Band of Brothers

Cheryl W.

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I don't own The Lord of the Rings or anything in conjunction with The Lord of the Rings. I also do not own Band of Brothers or anything in conjunction with Band of Brothers. Nor am I making a profit from this story. No copyright infringement is intended.

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Chapter 4

Finally exhaustion and the lingering pain of his wound won out and Legolas admitted to himself that he could not longer stand watch. Feeling as if a part of him lay somewhere out in the dark forest before him, Legolas swallowed hard before turning back to camp, almost stumbling with the effort of walking. Ten more men from Company Fellowship had found their way back to the camp throughout the hours of Legolas's night time vigil, taking the number of missing down to twenty nine. But among those missing were three men Legolas valued the most: Aragorn, Boromir and Gimli.

Pushing aside the sorrow that weighed on him, Legolas entered the camp and headed to Denethor's fox hole with the report. He dreaded the encounter but duty would not be pushed aside for personal feelings: not again. To his surprise, Denethor was awake, sitting on the edge of his hole, his gaze fixed on the north where Foy was positioned. He looked up as the lieutenant approached.

"Report, Mirkwood," he grimly demanded.

Steadily Legolas supplied the numbers as if they had no personal correlation to him. "22 dead, 16 wounded and 107 are ready for duty, sir."

Denethor's eyes blazed into Legolas's. "How many unaccounted for?"

It was this number that was the hardest for Legolas to utter. "29."

"Captain Thorongil?"

Legolas swallowed down his emotions and wondered if Denethor was getting sick satisfaction at hearing Aragorn's fate...of making Legolas speak aloud the fate of his best friend. "Among the missing," his voice rough but even.

For a moment, Denethor said nothing then he simply nodded his head and crawled into his fox hole.

It took Legolas a moment to realize he had been rudely dismissed. Turning on his heel, he cut through the forest hoping to find a fox hole he could occupy for the small hours that remained in the night. He jumped as someone to his near left called out his name softly.

Suddenly he found Merry at his side. "Our hole's over here," Merry said, pointing to the east before the two men began to walk in that direction. They did not speak as their boots crunched under the snow covered forest floor and when Legolas saw Pippin smiling up at him from the "safety" of the fox hole, some of his tension drained away.

Jumping into the hole, Legolas sat on the ground beside Pippin and leaned heavily against the dirt hewed wall. Merry claimed a spot to his left and promptly offered him some of their food rations. But Legolas shook his head. Hunger had not plagued him at all this day.

"Eat," Merry ordered and he dropped the ration in Legolas's lap. "I'm not going to carry you when we make the assault on Foy," he taunted lightly.

A small smile sprang on Legolas' lips. Picking up the food, he did as he was ordered. Silence reigned among the three men and that in itself was unnatural. Usually they would ramble unceasingly about bands, girls and how many medals they had and hoped to have by the war's end. But not this night. No words could undo the events of the past two days or soften the sorrow each felt at the loss of some of their brothers in arms.

A gruff voice behind them brought them all to their feet, "I shouldn't be surprised to find you all eating while I've been out taking care of business."

"Gimli!" Pippin called out in joy, leaping from the hole and crushing the older man in his embrace. "We thought you were dead!"

The 1st Sergeant lightly pounded the other man on the back before pulling back. Snorting he retorted, "I knew someone had to stick around and keep you pups alive," and his eyes swept over the three officers, making sure that no serious harm had befallen them.

"I didn't expect to see you here, Legolas," he said, a reprimand hiding in his words.

A blush almost crept onto the young lieutenant's face but he firmly answered, "I was bailing out of the aid station when I heard about the attack last night." The memory of his grief at the news that his company was lost washed over him, darkening his features.

"I bet our odds were pretty grim," Gimli gently offered, sensing the young man's pain.

"You didn't have odds, Gimli," Legolas informed lowly, "The whole company was thought lost."

For the first time Merry and Pippin understood the haunted look that their lieutenant had worn when they stepped out of the fog this afternoon. A look that had faded but not disappeared as the day progressed

"Lost?!" Pippin repeated, "You thought...they thought..."

To this Legolas simply nodded.

