Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Rating: G

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Spoilers: None

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Disclaimer: Not mine. Will never be. Have no money. Don't sue me :P

Summary: While searching for the late Mirkwood Queen's diary, Legolas shares a terrifying memory with Aragorn.

# flashback #


The candle on the table flickered as a cool night breeze swept into the room through the open window. Although elves were not affected by the cold, Legolas still preferred the comfort of his bed rather than gallivanting in the wilds with his ever-adventurous friend. The Wood-elf sank into the soft bed with a contended sigh and pulled the blanket over his shoulders. He was glad that this day had passed without incident.

At the woodland prince's invitation, Aragorn had journeyed from Rivendell to Mirkwood to spend the winter in King Thranduil's realm. The King, however, was not that enthusiastic about the human's visit. Moreover, the foster son of Elrond had arrived on this particular day of the year… a day that Thranduil usually spent with his son in remembrance of his wife who had passed to the Halls of Mandos almost a millennium and a half ago. This day was supposed to be special, but the human had arrived in the evening and Legolas had invited him to dine with them. Hence, he had intruded on their private dinner.

Thranduil could not understand why his son had chosen this human to be his friend. The man was mortal, and one day he would depart from this world, leaving Legolas to grieve his passing. Thranduil missed his wife dearly even after so many centuries, and he didn't want to see his only son suffer the same fate. Therefore, he had discouraged Legolas from being too close to Aragorn, but to no avail. Instead he had made things worse by pushing them closer together, and his resentment of the human grew stronger… not because he disliked Aragorn, but because he knew that the man would be the source of Legolas' greatest pain in the future. He only wanted Legolas to be happy, although his son claimed that knowing Aragorn was a blessing from Eru.

A soft knock brought the prince out of his reverie, and Legolas pulled the blanket over his head, knowing full well who was at his door.

"Legolas?" Aragorn called softly, being careful not to wake anyone, especially the slumbering king. "I know you're still awake," the man whispered. "I'm coming in; I hope you're decent."

With a grin, the man depressed the handle and pushed the door open. Closing the door gently, the ranger tiptoed over to the bed and stared at the bundle beneath the blanket. Without warning, he grabbed the coverlet and yanked it off, revealing a fully awake elf.

"Shouldn't you be in bed?" Legolas grumbled at the smirking ranger and snatched his blanket back as he sat up.

Aragorn dragged a chair to the bed and settled down into the furniture. "Your father was not too happy to see me at dinner," the man said bluntly. "Did I do something wrong?"

Legolas shook his head. "No. You just happened to be in the wrong place and at the wrong time." Judging by the befuddled look on the human's face, the elf knew that Aragorn had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, so he explained. "Today is the day we remember the departure of my mother. Every year, this day we spend entirely in private, without interruption from anyone. I guess your arrival disrupted the yearly ritual."

"Ohh…" Now the man understood why the king looked like he was about to have him for dinner… literally. "I'm so sorry, Legolas… I didn't know."

Legolas waved his hand, indicating that he didn't mind the intrusion. "I barely remember my mother, for I was still a baby when she passed on, but my father took it very hard and he had the servants pack all her belongings and anything that would remind him of her into boxes and store them away in the dungeon. I didn't even know what she looked like. Ada couldn't bring himself to go through her things, even though I know he has wanted to find her diary some years back."

"Uh huh…" The wheels inside Aragorn's head were churning. What if they went to search for the late queen's diary? Perhaps after retrieving the diary for the king, Thranduil's opinion of him would change… at least during his stay here.

The wood elf saw the glimmer in his friend's eyes and knew exactly what he was thinking, but before he could say anything, the human cut in.

"I know! We can go find the diary for your father!" Aragorn exclaimed excitedly and jumped up from his chair. Grabbing Legolas' robe and tossing it to the prince, the man expected the elf to join him in his quest.

Legolas made no move to get out of bed. Instead, he sank back under the covers. "Good luck and see you at breakfast," the elf mumbled and turned his back at the man.

