "Of course! Why else do you think we came?" she demanded indignantly. Rîneth blushed and fell silent.
Reaching out, the princess opened the cage and carefully began to remove the rabbits. She handed them back one by one. Soon Legolas and his sister each held two kittens, while Rîneth was left with the mother and father rabbit.
"Please may I hold a new bunny?" pleaded the little girl. As much as she loved the parent bunnies, Fingolfin and Aredhel, the purpose of this nighttime excursion was the new additions to the rabbit family, and she felt left out.
Legolas was not overly fond of girls. He barely tolerated Rîneth because she was his sister's friend. But she looked so forlorn, standing there in the dark with an oversized rabbit in each arm, that he could not help himself. Êlien was too absorbed in the pets she was holding to care about the other girl's predicament. The little prince held out his right hand and the kitten nestled within it. "Trade?"
The grateful smile Rîneth gave him made up for any annoyance he felt towards her. They gingerly made the switch; now all three children held at least one of the tiny bunnies.
The wind was picking up by now and the temperature was dropping quickly. Lightning flashed in the sky behind them, but the children were oblivious to the weather change until the boom of thunder a few seconds later made them jump. They turned towards the forest and looked up at the thunderhead hovering over them. Another flash dropped from the sky and struck a tree somewhere out in the forest. Terrified, the two girls ducked behind Legolas, clutching the bunnies to their chests. The prince was just as scared as the little ellyth, but he tried to hold a brave expression while the girls were watching.
"Oh!" squealed Rîneth in fright as a third lightning bolt crackled down. She stepped as close to Legolas as she possibly could, pressing against his back and hiding her face. The girl-shy prince took an unconscious step away.
"We cannot stay out here," said Legolas; his voice came out as a squeak, as hard as he had tried to sound confident and grownup. "Ada said that if we are out in a storm we might be killed." This of course only increased the terror of the other two, as well as his own.
"But we cannot leave the bunnies out here!" wailed Êlien. "They will be too scared of being killed!" Rîneth began to sob.
Legolas swallowed hard. "We… we can take them into our rooms," he stammered, turning and pushing his companions back towards the door.
The children stumbled through the garden, trying to dodge bushes and flower beds while protecting the trembling rabbits. Thunder continued to boom behind them, growing in both proximity and frequency. They were almost to the door when a downpour began and completely drenched them. Cold, dripping, and scared, the elflings neglected all previous attempts at secrecy. They scurried indoors, accidentally forgetting to close the door behind them: their hands were, after all, full of furry animals.
Legolas led the way towards his room, where they could leave the bunnies in safety and go to change their wet nightgowns. As they scampered past the bedroom of the king and queen, a loud thunderclap drove them to abandon their previously charted course. Retracing their last few steps in a dash, all three little elflings bounded into the royal couple's chambers, bunnies still in tow.
Gíl-wen had just finished nursing baby Ferolas and was trying to hush him back to sleep despite the storm, when three unknown, very wet and small persons came hurtling out of nowhere into the bed. Thranduil bolted upright, wide awake.
"What in the name of..." he exclaimed, too stunned to be immediately angry at being awoken in such a disagreeable manner. "Who...?" He grasped the shirt off the elfling nearest to him and recognized the offender. "Legolas!" And then he realized that not only was the child dripping wet, he was carrying two rabbits. The king quickly worked out the sequence of events. "You went outside?" he asked sternly. "At night? And then you brought in the rabbits?!"
Another clap of thunder cut off any excuse the young prince could have made up. Legolas squealed in terror and launched himself, bunnies and all, at his Adar, bravery forgotten. The two little girls had meanwhile found themselves tucked safely, and quite warmly, in the blankets beside the queen. In the time that her husband had managed to awaken, recognize the intruders, and come to some sort of scolding conclusion, Gíl-wen had hastily put the baby in his cradle, stripped both the young ellyth of their sopping garments, and tucked them and their trembling bunnies in the warm bedclothes. She slipped out of the room and went in search of towels.