Merry put a reassuring hand on Legolas' shoulder and Gimli bent down to meet Legolas' eyes. "You're not alone anymore Legolas," he reassured and then smiled, "You're back to taking orders from me."

Legolas smartly saluted, "Yes sir!" humor and happiness starting to lighten his eyes.

But then it was Gimli's features that transformed into a grim mask, "Boromir's platoon? Aragorn? Any word of them?"

All eyes fixed on Legolas and he croaked out, "Nothing."

Gimli cursed and hung his head, feeling the loss of his two comrades and the men of the platoon deeply. Before he could raise his head, a private had come up behind him and quietly informed him, "Sergeant Durin, Captain Denethor wants your report...now."

After taking a deep steadying breath, the sergeant drew himself to his feet, offered a "Later gentlemen" to the three soldiers of his company and headed across the camp to meet with Denethor.

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Sleep would not come to Legolas as he huddled in the foxhole. The night was quiet...too quiet. Back home he had loved to sleep out under the stars and soak up nature's offerings. But here, it was not nature he had been trained to hear amid the night hours. Here he listened for the smallest of sounds that could herald danger and to the sounds of the men in his company, insuring himself that they were all well.

No matter how hard he tried, this night he could not hone his instincts into their trained spectrum. He had been given a profound gift today, the gift of the safe return of most of the men in his company. He knew his heart should have been full of gratitude and happiness...but it was not. Instead he could not beat down the sorrow that ate at him. Over one hundred men had walked out of the white fog today, escaping the fate that had tried to claim their lives. But no matter the happiness he had felt at each solder's appearance, at each friend that had been restored to him, he could not quell the part of him that clung to the sorrow of the lives lost.

He had lived with these men among the terror and horror of war. Together they had both laughed and cried. They had become a part of him, a part he could not replace or forget. And the loss of Aragorn he felt most acutely, the pain steeling away his breath and making sleep impossible.

Pulling the blanket off that he had cocooned around himself, Legolas climbed from the foxhole, making sure that he did not wake Pippin and Merry in the process. Little stirred in the area as he made his way to the front lines, his footsteps loud in the quiet of the early dawn. Nearing the guards, he whispered in greeting, "Lieutenant Mirkwood approaching," to which "approach" was answered back.

Assured now that he would not startle the young guards into a false action, the lieutenant walked past the guards, gave them a nod of greeting and stopped a few yards ahead of them. He squinted into the forest as sunlight began to filter through the white world of the forest.

"Any more survivors come in after sergeant Dorin and the seven men with him?" he questioned quietly.

"Five came in, sir," was the reply.

Legolas spun around to face the guard who had answered him, a question in his expression. But before he could find the will to ask it the guard shook his head.

"Wasn't Captain Thorongil or Lieutenant Boromir or anyone from that platoon," the guard gently supplied.

The news was not unexpected but it still struck Legolas hard. He turned again to look out upon the forest and squinted harder as more sunlight glinted off the snow. Any other time sunlight would have uplifted his spirits. But today, with the touch of the sun's rays upon the world around him, Legolas felt all hope die within him. Under the cover of the fog yesterday and the darkness last night, there had been hope that the missing men could make their way back into camp without attracting the enemy's attention. The clear, sunny day that was breaking over this part of Belgium offered no cover for the wayward. Even if the sixteen missing men were alive, and not captives, they could not make the journey safely across the field that separated the town of Foy from the forest. Sunlight now signaled the doom of Legolas's vain hope. Hanging his head, he tightly clenched his eyes shut as the realization ripped his heart out. The wait was over.

"Sir," a hesitant voice spoke softly to him.

He looked up into the face of the young private who had been standing guard.

The private looked uncomfortable but duty bound to speak his next words. "Captain Denethor told us that once the sun came up, we should treat any who approach our position from the north as enemies...no matter what."

Expecting an argument from the lieutenant, he was shocked when the other man simply nodded his head and walked by him toward camp.

