Hello,

I am glad to see you all back! I want to thank everyone who reviewed the last story. It made my day. (huge grin)

I know I said I would post sooner, but the stupid internet provider decided to kick me out and it took me so long to get online again.

I hope you enjoy this new story! Let me know what you think of it.


Title: An autumn's tale

Author: Gil Feir

Rating: Not sure yet. Guess K and later higher

Genre: Slash. What else?

Warning: Much smut and slash, some quite explicit scenes.

Disclaimer: Same old, same old.

Summary: After having stayed in Rivendell for the winter, spring and summer, it is time for Legolas to journey back to Mirkwood. Aragorn, never having been there, accompanies him. But, there are dangers on the road, and when they met up with a hoard of orcs, Legolas and Aragorn must fight for their lives to survive.

A/N: This is the fourth (and last) part of the °Seasons' Tales°. The reading order is: A winter's tale, A spring's tale, A summer's tale and An autumn's tale.

Chapter 1: Leaving

Legolas could not help but glance over his shoulder at the elves that rode behind him. One of the riders caught his look and nodded his head. Smiling back politely but sighing inwardly in frustration, Legolas returned his attention to the road in front of him. Beside him, Aragorn was deep in conversation with one of the elves that accompanied them. The young man had not noticed his frustration, and for a very tiny moment envy grew in Legolas's heart. How did Aragorn do this?

They had been on the road for almost three weeks now and had just left the Misty Mountains behind them. The road they followed meandered like a river down the eastern side of the mountains, it was rocky and steep at times, so that many times the riders could only ride in single file or had to lead their horses by hand. In but a week they would reach the river Anduin and cross it at the Old Ford, then follow the Old Forrest Road for a short while before turning North. They would enter Mirkwood close to the Forest River and then follow the water's path to the Caves of the Mirkwood elves. Legolas had made this journey many a time, but never, never, had he wished to finally reach his home so much.

Since the first day of their journey, nay, since the moment they had left Imladris, Legolas had felt the presence of the other elves like a burden on his shoulders. They were warriors of Rivendell and guards that Lord Elrond had send with them on their journey; and while a part of Legolas was grateful for their presence, he also despised them…every day a tiny bit more.

It was as if the elves had been given the order to not let Aragorn out of their sight. The ranger could make no step that went unnoticed by the elves or that was not watched over. As soon as the man yawned, the warriors suggested a rest, when he frowned without any apparent reason, they asked if he was well, and when he sneezed, they gathered around him like a flock of overprotective mother hens.

At this thought, Legolas actually snorted, earning him a raised eyebrow from one of the warriors that rode at his side. Rolling his eyes at his own actions, Legolas spurred his horse onwards. The sooner they reached his home, the better, after all.

Legolas did not truly understand why he felt so irritated by the elves' protectiveness. After all, only a few weeks ago Aragorn had been injured in a terrible forest fire in which they had both almost died. Aragorn's injuries had healed enough for him to go on this journey, but of course his father, Lord Elrond, would feel the need to give his youngest son some extra protection. And, Legolas had to admit grudgingly, the journey to Mirkwood was a dangerous one. Every able bodied warrior was always accepted gratefully, every sword or bow welcome. Legolas glanced at Aragorn, who was still conversing with one of the warriors of Imladris . Maybe, he thought, Lord Elrond had not only thought to protect his son from wolves and trolls on this journey. A small shudder raced down Legolas's spine when he thought about the other dangers that could possibly lurk around the next bend in the road. Like white haired elves that had once already tried to kill him and had almost killed Aragorn in the attempt. No, extra protection maybe had not been such a bad idea.

But that did not mean that it did not vex Legolas. With the other elves around, Legolas and Aragorn had had no private moment at all. Although they had not kept their relationship a secret, they had also not pronounced it to all of Rivendell, but had been very discreet when in public. While Legolas suspected that Lord Elrond would only have send elves with them that knew of their relationship, he could not be sure. None of the warriors had so much as spoken to him about this issue, and Legolas felt it not in him to ask them if they knew that he and Aragorn were more than just friends.

And so, Legolas did not dare to openly show his feelings towards Aragorn. He did not touch him unnecessarily, be with him for a prolonged period of time or – Valar forbid – kiss him. Oh, and he wanted to do that so much. Since the early stages of their relationship, Legolas had felt the need to be with Aragorn, to touch him and feel him. Maybe it was because he had waited for this miracle to happen for many years, and needed the reassurance that Aragorn felt the same way he did, and that he had not merely imagined things. Whatever it was, Legolas longed to touch Aragorn and to kiss him. To just feel his lover hold him close, whisper sweet nothings in his ears was enough to make him feel whole. But with the other elves around, that was not likely to happen. Even at night, when all was dark and quiet, they could not be together, for one of the Rivendell elves would always keep watch.

