Author's Notes: This story could be seen as some kind of sequel to "A Morning in Imladris" (posted as chapter 10 in "Dawn of Friendship"), but you don't need to know that story to understand this one. The worst that could happen is that you're missing some discrete references. ;-)
I hope you'll enjoy, and I'd love to hear how you liked it! :) Oh, and I should probably mention that Estel is about sixteen years old in this story.
Dedication: This story is dedicated to Jedi Sapphire. There are countless things I love about her stories, one of which is the wonderful way she's writing Legolas – Elladan/Elrohir friendship. This story is the result of the inspiration I gained from hers. :)
Title: Worth the Pain
Author: Silivren Tinu
Beta: the wonderful Imbecamiel ((hugs))
Summary: When an accident strikes and leaves someone close to him seriously injured, Legolas has to face some of his worst fears. Characters: Legolas, Estel, Elladan, Elrohir.
Disclaimer: I'd gladly accept any elves or rangers anyone might want to give to me as a present, but unfortunately that hasn't happened yet, so… I still don't own them. (cries)
- Worth the Pain -
Part One: Close Call
"True friends, like ivy and the wall,
stand together and both together fall."
"It is only a simple arrow," Legolas stated, his voice quivering slightly. "No barbs, no poison, and it did not hit the bone. It should be easy to remove."
"That is… good to know," Estel muttered through clenched teeth, wondering if tearing his leg off could make the pain any worse. He had seen both his brothers and Legolas bear far worse wounds in a dignified, almost stoical way and he wished he had some idea how they had done it. All he wanted to do right now was scream. The only thing that had kept him from doing so was Legolas' presence, and knowing that his screams would be as painful for the elf as his wound was for him, if not more so.
Despite the pain he was in and the nausea that threatened to overwhelm him whenever he even thought of the arrow sticking out of his leg, the young man could not help noticing that the hands examining his leg were trembling more than his friend's voice had done and that the elf's face had gone chalk-white, almost as if he himself had been hit by the arrow instead of Estel.
The young man had seen Legolas badly wounded and in various states of shock, grief, and even despair before, but never had the elf appeared as shaken as he was now. Even preoccupied as he currently was, Estel could sense that something was very wrong. For a moment he wondered if there was any chance that Legolas might have been hurt, too. His memories of the time after he had been hit by the arrow were fuzzy, but he was quite sure only one arrow had been fired.
He had vague memories of falling, of strong arms catching and holding him, and of Legolas yelling angrily – not at him, but at the careless hunters, who had caused this entire situation with one stray arrow. Even though he must have blacked out for a while afterwards, Estel doubted very much that one of the hunters would have dared to approach a furious Legolas, much less try to hurt him, at least if they had not been completely out of their senses. It would be just as wise as prodding a hungry, ill-tempered warg with a stick.
Out of ingrained habit and instinct, Estel nonetheless raised his head to take a close look at the elf and search for any telltale signs of injury. He quickly found out that the movement had been a mistake, when even the slight pull on his injured muscles sent a spike of red-hot pain through his body. The young man let his head fall back on Legolas' folded cloak and bit his lip hard to keep himself from groaning, cursing, or screaming. Tears welled up in his eyes, but he blinked them away angrily.
Fortunately, Legolas was still too busy examining the arrow to notice his younger friend's foolish act. Exhaling slowly, Estel tried to relax again, or at least relax as much as is possible while you have an arrow sticking out of your leg. Knowing that there was only one way to get answers now, Estel finally managed to stop grinding his teeth long enough to force out some words. "Legolas? Are you… alright?"
The elf did not move or say anything for a moment. "I am not the one who was hit by an arrow, Estel," he then said, without looking at his friend.
Less than satisfied with the answer, Estel studied his friend thoughtfully, wishing it was not so difficult to concentrate. He suddenly realized that Legolas had not once met his eyes or looked at him directly since the accident had happened. Struggling to keep focused on the elf and reaching out to his friend with a healer's instinct, the young man could sense something like an echo of his own pain emanating from the elf, and something else, something darker.
Estel had learned to trust his instincts where healing and wounds of any kind were concerned, but right now he was unable to say how much of the pain was truly Legolas' and how much of it belonged to himself. He was reasonably sure that the elf was not hurt, but pain did not always result from wounds to the body. Estel knew only too well what it felt like to see someone he cared for wounded and in pain, without being able to help.
A brief vision of Legolas being carried into the Last Homely House on a stretcher, more dead than alive, flickered through his mind and he quickly suppressed the unwelcome memory and the feelings that went along with it. Of the two of them, it had almost always been him sitting at Legolas' side and keeping him company as much as keeping watch over him after the elf had been wounded once again.
This time, their roles were reversed and Estel found his new role, painful, scary, and uncomfortable as it was, still easier to bear than the old one. He had seen Legolas make the hopeless attempt to move between him and the arrow and he knew that, had the elf been given any time at all, it would be Legolas lying on the ground with an arrow sticking out of him now. Estel would have been feeling a very different kind of pain then, and experience told him that it would have been worse than anything he was going through now. He was quite sure that Legolas felt the same way, and might be taking it even harder.
