Soft steps echoed on the balcony behind him. Legolas didn't turn to face the man, waiting instead for the human to make his presence known or continue on to further business.
"You look lost."
Legolas slowly turned to face the newcomer, his face still in its neutral mask of contemplation. Though they had never met, he recognized the newcomer instantly. As sure as the sun shone behind him, there was a son of Gondor standing before him. The family resemblance was most noticeable in the eyes, he thought. If he ignored the rest of the man's face, he could almost believe that Boromir was standing there, alive once more. But Boromir was gone, and his brother had almost joined him.
"Are you here with the visitors from Rivendell?"
A smile quirked on Legolas' lips as he shook his head quickly, belatedly realizing that he had been quite rude in ignoring Lord Faramir's query.
"No," he corrected quietly. "Mirkwood was my home."
Surprise painted the human's face with an easy smile, and Legolas was struck with how different in manners Faramir actually was from his brother. While not overly given to dour moods, there had been a more solemn quality to Boromir's moods.
"A wood elf? I thought King Thranduil's party wasn't to join us for another fortnight."
Legolas returned the human's easy smile, a slight guilt clawing at him for mislaying the man's impression. "They aren't. I came with Aragon and have stayed here in his graces awaiting the coronation, though I have been remiss in not introducing myself to his steward yet."
The man's eyes brightened in good humor, no trace of anger or embarrassment at mistaking Legolas' identity apparent on his countenance. "Then you would be Legolas Greenleaf, Prince of Mirkwood? Aragon had spoken of you to some extent."
"Pleasant things I'm sure," Legolas quirked his lips in rueful remembrance of the many stories Aragon could have chosen to share with the human.
A knowing twinkle sparkled in Faramir's eyes and the man laughed, the boisterous sound somehow lightening Legolas' heavy heart. The war had taken much from the people of this land and he was glad that some still held joy in their hearts. "There was mention of a contest with a dwarf, but all tales were told in good nature."
Legolas found himself laughing along with the man as he remembered the counting. Gimli firmly maintained that he had won, despite the actual numbers Legolas claimed. With such a good-natured contest Legolas felt no need to press for correction.
"Yes, that was an interesting contest. I'm sure Aragon will have told all the tales of our exploits soon enough, not that I hold anything as secret."
"I look forward to the tales." Faramir was smiling at him in a seeming effortless manner, mirth gracing his face from lips to eyes. "Not to misplace such jovial memories, but are you planning to stay longer than the coronation?"
That question had been the exact cause of Legolas' earlier solemn contemplation, and the reason the man had correctly guessed him as appearing lost. In a way, he could concede that he was indeed lost.
"That matter is still undecided." Legolas glanced once at the jovial lord. For some reason he found himself turning to the man as a confidant while he had yet to broach his concerns with the others of the Fellowship. "I find myself at a loss of what to pursue next," he admitted.
"War does that," Faramir answered easily, as if the strange conflict inside the elf was a common affliction. "To both men and elves I have heard. I know of such emotions among men, at the least."
Legolas shifted against the railing, crossing his feet as he leaned more firmly against the stone. "Do you suffer such unrest yourself?" He asked with genuine curiosity.
Faramir shook his head, moving slowly across the small balcony to seat himself on one of the stone benches carved into the palace wall. "I'm afraid I can't count myself as one. My fate has long been decided for me. I live to serve Gondor and its new king."
"A worthy fate," Legolas agreed. He knew without a doubt that this man would serve Aragorn well and true. Aragorn could not have asked for a better Steward of his lands.
"Do you not have similar duties awaiting you in the lands of your father?"
Legolas' smile waned slightly as worries he'd hoped to hold off darkened his thoughts. "Our people are a long lived race so there would be no need to hurry back to my father's side, even if I were his first son."
"That leaves you with a number of options." Faramir turned his gaze to the far plains, his look mirroring Legolas' earlier contemplation. Silence reigned between them for several long moments, disturbed only by the river-touched breeze.
When the human finally did speak again, his words were low. "Failing all else, Gondor could always use an extra set of skilled hands while we rebuild."
Faramir stood suddenly, half-smiling at Legolas as he clapped the elf lightly on the shoulder. "If you'll excuse me, I've been long away from my duties. I hope that we will meet again during your stay."
"We will," Legolas promised swiftly. He watched the human disappear back into the shadows of the stairwell before turning back to the still plains.
True to his word Legolas had sought out Faramir a number of times. The human had proven to be an unexpected boost to his spirits, his easy humor drawing him in to fit naturally among Aragorn and the rest of the Fellowship. It was that same humor that Legolas sought out the night of the coronation, after he had finally spoken with his father of his plans for after the celebration.