What irritated Legolas probably the most was not the fact that the elves were glued to Aragorn like bees to honey. No. It was the fact that Aragorn seemed to enjoy the attention. Of course, he had known these elves for most of his life and some of them he even called friends. And, Legolas had to admit, it was the first time that Aragorn made the journey to Mirkwood. It was only natural that he wanted to know everything about the woods and would ask countless questions and would want to hear every and any tale that his father's warriors knew. But, Legolas thought with an irritated frown, why did Aragorn not ask him? He lived in Mirkwood, after all, was even the Crown Prince! What could the Rivendell elves know that he did not?

But, while Aragorn had asked him many questions while they had still been in the valley, he had turned to the warriors for answers since they had seen the first outcroppings of the Misty Mountains. And since then, Legolas bathed in misery. Never before had the journey to Mirkwood seemed so long to him. With a sigh, he patted the neck of his horse and rode on, the excited chattering of Aragorn ever in the background.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Late that night, Legolas sat on a log with his left elbow on his thigh and his chin resting grumpily in his hand. With his other hand he poked with a long stick at the flickering flames of the fire. Somewhere to his right, the Rivendell elves were playing some kind of game that Legolas did not know. The elves had asked him if he wanted to join them, but he had declined the offer. Legolas felt that the elves felt his dark mood and had only asked him to join them in an attempt to lighten the darkness that seemed to engulf him. Legolas sighed and gave the flames another frustrated poke. Aragorn, he mused, seemed not to have noticed his somber mood. No. With a lopsided grin the man accepted the offer of one of the elves to accompany him on the quick patrolling trips into the surrounding woods that the elves did every evening. No, Legolas thought, Aragorn seemed to enjoy himself.

Enjoy himself with other elves….Legolas's mood declined even further as he realized that it were not the presence of the warriors that irked him so. Legolas sighed loudly and shook his head angrily as he realized, for the first time, that he was jealous! An elf, hundreds of years old, and he was jealous! Legolas could not believe it at first, but the more he thought about it, the clearer his heart told him that indeed, he was jealous.

Since the day last winter that Legolas had declared his feelings to Aragorn, he and the young human had spend all their time together. They had only been parted for short periods of time, when their duties had kept them apart, or when one of them had been forced to stay in the healing wing with Lord Elrond. Giving the flames another poke, Legolas listened to what his heart was telling him with every beat of it. Yes, he had enjoyed this time with Aragorn. Only now that the man was spending more time with others than with him, did Legolas realized just how much he had enjoyed this time together.

Aragorn had a way to make even the most rainy day seem like a day full of sunshine, his smile could warm him even when he was freezing, and the man's presence always gave him that feeling of pure and undulated happiness. Yes, Legolas mused, now that Aragorn was not constantly at his side, he felt the absence keenly. Legolas felt a pulling at his heart, and with another heartfelt sigh, he poked the flames once more.

Staring into the fire and musing, Legolas barely registered the soft footsteps that neared his position. The footsteps were softer than those of humans, but not as soft as those of an elf. When Aragorn sat down on the log next to him, Legolas straightened up, giving him a small smile. But before he could say a word, maybe to ask how the patrol had been, he caught Aragorn's gaze.

The glare of the summer sun had colored Aragorn's skin and even in the darkness it shown honey-golden. A few days worth of stubble decorated his chin that even at his young age already showed of his noble origin. In Legolas's opinion the golden hue matched the dark hair and the grey eyes perfectly, and for a moment his thoughts drifted off to sweet memories. But the look in those grey eyes quickly called him back to the present. Aragorn was not just looking at him, he was really 'looking' at him, like only he could. It was, as if his look was going through flesh and bone, right to his heart and soul, and Legolas instinctively held his breath.

Aragorn tilted his head to the side, just a bit, so as if he was waiting for something. Legolas's thoughts jumped to his earlier musings, and he felt his gaze flicker slightly. As if that had been the Aragorn had been waiting for, the young human asked, "What is it that irks you so, Legolas? And do not deny it," he added quickly as he saw the refusal in the elf's eyes, "for I can see it in your eyes."

Sighing once more, Legolas threw the stick into the fire, where the flames devoured it greedily. Averting his face, he clasped his hands around his knees in a very untypical gesture for him. For a moment, he simply stared at the flames and said nothing. Surely he could not tell Aragorn of his feelings? What would the man think of him? That he was behaving like an idiot. Had Aragorn not time and time again prooven that he loved him, and that he was true to him? How could he then feel jealous?

Suddenly, Aragorn placed his hand on Legolas's thigh, making the elf jump slightly and gaze quickly at the other elves. But the elves were deeply immersed in their game and did not watch them. Legolas felt the warmth of Aragorn's hand seep through the cloth of his leggings and into his skin, and for a moment he felt wonderfully warm inside. That was, until the heat concentrated someplace under his belly button and he felt something rise inside of him that was surely inappropriate right now. He swallowed.

