I Will Always Return
You Can't Know the Half of It
Roth placed a hand over his stitched and bandaged abdomen. The ministrations had not taken long to apply and afterwards he had used almost every trick that he knew of to escape that dratted ward. Of course there was the small matter that he had made a promise to Legolas to remain there. Well no, actually he had not promised, he had allowed Legolas to bring him there -that was all.
He wasn't the sort of Elf that was stubborn and had objections to lying on a bed doing absolutely nothing for a while –especially after a long journey and being stabbed in the abdomen. He never understood what Legolas, the twins or Aragorn had against resting in a healing ward for a time. The healers were far from insufferable if you obeyed their rules and who were they to argue with a sleeping person?
And speaking of Legolas –or rather thinking of him- he knew that the prince was bound for trouble. There was a lot that Legolas had not taken into account, namely that his father was –dare he think this -insane. Well, maybe that was putting things a little harshly, Roth amended as he leaned against a pillar for support (still being weak from his wound). Thranduil was sane, but he still was not himself.
Fire was burning his insides and he swallowed reflexively as the pain caused him to flush. He closed his eyes as he allowed the agony to wash through his body and the stone of the marble pillar beneath his trembling palm became slippery with sweat. He had not taken the pain-killing herb as he had been afraid of it dulling his senses far too much and making him drowsy. He didn't regret not taking it, but he seriously regretted tripping and getting wounded in the first place.
Shoving himself away from the pillar, he tried to force himself to walk in at least something that resembled a straight line. However, his feet felt leaden and he weaved unavoidably, almost sick with pain.
He had to find Legolas, he reminded himself, making himself think in order to avoid passing out. He was sure that the prince would have gone to his room, which was where Roth knew that he would go in Legolas' place. It was a familiar, small space that couldn't have suffered very much change.
Roth smiled at old memories of his younger years, when Legolas had first found him. He had been severely shaken at vulnerable age eighty-two and the prince had brought him home, where he had still been terrified of Thranduil and of the sentinels. Because of his fears he and Legolas had shared a room for a while, until Thranduil had the guestroom fixed up and Roth had recovered. Now of course, Thranduil was not only his king but like his father and Legolas as good as a brother, even though he treated them as the royals that they were and was proud to be a mere captain.
Knowing the way to Legolas' room even in the dark, Rothinzil stumbled towards the hallway and his friend's quarters.
It didn't take him long to reach the doorway to Legolas' room, and he stopped, noticing that it was slightly ajar. He smiled with triumph as he realized that Legolas was in there, unless Thranduil had gone in there like he had during so many sleepless nights when he was unable to think of anything else. Deciding to hope for the best, Rothinzil pushed the door open with his free hand that was not cradling his stabbed abdomen, carefully fingering the bandages through his tunic.
Thranduil smiled up at the warrior, causing Rothinzil to suddenly feel very self-conscious, as though he was intruding on some precious moment. "Rothinzil! Legolas said you were hurt! I am so glad that you are up and walking about! Thank you for bringing him home, Roth! How could I ever thank you?"
Roth just stood still, unable to even blink in his surprise. Even when he deserved praise he didn't expect it, and he looked at Legolas as though for approval. Legolas didn't move. Roth found his lips forming words but they felt unnatural and mechanical. "No thanks is required, my lord. Prince Legolas is my brother."
He had hoped Legolas would move at these words, but that was when he noticed that his friend's hands were limp at Thranduil's sides, where they had been wrapped around his father. Legolas also didn't appear to be breathing… "Legolas! My lord, he isn't breathing!" The warrior exclaimed, horrified. Roth's trembling increased as his panic and agony merged.
Thranduil looked at his son with loving, protective eyes. "No, he is simply very, very tired." He continued to clutch Legolas against his chest and Roth forced himself to remain calm, even as he realized that his friend was suffocating.
"You are holding him too tightly, my lord! He cannot breathe!" Roth knew that Thranduil was not in a listening mood and that his words were probably in vain, but he couldn't stand here and do nothing while the colour left what was visible of Legolas' face. "Please! He is dying-"
"Silence! You know not of what you speak Rothinzil! He is tired!" Thranduil defended almost angrily and certainly impatiently.
