Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters; they belong to Tolkien et all. The song "I Will Return" is by Steven McDonald. This story is written purely for entertainment purposes- no money is being made, no copyright infringement is intended.

Spoilers: The appendixes of the Lord of the Rings

AN: For those of you who read the appendices of the book, here is a quick acknowledgment for a deliberately non-cannon detail in this story. Eldarion inherited the Reunited Kingdom from his father in the manner of the kings of old; when Elessar deemed his son fit to be king, he gave him the tokens of his rule and gave up his life willingly. I originally intended to write my story accordingly, but found that I could not quite manage to write such a death convincingly. Because it was not a terribly important detail in the theme I wanted, I did not feel too badly about changing it. I hope you will enjoy it anyway. After all, it is only fanfiction.

I was told this needed a tissue warning, so... consider yourself warned.

The Sea and the Sky

It was a beautiful day in Gondor and the sun shone brightly down on the white walls of Minas Tirith. The sky was a clear crystal blue, without a cloud to be seen, and birds filled the air with their song. One winged creature even perched on a branch of the white tree where it stood proud and tall in the center courtyard and gave such a trill that it seemed to be rejoicing in the prosperity of that city.

But, in sharp contrast to the joy and abandon of nature, all was not well in the city. In the streets the common folk huddled together in small groups, and when they spoke it was in low and reverent voices. In the palace itself no sounds could be heard, and grief was on every face.

The King was dying.

His doctors had done all they could to prolong his life, but even the blood of Númenor in his veins could not last forever. They said Elessar would be dead within the day.

His wife, the beautiful elven queen Arwen, was distraught, and naught could be done to comfort her. Her children, the two beautiful daughters who were the perfect image of their elven mother and Eldarion, the only son and heir to the King, stayed by her side and tried to assuage her grief, but it was whispered among the people that she, too, would die as the King passed. As the sun made its slow progression across the sky, another elf watched its march and felt the heavy weight of sorrow pressing in upon his heart. He was Legolas, an elf from Ithilien, and often companion to Elessar in his younger days, before the King had claimed his throne in Gondor. For the last week Legolas had stayed by the dying man's side in the room where Elessar lay.

Perched on the sill of Elessar's chamber window, Legolas looked out on the city, but for the first time in his long life he found no beauty in the glory of nature, no peace in the song of the birds. His sharp gaze, while registering all that moved, did not really see the expansive beauty of the land below him, and his quick ears had attention for only one sound, the harsh breathing of a man who soon would be no more than memory.

Legolas turned, and his shadow fell across the bed in which Elessar lay. He was so still, almost as if death had already taken him, but the gentle rise and fall of the blankets over his chest told Legolas that life had not yet left that noble body.

As Legolas's shadow fell over his face, Elessar stirred and opened his eyes, his gaze moving to where the elf sat on the sill. A small smile graced the aged face, and though his voice when he spoke was harsh and weak, his eyes twinkled with a youth that had never faded.

"Legolas, if you were anyone else I would order you down from there immediately. It is a long way to fall, my friend."

He spoke, not in the common tongue, but in Sindarin, the beautiful language of the elves, and Legolas answered him in the same speech.

"But I am not anyone else," he said. "I am myself, and I do not fall."

"Aye, that I know." Elessar answered, closing his eyes again and remembering how that same elvish grace and balance had been proved to him. Many times it had served to save the man's own life.

Legolas slid down from his perch and moved to the chair set beside Elessar's bed. Softly he laid his hand over the wrinkled old one resting on the blankets. Legolas felt the weakness in the hand beneath his own, a hand that until recently had never known aught but strength, and was afraid. Tears sprang unbidden to the elf's eyes, and he looked down at their clasped hands to hide the emotion on his face.

"What will you do now?" Elessar asked.

Legolas did not lift his head as he answered. "I think I will sail soon, Estel," he said, calling the King by his elvish name, the one he had born when Legolas had first met him. "The cry of the gulls has haunted my dreams for too long."

Elessar nodded. "Arwen told me your time was close. She said she can hear the call of the sea in your voice." He hesitated, as if unsure of his next words. "She will not sail."

Legolas shook his head. Arwen's grief over her husband's death would not be assuaged by the beauty of Valinor. Some hurts were too deep for even the Valar to heal, and Legolas felt his own heart break at the thought.

"I am sorry that I brought such a fate upon her."

