INSIDE, Pairing: Legolas/Melpomaen, Rating: PG-13
Title: On the Inside
Author: dapper scavenger
Disclaimer: Tolkein's. Not mine.
Summary: Legolas and Melpomaen meet. This chapter fulfils the 25fluffyfics prompt 02: Hobbies.
It was on yet another truly glorious day that Legolas Thranduilion found himself wandering through the maze of paths that connected the many various parts of Imladris. There was a mildness to the air; neither too warm, nor too cold and the great broad-leaved trees lent a dappled shade to his eyes despite the lack of clouds to obscure the sun still high overhead. His golden hair lay limply over his shoulders, still damp from the bath he had taken after the morning's swordplay.
He had acquitted himself well but was very much aware of a lingering soreness in his back, shoulders and arms. He smiled ruefully to himself. One did not challenge the mighty Glorfindel and expect to get away with it unscathed! Abruptly he altered course and followed a path to his right that appeared less well travelled, if the weeds poking through the walkway were anything to go by. Today he wanted to send some time alone.
He had no real destination in mind, unless you could count the sorting of one's thoughts into a clear and decisive course of action as a destination and, really, that was the kind of complicated idea that had led him out here in the first place. Although, to be honest, he wasn't exactly sure where 'here' was, save that it was nowhere near where anyone might think to look for him. He frowned at the inward spiral his thinking was taking and forced his mind back to the issue at hand.
It was not lightly that Thranduil, his father, had sent him to Lord Elrond's beautiful lands. Every able-bodied warrior was needed in his native Greenwood, for the darkness that threatened its borders was growing ominously closer. Attacks by both orcs and spiders were now so commonplace that travelling between the two realms had required twice the escort than his previous visit only a hundred years prior.
He was glad to have come, however. A few months under Elrond's roof would be a welcome respite before having to head home. Here he could let go; there was no need for him to stay at battle-ready alertness, constantly waiting for the next attack and heading out day after day to fight.
And yet, he thought with a sigh, even though I finally have a chance to enjoy other pursuits, I spend all my time in the training grounds, practising my archery and sparring with the guards that accompanied me. It was as though none of the Greenwood elves remembered how to relax.
He did enjoy the company of Elrond's twin sons, Elladan and Elrohir, however. They were excellent sparring partners, admirable in both technique and experience, though their methods were … different. They flung themselves into a melee with gleeful chaos. It was a stark contrast to the grim fluidity of his own style. He supposed it was a result of their different circumstances. The twins hunted orcs for the satisfaction of revenge but for him it was a matter of survival and pride.
An odd noise interrupted his contemplation and he paused, glancing about. It sounded like scratching, like stone against stone though much softer, less harsh. It stopped and started at frequent intervals, long scratches, short scratches, a pause, and then a flurry of scraping accompanied by muttering. How intriguing!
With careful, quiet movements the blonde elf followed the strange sound to its source. The path opened up into a small, round garden of sorts. Around its circumference stood several pale columns, maybe two heads taller than himself, connected by ivy-covered lintels. At the centre lay a round, flat stone, greenish-grey but for a round brown-grey marking at its centre. Clearly something had sat upon that base for a long time before its removal. All this he had noticed in an instant but it was not the setting that had caught his attention.
A lone elf sat sideways upon a curved stone bench opposite, his back resting against one of the pillars. Long, dark hair obscured his features just as his loose grey robes concealed his form, pooling over the edges of the bench. It made him seem very small; he must be very young. His knees were drawn up to form a rest for the several pieces of paper he was furiously scribbling on. Legolas was pleasantly surprised as he recognized the source of the mysterious sound.
It was a peaceful scene, so unlike those he had grown accustomed to at home. Innocent. He was truly surprised he had been able to get so close to this strange elf without having been noticed, even though he had moved to stand out in the open and was now staring directly at the writer.
If I were an enemy he would be dead a dozen times over!
What sort of elf has this sort of life, where he feels so safe that he has no need to be constantly watchful? What must that be like? In the end, curiosity won him over.
"What is it you are writing that has you so engrossed, I wonder?"
