A/N: I don't know how tall hobbit children are or if Tolkien ever said anything on the matter, but here's what I'm guessing from watching the movies: fully grown hobbits are less than 4 feet tall (for argument's sake, I'll put the average height at 3'6", or 42 inches). Hobbit children half the size of their adult counterparts would be 21 inches, or 1'9". Newborn humans, I believe, are usually 15-20 inches (my niece, who was born as early as Legolas and Aragorn's son was 19 inches). These are the calculations I'm basing a very small (like 4 or so lines) part of the chapter on; the most important thing to come away with here is that I did math. :)
The light was beyond glorious – it was almost painful to behold in all of its brightness. Thankfully he wasn't surrounded by it anymore, though it seemed to be close by still in his line of vision. But why was this? Legolas struggled to regain his bearings. He was no longer following his son along the smooth stone path but lying down on a soft mattress. His head was rested on a pillow and a soft blanket was pulled up to his chest. Most notably the quiet of that unreal world had fallen away; he could hear footsteps going to and fro far off, people – mostly, from what he could tell, healing women, discussing a miraculous birth, and, close at hand, two voices having an animated discussion over the sound of an infant crying.
'So my son led me back to the Houses of Healing,' thought Legolas.
Strange; he could remember being brought there by Aragorn when he discovered the blood but he couldn't recall at what point he'd left it. It didn't matter anyway, for now he knew both the source of the light and just who were talking or crying at his bedside. Legolas was silently grateful that his husband was a Man of his word; weeks earlier he'd promised the then-pregnant elf that he'd see to it that the bed in his bedchamber in the Houses was moved so that the direct sunlight wouldn't be cast upon it in the morning. Sure enough, when Legolas cracked his eyes open he found that he wasn't blinded by the light; instead of shining in his eyes it was fell to the side of the bed, illuminating the three people there.
It was perhaps the oddest and most wonderful sight that Legolas had ever witnessed. Two chairs had been pulled together, occupied by Aragorn and Thranduil. The fact that they were sitting so close without fidgeting and clenching their fists was a marvel in itself; there was none of that stiff body language from either of them that indicated that Aragorn had babbled something foolish or that his father had said something thoughtless. What was more, they actually seemed comfortable and even comforted by each other's presences. Aragorn was cradling something wrapped in luscious blankets – Legolas' heart leapt as he realized just who that was – and Thranduil was leaning over with one hand on the bundle.
Both adults' attentions were so focused on trying to find a way to soothe the infant's cries that they didn't notice Legolas stirring. "He's not wet," Aragorn was saying. "I checked him! Besides, judging from what happened last time, I don't think that it would be a mystery to me if he had."
"I still cannot believe that you managed to change your shirt without putting the baby down once," noted Thranduil. "Such coordination! It is nice to see that the elvish blood is not completely diluted in your line. I do not believe that he is hungry either; he just had a bottle not a half hour ago!"
"Well, he can't want attention," said Aragorn. He bent down to kiss the baby and frowned a little when the crying didn't stop. "He's been getting plenty of that."
Legolas listened to all of this for a second with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, it was a joy to hear his father and husband interacting without a lot of tense, barely-there toleration and he'd never heard anything as beautiful as his son's voice. His cries meant that he was indeed alive and, from what he could tell by their volume, healthy and strong. All of the ignorant lack of care in the early months of his pregnancy, the period of being underweight, the poisoning and its stressful aftermath, and the dangerously early birth – the baby had endured all of that and still survived and thrived. In years to come the elf would joke that no one should have expected less from a child created by two people as stubborn as himself and Aragorn; but at the moment all of those episodes were fresh in his mind and Legolas could fully appreciate the miracle that was his son's health.
On the other hand, it broke the prince's heart to hear the baby carry on like that. He never wanted his son to have any cause to cry – an unrealistic goal to be sure, but also an understandable one considering the last few months' trials and Legolas' current fuzzy mental state. He longed to take the baby into his arms and love away all of his tears, just like his father used to do for him.
"Is he unhappy?" mumbled Legolas a little too weakly for his taste. It didn't sound like he possessed the strength to pick up a young leaf, let a newborn baby with that voice. "Is that why he's crying?"
