Title:Wild Child 0/?

Author: Wednesday & Greenwood

Archive: www.fanfiction.net and our website at http://wildest- dreams.slashcity.net/. All others, please ask.

Pairing: Legolas/Mithrandir (Elrond & Glorfindel also appearing)

Category: Pre-slash

Rating: PG-13

Warnings: None

Summary: Young Legolas is left behind in Imladris for the first time when Mithrandir must resume his duties.

Feedback: Sure.

Notes: "Wild Child" is the story containing the "You don't NEVER touch me!" scene we posted as a teaser some time ago. That scene comes in the middle of the story, so don't be alarmed & think it's missing. Also, apologies that Greenwood and I have taken so long to post anything new, but we seem to have found our rhythm now.

WILD CHILD

CHAPTER ONE

"Mithrandir, why do you inflict these situations upon me? Can't you manage something simple, just once?"

I watched as the wizard's grey eyebrows rose in exaggerated surprise. "The situation is exceedingly simple to me, Lord Elrond. What do you feel is complicated about it?"

I fingered the rim of the half-empty wine goblet I held, shook my head, and glowered at the pile of books on my desk. I would have glowered at Mithrandir, but etiquette demanded that I restrain myself. Stifling a growl, I tried to slouch lower in my chair, but that was an impossible task as my knees had already fetched up against the back wall of the desk.

Over the past eight months most of the citizens of Imladris had gotten used to having young Prince Legolas of Mirkwood living among us, had grown accustomed to the presence of the wizard's little shadow. We had discovered that the child was far from normal, but he was gradually releasing his patterns of wariness and silence. As a result, his behavior was becoming a bit more that of a normal child of his age. Now, just as things seemed to be settling into a peaceful pattern within our small sanctuary, Mithrandir had all but announced that he planned to neatly deposit the half-wild creature in my watch-care and leave.

I had battled Sauron's army on the slopes of Mount Orodruin, and I was the lord of Imladris with all its inherent stresses and difficulties. I wielded Vilya, a great ring of power and was not incapable of competent leadership. Yet the thought of caring for one tiny elf now filled me with great anxiety.

"I do not like this," I murmured. "Your elfing will not like it, either."

"He already does not like it," Mithrandir said quietly. "Last night, I patiently and repeatedly explained to Legolas that I must resume the travels interrupted by our meeting in Mirkwood and by our coming here. He said that he understood, but." The wizard shrugged helplessly.

"I imagine the child understands only that his friend and guardian is leaving him in the company of strangers."

"It is not merely that which upsets him," the wizard informed me. "The thought of my traveling alone seems to fill Legolas with a panic that I am ill-prepared to calm. He seems to believe that unless he is with me, I will fall victim to spiders, orcs or wolves."

"Unless he is with you?" I tried to puzzle this out, but in vain. "Why would it help to have such a youngling with you?"

"Legolas has some notion of defending me."

"That idea is ridiculous," I observed, perhaps more harshly than I should have. "He is only a child, with no defense capabilities at all. The past eight months have shown us that Legolas's spirit is strong and resilient, but spirit alone is no defense against the evils beyond our sanctuary's borders. Surely he understands this."

Mithrandir sighed and glanced away. "As always, you speak the truth."

I studied the wizard for a long moment, noting the reluctant bend of the shoulders and the pensive shadows in the sad blue eyes as he puffed on his pipe and stared out into the night. Here I was, berating him when he didn't want to leave his charge any more than I wanted him to. Schooling my voice to gentleness, I asked, "You cannot delay this meeting with Radagast?"

"I've tarried in Imladris far too long as it is. For Legolas's sake, I would tarry another threescore years and see him into adulthood. But neither the shadows growing beyond your borders nor the White Council will wait that long. I came to Middle-earth for a solemn purpose, and that purpose must be served before all else. I also find myself strangely reluctant to reveal Legolas and his situation to the council."

"I see." I even understood, given some members of the White Council's propensity to manipute and judge.

Pushing out of my chair, I gained my feet and paced past the iron-black candle-stands and out onto the balcony. Setting my goblet on the railing, I surveyed the pale blue lights dancing across the river. Peaceful lives went on behind those lights -- lives of the elves I was sworn to protect, citizens of Imladris whose world I was determined to preserve, no matter what the Dark Lord might plan or do.

