AN: It just seemed to me that this scene was missing something. For all those of you who felt the same.

All recognizable characters in this story belong to J.R.R. Tolkien, not me. It is written purely for entertainment, no copyright infringement intended.

DESPAIR

Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas watched with heavy hearts as the women and children of Rohan were hustled into the caves after being separated from their fathers, brothers, and sons. Gimli was seated comfortably on a low stool and watching the proceedings with interest as Aragorn moved among the Rohirrim, speaking to them and trying to boost their morale, checking the balance of their swords and soundness of their armor.

Unnoticed, Legolas drew back into a dusty corner, shadows falling over his face and hiding the pain in his eyes. He could hardly bear to watch the boys, so very young, especially in the elf's eyes, struggling in too big armor to lift spears nearly twice as tall as themselves. It wasn't right, wasn't fair, for these people to stand alone. It wasn't supposed to be this way.

"Farmer, farriers, stable boys. These are no soldiers." Aragorn's voice seemed to come from a great distance, rumbling on the edge of Legolas's consciousness as the faces of the men and boys of Rohan mingled in front of his eyes, inexplicably blurred by tears. He blinked as Gimli's loud, gruff voice to jerked him back into the present.

"Most have seen too many winters."

"Or too few," Legolas added softly, feeling for the first time just how old he was compared to these men. He hadn't felt it much before, as Aragorn was old beyond his years, and Gandalf had been with them, but now it seemed as if a huge distance separated the elf from everyone around him. Despite himself, he felt anger and resentment rising in his breast as he gazed at the sea of pale faces.

"Look at them. They are frightened." The harsh words seemed to burst from his lips; he was hardly aware that it was his own voice that spoke them. "I can see it in their eyes."

The room seemed suddenly to grow still and silent, as every face turned toward the elf. He had the presence of mind to switch languages, but still could not stem the sudden rush of pained words.

"And they should be. Three hundred, against ten thousand?"

Aragorn looked around and replied uneasily in the same language.

"They have more hope of defending themselves here then at Edoras."

"Aragorn," the words were as close to a snarl as the elvish voice could get. "We are warriors, they cannot win this fight." He allowed himself to give voice to the deepest fear in his heart, knowing only Aragorn could understand him. "They are all going to die!"

"Then I shall die as one of them!"

Legolas recoiled from Aragorn's vehement words as if he had been struck. Aragorn turned on his heel and left the room, and suddenly a cold wave of grief and remorse swept over the elf, instantly quenching the fire of his anger. Furious now only with himself, he moved to follow his friend, but a rough hand on his arm held him back.

He looked down to see Gimli standing at his elbow. Uncharacteristically, the dwarf's face was the only calm visage in the room.

"Let him go, lad. Let him be."

Legolas paused for a moment, suddenly painfully aware that every pair of eyes in the room was on him. Some gazes were puzzled but most were hostile, and he suddenly couldn't leave the room fast enough. He pulled away from Gimli and disappeared out the door, heading up the long winding staircase he found immediately outside.

He climbed upward until he reached the highest wall of the Hornburg. From such a vantage point he could see anything that moved upon the plain, and the voices of the people of Rohan drifted on the wind up to his elven ears. They were the voices of mothers and fathers and children, the voices of the very young and the very old mingling as the people of Rohan moved to seek shelter in the caves or to prepare themselves for battle. Occasionally he heard the grief stricken cry of a woman as her husband or son was taken away to be armed against the coming of the orcs, and he could hear infants crying. Théoden's voice, loud and commanding as a King's should be, issued orders and the voices of his men answered, differential, obedient, loyal.

Legolas clenched his fists and turned away from the plains stretching out before him, resting his forehead on the cold stone of the wall.

They are frightened, he had told Aragorn. As they should be. Yet they still readied themselves for the battle, stubbornly strapping on armour and sharpening blades, refusing to acknowledge the doom that hovered over them. They were frightened, yes, but they were not overcome.

Théoden's voice caught his ears again, steady and unwavering. He had had little strength only a few days ago, yet now he seemed rock solid in his leadership of his people. It was he in whom the men and women of Rohan placed their faith, who kept despair from crushing them all.

Then Aragorn's voice reached him, and though he was a great distance away, somehow, perhaps by a trick of the shape of the rocks, Legolas could hear his words clearly.

"Give me your sword. What is your name?"

"Haleth, son of Háma, my lord," a very young voice answered. Legolas remembered the man's cry as the warg's sharp teeth tore into his body and sighed.

"The men are saying that we will not live out the night. They say that it is hopeless."

The beginning of Aragorn's reply was muffled by the sound of marching feet, but the man's last few words made Legolas look up.

"There is always hope."

And suddenly Legolas realized that it was not Théoden in whom the people of Rohan found strength. It was not the King of their land who kept hope alive, but a ranger from the north, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir of Isildur and rightful king of men. He was the captain men needed to give them the strength and courage to fight the darkness of Mordor.

Legolas stood in the doorway, watching Aragorn as the ranger pulled on his armor. The elf could see by the way Aragorn stood and by the set of his head the strength and determination in the man's soul. There was hope yet, with a man like Aragorn leading them.

