They both knew it was going to happen, but they ignored it so it could never ruin the time that they did have together. What was once a taboo was now unavoidable.
Legolas kneeled beside Aragorn's low bed, holding onto one of his hands with both of his own. The once dark hair was now gray. The once tan, hard face was now wrinkled and pastel. The strong body was now weak and thin. Aragorn's previous self and current self flipped back and forth in Legolas' mind.
Aragorn slowly opened his eyes, looking at Legolas, who never left his side. Never.
"Faramir stopped by," Legolas reported after a few moments of silence, "but I didn't want to wake you."
"Of course you didn't," Aragorn laughed quietly. "Oh, how I love waking up to you and your lovely face."
"It's why I'm here," Legolas whispered, noticing how much frailer the king's voice was compared to how powerful it once was.
Aragorn closed his eyes again and took a deep, shaky breath. He felt death nearing, he had for weeks. It was only time that could tell him when, but he knew it'd be soon. He always figured that the body and brain communication on when to shut down could be caught sometimes by consciousness. He was right.
"What will I do without you?" Legolas asked himself, sniffing as tears formed in his eyes.
He asked that question every time Aragorn shut his eyes because he wondered when those eyes wouldn't open again.
Aragorn rubbed Legolas' fingers, saying, "Whatever it is you want to do with no guilt. That's what."
"Yeah right," Legolas said with a laugh, looking down at his hands that held the bony fingers and bumpy knuckles.
"You have my heart and my blessing."
Legolas finally choked out a sob, pressing his face to the bed. This is what he'd been dreading ever since he fell in love with Aragorn. Now that it was right in front of him, he couldn't take it. How could humans do this multiple times in their life? How could they go through this heart wrenching pain?
"Oh, Legolas, you'll be fine. You're my life and as long as you're alive, so will I."
"But you're my life," Legolas countered, lifting his head up with tears trailing down his cheeks, "so if you die, so will I."
Aragorn smiled to himself and looked into Legolas' distraught eyes. "Remember when we first met?"
Legolas gave another laugh and wiped his cheek against his shoulder. "You were so young and…full of filth."
Aragorn smiled wider. He had just returned from a ranger assignment, in his mid-forties, and hadn't cleaned himself or his clothes in half a year. He walked into Elrond's library, not expecting to see Mirkwood's royalty sitting with his father, all proper and clean. Legolas was very obviously appalled, but King Thranduil, mildly tipsy, was humored. Elrond, not affected either way, greeted his son and promptly sent him to shower, promising they could catch up afterwards. He felt ashamed about himself due to Legolas' response, but later that day at dinner, when he began to tell stories of his travel, Legolas appeared genuinely interested. They bonded from then on.
"Now here I am, having given my heart away to that man," Legolas sadly continued, his throat tensing up as he felt another sob coming.
Aragorn summoned Legolas to move closer to his face. When the elf was close enough for Aragorn's free fingers to stop motioning, they played with the blonde hair with concentrated fascination. The elf's hair always gave him comfort from everything. It was soft and free, just like it's owner, and being able to physically touch that softness and freedom brought him bliss.
"Remember our first kiss?"
Legolas rolled his eyes as his tears began to dry. "What's with all this remembering?"
"I was messy and awkward and bad…it was just perfect."
He was exactly right. Their first kiss had been right after the Fellowship broke up and when they began their hunt for Merry and Pippin. Gimli had fallen asleep as Legolas started a fire and before supper had been made. The two decided not to wake him, since depriving him of sleep was just as bad as depriving him of food or ale. They toasted lembas bread over the fire and cooked leftover meat from two days previous for sandwiches. They made three extra in case Gimli woke up in the middle of the night. After they ate in silence, Aragorn eyed Legolas until the elf turned to him curiously. Aragorn kissed Legolas quickly, too quickly to get him on the lips fully. Legolas only smiled, letting a blushing Aragorn try again. And again. And again. Legolas spoke his name in attempt to calm any nerves and when Aragorn kissed Legolas for the last time that night, it was hard and three-quarters on his lips.
Legolas rose an eyebrow, then let it fall as Aragorn lifted his head to kiss him softly. It didn't last long, since Aragorn couldn't keep his head up, making him frown as he rested it back on the pillow. Legolas' gut twisted and he moved his face over Aragorn's, kissing him again.
"You kiss like you always have. Except for the first one," Legolas said against Aragorn's lips, looking him directly in the eyes. "And I'll love you like I always have. From day one. Forever."
Aragorn shut his eyes with a small smile, hand falling from Legolas' hair and onto the bed. Slowly, his smile fell. Legolas held his breath, holding Aragorn's hand tighter, and didn't feel nor hear air coming from his nose or mouth. Sitting upright slowly, he looked at Aragorn's chest for movement. There was none.
