Friendship Carries Us Through (A "Sequel" to Then and Now)
By Gwenneth

Disclaimers: I don't own any of the recognizable characters, though I wish I did!! I'm just borrowing them to have a little bit of fun with. No money is being made from the writing of this story.

Summary: Aragorn is visiting Legolas in Mirkwood, not long after recovering from his wounds in "Then and Now". When Legolas and his father have an argument, the Prince leaves the palace in anger, only to be captured. Estel, who was following him...will either share his fate or save his friend.

Spoilers: CAN BE CONSIDERED A SEQUEL TO THEN AND NOW, therefore there are MAJOR spoilers for that story. I would advise reading it first if I were is finished and under my penname "Gwenneth".

Rating: PG-13 to start, might reach R later for torture.

Chapter One: To Mirkwood

"Estel, do you need to rest? We have been riding a long while now, I don't mind stopping for a while...we can eat or just take a short break," Legolas rode up beside his human companion, trying to keep his voice light and nonchalant.

It didn't fool his friend.

"For the umpteenth time, Legolas, I am fine. My wounds are all but healed, they do not pain me!" he sighed, shifting in the saddle so that he was looking the Elf in the eyes. "I am old enough to know when I need rest; we can go on a little longer."

His voice was gentle, perhaps a little patronizing, but he knew his friend only meant well and didn't want to sound angry. In truth, the constant attention and caution the Prince was taking had begun to wear on Estel.

To his credit, Legolas nodded and did not argue. Sometimes he forgot that Estel was of Numenorean blood and he healed faster then the average human. He inwardly chided himself for his over-protectiveness.

But ever since the episode with the Orcs when they had both almost lost their lives, Legolas had been overly cautious about Estel's well being. When they were hunting with the twins, he would watch Estel closely, careful to notice any signs of distress. Even in the house of Elrond, rarely did the Prince let the man out of his sight.

Estel, for his part, noticed all the attention Legolas gave him and while he didn't speak on it much, he was beginning to resent it. Why can't he see I am not a child who needs coddling? I am a grown man; I need not the constant vigilance that an Elfling on his first hunt would merit.

"We have already crossed the borders of Mirkwood," Legolas suddenly said, his attention now focused on the foliage and the surrounding forest. "It grows late. We will not travel much farther tonight anyhow. Mirkwood is not a force to be reckoned with at night, the perils are too great."

This time, Estel did not argue. He knew that the Elf's home was the only safe place in Mirkwood forest. The power of the royal family was all that kept the creatures of darkness at bay and protected the Elves of Mirkwood.

The man had only never met Legolas' father in all their years of friendship and this was the first time he was traveling to his friend's home. It was both exciting and daunting. Rumor had it that the Elves of Mirkwood were not fond of the Human race and Estel wasn't sure how they would take to their Prince's friendship with him.

"Will we be safe on the forest floor?" Estel asked, looking toward Legolas beside him.

The Prince didn't answer at first. He sighed deeply after listening to the sounds of the forest for a moment. "I do not hear the slinking of spiders in the trees near us. We might be safest to sleep among the leaves this night. The ground speaks of land-dwellers that may be of some trouble to us if we sleep on the ground."

Nodding in understanding and trusting the Elf's judgment, Estel followed him in silence. The night came quicker here then it did in Rivendell, or at least it seemed to with all the dense trees to block the last of the sun's rays.

As light gave way to shadow, Legolas drew his mount to a halt and slipped gracefully from the mare's back. "We will build a flet before the night comes." The Elf whispered once to the horse to remain where she was, then sauntered off into the bushes to gather what materials were needed.

With some aid from Estel, he soon had a comfortable platform nestled in a treetop and the two carried their packs up with them, setting the horses to graze in a small grassy area and leaving them with the command to stay close.

Once they were up in the tree, Estel grew jittery. It had been a while since he had slept in a tree. He wasn't keen on heights and peered nervously down the side of the flet. Legolas watched him with barely restrained amusement.

"Problem, Estel?" he finally asked, digging in his pack for a bit of lembas to munch on. When the human didn't answer, Legolas smiled. "Scared of heights then?"

"NO!" Estel grumbled quickly. Too quickly. He could have smacked himself for that. "I don't really like heights, but I'm not scared of them." He amended quietly.

This time, Legolas did not laugh. "I'm sorry, mellon nin, I forget that you are not a Wood-Elf and it is not in your nature to sleep in the trees. If you like, you may sleep against the trunk for security, I will take the edge."

Estel sighed in relief, shifting to take the pro-offered position. "Thank you, mellon nin. This should solve the problem."