Roth's chin quivered uncertainly. He had been commanded to silence but he simply couldn't endure that. He had vowed to protect the royal family against everything by his life or death as a warrior and now Legolas was being suffocated by his father. This was the worst sort of situation imaginable and he wished that he could wake up and realize that it had all been a vivid, horrible nightmare.
However, the way his heart was labouring feverishly in his chest and his wound was flaring let him know that he was fully awake, unfortunately. Cringing as he imagined being reprimanded for the coming accusation, he begged in a quaking voice, "Please my lord, I beg you, you have to understand…you are killing him!"
How long could Legolas hold his breath? Minutes certainly, but probably two or three at most, and Rothinzil imagined that he had been holding it for that long already. Looking increasingly uneasy –one might even go so far as to say that he looked frightened –Roth approached his lords and fought with himself to take Thranduil's hand and start to ease it off Legolas.
Thranduil was not going to stand for this; he had only just gotten Legolas back, after all. He couldn't lose this control he had just regained and he couldn't release that which he had come within inches of losing forever. "Get back!" he snapped at the warrior, causing Roth to recoil, clearly upset.
Roth knew that he was going to get in trouble, maybe even arrested, but he couldn't do less. "My lord, you are mad! Your son needs air!" With that he moved forward and forcing himself to forget his place as a subservient warrior, he grabbed Legolas' arm and pulled his friend free. He hated himself as he knew that he was straining the prince's newly recovered ribs.
Thranduil was so flabbergasted by Roth's actions that at first he didn't resist and allowed Legolas to slide halfway from him. The prince's head lolled backwards, jerking slightly as his neck fully extended. His lips were a light shade of blue and his eyes were closed.
Thranduil might have actually stood up and gone so far as to choke the warrior when he noticed the unhealthy appearance of his son's far too pale face.
Roth inconspicuously backed up in a corner of Legolas' room to give the royal family their space, watching his lords nervously. He wasn't going to run, because he had done no wrong. If Thranduil wished to kill him or place him under arrest then he would accept that and act accordingly with quiet subservience. However, he sincerely hoped that Thranduil would come to his senses first, and not afterwards. Death was not reversible, and really he would rather not spend anytime in the dungeons.
His hand went back to hovering over his wound that he became acutely aware of as it flared up in response to the stress of the situation. He found himself shaking uncontrollably and he slid weakly down the wall, coming to sit on the floor as his legs folded beneath him. Bowing his head, he pressed his forehead against his knee and sighed dejectedly, allowing his sweat-moistened hair to hide his face like a dark curtain.
Thranduil spread Legolas out on the bed and frantically took his vital signals, panicked further by his findings. Legolas' heartbeat was steady but far too faint to be healthy. He then realized the prince's chest now rose and fell with minimal movement as his body involuntarily revived from the momentary lapse of oxygen. The blue colour of his lips was being replaced by a warm red and a light, barely noticeable shade of healthy colour was beginning to accent his son's face.
As oxygen revived the prince's body Legolas' eyes fluttered open and he blinked rapidly to adjust to his surroundings and the many flickering candles. "Ada?" he asked a bit hoarsely, staring up at the blurred image sitting by his head.
"Legolas, ion nîn…I am so sorry…I didn't mean to…" he couldn't bring himself to say "suffocate you", so his voice simply trailed off and he gingerly took his son's hand. "I think it took that to bring me back, my son. I love you, and I promise everything is going to be alright now."
Roth's head remained bowed reverently as he thanked the Valar that Legolas still lived and that he had not been too late. They had been very merciful lately, considering all the chances death had to claim either himself or Legolas, and Roth liked to make sure that any debts he had were paid and that those deserving of his respect and gratitude had it in full. His lips moved in a silent prayer because he did not trust his voice, not even in a whisper.
