The Touch of a Friend Chapter 4

Rose G

Legolas raised his head from the wooden boards of the talan, looking around him in the starlit midnight of Lothlorien. With the reflex of someone who has spent too long in grave danger and is then woken suddenly, he sprang to his feet and glanced around. Lorien lay silent, stretching away onto the twilight, its beauty and splendour only increased by the velvety darkness, which was unlike the darkness of Moria as could be.

On the opposite talan, he could see Haldir and the other Elves alongside the dark lumps that were four sleeping hobbits. The Elves were talking softly but he made no effort to understand their speech. Nearer to him, Gimli's snoring left no doubt that he was asleep and Boromir was restless, as though he was dreaming vividly but the smile on his face showed his dream to be a welcome release from the days horrors.

Still convinced that something had woken him, he moved around the tree trunk, light as a moonbeam over snow and glanced into the corner of the talan where Aragorn slept. Legolas plainly saw the shadowy shape roll over and moan, clutching at his blanket. Evidently, the Ranger was troubled and given the days events, it was unsurprising. Sighing, Legolas walked over to him.

His heart filled with pity as he saw the tears on Aragorn's face and realised that the man was shivering violently. Stubborn as ever, he had accepted nothing from the Elves and although the night was warm, it was chill after the stifling heat of Moria. 'Aragorn, why do you lay awake? Is anything wrong?'

Aragorn groaned and stared over the Elf's shoulder as he shifted his weight uncomfortably on the wooden boards. Aided by a stray moonbeam, Legolas saw the dark stain where he had lain a minute ago. 'Are you injured?'

The man nodded, acutely aware of the embarrassment of being exhausted and unwell whilst far from home and with someone else watching him. 'It is nothing, Legolas. An Orc scratch sustained because I did not pay enough heed to the fight. It is neither deep nor painful.'

'Yet you lie awake because of it. And why did you not speak of it earlier?'

'Because I am the leader now. I cannot afford to show weakness. The hobbits must trust in me, for the quest is on a knife-edge and could easily fail. And like I said, it is not painful.'

Legolas regarded him - this strange, often silent man with haunted eyes and a mysterious past who he had come to regard as a friend long before the terror of Moria. Aragorn's face was contorted with his pain and grief, and tears stood in his eyes. Without thought, he embraced the man.

Aragorn moved restlessly, not away from Legolas but rather attempting to turn his face away. The piecing blue eyes of the Elf unsettled him, burning into his heart. He could not remember the last time someone had held him like this, and it was the physical closeness of the Elf which was bothering him the most. Also, he didn't care for the idea of any of the hobbits - or Boromir for that matter, seeing him and Legolas like this.

But no man can be strong forever, and Aragorn could not help the tears in his eyes nor could he prevent them from falling. Legolas held the man in a rough embrace, unsure of what to do but guessing that Aragorn would appreciate his company. The man's head was resting on his shoulder and just for a moment, as Aragorn wept silently, his tears soaking through the Elf's tunic, he wondered what Boromir would think if he could see this.

'I'm sorry, Aragorn. I'm so sorry about Gandalf.'

There was no answer from Aragorn, and it was a long time later when he rose unsteadily to his feet and looked at Legolas with reddened eyes. 'I think I ought to see to that Orc scratch now. Go and sleep now or whatever you Elves do. '

Moving with a swiftness that belied his appearance and the bloodstains on his cloak, the Ranger climbed down from the talan and walked over to the banks of Nimrodel. Legolas, accustomed to tracking in forests and following other Elves was surprised at how quickly the man moved, and how even when injured he could move printless and silent over uneven ground.

From a distance he watched as Aragorn stripped off his cloak and tunic and began to cleanse the wound across his chest. Legolas could not help laughing at the man's frequent curses, but Aragorn had been raised by the Elves and his senses were keen even when dulled by injury. He fixed the Elf with a glare that even Elrond would have been unable to hold for long.

'I do not require your assistance, Legolas, nor your company. My pain and my grief are my own and I came here to bear it on my own. I know that you just wish to aid me, but if you are a friend of mine, then I wish that you would leave me alone. Please.'

Holding Aragorn's gaze across the clearing, steel grey eyes meeting sky blue ones, Legolas suddenly understood the reason for Aragorn's strange manner. The man was afraid, and it was as simple as that. Afraid of letting down the Fellowship, afraid of not being able to be a good King, and most of all, afraid of the others finding out. He had seen Aragorn worried in the darkness of Moria, held him while he wept for Gandalf and as such, had seen the weaker, human side of Aragorn that others were not permitted to see, and he was uneasy about what Legolas might say to the others. Legolas looked helplessly at the man, letting him know that he understood and then walked off.

The next morning, Legolas and Aragorn walked together, annoyed by the blindfolds but grateful in a way because they could not see the others face. 'Legolas?' He touched the Elf on the arm, suspecting that, like most Elves he would have gone into a dreamland as soon as he become aware of the majesty and beauty of Lothlorien.

'Yes?'

'Thank you, Prince of Mirkwood.' And Legolas knew that in his way, Aragorn was thanking him for being strong when he was weak, thanking him for sitting alongside him during the night when he was mourning, and most of all for being his companion and his friend. He looked for something to say, and found that there was nothing more to say. He smiled, and Aragorn, guessing his reaction, smiled with him.

This is complete now - I might write a follow-up one day if I get enough reviews but I've got other stories on the go and there isn't much more I can say about their friendship. Please review this one though.