Disclaimer, Notes and Acknowledgements: Please refer to Chapter 1

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Chapter 6 – To Err Is Human

Aragorn sighed for the umpteenth time since they had returned home, his eyes drifting back to the sleeping elf at his left. As he watched his friend's chest rise and fall rhythmically, a surge of guilt overwhelmed him. It was his fault. There was no excuse this time. His friend could have died because of his ineptitude. Well, perhaps he wouldn't have died, but he could definitely have lost his arm, and that would be worse than death to a warrior elf. Unconsciously, Aragorn moved back to the chair beside the bed and left his brothers to clear up their breakfast table.

The door clicked shut almost soundlessly as Elladan and Elrohir slipped out of the room, leaving the adan to his musing.

Watching the elf sleep with his eyes closed doubled his guilt. The man adjusted the blanket over his friend, not knowing what else he could do to make Legolas more comfortable. After fussing about for a while, Aragorn finally settled back down into the chair. He ran his hands over his tired face as he tried to recall that particular lesson about Cyprius tree but failed miserably. No matter how hard he tried, he could not bring to mind the lesson that was taught to him many years ago. The ranger whimpered in distress at his inability to remember. It wasn't like he had forgotten about the lesson. It was like he never had the lesson at all! Frustrated, he had this insane urge to bang his head against something solid but, instead, he pounded his head with the heel of his hands hard enough to perhaps give him a mild concussion. He snorted at the thought as he rubbed his eyes in defeat.

"I'm so sorry...," the man whispered bitterly to the prone figure on the bed. "I really should have paid more attention to my lessons." Aragorn sagged into the chair and buried his face in his hands. "It is all my fault..." And this time, it was indeed his fault. No misplaced blame and no unwarranted guilt. The thought that he had laughed at the elf's discomfort the night he removed the -splinter- repulsed him. If he had realized the seriousness of the situation, he would never have made fun of his friend. If he had known that the -splinter- was a thorn from a poisonous tree, he would have treated the wound immediately and spared his friend the pain and misery. If he had paid more attention in class… If he had been more attentive… If… If… So many ifs, but it was too late for regrets now. The damage had already been done.

Tears of frustration and self loathing escaped his eyes, and the man wiped them off ruthlessly with the palm of his hands. No use crying over spilt milk, he admonished himself, but he couldn't help feeling that he had betrayed his best friend. Legolas would give his life for him and what did he do to repay his loyalty? Pain and suffering? Humiliation and misery? What kind of friend was he?

So absorbed was he in his self blame that he did not realize a pair of wary silver-blue eyes were watching his struggle with his internal demons.

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Legolas was exhausted from the night's event. He ached terribly from the constant retching and dry heaves that had plagued his body ever since Aragorn had forced that cup of foul mixture into him. The elf shifted slightly when he heard his friend's guilt laden voice as he struggled to escape the clutches of sleep. Although he felt like he could sleep for a week, he knew that he had to settle things with the man before he drowned himself in sorrow. With great effort, he forced his heavy lids open only to find that the ranger had already started on his guilt trip.

"Estel..." he managed weakly and would have laughed at the man's reaction under better circumstances.

The ranger almost jumped out of his skin, his mouth hanging open and his eyes wide as a saucer. It took him a few seconds to realize what happened. "Legolas!" he cried with shock and joy. "You're awake!"

The elf winced at the loud voice and let out a groan. "Not so loud. I can hear you just fine," he chided, but was afraid that his friend had taken it the wrong way when Aragorn's expression became solemn.

"Legolas..." the man started, "there's something I need to tell you. I'm not asking for your forgiveness, if you do not want to give it. I just need to tell you the truth." Aragorn finished with a sigh.

Now Legolas was puzzled. What was the human talking about? Did he miss something important while he was sleeping?

"Estel, what..." but before he could finish, he was interrupted.

"Remember the splinter you got in your finger?"

Legolas nodded dumbly. "Yes..."

"Well, it wasn't exactly a splinter..." And in the next several minutes, Aragorn explained in explicit details what had really happened.

"I can't tell you how sorry I am, Legolas. I should have known better. What a sorry excuse for a healer I am." The man hung his head in shame. "I know I should have paid more attention to my studies..."

The blond halted the tirade of apologies that he knew was coming by placing his good hand on Aragorn's arm.

"To err is human, Estel," Legolas said gently and gave the human a tired smile. "The important thing is that you learn from your mistakes."

"At your expense," replied the man bitterly. It was clear that the ranger had not forgiven himself yet.

"I have done things that I'm not proud of myself but I have come to terms with them and learned from my mistakes. Everyone does things that they regret once in a while and I forgive you."

Aragorn nodded solemnly and then placed his hand lightly atop Legolas's, that was still resting on his arm. "To err is human," the man repeated the phrase and, after a short pause, he added with a soft smile. "To forgive, divine."

Legolas return the smile and allowed his eyes to drift shut. He was still tired, but he could now rest peacefully knowing that things were well between Aragorn and him. He might still need to beat some sense into the human's thick skull, but that could wait until later. Now he needed to sleep to regain his strength to perform the said task.

-The End-