Title: Precious Time

Author: Jaimi

Rating: PG-13

Genre: Drama

Summary: Deciding to teach the twins an important lesson, Elrond sends Estel to stay with some humans for ten days. However, the twins believe that the little human is never returning.

Disclaimer: Are you kidding me?! JRR Tolkien is one lucky son of an orc...well, ingenious, I suppose. Luck had nothing to do with it. The horses and a few elves either made up or borrowed from an author friend.

Characters: Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir, Estel, Legolas, Glorfindel, Erestor

Other Characters: Sare, Terantur, Sebril

NOTES: This was written quickly and not beta'd. It just came to me and I typed it as fast as I could, before it went away again. Hope it was worth it. Let me know.

Maethorel – "Star-Warrior or Warrior-Star" Arien – "the sun"

Time frame and so forth, this wouldn't be considered an AU, however, elf behavior wise, it very well could. I'm not too sure Elrond would actually do this, let alone the twins acting this way. However, like most stories seem to portray, the twins are young enough for elves, to act foolishly or maybe even childishly. As for Elrond's part, and the other elves of Imladris, well it's called author's liberty. This is called fan fiction for a reason. A different take on someone else's characters. I just wanted something different from the already done, Estel's life is in mortal danger when they realize how much they love him, type of thing. Which by the way, I adore reading, so by all means people, keep writing them. Everyone has such great new ideas to add twists to the "same old" story. Now, on with the story.


"Elladan, Elrohir, I don't have time for this. Mirkwood and its prince are not going anywhere in the next hour. All I ask is that you get your little brother into his bath and watch him til Sare or I come."

"Adar, this is ridiculous. Can not one of the maids watch him? Legolas will be waiting, we are already running late."

"Then a few more minutes will not hurt you. And no, the maids cannot. They are busy cleaning up a mess the two of you made, that the two of you *should* be cleaning up. Do you care to argue *that* further?"

Elladan, the eldest son of Elrond, scowled, grabbing his twins arm, and stormed off to their little brother's room.

Estel was playing quietly with his building blocks when his brothers came careening into his room. His structure knocked over in his surprise, but the little boy paid no mind, for his brothers were there and he adored them much more than any of his toys.

"Come here, Estel. It is time for your bloody bath," Elladan barked, paying no mind to the slightly taken aback look on the tiny human's sweet face.

Elrohir sighed, nodding. "Yes, hurry up. Dan and I need to get to Mirkwood and you are holding us up. Move Estel."

Startled, the little boy scrambled to his feet, tripping slightly over the scattered blocks.

Elladan rolled his eyes, impatiently grabbing the five year old under his armpits, lifting him up and plopping him ungracefully unto the bed. Without a word, he began unbuttoning the boy's tunic.

Estel tried to help, but at an impatient glare and hand slap from his elder brother, he stopped. Biting his lip, he looked toward Elrohir, who was quickly throwing together a night shirt and pants for the child. The younger twin did not even glance at his little human brother as he tossed the sleep clothes on the bed, then left to start the boy's bath.

Estel turned back to look at his eldest brother. "Dan...?"

"What?!" The older twin snapped, barely paying attention, as his mind was elsewhere. He was trying to think of all the shortcuts to Mirkwood, and his mind was also clouded with frustration at being delayed for such a stupid cause. "Are you not old enough to bath yourself," he muttered, testily.

Estel didn't know how to answer that, for he thought it was quite obvious. Their Ada had said he was never to be left alone in the bath. However, since he didn't want to upset his brother anymore, he remained silent. Elladan took no notice.

Once the youngster was undressed, Elladan hastily picked his adopted brother up, setting him distractedly on his hip and made his way to the bathing chamber.

Elrohir had run the bath quickly, and as Elladan plopped the five year old into the tub, Estel had to bite his lip to keep from complaining that is was too cool. His brothers likely didn't realize it, or forgot that their human brother was more sensitive to cold and hot. He did not want to remind them, in the moods they were in.

His brothers had never been cruel to him, in fact until recently, they had doted on him. Lately however, with spring in the air, and many hunts and parties at the different realms being organized, they had had little time for him. They had seemed to begrudge having to delay any plans to look after him at their father's command.

"Bloody nuisance," Elladan mumbled, so quietly that any normal human child would have missed it. But Estel was no ordinary human, and he had been living with elves the past three years of his young life. He heard his brother quite clearly.

Tears filled his eyes, but he fought them back and just stared at the clear water of his bath. No bubbles. Elrohir had forgotten to put bubbles in.

While Elladan held Estel in place, level headed enough to know the tiny human could slip, Elrohir quickly set to work soaping a cloth and scrubbing the boy hastily. They were just starting on his hair, when their father entered. It was their father that noticed his youngest shiver from the lack of warm enough water, not the twins, who's only concentration was on getting the job done and getting out of Rivendell and to Mirkwood as fast as their steeds could carry them.

"Daro!" their father commanded, fairly fuming at his oldest children's impatience and carelessness.

Both looked up, startled but still impatient themselves.

"What are you two doing?"

"Bathing him, Adar. Like you told us," Elrohir replied.

"Like I told you indeed. I told you much the same to look after him, yet I think he could be drowning and you would notice not."

"Adar, I find that unlikely. Now, can you take over, we-"

Elrond cut Elladan off abruptly. "You do, do you? Then why have you yet to notice your brother is practically freezing? Did you put no hot water in there?"

Elrohir frowned. "Of course I did-"

"In your rush to be gone from here not enough, apparently. Care you not for your little brother's well being?"

Elladan sighed. "A little cold water will not kill him, Adar. We are almost done, can we not go? He has delayed us enough. By the valar, he is such a grievance sometimes."