"No, Estel," Legolas said swiftly, bringing his other hand to hold the old man's between his own slender fingers as his eyes sought those of the King. "She loves you, as do I. Do not be sorry for that."

For a long moment neither spoke, then a smile covered the King's weathered features.

"The Valar blessed me when they gave me such friends," he murmured, his eyes slipping closed.

Two tears made their way down Legolas's cheeks; he tasted their salt upon his lips. "Ilúvatar blessed us all."

Hearing the elf's voice crack as he spoke, Elessar opened his eyes again.

"Do not cry for me, Legolas," he said. "I am ready to go."

Legolas shook his head, feeling more tears threatening to fall. "I am selfish," he said. "I weep also for myself. I shall miss you, Estel."

"I will never truly leave you, Legolas. You have all the memories of all our time together. As long as those memories hold true, I will be with you."

For I will live in your life.
And all your sorrow will be gone.

Legolas's breath hitched as he fought a sob. "I will never forget you, Estel," he said through his tears. "I will sing of you in Valinor, and you will live on in memory there until the ending of time."

And I will sing out my song
Will right my wrongs the best I can.

"And yet… I would not say farewell."

Elessar looked up into the elf's face,

"I am weary, Legolas," he said softly. "It has been a long journey."

"Do you regret the voyage?"

They had both led long, hard lives, filled with danger that had often threatened them with destruction. But they had persevered, through individual strength and the strength of their friendship. They had lived to see the destruction of the Ring of Power and overthrow of Sauron, had labored together for the coming of peace and beauty to all the lands of Middle Earth. Against all odds, with the help of many others, they had accomplished all they set out to do.

Elessar smiled. "Never, Legolas, if for no other reason than that it brought me such friends as you."

For we have met in this life
To dance in the light in the time we have.

"Nor do I."

"Then there is no reason to weep."

Legolas watched his face in silence, no longer even attempting the hold back the tears that spilled down his cheeks.

He knew that the pain he felt now would fade in time, that the memories of the man's life would be with him always, but that could not abate the anguish he felt at losing his closest friend to a death the elf could never know. And he wondered if Elessar was aware just how much he meant to so many people. This man, aptly named Estel by the elven race that loved him as their own, had touched many lives, had shaped this very world with love and the hope that was his namesake.

And I will call out your name
And through my pain you will understand
The lover's song, the love will live on
Long, long after life is gone
So just let me sing so I may live again.

"I shall miss you too, my old friend," Elessar said, and it seemed each word was an effort to push pass his lips. "But this isn't goodbye forever."

"Isn't it?"

"No. When time comes to its end and Arda is no more, what do you think will happen to the souls of your people?"

"We do not know," Legolas said. "Only Ilúvatar knows the fate of all things."

"And where do the souls of men go when we pass on?"

Legolas shook his head. "I cannot say."

Elessar smiled. "You see? There cannot be two such mysteries to our fates. Someday you will join us; it is simply that your journey is longer than ours." With a great deal of effort he reached out and clasped Legolas's arm. "I will be waiting for you, Legolas."

I will return, oh I will return,
You hear the echoes say.
From out of your mind to somewhere in time,
I will return one day.

And with those words Legolas felt peace. His heart still ached for the loss, but somehow the future did not seem so daunting now. For a long time they sat in stillness, unwilling to break the spell that hung over them.

From out of the night and into the light
I will return one day.

"Legolas?"

"I am here, Estel."

"All goes dark." Elessar's voice was no more than a rasping whisper. "I cannot see you. I cannot feel your hand on mine…"

"I am here, Estel." Legolas leant forward and gathered the frail body in his arms, and Elessar felt the unfading strength of the elf around him, a comfort in his final moments, the last gift his friend could ever give him.

And I will die in your arms,
And all my sorrow will be gone.

And all the things in my life

I held so dear must leave me now.
But I will be free
Long after the silence ends the song.

Legolas could feel the man's breath against his cheek, no more than a faint wisp of air, not even enough to stir the fine locks of elven hair.

"Go to the sea, Legolas, and find peace. Go to the seas that reach out for you." Only elven ears could have heard those final words, but Legolas did not miss them, nor those that followed.

"As the skies reach out for me."

And thus, Elessar, the Elfstone of the house of Elendil, King of Gondor, passed from this earth, held in the arms of his dearest friend, who lifted his head in song.

And the seas reach out for you.
And the skies reach out for me.