Alright, folks! It's a one-shot spin-off from Kindred Spirits... and the only one I've done so far. If you have ideas for scenes you'd really like to see, let me know--this has been a nice break from the story I'm working on. I won't promise to write them all, but I'll certainly consider them.
Merry/Happy Christmas! (And every other holiday celebration, too.)
Angolar blinked wearily, slowly clearing the sleep from his eyes. He yawned, his eyes closing before lazily opening again. He arched slowly down his spine, making only the barest of movements to return conscious feeling to his limbs, defining placement and where there was too much weight or warmth to be blanket alone.
"Obviously," Angolar agreed, yawning again.
"You're safe to move," Legolas offered, before the weight on Angolar's lower back shifted slowly.
"Is Zai awake?"
Legolas snickered. "Nope."
Angolar pushed up until he could see over Legolas to Zairil's blank gaze. "Valar, she's a deep sleeper!"
"Mmm," Legolas agreed, tugging the dark gold lock curled around his fingers.
She turned her head towards the slight tug, more hair slashing over her face, hiding it from her observers.
Legolas lightly pushed her hair back, taking care to keep it from her eyes. "Shall we?" he asked, offering Angolar a wicked grin.
Angolar studied his cousin for a moment before nodding briefly. He rolled off of the bed and moved around to her, taking her hands. He pulled gently, until she shifted so Legolas was freed from being used as her pillow. Legolas then wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her up as Angolar released her hands to move her bare feet to the floor.
Together they stood her upright and released her, watching, waiting.
She remained standing.
"I think we're ready," Angolar declared.
"Indeed," Legolas agreed cheerfully, taking Zairil's hand in his own. She padded after him when he pulled, her feet slapping down with each sluggish move. She wasn't overly loud, but both were aware she was far quieter when awake.
Angolar pushed at a section of the wooden paneling that blocked Legolas' bedroom from his bathing chamber, and the males slipped into the narrow gap afforded them as the wood swung away. Angolar replaced the board after Legolas led Zairil through, and the three slunk in near silence down this small route, known perhaps only to them and the elf who blocked it off centuries before.
It was a much easier path to travel when all three were aware and moving themselves knowingly, but it was the safest one they could take. Elowar was resting in the room beyond Legolas' bedchamber, so to leave any other way was to almost certainly get caught, especially with the slightly louder steps of Zairil.
Soon they came to a halt, and Legolas let go of Zairil when they faced the dead end of the small old chamber carved by a long ago river in the mountain's heart. He jumped, nimbly catching the slight ridge with his fingers, pulling himself up until he was high enough to gain the footholds he needed to ease his passage. When upon the flat surface high above the others, he stretched himself out on the floor, hooking his foot around a stalagmite, quirking a brow to find he'd grown taller since last taking Zairil out at night. The ledge now ended slightly below his sternum when his foot was so anchored, rather than in the midst of it.
It proved a painful change, but it didn't take long to pull Zairil up. He took the limp hand Angolar lifted him and soon had her tucked to his chest as he rolled to his back, waiting for Angolar to pull himself up and help her rise.
Once all again vertical, the males held a brief staring contest, which Legolas won to take the lead. Angolar gave Zairil a soft nudge, and occasionally steered her away from protruding rocks that she would otherwise have run into. She was actually remarkably good about avoiding most things on her own, her senses helping her immensely even while asleep. However, they'd trusted that too well and watched her smack into a stalactite not long ago.
It had been difficult to explain the knock on her head when she woke in the morning.
So Angolar moved her when he needed to, but in his position was running into more things than she was—her slow-moving body blocked out most of the light Legolas was letting off, turning obstacles into just more shadows.
They traveled in near silence, Legolas occasionally calling back a warning, sometimes turning to grasp Zairil by hand or waist, leading her before leaving her to follow blindly once again.
Finally they stood within the part of the caves they had not yet explored, and looked for a long moment at the branching. Angolar lifted one of the torches they'd left behind, lighting it after a few tries.
When Angolar turned Legolas hissed and pulled Zairil sharply towards him, smoothing his hand over her hair until it was again cool to touch. "Be more careful of her," he remanded sharply, checking her eyes quickly for the glaze of sleep.
Angolar winced, then looked again at the branches. "North or East?"
Legolas snorted. "How can you tell?"
Angolar smiled sheepishly, and shrugged. "I can't. Sounded better than left or right, though."
Legolas laughed softly, and half-shrugged. "Well, Zai favors going right, so let's go left tonight."
"She does, doesn't she?" Angolar mused. "Wonder why."
Another half-shrug. "Am I still to lead?"
Angolar looked at Zairil, and nodded. "Probably best, as I have the torch. If you pause there's no worry for lighting her."
Legolas inclined his head sharply and stepped into the left branching, stopping quickly. He shook himself and took Zairil's hand to guide her around the sharp snaking corners, releasing her when the path was a bit safer.
