This story contains MPREG, which is when a male character gets pregnant. You have every right to HATE this kind of story – that's why BACK BUTTONS were invented. Don't bother trying to give me a BIOLOGY LESSON because I've had those and received A's. I know that IN REAL LIFE men can't get pregnant but this plot is coming from my IMAGINATION, where I spend a majority of my time anyway. Don't start sending me flames about how GOD hates immoral people like me and the people in my stories because, unless you are God I think you should refrain from passing that kind of judgment on a complete stranger. I'm giving you MORE THAN ADEQUATE warnings about what's in my story and leaving it up to you whether or not you would enjoy reading it. If someone is forcing you to read this against your will, you might want to employ some SELF-DEFENSE moves against the asshole – they'd be a lot more effective than flaming me.
Title: Wish Me Joy
Rating: M (see above paragraph and Warnings)
Disclaimer: I don't own these wonderful characters – while I like to believe that they belong to everyone who loves The Lord of the Rings, legally they belong to J.R.R. Tolkien and his estate, and to Peter Jackson, et al. You could sue, but considering my student loan debt you wouldn't get much. All you'd wind up doing is making me, my fish, my hamster, and my kitten homeless – you don't want to make my kitten homeless, do you?
Summary: When Aragorn reluctantly but dutifully marries Arwen, Legolas vanishes into Fangorn Forest…with a secret pregnancy. He and his child emerge five years later, becoming guests to King Eomer of Rohan. Will he let Aragorn know about their child? Will Aragorn finally follow his heart? And, as his feelings for Eomer complicate matters, will Legolas want him to?
Pairings: Aragorn/Legolas; Aragorn/Arwen; Legolas/Eomer (in later chapters)
Warnings: MPREG! If this is news to you, I suggest you scroll up and read the first paragraph. This also contains SLASH. There will also be a little HET, but nothing explicit and I make it pretty clear that Aragorn isn't with Arwen because he wants to be. Eomer's canonical wife, Lothiriel, DOESN'T EXIST (or else they never met). Because of all of this, this story is obviously an AU. Just an extra, perhaps unnecessary warning: this might not have a happy ending, or at least what many people consider to be happy. That being said, let me assure you that I hate killing characters (I'll do it if the story calls for it, but this particular story isn't one that will call for it); maybe 'unhappy' is the wrong word; 'bittersweet' might be more appropriate. I hope that in and of itself doesn't stop you from reading. If any of this is remotely unappealing, feel free to hit the back button.
Reviews: I love them, but I won't beg or hold chapters captive just to get them. Praise and constructive criticism are welcome, but flames will be deleted (immediately from my e-mail and from the story's review history if at all possible). Quite honestly, I think people who bother to flame are idiots who have been reduced to insulting strangers to feel important; if you weren't so annoying I'd feel sorry for you.
A/N: Flashbacks – and there will be a few of them, especially in the first chapters – will be italicized. I'm sorry if having pages on end makes your eyes cross; it does that to me too, but I really need to make them distinctive.
A/N, part 2: This is NOT a part of my "What…" series (more on that after this chapter)
With no further ado…the story!
"You're late," observed Legolas with maddening casualness to Aragorn after the Man had almost run into him during his determined march to find King Theoden.
If anyone who might have overheard him and had been ignorant to what had happened during the warg battle, they most likely would have thought that Aragorn had just strolled in after taking a few extra minutes to savor the last little bit of a meal. An eavesdropping refugee at Helm's Deep who wasn't blind, deaf, and completely oblivious to the Man's 'little tumble off the cliff' would have just assumed that elves were different, cold creatures and that Legolas was incapable of feeling much after his friend had effectively returned from the dead. Those who actually bothered to pay attention to the elf who was speaking those words, however, wouldn't be able to miss the extra brightness in his eyes, the tremble in his lips as they curled into a small smile, and the tenseness that possessed Legolas' entire body frame as he resisted the urge to leap forward and throw his arms around his presumed-lost companion.
Aragorn cocked his head and stared incredulously at him. Insulted or hurt by the elf's callousness, an audience would have believed, but it was not so. The ranger knew Legolas well enough to know that his light attitude was a flimsy façade at best and that more emotion had been packed into those two little words than most members of any race would feel in their lifetimes. No, Aragorn was amazed because of the fact that he'd been thinking the exact same thing – that he was late – ever since the moment that a ghostly kiss had woken him up on the shores of that cold river.
