Title: The Bonds that Keep Us

Characters: Aragorn/Legolas Not Slash

Rating: PG-13 (character death)

Summary: As the last great army of Sauron makes a final comeback against Gondor, Aragorn and Legolas erupt in an argument that seems to end their friendship. But when all hope is lost, their seemingly broken bond calls for one more sacrifice - who will pay it

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Disclaimer: The usual. no, I don't own any of these characters =)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~



Author's Notes



A lot of the stuff in this story probably contradicts with the books, but hey, it's fanfiction, right?? For example, I know that Legolas and Aragorn are OOC at times, but cut me so slack! I just hope you'll ignore any minor errors and like the story anyway! But if you feel there are any HUGE mistakes that you think need to be revised, just fill me in and I'll do what I can =)

Anyways, this is my first LotR story, so don't be too hard, alrighty? OK then, onwards!



~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~



Chapter 1: Farewell to Hope



A light shimmer arose from the East as the moon and stars faded with hesitance. The bright sun, a sphere of molten gold, peeked over the wooded horizon. The tall gleaming towers of Gondor seemed to brush the various shades of pink and purple that streaked the dawn sky. Banners shifted and waved though the air as a light breeze teased the fine fabric. It was a picture to behold - the famed Gondor in tranquil perfection of that perfect morning - if the tension was not so heavy in the crisp atmosphere.

King Elessar stood in his chamber by the window with one foot propped up against the wall behind him. His face was of one who had not slept in many a night; lines of tense worry and stress marred his features, and his gray eyes were troubled. They were fixed on the thick stone Gates and the hope he prayed they would bring this day.

A light cantering sound of a horse's hooves caught his attention. As the sounds grew closer and louder, the Gates of Gondor slowly opened to admit it's most recent guest. Elessar allowed himself a small, relieved smile at seeing the golden-haired rider, and for a moment, the disturbing concern in his eyes was dulled. Turning his back on the arched window, Elessar hurried from his room and towards the main hall.

Just as he skidded onto the finely gilded floors of the main chamber, his new guest entered from the opposite door from the courtyard outside. The two stared each other for the briefest of moments.

Then, with a mischevious grin, the newcomer tackled the King of Gondor. For the next ten minutes, the sounds of their laughter echoed through the halls.

"Legolas, you barbarian," Aragorn gasped as he rolled away from his friend, "This is the palace of Gondor, not the woods of Imladris! -That, and we are no longer children!"

Legolas laughed musically as he pinned Aragorn in a headlock.

"Don't be such a spoil-sport, my friend, you are very much a child compared to one of my years."

"It seems to me that as you get grow older, your wits grow dimmer!" Aragorn growled before flipping the Prince of Mirkwood over his head.

Legolas slid almost to the other end of the room, still laughing. His sat up and, resting his hands on his knees, watched Aragorn dust himself off with mirth shining in his blue eyes. The former Ranger mumbled to himself as he adjusted his clothes, and Legolas could hear snatches of ".indecency." and ".moronic elf..."

"You know, Estel, you should feel lucky that I'm here to give you some excitement, with all the "properness" in this boring old place." Legolas said, his eyes twinkling.

Aragorn could not withhold a chuckle of delight, "Right you are, my friend, but all the same, I sometimes don't know how to deal with your incessant foolishness!"

Legolas grinned, "What are friends for?"

"When I find out, I'll be sure to tell you." Aragorn replied, rolling his eyes.

Now on his feet, the golden-haired archer moved to stand across from his friend. Aragorn looked up into his eyes and for a few minutes, they shared the quiet humor they always managed to create together. Then, the man's eyes grew somber once again and he spoke in a softer, serious tone that was so polar from the loud, joking voice he had just been using.

"Tell me, mellon nin, what news from Mirkwood?"

Legolas too turned serious.

"Come, my friend. we must talk."

~*~*~*~

"What!?!?"

"Please, you must understand, Aragorn!" Legolas pleaded at Aragorn's furious reaction to his news. "While I understand why you must feel betrayed and very obviously shocked, you must consider that they no longer have the strength to hold on to Middle-Earth!"

Aragorn's dark hair flew upwards as he turned his head viciously towards his friend. "No strength!? By the Valar, Legolas, your people are Mirkwood Elves! They have been able to defend themselves for thousands of years, and yet they cannot stand to fight one more battle!?"

Legolas sighed. "I beg you, Aragorn."

"No! Do you not understand?? The last armies of Sauron will be here in less than three months - I do not have the time to sit here and debate this with your people!" With those words, he slammed an open palm down on the mohagony desk. He closed his eyes. ~Calm down.~ When he opened his eyes again, his voice was strained, but controlled.

"I had been so confident that Mirkwood would honor our old alliance, and if not that, then at least the friendship between Gondor's King and their own Prince! If Gondor does not have Mirkwood's aid, then it will be in a very sorry state, indeed. Our men are not enough Legolas. we need help. We need your help. We cannot possibly resist Sauron's forces alone."