Shame burned in Legolas's veins. If men could be so strong, what right had an elf to loose faith?

Carefully schooling his comely elven features into impassiveness, Legolas stepped out of the shadows and toward his friend. Aragorn's back was to him, and he did not hear the elf's silent approach, nor note his presence until he reached for his sword, and found it was not there.

Slowly he turned and looked at the elf, who held the bright blade almost reverently. For a moment neither spoke, then Legolas broke the silence.

"We have trusted you this far and you have not led us astray. Forgive me. I was wrong to despair." He would have liked to say more, but his voice threatened to tremble, and he was determined not show his weakness again, to anyone.

Aragorn shook his head, answering softly in the gray tongue;

"There is nothing to forgive, Legolas."

Nothing to forgive? Slowly the elf knelt and began to fasten the sword around Aragorn's waist. His normally steady elven finger trembled slightly, and he could not seem to work the buckle. Aragorn noticed this, but said nothing until the sword belt was at last secure around his middle. Then he placed two fingers under the Legolas's chin, gently forcing him to look up until their eyes met.

"Legolas," the man said slowly as grey eyes searched blue. "Be honest with me, what troubles you? You have seen many battles; I do not believe it is fear of death I see in your eyes."

His friend had asked for honesty and Legolas would give it to him, but he found he could no longer meet Aragorn's gaze. He dropped his eyes as he replied quietly.

"Not my own."

Aragorn understood this worry all too well, and he laid a comforting hand on the elf's shoulder.

"The people of Rohan are strong, Legolas," he said. "They will stand and fight this evil."

"They should not have to." Legolas answered. "Where are the men of Gondor? Where are the dwarves of Erebor, the armies of Imladris, of Lorien and Taur-nu-Fuin? How does all evil band together in force while good remains scattered and at odds with itself?"

He looked up again, and there was something like betrayal in his eyes.

"I tried, Aragorn. I tried to tell them, but they would not listen. My father, Lord Elrond, Lord Celebron and Lady Galadriel, the answer was always the same, that this is not our battle, that men must stand alone and they would not, or could not, help. They are sailing away from these shores, and leaving Middle-Earth to its fate."

His hands clenched into fists as he ducked his head once more. "I think perhaps I was born too late. While the eyes of my kin turn toward the sea and Valinor, my heart still dwells here. I would not let this world be destroyed if it lay in my power to preserve it."

"Nor would I," Aragorn's strong voice replied, as he extended his hand to Legolas. The elf looked at him for a moment, and accepted and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. "There is too much beauty in this land to be forsaken, and we will fight for it, you and I."

Legolas bowed his head in acknowledgement of the words.

"And we will triumph."

He reached out and clasped Legolas's shoulder, and the elf returned the gesture, offering Aragorn a small smile.

Just then a sound behind Legolas made the elf turn and look behind him. Gimli stood there, awkwardly adjusting a mail shirt about his broad from.

"If we had more time," he informed them both gruffly, "I'd get this adjusted." He let the edges fall, and the shirt landed with its length to the floor. Aragorn chuckled, and Gimli, embarrassed, remarked;

"It's a little tight across the chest."

This comment brought a smile to Legolas's lips when somewhere outside the battlements a horn sounded. He turned in surprise.

"That is no orc horn!"

And he was right. As Legolas, Aragorn, and Gimli came down the steps toward the main gate, their eyes fell upon Haldir and an army of Lorien elves. Aragorn was the first to reach Haldir, and bowed to him.

"Well met, Haldir," he said in the elf's own tongue, and then, throwing propriety aside, he drew the marchwarden into an embrace. Slightly stunned, Haldir returned Aragorn's hug lightly and then looked toward Legolas.

The two elves exchanged a silent greeting. Legolas's eyes spoke thanks, and Haldir's told the Mirkwood elf that his words to Galadriel had not gone unheeded. The two turned to face the men who stood before them, and it was Legolas's face more than Haldir's voice which said;

"We are proud to fight alongside men once more."

The battle was long and wearying, and when the light of day fully illuminated the battlements and the plains before Helm's Deep the cost of victory could be seen in full. The bodies of men and elves were strewn upon the walls and although for every fallen defender three orc corpses could be counted, the toll was still heavy. Aragorn took the time to seek out Legolas, who was helping the remaining Lorien elves with their wounded and dead.

"Haldir is dead," the elf told him when he approached.

"I know," Aragorn answered. He surveyed the fallen and wounded elves. "I'm sorry," he said quietly, and Legolas knew he was speaking of more than Haldir's death.

"It is a cause worth dying for," Legolas replied. "Haldir knew that, they all did. We do not fight only for the survival of Rohan, but for all the beauty of Middle Earth. That is why they came."

His eyes were sad as he turned to look at Aragorn, but there was strength in his gaze. There would be a time to morn, but they both knew it was not now. The battle was won, but the war was only beginning.

"If you would excuse me," Legolas said. "I must go find our friend the dwarf. I think he might be interested to know my final tally of forty two."

i methen