"Roth, come here," Thranduil beckoned to the warrior as Legolas sat up and stared questioningly at his friend. He was sure that he had sent Rothinzil to the Healing Ward and he couldn't even remember his friend coming into the room. Blinking confusedly, he decided that he really was just too tired and too weak to care much. He would talk to Roth about it later, whenever he remembered.
At the sound of his name, Roth jerked his head up and stared at his lord uncertainly. After all, Thranduil had nearly suffocated his own son. "My lord?" he questioned softly, his voice still quivering slightly from the pain his wound was causing.
"Rothinzil, I promise you I am sane now," Thranduil said, offering the warrior an encouraging smile that was meant to bolster his words. "I would never harm you or have you reprimanded for what you did. You are the most loyal of all my warriors, except for Celebalda and Caranfëa. I should have expected as much from you, and I am eternally grateful."
Roth smiled warmly and slowly raised himself from the floor, keeping his hand over the bandage and leaning on anything close enough for support. "I am glad I could be of service, my lord, but…" he hesitated before pleading, "please don't force me to make such a decision again."
Thranduil nodded, "Of course. Now," his eyes became critical of the Elf that was like his foster-son, "Legolas informed me that an orc managed to catch you and cause you some damage."
Roth looked hesitant and shook his head, "It is nothing."
Thranduil wasn't so easily convinced, after all, Legolas was his son. "You are whiter than snow and shaking like a leaf," he pointed out calmly, "As your king I can command you to come, or you can walk over under your free will and sit down so we can talk a bit and I can see what happened."
Legolas smiled weakly at the helpless expression on his friend's face. "Roth, come, let us see what the healers have done for you."
Roth finally consented and took a few steps forward before he stumbled feebly and was caught by Thranduil's outstretched arm. Legolas watched anxiously as his father lowered his friend onto the bed and supported the dark-haired Elf's back, helping Roth to sit up. Alarmed at Roth's show of blatant weakness, Legolas inched closer and held his friend's shoulder consolingly, knowing just how much pain the other Elf was in. Unlike Legolas, Roth had not had as many…opportunities to heighten his pain tolerance.
He moved to unbutton his tunic, but his hands were unstable and Thranduil brushed them aside. Opening up Roth's tunic, which was really nothing more than an undershirt at the present, he revealed the linen bandages which were dotted with red where blood had seeped through.
Thranduil didn't open the bandage, because he had seen many wounds and he knew exactly what to expect. He didn't need to see it and it was obvious that the blood was not clotting very much yet. The younger Elf's breathing hitched and he turned his head away so that his lords would not see him grit his teeth in pain and squeeze his eyes shut. It hurt so badly…
"You need to be in bed," Thranduil said firmly, frowning at the site of the younger Elf's pain.
Roth seemed uncertain and he shook his head. "No, my lord, I just need to rest and then I can help."
Thranduil's forehead creased and he stared inquisitively at the warrior. What was there to help with? "Help with what, young one? You know Helluin and the children have been sending letters. They really miss you-"
Roth looked imploringly at Legolas but when it became evident that Legolas wasn't going to say anything the warrior hung his head and muttered, "The kingdom is in disarray, my lord. There are Elves no longer loyal to you, they are hurt and feel neglected." He raised his eyes to quickly scan his liege's face and then lower them again, out of respect.
Thranduil didn't look overly surprised and he shook his head, putting an arm around Roth's shoulders. "I know, but there is no way possible that you can help. You would be fair game. No, you simply need to go and get rest. I will send for Helluin and Ilwë and his sister."
Roth smiled at the mention of seeing his family again. He missed Helluin so much that it hurt. However, he refused to be bribed and firmed his gaze, forcing himself to be completely serious. "It isn't safe for them here, my lord. The people will not listen to you. They will need to talk to someone with whom they can relate."
Thranduil sighed and removed his arm from Roth's shoulders, feeling unnerved.
"They want to follow you, my lord."
Legolas just sighed and his mouth curved down a distraught frown. "I will talk to them Ada, and Roth will come with me if he really wants to. It will all be well." His mind retreated back to the dead Elven prisoners he had seen lying among the leaves and debris on the forest floor. That was not going to be easily forgivable, if it ever could be.