Aragorn was so startled to hear his husband's voice that he almost dropped the infant. Thankfully Thranduil, being an elf and gifted with quick reflexes, shot both of his hands underneath the boy and supported him. "Be careful," he admonished while sending a quiet prayer of thanks to Eru and Elbereth. "Children are stronger than they look but it is still not a good idea to test their limits before their time."
Aragorn nodded, making sure to tighten his grasp, but his eyes were on the figure in the bed rather than the one in his arms. "Legolas?" he asked in a choked voice, fearful that some sweet madness had befallen him to make him believe that his love was speaking.
"I don't want my son to cry," responded Legolas, still a little weak but getting stronger. "If he's not wet or hungry, then what is it? Are you two making him stay awake when he doesn't want to be?"
The Man opened his mouth but no words came out; his overwhelming relief, he found, was making it impossible for him to speak. Legolas was awake – those beautiful blue eyes that their son had inherited were open and focused on his family; his voice, while a bit raspy, gave the impression that he was alert; and he didn't appear to be muddled or confused beyond what was normal after all he'd been through. It was more than what was to be expected so soon after such a difficult birth; a true blessing, as if the king didn't already have an embarrassment of those. Aragorn had to close his mouth to keep from sobbing but couldn't stop a few tears from escaping from the corners of his eyes.
Observing his son-in-law's extreme emotional state, Thranduil took the liberty of answering. "You son appears to take after you when it comes to his sleeping habits," he reported wryly, the years of battling with his son to put him to bed burned forever in his memory. "It is as if he is afraid that that something amazing will happen the instant he closes his eyes and so refuses to do so. That is not the reason for his malcontent, though; I believe that he just wants to be with his birthing ada and have a rest from listening to Aragorn and I talk. He has been waiting for you, my Little Greenleaf," he added as his voice cracked. "We all have."
"Not as long as I've been waiting for him," said Legolas, sounding almost desperate. "I need to see him; after everything…I have to hold him and see for myself that he's all right. Please bring him to me."
Still stupefied at the realization that his husband was most likely going to make a full recovery, Aragorn didn't budge. "Aragorn?" Thranduil prompted gently.
The Man started at the elven king's voice; how strong and elated it sounded, reminding him of his own father's soothing tone. Shaking himself out of his emotions-induced haze, he readied the baby boy in his arms and slowly rose to his feet. After checking to make sure that the jostling hadn't done anything to his son, he slowly made his way to Legolas' bed. Each step that Aragorn took was equally influenced by reverence and fear, as if he thought that the floor was a power unto itself and might choose to give away at any second if he didn't give it the respect it required.
Legolas somehow managed to wait patiently, though he felt like he was going to explode with anticipation by the time his husband made it over to the bed. Once Aragorn had seated himself carefully on the edge of the mattress the elf attempted to sit up and reach for the child. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to complete even the first part of that task. "Oof," he exhaled when his struggles ended with him falling back down.
"Are you all right? Are you hurt? You'd tell me if you were hurt, right?" asked Aragorn urgently. He knew how much it meant to Legolas to be able to hold the baby now – so much so that he was certain that his husband would ignore countless swords in his side just for the chance to cradle him for a second – and worried about what strain that would have on the elf's recovery. What if he overexerted himself and suffered a relapse? It would be heartbreaking to be tormented with this brief period of awakening only to lose him permanently a little while later. "Perhaps you should hold him later. It might be better if you rested while I fetched my brothers."
"Aragorn," Legolas tried not to moan. It was embarrassing enough that he had to acknowledge that his strength was drained for the time being – being treated as if holding his son would kill him was downright unbearable. "I've been resting for far too long and I promise to do a little more of it afterwards; but I don't think I'll be able to without first seeing our child. I'll be all right – you just need to help me."
Hearing Legolas ask for his assistance broke down Aragorn's defenses. He understood how difficult it was for the proud prince to request it and he was more than willing to meet him halfway. "I can do that," he vowed softly.
That was easier said than done, however; helping Legolas to sit up would require two arms and Aragorn, his being full, currently had none to offer. "Thranduil," he called over to his father-in-law.
