Summary: On the eve of the last battle, Legolas finds a new beginning.
Warning: Mild slash
Disclaimer: Middle-earth is Tolkien's
A/N: Just some classic A/L, for your pleasure.
The sun is sinking, and the bands of this washed-out sunset weigh down the earth. The ground is trampled underfoot, tufts of dusty grass upturned, gnarled roots twisted bare into the dry air.
Tonight, the air stands still.
"'Tis rare we should see such light on such an eve."
He is grave, the young Marshal. Graver than his years should allow. Yet in this hour there is something in his eye: a sparkle, almost, as if treading so close to the end has reinvigorated him.
Men never cease to be a mystery to me.
I force my gaze to follow his. Trees grow sparsely here and they are a grey, knotted lot, offering no comfort to a Wood-elf such as myself. Through their thorns and twigs the bleak sunlight falls, in colour kin to no other sunset I have ever seen before. Though I suppose this is as it should be for this is the sunset before the last dawn.
"It is a blessing," I lie. I find no poetry here, and no beauty, but apparently Éomer of Rohan does and who am I to temper his pleasure with my own despondency?
Our large camp spreads out around us. Men and horses, come to die.
I swallow. It seems I know myself no longer: it is as if a shadow has fallen into my soul and turned me raw and cynical. On more than one occasion I have caught myself thinking that the Valar had best be prepared, or there will be a tumult on the morrow before the gates to wherever the souls of the Edain rest in eternity. I am embarrassed, then, by my own thoughts and yet I seem unable to strike them from my mind.
Ah, but I am weary!
And as if he can divine the source of my exhaustion, and is of a mind to torture me, Éomer now nods in the direction of a cluster of men by the nearest cooking-fire.
"I admit," he says, as if we were already halfway through a conversation, "that I did not think much of him when first I met you on the plains of Rohan. A wanderer I believed him to be, an outcast, even. Poorly dressed and with a look of the wilderness about him." He gives a wry grin. "I had not expected I would follow him."
I stare at Éomer.
"You are surprised?" he asks, when he spies my shock. "Surely you must understand how you appeared to me then?"
"Of course," I hasten to say, and I work my expression to match my words. "Three hunters in a sea of grass. We were tired and clung to brittle hope."
He grins. "Little has changed, then."
"Indeed," I say, for I can think of nothing else.
"And now I follow him," Éomer continues mercilessly, as though he is bent on twisting the knife. "We all follow him, until the end, whatever it may be."
"As it should be," I force out.
For you are King.
By blood, in name, by deed. It is in your heart and your hands. You may not see it – you may even try to shrink from it – but it shines in you. It is your legacy and your history and your fate. How others can doubt or be blind to it I will never understand. You may yet be uncrowned and if we are all slain on the morrow you never will be, but it makes no matter. For you are already everything.
And as I stand here, in a foreign land with another man whom I do not know well enough to call friend by my side, I am reminded of the many times when it was a physical effort to forbid my eyes from straying from your eyes to your mouth. Of how my knuckles would flash of white from the strength it took to not open my fist and lay a hand on your arm.
I never touch you first – I have not courage enough.
I imagine you to be beyond such base desires. You are the hunt and the responsibility. You are gentle and soft, to be sure, but that is in word and thought. In general. I have never seen you weaken before the longing gaze of another. I have never detected a melting of your heart. Your love is the love of the cause: this world in its brightest form. You fashion yourself as every good man's equal, never placing one before the other, or yourself above.
This is truly admirable.
I just wish…
So I tear my gaze away and try to clear my head.
It is fact that I have been given a year with you, as trusted companion. It has been the worst and the best year of my long life, and after this night we shall see what kind of end we shall meet.
This is, surely, not the time to dwell on matters of the heart.
But the Gods are cruel tonight because no more have I come to this conclusion before Éomer straightens a little beside me. And you are coming closer.
The last of the sunlight catches in your dark hair and a warmth I am all too familiar with blossoms in my breast. I wish it gone – as I always do – but I fail miserably.
"Éomer, how fares the King?"
