To Sam S. because, like Elrohir, he knew.

Title: Cold Steel

Summary: Legolas loves fire--because if he stares into the flames it takes his worries away. But fire is no longer enough for him. It is up to Elrohir to save his friend before Legolas takes his new hobby too far. No slash. Lots of angst.

Disclaimer: I do not own any character you recognize nor any location.

Warning: Self-mutilation

Author's Note: Legolas, Elladan, and Elrohir are supposed to be around eleven human years old. And feedback is appreciated but please no flames. Criticism is fine, but I really hate getting flames. I am currently editing and re-working this story; chapters will be reposted as I finish with them.

/~/ means flashback

***** means scene change

"Close my eyes when it gets too sad,

I think thoughts that I know are bad"

--Everclear, Wonderful

*****

"What do you mean, Legolas?"

The Elfling in question shifted uncomfortably. He hadn't meant to arouse suspicion. It had been a careless comment, and if he had been more careful there would be no trouble now! He cursed himself again, and answered in a careful and measured tone of voice, "I meant nothing, Elrohir. I simply spoke without thinking is all. Please, forgive my mistake."

"I think sometimes we need to make mistakes, Legolas. Sometimes they help us do things we need to do but are too scared to do on our own. Like asking for help," the second Elfling said with heavy implication.

"I need no help, Elrohir. I am quite fine, thank you. I appreciate your concern." Legolas had been visiting the twins, his friends, in Imladris. A careless comment had, he feared, incriminated his family. It had not been made with hurtful intentions.

/~/ Elrohir sprawled on his bed, his eyes to the ceiling. Legolas sat perched on the edge of the bed. The two had been carrying on a friendly conversation for quite a while. Elrohir was brooding about something, but had been denying it. "Come on, Elrohir, you are my friend and I know you are upset. What is it?"

"Well. . .it is just that Ada has been so busy lately. I feel a bit rejected by it. I know I am selfish, but I just feel like he has been ignoring me as of late."

"I do not understand," Legolas said, thoroughly baffled.

"Usually he is not so preoccupied, so he can spend time with Elladan, Arwen and I. Recently he has been so busy he has not had any spare time."

"'Spend time with'?"

"You know, Legolas. Like helping me with Archery or the Westron language."

"Oh, I understand. I thought all families were like that. . ."/~/

"I meant nothing, Elrohir!" Legolas jumped up in anger.

"Calm down, friend, for soon you must leave for Mirkwood--less than an hour. Let us not waste the time in petty squabbles."

"You are right, Elrohir. Truce?"

"Truce."

*****

"Ada?" Elrohir called softly, pushing open the door to his father's study. "May I come in?"

"Yes, Elrohir," Elrond said, glad to see his son. "I have wanted to talk to you for some time. Is everything all right?"

"Yes and no. I am fine, but I am worried about Legolas." The prince had left for Mirkwood earlier that day, and it had taken Elrohir hours to work up the courage to confide his worries in Elrond. "He said something before he left that did not sound quite right."

"What did he say?" Elrond also had his worries about the young Elf. Legolas was never exactly the same as the others; he seemed far older and quieter. When the others ran about, playing 'it' and other such games, Legolas would stand on the sidelines. Loud noises even seemed to disturb the boy, and he would often hide away in the library. When he could not get away from the noise he had a very disconcerting response, which Elrond had only once observed: he curled up into a ball and rocked. Elrond wondered if things were all right for the boy at home.

"I was talking about. . ." Elrohir kicked at the floor, staring at his foot. "I was telling him how you had been busy lately, sort of too busy for us, mostly, and he said he thought all families were like that. They are not, are they, Ada?"

"No, Elrohir, they are not. Unfortunately, whatever is upsetting Legolas is not our business, and it is not right to go getting involved. Do you understand?"

"Yes. But Legolas is my friend. . ." Elrohir knew that his father argued a diplomatic principle, with unarguable logic. His heart, however, seemed to direct him another way. It was not, by his morals, all right to watch his friend suffer.