Faced with the harsh truth that Aragorn was not coming back, Legolas felt grief claim him again...even stronger than it had when he thought the whole company was gone. Hope, if it was false, seemed to him the cruelest of all emotions. How could he tell the others that Aragorn was dead? That Boromir would not be returning either? How could he meet the eyes of the men of Fellowship Company and offer them hope when he had none himself. Not now...maybe not ever again.

He jerked to a halt as a whistle echoed in the forest. Urgently he ran back toward the front line, toward the guards whose orders were to shoot any who approached their camp. No exceptions. "No!" he shouted, breaking the silence that had been maintained in the camp since the shelling two nights ago. When he came upon the guards, they had their weapons raised. With dread, Legolas knew the soldiers were too well trained to disobey Denethor's orders. In horror, he realized he would not make it to guards in time to physically stop them from firing.

In desperation, Legolas loudly yelled the one thing he knew could save the lives of the men approaching from the forest, "Air Raid!" And he sent up a prayer that the men in the forest had dropped to the ground with his warning. Mere seconds later, the guards opened fire into the forest where they had seen movement. Reaching the guards, Legolas tackled them, sending all three of them crashing to the ground.

The one guard cursed him while the other tried to climb to his feet and again send shots into the forest. "No! It's our men out there!" Legolas yelled to the man, gripping his arm and yanking him back to the ground.

A voice yelled from the forest, "Legolas, it's Boromir! Stop shooting at us!"

Legolas was overwhelmed with relief and joy. Another brother was being returned to him. Coming to his feet, he called back, "Just stay where you are, we'll come to you!"

"Don't dilly dally. We got enemy troops coming up behind us!" Boromir called back.

Legolas turned to the two privates who had gained their feet. "Follow me and do not shoot! Is that understood! I know the man in the forest!"

"Our orders.." the guard began in protest.

Sensing that the men would not obey any counter orders he might give, he cut in, "Fine. I'll go alone and call out the code word "Glen Miller" when I come back. Don't shoot me!"

Before either guard gave reassurances that they understood the code and would not fire upon him, Legolas ran into the forest, his heart pounding in his chest. Boromir had said "we" and "us". He was not alone. Legolas did not allow himself to dwell on Boromir's companion.

Finally Legolas saw the outline of a man upon the forest floor. That instant Boromir raised his head and the two lieutenants' eyes met. A smile curled up Legolas' s lips and he ran to the man's side but as he approached he could only see Boromir. Legolas felt disappointment. Boromir was alone.

Reaching the man's side he dropped down to his knees and was about to speak when Boromir sat up on his hunches and looked toward the forest floor. Legolas followed the other man's gaze and drew in a sharp breath. Captain Aragorn Thorongil lay motionless on the ground, blood covering the left side of his face and more blood staining his shirt darkly. Legolas suddenly realized that he had not seen Aragorn before because Boromir had been covering the other man protectively with his own body.

Legolas's worried eyes met Boromir's. Grimly the older lieutenant said, "Let's get him to camp," and he reached down to pull his captain onto his shoulders but Legolas gripped his wrist.

"I'll carry him," and at Boromir's look of protest, Legolas added, "I'm fresh..you're not." With that logic, Boromir nodded his acceptance and helped Legolas gently pull Aragorn over his shoulders.

"Let's go," Legolas bade as he stood and readjusted Aragorn's weight before walking back toward camp, Boromir at his side, his rifle at the ready.

Legolas acutely felt every breath Aragorn took, for each breath from his friend prompted his own breath to resume. He could feel warm blood seep from Aragorn onto his shoulder and he tightened his grip on his captain. He would not lose Aragorn now, not when he had made it this far. It felt like forever before Legolas reached the outskirts of the camp and he called out "Glen Miller."

"Approach, lieutenant," came the reply and Legolas felt some tension leave him. The privates were not so brainwashed by Denethor after all.

Then he could see the guards and moments later he and Boromir walked past them. Legolas gave them a passing look and solemnly offered, "Thank you," as he headed for the camp.

Between Legolas's "air raid" warning and the guards' rifle fire, the camp had come alive with action. Denethor suddenly was in Legolas' path. "What the hell's going on! Why were shots fired!"