Elrond frowned, angered and a little upset by his son's callous words. "It was you two that insisted we take him in, over giving him to another family. Can I assume you have changed your mind and now wish to be rid of him?"

"At the moment, we would like nothing more! Adar, they will start the tournament without us, and Legolas is counting on us."

Elrond was silent for a long moment.

"Fine. You may go." He knelt down to support his youngest. "Say goodbye to your brother."

Goodbyes were quickly mumbled, then the twins were gone. Less then two minutes later the sound of their horses thundering through the gates was heard.

Elrond sighed, closing his eyes, hardly believing his children's behavior. He opened his eyes as a soft, soapy hand touched his cheek.

"Are you angry with me too?" the boy whispered.

Elrond's heart started to crack, and then began to break apart at the next words from his youngest child's innocent mouth.

"Dan and Ro do not love me anymore, do they?"

"Oh tithen pen, they do still love you. I know they do. Perhaps they just need to be reminded of it."

Estel looked quizzical for a short time, but then just sighed unhappily, skimming his tiny hands across the waters surface. "What did I do?!" he whispered.

With that soft, heart rending exclamation, Elrond Peredhil's heart completely shattered.

Chapter 1

Glorfindel raised an eyebrow at his Lord. "El, are you sure about this? The twins will be quite angry when they discover you have lied to them."

"Not as angry as I am at the moment for the way they have cast Estel aside, like some tired old pet."

"I understand that, but-"

"I know. Tis deception, which I have lectured them about time and time again. But this is different, Glory. They need to realize what their brother means to them before it is too late. It shall be hard enough, when the time comes to truly say goodbye to their little brother." His voice cracked at these words, at the reminder that he would one day see his youngest son buried. Hopefully, not until the human was old and grey, so to speak, but he would die none the less, eventually. Glorfindel clasped his friend's hand, squeezing reassuringly.

"We all recognized and took that risk when we fell in love with the little imp," he said quietly, recognizing the thoughts of his younger friend.

Elrond smiled at Glorfindel's fond words, but then frowned. "Yes, we all know he shall pass from the circles of Arda one day. But the twins need to realize, that...Iluvatar forbid...Estel may not die of old age as we all pray it to be. He could...he could...ai, Glorfindel, anything could take him from us at any moment! Humans are so fragile..."

"...And so precious, as is Estel, in his time with us."

"Ai, exactly. The twins need to realize and cherish the precious time that we *do* have. Yes, they may be angry with me for some time, but I hope that, the day their brother passes from this life, they will recognize why I did what I did. For their memories of him will be far more and far happier, than few and in between. Parties, hunts, tournaments...as old as the trees, they can wait. Estel cannot. Already he has grown so much in the short three years we have had him."

"This I know. I love him too, mellon nin. You know that. And I do not question your judgment. I am just doing my job in making sure you have thought this through."

Elrond smiled affectionately at his best friend. "Ai, my dear friend. I have. Please inform the rest of Imladris as to our plan, so they may act accordingly."

"Yes, my lord."

Elrond gave his friend a look at the formal title, but the golden haired captain just grinned cheekily, causing the dark haired lord to smile...exactly as his friend had planned.

~ ~ ~ ~

Estel sighed sleepily, burrowing into the warm covers of his bed. The candle burned brightly on the bedside table, illuminating the book his Ada and him had been reading the past week.

The twins had been gone for two and a half weeks. They were due home in two days, but Estel would not be here to greet them. Tomorrow morning, his Ada and Glory were taking him to stay with a human family for ten days. His Ada said it was so he could spend a bit of time with his own race, with children his own age, and so he could experience their life.

His Ada had always said it was important to understand the ways of all beings, from the stoutly dwarves to the exotic men of the far east. His Ada had then assured him he would not be sent off to live with either dwarves or men of the far east.

It was perfectly safe and reasonable though, to let him experience the life of a human family west of the Misty Mountains. His Ada would not be that far away.

The boy wasn't too sure about the idea, but Estel had always been curious, and quite brave for his young age. His Ada had told him to think of it as an adventure, and he would. He already had his things packed. A few clothes, his stuffed bear, his playing cards and his Ada even let him bring an old book he'd already read, that he could now read by himself.

"Ready, tithen pen?"

Estel looked up as his father silently entered his room, and settled himself on the edge of the boy's bed.

"Yes, Ada. Who reads first?"

"I believe it is your turn, hen nin."

Estel smiled, turning himself around, so he was curled into his father's side and able to read the script on the pages before him. For half an hour, father and son read back and forth to each other, Elrond helping his child here and there with the longer words he had yet to learn.

As Elrond placed the book back on the night table, Estel did not crawl back under his covers as he usually did, but burrowed even closer to his beloved Ada. Elrond looked down at the small bundle of love and affection. The child was truly a gift, and he only prayed it would not take long for his elder sons to see it...or, as the case would be...miss it.


"Mmmm..." Elrond responded, absently-mindedly stroking the boy's soft curls, before returning his full attention to the five year old. Gathering the boy onto his lap, he settled him in his arms so as to gently rock him.

"I will miss you. Are you going to miss me?"

Elrond smiled, placing a tender kiss to the boy's smooth forehead. "Very much. You do understand I am doing this for you, little one, do you not? I would sooner have you never leave home, but I believe this to be important for you, on many levels. I will miss you more than you can know. All of Imladris will. We shall celebrate your return, with your favorite meal, and you can stay up as late as you wish in the Hall of Fire."



"You gonna miss me that much?"

Elrond blinked back the tears that threatened to fall from his silver, star- like eyes. "That much and more."

Estel smiled happily up at his Ada, his world. "Amin mela lle, Ada."

"Amin mela lle, ion nin."

Chapter 2

The next morning, Elrond silently entered his young son's room, finding the boy still fast asleep. It was quite early, the sun had yet to rise over the mountains from the east.

