Disclaimer: You guessed it. I don't own them, and I don't make any money off of them. Darn it.

Summary: The memory of a special time shared with a very young Legolas helps Thranduil through a dark hour.

A/N: Legolas is six in human years.


CHILD OF NATURE

by White Wolf

Thranduil sat beside the bed of his youngest child. He had been sitting in the same chair, in almost the same position ever since Legolas had been carried back to the palace gravely wounded after a skirmish with orcs in the south.

The elven king's eyes did not leave the pale face of his son, who lay motionless, eyes closed, on the large bed. Thranduil held Legolas's hand tightly in his own. He squeezed it, but the young warrior prince did not respond.

Thranduil's mind then drifted back to a time long ago, when Legolas was a small child, and he had held the elfling's hand in much this same way.

x x x x x

"Legolas, wait for me," came the resonant voice of the King of Mirkwood. He wasn't exactly worried about his young son finding danger by getting too far ahead of him in the forest. There were warriors in the trees all around, and they would sacrifice themselves before allowing their king or their youngest prince to come to harm.

Still, Thranduil did not want Legolas to get beyond his sight. It was primarily because he had told the elfling to remain close, and he wanted to make sure that his word was obeyed. No elfling was too young to learn discipline and respect for authority. Yet the elfling was exuberant, and it was hard for him to obey a command that kept him from running free in the forest.

"Then you must hurry, Ada. You are too slow." There was a definite note of impatience in the child's voice.

"I am no elfling, ion nin," Thranduil said with a laugh under his breath. The elder elf was very fit and had no trouble keeping up with much younger warriors, if need be, but keeping up with this energetic elfling was something else again. He increased his pace.

The king had no sooner caught up to his son than Legolas darted off again, weaving in and out of the trees as easily as flowing water.

Legolas continued in this fashion for several moments until he went behind a large oak tree and failed to emerge again.

Thranduil frowned. Where had that boy gotten to? The elder wood elf moved to the tree where he had last seen Legolas, but the elfling was not there. Scanning every inch of the area in his line of sight, and finding nothing, his frown deepened.

When Thranduil walked past an oak tree on his right, Legolas jumped out at him and yelled. The king, who had actually heard the elfling's movements just before he had made his sudden appearance, feigned a fright, which elicited a barrage of giggles from the young child.

Legolas sat on the ground and laughed, pointing up toward his father. "I scared you, Ada."

"You most certainly did," laughed the king. Thranduil was normally a stickler for absolute honesty, but now he shrugged to himself. It was a tiny lie that brought joy to his son. He could see no harm in this small transgression.

In mere seconds, the elfling was up and running through the trees again. "Come, Ada. We must hurry."

"Why must we hurry?" Thranduil called out.

"I want to see the rainbow."

Thranduil could not figure out exactly what Legolas meant. The water that poured over the rocky cliff not too far from their current position always produced a rainbow whenever the sun shone through the misty spray that drifted up from the rocks that lay below the churning water. It was hardly an event that demanded they rush.

The roar of the waterfall had reached the keen ears of the two royal elves long before they reached it.

By the time Thranduil arrived at the edge of the pool that spread out from the foot of the plummeting water, Legolas was standing and glancing up toward the sun. "It will come in just a moment now."

"What will come, ion nin?" The king was plainly puzzled, since he could clearly see the rainbow that was always there in the full sunshine of mid-day.

"Watch," Legolas told him, as if that one word explained everything.

The elfling stood motionless and stared at the waterfall, anticipation on his small fair face.

Suddenly, Legolas pointed and said, "Look, Ada! There it is!"

Thranduil's eyes went wide. Making a perfect arc across the top of the waterfall was a rainbow of such brilliant, intense color, the elf drew in a sharp breath. He couldn't believe it. It far outshone the one that was normally found there so much so that it paled in comparison.

Thranduil had been coming to this waterfall since he and his father, Oropher, had first arrived in Greenwood, yet he had never seen such a rainbow as this. He could only assume that this exact angle of sun rays at this exact time of day was responsible for the colorful vision.

"Is it not beautiful, Ada?" the child asked with awe and wonder in his voice.

"Yes, Legolas, it is incredibly beautiful," Thranduil replied with no small measure of awe and wonder in his own voice.

The child stepped closer to Thranduil and reached up, slipping his small hand into the much larger one of his father.

The king and the prince stood together, hand in hand, and watched the rainbow as the sun continued moving westward, causing the angle of its rays to shift. The rainbow did not fade. Instead, it simply vanished in an instant.

The king squeezed the little hand he held. "Thank you, Legolas, for sharing your rainbow with me."

Legolas smiled. "Ada, I will always share with you the beautiful things of nature."

x x x x x

Thranduil dabbed at the tears that had sprung up at the memory. He knew that all wood elves loved nature, from a single leaf, to the tree it fell from, to an entire forest and all that was to be found within it. Yet of all the elves Thranduil had ever known, himself included, none could match the complete oneness with the natural world that Legolas possessed. He was a true child of nature.

"Please do not leave us, ion nin," the king pleaded to his unconscious son. "Our hearts would break, and all of nature that you love so much would mourn your passing."

It took Thranduil a moment to realize that his hand was now the one being squeezed.

"Legolas!" The king moved to sit on the side of the bed. He reached out and gently stroked Legolas's cheek. "We have been so worried for you. Your wounds were grave, and you have not stirred in many days."

"Do not worry, Ada. I will not leave you. Nor will I leave Arda for a very long time yet." Legolas took a deep breath to gain enough air to continue speaking. It hurt his injured chest to do so, but he did his best to ignore the pain. "I cannot leave, because you and I must go again to the waterfall to see our rainbow."

Thranduil was amazed. The two of them had not been to the waterfall together in many years, not since Legolas had become a warrior and spent most of his time protecting the realm. And yet here Legolas was talking about it only moments after he himself had brought forth the memory. He looked down at their entwined hands. "We will go again, as soon as you are better. I promise."

Legolas smiled at his father and closed his eyes, his chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm. The smile remained on his lips.

For the first time since he had taken up his vigil, Thranduil breathed a sigh of relief. He knew now this precious child of his would recover, and the two of them would once again go together to see their special rainbow.

The End