"I am right here," replied Thranduil, standing behind him. He came around so that both Aragorn and Legolas could see him. "Give me your hands, Legolas."
"Wait." Aragorn held up his hand. "I think – I think that someone should sit behind you, my love, to provide a little extra support while you hold him – he's gets heavy rather quickly."
The elf instinctively started to protest but fell silent when he saw a tuft of brown hair surrounding a pointed ear tip at a place where the blanket had fallen away. His stubborn pride meant absolutely nothing if he ended up hurting that precious child because of it. "That might not be a terrible idea," he conceded. "I wouldn't be insulted per say to accept the extra help – just this once."
"And I would really like the person helping you to be me," stated Aragorn. "I told you once that we would hold our son together after he was born and I'd like the chance to keep that promise. Thranduil, would you mind taking the baby for a second while the two of us get situated?"
It was a credit to all of his royal training that the older elf didn't start to cry right then and there. "It would be my pleasure," he declared, putting his arms out immediately before the Man had the chance to think about what he was asking and change his mind. Unshed tears caused the baby's face to blur as he held his grandson for the first time.
"Hello little one," whispered the elven king, not trusting his voice to keep steady if he spoke any louder. "There is no need to cry anymore; your birthing ada is almost ready for you and I know that you are ready for him."
It was peculiar – just a few minutes earlier Aragorn would have been devastated and enraged to see someone else holding the baby before Legolas had gotten the chance to. Now as he carefully helped his husband sit up, taking his place behind him so that he could provide as much support as the elf needed, it didn't seem all that important. Maybe the reason why he could feel at peace with the situation while Thranduil struggled with it for so long after Legolas' birth was that Aragorn had the assurance that his love would be able to hold him at some point.
A melancholy shadow passed over the king as he thought about what his father-in-law had gone through but he determinedly shook it off. What had passed had passed and there were much more important things to focus on – like Legolas and their son. "We're ready," he informed Thranduil once his husband was securely settled against him.
"Oh," breathed Legolas in awe as his father tenderly placed the infant in his arms. Aragorn's arms slid under his, half embracing him as the elf gazed at their son. "Look at you – you're just as – no, I never could – could have imagined –"
"My love?" murmured Aragorn, kissing one of the tears that fell from his husband's temple while the rest mingled with the ones that were coming from his own eyes.
"I thought I knew," said Legolas tearfully. "I thought I understood. I'd never felt for anyone the way I felt for this child when he was inside of me and I thought that was a father's love. But that was nothing compared to this. There are no words – am I making any sense?"
"Perfect sense," Aragorn assured him. Thranduil only smiled, swallowing hard and trying to wipe the moisture from his cheeks.
"He's perfect," Legolas continued. "There has never been anything as absolutely perfect as he is. I love you, ion nin; I love you so much that I'm afraid that my heart will burst."
The baby looked up at his birthing ada as if he was entranced. Legolas knew rationally that his senses were probably just overloaded as he continued to soak in all of the brand-new things around him; but he preferred to think that his son had actually understood his declaration of love and what it meant. The elf would even settle for him thinking, 'So that's what I've been kicking looks like from the outside!' as long as he had an understanding of who his birthing ada was.
There was still a lot of wetness on the child's cheeks when Legolas came out of his amazed haze; fortunately, he knew just what to do to make it go away and not come back for awhile. "Go away, bad thoughts," recited the new father in a playfully scolding tone as he leaned over and kissed both damp cheeks. "Flee from me, scary nightmares. If you don't leave my" – he traced a finger over a particularly soft brunette strand of hair and smiled contentedly – "my Little Acorn alone right now I will love and kiss you into hope and pleasant dreams."
Aragorn had never heard such a sweet statement before, especially not from his usually hard-headed husband – perhaps fatherhood was mellowing him out at bit. He looked up over at Thranduil, expecting to see him wearing a bemused smile, and was shocked to find him weeping openly. "I remember that," said the elven king hoarsely.
"I do too, most fondly," replied Legolas, equally emotional. "It always worked when my ada did it to me and I can only hope that I will be as good a father as him with my son."