"Wake up, ion nin. It is time to leave," he whispered, just loudly enough to wake the slumbering child.

Large blue-grey eyes blinked blearily in the half light of pre-dawn. "Ada?"

"Yes, tithen pen. Time to get up."

"Do I have to? Can I not just keep sleeping? I am tired."

"You have to dress."

"Can I not dress later? Will we not stop before we get there? For breakfast? It is too early to eat now."

Elrond chuckled, but none the less, nodded. "Alright, sleepy one. I have got your things, come on." With that, he lifted his child into his arms, settling him comfortably on his hip. Within moments the child was once again fast asleep, a small hand curled in the long, twilight strands of his father's hair.

By the gates, Glorfindel and two guards were waiting with Elrond's horse, Maethorel. Estel's small mare, Arien, would be left behind, and he would ride with his father or Glorfindel. Also present were Erestor; Elrond's Chief Advisor and friend, and Sare; the twins', Arwen's and now Estel's nanny. Sare had also been Elrond's nanny, more than six millennia before.

Teary eyed, Sare gave the sleeping boy a gentle kiss on the cheek, before turning and hastily moving back into the house, trying to hide the tears in her soft green eyes. Only ten days or not, she would miss her young charge terribly. He had brought laughter and light back into the Last Homely House.

Erestor, somewhat more composed, still looked saddened by the upcoming absence of his favorite trouble maker. No matter how much mischief the child got into, he had wormed his way into the stoic advisor's heart.

"Go on now, take him away." He told his Lord and friend, his voice suspiciously husky.

"Why? So all the sooner he can return?" Glorfindel replied quietly, bright blue eyes sparkling, a knowing smirk on his face. Erestor ignored the blonde, as a small face turned up off Lord Elrond's shoulder, blinking sleepily.


Erestor smiled reassuringly at his young friend and student. "Back to sleep little one, you have a half days journey ahead of you."


Erestor, attempting to remain unbothered, merely nodded, face a mask of control as he took the boy into his arms, hugging him close. However, Elrond, nor Glorfindel missed the tight shutting of the Advisor's eyes, the obvious fight against the tears threatening to slip as he buried his nose in the boy's soft, dark curls, smelling the gentle baby-like smell of honey and oatmeal.

"Namarie, tithen pen. Already we count the days til your return."

"I'll miss you too, Restor." Came the sleepy, simple, childlike reply as the boy was handed back to his father.

As Elrond, Glorfindel and the two guards mounted up, a once again sleeping boy still in his Ada's arms, Erestor called softly. "Safe journey, my friends. Safe return."

Elrond smiled fondly at his brown haired advisor, before nodding to his Captain and guards, the group leaving quietly through the front gate, as the first rays of sun, peaked over the mountain tops.

~ ~ ~ ~

The ride had been peaceful, even with a rambunctious five year old coming alive just after sunrise. The guards and Glorfindel had laughed along with their lord and his youngest. There were few, if any, who did not enjoy the company of the boisterous, happy child. He brought and kept many smiles to long time stern faces.

The parting at the human settlement had been quick, but none the less painful, even though all knew it was only for ten days. Elrond had come to cherish every moment spent with his mortal son, as had Glorfindel. The guards themselves would miss hearing the child's laughter, even from far off at their posts. The two fondly bid farewell to the small child, promising they would return his father safely to Imladris, and also return here with his father to bring him home.

"...Where you belong." Terantur, one of his father's most trusted guards, had whispered softly in his ear, before rising and going to his mount.

With one last wave, the small party of elves left the way they had come, though not without the two lords oft glancing back until the boy was long out of even elven sight.

As Elrond dismounted outside the stable his stallion occupied, he sighed. "Valar give me strength," he mumbled, patting the long, elegant black neck of his faithful steed. The large animal softly butted his head against his masters, offering his own comfort. He too, liked his master's youngest offspring. The child always brought him the biggest, juiciest apples, right off the trees, and he was the perfect height to scratch under the big horse's belly.

Elrond smiled, sensing his horse's thoughts. "Patience to us both, my friend. Ten days is not so long, right?"

The mighty stallion just nickered, head drooping dejectedly. No juicy apples or wonderful belly scratches for ten whole days.

Chapter 3

Elladan and Elrohir laughed as they conversed happily with their dear Sindar friend, Prince Legolas of Mirkwood. They were less then an hour from Rivendell, having left a day earlier then planned.

"I can not wait to get there. I have missed Imladris so much the past five years, " The silvery-golden haired elf exclaimed, blue eyes shining in anticipation.

"Now who's fault is that? Myself, my brother, *and* our father have certainly told you enough times that you were more than welcome to *live* with us, let alone visit."

Legolas rolled his eyes playfully at the dark haired twins. "Yes, I know. But Mirkwood is my home, and shadowed or not, it still has its beauty, and most certainly still contains my father and brothers. You know what that is like. Would you go off to live somewhere, even with your dearest of friends ~ahem, me~ and leave your father behind? Not to mention this new brother of yours, which surprisingly I have heard nothing about this trip around. And as for visiting, you know my father needs me home as much as possible. Be happy he has allowed me this whole month off to spend with you two miscreants."

"Very funny," muttered Elrohir, though his grey eyes shone. Then he frowned. "Wait, how did you know of Estel?"

Legolas frowned. "You talked about him non-stop the *last* time you visited...just last year. But as I said, I have heard nothing of him this year. Certainly you still have him. You would not adopt a child, even mortal, and then give him away, would you? Oh goodness, nothing has happened to him, has it? I am so sorry, my friends, I-"

Elrohir interrupted the panicked prince. "Peace, Las, nothing has happened to Estel. No, we did not give him away, despite our words."