Though softly spoken, his words cut through the air as piercingly as if he had shouted them. Long, silken hair whipped round with a cry of surprise and the quill fluttered to the ground. Dark, startled eyes fastened onto his own, wide and flustered. This was no youngster, Legolas realised, somewhat embarrassed at having thought so in the first place. His eyes were honest yet held the depth of knowledge only experience could bring. No, he was not a child but neither was he ancient. The elf before him was incredibly, well, petite. There was no other word for it. He watched, entranced, as the dark hair settled into place, a few errant strands clinging to perfect cheekbones, which were currently flushed with colour. One delicate hand fluttered nervously as it suddenly found itself devoid of the writing implement it had previously held.
"My apologies. I didn't mean to startle you," Legolas continued, though in reality he wasn't sorry in the slightest. He'd rather liked the reaction he'd gotten from this mysterious stranger, but he was nothing if not well-mannered.
"No. I mean, it's alright. You surprised me." The stranger flushed and looked away, his eyes darting towards the quill resting on the ground. He leaned forward to retrieve it. "Not many come this way anymore. I'm used to having it to myself."
Legolas didn't answer. He was riveted. As the elf had moved forward out of the shade, his hair had caught a shaft of sunlight and it glowed! It was not black as he had originally thought but a deep, dark shade of reddish-brown. It made him feel warmed from the inside out.
Ai, Elbereth! he thought, stunned, how is everything in Imladris so beautiful?
Legolas blinked, confused.
"My name," the stranger said, uncertainly gesturing to himself. "Melpomaen." He seemed to be waiting for something. At that moment Legolas realised he had been standing there staring at the poor thing for some time. He jolted into motion rather ungracefully and swiftly crossed the courtyard to take a seat at the other end of the bench, forcing a practised mask of casual indifference into place.
"Mae govannen, Melpomaen, though you have answered a different question to the one I asked." Apparently this was not the response the dark-haired elf was expecting, as Legolas was rewarded with a bemused look.
"I'm writing a poem." Melpomaen met the wood-elf's gaze, challenging him to make something of it. There was a moment's pause as the two considered one another, until Legolas gestured towards the document.
"Will you read it to me?"
Melpomaen hesitated, regarding the blonde elf uncertainly. Legolas began to wonder if he had asked too much, but then his reluctant companion seemed to gather himself and, after a deep breath, started to recite:
"The withered trees of yore are watching
Leaves are turning in the wind
Hear the weeping willow grieving
How her children must have sinned …"
The blonde warrior felt his eyes widening but fought to maintain his cool appearance. While it was true he preferred more physical pursuits such as riding and archery he was, nonetheless, a prince of his land and therefore required to be well-read in the more scholarly arts of music, history and literature. He had studied the various forms of poetry; the use of rhythm and rhyme, assonance and alliteration, metaphor and simile, but this… the verse that had just been delivered had to be, without a doubt, the worst he had ever heard in his entire life. He wasn't entirely sure how to react. The smaller elf glanced nervously at him as he continued.
"Brok'n by the leafy bough-age
Sunlight falls on last attempt
Shining on the deep'ning lovers
Clasped hands show what once was meant"
Legolas felt his lips quirk of their own accord and gripped the edge of the bench tightly, forcing himself to concentrate on the bite of gritty stone into his palm. He desperately struggled to maintain his composure as the would-be poet eagerly pressed on, those dark eyes shining with a strange anticipation.
"Darkly now the moon regards them
Sitting on that verdant shore
Joined by a silvered …"
Legolas snorted. He couldn't help it. His hand flew to his mouth as he valiantly sought to retain self-control, but a snicker escaped through his fingers. His eyes screwed up and then he was lost, uproarious laughter bursting from his lips.
"Oh, Melpomaen… Forgive me," he managed to choke out. "It's just… I don't…"
The dark-haired elf was staring at Legolas incredulously.
"Tell me," he breathed, and the tone was so strange, so full of need and hope, that Legolas found his bout of mirth receding. Guilt now set in and he opened his eyes to look at his companion awkwardly. He faltered, unsure of what to say, for there was no feigning praises now; the little scholar would surely see through them. The blonde heaved a regretful sigh.
"To be honest with you, I think that was the most dreadful poem I have ever heard."
Melpomaen gasped and drew back, and Legolas dipped his head sadly. What a shame, he thought, that I have driven away this beauty so soon. He was completely unprepared, therefore, for the quiet laughter that floated to his ears. It was at once happy and sad, and ended in a contented little sigh.
Legolas snapped his gaze back up in disbelief to find Melpomaen smiling gently at him.