When no reply or motion came, Legolas put a hand on Aragorn's faintly warm cheek. Tears cascaded down his face as he kept his wide eyes on Aragorn. Stroking his cheek a few times and kissing him one final time, Legolas stood up.
Walking out of the room in a trance, he went down the hall without looking at anyone. He made his way to one of the smaller, informal guest rooms and locked the door behind him. He went over to the small window across the room and shut the curtains so he was in complete darkness. Sitting on the floor and then lying down, he closed his eyes as he felt his heart shatter. He had experienced loneliness before, but never like this. He felt abandoned, hopeless, and dark with any light that could've been at the end of the tunnel being exterminated.
A guard outside the room was about to check in on him, but Faramir, the newly appointed king from Aragorn's death, stopped him.
"Leave him," Faramir softly commanded. "But know that when I do send you in there, he won't be breathing."
The guard's eyes widened at the new king, then at the closed door.
Legolas never thought about dying, not even for one second, but it wasn't what he expected if he were ever to think about it. He grew cold and immobile. His brain felt like the tremor right before a volcano erupts. His body, putting to life those shakes, caused him to convulse violently and hit his head against the hard floor many times. His mind was going through each and every single memory he had of Aragorn, almost as if it was taunting him. His brain pounded in frustration, realizing that he'd never have another memory with him.
"Aragorn!" he screamed in anger, the guard outside the door looking nervously at Faramir, who had his head down and hands folded.
Legolas growled and his eyes shot open, pupils enlarged and pitch black, his hands forming fists at his sides. His breathing picked up, turning to grunts that got louder and louder. His whole life was being presented in front of him as if he had watched himself grow up his entire life and wasn't actually living it.
From when he was a child and pretended he was king, telling trees and birds to follow his orders. When he was a little older and began archery, compulsively practicing day into night, day into night. When he was a young adult and could finally attend dinner banquets as well as travel with his father. When he got yelled at for even mentioning being king and being told that it would never happen because he, his father, would never die, ever. When he first met Aragorn at Rivendell and thought there was no hope for the boy. When he competed in an archery competition and came in first place. When he had his first kiss ever with Palida just before she sailed to the undying lands. When the ring came up again and took over his life, which was when Aragorn was in it that much more.
His chest tensed as time with Aragorn trickled so much faster than the rest of his life. He hadn't had much time with Aragorn. He wanted more. He wanted forever.
Suddenly, everything stopped.
The darkness switched to white as quick as pushing open a curtain. He felt blinded until the light softened and took shape. Trees and a field he didn't recognize added green to the white little by little, like a painting, until all the white was gone with the addition of the blue sky and the sound of horses in the distance. It was perfect, all different types of trees, grass both tall and short, the sun perfectly tucked away behind the forest that surrounded him. But it wasn't perfect.
Until he saw him.
Aragorn walked to Legolas from distant trees, crossing the field. He looked half the age of when he passed, a little younger than the start of the fellowship but older than the first time they met. Legolas, although he didn't know it, appeared much younger than Aragorn did, all rough edges completely gone and the softness of a growing young man. It was a Legolas that Aragorn had never seen and he admired it as he slowly approached.
Legolas hugged Aragorn, the man hugging back and touching the hair that was not as light and shorter than he was used to.
"I waited for you," Aragorn said, kissing Legolas, "and now we have a real forever."
Feeling like it'd been decades and decades, which it may had, Legolas didn't let Aragorn go as they lied on the grass together, grips tight and bodies inseparable. They didn't speak, their thoughts too overwhelmed with the idea of eternity and never being apart.
"How long have you waited?" Legolas asked hours later as the sun disappeared and stars took it's place.
"A year. A slow, painful year of watching over you and what was happening." Aragorn's eyes glazed over and his stomach turned. "You went through so much torture to get here while I went through nothing. And knowing that I was the reason for it…made me both happy and sad."
Legolas slowly licked his lips, grabbing the front of Aragorn's shirt tightly when his insides felt suddenly empty. "Are you upset with me?"
Aragorn looked at Legolas in shock, shaking his head and saying, "Never. You had a choice." Legolas didn't seem convinced. "You're my life. My love. With you here, everything is right."
"And…what if I wasn't here?" Legolas slowly asked. "What if I had chosen not to?"
Aragorn chuckled and rubbed his thumb across Legolas' unflawed, untouched face. The face that was before the evil and their love.
"You would have. I may have tried to let you know that living onward without me was possible, but you had your mind made up. Besides, I have your heart and it's no good without mine, so it was your fate to be here."
Any doubt Legolas had was gone and was replaced with excitement. He had done it. He had joined Aragorn so they could continue their lives together just as they had in Middle Earth, but now, it was neverending. No more death and no more evil. Just the love they had for each other.
"Oh, my love," Aragorn mumbled against Legolas' hair as the elf snuggled closer to him.