Not Old Enough

By: Eleniel

Rating: PG (nothing serious, Estel angst)

Warnings: none really

Summary: After being denied yet another hunt, Estel decides to follow anyway. Lost outside of Rivendell and getting sicker by the minute, it looks hopeless. Flooding further complicates the mess, and Estel doesn't know if he'll ever be reunited with his family.

Spoilers: none

Disclaimer: I own nothing but the unrecognizable stuff. I think they'd all run away if I owned them; I would have too much fun. I am making no money off of this, only playing with someone else's (Tolkien's) toys.

Feedback: Any feedback is much appreciated, and if you see a mistake it is my fault and I ask that you let me know, as that is the only way I can fix it. Don't forget to thank the rabid plot bunny that struck at 2:00 this morning for this story.

A/N: In this story, as with all my others, Gilraen was killed with Arathorn, simply because I do not know enough about her character to write it and still do it justice. When Tolkien says Aragorn was "raised in the House of Elrond" I have taken it literally, Elrond being his foster father and the twins being his foster brothers.

A/N2: This story takes place when Aragorn is seven years old.

A/N3: denotes thoughts, flashbacks- indicates the passage of time (going either way. That is, it may be earlier or later in the day)

:Chapter One:

"No Estel, for the last time, I'm sorry but you are not old enough! And if you do not stop this begging you will never go, at least not with me" Elladan said, snapping at his young human brother. Estel's wide silver-blue eyes brimmed with tears and his mouth opened and closed as though he was trying to talk.

"I..." he began, swallowing hard. A tear made its way down his cheek. This was always how it ended, his older brothers would never take him with them. He was only six months away from turning eight...would he be old enough then? It didn't matter if Elladan followed through on his threat; then Estel would never be able to go hunting with his brother. Elrohir might take him someday, but not Elladan, and that hurt. Estel was closer to Elladan than Elrohir, if simply because he loved hands on things as did Elladan, while Elrohir was a book person.

"Oh Estel, I am truly sorry little one" Elladan started to say, seeing the tear slide down his cheek and the yet unshed ones in his eyes. Before he could finish, however, Estel gave a heartwrenching sob and ran towards the House of Elrond.

"I think that may have been a bit harsh, brother" Elrohir said quietly, looking after his younger sibling. Even if Estel wasn't brother by blood and even if he had only been with them a few years, while he and Elladan had been together for millennia, Elrohir was very fond and protective of the boy. "It's the first time in how long he has gone a week without crying because someone important to him shunned him. I must say, I think you need to apologize. In fact, we're not leaving until you do. I suggest you find him before he crawls into one of his little holes, or you won't be able to get him out."

"Yes, I know that was harsh, and I was trying to apologize, if you didn't notice. But he has got to learn, it's only for his protection. It's not like I am really shunning him. I just don't want him hurt. Does he have any idea what it would do to me? Knowing it was my fault my youngest brother was hurt, or worse" Elladan asked, sounding at first like he was trying to reassure himself. Sighing, he dismounted his horse and dashed off to find Estel.

Elrohir watched for a second before an idea struck him. "Elladan, wait a moment. Perhaps Estel could accompany us for a little while, no where beyond his play boundaries, but, say, to the gates? And we could promise to take him out for the weekend when we return."

Elladan thought it over for a minute and nodded. He really hadn't meant to drive the boy to tears; only to protect him. Now how to get Estel to understand that...Elladan wasn't sure. He had to find the human first though.

Estel, on the other hand, had no intention of being found. He hadn't taken his usual course, running through the Hall of Fire. Instead, he'd taken a turn away from the Hall, back into a new place he'd found the day before. He furrowed his brow intently as he counted the doors in the tiny passage. No Elf would think of looking for him there. All the same, he wasn't sure any would try to look for him. The twins were off hunting by now, and his ada was meeting guests and would be busy till late that afternoon.

"...Five...six" Estel said quietly. He opened the door and crawled in, closing the door behind him. The closet he was now in was unused, had been for a long while. Estel had spent all day yesterday cleaning out the cobwebs and things for just such an opportunity. It was his only indoor hiding place where he could probably scream if he wanted to but no one would hear and he would be left alone.

All alone. Like he always seemed to be.

"It's not fair. Elladan and Elrohir got to hunt when they were little. Why c-can't I? Everyone e-else can. I-I-I'm not a b-baby like everyone t-t-t- thinks" he hiccuped. "It's not fair" he shouted to the ceiling, his small lungs making quite a large sound. For a moment, he was afraid he'd been too loud and someone would find him and reprimand him. Moving very stealthily for a seven-year-old human child, he crept to the door and listened. No one.

In another part of the house, Elladan had searched all Estel's known hiding spots and found no sign of his brother. Pursing his lips, he shook his head and continued.

"Might I inquire as to what you are doing, Elladan" a voice asked behind him. Elladan's head snapped up, having been caught unaware. He had to stifle a small cry when the back of his head slammed into the stone table he'd been crouching under. "Wondering if Estel had found a new hiding spot. Have you seen him" Elladan answered, rubbing his head. A lump was already forming, and the point of impact throbbed. Glorfindel had to bite back a laugh at the sight.

"No, I have not. Why would he be hiding" Glorfindel replied, concern evident on his face.

"I would not allow him to accompany Elrohir and I on our hunting trip. He ran off in tears and I'm trying to find him to apologize. He is not in any of his usual places, though. I can't seem to find him" Elladan said. Glorfindel was torn between laughter and lecture.