It had felt like someone was breathing life into him – not just the ability to walk, talk, inhale, and exhale, but actually making him want to live his life again. It had been an almost troubling realization, for he couldn't recall the time when he ceased to live in favor of merely existing. Thinking hard as those lips leaned in to brush up against his once more Aragorn had remembered a beautiful area of an otherwise dark forest…a warm summer just before he found out the truth about his heritage…being determined to hold his own on the archery field against the wood-elves that he'd been sent to visit…falling in love with the sound of a laugh even before turning around and beholding the beauty of the blonde elf who was making it…. When Aragorn forced his eyes open he wasn't a bit surprised to see that the fading figure above him wasn't Arwen with her flowing, feminine brunette mane; but Legolas, with his long blonde locks tied back into warrior's braids.
At that moment Aragorn had realized that he was indeed very late – late in acknowledging what his heart had known to be true ever since that summer in Mirkwood when his father had sent him to complete his archery training with the reputed best archer in Middle-earth: he was, had been, and would always be in love with Prince Legolas Greenleaf of Mirkwood. Those half-truths that he'd spend decades telling himself but never really believed – that he only felt so strongly for the elf because he'd been his first love; that it was perfectly normal to love someone so deeply without being in love with him; that it didn't mean that he wasn't in love with Arwen just because she was never in his dreams while Legolas' face was always there whenever Aragorn closed his eyes – no longer had a place in his life.
What exactly was holding him back? Aragorn's mind flew back into the present has he contemplated that question. His relationship with Arwen was over with; she was probably gone, on one of the ships to Valinor with his blessing, and he didn't have to feel obligated to return her feelings any longer. Now he could freely admit (at least to himself and to Legolas; he was too much of a gentleman to announce to all the lands something so unflattering about the elven princess) that Arwen had never had his heart. That belonged to a certain elven warrior prince and though it was late in officially being gifted Aragorn knew that he'd been given another chance to make that right and he was eager to take it.
Legolas, apparently unaware of the Man's new revelation, broke their eye contact so that he could look his companion over more carefully. "You look terrible," he noted, sounding surprised.
A huge grin – one that hadn't shown up for years – broke out across Aragorn's face and he chuckled. His heart leapt, not so much at the fact that the love of his life was currently less than impressed with his physical appearance but at the implications in his words and tone. Legolas was not naïve or stupid – he had to understand that no one would look their best after a vicious battle with an orc and a warg, being dragged over a cliff, and almost drowning – and yet he didn't bother to hide the fact that seeing Aragorn in such a state shocked him. Was that because he'd previously believed that it wasn't possible for the Man to be anything but attractive?
That was a flattering explanation but Aragorn knew that it was more likely that Legolas was surprised because he hadn't noticed the ranger's sorry state before that moment. But elves were generally observant, alert, and keen-eyed and Legolas was no exception to that – why then had he not taken in his battered appearance right away? The fact that something so obvious had escaped his attentions for so long could very well mean that the elf had been to absorbed in something else to care to make note of such an inconsequential thing.
'Too preoccupied with seeing me alive again,' thought Aragorn hopefully. 'Too rapt up in how he feels about me. Did you think that you'd lost me forever, melanin? Are you having the same regrets that have been plaguing me since it was your face that I last thought of before losing consciousness?'
They reached for each other, gripping one another's shoulders in a traditional but friendly elvish greeting. It wasn't enough; Aragorn felt an insatiable itch in his arms and he knew that they ached to hold his true love again. It had been so long – over 67 years, to be more precise, since they decided that it would be too difficult to extend their 'fling' beyond that magical summer in Mirkwood. Between then and the Council Aragorn and Legolas had only seen each other once, when the ranger and Gandalf had brought the creature Gollum to the wood-elves; by then his relationship with Arwen was common knowledge in the elven world and it would have been inappropriate for them to interact so familiarly. As for the duration of the Quest…it still felt inappropriate to Aragorn so soon after ending things with Arwen, but also the Man hadn't trusted himself to be so close to Legolas and retain the strength not to confess everything he felt for him.
'Fool!' he admonished himself. 'Why was it necessary to keep my love a secret? Arwen no longer requires my dutiful loyalty. There were finally no obstacles between me and Legolas – save for my fear that he no longer feels the same for me.'
While Aragorn pondered his own cowardice Legolas pulled back lightly and reached to take his hand. The ranger was immensely touched by the gesture, thinking against all reason that his love had somehow magically discovered how he felt, returned those feelings wholeheartedly, and now wanted to hold his hand for all the Rohirrim refugees to see. He squeezed the slender fingers that pressed against his skin but they only lingered for a moment – though it was for a second too long for it to be an accident – after placing something cold against his palm.