Thranduil just pressed his son back on the bed as Roth shifted out of the way. Pulling the blankets out from beneath Legolas' light frame, the elder Elf laid them over his son and tucked the edges lovingly around him. "Ada, it is morning," Legolas protested tiredly, Thranduil to smile. Roth's lips curled up in slight amusement.
"You are beyond exhausted!" Thranduil said, easily keeping the younger Elf in bed with one hand. "You will sleep today," the Elvenking assured, re-tucking the blankets that Legolas had disturbed and pulled loose in his struggle to sit up.
"Ada, there is too much to do! I cannot afford to rest!" Legolas continued valiantly around a yawn.
Thranduil smiled, and only shook his head. It felt so good and soothing to be able to be a father to the prince again, and he actually was revelling in the opportunity to tuck Legolas under the covers. Pulling them up at the bottom of the bed, he revealed Legolas' booted feet and undid the laces before pulling the foot-gear off and setting it on the floor at the bed's foot.
Legolas relaxed into the mattress, slightly more comfortable. It felt good to sleep in his own bed again and he smiled at the ornate ceiling that was lavishly decorated with forest patterns -his ceiling. Roth just smiled from where he stood, retreated into a corner, observing the homely scene with his Elven glow expanding happily at the reunion of father and son.
"Ada," Legolas murmured drowsily, unable to help the sleepiness drifting into his voice. "Could you do me a favor?"
Thranduil paused and nodded. "Certainly. You have only to name it, my son."
Legolas smiled and opened one bleary eye, only then realizing he had closed them in the first place. He glanced at Roth, who was standing inconspicuously in the shadow of a far corner. "Make sure that Roth is properly attended to, please? You know how insufferable he can be, the fool is selfless to a fault," he finished with a grin, closing his eyes again.
Thranduil smiled at the warrior, who suddenly became very bashful and flushed to the tips of his pointed ears. Turning back to Legolas he spoke softly to the barely conscious Elf. "Of course, ion nîn. You didn't think I would let him go unattended, did you?"
Legolas only murmured, "Good." He was already more than halfway lost to sleep and his coherency was bordering on non-existent.
Thranduil bent down and gently planted a kiss on Legolas' forehead, watching with parental satisfaction as the younger Elf smiled instinctively in his sleep. Running his fingers down Legolas' cheek the elder smiled and he watched as his son's face blurred through his tears that remained in eyes.
Roth had come forward now and he put a comforting hand on Thranduil's shoulder. "It is good to see him at peace again," the warrior murmured, revelling in the serenity that had seemed to blanket the room. He remembered seeing Legolas distorted by pain and terror and he was glad that Thranduil had not been forced to witness such an event. It would have broken the elder Elf, he realized with a sad inward shake of his head.
Right now all he could see were the after-effects: a thin, weakened Elf with unnaturally pronounced cheekbones and darker eyes –and shorter hair, the warrior added on a lighter note. Thranduil would never see the bloodied mess that Legolas had been or how close he had scraped with death. Smiling to himself, the warrior realized that this was one secret he felt more than grateful to keep.
"Roth," Thranduil said, turning to the warrior as he blinked back tears, "I told him I would take you to the healers, and to the healers you will go."
Roth quailed, looking around Thranduil at the clueless Legolas who lay comfortably sleeping, far away from suffering. "We can't leave him here alone! If he awakens by himself he is likely to regress back to less cheerful times, my lord! Can't the healers come here?"
Thranduil paused, considering things carefully. He normally would have dragged Roth out by his pointy ear, if that was necessary, but in this case he decided to make an exception. It would only be practical that the healers come here. First of all, the elder Elf considered, Roth could not walk all the way back to the Healing Ward and would not suffer himself to be carried, especially by his liege. Secondly, Rothinzil had a very valid point that couldn't easily be ignored: Legolas should not be left alone.
