Disclaimer: I still don't own it. If I did, let's just say, life would be a lot different.
A/N: Thank you to everyone's reviews and encouragements. I have decided to write a sequel because of the many requests. I also thought the story needed more closure. For those who did not read A Friend's Sacrifice, I encourage you to do so as this will not make sense. I know one reviewer was confused by the ending of the last story, so that leads me to believe that others were as well so I shall explain. Elrond went back to Legolas' room after Aragorn left. He watched his son leave from the balcony. When he went back inside to dress Legolas' wounds, he saw a tear running down his cheek. That was the sliver of hope that Legolas was still alive…and he heard Aragorn's little goodbye speech. Enjoy the first chapter! Tell me what you think!
"How long has it been?" a soft voice asked from the cove of the balcony. Rivendell was the same peaceful haven, changing little over time. The sights were as breathtaking as ever. The waterfall thundered beyond, creating a vibrant rainbow in the wake of its foamy remains. All was green and blooming, ready to accept the touch of warmth that accompanied the spring. The animals that sheltered in the surrounding wood were quick to enjoy the coming season bringing a life back to the once cold world. For any onlooker, this was paradise found, but for those in the Last Homely House, this was a cruel reminder of something missing.
"It's been one year since he left us." Elrond walked into the empty room holding a pile of bandages and salves. Knowing where his patient retreated, he walked out onto the balcony and placed a hand over the pale one that gripped the railing tightly.
"You know why he did it," he whispered. The elf nodded in understanding closing his eyes and allowing the morning sun to caress his face. "Legolas…" Elrond trailed off. This seemed to snap the blond one out of his trance.
"I am fine, my lord. Please forgive me. You have been so gracious since my injury, allowing me to stay here until I am fully healed. It was never my intention to allow my mood to affect those around me." It was always the same conversation it seemed as the elder elf sighed. Ever since Aragorn left home, nothing had ever been the same. Change was inevitable, he thought sadly.
"Legolas…please refrain from the formalities. You know you are welcome always," Elrond commented as he led the elf inside.
Sitting carefully on the green embroidered bed, Legolas could not meet the older elf's eyes. He stared at his hands a moment; a question he so desperately wanted to ask seemed to taunt his mind. Elrond sensed this as he took Legolas' hands in his own and sat down beside him.
"What troubles you so? You know your feelings have not influenced us as much as you believe. Elladan and Elrohir have not been the same since that dreadful afternoon. But it's not your fault." Legolas just shook his head.
"It's not that." Seeing Elrond's pointed gaze, he smiled sadly. "Okay, maybe not just that. When I was…unconscious, how much did Est--…everyone suffer because of me?" Elrond knew what the elf meant and his apparent slip made him understand the deep pain that the elf must be feeling, missing his friend. The question was not a surprising one though he wondered why Legolas had not voiced it sooner.
"It was hard," the elf lord admitted softly. "We thought we were going to surely lose you forever. Elladan and Elrohir no longer joked, smiles faded quickly as the full reality of the situation reached their minds. I spent many a sleepless night, trying to keep you tied to this world, if not for your sake then for ours. Estel...It broke his heart. He carried a heavy burden of guilt that wore on him for weeks until finally it became too much. You know he loved you as a brother. He only left because he couldn't stand to face the loss, to face you even should you live. He was afraid of what you'd say…or what you never would should you die."
Elrond couldn't say more…or rather didn't want to speak more. His mind was trapped in the memories, reliving those awful days that seemed like a bad dream he once had. It was not until he saw the shoulders shake beside him and tears fall down pale, pristine cheeks, that he turned to speak once more.
"Oh, Legolas, child of my heart," he soothed, "please do not cry. We love you as family and our past bears nothing on the happiness of the present."
"B-but it's all m-my fault," he stuttered, the tears falling faster. "I hurt you. I h-hurt your family. I h-hurt E-Estel. I only wanted to save him."
"You already did and you have many times over."
Elrond wrapped his arms around the despairing elf and murmured words of comfort, allowing him this time to let go. It had been a year since everything happened. In all that time, never once did the elf speak of the day he saved Aragorn. Nor did he inquire as to the mental states of those around him. He merely locked the time away in the far reaches of his mind hoping to escape through denial. One long year had passed, and finally Legolas was releasing all of the emotions that he so tirelessly kept hidden from the world. Waking up from a lengthy coma to find that everything he heard while unconscious was not dream, had taken its toll. Aragorn leaving was the final straw and from that well of grief, Legolas woke up to an even dimmer world than the one he left. Elrond and his sons tried to keep their spirits up if only to ease the young elf's mind, but just like his friend, guilt was a long journey to take that was not easily abandoned.
"Come now, tithen pen. The world is not over. Wounds heal with time. All will be well again. You'll see." But the words of comfort fell on deaf ears as the blonde elf shook his head furiously.
"No, Lord Elrond. I don't think it will be this time. I am…broken. Broken in ways I did not think possible. My heart is aching…yearning to sa—" Legolas could not finish the sentence as his voice cracked. But Elrond understood. He saw it in his eyes-- that same despair that penetrated the very innocence of the soul. He saw it in his wife's eyes those long years ago. Fresh pain washed over him as the realization hit him. This was what Aragorn feared more than death itself. He feared the chance that Legolas would live for it only meant that he would lose him once more. But Elrond knew he had to be strong. After all, he had prepared himself for this possibility, long before any of this happened. With two people as danger-prone as Aragorn and Legolas, such worse-case scenarios were hard to ignore.
"Shhhh, young prince. It's alright. I understand more than you know. If you cannot find peace here, then I will gladly set you free to sail to the distant shores. But please, I know I have no right, but I must ask you to do something for me…" Legolas nodded as he wiped his swollen eyes. "Please, wait a month at least. Allow me the chance to find my son. Despite his fears, you know Estel would never be able to live with himself should he lose you completely without saying goodbye."