"umm…" came his rather inarticulate rejoinder.
"I have waited a long time for someone to say that to me," Melpomaen explained apologetically to his bewildered companion.
"You have?" Legolas was dumbfounded. "Why?"
Melpomaen shuffled his papers into a neat bundle and set them to one side, placing a small stone on top to keep them from the wind. The quill, however, he kept in his grasp, twirling the soft tapered end in his fingers as he thought about his answer.
"I started writing poetry a few years ago. I knew I wasn't very good, but I had spent hours studying every word written in our library and I was enchanted by the notion that I could one day contribute something to those shelves myself. At first, I tried very hard to write something… beautiful, profound… something that made the reader laugh out loud or weep with sympathy or gasp in horror. I wanted to make people feel."
Legolas recognised that faraway look of wistful melancholy on the dark-haired elf and felt a sympathetic pang of nostalgia in his heart. He'd had dreams too, in his youth.
"It didn't take very long for me to realise I was never going to achieve that particular ambition; I haven't the talent. I asked my friends to read my work, to see if they could help me improve, but whenever I showed them what I had written they would say 'that is very nice, Melpomaen' or 'another good attempt, Melpomaen'."
The dark haired elf laughed, though there was no cheer in it.
"My 'friends' think so little of me. They dare not tell me the truth for fear of hurting my feelings. They think I am fragile. 'Little Mel' they call me, when they think I cannot hear them, as if I am an elfling. Even the twins, and I am older than they are! All I want is to be treated like an equal, and that's why I started to write this… drivel. I wanted to know just how awful my poetry had to become to get someone to tell me the truth - and I have just found out!
"This," he declared with an impish grin, waving the quill in the general direction of the stack of papers, "is my masterpiece! I shall write no more!"
Legolas wasn't sure what to make of that. "Let me get this straight: you have been deliberately writing nonsense, for years, in the hope that eventually someone would disparage it and insult you."
Melpomaen nodded enthusiastically. "Exactly."
"You are mad," Legolas deadpanned. "I've met goblins with more common sense than you! Did it not occur to you to simply confront your friends about it?"
This set the diminutive elf into a fit of giggling so infectious that Legolas could not help but smile.
"Yes, yes, of course I did that. They were ever so polite about it – and completely evasive. I think it quite funny that it would take one of our wild, woodland cousins to treat me with any modicum of respect," the little elf teased.
"Wild are we?" Legolas countered affably, while vividly remembering how he had spent the day prior. "I'd rather that than prim and proper like you Noldorin! Locking yourselves inside stuffy council chambers on beautiful, sunny days and loitering round corners like giant black effigies of so-called diplomacy."
"Ah. I see you've met Master Erestor. Are you one of the advisors that came with the party from Mirkwood, then?" Melpomaen inquired, puzzled. The fair-haired elf dressed like a soldier but he could not think of a reason why a Mirkwood guard would be required in a council session and, looking closer, he noticed how the unknown elf comported himself in a dignified and courteous manner. Most curious!
"Something like that." Legolas made a face, but inwardly he was amused that the other elf did not know his identity. Anonymity was not something he was used to! "My father decided I should practise my diplomacy and negotiation 'skills', since he's put so much effort into educating me on the matter."
"And you'd rather be doing anything but, I take it?"
Legolas caught himself smiling ruefully. Why was it that even this far away from his father's presence he still felt the need to please him?
"Adar would be most unhappy to discover that I am so transparent." He sighed heavily and leaned against the pillar at his back. "Do not get me wrong: I greatly desire to become all that is expected of me, but sometimes it is a wearisome burden. Always it is I that they look to for answers and for leadership. Always it is I that has to make the hard decisions. Just once I wish…"
"You wish…?" Melpomaen prompted after Legolas trailed off into pensive stillness.
The question brought Legolas out of his wandering thoughts and he blushed lightly, realising what he had just said. "It is nothing, really…" he started to withdraw, but something in the smaller elf's earnest expression made him continue.
"I just wish that, for once, I could enjoy not being in command; that I could take comfort in the fact that someone else is taking responsibility and all I have to do is follow orders." He paused to brush his hair out of his eyes. How unexpected, that he felt able to open up to this stranger whom he had only just met. Perhaps it was because the smaller elf didn't know who he was or perhaps because Melpomaen had just confessed something equally personal to him. Either way, it felt oddly liberating to be able to articulate these feelings that had plagued him for so long. "That probably makes no sense to you, does it?"