Smiling softly at the warrior, who looked absolutely miserable, Thranduil assured, "I can bet that you would love to stay here to rest with Legolas, and considering that you couldn't possibly make it to the Healing Ward without being carried, I think I can arrange for you to spend at least the first day of your recovery in here with Legolas."
Roth returned the smile and shook his head before swaying slightly, catching himself against the bedpost. "Just like old times, is it not, my lord?" His voice was weak and it was evident that his energy was draining with his slowly seeping blood.
Thranduil chuckled a bit ruefully, "Except you are not shrinking back from the sight of your own shadow." Roth looked surprised that his lord would remember everything so clearly, feeling slightly ashamed that he had ever doubted his liege's memory in the first place. "Yes, Rothinzil, I remember."
"How cunning of you, my lord," Roth said a bit wryly, unable to help himself as he collapsed into a soft, overstuffed chair and drew his knees shakily up to his chest. He was still trembling but despite his pain he looked warily at Legolas' chair, worried about soiling it with blood.
Thranduil continued to shake his head as he left; looking for some healers who could staunch the continuous bleeding of Rothinzil's wound. He felt horribly for the warrior, especially since Roth had obtained the wound bringing his son home. He felt his spirits rising and the damp sort of clinging darkness that had been seeping into his very bones departing now that Legolas was back, safely tucked in his bed.
The only thing that persistently nagged the back of his mind was that Helluin was not going to be happy. She didn't quite have Roth's reverence for him and was hardly afraid to speak her mind –how typical of a human! –and she would let him know that she did not appreciate 'her dear Elf' being wounded.
Aragorn stared at himself in the mirror as he worked to change into the more formal attire proffered by Galadriel. At least his brothers had informed him that the creature staring back at him was himself, but he wasn't so sure anyway more. He was much, much thinner than he had last seen himself and his face was much gaunter, but on the other hand, he realized as he slipped his tunic on over his undershirt, he had acquired some muscles that he had never thought he would get in his arms. He was growing up and the childish innocence that had created an aura around him up until this point was gone, and it was like nothing was separating him from the outside world.
Straightening out his clothes, Aragorn ran a hand through his still damp hair and wondered idly where Legolas was and just what was happening at this exact moment. And gentle Roth! That bumbling excuse for an Elf! Shaking his head as he settled his wavy, dark locks around his face, the ranger took one last look at himself in the mirror and turned away, shaking his head sadly.
He had thought that he had learned more about himself and what his limits were, but he had been forced to trade the person that he had always known best: his inner child. He had never thought in his wildest dreams that he would have ended up living his life so guarded. Sighing, he opened the door to the borrowed room and left, shutting it gently behind him.
The tree limbs twinkled with Elvish lights that were meant to resemble starlight and Aragorn sighed, diverting his eyes nervously to the floor. He could feel Elves watching him even if he couldn't see them and for the first time in his life he managed to find the feeling disconcerting.
"Estel, come, Ada will see you now," Elrohir assured, flanking one side of his brother and hooking arms with the human. Aragorn smiled gratefully up at him. He was worried that he would have to make the walk to his father's quarters alone. "If he seems a bit …grumpier than usual it is because he just received a letter from Glorfindel."
Aragorn nodded understandingly. That was enough to turn anyone's mood upside down. Glorfindel did not write nice letters because he did not like to write and when he did write it was important. "What did the letter say?" the human ventured quietly, staring intently up at his brother as they walked.
Elrohir stopped and looked Aragorn squarely in the eyes, deciding to confide in his brother as he always had. "I cannot say as I have not read it. But Glorfindel is definitely the sort of person where no news is good news."
"You think it is about Rivendell?" the ranger whispered, his voice sinking beneath a murmur.
Elrohir was quiet for a minute, a distant look coming into his eyes. "Yes, and Erestor didn't write. He always writes the letters. It was getting to the point where we were started doubting if Glorfindel was literate."
At this news Aragorn felt himself grow a shade paler. "Does Elladan know? Where is he?"
Elrohir smiled softly but his eyes and voice conveyed nothing but quiet pain. "No, he doesn't know yet. He is resting from our journey. His wound still hurts him every now and then, I think."