The twins sighed, Elladan explaining. "We had a bit of a disagreement with our father about Estel. We were already running late, and he wanted us to look after Estel, and oh, we just got a little put out. We did not realize how much having a younger brother would come to be."

"You do not regret taking him in do you? Did you not say it was your idea? You were both gushing about him last year. Did your father spoil him into being intolerable?"

Elrohir frowned. "No, not at all. We just never seem to have time for ourselves."

"Well, you got away to come to Mirkwood and the archery tournament, did you not?"

Elladan shook his head. "That is not the point, Las, and you do not understand. You have no little brother to hinder your plans."

Legolas remained silent, eyeing his friends, before shaking his own head. "Well, I look forward to meeting him," he said quietly, as they continued on to Imladris.

~ ~ ~ ~

Despite their gripes to their woodland friend, the twins were actually surprised and slightly disappointed that no five year old whirlwind was there to greet them. In fact, only a stable hand and Glorfindel were, both elves being quite somber looking as well.

"Glorfindel, is all well? You two look like you just lost your best friend." Elladan's eyes suddenly widened. Surely his brother and he would have felt something. "Tis not Ada, is it? No harm has come to our father, has it?"

"Peace, penneth. Your father is...fine. Come now, get yourselves cleaned up, and join the others for dinner. Your father will be pleased to see you are home, safe and sound. Prince Legolas, forgive me. Welcome back to Imladris, dear friend."

Legolas smiled at the golden haired warrior. "Nothing to forgive, Lord Glorfindel. Besides, it was Elladan's fault. You know it always is. Rushing to conclusions like that, allowing no proper greeting."

Elladan rolled his eyes, seeing the smirk on not only his mentor's and his friend's face, but his brother and the stable hand as well. Perhaps he had just been imagining the sorrowful gazes.

However, as the three entered the dining hall not half an hour later, he began to wonder again. The whole room was solemn, faces grave. What was going on? And where was that over zealous little brother of his? Elladan was surprised at his concern and disappointment. He knew how annoyed he'd been when they had left. Estel was always in the way, holding them up, or holding them back.

"Welcome home, my sons. Welcome back, Prince Legolas. How was your trip? I trust there were no mishaps...?"

Legolas smiled at the elder elf. He had always been fond of the kind- hearted Peredhel, and had the utmost respect for him. He was a mighty Lord, a healer, a teacher, a legend, and he proudly called him a friend.

"You know us too well, my lord. There was a brief scuffle with some orcs near the high pass, but nothing that got us even a scrape or bruise."

Elrond sighed shaking his head. "I knew it was too much to hope." He smiled. "Now, enough with formalities Legolas. You are family...here..." Suddenly, Elrond's smile was gone, and once again, his look was somber, now distracted, as if just remembering ill news. "Please, boys, sit. Eat. I'm sure you are quite hungry."

Elrond himself distractedly returned to his meal.

The twins exchanged a look, as they sat themselves nearest their father.

"Ada, is everything alright?" Elladan asked for them both.

"Hmmm," Elrond barely glanced up at them. "What? Oh yes, fine. Just fine. All is as it should be."

"You seem upset...and your thoughts are not quite here with us." Elrohir spoke, voice full of concern.

"Oh, I'm sorry, hen nin, forgive me. I am...no longer hungry. Please, you three eat up. You have had a long journey. I have some things to attend to. Legolas, I hope to see you at the hall of fire tonight. I would very much like to hear news of your fair realm, and how your father is holding up."

"Of course, Elrond. Tonight then."

Elrond nodded, smiling somewhat sadly at his sons' best friend. Then with a tired sigh, he pushed back from the table, stood and left the dining hall.

All three young elves looked at each other.

"Something is definitely wearing on your father. What do think it is? Are his advisors giving him a hard time again? Someone needs to drill into their thick skulls exactly who is the Lord of this realm."

"I agree, but no, tis not them. Glorfindel gave them a sound verbal lashing the last time they got particularly ornery and had father in a mental whirlwind with all their hot air."

Legolas smiled at his friend's words, but then frowned. "Well then, what could it be? Greeting aside, he looked positively heart broken."

"I know not, but I do know someone who will." This was said as Elladan gazed across the room, eyes lighting on the only advisor that didn't try to drive his father to the brink of insanity. "Erestor?"

The brown haired elf looked up from where he was pouring himself a cup of tea. Elladan was shocked to see the sorrow in his old teacher's dark eyes as well.

"What is going on here? Why does everyone look like it is the end of Arda, and for Elbereth sake, where is our little brother?" Elrohir finally took notice that Estel's chair stood empty across from them. All three young elves did not miss Erestor's eyes moving to said chair, or the pained look that crossed his fair features. His dark eyes blinked, then cleared, as the elder elf's infamous control slipped back into place.

"He is gone." With that, Erestor set down the kettle, took his cup and made to leave the dining hall.

Elladan jumped to his feet. "Hold it! What do you mean he is gone? Where is he? Nothing happened to him, did it?"

Erestor stopped, his back to the three princes. "No, nothing happened. He is...gone. He left. Your father took him away to stay with a human family."

Elrohir and Elladan gaped. "For how long?"

Erestor glanced back over his shoulder at the twin sons of his lord. He could not lie to them. "I think this is something you must discuss with your father. Now, if you will excuse me..." With that, the advisor left the way he had come.

The twins shared a look, while Legolas' look went back and forth between them. "What is going on?" the blonde asked, quite confused.

He liked to believe he knew the Peredhil family quite well, and Elrond, he knew, would never adopt a child, only to hand him off to someone else when he grew tired of him. It wasn't in the compassionate healer's nature, in the loving *father's* nature.

It was Elladan who replied. "We do not know, mellon nin. But we are damn well going to find out. Let us go."

Upon reaching their father's study, the twins spared no time in knocking, but simply strode into their father's private office.

