DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to the fantasy god, J.R.R. Tolkein. I'm just borrowing them for a little bit!

Author's Note: I have seen the movie, and I have only read the first book so far, so this might contradict the canon a little bit. In places where the movie contradict the book, I have gone with the book (of course). This is my first LOTR fic, so please be kind and r/r.

This may seem a little confusing. The main part of the story takes place right after the Fellowship has been formed. In between are flashbacks from many years before that I used to show what they are thinking about as they are talking to each other.

Lovers and Friends

Arwen ran swiftly along the path to the small balcony. "Is it true?" she asked.

Legolas turned slowly, ripping his gaze from the beauty of Rivendell to look upon a different sort of beauty. He did not even need to bother to ask the source of her concern. There was only one thing on everyone's mind now. "Yes," he said simply.

"Then you are going to aid Frodo in destroying the ring. Legolas, how could you? Why must you submit yourself to such danger?"

"Is Aragorn being subjected to this interrogation, I wonder?" Legolas challenged. "I doubt it. You will respect his decision. Why can you not respect mine?"

"The fate of this ring is important to him," Arwen countered. "It means nothing more to you than to anyone else. Why should you risk your life for its destruction?"

Legolas returned his gaze to the gentle valley. "You would not understand."

"What would I not understand? Legolas, we have been friends for a long time. I hope that you feel that you can talk to me."

He looked back at her, and there was something new in his eyes now, a kind of challenge. "Friends?" he echoed. "Are we friends, Arwen?"

She flinched away from his bold, accusatory look. "Of course we are, Legolas."

"And what about Aragorn? Is he also your *friend*? Or does he win the honor of being something more to you, of winning a special place in your heart?"

"How can you act this way?" Arwen demanded. "You act as though I am to blame for falling in love with him."

Legolas sighed. "Please do not misunderstand me, Arwen," he said, his tone more gentle. "Aragorn is my friend, and I think very highly of him. Also do not doubt that I value your friendship highly." A wry smile tugged at his lips. "But can you really blame me for being a bit...envious?"

His smile, though devoid of all but the most cynical amusement, brought a similar one to her lips. She could still remember the first time she had seen him, the first time she had watched that smile creep across his face.



Arwen looked up angrily. She had recently returned to Rivendell from Lorien to visit her father, and she had taken the opportunity to walk through the woods of her childhood. Unfortunately, her solitude was disrupted when an acorn hit her on the head. At first she had dismissed the incident as pure accident, but the second and third acorns assured her that this was intentional.

Peering up into the trees, Arwen could make out the faint outline of an elf. "Who is doing this? Stop it at once."

Another acorn hit her, this time on her upturned forehead.

"Stop it! Who are you?"

A pale face suddenly came into view among the leaves. "Who are you?" he demanded good-naturedly.

"I am Arwen Undómiel, daughter of Lord Elrond."

The stranger jumped lightly down from the branches and landed nearly noiselessly on the forest floor. "It is an honor to meet you," he said with mock formality. "I am Legolas, son of Thranduil of Northern Mirkwood."

Imitating his formal manner, she said, "It is an honor to meet you as well. I have heard much about you from my father." So this was the strange elf her father had mentioned. No matter what the official reason for his visit was, everyone knew that Thranduil had simply sought the easiest way to get rid of his son for a while. Legolas was often referred to as "the strange one," and Arwen was curious as to what he had done to earn this reputation.

Legolas seemed to hear all of these thoughts in her remarks, and a smile spread across his face. It did not seem like a particularly happy smile; on the contrary, his expression was slightly ironic, as though her remarks both amused and upset him.

"Really? What have you heard?" he asked, dropping his overly formal façade.

She shrugged innocently. "Just that you are visiting from Mirkwood--" she fought the small smile that tugged at the corners of her lips "--to further relations between our peoples."

"Quoting your father...and mine as well," he observed. "Come now, you must have heard more interesting things about me than that. I was under the impression that I had something of a reputation."

"Perhaps you do. I only arrived here recently," she told him. "I have not had much time to become reacquainted with Rivendell gossip."

