"I cannot believe the Queen of Gondor once served her brothers stewed mouse!" Gimli stated, retching at the thought.
"I was but an elfling!" Arwen defended with a merry laugh "it seemed a good idea at the time!"
The wine flowed freely and the whole of the white city rejoiced at the marriage of their newly crowned king and his queen. The celebration had long since filtered from the tower hall and had filled the streets in revelry, leaving only those closest to the bride and groom.
Aragorn smiled into his cup as Arwen slipped her arms around his waist. He was well aware that they had all indulged more than was good for them and it had loosened their tongues as well as their propriety. The tales that had been told that night of days long past were well beyond embarrassing.
"I am still thinking up a proper revenge for the molasses." Elrohir said casting a dark look at his foster brother.
"A proper revenge?" Legolas demanded, nearly choking on his wine as he tried not to laugh "It is because of you that the bride has already once seen the goods before the wedding!" Both twins nearly burst into laughter as Aragorn's cheeks colored.
"Twice." Aragorn frowned, looking down at Arwen to find her smiling up at him innocently.
"What was that, Meleth nin?" he asked
"Twice." she repeated, her smile never fading. Elladan and Elrohir exchanged confused glances and Arwen giggled "I have 'seen the goods' as the dear prince so eloquently put it, twice."
"Elladan frowned, his hand gripping Aragorn's shoulder like a vice.
"Is there something you wish to tell me Elessar?" he asked with a menacing scowl. Aragorn looked back at him, his eyes wide.
"I swear, I have no idea what she means." he defended.
"There is no reason you should." Arwen smirked. "Tell me brothers... where were you the night Gilraen delivered her firstborn?"
"In the wilds, we were..." Elrohir's voice trailed off and he looked at his twin, both their eyes grew wide in realization as Aragorn looked into Arwen's upturned face in horror.
"No" he whispered.
"You were such a beautiful newborn." she said with a wistful sigh. Both the twins and Legolas burst into laughter as Aragorn's face flushed in humiliation.
"That particular piece of information, I did not need." Gimli stated with a shudder.
"Nor did I." Aragorn agreed. Arwen laughed, kissing his cheek and he smiled, shaking his head before drawing her against his shoulder. He sighed contentedly as her lips brushed his neck, his attention wandering as he looked out over the hall. At one of the tables Rumil and Orophin were engaged in a drinking contest with Merry and Pippin, and losing quite badly to the two hobbits if Meril's laugh were any indication. In a quiet corner Galadriel and Gandalf were speaking in hushed whispers, periodically broken by the silvery laugh of the lady of the golden wood.
Not far away Haldir and Frodo were chatting as Sam lurked near by. Aragorn smiled to himself as he watched his friends, he owed the elf and the hobbit so much more than he could ever repay. As if sensing his scrutiny Haldir glanced up, his distraction drawing Frodo's attention as well. The king of Gondor placed his hand over his heart, bowing his head and his salute was returned by the pair. With a smirk curling his lips Haldir gave the young human a conspiratorial wink before turning his attention back to Frodo.
"Hmm?" He turned back at the sound of Legolas' voice.
"You're wasting your time laddy." Gimli chuckled into his mug as Legolas smiled, shaking his head.
"The final count at the black gates was tied at 58." Legolas repeated "And there was some speculation as to how the king of Gondor fared." Arwen chose that moment to very discretely slip her hand under the king's tunic, brushing her fingertips across his back side.
"I can not say that I recall." Aragorn replied. Looking down at his new bride with what could only be described as a wolfish grin.
"Lad, you must be the happiest male in all Arda." Gimli said with a laugh as Arwen gave him a teasing kiss.
"I would beg to differ on that point, brother." Elrohir said turning to his twin.
"As would I" Elladan agreed, grinning wickedly. At that moment Eirien bounded up to the group tugging Indelin behind her. Elrohir caught his wife in his arms kissing her soundly before laying a hand on her slightly protruding belly.
