Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, though for as long as they've been hanging out in my head I should charge rent! The Tolkien Estate owns all.

Dedicated to EverleighBain (go read her wonderful stories) who was having a meh'ish day. May there ever be noble men and snuffling horses in your life. This was meant to be something a bit more cheerful but you write what they tell you. Glorfindel, of course, butted his way in and refuses to apologize for it! All mistakes are mine.

The Burden of Hope

"Did you ever doubt?" Swinging up on the balcony to sit with a decided thump, Aragorn huffed a long sigh and leaned against the exquisite statue at the end of the balcony.

"That is a rather sweeping question, Estel." Smile quirking one side of his mouth, Glorfindel continued with his fletching of arrows. "Did I doubt that Lindir could sing that high last night, or that Erestor had likely eaten the last peach tart this morning, or that Lady Mirith really should not wear that hideous shade of chartreuse…" He grimaced. "No one should wear that shade. Wear a proper green that doesn't remind one of pond scum."

"No." Impatient as only a young man who is being deliberately misunderstood can be, Aragorn sighed again. "I mean about destiny. Honour. Sacrifice. Are they the same for an immortal or is it only we who must face –" Suddenly recalling just whom he was asking, Aragorn leaped from the balcony and took a step forward to offer a bow. "Forgive me. Of course you know what it is to sacrifice and I did not mean to question honour or—"

"Aragorn." Glorfindel looked up, expression tranquil, and gestured. "Sit. Tell me what gnaws at you like a pup with a bone."

Sitting cross-legged on the ground, Aragorn attempted to calm his racing mind and corral his thoughts. When he was silent for a long stretch, Glorfindel handed him some wood shafts, feathers and set the bucket of water that was holding the soaked sinew between them. It made the young man smile – idle hands were never left idle long around Glorfindel. He always found things for the young and bored to do such as fletching arrows, splitting wood, sharpening the practice swords in the armory, helping Roccandil in the stables or weeding the gardens. The task of fletching was familiar and Aragorn could do it without much conscious thought, leaving his mind largely free to work at his question. After the third arrow done, Aragorn finally said very quietly, "You know the goal Lord Elrond has set me."

Carefully trimming the white feathers of an arrow, Glorfindel looked up only as he set the arrow aside to dry. Resting his forearms against his thighs, he leaned forward to gaze at Aragorn for a long moment.

When he was younger such deep gazes from the Eldar disconcerted Aragorn, and he would squirm. He had long learned to endure them without flinching, and even to hold them, unwavering. He looked up and met Glorfindel's gaze finally, fascinated as always by the light in the blue eyes that made them shimmer.

But still, he waited. There was no rushing to be had in Rivendell. Eldar spoke advice, if they did at all, when they so wished. There was no hint of reproach in Glorfindel's gaze, he seemed to be measuring something in his mind, though Aragorn hoped he did so before the moon rose.

"You do not doubt the path laid before you."

There was more than one way to understand that statement. Aragorn weighed his choices. "I would expect no less, nor do I doubt the wisdom of Elrond Eärendilion."

Glorfindel looked down, reaching for another feather which he swiftly cut into two pieces, preparing it for the shaft. "What do you doubt, Estel?"

And oh, it all came welling up again regardless of how he pushed it down. The bliss of realizing Arwen returned his regard, and the giddy joy of their troth.

The trip back to Rivendell had been one of many questions, many doubts, and no small amount of concern that rode with him like an unwelcome burr in his boot. He did not doubt his love for Arwen, or his depth of commitment. He would not have even dared approach her had Galadriel not seemingly taken his side and dressed him as an Elven prince before sending him off to where Arwen was walking.

"What is set before me is daunting." Letting his hair fall forward, Aragorn shook his head as his hands tied the sinew around the shaft of the arrow. "I am no coward, nor do I flinch in the face of adversity, but this seems to me overwhelming. " Quietly, voice falling even softer than the breeze, he sighed, "It looms larger in my mind by the moment."

Glorfindel finished the arrow he was working on and set it aside to dry. "Do you remember when you first learned the sword? How you watched the sparring, the footwork and the quickness of those guardsmen, and wondered how you would ever match that?"

A snort, and Aragorn nodded. "I was six, and you would give me only a wooden sword."

"A perfectly balanced wooden sword. Such as Elladan and Elrohir learned with as well."

"So you reminded me then."

"So I remind you now."

Aragorn looked up then, and met the Eldar's gaze. Glorfindel could be, by turn, impossible to read or impossibly transparent. Licking his lips, he shook his head. "This is more than learning stances and muscle memory."

"What was your goal then, Estel?"

"To one day best the twins." A gleam entered the grey eyes. "Maybe even you."

A smile blossomed across the elf's face. "You have always been ambitious." Glorfindel pulled a feather out of the stack and ran it through his fingers. "Never have you let the fact that you are mortal daunt you, nor have you sought to do less than your best simply because you faced an opponent thousands of years older than you."

