The Leaves of Lorien
"Amin mela lle."
The leaves were brighter, there, and the wind sang as it sang nowhere else, rustling through them. The trees were young, the air was light, the ground was supple and soft. The water was cool and clear and refreshing. The grass was gentle and the moss was the color of jade.
"Amin mela lle."
It was not a place meant for men or for Hobbits or for Dwarves. The Elves were a part of it; the others were displaced. They watched on, hungry at the sight of so much beauty. They knew, they felt it in their saddened hearts, that they would never be a part of it. They were lucky enough to see what they did and be moved as they were by the cool shade, the time of rest and respite.
"Amin mela lle."
Things were said, there, that would not have been said anywhere else, for the safety of the shade. The trees were protective arbors, every leaf a barrier between oneself and the world outside that threatened to devour one whole. There was no Shadow in this place, only the calm, still night and the calm, still day. There were no Orcs, no dangers, no deaths; just soft, soothed mourning, and memories of fear. The wind in the trees eased all pain away. One could lie upon the ground and stare up through the latticework of the leaves and watch the sun signal every change in the time of day. One could lie that way for so long that time itself ceased to be a mystery, only the sun moving over the verdant leaves. There was no great heat, only the tender caress of comfortable warmth. There was no great chill, only the cool water and the cool earth. It was a pristine place, untouched by the ravaging hands of time, untasted by the great maw of death.
"Amin mela lle."
Things were said, there, that would not have been said anywhere else, for the place inspired impossible beauty, and with that beauty, came the interloper truth. Things were said, there, in many different voices, and things were forgotten, there, by many different hearts, upon hearing those different voices. Like the breeze stirring the branches, voices whispered and were heard more dazzlingly than if they shouted.
"Mela en coiamin."
It was not a place for lovers; it was too chaste, too innocent. But it was a place perfectly suited for falling in love. It was lush, it felt no idle creep of time, it was a place of natural splendor. In the light of Lothlorien, eyes gleamed with sudden power, hands moved with fresh skill, and hearts beat out new rhythms of unexpected love. Words that should not have been spoken, were. It was a place that planted seeds but sometimes had not the power to nourish them.
Legolas drew his knees up to his chest and watched the water, the way the trees were reflected in it, as if it were not water, indeed, but rather, a sheet of glass. Though the wind stirred his hair over his neck and shoulders it did not disturbed the surface of the water. It was an eerie effect, one that made his heart feel too big for his chest, or rather, made his chest feel too small for his heart. He had loved the place the moment he had felt its call. Here, with the earth and the grass and the leaves beneath his palms, he loved it too greatly for words to express. So he closed his eyes, and pressed himself close to the ground, and felt the water be still. It was a glorious stillness. It was an echoing silence. It was a golden place, golden and green. It grieved him deeply to know that one day, such beauty and innocence would be lost to the world, and to him.
"This is what we are trying to save, Legolas," Aragorn said. He was the only man in the world who could listen to things the way the Elves did. He had his broad palms pressed against the dirt beneath him. Even he had to take pause in this place, pause to revel in the beauty, pause to let it bring him needed rest. "Taurelye. Nostalye. Vanimlye." Legolas felt the wind shift directions, as it did so often there, like fingers on his cheek, tangling in his hair. He opened his eyes - only rarely was he the sort to experience things with his eyes closed. Imagination was a frail fellow in comparison with what could truly be seen.
"This," Legolas said quietly, "this, were there some cruel twist of fate, and all in the forest but one place was to be destroyed; this would be what I would choose to save, to shelter from time."
"How can it be our choice?" Aragorn asked. Most times, when he asked such questions, he did so in a harsh voice, with his eyes searching the ground or the sky for answers. But his voice was soft, now, soft, as all things in the forest became soft. Even Boromir had; even Gimli. "How can it be up to us?" Legolas touched a palm to Aragorn's shoulder. One hand was on the ground, one, resting against the sinews stretched over bone.