Aragorn could not believe Legolas was backing down from such an 'adventure'. "Come on," pleaded the man. "With your help, we can find the book in half the time that it would take me alone to do. We will still be in time for breakfast."

Slowly, the elf turned to face his friend. "You mean you want me to go into the basement, through the narrow tunnels, and into a dank room with no windows, with only a torch to light our path?"

Aragorn's grin widened.

"You must be crazy to think that I will give up the comfort of my bed to join you," Legolas snorted.

The grin disappeared. He needed another plan.

"Are you saying that you are afraid of the dark?" The ranger taunted and waited for a reaction. He was not disappointed when the elf glared at him menacingly and sat up in bed. "A Wood-elf that's afraid of the dark! Wait until Elladan and Elrohir find out!" The grin returned to the human's face; his plan had worked.

"I am NOT afraid of the dark," the elf shot back a little too quickly. "Fine. I'll go with you if it'll make you happy." Legolas knew that he had no choice. If he refused to go, Aragorn would indeed think that he was afraid of the dark and tell the twins about it. Grabbing his robe, the elf threw it around his shoulders and stepped into his soft leather boots before striding out of the room after the insufferable human.

o-o-o-o-o

"Do you think this is a good idea?" Legolas asked for the third time that night after Aragorn picked the lock of the dungeon gate. This was, after all, 'breaking and entering' and was punishable by imprisonment.

"You worry too much, Legolas," Aragorn said as he adjusted the torch in his hand. He followed closely behind Legolas in the narrow tunnel as the elf lead them towards one of the storage rooms that held the queen's belongings.

Legolas had admitted that he knew where his mother's things were stored but never found the time to venture down into the dungeons to look through them. Aragorn only believed half of it. He was certain the prince did not dare to come down here, not that he didn't have time. But if he isn't afraid of the dark, then why hasn't he the courage? The elf seemed at ease in the tunnel, so Aragorn was certain that he wasn't afraid of closed spaces either. But why was he so reluctant?

Before the human could come up with more speculations, the tunnel led them into a small cave that held a large amount of wooden chests all lined up neatly along the cave wall. Legolas walked over to one of the walls and placed his torch into the holder. He then motioned Aragorn to do the same on the opposite wall.

"Well," Legolas swept his hands around the cave, "you may start your excavation."

Aragorn raised a brow. "Aren't you going to help me?" he asked.

"No thanks... I--I think I'll just…sit here." He gestured to the ground near the entrance and glanced around nervously.

"Aren't you even curious about what's in the chests?" The human noted the slight apprehension in the elf and wondered what was causing it. It was so unlike Legolas. The usually curious being was now sitting close to the entrance as if he were ready to bolt any second.

"Just hurry up and find the diary so we can leave, alright?" the elf tried to suppress the slight tremor in his voice but wasn't sure if he was successful. His heart was pounding so loudly in his chest that he was sure Aragorn could hear it from the other end of the room. Slowly, Legolas sank down onto the ground and wiped his sweaty hands on his leggings. If Aragorn noticed his uncanny reaction, he didn't say anything. He just wished the man would find whatever he was looking for before the anxiety overwhelmed him.

Aragorn was puzzled by his friend's reaction but did not push the prince for an explanation out of respect. Legolas would tell him if he chose to, but it seemed to him that the Wood-elf was terrified of the place. Hurriedly, the human pulled the first chest out a few inches from the wall and sat down in front of it with his back facing Legolas. He undid the latch and drew the lid open.

A light wind found its way into the cave through the tunnel and the torch flickered. Legolas shuddered at the thought of the torch going out. Please hurry up, he pleaded silently.

Digging through the first chest, Aragorn found nothing but clothes. With a small sigh, he closed the lid and locked it, before moving on to the next chest. In this chest he found some personal belongings: a couple of hair brushes, a mirror, some paintings and books, but still no diary.