Legolas was one of my citizens now, a child I knew as small, fragile, and damaged. With or without Mithrandir in residence, as Lord of Imladris I was ultimately responsible for the child. I accepted that responsibility the night of his arrival, though I had no desire to fulfill it alone. I was more than willing to do whatever might be required to heal the hurts that Legolas's father, King Thranduil, had inflicted, but I knew my limitations. I thought also that I knew Legolas's limitations; those stormy blue eyes could be very expressive when turned my way.

My irritation at Mithrandir's looming departure was borne of fear: fear that Legolas could heal only under the wizard's gentle care. Fear that I might not know how to unlock the child's wary heart or earn his trust in any lasting way. Fear that I would never be able to do more for him than carefully offer him another piece of honeyed bread or plateful of apples beneath a table.

"I knew this was coming, you know?" I murmured as the wizard stepped up beside me.

"Knew that what was coming?" he asked, startled from his morose study of his pipe smoke.

"That you would wish to leave Legolas in my care during your absence. Or shall we say your absences, as we both know that they will be continuous and long throughout Legolas's childhood?"

Mithrandir rocked back. "I would not have you believing that I brought Legolas here specifically to be raised by you."

"I suspect that you were given little choice, Master Wizard. You could have carried your elf to Lothlorian, but we both know that neither Galadriel or Celebrian have the time or the patience to look after such a. strange and deeply injured child as is Legolas. Not to mention the mutual animosity between Thranduil and Galadriel that is known to us all. I would hope such animosity would not carry over to interactions with one so young as Legolas, but the possibility must still be considered. If the child is to remain here, I suppose that others within Imladris might be delegated to look after him, but whom could we truly trust with such a task? You will be gone for decades over the next century, and Legolas requires consistent, experienced attention if he is to grow up secure in the knowledge that is needed to survive in our world. Which brings me to my main concern: what, exactly, do you wish me to do with him?"

Mithrandir chuckled. "You have raised three children to adulthood and ask me that?"

"Elves simply do not treat their children as this one has been mishandled," I pointed out. "I have no experience with this sort of abuse, and Legolas is like no other child I have ever known."

I didn't mean to sound as sharp as I did, but the truth was inescapable; I had no real understanding of which way the child would jump in any given situation. That left me at a great disadvantage, not to mention more than a little anxious around him.

"That's certainly true," Mithrandir agreed. "All right, then. I trust you to raise Legolas as a citizen of Imladris should be raised, and who better to do so? For now, however." The wizard pondered for a moment. "What things have you in common with him?"

"From what I can see, only horses and stories."

It was an easy enough question to answer: the former always had Legolas's undivided attention, and I got it as well whenever I told stories of the horses while Mithrandir sat holding Legolas on his lap in our Great Hall. More than once, I'd thought the child fast asleep where he lay with his head on the wizard's chest and his arms wrapped around the wizard's neck. When I looked again, however, I saw that Legolas's eyes were glittering at me in the firelight while he listened to my latest tale of happenings in our stables.

"Begin with horses and stories then," Mithrandir suggested. "Beyond that, be careful to raise neither hand nor voice to him. If you do this, then I believe that over time Legolas will come to trust you as he trusts me."

I snorted at that: Legolas would come to trust me as he trusted his beloved Mithrandir? The chances of that, I felt, were very slim. Small child and wizard had proven inseparable companions in the short time they'd been living here, often seeming to communicate without words. It was plain that the little elf was devoted his gentle rescuer. It was equally obvious that Mithrandir could not do without his little leaf, and had no wish to. But wait a moment. "Over time," the wizard had just said. I narrowed my gaze.

"Exactly how long did you say you'd be gone?"

"Six days, five darks," he replied promptly. "My journey will take me to the inn at Bree and back."

"See that it is only six days, five darks," I warned, pacing away from the railing. "From the way you speak this night, you expect to be gone a much longer time, and soon."

"Unfortunately, I do." A faint breeze stirred Mithrandir's hair and beard as his gaze held mine. "Saruman has summoned all of our Order to meet with him in Isengard at the end of next month. At that time, he will expect a full report on the goings-on at Dol Goldur, which means that as soon as possible I must journey there. It was this task that brought me to Mirkwood the day I first met my little leaf, so you see how long I have been putting that off."