Elrond looked up from having his face buried in his hands, surprised and a little annoyed at his sons' intrusion. Before he could rebuke them, Elladan spoke.

"Where is he, father?"

Elrond frowned. "Who?"

"Who? Who do you think? Where is Estel?"

Elrond's face immediately smoothed into a blank mask, which disturbed the twins and their friend more than any of their Ada's sad, angry or frustrated looks ever had.

"He is gone."

Elladan nodded impatiently. "Yes, Erestor said as much; to a human settlement."

"So you know, then why do you as-"

"Adar! What is he doing at a human settlement?" Elrohir broke in, frustration evident.

"Staying there."

Elrohir blinked. "Wh- For how long?"

"What does it matter to you? It *is* what you wanted, is it not?"

"What we-" Elrohir paled. "Father, you...he is not staying there...permanently, is he?"

Elrond did not answer, he merely looked at his sons blankly, before pulling out some papers that needed his signature.


"You had made yourselves quite clear. Who am I to force such responsibility unto my *only* sons? I certainly have no time to look after a five year old child by myself. We are all better off, I believe. Now, carry on. You have your freedom now."

Elladan and Elrohir stared in shock. Yes, they admittedly were weary of the pressures of looking after a child, but their father had never expressed any unhappiness with raising Estel, and he had done most of it himself. The twins had done their parts in watching him at times, teaching him, playing with him, loving him, but their Ada, was Ada. They had thought their father had loved Estel as he did them, and Arwen. How could they have been so wrong? How could their father cast the child away? Then the thought struck them.

/*We* did./ The twins looked at each other.

"Father...can we not get him back?" Elrohir asked, tentatively.

Elrond did not even bother looking up. "Why, so he can be sent away again the next time you tire of having him around? I think not. You two are not *that* cruel are you?"

The twins winced, but then Elladan's face took on much the same look as his father.

"Fine. You are right. It is probably better this way. I care not. Let us go, Elrohir, Legolas. Estel is not here to pester us, let us go to the training grounds for awhile."

Elrohir looked at his brother, recognizing the attempt to not care, and tried to do the same. They could do this. They were always complaining about having Estel at their heels everywhere. Now, they didn't have to worry about it. Life could carry on as it had before.

Neither twin recalled that life had not been as happy or carefree before Estel. The entire family had been mourning the loss of Celebrian for centuries. Estel had taught them to love, laugh and just plain *live* again.

A baffled Legolas observed from near the doorway. Ever perceptive, he noted something about the dark haired elf lord that told him there was something much deeper going on here. As the twins hardened their resolve not to care, and turned to leave, beckoning him to follow, Legolas took one last glance at the elder elf, who was oft like a second parent to him. He easily noted the brief look of hopeless dismay on the beautiful, ageless face.

/You were hoping they would not give in so easily.../ Legolas realized, as he turned to follow his friends. Yes, something much more was going on here. /I need not to have seen you with the child, dear Elrond. I know you love that boy. You would not send him away. What is going on?/

The young prince was determined to find out. He and the Lord of Imladris would be having a long talk at the hall of fire tonight. Mirkwood and his father would not be foremost in their conversation.

Chapter 4

Legolas did have that conversation, and unhappily played dumb when around his best friends. He did not like withholding what he knew from them, but he understood what Elrond was doing. He could tell Elrond loved the boy dearly, and it was also clear to him, who knew the twins well, that they were not unbothered by what they perceived to have happened to their family.

The first few days, the twins remained as stoic as two statues. Completely avoiding the thought of the small, yet so large, missing piece of their lives. Nearing the end of the first week however, Legolas began to see signs of despair. He could see now, it was truly clicking in. Their little brother, as far as they knew, was never coming back.

Every evening Legolas had seen Elrond walk to his youngest child's room, only to emerge moments later, eyes shining with tears. The proud elf was missing his youngest terribly.

Now, within the last few days, not even an hour after he would see Elrond, the twins, each alone, five minutes apart from each other, would come to their little brother's old room. They would leave looking a little more heart broken each time.

Legolas could see that Elladan was taking it the hardest. The prince understood this to be the result of two things. In all likelihood, the more outspoken of the two had been the one to utter those fateful words. Also, Elladan had always held himself the protector of his siblings, his parents even. He had taken his mother's attack and departure the hardest as well. Blaming himself for not being fast enough, smart enough...for not being down right invincible.

Legolas shook his head. He would be glad when Estel was brought home and the foolish twin Peredhil learned their lesson...and were happy once again. Their father too. Legolas recognized the love of a parent, and the agony they went through themselves, for the sake of their children. For this was why he did this, for the sake of his children, for his sons, all three of them. They had to learn, before it was too late.

~ ~ ~ ~

This was it, the last night without his little angel. Tomorrow morning Glorfindel and he would ride to the human settlement and bring his child back home. His heart was still worried. He had not seen much in the way of remorse on his eldest children's faces. But then, he had not seen much in the way of *them* either. They were avoiding him.

/Does that not tell you then, old fool? They are upset with you, for taking their brother away. They realize how much they love him, perhaps regret their words./

Ai, if only he knew for certain. Regardless, Estel was coming home tomorrow. He could not bare another day without the sweet child. Already, he had lost ten days of his son's life. Ten days he would never get back.

Elrond looked up, startled, as a throat was gently cleared. He relaxed upon seeing the fair Prince of Mirkwood. "Legolas, you startled me. Tis a feat few have accomplished. You may hold yourself comparable to Lord Glorfindel." His tone was joking, but his smile was weak. The past week and a half had been trying.

Legolas smiled. "Such flattery, when really, a band of orcs could be marauding your home, and I fear you would not notice."