Legolas' sapphire eyes were fixed on the desk, though he was not looking at it. His dark brows were knitted in concern and a little frustration. He did not look up when he answered.

"I. I understand their decision, Aragorn. At the council in Mirkwood that decided whether we would aid Gondor or not, I tried my best to persuade them to ally with you. -But when they did not. I did not push it." He looked up then to stare into his friend's surprised eyes. "The sea calls them. The Havens call them. They cannot find it so simple a task to stay when they are called."

Aragorn sputtered in his rising temper - Legolas interrupted him.

"Come now Aragorn. there must be others you can send for. Rivendell, of course, and Rohan will answer the challenge! Dispatch messengers to Gimli's kin. he would never hesitate to aid you. -And Lothlorien! Light, you have so many choices, why must you focus all your hope and all your disappointment on Mirkwood?"

Aragorn spun away from the table and stalked to the window.

"Ilutvitar, Legolas! Imladris and Lorien are fading, there are hardly any left there to make any army at all. My father would send all that he could, but even he is growing wary of battles and of Middle-Earth. I would never wish to cause him more grief. Rohan, even after all these years, is still recovering from Helm's Deep. The men lost and the emotional scars gained will keep them from wanting to fight another war any time soon. Gimli's kin. his personal alliance with us was only because of the Quest. The rest of his kind do not look so affectionately upon Humans or Elves, and you know they would not willingly come. No, Legolas. Mirkwood is all I have."

Legolas frowned and ran his slender fingers along the desk edge absentmindedly.

"There must be some other option."

Aragorn felt the fire in his veins flowing quicker, as much as he tried to control it. These elves of Mirkwood were his friends! They had fought and died together in the past, and now, when he needed them most, they would simply abandon him and his people?

He could not keep the disdain from his voice, "How can your people leave Middle-Earth when their friends so desperately call for their aid?" he growled, "I would have aided them had it been they who called!"

"I do not doubt it!" Legolas felt his own voice rising. "But you mortals never need worry about the call of the sea!"

"Will you stop talking about your precious Havens!? That is of no importance concerning this issue! We are talking of war, not your peoples' wistful desires!"

"Wistful desires!? We elves are not like you! We cannot control these feelings, Aragorn, and you must learn to understand that!"

"I cannot be so quick to understand your kind's idiocy on these matters! Then again, what I truly do not understand is how Mirkwood could be so traitorous as not to come and help!

Now it was Legolas' turn to slam his open fist into the table. "Traitorous!" he yelled, fire igniting in the depths of his eyes. "Do not dare to call the people of my kingdom traitorous! How many times must I tell you!? This is not our fight! When the sea calls us, we feel nothing but the desire to leave this cursed place! We should not feel obligated to fight Gondor's battles!"

Aragorn's head shot up and his eyes narrowed slightly.

"We? When did "they" become "we"? So it comes to this, Legolas. you are leaving, too! You were never planning to stay here and fight! How is it so, brother, that you would desert me at the time of my greatest need!?"

The Prince of Mirkwood narrowed his eyes, as well.

"For one thing, I identify myself with them because they are my people, and I too am called by the sea! Secondly, how dare you accuse me of deserting you? Of course I was going to stay! I have always remained faithful to you and stood by your side. Have you no gratitude, or has all this power of King gotten to your already challenged head?!?"

Aragorn snapped.

"You claim you would have stayed, yet you speak such obvious contradiction!!" his voice rose and acquired a tone that was becoming more and more furious. "I have no need for prissy woodland elves who exhibit even the slightest hesitation!"

"FINE!" Legolas yelled, eyes flashing. His hands curled into fists that he had difficulty in keeping by his sides. "If you have no need of me or my people, I WILL leave!"

"Leave then! Go back to your traitorous people and tell them the King of Gondor does not need, nor want, their aid! Go back, Legolas to your precious woods and build your precious ships and sail away as Gondor is overrun! GO!"

Legolas' chest rose and fell with heavy breaths of fury. Ignoring the part of him that cried pain at this disagreement, all he saw and felt was the fiery wrath that enveloped him. Without a word, the golden archer spun on his heel and threw open the chamber door. Aragorn fumed with his hands tightly clenching the pommel of his sword until he heard the last of Legolas' angry footsteps.

~Fine! If he wishes to go, then he may go! I don't need him nor Mirkwood in this battle! I should never have trusted. them!~ Aragorn thought to himself as he kicked his sheath and sent it spinning into a corner. ~Light.~ He massages his temples. The sound of hooves hitting the cobbled pathways caught his attention. Aragorn lifted his eyes to the window and watched Legolas disappear beyond the Gates, his golden hair streaming out behind him in his speed.

~Curse you, Legolas. go then, I care not~

The King of Gondor turned from the window as a heavy sigh escaped his lips. How could he possibly defend his country without an army? The last stand of Sauron's forces would glimpse the walls of his kingdom before the season was out, and he had nothing to resist them. not even the hope that a great friendship had given him but a few minutes ago.