As the little prince now launched himself into his father's arms, Thranduil was able to catch a glimpse of his son's frightened expression in the flash of white light that accompanied the thunder. Legolas' lips trembled with suppressed hysteria and the little body that clung to the king shook in terror. The tirade that Thranduil had been about to unleash choked itself in his throat; he pulled the little boy close to him, and stroked the child's back soothingly, bunnies notwithstanding.
"Calm, tithen las, calm," came the steady voice of the Elven King. "You must be my brave warrior. It is only a little storm."
Legolas calmed a bit, but still shivered from the dampness of his clothing. His courage returned to him, wrapped in the comfort of his Adar's strong arms.
"I tried to be brave, Ada, for the bunnies," replied the elfing, his voice muffled against Thranduil's chest. "We were bringing them to my room, so they did not have to stay outside in the storm."
Whether the elflings had left the palace for that same reason, Thranduil did not question. His son was too frightened to receive a scolding that night, and truthfully it was a good thing that the rabbits and their kittens were now inside. Still making small circles on his son's back with his fingers, he began to remove the wet nightclothes from the shaking little ellon. Legolas' very skin was damp from the deluge and his shivering was not only due to fright. The king held his child close once more, hoping to warm him by means of body heat.
"It's ok, penneth, you did well," he commended, for the little one had done the right thing in bringing the creatures into a more hospitable atmosphere. Heavens knows if the newborn kittens would have survived the strong storm of the Greenwood, feeble and young as they were, and if they had not made it through the night, Thranduil would have to reckon with both his wife and his unhappy children.
"Thank you, Ada," murmured the trembling elfling and yawned tiredly, bottom lip quivering.
Gíl-wen re-entered the bedroom with a pile of thick towels in her arms, and a lighted candle which she set upon the mantelpiece. A servant followed her and proceed to re-stoke the dying embers of the fire.
Having tossed a warm towel to her husband, she began to wrap the other two around the princess and her little friend, whose wet hair was soaking into the clean, dry pillowcases. She also proceed to dry the rabbits' and their kittens' fur as well. Life with elflings was full of such happenings, she reflected resignedly.
"Everything is alright now," she murmured as she rubbed the children and their little charges with the towels. The elflings were much calmer now that they were in the safety and warmth of the big bed, though they jumped slightly with each resounding clap of thunder. The bunnies, on the other hand, were not quite sure what to make of the situation, and looked about the room in bewilderment.
On the other side of the bed Legolas lay still, enveloped in a warm towel, snuggled up close with his father, his own little arms wrapped securely around the rabbits. Exhausted from fright and the exertions of the evening, he soon nodded off. His breath came slow and soft against Thranduil's neck.
Though the onslaught of rain continued, the worst of the storm–the thunder and the lightning–had ceased, and the room was now warm from the heat of the newly kindled fire.
After thanking and dismissing the servant, Gíl-wen briefly checked on her slumbering babe before she climbed back into bed with the king, the elflings, and the bunnies. The little prince had fallen asleep, while the little ellyth were quietly talking to each other and their new pets.
Gíl-wen smiled lovingly at the sight of her husband and son cuddled together with Fingolfin and the new kitten on the opposite side of the bed.
"You are such a softie, Thran, you know that don't you?" she said warmly.
"I know," replied the Elven King, bending his head down slightly to place a kiss on his son's brow. In the muted glow of the fire's light, Gíl-wen caught a twinkle in her husband's grey-blue eyes. "Whoever would have thought that I would have shared a bed with Fingolfin?"
Gíl-wen laughed softly. "Daerada would be proud!"
"Fingolfin is not your daerada, Naneth," piped up an all-knowing Êlien. "He is a bunny. He can't be." The little princess had not yet learned her history lessons, nor her family's genealogy, but she knew enough to realize that her Naneth did not share traits with the rabbit who was asleep in her brother's arms. "Besides," she continued, "even if he could be, he has bunnies of his own now."
Before Gíl-wen could inform her daughter that her great great grandfather and the current royal bunny shared a name, Thranduil spoke in acclamation of his little princess' precocious brilliance.
