Title: Just Human
Author: Marethiel
Rating: K

Characters: Aragorn ("Little Estel"), Elrond, quick cameo from Glorfindel.

Summary: Estel learns a painful lesson of tolerance. A 500-word short fic.

Warning: AU. Gilraen is not present.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, drat it. Many thanks to Professor Tolkien for creating these wonderful souls to populate my imagination.

-~oo0oo~-

"Ada… do you 'tolerate' me?"

I chuckle. "Most of the time, my son." But I note Estel is distressed. We are seated in the Hall of Fire, Glorfindel and I, with Estel seated on the soft carpet at my feet, playing with his toy soldiers. When Glorfindel rose to fetch us some wine, I realize those soldiers have stood at restful attention for many minutes, while Estel has leaned against my legs.

"What troubles you, ion nin?"

The eloquent shrug of a six-year-old. His brows knit together in concentration as he tries to put his thoughts to word. "I am not an elf," he states, finally. I gently reach down one of my hands to stroke his long, dark braided hair.

"No," I agree gently, "you are not."

"I'm just human," he says quietly. "Why do you have me live with you?"

I frown. Someone has said something, either to him, or he's overheard something. I reach down and scoop him up, sitting him on my lap. He is nearly too large for the perch, as his gangly legs make holding him in place a bit of a challenge. I marvel at how fast he's grown… I remember my children all growing at much slower rates, while Estel has rocketed through his babyhood and young childhood. "You are not 'just human,' " I contradict gently. "Am I 'just' an elf?"

He bites his lip, still not willing to look at me. "Elves are better," he whispers, his beautiful grey eyes growing glassy with tears he stubbornly refuses to let fall.

I close my eyes in pain. I cuddle him close, then I gently turn him and place a finger under his chin, forcing eye contact. "Estel… who has said something to hurt you, child?" I ask pointblank. I know that unless I am direct in my question, he will find a way to skirt the issue, unwilling to admit he is such a baby as to be upset by someone's words. But his innate honesty will not allow him to lie to me when asked directly.

"No one," he whispers. "I just heard someone… [hitched breath]…say they …pitied you for having to 'tolerate a human in the house.' " Just saying the words aloud, he winced.

I say nothing for a moment, holding him close, and sending my love through my touch. Someone… three of Celeborn's warriors are passing through. "I pity them," I say thoughtfully. Estel pushes away from me and looks up into my eyes.

"Truly, Ada?"

"Truly," I nod. "I pity them that they do not know the joy of being loved by this human." I cuddle him close. "I, and your brothers and your friends, feel very gifted, not burdened, Estel."

He studies me, then. Good luck trying to prevaricate around this child! Satisfied at last, he smiles in relief, and leans back against me, contented, as Glorfindel returns once more with goblets of wine for us, and a small apple for our 'tolerated' human.

- The End