"Legolas? You can tell me everything, you know that, don't you?" Aragorn's voice was so soft that Legolas knew that the words were meant for his ears only. And before he knew what he was doing, he answered softly.

"What is it that fascinates you so about our companions, Estel? What can they give you that I cannot?"

Aragorn blinked and Legolas knew that whatever the young ranger had anticipated, this was not it. After a few seconds, Aragorn withdrew his hand from his leg, clasping them in his lap instead. "Legolas, I did not mean to single you out in any way." Aragorn said, looking a bit guilty. "They are my friends, for I have known most of them since I came to Imladris. I enjoy the time with them."

Legolas felt his jealousy diminish slightly at those words, but he asked nevertheless. "You ask them about Mirkwood. How it is like to be there, what creatures live in the dark wood and which paths are the most dangerous." Legolas felt a pout rise and he cursed his own weakness when he heard the sulking undertone in his voice, "Why are you asking them and not me? I am the Crown prince of Mirkwood, after all! I have lived all my life in those woods."

If Legolas had imagined Aragorn to sigh and acknowledge the mistake he had made by asking Lord Elrond's warriors and not him, he was mistaken. Instead of apologizing, the man smiled at him. "But Legolas, that is exactly the reason I'm asking them and not you."

"Huh?" Legolas looked at him, baffled.

"Legolas, as you just said, you lived all your life in Mirkwood. You have fought the black squirrels and the mighty spiders, the orcs and wargs and wolves. You probably know those woods as well as the back of your hand."

Not seeing where this was leading, Legolas nodded. "Aye, of course I do."

"See?" Aragorn looked at him as if the answer to this riddle was plainly obvious. "I asked the other elves, because they tell me all the things you would tell me about the dangers of Mirkwood, but objectively."

Frowning, Legolas wanted to say something, but Aragorn shushed him and continued. "Legolas, I have never been to Mirkwood before and I need to know everything there is to know, so that I can look after myself. I need to know what dangers await me, so that I can protect myself and others, if necessary."

Having the feeling that Aragorn was implying that he, Legolas, would not tell him of the dangers, that he would not tell the man the things he needed to know to survive in Mirkwood, Legolas protested, "Do you not think I would tell you those things, too?"

"Of course you would, Legolas." Aragorn still smiled. "But Mirkwood is your home, your father's Kingdom. Would you really tell me about the squirrels and orcs and other monsters quite partially?" Aragorn raised an eyebrow questioningly. "Legolas, you told me that the black squirrels are 'not that bad'. Mirkwood is your home and it is only natural that you would want it to be less dangerous and more homely. But I need to know the entire story, Legolas."

Aragorn placed his hand on Legolas's leg once more. "I just need to know, Legolas. For my and your safety, too." His eyes looked at Legolas, and the elf saw the feelings swirl in them. Legolas asked himself whether he had really told Aragorn that the huge black squirrels were not that bad. He came to the conclusion that he probably had, and so he thought back to those times that he and Aragorn had spoken about Mirkwood. Could it be true that Legolas had made Mirkwood better than it was? Well….maybe….

With another sigh and a grimace, Legolas hang his head. "Alright, Estel, maybe you are right."

Grinning, Aragorn patted his leg, "Of course I am, Legolas." There was definitely a teasing undertone in the human's voice, and Legolas looked at him. Aragorn was grinning at him like a young boy, and Legolas shook his head. The hand on his thigh really felt good…

But before Legolas could do anything, Aragorn withdrew his hand. Legolas saw that Aragorn threw a quick look at the other elves, as if he wanted to make sure that none of them had seen him touch Legolas. Something dark seemed to race across Aragorn's face, for just a second, and Legolas was not sure whether he had really seen it. And when Aragorn stretched his long legs and placed another log on the fire, one of the elves lifted his head and called, "Estel, come play with us!"

Aragorn smiled at the elf and then turned to Legolas, "Do you want to play, too? It really is a simple enough game."

"No, you go and have fun, Estel." Legolas waved his hand through the air dismissively. "I am content."

Aragorn looked at him for another moment, but then the other elf called to him again, and Aragorn climbed to his feet. But before he joined the Imladris elves in their game, he asked Legolas, "Are you really alright, Legolas?"

"Aye, I am fine, melethron." Legolas said very softly, so that only Aragorn would hear.

And after another quick look, Aragorn nodded and made his way over to the other elves, where he joined them in their game. Legolas watched him play and interact with the warriors so easily as if he was not a human, but an elf, and again he felt that sense of protectiveness that always filled him when Aragorn was near. Aye, Legolas mused, he was alright now. But he had much to think about.

To be continued