Melpomaen didn't answer straightaway. He levelled a measuring gaze upon the blonde elf, until Legolas started to feel a little nervous by the appraisal. Dark brown eyes met brilliant blue and all was quiet.
Valar! Legolas thought uneasily, what is going on in that head of his?
"No. No, I think it makes perfect sense." Melpomaen cocked his head slightly to one side, deep in thought. "But do you think you could accept it – going back to being a subordinate now that you've tasted authority?"
The blonde elf cast his gaze skyward. That was a most awkward question to answer! How would he know until it happened?
"Duty demands it of me but do we not all deserve a brief respite now and then?"
Legolas wasn't sure what happened next. There was a flurry of sudden movement, a flash of grey and brown and black rushing towards him out of the corner of his eye, and he started violently. Belatedly, he tried to bring his arms up to fend off the swift attack, sore muscles protesting, only to stop at the feel of something sharp at his neck.
"Don't move," Melpomaen commanded in a low voice.
Legolas froze, alarmed, confused and utterly shocked. The smaller elf filled his vision, pushing him firmly against the pillar at his back. He was intensely aware of a knee pressed dangerously into his groin and the point of Melpomaen's quill resting against the tender skin of his throat, the feather softly tickling his chin.
"What…?" he croaked, and then stopped as the attempt at speaking caused the quill to dig deeper, marking him with a thin red line. A drop of liquid that could have been either ink or blood slowly trickled down to the collar of his tunic.
His assailant wound his free hand into Legolas' unbraided hair and pulled his head back forcefully, fully exposing his throat. Legolas whimpered at the strange fire that seemed to light Melpomaen's eyes and the dark-haired elf smirked.
"I have a debt to repay."
And then the smaller elf was upon him, capturing his lips in a heated, fervent kiss. Legolas immediately stiffened and tried to draw back, but there was nowhere to go. Trapped between razor-sharp tip and cold, hard stone he had no choice but to capitulate to Melpomaen demands, granting entrance to his mouth. The tongue that darted past his defences tasted of apples and nuts. He groaned softly as Melpomaen's hand clutched the back of his neck, drawing him in deeper, and he drew a shuddering breath to try to calm his reeling mind. In one surreal corner of his mind he noted that Melpomaen smelled of paper and ink, overlying a more personal scent of apples and all things autumnal.
Wait… all things autumnal? Where had that come from? The eyes that he had not even realised he'd closed snapped back open. What was he doing, returning this kiss?
He tensed again and Melpomaen lurched abruptly backwards, breathing heavily, to retake his seat on the bench. Legolas all but flew to his feet, stumbling a good few paces distance. The two stared at each other: Legolas' flustered and incredulous stare fixed on a rather self-satisfied Melpomaen.
"What…" he managed to get out. How dare this… this *Noldo* assault his person like that! As soon as he recovered from his shock, he was certain he'd be very angry! Right now, though, it was all he could do to form a coherent thought.
Melpomaen chuckled. "I hope you don't mind. It was all I could think of at the time, and I simply had to repay you.
"What?" Legolas found all his usual eloquence deserting him today. "Repay me for what?"
"For insulting me, of course. You fulfilled my dreams so I wanted to try and do the same for you - to put you in a position where you had no control, no authority, even if only for a moment. I hope it was enough."
Legolas gawked unashamedly at the dark-haired elf. He was mad: utterly and completely mad. At what point exactly had he said 'ravage me by quill-point, please'? He touched his lips, finding them slightly swollen from Melpomaen's less than tender ministrations.
I wish that just once I could enjoy not being in command, that I could take comfort in the fact that someone else is taking responsibility and all I have to do is follow orders…
His earlier confession reverberated in his mind. This is what Melpomaen tried to accomplish? This was his attempt to take the burdens of duty from him - by assuming command over him?
The memory of the terse demand sent a shiver up his spine. He'd been completely taken in by this strange elf. He'd seemed so innocent, so obviously harmless – who would have though that such a wicked, sensual catamite simmered below that innocuous surface? Legolas shifted uncomfortably as he unexpectedly found himself growing aroused. His dilated pupils found Melpomaen waiting for his answer.
"No," Legolas said with certainty, though his was tone filled with wonder, "it was not enough."