"Be not so troubled, Aragorn," Legolas soothed. "Time cannot touch you here."
"It lurks in wait," Aragorn replied, "we cannot hide here forever."
"No," Legolas murmured, "we cannot. But when all hope has failed, when we have left these woods behind, we can harbor its music in our hearts, and take hope from what is yet beautiful and yet untouched in the world we have chosen to save." Aragorn listened to him speak, listen to the words come easier here than anywhere else. They were beautiful, Legolas's voice was beautiful. It was a part of this place, as much as the trees and the moss and the grass and equally the Elves were a part of it.
"Thank you, my friend," Aragorn said at last.
"Come," Legolas said quietly, "let us forget our troubles. Let us cleanse ourselves of them. Mornamellonamin." Aragorn smiled at the name, cocking his head to the side to watch Legolas move in the filtered light. Legolas's nimble fingers undid the collar of his own tunic and the clasps that traveled down the center. He shrugged it aside. Pale, bare flesh, untouched and unmarred, caught the sunlight. For a while, he did not move; only watched the leaves sway, watching none of them fall. Then, he slid free of the rest of his Elven clothes, leaving them behind on the water's edge. When he stood, Aragorn's eyes followed the movements of his body.
"Shall you follow?" Legolas asked. Aragorn nodded. Legolas beckoned to him, and he stood, their two types of grace as different as difference could exist between a man and an Elf. Aragorn walked with an unassuming and yet noble air. Legolas was nobility of a different sort, his back straight and proud. Aragorn was so used to being only Strider that he was a king of the land, yet, not of a people. Legolas needed no people, only land, for his elegance, only the green leaves of Lorien to yet linger on their boughs.
"Uma," Aragorn agreed as Legolas touched the fastenings at his neck. And so Legolas undressed him, fingers agile, as Aragorn watched his face, his eyes especially. When the last bit of fabric rustled over Aragorn's skin and dropped to the ground, he flexed the muscles in his shoulders, tensing his thighs. His skin was sun-browned, was littered with old and new scars alike. Legolas touched the side of Aragorn's neck, his collarbone, in a moment of distraction. Moments later, he stepped away, and moved back towards the spring. The trees hummed, appreciation or gossip, it was hard to tell.
"You are our king." Legolas bowed his head. "You must enter, first."
"I am no king here," Aragorn replied evenly, voice distant. "Please, Legolas. Go before me."
"If that is what you wish." Legolas seemed wary. Of what, Aragorn was not sure.
"It is." Aragorn nodded his head, abrupt, but not curt. Legolas moved before him, and stepped into the water, barely disturbing it. Aragorn knew that when he himself entered, he would make a volley of ripples in what had previously been pristinely still. When Legolas was in up to his waist, Aragorn sensed his discomfort at being alone, and followed, though he hated to disrupt the innocence because of his very nature.
"You are uncomfortable," Legolas said, as Aragorn moved forward, towards him.
"Perhaps," Aragorn replied.
"You never answer questions," Legolas pressed.
"No?" Aragorn asked.
"Or, when you do, they are not answers at all." Legolas's eyes were bright. The water around them both was choppy, now. Aragorn fell still, felt the ripples rubbing up against his sides.
"Perhaps," Aragorn said again.
"You are too much like an elf," Legolas finished, firmly.
"And too little," Aragorn added, some amount of sadness in his eyes. Legolas fell silent. They were at angles to each other, each of them listening to the sound of water lapping at their skin.
"Is it not possible, then," Legolas asked sadly, "for you to be happy, even in a place such as this?"
"Especially in a place such as this," Aragorn murmured, "for that which I love most brings me the greatest sadness."
"Such is a sentence that would make sense only to a man." Legolas watched Aragorn's face, searching.
"Which is why a man has spoken it." It was more, Aragorn realized, than they had ever said to one another before, at one place and at one time.
