Title: A Brief Interlude
Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings is the intellectual property of J.R.R. Tolkien.
Summary: Thranduil's reaction when Legolas returns from patrol with only a minor injury. Written for the February Teitho contest.
"My Lord! They've returned!"
The guard's words sent a chill of fear down Thranduil's spine. He immediately excused the council, pausing after the other elves had left to steady his shaking nerves.
He strode through the hall and out the great front doors, stopping as a great wave of trepidation washed over him.
The first of the returning patrol staggered through the gate, two elves helping another walk. Thranduil looked over their faces, his heart sinking as he realized that neither of them was his son.
He had been reluctant to send his youngest son, Legolas, out with his patrol again. It had been only weeks ago that they had brought him home half-alive, badly injured from an orc blade, but Thranduil knew it would have been unfair for him to keep Legolas back. Yet his patrol was now two days overdue, and Thranduil feared what that would mean for his son.
More elves appeared, carrying another elf on a litter. Thranduil's heart hitched painfully, and he ran down the steps toward the elves, praying his son was at least still alive.
The king stopped. Legolas wasn't the one being carried into the palace. He was behind the litter-bearing elves, holding his arm close but walking unaided.
"Are you all right?" Legolas asked, a worried expression on his face.
Thranduil nearly laughed—or cried—and gently pulled Legolas into an embrace. "You're safe," he said, not sure whether he could actually believe it or not.
The prince stiffened for a moment, as though unsure of the reason behind his father's sudden show of emotion, but relaxed and leaned his head against Thranduil's shoulder. "It's just a scratch," he said. "It's not even poisoned this time."
The king sighed in relief, not even noticing that his breath was still shaky from fear for his son's safety. "Are you sure?" he suddenly asked, pushing Legolas back out to arm's length to examine him more closely. "You're not hiding something are you?"
Legolas laughed tiredly. "I promise, Ada."
"Good," Thranduil said evenly. "Then I'm going to throttle you for worrying me so," he said in mock menace, though the smile on his face belied his words.
"Ada!" Legolas protested, laughing again as Thranduil simply put an arm around him and they slowly walked back to the palace.
"Truly, Legolas, my heart cannot take this much longer," the king said seriously, eyeing the injured elves proceeding them. He swallowed back the lump in his throat—too many times his son had been the one being carried, too many times had he sat by the young elf's bedside praying that the Valar wouldn't take his youngest from him.
The younger elf was silent, respecting his father's mood. "I promise, I will always try my best to return alive," he finally said quietly.
"I know," Thranduil sighed. "But I would prefer more returns like this one," the king continued, gesturing to the bandage that encircled the lower part of his son's forearm. "Unlike Lord Elrond I will never get used to having my sons returned to me in pieces."
Legolas smiled wearily. "I doubt he is quite used to it," he replied, yawning.
"Oh?" Thranduil gently steered Legolas away from the healers toward the royal wing of the palace. "I suppose that is true...it would be a poor father whose heart did not stop when his son returned injured."
The king fell silent, his own painful memories dancing through his head. Not only of Legolas, but of his older sons—though neither of them had quite the younger's penchant for returning half-dead from some adventure. Half-alive, Thranduil automatically corrected, smiling as he remembered Legolas using that as an argument. I wasn't half-dead, Ada. I was half-alive.
"Ada?" Legolas' voice broke his thoughts, and he looked over to see concern in the blue eyes that were so like his own. "Are you all right?"
Thranduil nearly laughed, but found tears welling up in his eyes instead. "You were two days late, Legolas," he whispered, swallowing the ache in his throat. "Two days...for all I knew your entire patrol was dead."
The prince tightened his arm around his father, leaning his head into his shoulder in a half embrace. "I'm sorry."
"For causing you so much pain."
Thranduil closed his eyes, wrapping his arms around Legolas. "Ion-nin, it pains me every time you return injured or poisoned. Yet the pain I feel is nothing compared to how very proud I am of you."
He smiled as Legolas looked up, confusion in his eyes. "When I see you brought in with a wound from an arrow that was meant for another, or from a knife that slipped past your guard because you were intent on protecting a fallen comrade it terrifies me, but that does not keep me from being proud of you. I don't know if you know this," he continued, his smile growing a bit more reminiscent, "but nearly every time you return from patrol half-dead there is at least one elf who comes to tell me that he would not be alive if it hadn't been for you."
Legolas looked away, unable to meet the emotion in his father's eyes. "You may infuriate the healers," the king continued, "and terrify your family but we are proud of the warrior you have become. Though I must say, I do prefer it when you are able to walk back to the palace under your own power," the king added dryly.
Thranduil chuckled as Legolas' reluctant smile turned into a yawn. "I see the elfling is in need of rest."
"Ada," Legolas protested half-heartedly, "I'm not an elfling anymore."
"You will always be my elfling," the king replied softly, squeezing his son's shoulders once more as they approached the prince's chambers.
Legolas smiled, leaning his head back against the older elf's shoulder. Thranduil chuckled again as his son's eyes nearly slid closed—Legolas was practically asleep on his feet.
The young elf raised his head, blinking up at his father.
"Get some rest," Thranduil said softly, pushing the door to his son's room open and gently nudging him forward.
Legolas complied with a yawn, stumbling into the room and collapsing across the bed. Thranduil smiled, quietly following his son to pull his shoes off and tuck the blankets around him.
The prince was asleep within moments, leaving Thranduil to wonder how long it had been since he had slept. Knowing Legolas, though, he knew his son would have offered to keep watch so that the others could rest or tend to the injured.
Thranduil sighed, smiling down at his sleeping son. It surprised him how much this sight touched his heart. He quietly drew a chair up beside the bed and sat down, studying the sleeping elf. Gently picking up the young elf's hand, Thranduil brushed the backs of Legolas' knuckles with his fingers. His son's hand was warm, not cold from blood loss or hot from fever, and not shaking as he fought poison left by an orc's weapon or a spider's fang.
The king settled back to simply watch his son sleep, relishing this rare chance.
It was a brief interlude of peace, for he knew Legolas would be chafing to be back out with a patrol within the day, but for this moment Thranduil could be thankful that his son was safe.
Thranduil brushed a lock of hair away from Legolas' face and bent forward to kiss his son's brow.
"Sleep in peace, Legolas."
Reviews? Flames? Tar and Feathers?