His strange smile widened. "Lucky for me." Noticing her inquisitive expression, he added, "You will be able to get to know me without knowing what 'everyone else says' first."

"What do they say about you?" Arwen's curiosity had only increased by his disarming manner and strange smile. She had already forgotten to be angry with him about the acorns. Instead she was focused on getting to know him. He was a mystery, keeping himself hidden beneath many layers.

"First you must answer my question. What did your father say to you about me?"

"Not much. Simply that you are considered by many to be somewhat...strange."

His smile remained, although Arwen thought that it looked just the tiniest bit forced. "Ah yes, 'the strange one.' That is a very commonly held opinion." He paused for a moment. "Now, about your question..." Again, he paused, seeming to consider how much he should reveal to her. "I am viewed as being strange by everyone, including my father." He raised an eyebrow. "I suppose you have heard that my father sent me here so that I could be someone else's problem for a while."

"I might have heard that," she admitted.

"Well it is true," he said. He smiled wider, but the pain in his eyes betrayed him. "My father was quite eager to make me someone else's responsibility."

"Legolas..." Arwen felt at a loss for words. "I am sorry." The moment the words left her mouth, she could not believe how inadequate they were. "I..."

"It does not matter," he said casually. "It is none of your concern."

"Perhaps not, but I'm sure your father didn't want to get rid of you, Legolas. What could you have possibly done to deserve that?"

"Plenty of things. I do not wish to bore you with a recitation of my crimes, but suffice it to say it general opinion is that I am a bit 'strange.'"

His manner made her uncomfortable, not only because he seemed almost to be accusing her of something, but also because behind his flippant remarks, she saw that pain marred his soul. "Would you like to go down to the river with me?"


The invitation clearly startled him. Truthfully, she was not sure what had brought her to ask him that, although the strange, forced, cheery attitude was gone. Instead his face seemed more open and calmer, no longer straining to cover up the emotion that his father caused him.

"I have always enjoyed visiting the river," she explained. "I find it very calming. I was about to go there, and I would like it if you would join me."

"I have not had much of a chance to explore Rivendell yet," Legolas admitted.

"Well then, I insist that you let me show you around."

He smiled again, this time a truly happy one. "I would like that, Arwen."

Together the two elves made their way through the thick woods of Rivendell. Arwen marveled at how quickly she had become fond of Legolas. Only a moment before, he had been pelting her with acorns. And yet now she was about to introduce him to her favorite place in Rivendell, a place that she had kept secret from everyone else. She was not sure what it was about him that made her trust him instantly. All she knew was that she hoped that he could one day feel the same way about her. She hoped that she could pierce the guarded personality he initially showed people. Something about Legolas drew her to him immediately, and she knew at once that she would cherish his friendship forever.


"I would have hoped that we could have gotten past this, Legolas," Arwen commented.

"Past what?"

"You know what I mean. You hide who you are from everyone beneath your quick, witty comments."

"If I do this to 'everyone,' what should make you exempt?"

"We are friends, Legolas. I hope that you trust me as completely as I trust you."

He shrugged. "Perhaps this is simply who I am--an erratic...*strange* elf."

"There is more to you than what they say," Arwen countered. "You should not let other people's opinion of you limit who you are."

"Other people's opinion of me?" His smile mocked her. "I was under the impression that you had succumbed to the general consensus."



The flush of new love filled Arwen with a euphoric feeling. She could never have dreamed how intense true love really was. She felt this way every time she saw him, every moment he was near.

She turned to look at Aragorn. They were walking by the river. He was only the second person with whom she had shared this beautiful, secluded scenery, the other person being Legolas, an elf prince of Mirkwood who was visiting Rivendell.

"Come. We are almost there," she said, smiling.

"I am glad. I cannot wait to see this place you have told me so much about."

"It is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. No matter how far I go, this place always calls me home."

They passed through a thick clump of bushes and trees, and suddenly they were upon a beautiful sparsely wooded field. To the left, the river flowed swiftly, wetting the rocks below with its icy spray.

She heard Aragorn gasp in awe, and she was reminded of Legolas' reaction to this place. He too had been spellbound by its beauty.