"My best may not be up to this." He swallowed hard, past the lump in his throat. "It is a very lofty goal."

"With the highest reward," Glorfindel reminded him quietly. "Your heart knows that you are the equal of this, Estel, else it would not have allowed you to promise yourself to Arwen." Rising smoothly, Glorfindel took a step to crouch by Aragorn. "Do not let this, " he tapped the young man's forehead, "dissuade you from what this knows to be true." He lightly set his hand on Aragorn's chest, over the beating, mortal heart. "Others will try to limit you, to tell you it cannot be done and you are the biggest fool alive for even trying. If this is indeed your path then you will face it and overcome whatever is in the way."

There was only sincerity shining in the sapphire eyes, the gaze holding Aragorn until he nodded his understanding. It was a little overwhelming, the unlooked for confidence from this elf who knew much about overcoming impossible odds.

Glorfindel rose then and stretched up, lifting his face to the sun with a smile. "Come, leave the arrows now and let them dry. Roccondil has been training a group of four year-olds, and said there are several colts with great promise." He waited for Aragorn to set his arrows with the others then set out for the stables. "One of those colts is out of Elrond's favorite mare."

"I've seen him, a black colt that runs as fast as water in the Bruinen."

"Ah, but one day he will be white, like his sire."

Glorfindel and his penchant for white horses. "Does Lord Elrond know you're eyeing his favorite's son?"

Leaning against the fence of the paddock where the young horses were grazing, Glorfindel nodded. "No doubt there will be haggling to be done, and perhaps I will owe him some boon, but it will be worth it to fly with this one."

The young horse looked up as if it knew they were discussing it, and tossed its head before ripping off to race around the paddock. Before long the entire herd was thundering down the long green swathe of paddock to sweep in a flow of grey and brown and black around the pond before racing back up towards the two onlookers.

Glorfindel laughed, and Aragorn couldn't help but smile in response to the joyful sound. "Ai, aren't they beautiful!" He held his hand out to a curious colt, rubbing under the bay chin as the horse snuffled at him. "Will you stay this night, Estel?"

"One last night," he said with a nod. One last night and then… Then he would learn how to embrace this destiny that had haunted his steps seemingly since taking the name Estel.

"I will see you in the Hall of Fire."

"I…" Aragorn closed his mouth and nodded before turning to walk back to the main house. Stopping, he turned. "This does stay between us." Glorfindel had been known to say the unexpected, though never intentionally to wound.

A look, held long spoke far more than words and Aragorn was assured. He turned to begin walking again when the melodious voice said, "Though I am tempted to drop something marring upon Lady Mirith's gown lest we be assaulted by that shade again tonight." The sparkling grin was full of mischief but Glorfindel laughed and waved off Aragorn's uncertain look. "What a woman wears is none of my concern, and I assure you I have lived long enough – and wish to continue doing so – to know better than even think it too loudly. " He put his hand to his heart. "I shall be the soul of discretion."

"Have no fear of assault." Aragorn grinned as Glorfindel's eyebrows arched sharply. "Upon your eyes, of course. Erestor was equally offended this morning and quite deftly saw that a few small drops of tea marred the lady's gown."

"It could only be an improvement."

"He said much the same."

"Ha!" Glorfindel left the horses and joined Aragorn in the walk back. "Now if Lindir will only leave off singing in falsetto or whatever that was he was attempting last night all shall be well."

And people thought elves were stodgy and boring? Aragorn smiled to himself. "Perhaps a suggestion of song rather than letting him chose?"

The troubling grin was back. "We can ask Mithrandir for a song!"

"Gandalf is here?" Aragorn stopped walking. "Is there trouble somewhere? Is—"

"Estel!" Laughing, Glorfindel took his elbow and pulled him forward. "He is here to look at maps and annoy Elrond by smoking pipeweed in the library as he knows he should not."

"Does he sing?"

"Oh yes." Eyes gleaming, the elf nodded. "He knows a great many songs." And somehow he had heard about the young Dúnadan Chieftain and Elrond's daughter, no doubt. But no sense worrying Estel with that as yet. Glorfindel was adept at keeping those who tended towards fretting and brooding from doing so. "Now go bathe. " He gave the young man a slight nudge. "I'll keep Mithrandir from you until you smell better than horses and sinew."

It was, he thought as he gathered the arrows they had fletched, the least he could do, for the road before the young man would bring many hardships. The strongest swords were forged with much tempering, he reminded himself.

All the same, Glorfindel headed for the kitchens to ask the cooks if they might fix a few extras that were favorites of one young mortal man in whom so many hoped.

A/N: As anyone who has read my stories knows Aragorn and the Rangers are not usually in the sandbox playing with the Elves I write. Expansion is good, but mistakes are likely to happen. If you see one, let me know so I can correct it, please! Thank you for reading!