Settling down, he accepted the bread from Legolas and munched idly. "Will we arrive in the city tomorrow?"

The Prince nodded. "If we do not meet with any resistance, I would say we will arrive just before dinner. Rather good timing too, my father will have no time to argue your presence."

Without thinking, the Elf shifted his shoulder stiffly, shaking it a little to ease the ache. The movement wasn't missed by his friend. "Your wound still pains you? That is unusual for you."

Moving to the Elf's side, he grasped his friend's arm. Legolas made to brush him off, but stopped at the look he was given. Estel meant business and he wasn't to be reckoned with when he did.

"Some, but it is all right, Estel. It is more likely in my mind then in my body that the trouble lies." He sighed at his words, knowing them to be the truth whether his companion believed him or not.

"Tell me about it, Legolas. You said you would, but still have not. I am the only one who does not know the story of your injury, only that you sustained them. I still hold you to that promise of yours."

A small smile crossed his friend's face. "All right, I guess you do deserve to hear it, Estel. After all, you of all people can sympathize with the pain." As Estel gently prodded the fading wound, he began the tale.

"I was part of a war party, separate from my father's and we heard commotion. The sounds of battle and the cries of wounded and dying Elves. So, we gathered as many arrows as possible and rode to their aide. Upon arriving, we found one of our smaller war parties being set upon by overwhelming numbers of Orcs. Naturally we joined the fray."

He paused, waiting until Estel readjusted his tunic and sat beside him. "In the heat of the battle, I saw my father fighting against multiple attackers. His tunic was full of blood, his blood and theirs, and he was close to faltering. When I saw him misstep, I nearly lost it, Estel."

The Elf shook lightly at the memory, the grief he had felt then encompassing him now. A light touch on his arm prompted him to continue. "I was near the tree line, far enough from the center of the battle to use my bow. Or so I thought. So I did, fired two arrows and killed two of Adar's attackers. It was that momentary lapse that was my undoing."

Estel shuddered now, remembering how his own rescue of Legolas had led to his injury. He was amazed at how similar the cases were. "Please, go on. Let it all out, mellon nin."

After a hitching breath, Legolas went on. "Ada shouted a warning, but I couldn't turn in time and the Orc ran his blade through my side, just as they did to you. I was so shocked, I could not move. But when he tried to force me toward the trees, I pushed back. I don't think I've ever felt such pain."

He paused, feeling the shudders run through his friend, knowing the man was remembering his own experiences. "I can stop if you like, Estel."

But the man shook his head and Legolas continued. "I was holding him back somehow, but an archer saw the struggle I guess. Next thing I know, an arrow hits my shoulder and I fall back against the tree. The Orc wasted no time impaling me to it." He paused. "Now you see why your Ada mentioned the past repeating itself. We both were hurt saving ones we loved, hurt in remarkably the same fashion."

Estel nodded. "And then what happened, Legolas?"

They both needed to hear this equally as much and Legolas finally understood that, so he continued. "My father killed the Orc and he and Celronen came to me. I was conscious and knew they needed to get me down. I told Ada to break the blade in the tree."

"You spoke in that condition?" Estel gasped, shocked that his friend would have had the energy to do that.

The Elf laughed. "Aye, I did. As did you, Estel, you begged me to tell you the story...I am sorry I didn't do so then."

Estel patted him on the knee. "You were wounded and distraught, there is no need for apology. You are telling me now."

Nodding, Legolas continued. "Once on the ground, they pulled out the arrow and the sword, then took me to Lothlorien, to the Lady Galadriel. That is why I grew uptight when you mentioned me having visited Lorien. That was the time I had visited there, arriving there when I was at death's door."

Estel sighed. "It pains me to hear of your ordeal, Legolas. But we both know you are better now and we are both alive to share tales. I am glad you were with me when I was hurt. I couldn't have done it without you. The pain was so bad..." he broke off, not able to continue.

"Iston, mellon nin. Iston," Legolas answered. {I know, my friend, I know.}

A small smile broke out on Estel's face. "All right, Legolas. Let's get some rest, I'll allow you to take first watch since I know you will argue that I am too tired to do it myself."

Legolas laughed. "You are very perceptive, Estel. Rest easy."

Soon, Estel was snoring lightly, watched over by his faithful friend.
A/N: There we are, I decided to write a sequel to Then and Now and incorporate that angsty torture stuff I promised I would write. This is the beginning of that and there is the telling of the story that October Sky wanted to hear. grins happily at doing what a reviewer asked PLEASE TELL ME IF YOU WANT MORE...I have more written. AND please REVIEW!!! Reviews always make me want to!