"As young as he is and he can avoid one of the best trackers Rivendell has to offer. So be it. We won't have to worry about him being caught in a bad situation, he can sneak off and no one would know where he'd got to" was his response. "I suppose we should keep looking, as I seem to recall Elrohir shouting for you to hurry."

"Aye, we should be setting off right about now. But I cannot leave without apologizing."

A good half-hour later, Estel was still crying silently in his hidden sanctuary. Elladan and Glorfindel had searched every spot they thought possible except the hallway Estel was in "He won't know about that, no one's told him and he should never have been that way. Too many memories for him to disturb there. Nay, I am sure he is not there" Elladan had said.

"Elladan! Have you found him yet? The hour grows late toror'nin" my brother Elrohir called. "We must go now, I suppose you shall have to make it up to him double when we return."

"Elrohir is right, you know, you really must be going if you are to make it to the far edge of the valley before nightfall. Go. I must return to my work; I no longer have time to take the break I was looking for" Glorfindel said, turning and walking towards Elrond's consultation rooms.

"Well, I cannot find him. Come, Elrohir, let's go. I will find him first thing when we return" Elladan said walking out to his brother. Once he was seated securely, he wasted no time spurring his horse into a gallop. Elrohir followed, and soon they were mere specks on the horizon, heading swiftly for the edge of Rivendell.

"It's not fair. I wanna go. If I follow them then they have to take me, ada will be mad if they leave me all alone in the forest. Yeah, then I'll get to go an' I'll show 'em how big I am" Estel said excitedly to himself in his hideaway. He'd heard Elladan calling him, a few moments earlier, but he still had tear tracks on his face and didn't want his brother to know he'd been crying. Big boys, boys old and big enough to hunt, didn't cry because they'd been told no.

The little boy had sat for a while, wondering why his brother so disliked him that he would not even take him hunting with him. It wasn't even a real hunting trip, it'd just be Elladan and Elrohir out there to get away from Rivendell. That's it. Nothing dangerous.

"I wonder why they can't even take me on a lil trip like that" Estel murmured absentmindedly, crawling from the closet and slinking back to his room. He grabbed the biggest pack he had and began stuffing it with necessities, like clothes and his warm gloves and socks. He even snuck down into the kitchen and stole some foodstuffs for himself. Unfortunately, they were gone before he'd hit the door. It wasn't his fault he was hungry. Sighing resignedly, he made his way back for more food.

"Well hello Estel, how is my favorite little one today? Would you like a piece of apple" one of the elves who regularly worked in the kitchens asked, handing Estel a large slice of delicious red apple.

"Thank you Almarë" Estel said graciously. Continuing around the kitchens, bartering with his adorable grins and many hugs and kisses on elven cheeks, Estel managed to procure two more whole apples, one red and one green, several slices of bread, two apple pasties, and a linen to wrap it all in.

Leaving the kitchens and sneaking out the front door, Estel looked to the ground. Elladan had taught him basic tracking skills, and Elrohir had taught him a small amount of archery...

"My bow! I almost forgot it" Estel cried, drawing the attention of a servant on the balcony. Racing inside and grabbing his miniature bow and a few arrows, Estel barely made it out again without getting caught.

"I gotta be more careful" he whispered once he was outside on the path. The twins had not taken the main road, they had taken a side road that bypassed the gates and was known to few. Estel knew of it though, and he had overheard their plans. They would take the road to the other end of the valley and camp there for a few days before leaving.

Having no doubts about his ability to find his brothers, Estel set out happily on his road.

By nightfall the little human was tired and hungry, and still very far away from his brothers. From the top of the hill he was on, he had no trouble seeing the small dot that was their campfire, but it was terribly far off.

"Maybe I should stay here for a while" Estel said, shaking his dark locks out of his tired eyes. The child climbed a small ways into a tree and munched on an apple before promptly falling asleep.

"Ahh" Estel was awoken in the middle of the night by a screeching sound. A pack of wolves traversed the ground beneath him, uttering cries to the sky. The cubs were what had woken him, he realized as one screeched again.

Wolves are better than wargs I guess, but they're still pretty bad, Estel thought. Remembering his bow, he reached for an arrow and shot at the nearest animal. Unfortunately, his were blunt arrows, and only served to anger the animal. It launched up at him, snarling with rage. Estel screamed again and climbed higher, dropping one of his arrows in the process.

It struck him for the first time that it was getting very, very cold. Too cold for a little boy to be out with only a light cloak on.

"Good thing I brought my heavy cloak." Ada would be proud if he knew his son was prepared...

Oh no! Ada! He was definitely going to send someone to look for Estel if he noticed he was gone and hadn't left notice.

Groaning, Estel nearly slapped himself for not thinking of that earlier. The groan turned to a terrified sob as thunder and lightning flashed around him. Pulling his heavy cloak on, Estel hunkered down against the rain in the tree.

"I dunno which I'm more scared of, the wolves or the lightning" Estel murmured to no one. Thunder rumbled loudly, shaking the very ground it seemed, causing Estel to nearly fall from the tree. He would have remained on the branch, just barely, but at that moment lightning struck the tip of the tree next to him. Estel screamed louder than ever, crying helplessly in the downpour that was falling through the trees. The event had shaken him so badly he lost his grip, and fell to the mud with a heavy thump. The wolves had begun to leave, but a few lingered, and upon seeing the child sprawled unconscious, they took their chance. The largest female there jumped towards him, landing on his back and eliciting a pained cry. Opening her large jaws, she turned her head to the side for the right angle to crush the child's skull...