"My sweet, precious, most perfect Little Greenleaf," Thranduil breathed, rushing to sit down next to him. He seized his son's face with both hands and drew him forward to kiss his brow and nose. "You will more than surpass your father in that respect. I've never been prouder of you."
"Thank you," was Legolas' strangled reply. He closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath. "Look at the three of us sobbing away while trying to discourage him from doing the same thing! The hypocrisy of it all! What kind of role models are we for – ai Elbereth, we haven't even come up with a name for him yet, have we?"
The noise of a throat being cleared sounded near Legolas' ear. "We – ah – we have a contender for that," sad Aragorn awkwardly. Would his husband be upset or angry that he and Thranduil had come up with a name – however unintentionally – at a time when he couldn't participate in the process? Aragorn wasn't sure how he would react if he were in Legolas' place. "You see, your father and I got to talking while we were waiting for you to wake up. During this he mentioned that our son is the last child born to an elf in Middle-earth and to two parents with elvish blood –"
"So far," interrupted Legolas.
"Yes," agreed Aragorn, though he was so nervous about his own news that he only half-listened to what the elf had just said that failed at the moment to comprehend just what he meant by it. "Anyway, Thranduil described him as 'eldarion.' That has a nice ring to it, don't you think? It sounds enough like 'Elessar' to satisfy the advisors' council and nobility and still pays homage to our son's elvish heritage. I really think it's the most appropriate name we could think of."
Legolas studied the baby carefully as he weighed this possibility. The child was of Mannish origin; there was no mistaking that thanks to the strong resemblance he bore to his father. Yet there were those brilliant eyes, too intense and bright to be totally of the world of Men, and unmistakable elven ears. Thinking back to that strange place he'd just left where his life flashed before his eyes, the elf recalled the last two phrases he'd used to describe the older version of his son: edainion and eldarion. Both would be proper names for him, but…
This child, Legolas keenly understood (as did his father and husband), would grow up completely in the world of Men; the only tastes of the elvish world would from a hastily established and quickly (as the elves saw it) fading settlement in Ithilien and the presence and memories of him, Thranduil, the twins, and Aragorn to some extent. Be that as it may, the boy would never look like he totally belonged to the dominion that he was destined to rule and it would be important to teach him to be proud of that distinctive elvish lineage should some ignorant peer torment him about it. And he had reason to be proud, too; for though this infant he and Aragorn would keep the promise that they made to Mithrandir before entering Minas Tirith after the war: to make sure that the splendor of the past ages would not be wholly forgotten.
"His name is Eldarion," he agreed. "Prince Eldarion of Gondor and of the line of Mirkwood – a prince of both elves and Men. One day you will learn why that distinction is so special, ion nin – I promise that I will tell you why that is every single day."
"It does look flatter than yesterday," observed Pippin with a hint of relief in his tone. He ran a hand over Eldarion's skull as if to make sure that this impression wasn't just the result of an illusion. "You should have seen it, Legolas! His head as just as pointy as his ears right after he was born – he would have needed lots of hats if it had stayed that way."
Legolas chuckled good-naturedly while successfully disguising the twinge of sadness that he felt over not seeing the newborn's temporarily misshapen head from almost everyone in the room. Now was not the time for regrets and the elf wished to entertain none – there were already enough people who required his attention. Eldarion was still in his arms and Aragorn still behind him; and now they were joined on the bed by Sam, Rosie, Merry, and Pippin, who were sitting opposite them, and by little Elanor seated on one side and Eowyn and Faramir's daughter Findowyn on the other. The latter girl's parents were hovering close by their child in case of emergency or inappropriate behavior while Thranduil and Gimli stood close behind the hobbit lass. Elladan and Elrohir completed the circle, standing beside the bed a little before the hobbits.
It was a little crowded even in that larger bedchamber but Legolas wouldn't have it any other way. He was eager to show off his adorable son to the people he loved most and would be Eldarion's extended family. Moreover, after the scare they'd all just received over Legolas' dangerous birthing and Aragorn's near-emotional collapse it was good to gather together again. Being surrounded by all of those positive feelings only served to speed along the healing process.