Elrond smiled at the gentle teasing, as the son of his old friend, Thranduil, seated himself beside him on Estel's empty, still made bed. "Ai, I guess I have been somewhat distracted lately."

Legolas grinned. "Somewhat. Understandably." The prince then looked around the room. "Tis a child's room, but not. Tis missing a vital part."

Elrond frowned, looking around. He'd taken great pains to see that Estel was comfortable and at home in his room.

He turned back to the prince as a soft chuckle caught his attention. The blonde smiled at him. "I was referring to the life giving child. A child's room, is just a room, when without the bright light and life of the child within it."

Elrond relaxed, smiling. "Ai, very true, and very wise for one so young."

"Well thank you."

Elrond chuckled, wrapping a friendly arm around the prince's slim shoulders. "I look forward to Estel meeting you. He is still quite small and could use some help in pulling pranks on his brothers..." The dark haired elf trailed off, sobering.

"They love him, Elrond." Legolas assured the elder elf quietly.

Elrond nodded. "I know that, in my heart. But they have shown so little remorse for his supposed removal from this household..." he trailed off at the shaking of the blonde's head, tilting his head in a questioning fashion. Legolas just smiled, and took the half-elf's hand.

"Come with me."

Elrond followed, head cocked in curiosity as the young wood elf led him just around the corner from his child's room. "What-"

Legolas put a finger to his lips and the two stood there quietly for about ten minutes before Elrond perked his ear at the soft sound of Elven feet approaching his youngest child's room. Carefully, he peeked around the corner, surprised to see his eldest son entering Estel's vacant room. He turned to look at Legolas who spoke in whispered tones.

"He comes here everyday and has for the past three days. Elrohir usually comes about five minutes later, after Elladan leaves...but not today apparently."

Elrond turned back to follow the prince's gaze to his youngest twin son, who also entered Estel's room. He stood watching the door, relief flooding him as both sons emerged, evidence of tears in both their stormy grey eyes.

"They do regret, mellon nin. They are just too proud to admit it to you. I do not think it would have taken much longer for them to demand you bring their little brother back."

Elrond closed his eyes, nodding. He turned to the young prince, gathering him in a hug. "Thank you, penneth. You have put my heart at ease. I should have known. My children are as stubborn as they come."

Legolas smiled, returning the embrace. "I cannot imagine where they get that from."

Elrond pulled away, mock frowning. "Imp."

Legolas just laughed as the two made their way toward the dining hall for dinner. This time tomorrow, all would be well. Excepting of course, two very put out, twin Peredhil.

Chapter 5

"Erestor, where is father? I haven't seen him all morning."

Erestor glanced up from his paperwork as the twins entered his small office, Legolas in tow, the blonde prince barely hiding a knowing smirk.

Erestor just shrugged, saying casually. "It would seem you have hardly seen him for over a week. Yet, you only now ask me?"

Elrohir frowned. "We *have* seen him this past week, we just...have not...spent a lot of time in his presence."

"I trust you are not tiring of him too?"

That hurt. And Erestor immediately regretted it. He knew, from what Elrond had told him, the twins regretted their harsh words and treatment of their little brother. He was just short tempered himself, having missed the child, and hating to see his lord suffer so needlessly. The half elf had suffered enough in his more than six thousand years.

"I am sorry, children, that was uncalled for. I just...miss your little brother terribly."

"It is alright, Erestor, so do we." Elrohir whispered.

"I know, that is why I am sorry. As for your father, I saw him off this morning. He shall be back this evening."

"Where did he go?"

Erestor smiled. "I am afraid that is classified information."

"Tell us you are joking. He is our father, we are his heirs. You *have* to tell us."

"No, I do not. You are not Imladris' lords yet."

"Well, we never will be. Father is never going to die, and should he cross the sea, we will be with him."

"Glad I am to hear that, but I am still not telling you where he went. Have patience, young ones, he will return. And he is quite safe. Glorfindel is with him, and I *do* believe I heard rumor that your father *can* indeed wield a sword."

Elladan scowled. "You are mocking us."

"You are right. Now, off you go. Entertain the poor Prince here. He is looking a trifle bored."

Legolas immediately donned a bored expression, as he had, in fact, been barely suppressing laughter.

The twins looked at him and sighed. "Fine. Come along, the day is warm. Let us go for a swim."

Erestor nodded his approval. "Excellent idea. I shall see you three at supper."

Elrohir smiled. "Do not work too hard, Erestor."

Erestor rolled his eyes, grumbling "Now I know *you* must be joking."

The three laughed, and made their way to one of Rivendell's swimming spots, the twins quickly sobering. Estel had always loved going swimming with them. He was just learning. They never got to finish teaching him.

~ ~ ~ ~

It was just after dinner when the sound of horses hooves rung in the otherwise quiet evening air. Lord Elrond had returned. The twins, curious about their father's whereabouts, as well as slightly annoyed that he had not informed them, quickly raced from the gardens they had been relaxing in, Legolas not far behind them.

They slowed to a respectable pace as they rounded the corner into the courtyard where their father and Lord Glorfindel were handing the reins of Maethorel and Asfaloth to the two guards that had accompanied them. The guards glanced once at the twins, smiled, then lead the horses away to be taken over by the stable hands.

Elladan frowned, striding forward. "Father, where have you been? How could you take off and not-"

Elladan stopped short, Elrohir who had been right behind him, nearly knocked his twin over from the abrupt halt. Legolas stood back by the archway into the house, sharing a glance with Glorfindel, before both turned to watch the outcome of this family event.

"E-estel?" Elladan fairly stuttered.

Elrohir, stepped around his brother, eyes widening in shock. There, perched quite happily in his Ada's arms, was their little brother. The five year old smiled widely as he caught sight of the twin elves, and almost squealed in delight, remembering just in time, how hard that was on his family's ears.