Estel was healer enough to know he would likely not be able to hold on much longer. He was cold all over, the pain was wearing him down, and enticing blackness was beginning to lap at his consciousness, promising relief from the relentless pain that seemed to be burning him from inside. A part of him wanted nothing more than to give in, to simply close his eyes and let himself fall. Another, more stubborn part, refused to give in so easily and the fact that his friend needed him, whether he was aware of it or not, lent that part the strength it needed.
"This is… not… your fault," he somehow managed to say, his gaze fixed on the elf kneeling at his side. He did not know what exactly was wrong with his friend, but he would do his best to provide comfort and make the elf see sense while he still could.
Legolas cast him a fleeting glance, and then went back to examining the arrow again. If he had not been so busy trying to stifle a groan, Estel would have sighed. Even given his current difficulties with concentrating and keeping focused, he still knew that there was nothing about the arrow or his leg the elf had not examined already. He forced himself to loosen the death grip both of his hands had on his wounded leg and move one of them enough to grab Legolas' arm instead. Startled, the elf looked up.
"Just because… you are with me… when I get hurt… does not mean it's your fault!" Estel insisted. "I should not have gone into the forest… the trap and the traces were proof… there were hunters in there. I just… didn't expect… one of them to be such a bad shot." He took a deep, shuddering breath.
"I should have held you back," Legolas contradicted almost harshly. "I should have made sure it was safe. I should-" He broke off abruptly, averting his eyes. "Stop talking, Estel," he added quietly after a moment. "You need your strength for more important things right now."
Estel stared at him unbelievingly, and then shook his head. "Stupid arrow… isn't more important… than you!" he hissed angrily. "It was my decision… my life! Stop being so – oww, Valar, it hurts!"
The young man closed his eyes, trying to breathe through the pain. He cursed himself for making things even worse by showing his friend just how much pain he was in. Estel had never intended to say anything like that, but – he had also never been pierced by an arrow before, and the traitorous words had tumbled out of his mouth before he could even try to stop them. He felt warm fingers grip his hand, which was still clinging to the elf's arm as if to a lifeline, and squeeze it invitingly. Understanding the offer immediately, Estel took Legolas' hand and pressed back as hard as he could, trying to ride out the wave of searing pain that threatened to swallow him, fighting with all his might to simply stay conscious.
"The pain will pass. Just don't move and do not try to talk anymore," he could hear Legolas' soothing, if still slightly shaky, voice as if coming from far away. "Lord Elrond and your brothers will be here soon. The hunter and his friends promised to get them here as soon as possible. You only need to hold on a little while longer!" The last words had an almost pleading note to them.
The pounding of blood in his ears drowned out part of the elf's words, but even without really understanding what his friend was saying Estel felt his cramped muscles relax slightly. Hearing the familiar voice meant that he was safe, even if he did not feel that way right now, and the fingers that held his hand tightly were warm and firm. He knew instinctively his friend would never let go. Besides, he found himself unable to ignore the plea he heard in the elf's voice. He squeezed the fingers that held his own, in a weak attempt to reassure his friend and tell him he had heard him and was still with him.
Far too slowly, the pain abated somewhat and the beckoning darkness retreated to the fringes of his consciousness once again. Estel opened his eyes, looking directly into a familiar and very pale face hovering above him. Noticing the worry and fear the elf was unsuccessfully trying to hide, the young man somehow managed to force his lips into a smile.
"Perhaps you could give that guy… some archery lessons," he quipped, or rather, tried to. Unfortunately, what actually came out of his mouth sounded much more like a croak than the lighthearted tone of voice he had been aiming for.
For a moment, Legolas' eyes glittered in a way the young man had seen only once before, when someone had dared to threaten Estel's life in his presence. "I said… give him archery… lessons, not… use him as… target practice!" he gasped, slightly alarmed.
Legolas smiled at him in a way that was just as genuine as the young man's own smile had been before. "I don't think it would help… if you shot him in turn," the young man said, not sure he liked what he was seeing in his friend's eyes.
"Right now, I do not think I can promise anything," the elf replied calmly, an undertone of hardness in his voice.
Estel sighed. Just trying to talk or even think seemed to demand too much of an effort by now, and he decided that the careless hunter probably deserved whatever Legolas might have in mind for him. The wound in the young man's leg was throbbing in the same rhythm as his heartbeat now, but the burning pain appeared to be to be strangely removed and he seemed to be drifting even further away from it with every moment. Estel could not remember having ever felt so tired before.
His eyelids began to droop, but snapped open again when he more felt than saw Legolas tense at his side. The elf turned away from him to look back to where they had come from. Rolling his head to the side, Estel tried to see what his friend was looking at, but quickly lost interest when the only thing he was able to see were trees and more trees. After a few moments of tense listening, the elf relaxed again, turning back to look down at his young friend. "Help is coming," he said with a smile.
As if watching his friend from far away, Estel saw the relief in Legolas' face suddenly turning into fear and watched his lips move as if he was calling something frantically, but found himself unable to understand the words. The young man wanted to say something, to comfort his friend somehow, but his lips and fingers refused to move. He felt himself drifting and sinking, wondering with his last conscious thought if this was what drowning felt like. Then darkness enclosed him and he knew and felt nothing anymore.
To be continued…
I admit that this ending is likely not very reassuring. (g) The second and last part of the story is almost finished. I hope I'll be able to post it soon. :)