"That was your orders in action, sir," Legolas bit out as he determinedly side stepped the captain and made for the temporary aid station they had developed in the camp. Boromir flanked Legolas without offering a word of explanation to the captain and was surprised when the other captain did not take up pursuit but instead stalked to the front line.

"He gave the order for the guards to shoot at us," Boromir surmised bitterly.

"Once the sun came up they were to shoot anyone who approached from the north. No exceptions," Legolas informed the lieutenant. Looking to Boromir, he knew that he wore the same enraged look that marred the other man's features.

They exchanged no further words as Legolas came upon the aid station that was simply a clearing in the very back of the camp where some blankets were spread out to accommodate any of the wounded. Legolas knelt down and, with Boromir's aid, gently laid Aragorn onto a blanket.

"Medic!" Boromir called when he saw no medic in the vicinity.

Legolas tore open Aragorn's shirt to inspect the wound that seeped blood onto the captain's shirt. Bandages from someone's first aid kit were wrapped around Aragorn's waist but they were drenched in blood. Fear gripped Legolas and he looked to Aragorn's pale bloodied face. Tenderly he took the older man's face into his hands. "Aragorn, can you hear me? You're back in camp. You're safe." This garnered no response from Aragorn.

A medic dropped to his knees beside Aragorn and Legolas pulled back allowing the man to tend to his friend. He and Boromir watched intently as the medic inspected their captain's wounds.

"He's going to be fine, right?" Legolas asked breathlessly his look swinging from Aragorn's face to the medic's.

"We need to get him to an aid station...a real one," was the medic's reply, his hands busy cleaning the bullet wound in Aragorn's side.

Legolas's eyes met Boromir's and they both knew what they needed to do. "I'll track down a jeep," Boromir said as he climbed to his feet and disappeared amid the movements of the camp.

"Lift him up," the medic ordered, breaking Legolas from his fixation on his friend's motionless body. Legolas' glazed eyes met the medics in confusion. "Lift him up so I can bandage his waist."

As the request sunk in, Legolas gently slid his hands under Aragorn's back and slowly pulled the man upright to lean against his chest. A moan of pain erupted from Aragorn and Legolas beckoned, "Aragorn?" turning his head to look at his friend's face that rested on his shoulder. A flinch of pain flickered over Aragorn's features as the medic wrapped the bandage around his waist.

Seeing that Aragorn was almost conscious, Legolas called softly again, "Aragorn? Can you hear me? It's Legolas."

With effort, Aragorn's eyes fluttered open and his first clear sight was of a widely smiling Legolas, "Legolas?" he questioned, his voice weak and rough.

Unhindered joy at last had free reign on Legolas. Aragorn was going to be fine for he could see the strength burning, albeit lowly, in his friend's eyes. Aragorn was a survivor of the first order. "Yes, it's Legolas," he answered with humor glinting in his eyes, "You didn't think you'd get rid of me with one little bullet, did you?"

An exhausted but truthful smile turned up Aragorn's lips. "No, you're too stubborn."

"Takes a stubborn fool to know a stubborn fool," Legolas taunted with their usual come back to one another.

Aragorn's smile brightened before he groaned in pain as the medic tied off the bandage. Legolas shot the medic an angry look but it was wasted on the man who was busy rummaging through his medic pack and said without looking up, "You can lay him back down now."

Legolas turned his look again to Aragorn's pained features. "I'm going to ease you back to the ground, Aragorn."

"Alright," Aragorn agreed quietly, already steeling himself for the agony he knew any motion would cause him. And when Legolas, with as much care as anyone could, again settled him onto the ground, he knew his prediction had not been wrong. The agony almost sent him tumbling back into the void of unconsciousness.

Sliding his hands from under Aragorn's back as he rested the man again on the ground, Legolas watched as Aragorn clamped his eyes tightly shut and drew in a sharp breath. Legolas cursed himself for bringing more pain to his friend. The medic reached out to clean the wound on Aragorn's forehead but Legolas snagged onto the man's wrist. "Wait a little while," he ordered. The medic nodded his head in agreement, pulled his released hand back to his side and walked away to give the officers some privacy.