Was that a flash of hurt or sadness in Legolas' face? Aragorn reluctantly dragged his gaze away from studying the elf's expression to look down at the object now in his hand. His breath caught when he realized that it was the Evenstar necklace. It could be considered both sadly funny and slightly ironic that the oddly ornate pendant elicited no feelings from him at all.
It had felt like the damnable charm had haunted him from the moment that Arwen had slipped it into his hand in Rivendell; for it was only when he'd received that physical reminder of her determination to bond with him that he knew that he'd never loved the innocent creature who had declared that she chose a mortal life, nor could he ever. The guilt had gnawed at Aragorn and at first he tried to deny his lack of love by accepting it with a kiss. That still remained, to some degree, driving him to continue to possess it ever after he'd sent her away. Why, he'd even worn it for months just because he'd felt so terrible about making her believe that he loved her in return for so many years only to break her heart in the end. Now he realized that not only had he not even thought about it since Boromir's death had expelled the extra guilt that Galadriel's words had given him in Lothlorien, but also that he hadn't noticed that it wasn't around his neck until he'd seen it elsewhere. The Evenstar had become, in Aragorn's eyes, a true representation of the she elf who'd given it to him: something delicate, lovely enough, but left him feeling cold because it no longer had a place in his life.
Looking back up, Aragorn tried with discreet desperation to ascertain how Legolas was feeling about all of this. The elf prince was still smiling at him but the light in his eyes had dulled considerably. "Hannon lle," Aragorn told him with a nod, deliberately not giving away too many emotions. He first needed to see what Legolas' reaction really was in order to know how he should proceed. That the elf had taken the trouble to find and carry the Evenstar in and of itself wasn't enough – what had been his motivation? Was it strictly out of his sense of duty to the elven world and the Man that he'd chosen to follow? Did he want it because – as Aragorn hoped – it was the only way that he could have something of the Man's to remember him by? Or was it because the prince truly believed that Aragorn treasured that piece of elvish glass?
Legolas bowed his head in response to Aragorn's gratitude and therefore missed the ensuing scrutiny. Those who didn't know and understand him could have thought it to be a nod of acknowledgement but Aragorn knew better. The elf was feeling…crushed? Defeated? Heartbroken? And there was no reason for him to react this way unless –
'He thinks I'm overcome with emotion at being reunited with this trinket,' Aragorn realized, 'and witnessing it breaks his heart.' Though it pained the ranger to know that he caused Legolas any kind of pain, he was also filled with hope and delight such that he hadn't experienced in decades. He was sure now and all he had to do was find the words.
"Legolas," he began.
The elf's head snapped up and Aragorn could see a bit of fear mingled with the emotions before he took on a more blasé mask. "Forgive me," said Legolas more formal than necessary and a touch too hastily. "Now is not the time for me to indulge in my own relief when I'm obviously keeping you from wherever you were off to in such a hurry! I would hope, Aragorn, that you were looking for a healer; but knowing you and the fact that they're set up in a chamber in the opposite direction I can only assume that you're on your way to see King Theoden."
The image of the uruk-hai army flashed in Aragorn's mind but he stubbornly suppressed it. Right then it was more important to him to get through to his love. "Legolas, mel-"
"Yes I know, mellon nin," interrupted Legolas. Now, the prince certainly had enough court training to know not to cut someone off like that. A flicker of panic came to his blue eyes and Aragorn realized that he didn't trust himself to retain his composure if Aragorn continued to speak. "You're fine; you don't need to see a healer, especially when your task at hand is so important. May I remind you that the very same attitude had you limping around Fangorn on a broken toe after you kicked that uruk helmet? I also seem to recall a young Man who managed to shoot himself in the foot while trying to show off and then claimed that all he needed was…"
Aragorn smiled to himself. "Was a kiss from the fair prince of Mirkwood," he supplied.
Legolas instinctively let one hand fly to his mouth as if to muffle any response that he was about to give. When Aragorn reached out and closed his own hand over it the elf seemed to remember himself and where he was. "I understand," sighed Legolas in forced exaggeration and he jumped back as if the Man's touch had burned. "I can see that you're determined to follow the same stubborn pattern. I'll lead you to King Theoden now, but only if you swear to me that you will see a healer immediately after. Honestly, you're not twenty" – a wistful expression danced over his face –"or forty, or even sixty or seventy years old anymore. You need to give yourself and your poor body a longer time to recover."