"Elladan, Elrohir, I'm home!"

"Y-you...you *are* home. Oh thank, Elbereth, you are home." With that, Elladan swept his little brother out of his father's arms, pulling him tightly into his own. "You are *home*," the eldest twin whispered, burying his face in the human's soft curls, taking in the familiar and much missed scent of his baby brother.

Elrond and Glorfindel shared a look as a teary eyed Elrohir joined the embrace, one arm linking with his twin's, the other going around behind the little human, face buried opposite Elladan's.

Estel allowed the tight hug for a decidedly admirable amount of time for a five year old to endure, before grunting. "Dan, Ro, you're 'quishing me. You miss me that much?"

The twins pulled back slightly, just enough to give Estel a little air. "Very much, little one. We never thought we would see you again."

Estel frowned. "But I was only gone for ten days. You two were gone lots longer than that."

"Only te-" Suddenly the twins frowned, turning to look at their father, who gazed back at them, a warning in his eyes. Not here, not right now.

"Yes, well-" Elrohir began, eyes still locked with his father. He forced the frown from his face, and turned back to his baby brother. "It was ten days too long...now tell me, has it been ten days since your last bath?" The younger twin wrinkled his nose, his twin sniffing in agreement.

Estel giggled. "Ada, Glory, Terantur and Sebril said the same thing. The humans do not bath as much as we do...and they do not have nice smelling soaps either. And *no* bubbles Ro, can you believe it?"

"I can not. Tis unbelievable. What is a bath without bubbles?" He almost cringed after his remark, now recalling the last bath Estel had had with them. Elrohir had not put bubbles into it.

Estel however, just giggled, and snuggled back into Elladan, wrapping a tiny arm around Elrohir's neck to bring him back into a hug. "I missed you too," the boy said softly.

Elrond smiled fondly at the sight, then cleared his throat. Estel truly did need a bath.

"Come, all of you. Estel does indeed need a bath, then a good meal."

Without a word, Elladan handed his baby brother to his twin, turning to approach his father, but the elf lord frowned, waving him off. "Not now, Dan. Let us get Estel cleaned up, while he tells you and your brother about his adventure. Then the three of us will talk while Glorfindel and Legolas take Estel to the kitchens."

Elladan wanted to argue, but he respected his father too much to be so blatantly disobedient. "Yes, Adar." Was all he said, as he followed his twin, and the prince up the steps and into the house.

His little brother was already talking animatedly to the Prince of Mirkwood after Elrohir had introduced them, and the Prince's kind and easy smile had melted Estel's usual shy nature. Elladan smiled. Another heart, hopelessly lost to his little brothers charms.

~ ~ ~ ~

During Estel's much needed bath, he regaled to his family his so called adventure with the human family, who were quite stern, what with seven children already to keep in line, but none the less treated him fairly. Most of his adventures involved the family's youngest boy, some chickens and one pig. The elves shook their heads, but laughed as the boy giggled.

"Young ones," Elrond muttered, recalling a similar incident right here in Imladris with his twins. He and Celebrian had laughed in the end as well.

Finally, Elrond lifted the boy from the tub, setting him on the bed, where Legolas sat with a large fluffy towel. Already, Estel had fallen in love with his brothers' best friend and willingly jumped into the prince's arms, allowing himself to be wrapped up in the warm, cozy cloth.

Legolas laughed gaily, equally smitten with the small child. He'd actually never seen a child before, let alone been so close, or held one. He was the youngest of all the elves left on Arda, and had never been around humans, aside from the twins' ranger friends, who never had their family with them.

Elrond and Glorfindel laughed as well, while the twins rolled their eyes good-naturedly. Yes, they were usually just as sweet and sappy with their little brother, but it was odd to see their proud, Mirkwood friend being so. It did not bother them though. They were glad Legolas liked their brother, though loved was more like it, especially after how they had spoken of the little human. Legolas however, had just looked knowingly at them, understanding they did not mean what they said. The twins smiled now, glad their friend knew them well enough to know when they were just being stubborn and pig-headed.

Without a prompt from their father, Elrohir gathered sleep clothes for his little brother, handing them to Elladan to dress the boy, as had always been their routine when their father did not ready him for bed himself.

Legolas smiled as he held Estel after drying him, watching Elladan as the elder twin dressed the little boy, talking to him about this and that, things the boy had missed while away, things they had done while in Mirkwood. The prince glanced up, sharing a look with Elrond and Glorfindel. Elrond nodded his head toward Glorfindel, then to Estel and Legolas himself. The Prince and Glorfindel got the message.

"Well, Estel, will you come with the prince and I to get something to eat from the kitchens? Your Ada and the twins have something they need to discuss, but they shall join us later. Alright?"

Estel nodded happily. Leaning forward, he kissed Elladan's cheek, then held his arms up to Elrohir for a hug and kiss from him. The younger twin readily complied, then handed the boy to Legolas, who brought the boy to Elrond for a quick kiss, then followed Glorfindel to the door.

As soon as Glorfindel left with the youngest prince of Mirkwood and the youngest prince of Imladris, the twins turned to face their father, eyes flashing.

"YOU LIED TO US!" cried Elladan, always the more vocal and temperamental one.

Elrond regarded both sons calmly. "I did not. I never actually stated that I had sent your brother away indefinitely. However, I admit, I did mislead you into believing as much."

It was Elrohir who spoke, looking hurt. "How could you? Do you have any idea what it feels like to have your father deceive you so?"

"I do not, but do you know how it feels to be completely abandoned?"

Both twins winced at this. Intentional or not, their father and uncle had been left alone as children, something Elladan and Elrohir could not fathom. Yes, their mother had left, but they were full grown elves, and they still had, and believed they always would have, their father. Elrond wasn't finished though.