After a few moments, when he had pushed the level of agony down a notch or two, Aragorn forced his eyes open again and blinked them into focus. Looking to Legolas, he asked desperately, both hope and despair in the words, "The company...they make it back?" the intensity of his gaze giving off the strength that his weak words did not.

Legolas smiled, "You saved them, Aragorn."

Dissatisfied with that vague reply, Aragorn, with a tremendous effort, reached up and gripped Legolas's forearm, "How many ..came back?"

"122 returned without a scratch on them," Legolas supplied smiling, hoping to delay the telling of the bad news.

Aragorn was not placated with half the truth, he tightened his grip on his friend's arm, "Wounded?" and he swallowed hard before he chocked out, "Dead?"

Knowing that Aragorn would not be waylaid, Legolas gave the man the truth. "16 wounded. 22 dead."

Grief swam in Aragorn's eyes and he dropped his grip on Legolas' arm as his eyes slid closed in another type of pain. Gruffly he asked, "Who...who's dead?" and he reopened his eyes and looked to his junior officer.

Legolas was unprepared for the question. Denethor had been more than satisfied with statistics but Aragorn, he never treated anything in this war impersonally, especially his men. Drawing in a steadying breath, Legolas told his captain the name of every lost man. With each name, Legolas watched the sorrow in Aragorn's blue eyes deepen. It seemed impossible but Legolas knew Aragorn could picture the face of each fallen soldier, could tell you something personal about every one of them. They had never been numbers to him...just as they were not numbers to him now. No they had been Aragorn's comrades, his friends, his brothers.

When the list was done, Legolas watched Aragorn struggle to keep his emotions bottled up inside, only the hard swallow and the dimness of his eyes betraying how close he was to losing that battle. Legolas put his hand on Aragorn's chest to offer the man some comfort. "I know you feel the loss of every one of your men but you must also know that you saved 122 lives with your orders."

"34 Dead," Aragorn said, his voice thick with his emotions as he watched Legolas take in this news. "I lost the men in Boromir's platoon also."

"You did not lose them, Aragorn. This war did."

Aragorn shook his head marginally in denial, "My orders..."

But Legolas gently cut in, "The men in the platoon, they willingly risked their lives to save the lives of their brothers in the company. They did not need an order from you to make that sacrifice. You know that. "

Aragorn seemed soothed by Legolas's words and he closed his eyes. "I will never forget them...any of them. No one should ever forget them." Tears silently escaped from Aragorn's closed eyes a moment before his eyes focused on his friend again. "We may wear the medals but they, they gave us the will, the strength to earn them. They saved us all and asked nothing in return. They are the heroes...and their sacrifice will not become tarnished. Ever."

Legolas found tears tracking down his own face and he could only nod silently in agreement to his friend's words. His head snapped up as Boromir came to stand at his side.

"I got a jeep," he announced as he put a stretcher down beside Aragorn but then he saw the despair in Legolas and Aragorn's faces and fell silent.

Legolas nodded then looked to Aragorn. "Looks like it's your turn to visit the aid station, captain," humor causing the sorrow in his eyes to begin to fade.

Aragorn allowed Legolas attempt at humor to ease his grip on his grief and guilt. He let a smile emerge on his face, "Yeah but I won't treat it like a month long pass ...like you did," he taunted his best friend, his words weak but filled with humor.

Legolas rose to the baiting, "A month?! I was there two days...not even 24 hours! And I went AWOL to get back here! The doctor wanted me to stay there another three days!" His heart lifting as he fell into the old routine between he and his friend. Nodding to Boromir to take a position at Aragorn's head, Legolas stood up and moved to Aragorn's feet. Boromir gripped the blanket edges above Aragorn's head while Legolas took hold of the fabric at Aragorn's feet. Without warning the two lieutenants picked up Aragorn's blanket and moved the man onto the stretcher as gently as they could.

Still a small cry of pain came from Aragorn, "Easy," he hissed around the pain but there was no true reprimand in his voice.

"That was our easy," Boromir replied as he looked down at Aragorn and winked to Legolas. Then he and Legolas picked up the stretcher and headed for the jeep that was pulling into the camp.