Elrond's request was soft spoken and he wondered in his mind if his plea was more a comfort for himself and his family than it was for Aragorn. In either case, the loss would be great. Legolas did not readily deny the request to which Elrond sighed in relief.
"But I heard Estel say his goodbyes…the day that he left. I was unconscious, but his voice reached me. He already thinks I am gone."
"I am not sure that he ever believed you had gone forever. There was always that small sliver of hope that lived inside his heart. That little piece is what tormented him so for he could never truly accept it. And I fear that his leaving has done more harm than good. To both of you. If he knew you were alive, nothing would stop him from returning. Never doubt that." Elrond grabbed the young elf's chin, piercing eyes seeking understanding in the tired ones. Legolas could only nod. "Good. Then it is settled. Until then, I plan to make sure your time here is as pleasant as ever. You'll have your favorite breakfast, time on the archery field, the taste of my special teas for healing…" Elrond smiled at the familiar sound of Legolas' chuckle at his last words. Though the happiness did not reach his eyes, it was a start. "Come now, young one, it's time to dress your wounds and have some morning breakfast. Then I shall have Elladan and Elrohir spend the day making you smile again. It's been a while since we've heard your laughter." And Estel's, he added silently to himself. His mind drifted to his son. Where in Arda could he be?
"Kill them!" snarled a voice from across the clearing. From the surrounding woods emerged two dozen orcs, probably leaving the site of another bloody attack. They had been roaming the area, killing as they went, with nothing alive in their wake. But the rangers were ready.
Bows strung, a few men from the cover of the trees let loose arrows, trying to eliminate orcs and kill them before they could advance. The rest of the men stood in the center of it all, awaiting the onslaught that was sure to come. Swords drawn and tension high, the first wave of the vile creatures reached them. Then all hell broke loose.
Slash after slash, parry after parry, the small battle raged, turning the green fresh grass to red and black. Footprints stamped the dirt and the once open field was a mess of swords, men, and orcs.
The leader walked forward, a cruel blade in his hand. He came from the rear, their secret weapon no doubt. He sneered as he swiped his hand in a single motion sending one young ranger flying through the air only to land on the ground with a sickening crack. He snarled and spit as he killed and injured. Only one man moved forward to destroy the evil creature.
"Strider, no!" yelled a man from a few yards away. He was already engaged in battle with a particularly stubborn orc. But Aragorn ignored him. With sword in hand and muscles tense, he prepared himself for what was to come.
"Try fighting someone your own size," Aragorn yelled, drawing the orc's attention away from a crippled man beneath him.
The leader turned, enraged by the intrusion and without a second's delay, he stabbed at his new adversary. Aragorn jumped out of the way just in time for the blade to strike the air where his right shoulder had been. Another blow fell, but this time he reached up his sword to block him. The orc was undeniably strong, and the man's arms shook slightly under the weight of the attack. A black fist came out of nowhere and slammed into the side of Aragorn's head, sending him crashing to the ground like a pound of iron.
He shook his head a few times to clear it but his vision was blurred and the world spun around him. Out of the haze he could make out the shape of a shadow before him, growing in considerable in size. Realizing the situation, he scrambled backwards in time for the orc to slam his sword into the soft earth. Picking up his own sword that lay nearby, Aragorn made his way awkwardly to his feet, barely keeping his balance. He made out the muddled picture of the orc trying to remove his heavy blade from the ground that seemed to hold it in its grasp. Taking the opportunity to end the battle quickly, Aragorn swung his sword at the shape, lopping off the angry orc's head.
Breathing hard, his strength leaving him, he fell to one knee. A hand on his shoulder startled him. Aragorn would have fallen sideways if not for that same hand holding him up. It was then that he heard a concerned voice speaking to him in soft tones.
"Strider, Strider? Can you hear me? Are you alright?" With bleary eyes, he turned to the voice and shook his head once more. He'd know that gruff tone anywhere, even in his concussed state.
"Halbarad?" he rasped. Slowly his vision cleared and he saw a smile grace his friend's face.
"Finally, the valiant one speaks." His tone was sarcastic. "What were you thinking, my reckless friend, challenging an orc twice your size? Elrond would not be happy."
Aragorn winced. Halbarad's innocent comment brought back painful memories that he had tried so hard to forget. His chest ached with the thoughts of his father, his brothers, his home, Leg…No, he wouldn't think about him. As far as he was concerned that chapter of his life was over. There was nothing left for him anymore. The past was the past and he had buried it the moment he left Rivendell.
But Aragorn knew he was lying to himself. No matter how much he tried to forget, something, anything would bring those memories to the surface. A year…One long year and still the grief had not subsided. An ever growing doubt gnawed at him; he felt something in his heart was missing-- closure perhaps or the desire to know the true fate of his friend. He tried to tell himself that Legolas was gone, that he would never see him in this life, but he didn't really know. But he also couldn't go back…not now…not after everything that happened. Aragorn sighed aloud.
"Come, my friend. It is time we return to camp so I can look at that head of yours. After all these years, you think you would know when to admit defeat."
Halbarad pulled him to his feet. Aragorn leaned heavily on his friend's shoulder, finding his legs heavy and unwilling to keep him steady. He groaned at the pain of each step that seemed to coincide with the pounding in his head. He put a hand to his temple only to notice for the first time the wet stickiness that waited there. As if the blood were a warning signal, Aragorn soon began to notice the rapid beat of his heart and the cold sweat that covered his body.
"Hal—Hal," Aragorn's voice died on his lips as he finally succumbed to the darkness. The last thought on his mind was Legolas, wishing he was still there.
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