You are looking somewhat revived, too, with your grey eyes shimmering in this damned sunset.
The young Marshal inclines his head beside me and I know talk turns to tactics and perhaps I should listen, but it takes all of my energy to not take a step closer to you and breathe you in. Your presence has steadied me for a dark year and I yearn for it more deeply with every passing day. You have become my centre.
"Naturally," you say now. "I do not think Imrahil would bear it otherwise."
I watch you smile.
Then Éomer is departing, taking his leave with a bow and backing away and I realise I could not even begin to pretend to know if something of importance has been settled.
Perhaps you will be retreating, too. Surely you have serious business to attend to. You have men to command.
Your grey eyes that are like starlight upon water meet mine and you are still smiling.
"Legolas," you say, and then prove me right. With a nod you take a step back and then you turn your back to me and walk away.
I find myself before a fire while the dark night lowers itself over the camp. Men are milling about. There is talking and even singing, and stories are told and promises made. I share a log with a Gondorian who shares the look of Boromir, faintly. We do not speak.
Initially I meant to find Gimli but my feet carried me here instead. Drawn by the source of light, perhaps, in a world where there is precious little of that. I can feel the warmth of the fire on my face but I am drained. This is not my kin, I catch myself thinking, as I behold the soldiers around me. Should I not be dying in my father's woods instead? A lone elf in a sea of mortal men. Seldom have I felt so out of place before.
But of course.
There is a stumble in the steady flow of conversation around me and all attention focuses in an instant on the approaching figure. You are impossibly handsome, even shrouded in the thickening veil of night.
There is a generous scattering of 'my lord' and 'sire' and more than one place by the fire is offered.
Yet you come to stand by me.
"I would share this night with you, my friend," you say, eyes gentle on my face.
The Gondorian hastens to find another log.
You seat yourself beside me, a little closer than necessary. But we are friends, as you have pointed out, and we were members of the Fellowship and companions on the quest and we have mourned and laughed together for many moons.
"Have you eaten?"
You ask this as if we were alone. As if you do not have men to command or battle lines to draw up.
"I… yes." I nod.
Around us, conversation picks up gradually – tentatively. As if you are not a King at all.
"All is ready," you say.
I chance a glance at you. You look calm.
"Tomorrow, then." I seem unable to form more words. My heartbeat has found an irregular rhythm and it is not soothed by the way the firelight dances over your face.
There was moment, after we had left Lórien but before the fall of Boromir when – also in the glow of a fire – I came so close to kissing you. Luckily, I managed to quench that impulse.
"Tomorrow," you repeat, but you look strangely at peace with your task. "By the light of day."
I am still trying to divine the exact meaning of your words when you suddenly reach out and, very lightly, brush your fingertips against my hip. Not only does this happen but your hand lingers in the air beside me as if you are of a mind to repeat the action.
I stare at you.
Your face does not betray one particular emotion but your lips are slightly parted, as if you desire to word some thought.
"It is not yet tomorrow," you say, very quietly, with your mouth barely moving.
The ground is falling away, I am sure of it. There is firelight in your eyes and upon your cheeks, but you appear as steady as the mountains.
Then you move: you scoot closer and your hand lands like a feather in the small of my back.
My gaze falls to your lips yet again.
Tomorrow we will make a last stand against the Darkness but I cannot seem to comprehend that the world as we know it might be coming to an end. Not when your soft smile floods my entire being with a shining light.
You are close now, so close that no one could mistake your intent. Not even I.
And I am falling. My head is spinning. Your smile is in your eyes and in the hand that now rests securely on my form. You have forged a connection.
"I think I know your heart," you all but whisper, dark tresses framing your face. "I would speak to you of mine."
My mouth is dry. The memory of hundreds of days past swim through my mind, and my dreams tangle with the half-shaped desires I have fought so hard to ignore. It all rises to the surface and I find myself utterly unable to resist any longer.
I lean in.
You lean your forehead against mine and, briefly, you tighten your hold on me.
"I would share this night with you… Legolas."
You are my King and you I follow.
Tomorrow, and into this night.