"I don't want to have to be in bed as long as Legolas ...just because you guys dropped me," Aragorn griped breathlessly to his two friends.

"I wasn't in bed long at all!" Legolas argued with fake anger as they gently secured the stretcher onto the jeep.

Once he was certain the stretcher was firmly in place, Borimir looked down into his captain's eyes. "Heal up and get back here fast or Denethor will be joining you at the aid station.

"Promise me you won't hit him again," Aragorn prodded.

"I'm not promising a thing," Boromir smirked, ruffled Aragorn's hair and walked away.

Legolas took Boromir's place at Aragorn's side. He smiled down at his best friend, "I can't control him...you know that."

"How would you know...you always encourage him," Aragorn accused.

Legolas laughed and did not offer up a denial. "It's more fun that way." Then he sobered up, "Follow the doctor's orders, Aragorn. Don't come back here half healed."

"This coming from the guy who's... AWOL from the hospital this very instant."

But anguish hued Legolas's next words as his look seared into his best friend, "I thought you were dead....I can't bear to go through that again. Especially not for real. So take care of yourself you stubborn fool! And like my father always tells me, "reserve some of your nine lives for your retirement years."

Aragorn smiled and raised his hand. Immediately Legolas tightly grasped Aragorn's hand in his own. "Your father sounds like a smart man."

"Yeah, he's almost as smart as me," Legolas joked back to which Aragorn snorted weakly. Laying Aragorn's hand down again to his chest, Legolas released his grip and nodded to the jeep's driver. The jeep engine flared to life and Legolas stepped back as the jeep began to pull out.

"Be seeing you soon," Aragorn said in parting with a cocky smile on his face, causing Legolas to give up a silent curse.

He watched as the jeep disappeared into the woods. Yes, Aragorn would be back here before long, Legolas would bet on it. Turning around, Legolas watched the camp activity. All the men that had lost their lives were still here, living in the memory of the company, still bravely fighting the good fight. Aragorn was right, the lost would not be forgotten or nor would their sacrifices tarnish with time. They were heroes to them all..forever.

The end.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this story and special thanks to those who reviewed!

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Frodo16424: Glad you liked my line about hope and the whistle code! Thanks for reading and reviewing this story. I REALLY appreciated it.

Luinthien: I almost wrote this fic under an alias because it's such a risky venture. I'm touched that you like this story and are not disappointed that it's not like my other tales. You're the best!!

Sielge: Thanks for the review. Hope you like the ending.

Mrs. Greenleaf: I'm touched that I brought tears to your eyes. But of course I take it by your name you have a special attachment to Legolas and would suffer when he suffers. Thanks for your review!

Pippin-Kun: Thanks for your compliments! And no, I'm not trying to make any comparisons between WW2 and LOTR. I just liked band of brothers and wanted to do a story and since I was obsessed with LOTR...this concept was born. As for Aragorn's last name, I chose Thorongil because that was the name he used when he was soldiering for Gondor and Rohan. Love to hear what you think of this ending.

Neige: Thanks for approving of this AU! I feel like I'm out on a real limb writing this but I too love history, even though I stink at remembering the details. As for the title, I know, I readily admit that titles are NOT my thing. Thanks so much for your review.

Kingmaker: Thanks so much for your wonderful review! I have to say I've had a great time writing the fic...envisioning the LOTR characters in WW2. It's great that you appreciate my efforts!

Leap: At first, I thought AU stories were sacrilegious...but as you can see I've gotten over that. I started to realize these characters were too cool to confine into one setting! Hope to hear your thoughts on the ending.

ZiZi the Zephyr: Glad you like this story! And my grandfather is also a WW11 vet...but he doesn't talk about it much but he knows I'm proud of him and his service. We are truly related to heroes! Have a great memorial day!

Elfmage: I'm very happy to be suck with you! I'm secretly pleased that my story came to your mind at school...that's a real compliment! And yes, I think there are some similar traits between Dick Winters and Aragorn. Both are men able to lead but never willing to sacrifice the lives of their men. Both humble yet strong. I truly look forward to your final review!

Thanks again to everyone! And never forget the heroes that died to secure our freedoms.

Cheryl W.