"That is correct, rîn tithen nin (my little princess); your naneth could not have come from bunnies. You are very smart."
"Of course, Ada," agreed the little one, quite matter-of-factly, and resumed petting her little kittens.
Gíl-wen briefly glared at her husband for indulging his daughter–for she was completely and utterly his child at times like these– and commenced her explanation.
"You should thank your adar for the compliment, gur nin; and while it is true that Fingolfin is our bunny, he is named after my great grandfather."
"Oh," said the little elleth, processing this new information. "Well, I suppose they can share. But I do not understand why I have to thank adar. He did not give me a compl-i-ment"– she struggled successfully over the big word– "he only told the truth."
Thranduil resisted the urge to chuckle, while Gíl-wen shook her head slightly and rolled her eyes. Sometimes there was no arguing with her daughter.
"Very well," she sighed resignedly, "now you and Rîneth should stop your talking and go to sleep. You need to be well rested if you wish to spend tomorrow with the little kittens."
"Yes, Nana," said the little princess obediently and she yawned sleepily, before adding, "I love you, Ada."
" 'Night, queenie," murmured an already half-sleeping Rîneth, who had snuggled up against Gíl-wen's right side. The little elleth lived in the palace as her father was the captain of the guard and his family had their own suites near those of the royal family. This was not the first time she had found her way into king and queen's bed tagging along with the prince and princess and Gíl-wen and Thranduil treated her as one of their own.
"Goodnight, dears," Gíl-wen murmured endearingly, placing a small kiss on Rîneth's forehead and reaching out to stroke Êlien's raven locks lovingly. "They are so precious…" the queen whispered to her husband. "Even though we probably will get no sleep tonight, to have them in bed with us and all their little pets is so endearing."
"Aye, it is," replied Thranduil. "Though we shall have to speak to them tomorrow about sneaking out. But for now, I think we are all quite comfortable where we are. Only Aglar is missing." Aglar, the royal elk, was the most recent mount in a history of several generation of moose.
"Aglar is too big, Ada." A tired voice reverberated on the king's chest and he looked down to see his son blinking sleepily up at him.
"Why hello, ion nin; you should be sleeping, penneth."
"You should too, Ada," came his little one's cheeky retort, and Thranduil tapped his son's nose playfully. Legolas had stretched his limbs and yawned and rubbed the sleep from his eyes and, now, wide awake, was focusing on the two rabbits in his arms. He looked up at his father pleadingly. "Can we keep them in our rooms with us, Ada, at least until they are big enough? Please, Ada… "
"Well, I suppose so, if you take care of them as well," the king said obliging.
Legolas barely contained a squeal of delight. "Thank you, Adar." He looked down at the sleeping kitten. "I shall name mine, Glorfindel," he stated definitively. The little prince hero-worshiped the Balrog Slayer, even though he had never met him. Thranduil chuckled at the thought of having a rabbit named after the mighty lord–the King and the Lord of the House of the Golden Flower were not exactly on the best of terms as they had both courted the Lady Gíl-wen simultaneously. They were courteous to each other at best, but Glorfindel was still extremely saddened that the Woodland king had managed to snatch his beloved from under his nose. Gíl-wen had been in his heart for over two centuries before she had agreed to give him a chance to court her, but she had promptly fallen in love with the king of Mirkwood.
Thranduil winked at his wife. "What do you think, meleth?" he teased. "Is that a good name for our child's pet?"
"Well, at least it is more original than Aglar," she retorted, turning the joke back upon its author. Thranduil had a habit of naming each successive moose since his first one: Aglar.
The king sighed, ever the martyr. "You know, we are not a house of bunnies alone," he said. "Elk have rights as well as rabbits, and everyone would do well to remember it." Little Legolas nodded affirmatively at his father's mandate, not recognizing his sarcasm.
Gíl-wen just looked at Thranduil and he flashed her a mischievous grin. Then the king, after snuggling his son in beside him again, stretched out his hand to his queen. She took it and they lay like that with their elflings and their bunnies until the morning sun drove away the storm clouds of the night.