Hello! Here is the last chapter. Enjoy! (reading order: 1, 2, 3, 4a, 5, 6 or 1, 2, 3, 4b, 6)
°° Chapter 6: True healing
The first thing Aragorn felt when he woke was, that the sun was shining on his face, and that it was no longer cold, but warm and cosy. He lay on blankets, with cushions behind his head and soft covers on top of him.
And, he felt that he was not alone.
Unwilling to open his eyes and fall back into reality, a reality where his father and oldest brother looked upon him with anger and contempt, he stayed motionless on the bed, not giving away that he was awake.
And then he also knew what had woken him. A soft whisper filled the room, almost too low to hear, but after so many days alone in his room, with only his thoughts for company, and intently listening for footsteps nearing his door that never came, his ears had learned to pick up event he softest sound.
He could hear the voice of…Elrond! And the voice that answered was Elladans! Strange he thought, that they were now both in his room. Had they finally answered their hearts and ignored what their minds told them? It was almost too much for him to believe, and so the opened his eyes to see for himself that he was not imagining things.
He was not dreaming. There, right beside his window stood his father and oldest brother, whispering too each other in soft voices. Their faces spoke of grief and guilt, but Aragorn was not sure if meant what he hoped it meant.
Suddenly, Elladan turned, and when he saw his opened eyes looking at him, he grabbed his father's forearm and stopped speaking. Elrond turned as well, and immediately he paled. Slowly, as if the movement would hurt him, he took a step towards the bed, but stopped at arms length.
Aragorn did not know what to make out of this. Had they come to see him and make things right, or had they come to tell him to leave again? Had he only dreamed that he had met Elrohir, that his brother had followed him, and that he had tried to apologize? He could not tell, but from the look on their faces, it could be both.
Unconsciously, his breath quickened and his heart began to race inside his chest. He rose into a sitting position, feeling suddenly vulnerable and exposed to their on looking eyes. Licking his lips nervously, a hollow feeling began to spread in his stomach, when neither his father nor brother spoke.
But then suddenly, as if a spell had been broken by his movement, his father spoke, "Estel, I do not know what to say, but I…I am…sorry."
Aragorn snapped his eyes to his father, and what he saw in his eyes was now easy to read. Love. And guilt. Letting his gaze wander to his oldest brother, he could read the same emotions in his eyes as well. Aragorn smiled weakly, not yet sure of the relationship between them.
"You need not say anything. That you are here and talking to me is enough for me."
Tears stung Elrond's eyes at his son's words and he rushed to Aragorn's side and hugged him fiercely. "Oh ion nin, I was so wrong. How could I ever believe that you had committed a crime? And that you had lied to us and dishonoured your house and home? Oh, I was so wrong, ion nin. I am so sorry."
Returning his father's embrace and feeling suddenly light-headed now that his worries and fears were lifted from his shoulders, Aragorn whispered, "And I am sorry too, for not telling you about my wounds and how I come by them from the beginning, and therewith leading you all to come to the wrong conclusions. I am sorry."
Elrond withdrew from the embrace and looked deep into his son's eyes. "Estel, herewith I vow, that I will never again judge you before I have talked to you, no matter the circumstances, I will listen to you and believe what you say."
Aragorn nodded, too overwhelmed with emotions to speak. But then, his eyes fell on Elladan, who still stood near the window and who had not spoken yet.
When his brother's gaze fell upon him, not angered or hateful as Elladan had anticipated, but uncertain and questioning, he felt his knees become weak. Stumbling to Aragorn's side, he took his brother's face in his hands, looked him deep into the eyes and whispered, "Estel, I am so sorry. I said things that I regret and I know I hurt you deeply. I know you cannot forgive me, but…"
"But I already have Dan."
"What?" Elladan sounded surprised beyond measure. "Why?"
Sighing, Aragorn returned his brother's look, "You are here, Elladan, and I can tell by your eyes that you are sorry for what has happened. But alas, it was not your fault alone, and once you have heard the full tale, I hope you can forgive me as well for not confessing in you earlier. I think I was afraid you would reject me, and feel disappointed in me and my abilities."