His scowl was directed more at the interruption than the task, but it was not often that I had seen such dismay in the wizard's expression.

"I suspect that I will be given other assignments during our meeting," he continued, "which means that I will not be able to return to Rivendell for a few weeks, and that beyond catching up on what efforts I should have been undertaking." He looked somewhat sheepish, as though he'd never expected a thigh-high elfing to distract him so severely over most of the past year.

"How long do you expect to be gone?" I asked.

"If all goes well, two moons. It might be longer."

I drew a deep breath and closed my eyes. Two moons or longer, while I tried to keep track of an elfling who was very good at being invisible when he wished to be. An elfing who followed Mithrandir about like a pet, but who skittered away or beneath the wizard's robes whenever anyone else so much as smiled at him. Never mind touched him. Once or twice, I had been able to smooth a hand over Legolas's hair, but that had only been while he's been secure in the wizard's arms. And one of those times he'd been asleep. I found the prospect of being responsible for him more than a little daunting.

"What, exactly, am I to do with Legolas for two moons?" I wondered.

"Teach him, if you can," Mithrandir said softly, the trepidation in his eyes telling me that he knew all too well that what he was asking was impossible unless a miracle inserted itself between the boy and me during the wizard's absence. "I suspect that while Legolas's survival skills were perfected in his father's court, any regular lessons due small elves were severely lacking. Still, that is for the future, is it not?"

He abandoned the subject abruptly, no doubt hoping that Legolas would come to trust me before Mithrandir had to leave for an even more extended absence--one requiring years rather than weeks.

"I will leave tomorrow morning and return in six days," he reiterated. "The challenge for you this coming week will be to keep Legolas in the same room with you."

"How encouraging." Closing my eyes, I sent a silent prayer winging its way to Elbereth.

CHAPTER TWO

The morning of Mithrandir's departure dawned bright and clear and far too beautiful for the sorrow it held. The sun had barely cleared the horizon, with the morning dew still on the grass in my courtyard before Mithrandir emerged from the small chambers he shared with Legolas. Carrying him in his arms while Legolas carried the wizard's staff, they crossed the courtyard where Mithrandir's gelding and I waited.

The wizard's expression was somewhere between determined and forced cheer, while Legolas hid behind his silver-gold hair as it fell across his face. The long wooden was clutched tightly in his small fingers, and banged steadily against the wizard's shins as they traveled, though it seemed unnoticed by both. Reaching the gelding, Mithrandir reluctantly set the child on the ground before turning to attend last-minute details as were necessary for departure.

Legolas's finally looked up, and his blue eyes were filled with a sadness I'd never before seen in a child's gaze. His lower lip trembled and he bit it while Mithrandir fussed with the reins across the horse's withers. Legolas was crying, but he did not sob as other elven children did. His pain was evidenced only by the tears streaking continuously down his cheeks like condensation down a wineskin taken from a stream on a hot summer's eve.

Packs secured to saddle and tack checked once more, the wizard turned to kneel before the small elfling. Those blue eyes swam with tears as Legolas looked up at his wizard, and his breathing hitched as he struggled with his weeping. Mithrandir thumbed away the tear stains and gave a gentle smile.

"It's time, little one, and you promised to be brave as I promised to be back after five darks. Can you keep your promise?"

The narrow chin trembled, but Legolas nodded solemnly--resolute or resigned, I couldn't tell before he scrubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand.

"Lord Elrond will be looking after you, and he has many fine stories to tell," said Mithrandir, scooping the child up and hugging him tightly. "Listen to him, and I'll be back before you know it."

Setting Legolas on the ground, the wizard ran his fingers through the child's fine blonde hair before lifting into the saddle. I stepped forward to grasp the bridle as the child stepped back, out of danger of being stepped on and the better to see his wizard atop the horse. Hunching his shoulders, Legolas appeared bereft without the wizard's touch, and I could have sworn that he shivered. Reaching down impulsively, I scooped him up into my arms.

"Here now. You can't say a proper farewell from down there," I told the rigid, wide-eyed child whose fists were bunched against my tunic as he strained back and away from me. Turning Legolas slightly, I redirected his attention to Mithrandir, who had arranged his robes by now and was now regarding me and his elf in disbelief.