"I thought he was going to be smaller," said Elanor with a bit of a pout, apparently the only person in the room who wasn't entirely happy. "Frodo was little enough for me to hold when he was born. How can I do that with Eldarion if he's almost as big as I am?"
"Now you know that hobbit babies are smaller than the babies of the Big Folk," explained Sam patiently and not for the first time. "I'm sorry, Elanor, but sometimes we can't do what we want to do when we want to do it." He nodded down at his own son nestled in his arms and looked up again to wink at her. "You can always hold your brother if you want."
"But I've done that so many times," complained the little hobbit lass. "I was wanting to hold a new baby."
"Well, I'm big enough to hold him," boasted Findowyn. Faramir caught her eye and shot her a confused frown – she'd never expressed in interest in holding an infant before and judging by the atrocious state of every doll that had ever been given to her, she wouldn't be too gentle with one either. "Well, how else am I going to teach him how to hunt balrogs? Though he'll have to be the balrog victim until he gets older. I'm glad you had him, Legolas; Lady Freda was getting a little too worn out to play that part."
Eowyn placed a hand on her daughters shoulder, growing slightly pale as she pictured that sorry state of that particular unfortunate doll's head and the thought of Eldarion ending up in a similar condition. "We can discuss the holding part with Legolas and Aragorn later," she said emphatically. "But your dolls will have to do for victims and the finer points of killing a balrog will have to wait until he gets older."
"That's no fun," snorted Findowyn in disappointment. "I hope he hurries with that."
"With growing up?" Faramir asked, smiling sadly. "I have no doubt that he will."
"Much too soon," agreed Elrohir, completing the Man's thought. He craned his neck to peer at his nephew and smirked mischievously. "Are you sure that he's going to look like Estel when he gets older?"
Legolas' smile was serene but playful. "He looks like him right now, don't you think?" he asked, nodding. Aragorn just narrowed his eyes defensively.
"Such a shame," sighed Elladan. "Estel was so funny-looking as a child and sadly, now that I really look at him, I can see that his was one of those faces that never quite grew into his body."
Aragorn let loose an offended squawk as Merry chimed in: "Lucky for Eldarion that Legolas' blood is in the mix too. That should balance everything out."
"That's enough now!" Legolas, taking well to his new role as a father, scolded. "This child will be most fortunate to look like Aragorn; he happens to be the most handsome Man that ever existed," he added, making a show of giving his husband a kiss on the cheek.
"Don't worry, Legolas" comforted Gimli protectively. "I can assure you both that your little one is the most beautiful babe in all off Middle-earth and probably in Valinor too. Anyone who says otherwise will have to be taught about manners and good taste with my axe."
Their albeit nervous laughter at imagining this scenario was interrupted by a knock at the door. "Pardon me," said Ioreth, standing in the entryway, "but it's about time for Prince Eldarion's feeding. Do you want me to take him to the bottle or bring the bottle to him?"
"Bring it here, please," Legolas smiled at her. "Thank you, Ioreth."
"Well," said Merry as the healing woman bowed and left, "I guess it's about time we left you three to your own devices."
"You don't have to," Aragorn protested politely, although half-heartedly.
Sam waved his hand. "We've been taking up all of your time – I don't think it's ever been just the three of you since the baby was born. Besides," he added a bit more pointedly, "Mr. Merry's got something to show and talk to us about at Pelennor Fields, don't you, Mr. Merry?"
Eowyn smiled grimly as an ashen-faced Merry determinedly nodded. "May I join you?" she inquired. "After all, it was Merry and I out there before; it's only fitting that we go out there together again."
"That doesn't sound like suitable trip for children," noted Faramir. "Maybe baby Frodo would be fine, not understanding what's being said, but what about the girls?"
His wife only arched an eyebrow at him as the two of them, all of the hobbits, and Findowyn walked out of the door. "I have complete faith that you can keep them entertained all…day…long…"
Elrohir moved in front of Thranduil and Gimli to take Elanor's place, after which he bent down and kissed Eldarion's forehead. "Even if the three of you didn't need your privacy," he said, the weariness catching up to him now that the danger had passed, "the two of us need some food and rest."