"Furthermore, do you have any idea what Estel felt like, hearing his brother's speak so coldly of him? Calling him a nuisance, a grievance, sounding quite certain they no longer wanted him around? That they seemed to want to just cast him aside? Abandon him to a bunch of strangers?"

"We did not mean-"

"Your brother is five years old, he does not understand comments made from frustration, he cannot conceive such pettiness. Do you know what he said to me after you left? He asked if I was angry at him too. Asked me if you two loved him anymore. Then he asked what he did wrong! For he could not comprehend what he had done that was so awful as to lose the love of two of the single most important beings in his life. Five or fifty, you two will always mean the world to him. Even after the way you treated him, he came to you upon his return with open arms, and complete forgiveness."

Both twins looked guilty at this, but still hurt by their father's deception.

Elrond softened, stepping forward and taking a hand of each twin. "I did not do this to get back at you for the way you treated your brother. Over six thousand years, I'd like to believe I'm not that petty, nor that you think I am. I did this because I know the need to cherish the preciousness of mortal life, especially that of one so dear as your little brother. You know, as do all in Imladris who have allowed themselves to love your brother, that one day, he will die. If this pains you even half as much as it does me, I question allowing this to happen, taking your brother in, and setting ourselves up so carelessly for such a grievous fall."

"Ada, no! We know it is a risk, we *knew*, we understand, and as scared as we are of when that day comes, we have learned to accept it."

"Have you?"

"...Yes. Well, maybe not completely, but...we *do* love him father. He is our brother, always and forever, even beyond his living days. His memory-"

"Exactly," Elrond smiled, a sad, but satisfied smile. "That is why I have done this. I know you love your brother, but he is sometimes not so sure, with how oft you leave, your impatience with him... My sons; parties, tournaments, hunts...they will never die, nor will you. You will have plenty of time to enjoy them. But you do not have such time to enjoy your brother, to watch him grow. Every week or month you are gone, is a week or month in his short life that you miss. Would you not rather miss a few hunts or parties, and spend all the time the valar give you with your brother? So that, pray it is many years from now, when you are at those parties or hunts or some grand to do in Valinor, you have loving memories to hold onto of your little brother? To share with others, or just hold precious to yourself? To never forget him, or regret the times you missed sharing with him? To rest easy, in the peace of knowing, *he* knew you loved him? Do you understand what I am trying to say to you, my sons?"

Both young elf lords looked sufficiently remorseful.

"Ada, we never meant to- That is-" Elrohir sighed, then struggled on. "We did act wrongly. We never should have treated him thus. We just...after our initial excitement about having someone to look up to us for a change, to teach, guide...spoil...we began to realize there was more to being a big brother, and yes we had Arwen, but a little sister is quite different from a little brother. Elladan and I have been so used to it just being the two of us, especially after Arwen went to live with our grandparents. We were so used to the freedom of just leaving whenever we felt like it. Nothing to tie us down, so to speak. I mean, there *is* you, but you do not need us, not really. We come home because it is home, and it is home because you are here and you love us, and we you."

It was Elladan's turn to speak up again. "Oh Adar, we did not realize the responsibility that Estel was, we were unprepared. But we do not regret it, taking him in that is. We love Estel, and we very much want him in our lives. He is our little brother, no one else's. We are sorry, Ada."

Elrond nodded, but said sternly. "Do not tell me, tell your brother. I never doubted your love for him."

They both nodded, and willingly allowed their father to pull them into a hug.

"Do you think he will forgive us?" Elrohir asked, dejected tone barely above a whisper.

Elrond smiled lovingly. "I told you, ion nin. He already has. Lucky for you, tis the innocent acceptance of all babes."

"We are still kind of hurt that you deceived us father, but you also are forgiven, for we understand why now."

"I am glad. I honestly did not expect you to forgive me so quickly."

"We can not help it father. Tis the innocent acceptance of children who's father is their entire world...baby brother's aside of course."

Elrond smiled, fighting back tears as he held his sons close, mouth pressing kisses to the silky crown of their heads. How he loved his children.


The next day, was the day Imladris celebrated Estel's return, since the night before it had been too late, and the child too tired.

"So, tithen muindor, what meal have you chosen for this evening?" Elrohir asked, walking with the child between him and his twin. Estel held their hands, laughing as they swung him back and forth. Legolas walked on Elrohir's other side, smiling as he watched the simple joy of the youth.

"Yours and Dan's favorite."

Elladan frowned. "But Estel, it was supposed to be *your* favorite."

"I like it too, but I wanted it to be *yours*."

Elrohir cocked his head. "Why, tithen pen?"

Estel shrugged as best he could while his arms were held up in the air by his big brothers. "Cause Ada said you missed me and cause you were sad...and cause I love you. And...just cause."

The twins shared a look. "Even after the way we treated you before we left?"

The twins had already apologized and told their brother how very much they loved him, and he had appeared even before then to have forgiven them, but still, they did not expect this.

"Legolas said that that is just big brothers sometimes, he said you love me anyway...just like you said you did. Legolas annoys his big brothers too. It is just the way it is."

Elladan and Elrohir looked over at their blonde friend, who smiled, winking. They both recalled claiming Legolas could not understand their problems, for he had no little brother. They had forgotten, he *was* a little brother, something *they* were not.

'Thank you,' they both mouthed. He just smiled, and so did they. They were once again thankful for their friend...almost as thankful as they were for their little brother, and for their second chance...for the precious time with the human that they would no longer take for granted.

The End


Mellon nin - my friend

Ion nin – my son

Hen nin – my child

Daro – stop

Ada/Adar – Dad(dy)/Father

Tithen pen – little one

Amin mela lle – I Love You

Penneth – young one

Namarie – Farewell

Tithen muindor – Little Brother