Legolas abruptly spun around on his heels and walked quickly down the corridor. "Hurry up, then," he ordered crisply. "This is the way to the king's command room. Let's get this over with."
His pace was so rapid that Aragorn had to struggle to keep up; had he been a lesser Man he would not have been able to do so. "Legolas," the Man said again. Legolas just nodded distractedly back at him and increased his speed ever so slightly. 'He's running from something,' Aragorn thought. 'We both have been, and it stops now.'
As they turned a corner, Aragorn managed to grab hold of one of Legolas' arms and pulled him into an isolated, shadowy area. "Legolas, wait."
"Aragorn." Legolas looked down at the hand that was touching him and let out a shuddering breath. He then winced at the sound, and closed his eyes and bit his lower lip as if he were in pain.
"I'm sorry," apologized Aragorn, immediately loosening his grip. He'd forgotten that he was much stronger now than then last time he'd touched Legolas. Fantastic; how was he supposed to make the elf realize that the Man still loved him if he was giving him bruises? "I didn't mean to hurt you."
The withering look that he got in response made Aragorn blush and twitch sheepishly. "Because I am too frail to endure a squeeze in the arm from a big, strong Man such as yourself?" asked Legolas with a touch of frost in his tone. "Let me assure you that if your hand had managed to cause me the slightest hint of physical pain I would have done something about it. Don't forget, mellon nin, that I was a trained warrior killing orcs when your great-grandsire's great-grandsire wasn't even a thought in his parents' minds. You may have more bulk on your frame than I do, but never, ever assume that this makes you the stronger of the two of us."
"I know that," admitted Aragorn, stepping closer and cradling Legolas' cheek in his palm.
"Have you lost your mind?" demanded Legolas. Aragorn felt his lips brush against his hands as he spoke. The elf must have felt the same thrill that it gave him because he unconsciously turned his head toward the hand. "Cease this at once."
"I did hurt you," observed Aragorn as he withdrew his caressing hand. Legolas clenched his jaw and squared his shoulders. "Not physically – not in the way that you just suggested. The injury was to your heart."
"You really should find the king –"
"I can see it in your eyes," continued Aragorn, ignoring his effort to abandon the subject. "You thought that I was dead" – a tremor ran through Legolas' face –"and almost despaired because of it. I'm so sorry, Legolas," he added, grasping one of the elf's hands with both of his and drawing it to his lips. "You are the last person that I'd ever want to inflict any sort of pain on and because of your love for me you are the one that I'm able to hurt the most."
Legolas chuckled nervously – almost hysterically – as – Aragorn planted a series of soft kisses against his palm. "You've obviously sustained a serious head injury," he said, miraculously maintain a rather steady tone though his voice shook. "I do…love you, as do most people who follow you, but" – he swallowed hard –"I can't imagine why you would think that it compares to those in Rivendell who would have been most grieved to hear that something had happened to you. Ai, Elbereth," he went on, his mouth automatically preparing to welcome a kiss as Aragorn once again got closer, "I wasn't looking forward to delivering that message! Your poor father…and brothers…and – and Arwen…"
"Not to Arwen," corrected Aragorn softly, a direct contrast to the intensity of his gaze. "She isn't in Rivendell, nor in any other part of Middle-earth; if she hasn't taken the ship to the Undying Lands by now she would have most certainly done so before any message of my untimely demise could have reached her."
Aragorn was now standing so close that their bodies were lightly pressed against each other. "She's gone," he reiterated. "I sent her away with my blessing to allow our relationship to fade into a pleasant but inconsequential memory."
Legolas was so stunned that he actually blinked. "How – why did you do that?" he whispered. "You had to wait for so long – why give her up when you're finally so close to the chance at living happily ever after?"
"My happily ever after doesn't involve her," replied Aragorn. He bent down and kissed the very tip of the elf's nose. "It never did."
"Now I know you're not thinking clearly," said Legolas, standing absolutely still. "Why else would you be telling me all of this nonsense now?"
"Because a force of uruk-hai ten thousand strong are marching this way as we speak –"
"Are you insane?" demanded Legolas incredulously. He gently shoved Aragorn away, but the Man simply grabbed the prince's hands and propelled himself back into his previous position. "Why are we wasting time doing this right now? The king must be warned! There is much to do if we are to prepare for a siege."
"King Theoden and the other refugees are well aware that they are in grave danger," said Aragorn firmly. "They may not know how imminent it is, but there's really little more that they can do now that they haven't already been doing. Normally I would agree wholeheartedly with you, Legolas, but at this particular moment a few minutes can be spared and that's good. I can't face an army of ten thousand or more uruks without telling you how I feel about you."