"Aragorn," Legolas said quietly, "irmoamin."
"Amin mela lle."
Legolas touched with soft fingers the rough sides of Aragorn's cheeks, bristled with stubble. He ran his thumbs over Aragorn's cheekbones, his fingertips up over his temples. Why could the man not rest? Legolas wondered. All else in this place was resting, the Fellowship's grief over Gandalf's loss soothed beneath the calming sky, in the calming arms of the calm trees. The embrace of Lothlorien was a gift in such desperate times. If one did not treasure it, one was a fool. To brush it aside was a foolish, if not noble, gesture. Some times, Legolas knew, all a man needed was rest. Aragorn, it seemed, had not paused even to sleep for months and while all the others, weary and heartsore, took comfort beneath the shade of the trees, Aragorn was still on edge.
"What is it you are fighting, Aragorn?" Legolas combed his fingers through Aragorn's hair. He dropped his hands, cupped water in them, and drew his now-wet fingers again through Aragorn's tangled locks. Aragorn did not reply. Legolas touched the back of his neck, felt the vertebrae at the base. The skin was smooth there. He leaned forward, and kissed Aragorn's rough jaw, and breathed in how he smelled. Like the forest, of course, like the forest, and like the sun on wet grass, drying wet leaves. Aragorn smelled like dew and like campfires and like metal, the metal of his sword, the leather of his gloves and the leather of the pommel of his sword. Aragorn tasted as clear and as clean as the waters of Lothlorien. Aragorn was rough against Legolas's lips, which were ever surprised there was such roughness in all of Middle Earth. "Why is it that you can find no rest?" Legolas stilled his hands on Aragorn's shoulders and hated the sight of Arwen's pendant, suddenly and fiercely. He hid his face against the side of Aragorn's cheek, rubbed his smooth cheek against the stubble on Aragorn's cheek. Aragorn did not reply. He lifted his hands to touch Legolas, and rested them palms down against his shoulderblades. For Legolas, it would have to be answer enough.
"Amin mela lle," Legolas whispered, as he would whisper to the trees or to the earth or to the vast sky, when the beauty of the world overtook him and filled him with brightness and hope. Aragorn was like the earth, was strong and his muscles knotted like the roots of a tree and his skin rough, not as rough as its bark, but one day, it would be. It would be lined that way, too, when Aragorn grew old as an oak tree.
The water rippled around their two bodies, though they were still. It was cool, though, and gentle as a lover's touch. Legolas was filled with an indescribable sadness. He kissed the corner of Aragorn's mouth and splayed his long fingers over Aragorn's upper arms. Aragorn tensed the muscles there. Perhaps it was only for show, an instinctive, human desire to feel or seem strong.
"I was raised by your people," Aragorn said quietly, "but I do not belong with any of you."
"Whether you do or don't no longer matters," Legolas returned, rubbing his cheekbone against Aragorn's jaw. "My people are soon leaving this land."
"And you, Legolas?"
"And I am following you," Legolas said evenly, without pause for thought.
"And if you die on my account?" Aragorn asked.
"Then I have died on your account," Legolas replied. "Amin mela lle, Aragorn." Aragorn trailed his fingers down the center of Legolas's back. The muscles tensed. The skin convulsed slightly in a shiver. It was soft, damp from the water. Aragorn lifted his hands, tangled them in Legolas's hair, moved his head back. Legolas's hair was smooth, like silk.
"Do not say such things." Aragorn's voice was like steel, his eyes like daggers, his lips in a tight line like the slice of a knife. Legolas's eyes darkened as they watched each other. If any walked in upon them now it would seem more as if they were locked in the embrace of a fight, which was not what they would have thought moments earlier. Slowly, Legolas trailed his knuckles over Aragorn's cheek. His anger saddened. There was no animosity in Aragorn's words: he could see that, feel that, now.