"I am sorry," Aragorn apologized for what had to be the fifth time since they started on their way home.
Elrohir pulled free of his brother and gave him a questioning stare, preparing to repeat the question he had asked five times. "And what do you think that you did wrong that begs an apology of you?"
Aragorn shook his head. "We have been through this. I shouldn't have left so quickly, leaving my family in the midst of trouble."
"That may be, but we decided to come after you, because we love you. We got you back. Elladan and I already agreed that was well worth any price we had to pay."
Aragorn knew that there were no words that would do his guilt justice and no words that his brother would hear. He was grateful that his family, or his brothers at least, held him blameless but yet he would rather they scold him and treat him as they had when he was younger. He knew he had changed but what he had not counted on was the way people perceived him changing as well. Elrohir and Elladan were treating him as the adult man that he was, he realized with painful clarity. Not once on the journey home had he heard them call him "young one" even in jest, something that he never dreamed that he would miss so much or see as a form of endearment.
How would his father see him? Surely he would always be Elrond's child his little Estel...
He and Elrohir walked a little further until they reached Elrond's rooms which were secluded as though he had not been very social these past few years while in a state akin to mourning.
Elrohir suddenly stopped moving and slipped his arm free of Aragorn's, abandoning the ranger's side. Aragorn felt the warm, protecting presence of his older brother leave him and he shivered, feeling suddenly much colder and he stared at the younger twin, confused. "Are you not coming with me?" he pleaded, feeling his hands shaking nervously as sweat beads collected on his palms.
Elrohir shook his head and then smiled encouragingly. "Estel, Estel, this is something you must do alone," he explained, chiding the human lightly. "I can't fix anything between you and Ada, so it makes absolutely no sense for me to be there."
Before Aragorn could protest, Elrohir had opened the door; however he didn't shove Aragorn past the threshold. This was something the human had to choose to do, otherwise it would be meaningless.
Terrified to refuse entrance, Aragorn placed one foot in front of the other until he found himself on the opposite side of the door looking over his shoulder at his brother, who suddenly seemed incredibly far away. Elrohir swung the door gently shut, allowing his father and Aragorn their privacy.
The minute the door was shut Aragorn's heart started hammering in his chest and he held his breath. There was no turning back now and even though he had been longing for this moment for years he couldn't help but feel a creeping fear that turned his insides to ice and his legs to gelatine. The walls suddenly all seemed far too close to be adequate breathing space and he gasped silently.
Elrond was sitting in a chair, staring through a small window that led its onlooker out into the tree tops that glimmered with the little flickering white lights. He looked so…old…Aragorn realized, like he had never looked old before and the human felt his stomach curl up into a tight ball. And as if the showing of his age was not frightening enough he was frail and looked very unhealthy. Aragorn was sure that the slightest blow could knock him over, which was something he had never even considered possible before. His Ada had always been his protector and suddenly, he felt as though things were in reverse.
"Ada," he asked softly, and his voice squeezed off as his throat constricted.
Elrond didn't move, and he continued to look out the window, as though he was not the least bit surprised to hear the voice he knew as well as his own calling to him. It wasn't that he had not heard Estel's voice in a long time –he had heard it always, resounding in his head and heart and leaving him no peace. This was not the first time that he had heard it echoing "ada". The only difference was that this time it somehow seemed so much more real and less distant. He felt as though he could turn and see Estel standing right there, watching him.
Unable to resist the temptation to look, Elrond slowly turned his head, allowing Aragorn a full look at his sorrowful face. It still was fair but with a sickly look and Aragorn's stomach went into knots.
Elrond blinked, focusing his vision on the figure –the spectre, standing in the centre of his room. The apparition had a remarkable resemblance to his Estel, but something was different, something that he couldn't place. Shaking his head though dreaming, he resumed staring blankly out of the window.