Elladan looked at him for a long time, but then shook his head, "I would never be disappointed in you, Estel. At least that I know now."
"We all err, but to find the strength to confess our mistakes shows our true worth." Aragorn said with a sight, and indeed, the presence of his family chased away some of the uncertainties that gnawed at his mind; about his strength and qualities as a leader of the rangers, as brother and as son.
A tear slid down Elladan's face and he let his head hang, withdrawing his hands from Aragorn's face. A sob escaped Elladan's lips, and Aragorn felt the grief that emanated from his brother and father.
"Dan, what is it? Father?" He asked confused
It was Elladan who answered, his voice shaking, "I was so afraid Estel, that you would not forgive me for my foolishness. I was blinded by my doubt and emotions, and I apologise to you."
Aragorn was silent for a moment, thinking, but then he gently lifted his brother's face and then looked at the two elves who sat in front of him, "I am not free of guilt, for had I not doubted your love and faith in me from the beginning, this would never have happened. I erred in my judgement of my family, and it is I who should beg your forgiveness. As it is now, perhaps we can all forgive each other, but before that, it is time you learn the truth. Where is Elrohir?"
"He will be here in a moment, he is in the kitchen to get some warm broth and tea. He thought you would wake soon."
Aragorn nodded, and then they waited in silence until Elrohir joined them, and then Aragorn took a deep breath, and told them of all that had happened since he had set out towards the Elostirion with Rogondil. He told them of the betrayal of his ranger, that Rogondil had tried to kill him, he told them about Cederic and how he came by the wounds that marred his back, and he told them about his doubts as a leader of the rangers.
His family listened quietly, and when he ended, a tense silence filled the room. Then, Elrond sighed deeply, and cleared his throat,
"Estel, that is indeed a grave tale, and now I understand your hesitation to show us your wounds and confess in us."
Aragorn flinched at the words, misunderstanding where Elrond's words were leading. Seeing his son flinch, Elrond quickly placed his hand on Aragorn's pale cheek, "Oh no, Estel, you misunderstand me. I am sorry for what happened to you, but from what you tell me, it was not your fault. I know you, ion nin, and I see in you strength and honour, qualities of a leader. I see wisdom and the will to give your life for others, you suffer for your men, and would give all in your might to save them. Estel, I am proud of you, and I see in you all that I ever wanted you to be, and even more."
Aragorn was silent for a moment, then he said hesitatingly, "You…do not think me weak, then? And a bad leader?"
Elrond embraced his son tightly, "Oh no, ion nin. Your heart is stronger than you think."
Aragorn nodded, but Elrond could see that he could not yet believe his words. Now hesitant himself, he asked softly, "Estel, I know we all hurt you by our doubt. Do you think you…do you think you will be able to trust us again?"
Elrond felt like a small child in that moment, not at all like a centuries old elf lord, and he could sense his twin sons tense beside him. Aragorn took a moment to answer, and when he did, his voice was as soft as Elrond's had been.
"It will take time."
Elrond took a deep breath, disappointment and hope settling in his heart at the same time, although he had known what Aragorn's answer would most likely be. But it was not Elrond who spoke next, but Aragorn's voice that filled the room, soft and almost regretting what it said,
"It took years, if not decades for this trust to grow and spread roots. Trust is not given easily, at least not for me, for I face danger and deceit every day. It…it will take time, ada. I am sorry, but that is all I can give you."
"And that is better than I had hoped, Estel. Trust does not come lightly, and so it might take ages to blossom, one storm can destroy it utterly. I hope you will learn to trust us again, and I will do all I can to show you how much you mean to me. I love you, Estel."
And Aragorn nodded and hid his face at his father's shoulder, and so they sat until Aragorn drifted off to sleep. His body was still weak, from the injuries and the cold, but his heart had been strengthened by his father's confession, and lightened by telling of what had happened.