A mixture of hope, confusion, shock, and apprehension were in the usually unflappable elf's expression. "I know –"
"No you don't, or else you haven't dared to believe," Aragorn cut him off emphatically. "Legolas, before we set out from Rivendell Ada spoke with me about Arwen. He said that she would stay in Middle-earth for me but that she belonged with her people and he couldn't leave her here to die. Do you know how I felt at that moment, Legolas? Relieved; relieved because someone had finally come out and said it. Ada made me confront what had been clear from the first night I saw her: Arwen does belong with the elves. That meant that not only did I not have to marry her but also that I shouldn't."
"But you're in-in love – with her," Legolas sounded as if he were choking on the words.
"I was never in love with Arwen," countered Aragorn. "She is kind, faithful, and beautiful, but that isn't enough to make someone fall in love with someone else. Believe me, I tried very hard to, especially after she first started talking about how she would bind herself to me. If we had truly been in love, then Ada would have known that separating us permanently would have caused her to fade with grief. I think – I think he was just as concerned about me entering a loveless marriage as he was about leaving her behind; he knew what I was afraid to acknowledge."
"Which was?" inquired Legolas faintly.
"That she had never and could never have my heart," replied Aragorn. "I gave that away when I was twenty-years-old to a beautiful male elf with a merrily amused laugh, a wickedly mischievous smile, a sharp tongue, and the most perfect lips that Eru has ever created. I wouldn't give it to another even if I could because it should remain with the one that I'm in love with."
Legolas stared at him. "And how many people like that did you meet that year?"
"Only you!" answered Aragorn a bit louder than he should have, excitement and exasperation causing him to lose control of his volume for a second. "There is only one maddening elf that fits that description and it's you. I'm in love with you, melanin; as I always have been since the summer we spent together all those years ago. An eternity apart and a world full of Arwens couldn't change that."
"I thought –" Legolas drew in some air and started over. "Ending our relationship was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I've told myself repeatedly that we agreed to do it and that you didn't regret your part of the decision; that it was for the best because there was no guarantee that we'd see each other and that you deserved to find love with someone who could be a more permanent fixture in your life. It was never because I didn't love you or because I stopped loving you – neither is true, even today. My heart is yours, Aragorn son of Arathorn and Elrond; I love you."
Their lips came together as if of their own volition, filling in the space and time between them and melting away decades of the pain of separation in one searing kiss. For that one perfect moment in time it didn't matter that they might not survive the night or the war that would follow. They were finally – really – together again and it felt like being made whole after spending years in pieces.
"I thought that I'd lost you when you went over that cliff," breathed Legolas when they broke apart for want of air. "I was so devastated to have to face the fact that you'd never know how much I love you."
Aragorn wrapped his arms around the elf, holding him tightly. "But now I do know," he whispered into a pointed ear. "I know, you know, and we will never be parted again…"
A sharp knock echoed through the dressing chamber, startling Aragorn out of his memories. "Who is it?" he called while silently cursing the interruption. Despite all of the peril and anguish that night had held for them, Aragorn cherished that stolen moment with Legolas much more than any that he was likely to create in the future. Why couldn't they leave him alone to remember happy times? He'd certainly need all the good memories that he could get if he was going to actually go through with what he was about to do.
"It's Faramir, my king!"
"Enter then, and don't call me 'your king'," chuckled Aragorn dryly as Gondor's steward came in. "Even if I haven't repeatedly instructed you to call me 'Aragorn' it's still inappropriate; I haven't been crowned yet."
"I apologize," replied Faramir sincerely. "But all of that will be remedied in a few minutes. Your coronation – and wedding – is at hand. Are you ready, my lor – Aragorn?"
'No.' "I am."
Faramir noticed a strange look in Aragorn's eyes. Stress, he figured; he'd felt similarly when he'd proposed to Eowyn – even if it was a happy one, such a life-altering event was bound to cause a little nervousness. He was just relieved that Aragorn was more willing to show his emotions and not keep them bottled up until he exploded, unlike another recent ruler of the realm. The thought of Denethor was still a grievous one for the steward and he quickly squashed it. "All is ready for the ceremonies, and –" Faramir lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper – "I have it on good authority that the Lady Arwen looks radiant. Never has a king of Gondor taken anyone as stunning as she to be his wife and queen."
To be continued…
A/N, part 3: For those of you who care, I'm going to write a continuation to What Love Brought Into Being. It might be a week or two until I'm ready to post, but just know that there's something in the works.