A stronger wind swept through the cave. One of the torches flickered and went out. Legolas swallowed the cry that threatened to escape his throat. Wrapping his arms around his drawn up legs, the elf rocked back and forth with his head resting on his knees.

Aragorn mumbled something under his breath when the torch went out. "Legolas," he called, without turning away from his task, "would you mind re-lighting the torch?" Without waiting for a response, the man continued his search in the third chest. Pushing up the lid, he found the chest to be full of books. Perhaps this will be the one, he thought. Lifting the precious books out of the trunk carefully, he sifted through them and finally found what he was searching for -- the diary. With a triumphant hoot, the man lifted the book in victory and waved it in the air. "I found it!" he exclaimed excitedly. Quickly putting the remaining books back into the chest, he pushed the container back against the wall. The chest scraped against the neighboring crates as it went in.

Something squeaked behind the boxes and a flash of several black objects scurried from behind the chests and darted to the far corner of the cave. Rats.

Behind him, a small whimper of a terrified being was heard.

Spinning on his heels, Aragorn whirled around, and the sight before him made him gasp. Legolas had curled into a tight ball and his back was pressed up against the cave wall. The elf was trembling in fear, and he was gasping desperately for air. The elf was having a panic attack.

"Legolas!" Aragorn covered the distance between himself and the elven prince in a few quick strides and crouched down beside the distraught being.

"Legolas? What's wrong?" the man pressed when he did not get a respond from his friend. "Please talk to me!" Having no idea what was ailing his friend was making him nervous.

"R--Rats…" Legolas choked out with difficulty. He was still terrified, but the proximity of his friend had eased some of the tension. He knew that with Aragorn around, he was safe from the rodents.

The ranger placed the diary on the ground and sat down next to Legolas. He pulled the elf against him and wrapped his arms around the shaking being.

"Shh… It's alright. They won't hurt you," the man soothed as he rubbed Legolas' back in an up-down motion. "I'll make sure of that." He had no idea what happened to his friend for him to display such fear of the small rodents, but whatever experience the elf had gone through, it certainly had not been pleasant. Legolas was a warrior; he fought orcs and spiders and other evil being valiantly. It was unnerving to see this brave archer succumb to his phobia.

The two friends sat there for several minutes before Legolas finally stopped shaking and his ragged breathing evened out. Lifting his head, the elf forced a smile to show the dúnadan his silent appreciation. Aragorn wanted to ask what had just happened, but the haunted look in the silver-blue eyes told the man that now was not the time. So with an understanding nod, he released his hold on the elf and then picked up the diary. He stuffed it securely inside his tunic.

"Shall we go?" The human asked gently. When Legolas nodded, he rose and helped his friend to his feet. Then turning around, he went to retrieve the torches. Reigniting the snuffed out torch, Aragorn handed one of them to Legolas.

The elf thanked the ranger with a smile and a small nod, not trusting his voice yet. He felt more secure with the light in his hand, knowing that the vermin were afraid of fire. Silently, he berated himself for not going for the torch earlier, but, in truth, he knew that he had been too petrified to move when the memory from his past came crashing down upon him. His body tensed at the thought of the nightmare and his breath hitched, but he quickly forced the memory to the back of his mind. He would not have another breakdown. This one was enough to last him a lifetime.

Aragorn noticed the elf tense. Placing a hand on the elf's shoulder, he gave it a reassuring squeeze. "Come one, let's go."

The man gave his friend a gentle nudge to get him moving, taking up the rear as they moved along the tunnel. The two companions finally reached the iron gate, and Aragorn locked it behind them after putting out the torches and returning them to their original holders. Tiptoeing past the servants' rooms, the duo made their way back into Legolas' room without further incident.

After removing his shoes, Legolas sat cross-legged on the bed, while Aragorn took the chair once again. Eyeing the elf intently, the human finally popped the question.

"What happened back there?" he asked and waited for the elf to choose whether to answer or not. He was not about to force his friend if he were not ready to share the experience.

Legolas sighed and then took a deep breath. "It all began when I was a mere elfling…"

TBC…