"See anything interesting?" Angolar asked with a sigh when his torch was beginning to burn low. "It's almost time to turn back."
"I kn—" With a scrambling sound of cloth and metal against stone, the prince made no more noise.
"Leaf!" Angolar leapt past Zairil, absently touching her waist to stop her forward movement. He moved the torch down, searching where Legolas had been, seeing a slick bit of stone and a hole. "Leaf!"
A low groan drifted up from the hole. "Watch it, it's slippery," Legolas mentioned laconically after a long moment.
Angolar's eyes closed in relief. "How bad are you?"
"I'm not. It's not far… well, actually, I've no idea how far it goes, but it gets too narrow for me to fit through. My foot's wedged a bit."
"Can you get yourself loose, or should I wake Zai? I don't think I can fit down there."
"I don't think anyone else should be fitting down here, Ang. I'd be smothered. Now shut up and let me try and get loose."
Angolar snorted, but bit back a retort and shifted edgily from one leg to another as muffled grunts and the occasional bit off word drifted up to him. When it was quiet, he winced. "Leaf?" he whispered.
A hand snapped out of the hole and fastened firmly to the edge, the green-clad arm hoisted out after it, a silver-gold head appearing shortly after. "What?" Legolas snapped, only to quirk a brow in dark humor when he saw Angolar's startled expression.
"You are hurt," Angolar declared, glaring at the dark wetness on Legolas' arm.
Legolas glanced down once he was sitting outside his previous prison, and shrugged a shoulder. "It's not bad," he dismissed. "But I'm sure Zai will fuss," he smiled, getting up, dusting off his leggings before looking behind Angolar. "We should be…"
"Getting back," Angolar agreed, nodding.
Then he noticed Legolas was staring behind him with a look akin to when Elowar or Enseir or Thranduil appeared where they weren't supposed to at a bad moment. He spun around, but saw nothing.
"What's wrong with you! You made me think we'd been caught!"
Wide, pained eyes turned to him. Then they turned furious, darkening. His jaw clenched. "Angolar," he said slowly, his voice low. "Where is Zairil?"
Angolar spun, then turned in a quick circle before spitting out a profanity that would normally have made Legolas flinch and laughingly chide him.
Now, however, Legolas merely paled slightly and lifted a brow. "Indeed," he agreed, voice still coldly low.
"Can you sense her?"
Legolas let out a tight breath and closed his eyes, trying to relax enough to use his gifts, but a loud noise made his eyes snap open an instant later.
Most elves would have stood in confusion. Most men, too.
All dwarves would have known, just as these two did, what that noise was.
"Eru," they breathed at the same time, both leaping madly from their still states and into the direction they thought the endless clamor of falling rocks came from.
Before long they found the disturbance, a small tunnel collapsed.
Angolar was breathing quickly, and turned in small circles, pacing in the limited space in which pacing was safe.
Legolas wasn't breathing.
Angolar noticed on one of his sharp turns, and hit him sharply on the back.
Inhaling shakily, Legolas ran a trembling hand through his hair. He took a few breaths before again closing his eyes, the glow around him shimmering before expanding in a visible wave.
Angolar pulled back in awe, not having seen him do that before.
Of course, they'd never potentially killed Zairil before, either.
He bit his lip and would have paced, had he not seen the look of terrified concentration on Legolas' face.
A moment later Legolas sighed in relief, the strength leaving his spine and knees until he'd sagged onto the rock-strewn ground. "She's still moving. On the other side of that," he tilted his head at the blockage, "but still moving."
"Could you tell if she was hurt?"
Legolas shook his head, getting to his feet again. He paused his study of the rocks to glance quickly at Angolar. "She didn't… feel hurt. In fact," he smiled ruefully, "she felt very peaceful."
"She's still asleep?" Angolar shook his head. "I don't know if that's good or not."
"Nor do I," Legolas agreed, but shook his head at the rocks. "We can't move them. They're wedged too tightly. By the time we got through it'd be noon at least, and Zai could be lost in the bowels of the mountain."
"She'd probably be awake by then."
Legolas glared at his flip response. "We're going to find her before sun-up." That declared, he turned and studied the tunnel to either side of them.
"We could split up," Angolar offered hesitantly.
Legolas quickly shook his head. "No. You've little longer with that torch, for one thing."
The fact that they'd probably spend three times as long searching for each other after one found Zairil didn't need to be mentioned. They'd had that conversation—in variants—many times through the last years, as one or another of their trio was unexpectedly lost.
Angolar nodded, agreeing. He hadn't wanted to split up even when he offered, but they could search more quickly apart… until his torch went out. "Then lead, Leaf."
Legolas smiled ruefully, but nodded, and led them quickly down the path they'd not come up.
Zairil yawned and blinked a few times, coming to an abrupt halt when she fell onto her rear after crashing into a wall.
She blinked at the wall in shock, frowning when she couldn't see it in the least. She closed her eyes, focused, and reopened them after feeling the odd cool heat surface on her skin which accompanied the illuminating glow she and Legolas so often took advantage of.
