Dedicated to the evil one who put this into my head, which is enough of a challenge for me. Short and sweet. Do please R&R.




Shoulders

It is the sort of time where you can tell who creatures are by the smallest parts of them; without their knowing it, they can give themselves away.

Aragorn has broad shoulders, broad, and thickly muscled. Legolas's are slim, the muscles taut beneath the skin like coils of thin rope.

Aragorn's skin is dark, tanned beneath days spent in the sun, though the sun does not shine so brightly now as it once did. Legolas's skin is pale and untouched, and it does not blush to heat or whiten to the cold, a constant, pure color like the driven snow.

Scars have marred the roughened skin of Aragorn's shoulders. Legolas's flesh is yet smooth to the touch, though he has seen more battles yet than Aragorn ever will. Men can be scarred this way, by what they have done and what they have still to do. Elves, for so long as there is purity left in some distant corner of the world, can remain so perfect and pale.

There have been battles, Aragorn's shoulders speak of them: great, raging battles that lasted through the night and onto in the pale dawn. Legolas's shoulders say nothing, give nothing and yet everything away: there has been naught to touch this skin, I have kept all at bay.

The scars that map Aragorn's shoulders make him roughened, weathered: human. The lack of scars that belie Legolas's experience are the microcosm of what he is: inhuman.

Elves are pretty things with pretty shoulders. Men are not so pretty, and they feel the chip and edge of passing time upon their shoulders.

Aragorn's shoulders have borne the burden of who he is for so long that they have an air of stately resignation to them; it is positively royal. Legolas's shoulders are held regally, tense; their muscles are like cat muscles, refusing to relax not because of duty but because of their tensed nature.

They are neither of them creatures who rest or sleep or eat when there is work to be done: this determination shows in their shoulders.

When Aragorn grows weary, if Aragorn grows weary, he only ever shows it in the grim lines of his shoulders. Legolas does not tire, though he does feel the emptiness of a world changing, nestled in at his shoulders.

Aragorn's shoulders knot and toil when he strains himself, pushes himself to the limit of his mortality, and over. Legolas's shoulders do not show the strain he only rarely feels, in his joints and sliding along his bones.

Their weapons are suited to their shoulders. Aragorn's shoulders are bulkier, the muscle over bone stockier, which shows that he is used to carrying and wielding a very heavy sword over great distances. Legolas's shoulders seem slight and are supple, familiar with the practiced motion of notching arrow to bow, drawing his bow fingers back to his ear; the weight he carries is not great, simply a light bow and a quiver full of equally light arrows.

Aragorn's shoulders, bare, display wounds he has carried since he was a young child. Legolas's shoulders, bare, display no wounds, and therefore look vulnerable and young.

Aragorn has laid things out with his shoulders, has let what is to come come and rest upon his shoulders; he would carry the weight of the world were it deposited onto them. Legolas has kept things hidden, has kept himself hidden, and all the pain which he may or may not feel beneath his shoulders is not known, as just the smooth, tender skin can be seen.

Aragorn's shoulders speak of an unassuming bravery. Legolas's shoulders show his privacy, their angle, his determination.

Each is fascinated by the other's shoulders, the muscles playing as they move: the way the muscles tighten or loosen with each movement of neck and arms and back; the way the muscles are when they are still; the way the muscles speak of who they are when they have relaxed themselves, let their guards down, as much as they ever allow themselves to.

Each is fascinated by the skin of the other's shoulders, the antithesis to what is familiar to themselves.

Aragorn has the shoulders of a man raised by Elves. Legolas has the shoulders of an Elf fascinated by the ways of man, one man, in particular.

Aragorn's shoulders are perfect for the grip of smooth fingers. Legolas's shoulders are made to be sensitive to the touch of roughened hands.

Aragorn's palms are callused from wear and toil, while Legolas's hands are slim and almost virginal; they grip each other's shoulders as easily and as familiarly as they would grip their own weapons. They both know where to begin learning each other, in the slope and slide of their shoulders, the scars and the not-scars that remember only the scars of others.

Once, in the pale morning they had not thought would rise again for them, Legolas let his hands rest on Aragorn's shoulders, feeling the built up tension beneath his skin, beneath his lightweight armor. Legolas let his hands run over Aragorn's shoulders, trying to ease the taut muscle, still so tight from the poise of battle, the adrenaline still coursing through Aragorn's blood.

You can tell so much, Legolas thought to himself, about who a man is from his shoulders.

Aragorn let himself be touched and sighed, eyes closing, grateful for this kindness, the companionship, as Legolas eased the ache in his shoulders.

"The battle is over, Aragorn," Legolas soothed, kneading his shoulders. "Let it go." It was hard to let that tightness in his shoulders leave but Aragorn drew in steady breaths, and for Legolas's sake, he tried. "That way," Legolas said quietly, closing his eyes. The feel of Aragorn's shoulders was a grounding one. Aragorn was only a man, Legolas could remind himself of this by the way his shoulders felt; and yet what a man, the strength and the power and the determination held within the muscle and sinew and bone.

At long last Aragorn lifted his battleworn hands, broken skin barely begun to heal, and stilled Legolas's hands on his own shoulders. They stayed that way, still as a statue, Aragorn breathing into his shoulders, Legolas's proud and straight.

You can tell so much, Aragorn thought to himself, about who a man is from the way he holds his shoulders.