"Do not worry. You will see Legolas again before long. In fact, I may have to journey to Mirkwood quite soon. Suppose I took you and your brother along? Would that help, do you think?" Elrond suspected that Legolas enjoyed the company of Elrohir, who was the more contained of the twins, quite in contrast to Elladan who was always bouncing off the walls-- sometimes literally.

"Yes, I think so. With hope."

*****

Fat drops of rain began to fall as Legolas reached Mirkwood. He had been riding for nearly three weeks to reach it, though he was not expecting anyone to be waiting for him with open arms. Never in his life had such a thing happened, not in as long as he could remember at any rate. Home was not where the heart was, for the young monarch.

After stabling his horse and making sure it was fed, Legolas took his things up to his room to unpack and resettle. He folded or hung his clothes. In his drawers Legolas had categorized his clothing; tunics were done by length, leggings by color. The Elfling was unusually organized for one his age, and he liked it the way. On his bed he made a pile of clothes needing to be washed. Once that was done, he carried the dirty garments down to the laundry. Having things in order, he bounded back to his room-- not making a sound, as Elves can.

"Hello, room!" exclaimed the young prince, breathing deeply the scent of the familiar things. "Hello, bed!" he said to the neatly made bed. "Hello candles! Hello books!" He hugged his piles of books enthusiastically, breathing in the musty smell of their pages. The rows of candles on the shelf in front of him, some half-melted and others never having been lit, brought a smile to his face. Though many hours of riding had made him weary, or perhaps for that very reason, he was gladdened by simple pleasures of being home. "Welcome home, Legolas," he told himself.

He was having such a good day that Legolas thought he might sleep smiling. Despite the rain, he had had an enjoyable ride. Not a single orc or warg had been spotted recently. He had missed the presence of his parents at supper, but his brother Naithon had been nice to him--for Naithon, which meant ignoring the boy completely. He had finished a book that he quite enjoyed, and it ended in a splendid manner, just as Legolas wanted it to.

Legolas was sitting at his desk, writing in his diary, when it started. The rain slamming against the window had sounded like music, and the candle at his desk shed light merrily. The sudden sound of a shout broke his concentration, and utterly shattered his happiness. At one loud outburst, he jumped, overturning his inkwell. He simply stripped off his outer tunic to mop up the spilled ink. With that taken care of, he surrendered to the western corner of his room. The screaming continued, penetrating his very bones. He gritted his teeth and closed his eyes.

The rain was not pleasant music anymore. It was heavy, heavy drums, beating in his brain. Now it was hammers. Now it was ruin, sheer destructive force. His docile flame was a roaring fire, threatening to eat him alive. The trees outside pulled up from the ground and advanced.

It was too much. Legolas risked use of his muscles, sprinting to get his candle, then back to his corner. Staring into the flame, he did not blink. Legolas's vision started to fog over, and all tat existed was him and the light, no shouts, just him and the flame. . .A sharp voice speaking Quenya cut into his trance. Legolas tried again, focusing on the reddest part of the flame. Again, Quenya ripped him from his concentration.

Something else flashed through the Elfling's mind, something else red. . .his dagger lay right on his bed, on the pillow where he had thrown it. Gathering his courage, he snatched it up. It took mere seconds to unsheathe the dagger.

/~/ "Why do they fight like this, Naithon?" A young Legolas had inquired. His parents had not, in his memory, gotten along well--but sometimes when he dreamed, he saw his mother's face, young, soft, and smiling. It looked unlike her, but somehow he knew it was.

"I do not know. All I know is that they did not before you came. You brought this on us, Legolas, you curse. You made us this way. And you will suffer for it." Naithon had replied. The younger boy begged him to say that it was not so, but Naithon refused, claiming that he never would lie./~/

His brother's words echoed often in his mind, but they were not there now. All that was there was the perfect skin and the cool steel. As he brought the blade's tip to the outer side of his lower left arm, the marvelous white of the skin flared up, and the steel, glinting silver, was the center of calm.

The blade drew across his arm, a three-inch gash. Red flowed out, the calm red, the cool red. And the red washed away all the pain, all the pain in his heart. All that existed was the red.