She was in a cave.
How'd she end up in a cave?
She took a deep breath, and slowly got to her feet. After looking around the chamber she was in several times, and never seeing anything remotely familiar, she opened her mouth to call for Legolas, for Angolar, but she closed it again quickly, frowning.
The last thing she remembered was wrapping her arm around Legolas' waist and burying her nose against his spine, inhaling deeply the faint smell of horses and trees that clung to him after their adventurous day. One of Angolar's legs had been over hers, and her foot was already deeply snared by Legolas' blankets.
Legolas was a light sleeper. If she woke and went for a drink of water, his eyes were focused on her when she returned. Always. If she got up, he knew, and he woke. The one time he hadn't, they'd been exhausting themselves from before the sun rose until well after it set, including much time spent dodging Elowar and several of the royal guards at the summer solstice celebration. Of course, she'd been so tired herself she'd nearly ignored her parched throat, that night.
Their day had been fun, but not draining.
So he knew she was out of bed.
For her to wind up in a cave, she'd have had to use a secret passage, one she didn't think she could open while asleep.
Which meant she'd had help leaving his room.
She bit her lip.
Which meant that Legolas if not Legolas and Angolar had led her into the caves and left her.
She was overwhelmed with all the horrible emotions she'd felt those first weeks when they'd told her to leave them alone, to go away. But it was a thousand times worse, now, because she loved them both so very much, and she'd believed to her very soul that they would never hurt her.
Tears trembled on her lower lids for an instant, before they spilled over her cheeks, dripping to her hands as she brought them up to cover her mouth to quiet a startling sob.
She nearly dropped to her knees in her depression, but her ears tilted slightly back at a faint noise.
She cocked her head, listening. Maybe if she could find her way out of here, she could find a peaceful corner of a garden to fall apart in. It would be much nicer to have a little light rather than stand in the darkness, only now aware that she'd been so overcome by her emotions that her light had failed her.
It was Legolas.
She stiffened, anger flaring sharply before something far deeper than easily accessible emotions caught her by the heart, and made her pause.
She heard him call again, heard what she'd almost caught in his voice the first time, and her tears flowed more quickly, before she closed her eyes and dried her cheeks, peace seeping over her again.
"Do you sense her?"
"I… this way! Zairil!"
"Shut up, Angolar!" Legolas hissed, his voice uneven, a worried tremor wrapping itself around her like a loving embrace, letting her think.
She saw a faint hint of light, and knew he was close.
She let her eyes glaze over. If it had been a trick, she wanted to get away from them as quickly as possible, so letting them take her away would be best. If it hadn't… then she wanted to find out why she had awakened by herself in a cave she didn't recognize.
Even through the glaze she could faintly see Legolas, but she was mostly aware of how the dull glow around him flashed brightly.
Then arms were around her, and his face was pressed tightly to her neck. Her name was whispered in a tormented breath, the arms tightening painfully.
In a movement less than elegant she was no longer on her feet. He shifted her carefully in his arms and began walking quickly, though he'd pause for a moment now and then to reposition her, to discretely touch her hair, her cheek, to run shaking fingers over hers.
"Her room would be easier, Leaf," Angolar said quietly.
Legolas nodded, and the two switched her off between them as they handed her down drops and up ravines, their ease a source of concern for her.
She felt the familiar air of her rooms embrace her—smelling faintly of meadow grass and stale air, as she was so rarely within them they didn't seem at all lived in. Then there was a cold bed beneath her, and Legolas was beside her, his arms wrapping around her waist with painful tightness, his face again pressed to her neck.
Angolar snorted softly at his obvious worry, but when he laid down on her other side, she felt his own relief in the strength of his hold around her, in the way he rested his forehead to her temple. "Next time you fall in some unexpected sinkhole, I promise I'll make her sit before trying to find you."
The light around Legolas pulsed once before he was no longer glowing. "There will never be a next time, Angolar. I will not lose her." He turned his head towards the pillow, his nose at her nape, ending the conversation.
Zairil blinked once, and released all of the negative emotions, though she could not forget them. She soaked up the love and regret she was wrapped in, and started to wish she hadn't woke before they'd found her.
Before she finished the thought, though, she paused.
Even half a day ago, she had not been so aware of how much she loved these two elves, of how much they meant to her after the last two decades of being their third.
Now she knew that it would feel like her soul was being torn from her to be without them.
Perhaps even for the pain, even for the ache that went into the very essence of what made her one of the eldar, it was good to know that.
And even better to know that they felt it, too.
Still, her last thought before sleep truly glazed her eyes once more was that they would never know that she had woke without them there. She loved them enough to spare them the added pain, and as she was no longer pained by it, keeping it secret did not harm her.
She turned in her absent wandering dreams, tucking her head beneath a chin as four arms shifted to hold her tightly as her own wrapped around a lean waist.