"Amin mela lle, Aragorn," he repeated, insistent. "Your cheek and jaw are rough." As if, somehow, Legolas thought that explained everything. Aragorn closed his eyes, and dropped his hands. Legolas slipped his arms around Aragorn's shoulders and pulled him close. The muscles in Aragorn's body tensed, all of them, as if he were about to scream. Within a heartbeat, he had relaxed, resting his cheek against the place where Legolas's neck sloped into his shoulder. The skin there was sensitive, and Legolas's back arched slightly as the rough hairs chafed him.
"Amin mela lle, Legolas," Aragorn said quietly against his neck. Legolas was both saddened and overjoyed to hear the words spoken.
"Do not say such things," Legolas chided, a smile playing over his lips. Aragorn could feel him breathing, could feel the vibrations of his words in his throat.
"Play no games with me," Aragorn replied gently, "for I am tired." Legolas ran his hands down Aragorn's back from his shoulders, kneading the tense muscles. Aragorn sighed, long and thick and deep. Water was trailed up his skin, next, and he concentrated on the feel of it as it trickled down. Pleasant. Cool. Relaxing. The length of Legolas's thigh was pressed up against the length of Aragorn's thigh; the contact stopped at the knee.
"I am not playing any games," Legolas assured him. "It is all right. Rest."
"I cannot. You know not what you ask of me, Legolas."
"No shadow can touch us here," Legolas soothed, "rest."
"No." Aragorn's voice was steady, firm. He pulled back, keeping his hands on Legolas's shoulders, keeping the two of them at bay. "There are things yet to be seen to." He looked up at the sky, and shook his head. "I cannot," he added, softer, "especially not here." Legolas drew back, and then let his fingers play over the pendant that hung around Aragorn's neck, nestled in at the dip between collarbones.
"This?" Legolas asked. When Aragorn said nothing, he nodded, and looked away, brow knit together in some inner anguish, some inner pain.
"It is not the creep of Shadow that troubles me, Legolas," Aragorn said quietly, "but whom I hurt, and those I cannot love as I would wish to. And you may make of that what you may." He stepped back, moving to pull away, and then leaned forward suddenly, kissing Legolas upon the lips. It was a deep kiss, deep and searching and gentle even with the stubble that rasped Legolas's tender skin. Legolas rested his palms on Aragorn's cheeks, as Aragorn held him by the lower back, thumbs against his hipbones. The kiss lasted long enough to make even the Elf breathless, before Aragorn pulled back, touching callused fingers to Legolas's face. "Surely you must understand that," Aragorn murmured, distant.
"Though I would not wish to," Legolas admitted. He pushed hair back from Aragorn's forehead, tucking it uselessly behind his ear. It slipped free moments later, hiding Aragorn's face once more in weary shadow.
"There are things I must look to," Aragorn said quickly. He plunged suddenly deep into the water, shaking himself out beneath the surface to clear his mind. When he resurfaced for air, he was awake again, awake and alert. Legolas could see the keen edge of fire in his eyes, and he looked away. Whatever recumbence had blanketed them before was lost. There might never be another chance to touch Aragorn in the way he just had again. Only the water was caressing him now, kissing the insides of his thighs, nuzzling into the backs of his knees. Aragorn cupped his cheek, and held him that way, just meeting his eyes, before he pulled out of the water, gathered up his clothing, and was gone.
"Wanwa," Legolas whispered quietly, talking to himself. "Mela en coiamin." The wind rifled through the leaves, like a thief, now. The world seemed brittle, the light plunged behind clouds, darkened. Legolas was very naked, and very alone. From the trembling branch of a tree above, a few leaves were knocked free; they danced upon the air, light and breathless and beautiful, before they realized the ground was yet a long way down. Only then did they fall.
Amin mela lle: I love you.
Mela en coiamin: Love of my life.
Taurelye: Our forest.
Nostalye: Our birth.
Vanimlye: Our beauty.
Mornamellonamin: My gloomy friend.
Irmoamin: My desire.