/So,/ that look said, /you've already managed to touch him. Well done, milord./

I acknowledged the silent compliment with a brief nod and fought to not tighten my grip. In truth, my heart was pounding hard in my chest as I anticipated Legolas fighting the embrace. The last thing I wanted to do was add to his misery at this parting. I had thought only to give him better access to Mithrandir during these last moments and was thoroughly convinced that the only reason the rigid little body was tolerating my touch was because its owner desperately wanted to be close as long as possible to the wizard astride the horse.

Giving a low cry, Legolas abruptly launched himself out of my arms and against Mithrandir's chest. I barely had time to catch his legs to prevent his sliding down the side of the horse.

"Mith you!"

The wizard's long arm snaked around Legolas's middle, pulling him safely astride the horse and into a fierce hug. Resting his cheek against the top of Legolas's head, Mithrandir squeezed his eyes closed against what I was shocked to realize were his own tears.

"I shall miss you too, my little leaf."

/If these two are this miserable at the parting of only a few days,/ I thought, /how by all of the stars will Mithrandir be able to drag himself away for the centuries his duties demand?/

"I won't be gone very long or very far this time," Mithrandir murmured. "Lord Elrond will help you count out the days, and I'll be back before you know it."

His large hand cradled Legolas's head and his blunt fingers sifted softly through the hair, only to caress the shell of a pointed ear and travel on to cup Legolas's cheek. The child leaned into his touch and sobbed softly. Tears squeezed out from between his closed eyes as he clutched Mithrandir's beard and tangled his fingers ever tighter in the thicket.

Mithrandir held the child for a very long time, stroking Legolas's bright hair and letting him cry until I thought that the child would make himself sick. Eventually, though, the tears slowed and stopped. Raising his head, Legolas found his guardian smiling kindly and still stroking his hair.

"Better?" Mithrandir rumbled.

Sniffling, the elfing dragged a sleeve beneath his nose and shrugged.

"Can you be brave now?"

Legolas didn't answer immediately, but stared down at Mithrandir's belt. Laying his hand atop the wizard's, he seemed to ponder the question for a very long time. Mithrandir seemed contented to let him do so until, slanting a glance my way, Legolas heaved a heavy sigh and nodded.

"That is well, my little leaf."

A final all-enveloping hug from Mithrandir, and then Legolas heaved a mighty sigh. Summoning a grimace that I supposed was meant as a smile, he patted Mithrandir's wizard's soggy beard. Sliding back on the gelding's withers, Legolas eyed the ground as though he planned to jump.

"Here, now, don't do that. Let Lord Elrond help you."

Sliding his hands around the child's waist, he handed Legolas over to me. My surprised gaze met Legolas's startled, wide-eyed stare as I instinctively reached to embrace--in more ways than one--the burden Mithrandir was bestowing on me. Two small hands came around my neck in a way I'd not felt since my own children had been very small. Fine, silver- blond hair brushed my cheek, and then the child was settling against my chest and twisting around--but not fighting--to stare back at Mithrandir.

"Only five darks, little one." The wizard caressed Legolas's cheek one last time and smiled so that his eyes crinkled. "I shall miss you."

"Mith you," Legolas whispered.

With a tight smile and a final nod to me, Mithrandir turned the horse across the courtyard. Shifting in the saddle, he waved beneath the archway, and then was gone. Legolas stared at the empty space for a long moment before turning solemn blue eyes on me. and staring. I scarcely dared to breathe while I waited for his next move. The moment stretched between us, with me being slow to realize that this was probably Legolas's equivalent of, "What next?" Mentally frantic, I cast about for some subject, some event, that he might want to participate in.

"You've not seen your mare yet today, have you?" I asked gently.

He shook his head and those wary blue eyes never left mine. For the first time, I had a good look at them, only to idly register that they were the brilliant blue color of a cloudless summer's day. Impatiently, Legolas pushed at the sun-silvered hair in his eyes.

"Do you want to visit your mare, then?"

Another shrug I assumed was in agreement, and so I headed across the courtyard and onto the winding path that would take us to the stables, fighting not to turn to see if Legolas was following me. Soon I heard the soft pat of his step behind me on the cobbles, and sighed in relief.

/Swift return, Wizard,/ I thought. /You're needed here more than both of us probably know./