This one's kind of a sequel to #5 from last year...can be read standalone, but the two kind of fit together, too. Also contains an OC, but you don't have to know about him to read this one.

"The Long-Expected Guest"

The winter night was cold and dark.

He sat on the balcony railing, eyes trained south. The wind around him was bitingly cold, but he did not mind it. Nor could he feel it, this night. This night...there was something momentous about this night.

"Are you out here again?"

He grinned a little, not even needing to hear the voice to know who was behind him. "Care to join me tonight, Belegdur?"

The older elf shook his head, letting a short grunt of amusement out. "I am not particularly keen on spending my nights staring into nothing, Legolas."

"I'm not staring at nothing. I'm looking for someone."

"Of course." Belegdur leaned against the railing, next to his brother. "You do realize it's impossible that he would just ride in out of the snow on a night like this?"

"Perhaps. But I cannot help but feel...I can feel him, tonight."

Belegdur fell silent. While he had not exactly encouraged his brother's friendship with Elrond's mortal foster-son, he could not deny how close the two were. And thus, he could not help but support such a friendship after a time—even after years of separation, somehow the two still seemed close (at least on the elf's end, who knew what that human was doing down south in Rohan).

"Perhaps he's thinking of home."

The older elf's words surprised both, somehow. "Aye, perhaps," Legolas finally replied. "I wonder..."

"Does he miss it."

"Aye, does he. Does he miss his family, or is he happier among other men?"

"The rangers are men, are they not?"

Legolas sighed, drawing his knees up to his chest and carefully balancing on the balcony. "It seems...different tonight."

"You've looked for his coming every year, Legolas. You search out news from the south, any bare tidbit of practically hound the messengers from Rivendell and Lothlórien in hopes of news of him..."

"Any news of him would be most welcome. Were he not to return for a long time yet, just word that he is still living..."

Beledgur was silent in reply. "Come back inside," he finally said. "Father and the others are worried about you...they've been combing the palace in search of you, in fact."

"Have they?" Legolas asked, hopping down off the railing to follow his brother inside.

"Apparently it is beyond certain members of the guard to check your chambers first," the older brother added, dark amusement twisting his voice. "For some reason, every time you seem to go missing half a dozen warriors begin combing the cellars and dungeons."

Legolas let out a short laugh, stopping to brush the snowflakes off his tunic. "According to Strider they should be checking my wardrobe first. He seems to think I'll find trouble in there someday."

Belegdur eyed him critically, then crossed to said wardrobe and threw it open. "Is there any hope you have some decent clothing in here?"

"Why? Has something happened?"

"We have an unexpected guest. Father wants you to greet him in court. Here, these will do," Belegdur shoved a handful of clothing at his brother.

Legolas sighed. He had grown used to Belegdur's preoccupation with dress and propriety over the years, but did he honestly have to treat him like a wayward elfling unable to dress himself?

"Be glad tonight is no formal occasion," Belegdur added in reply to his brother's protests. "Or would you prefer we find your best robes and the circlet you so often insist you've misplaced?"

"What emissary is it this time?" Legolas asked as they approached the throne room, having already fought off his brother's insistence that he re-braid his hair. His hair was fine as it was.

"I am not sure which country he represents."

"Then why does Father need my presence?"

"Apparently word of you has spread to some outlying land. This man, it would seem, wishes to see if those rumors are true."

"And Father is humoring him?" Legolas shook his head. At least, that explained his choice of garments...he wore a tunic and leggings in a similar style to that of the guard's livery but slightly more formal, with silver and gold embroidery around the hem, cuffs, and collar.

"Yes, well..." the two paused at the door as they were announced, and entered to bow to their father. There was a murmur through the crowd at the entry of the two princes—one dressed as one of his father's advisors, the other as an honored captain of the guard.

A slight chuckle from the corner of the room caught Legolas' attention. Duty paid to his father, he turned to see who was laughing.

It was a man. Tall, broad-shouldered, dressed in travel-stained clothes with an old green cloak thrown about his shoulders. Dark, shaggy hair fell almost to his shoulders and his beard was unkempt. He looked altogether out of place amidst the splendor of the court, and yet somehow seemed more regal than any gathered there.

"My youngest son, Lord Thorongil. I believe you have heard of him."

"Yes. It is an honor to meet you, Legolas."

Legolas could only stare for a moment. "Strider?"

Aragorn's face split into a broad grin, and he laughed. In a moment Legolas was across the room, greeting his friend with a long embrace.

The nights he had looked for his friend's return were finally over.

The long years of waiting were finished...the long-expected guest had come.

Happy Holidays from Yuggster!