PROMPT: #186: Madness (500 Words, as per Microsoft Word)
AUTHOR: Marethiel
CHARACTERS: Aragorn, Halbarad

DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to Tolkein. I just take `em out to play…


"Aragorn… after everything you've told me, I.. well, forgive me, my lord – "

"By the Valar, Halbarad, I've told you! Stop calling me that!"

"But… oh, very well, Cousin. From everything you've told me…" The young voice grew awkward and yet gentle. "…Well, it sounds as though... as though … "

"She doesn't feel the same way." The other young voice was bleak, and filled with a sadness and grief one would expect from someone many times his age. "Yes, I know. It changes nothing. You ask why I work from well before dawn until long after others have found their rest?" The grey eyes stabbed Halbarad deeply with their misery, cloaked in a combination of shame and dignity. "Because when I work myself to exhaustion I am granted a few moments of sleep, of forgetting that my … " He rubbed his forehead wearily. "Forgetting that I am unwelcome to court her."

Halbarad sighed, and sank down beside the fire, next to his cousin. It was so odd to think of him thus. He was Aragorn, yes, but he'd been Estel for several years now, younger mortal foster brother of the brethren Elladan and Elrohir. To have this young Elvish mortal suddenly uncloaked as their Chieftain, as Aragorn Arathorn's son, hidden away in Rivendell all these years, was unnerving. Also unnerving was the closeness Halbarad felt for this young Dunadan, as though they'd known one another all their lives.

Though a few years older, Halbarad had no experience now to draw on; never had he fallen in love at first sight. "Can you not find some joy with another maiden? One of your own – "

Aragorn growled, and lunged up to his feet, smoothly, otherworldly, as the silence surrounding the motion was more Elven than mortal. Startled, Halbarad stared at him, open-mouthed.

"In Imladris I am too mortal, too `beneath' the daughter of Elrond to consider approaching her. Here, I am too Elvish to be accepted. Do not think I'm deaf, Cousin. I hear the talk as well as you do. `Elrond's pup,' and `Elvish upstart.' "

Halbarad rose to follow his pacing kinsman. "That talk is already easing and you know it," he chided softly. He put a hand firmly on his cousin's shoulder and turned him, at first resisting, then acquiescing. "Aragorn, if you and the Evenstar are meant to be together, give it time. You are yet young. She's… well, I imagine she's learned patience over the last few thousand years," Halbarad said dryly, with a small smile.

Aragorn tried to smile in return but sighed, shaking his head. "No, Halbarad. To perform the same act over and over and over and expect something different to be its end result is naught but madness," said Aragorn bitterly, slipping his shoulder from beneath his cousin's hand, and striding away toward his grandparents' house, where he was expected for evening meal.

Halbarad gazed after him, his heart constricted. "Nay, cousin, not madness," he whispered, sadly. "Love."