"I am going to be an uncle?" Aragorn asked in shock, staring wide eyed as Eirien giggled. He glanced at Elladan in time to see the older twin kiss the top of his own wife's head, sliding both hands down her stomach so that her gown stretched over her growing tummy. "TWICE?!"
"Four times actually." Eirien giggled, as Indelin flushed scarlet, snuggling against Elladan's chest.
"Twins?" Aragorn demanded rubbing his forehead "You are both having twins?!"
"You have been away from home too long, Estel" Arwen teased.
"Apparently so." he nodded in agreement.
"Middle Earth shall never be the same" Legolas said with a mocking, tragic sigh.
"There will be evil little elves everywhere." Aragorn said in horror.
"Elves and elleths." Indelin corrected with a smile.
"Aye, we are having girls." Elladan nodded proudly, squeezing his wife. Aragorn stared at them in wide eyed wonder as Arwen kissed his cheek, an almost giddy grin on his face.
"I wish I could hold onto this moment forever." He finally said, softly.
"Now I know that troll hit you far too hard." Elrohir said, rolling his eyes. "You are completely mad."
"Aye! It is the wedding that worth holding onto." Elladan said with an evil smirk as Indelin blushed furiously.
"Are you certain you wish to go through with this sister?" Elrohir asked, grunting as Eirien jabbed him in the ribs.
"There is still time to escape before the nuptials." Elladan agreed as both the king and queen began to giggle.
"I thought we already had a wedding." Gimli whispered to Legolas with a confused frown. His voice still loud enough for all the elves to hear.
"According to the customs of the elves," Legolas replied in a low voice "The wedding takes place... in private."
"You can stop there lad." Gimli replied, holding up a meaty hand as the others tried to stifle their laughter.
"Elessar?" Aragorn felt a hand on his shoulder and he turned, his eyes meeting Elrond's. He had been dreading this moment for longer than he could remember. He was taking Arwen away from her people, away from her father. The elf lord's heart must be breaking. Aragorn stared into the unreadable face of the only father he could remember, his mind working furiously for something to say. But before he could even open his mouth Elrond wrapped him in a fierce embrace.
"I am so very proud of you, ion nin," He whispered so low that only Aragorn could hear. " for all that you have done. I know that you will love her well." He kissed the top of Aragorn's head before pulling away to smile at his daughter.
"I have not yet danced with the Queen of Gondor." Elrond said with a smile "if the king does not object of course."
"Of course not, Ada." Aragorn chuckled, despite the lump in his throat. Arwen brushed a quick kiss on his lips before taking her father's arm and the elf lord led his daughter to the dance floor.
Arwen felt tears sting her eyes as he held her close, his cheek resting on the top of her head as he led her effortlessly through the dance steps, just as he had for centuries past. Her very first dance had been in these very arms, and she could almost feel the grief and sorrow as if it were a tangible thing. She could not give up Estel, not for all Arda, not for anything but how she wished she could offer him some comfort.
"Ada," she whispered. "I love Estel."
"And he loves you." Elrond replied, his voice unwavering "With all his heart, with his very soul."
"If I could spare you this..." her voice trailed off as he kissed the top of her head.
"Will you be happy?"
"What?" she asked startled.
"Will you know joy and love, Pen neth?" He asked, his tone the same as when she had been small "Will all your days be filled with warmth and hope and peace. Will you be happy?" Arwen did not even hesitate as she drew her arms around him tighter.
"Yes Ada." she replied softly.
"That, Undomiel nin." he said tenderly "is all that ever mattered."
Author's Note - WOW! It's done! I can't believe it! I feel like Frodo outside Mt Doom with the lava bubbling all around. Here's another thing I can't believe... ATW was nominated for the 2004 MPA Awards in the Best Humor story category. There is a link from my profile page if you're so inclined.
Big Hugs all around to all of you and your wonderful feedback. I am taking a break to put together my next tale but it is in the works and coming soon.