"Food and rest?" murmured Elladan as he almost flopped down on the bed and nuzzled his nephew's hair. "You mean not on a horse? Oh the wonders of the city of Men! Are there baths here too, or would that be too close to paradise to be real?"
"Get some sleep," ordered Aragorn, laughing. "You're more insane than usual. And thank you, my brothers – for everything."
The twins said their goodbyes and left too, leaving only Thranduil and Gimli with the royal family. "I suppose we should depart as well," said Thranduil wistfully. "Gimli has offered to assist me in moving out of the citadel and now is as good a time as any to begin that task."
"You are an adult, my Little Greenleaf," interrupted Thranduil with a warm firmness. "You and Aragorn will be fine without me. Besides, the longer I remain in your home the more difficult it will be for me to leave it."
"But still," hedged Legolas. Becoming a parent had given him a better understanding of his father than he had ever had before and he had been looking forward to strengthening their bond because of it. "I've enjoyed having you so close by these last months. The idea of you going all the way back to Ithilien…"
"He won't be," Gimli promised him. "At least not yet."
Thranduil nodded with an excited glint in his eyes. "I will not be going far," he chimed in. "Gimli has been kind enough to offer me a place to stay at his house."
After the elven king and the dwarf lord had exited and Ioreth had brought the bottle and left, Aragorn and Legolas were finally alone with their son. The Man watched with awe at the loving and wise expression that came to Legolas' face as he fed Eldarion and knew that he was as happy as he'd ever been because he'd never looked more beautiful. While Aragorn enjoyed feeding the baby himself, witnessing his husband do it had its merits as well. "I love you, Legolas," he said.
"I love you too, Aragorn."
"I think this is going to work out fine," the Man declared. "We managed to watch over four hobbits on a long and dangerous journey; at least we'll be mostly stationary for Eldarion's rearing."
"As I recall," said Legolas dryly, "we also lost all four hobbits: two to the uruk-hai and two ran away."
"Don't remember the bad parts," advised Aragorn cheerfully, his stomach churning slightly as he remembered. A change of topic was in order. "It was certainly nice of your father to offer to move out to give us our space, and Gimli to let him stay with him." A puzzled look danced across his face. "Legolas…I've been wondering…your father and Gimli…are they – together?"
Rolling his eyes, Legolas replied, "I've asked them both; separately and together. Each time they've asked me if it would change the way how I felt about them if it was true or not. When I've told them it wouldn't, they've just asked me why it mattered if I knew then. I honestly can't tell if they're involved or if they're not but are enjoying making people wonder. As long as they're happy I don't really mind which one it is."
Aragorn could accept that, especially since he had a more significant question on his mind. "Earlier you said that Eldarion is the last child in Middle-earth with elvish blood from both parents and one completely elvish parent so far," he noted. Legolas glanced away from the baby to give his husband more attention. "Do you truly want to have more children? After what just happened…"
"Not right now," replied Legolas with exaggerated exasperation. "I need a little time to recover! But someday, eventually, yes I do. We know what to expect now; we can find out I'm pregnant earlier on and take the necessary precautions to make the pregnancy go better and the birth less perilous. I never had any sibling; I look at your relationship with the twins and want Eldarion to have something like that in his life too."
"I like the sound of that," said Aragorn, leaning in to give Legolas a deep, loving kiss on the mouth. After they broke apart he watched his son in his husband's arms and imagined what other miracles that their love would bring into being in the future.
A/N: Thank you to everyone who read this story and especially to those of you who took the time to review! I really enjoyed writing it.
I decided not to make it clear whether or not Thranduil and Gimli were more than just friends.In the end I couldn't decide, so I'll leave it up to you: whatever you think, that's what the answer is. :)
Sorry to everyone who was disappointed with the fact that I didn't include a scene of the actual birth. My lack of knowledge on what goes on during that would have made anything I wrote featuring it pretty lame. Besides, there was a lot of blood involved in this particular birth and that sort of thing makes me a little squeamish.
A few of you have asked about the possibility of a sequel. I wouldn't be opposed to that, but since I have no idea what the plot would be, it won't be written for a while if it's written at all. I'm turning my attention at the moment to a few other plot bunnies that have been bugging me, including another companion piece to this series featuring a young Legolas.