Aragorn felt something inside shatter as his father turned his face and refused to look at him. He saw recognition in his father's eyes. Elrond knew who he was, but the Elf was refusing to acknowledge him and pain worse than anything he had ever felt before bubbled up in Aragorn's chest. "Ada, don't you remember me? Oh, what have I done?" he finished in a moan that trailed off as he lowered his head, suppressing hot tears.
At these words Elrond turned back to his youngest son and simply stared in awe, which tightened his chest, making it impossible to breathe. In all the years the voices had haunted his dreams and waking moments they had never said that because they had not been capable of it. They were only able to repeat memories and things that he had never forgotten. This was something new…something that only Estel could truly say and his throat constricted.
"Estel?" he questioned feebly, momentarily ignoring his empty, pleading lungs. Finally drawing in a gasp, he swallowed. "I thought that you were dead."
Aragorn suddenly smiled and his entire body trembled. "No father, I am very much alive." He couldn't count the number of times that he had prayed for this and now that it was happening he didn't know what to say or do. No matter how many times he had rehearsed this moment in his mind the real event was turning out to be much different.
For seconds no one moved, and if the scenario had been frozen in ice it couldn't have been preserved better. Finally, wanting to get this over with, Aragorn stepped forwards to greet his ada, who still had not moved and was staring at him as though Aragorn had come back from the dead.
Suddenly Elrond shook his head and stood up with more strength than he had in a long time, silently calling Aragorn to remain where he was. Not even bothering to push his chair in, the Elf-lord circumvented the desk and quietly walked until he stood directly in front of his son. Holding his arms extended, he offered Aragorn comfort in the form of a large, warm hug.
The young human gladly accepted it, only hesitating for less than a couple of seconds. As he relaxed against his father, whom he suddenly didn't see as being frail anymore, the human realized he felt completely safe –safe in a way that he had not felt for too long a time. All the tautness in his muscles seemed to melt away, causing him no small amount of pain as he realized that they had not been relaxed for a long time. How long had he been forced to be so exceedingly suspicious, calculating and afraid?
"I tried so hard to get home, Ada, and Legolas too…" he didn't complete his thoughts as he buried his face in Elrond's robes. Elrond cupped the back of his head, suddenly feeling more complete than he had in all four of the uncertain years that Estel had been missing.
"I am sure that you did, ion nîn," he murmured sympathetically, lovingly stroking Aragorn's hair with his long fingers. He knew this moment was real and doubt even shadowed his thoughts. As he held Aragorn closer to him he felt how his son had become much thinner and how his muscles had become hard from leading a defensive and hard-pressed life.
"Oh Ada, you have no idea," Aragorn murmured, suddenly realizing that he had said "Ada" at least several times in the past few minutes. But somehow, he didn't feel the least bit ashamed and it seemed more than appropriate for the occasion so he said it once more. "I missed you so much, Ada."
Elrond smiled and to him it seemed like a candle had been buried deep inside of him and the flame that had all but died was flaring back to life. There was a glow he could not suppress and it seemed to be burning him from the inside out with an intolerable insistence of joy.
Aragorn turned his head so that he could breathe, setting his cheek against Elrond's shoulder, and as he did, he opened his eyes and noticed that the dim room seemed brighter, even though he knew Elrond had not moved for the past few minutes and could not possibly have lit a third candle. He smiled and closed his eyes with a gratifying peace as he realized that his father was glowing and his Elven glow that had so long been suffocated was surging outward.
Finally, after what seemed only a few seconds but in fact had been close to fifteen minutes, Elrond ventured, "What ever has happened to you, Estel?"
Aragorn blinked sleepily and hesitated too long before answering.
"Perhaps you would rather wait to talk about it?" Elrond asked softly, looking softly at the human snuggled up against him.
Aragorn shivered in his father's continued embrace as he remembered things that still haunted his dreams in the small hours of the night –the time when the weight of all that had happened became the most difficult and lonesome. "Yes, maybe later," he responded a bit stiffly.
Elrond nodded, understanding completely. Estel started to pull away and Elrond's mind suddenly raced, searching for something he could say that would keep his child close to him for even a minute longer. Aragorn had been away too long and he didn't want to feel his son leave his side again so soon.