Elrond placed his son back and rearranged the covers around him. He listened to the deep and steady breathing, and to him, the sound was more welcome than rain after months of dry heat, and more soothing than soft silk on weary limbs. Smiling gently, he took in the sleeping form of his son, and he saw the lingering shadows and the thin frame of the man; and he knew that although the first steps had been made, the road to recovery was long and rocky.
A week passed, then two and then three. The snow melted finally, giving way to first greens and white flowers. Birds woke early in the morning and graced the world with their songs, hibernating animals woke from their slumber to roam the forest and life returned to normality.
The wounds on Aragorn's back finally healed, leaving only thin red marks that would vanish with time as well. Most of his strength returned to him, although he still looked thin in comparison to his former figure. It had taken longer for the psychological wounds to heal, but they had all pulled themselves together and for long hours talked about their fears and worries, their uncertainties, hopes and wishes.
It felt good to be so open with his family, and for the first time since months, Aragorn felt truly healthy. The talks with his family not only healed his spirit, but washed away the stain that had for so long lain on his soul, ever since one of his rangers had tried to take his life. And, he knew that his trust and believe in his family, although still fragile in his mind, was strong and rooted in his heart; it would survive whatever came his way.
The day was sunny, and Aragorn leisurely made his way down the corridor towards a balcony to enjoy the warm rays, when suddenly a voice piped up from behind him, "Estel, wait!"
Turning, he saw Elrohir run towards him, raven hair flying behind him. Upon reaching his side, the elf grabbed his sleeve and began to drag him down the corridor.
"Ro, what is it?"
Elrohir glanced over his shoulder, and then back the way they had come. Waving a hand in the air as if to chase away a fly, he answered innocently, "Oh nothing, really. But somehow Elladan thinks it was me who told the Captain of the Guard that Elladan has called his daughter a 'clumsy mumakil'."
Aragorn grinned smugly, "And, have you?"
"Well yes, but that is not the point. It could have been everyone, but no, he immediately suspects me. What kind of brother would do such a thing?"
Still grinning, Aragorn said, "One who knows you and your antics Ro."
Elrohir gave his brother a faked hurt look and then practically carried him down the stairs when Aragorn did not walk fast enough for his liking. Just as they reached the bottom of the stairs and Aragorn had finally enough of being dragged around for no reason, the enraged voice of Elladan resounded from the top of the stairs.
"Elrohir! I swear I am going to kill you, you miserable excuse for a brother!" And with that Elladan rushed down the stairs, murder written on his face.
"Uh oh." Was all Elrohir managed, before he grabbed Aragorn by the shoulders and held him before his own body like a shield.
"Ro!" Aragorn cried exasperatedly, but could not help the silly grin that graced his features.
Having finally reached the bottom of the stairs, Elladan advanced on Elrohir, but the latter simply hid behind Aragorn, spinning the man around every time Elladan tried to reach him.
"Elrohir Elrondion, behave like an elf and do not hide behind Estel. Come out and face me!"
"Why should I do that, dear brother? I like my new weapon. The…Elladan-reflector!"
"You…" Elladan growled, but by now Aragorn was helpless with laughter. His breast heaved in an effort to force enough air in his lungs and tears of joy pricked his eyes.
Dimly he was aware that Elrohir shook him slightly, whispering desperately, "Estel, please, he will kill me. Come on, pull yourself together."
But the plea of his brother only served to make him laugh harder; and it seemed his laughter was contagious and soon Elladan and Elrohir laughed as well, finally seeing the funny side of the whole affair.
Pointing a finger at Elrohir, but still giggling madly, Elladan threatened, "Next time, it will be you who finds himself chased by the whole guard! I swear."
"Oh, really? Whatever you tell them, they would not believe you, for you are a bad liar, Dan."
"Oh is that so? And what about the time I told ada that…"
And so it went on for some time, until the chuckles and giggles finally subsided and the three brothers settled down on one of the balconies to enjoy the warm rays of the sun in comfortable silence, soon joined by their father.
Normally returned to the Last Homely House, and all felt that this time, the emotional peace they found among them would last for many more years to come.
Yes, the end. It was fun writing, and thank you all so much for the kind reviews, they mean a lot to me and encourage me to write. Until next time!