As he knocked on Faramir's door he belatedly realized that Faramir might be entertaining other company, and that he would simply be intruding on the lord's festivities with his own problems. The door was opened before he had a chance to turn away. Faramir's eager smile slipped as he glanced at the elf's worried expression, and he quickly ushered Legolas into his quarters, ignoring the half-hearted protests that Legolas attempted to make.
"What's wrong, my friend?" Everyone was a friend to the human after a few days in his company, and Legolas found himself gladdened by the connection.
"I shouldn't have bothered you," Legolas protested softly. Despite his need for the comfort of their friendship, he was reluctant to put his troubles on another.
"Nonsense. Come in. Sit, please, and tell me what troubles you. Did you speak with your father?"
Legolas flinched even as he obeyed the human's urgings, perching lightly on the edge of a padded bench. He was torn between sitting and pacing, and he shifted nervously where he sat. The human's words had somehow cut straight to the point of his troubles, a natural talent he was slowly coming to associate with Faramir.
"I did," Legolas answered simply, not sure how far he should expand on the matter.
Faramir sat across from him, his brows furrowing slightly in sympathetic concern. "He's not agreeable then?"
Legolas turned his head away with a sigh. Disagreeable was a pale descriptor for his father's outrage. "He was not. The idea was quite distasteful for him." He could partially understand his father's view. Their people had long been isolated from the lands of men, hidden away in the dark forests of the North.
"He doesn't think helping us rebuild our lands is a worthy cause?" Anger tinged the edges of Faramir's voice, though he could tell his friend was keeping the emotion from clouding his reason.
"He doesn't mean it that way," Legolas hastily defended his father. "He's from an older mindset. Our forests too were damaged in the war, and Father feels that my duties lie with my people over those who would actually benefit from my help."
"So family duty is all that he binds you by?"
Legolas looked over at Faramir with a question in his eyes. There was a sudden hopefulness in the man's voice and he found his spirits rising in hope that the human had found an answer for him. "You have a solution?"
A strange, contemplative look passed over Faramir's as he stood, crossing the room to sit next to Legolas.
"Give him another reason."
Faramir's calloused hand scraped lightly over Legolas' chin, gently turning his face within reach of the man's own. Their lips met, a soft touch at first, tasting the air between them before returning with more pressure. Legolas sat still, his eyes closed while his mind whirled with new possibilities. The move was unexpected, but not unwelcome, he found.
A breath later Faramir pulled away, his gaze fixed intently on Legolas. "That was not unwelcome?"
Legolas smiled at the human's concern. An answer to his troubles with his father was forming slowly in his head, clearing away his earlier worries. This his father would accept, for he was not too old to forget the passion of a young man's heart.
"No," he answered finally, words drawn out while he contemplated his next move. "Aragorn would have told you that my kind is more open than most men."
Sunshine paled next to the brightness of Faramir's smile. "He had mentioned such, or I would not have been so bold, friend."
"More than friend, I think," Legolas returned the smile, "and my thanks. You have brought to mind an answer that my father would not refuse."
"I'm glad," and he could tell that Faramir was indeed glad to have Legolas stay. Another kiss punctuated the words, bringing them both closer together. Legolas moved forward this time, meeting Faramir in the kiss with equal fervor. Strong hands founds his hips, moving slowly in exploration over the thin fabric of Legolas' formal tunic, fingers twining in the lacings on the sides.
Regretfully Legolas pulled away, breaking the kiss with an apologetic smile. "If I am to stay, my father should hear of it before the morning. His company will be leaving soon to visit the homes of Galadriel and Elrond before they return home."
Legolas paused as he stood, tilting his head in question. "Their voyage?"
Faramir shook his head, red-brown curls waving slightly with the motion. "No. How long until your father would expect your return to Mirkwood. There's much to do, here and in the lands of Ithilien that Aragon has gifted me." He knew Faramir spoke of more than simply rebuilding the shattered land, and Legolas answered to such.
A grin stretched Legolas' features as he stepped away. "My people are a patient race. Time does not span the same for us, more so for the older generations such as my father. He would barely notice my absence for the span of a decade or more. By then, his opinion may have softened."
Twin smiles graced their faces as Legolas departed, a fond grin planted on his face as he left to bear tidings to his father. King Thranduil would understand, he was certain. His father understood the duty of the heart. After Legolas explained, he would rejoice that his son had finally found his place in the land.