But Estel relieved him of the situation. "Ada, I know about Rivendell… it's falling apart." Rivendell was within a fraction of disintegrating, or at least if what the twins and Roth had said when they first greeted each other again was true. It seemed so long ago… was there anything of Rivendell left nowadays?
Elrond stared at the wall, gathering his emotions and thoughts as best as he was able. He knew that Rivendell was in serious trouble. He could feel it and when Glorfindel had left for the hidden refuge the feeling had only increased. He had felt Vilya draining his strength and gradually pulling him under the surface of its influence and he shuddered inwardly. He was almost taking orders from the little ring now, enslaved.
But he could feel its dominion breaking apart as the despair that had clutched his heart dissolved, leaving him with a void and yet strangely fulfilled feeling.
"I know, my son, I know."
There were some things that were downright inappropriate, Glorfindel seethed inwardly with annoyance as he slumped tiredly into a chair that was set on a balcony, overlooking what was left of Rivendell. Smiling when the world was crashing down around you was one of them, and he knew all about worlds crashing. Erestor had been spending an increasing amount of time around Helinyetillë, the unlucky She-Elf healer who had imprisoned the counsellor's heart, and since then, his smiles were the only thing that was making him insufferable. Wait, Glorfindel amended thoughtfully; there was also his unnaturally cheery outlook on life.
He had always known Erestor to be a very rational and very intellectual person –he never did anything spontaneous or stupid, at least not publicly. But lately he had taken to staring at absolutely nothing and smiling in a frighteningly genuine manner.
And speaking of the Elven devil…
"Glorfindel I just heard a robin!" the counsellor declared almost happily, rushing onto the balcony in a blur.
Glorfindel decided he was too tired to argue and indulged the dark-haired Elf. "A robin you say? Intriguing."
The counsellor turned around in agitation. "You and I both know what that means!" he snarled defensively, irritated at Glorfindel's obvious sarcasm.
Taken aback by Erestor's vehemence, the golden-haired Elf raised a brow and managed to look completely startled without even trying. In the most mollifying sort of tone imaginable he soothed, "Erestor, calm yourself. It is only a bird…"
"Now you lie! Spring is here!"
"You realize that you are acting completely undignified, don't you?" Glorfindel asked calmly. "It is shameful."
"Glorfindel, we haven't had spring in close to two years!" Erestor hissed, taking a threatening step towards the other Elf. "You know what this means or else you are completely stupid!"
"Elrond is mastering that…thing," Glorfindel asserted, staring evenly at his friend. He looked at the overhang that jutted out over the balcony and noticed that the icicles, which had been long and sharp, were shortening as they dripped and wasted away in the new rays of…sunshine? Yes, there was nice, warm sunshine. He paused for a moment, revelling in it.
Erestor nodded. "It won't be long now. Things will be restored."
Yes, this is the end of this story, but it will continue in a new story after our next project. Yes, we know, the sequels are continuously broken up, but trust us; they turn out better that way. Then they aren't rushed. Plus, it is fun to try new ideas and things.
Thanks for all the reviews for this story ! They were awesome! You all were so encouraging and helpful! And thanks to Stacee Phelps and Marie Delcore for all their encouragement! Thanks a million mellon nins. You know how much Tin and I love you! ;) We would also like to thank Nyctea Scandiaca for her brilliant editing throughout this entire story! She makes an excellent beta-reader!
Please review this final chapter! We are on pins and needles wondering what you think of the ending!
And finally we would like to apologize for the lateness of this chapter. :( We didn't mean for it to end up this way but writer's block is never fun and so we couldn't finish it yet. We would have posted this past Friday, but we had our first prom and then fanfiction dot net wouldn't let us log in, of course, so we decided to wait. Right now, I am exhausted, and longing for a sleep since I stayed up three hours short of a full 24, so I will leave you now! LOL Hope this chapter was worth the wait! LOL
The preview for our next story will be up soon. It will be called Dementia and might actually turn out to be rated R for violence but we aren't sure so don't qoute us on that :D