"It's like being in a dream," he murmured. "Thank you for sharing this place with me."

"It is my pleasure," she smiled. "I am glad to share it with those for whom I care."

"Oh, then I am not the only young man you have led to this beautiful place?" Aragorn asked, his normally serious manner replaced by a teasing smile.

"Perhaps," she said innocently, smiling at his mock look of shock.

"Really? Who else have you taken here to...seduce?"

Arwen laughed. "Is that why you think I brought you here?"

"The thought did cross my mind..."

"Aragorn!" She laughed and was rewarded with a rare smile.

"Well...?" he asked.

"Well what?"

"Who else was there?"

"He is just a friend," she said, faking indignation.

"Oh? Who is this 'friend?'"

Forcing herself to sound solemn, she answered, "Prince Legolas, son of Thranduil, King of Mirkwood."

Aragorn raised his eyebrows. "A prince of Mirkwood? What is he doing so far from home?"

Aragorn was definitely amused. Arwen loved to see him smiling, and she did her best to maintain his youthful happiness. "Do you want the official reason or the real one?"

Aragorn no longer even bothered to try to hide his broad grin. "Both please."

"Well, officially he is here 'to further relations between our peoples.'"

"And unofficially...?"

She lowered her voice as though about to share a deep secret or a particularly intriguing piece of gossip. "Legolas is a little *strange*."

"Strange?" Aragorn echoed. "Strange how?"

"I don't know exactly," she admitted. "He never liked to talk about his life in Mirkwood."

"But..." he prompted.

"But I did here plenty from everyone else. Apparently he's...well, it's a bit hard to put into words. Legolas is...moody, unpredictable, a little wild, immature..."

"Such cardinal sins," Aragorn laughed.

"It's true!" she said. "He doesn't act like any other elf I've ever met. He's too erratic. He acts almost like a Man."

He laughed even harder. "I think I should be insulted by that!"

Arwen started to answer, but she heard a noise. Startled, she watched a figure leap down from a nearby tree, land almost noiselessly on the ground, and run deeper into the forest. With a sinking feeling, Arwen realized that it was Legolas.

She broke away from Aragorn and ran after him. She knew that he must be extremely upset with her, and she wanted to explain. She hadn't meant to hurt him, but she had long ago learned how much other people's opinion of him mattered to him. She had learned that his apathy was just a show, and that he longed for the approval of others, especially his father. She knew very little about Thranduil, but her father referred to him as a 'drunken fool.' Despite her father's scorn of Thranduil, however, he, like most of the elves of Rivendell, remained wary of Legolas.

When she found him, he was sitting on the ground, leaning against the large tree. He was holding his bow and was concentrating on shooting leaves as they drifted down from the tops of the trees. Legolas was a skilled archer, even for an elf, and he spent long hours practicing his aim.

"Legolas! I've been looking everywhere for you."

He shrugged. "You found me." His voice was carefully neutral.

"Legolas, please let me explain..."

"There's nothing to explain," he interrupted. "I understand perfectly."

"No, you don't, I didn't mean it, Legolas..."

"Really." He turned to look at her, and for a moment, Arwen saw in his eyes a shadow of pain and betrayal. "So you don't really think that I'm strange, moody, unpredictable, wild, immature..."

"Legolas..." she pleaded.

"...or perhaps you do," he continued. "Perhaps you have been lying to me all this time. Perhaps you have only been pretending to be my friend."


"Perhaps you, like everyone else, automatically sees the worst in me. I hate that word: *everyone*. I had hoped that you were different, that you did not judge people by what *everyone* said. But I see now that I was wrong. You are nothing more than a part of *everyone*." He began to mock her. "*Everyone* thinks that Legolas is strange. *Everyone* says that Legolas is very wild. *Everyone* knows that Legolas is only here because his own father could not stand to have him around."


"What?!" he snapped.

Arwen was somewhat shocked, but she plunged ahead. "I did not mean to hurt you. I should not have said those things about you, but I assure you that I meant no harm."

Another flicker of pain appeared in his eyes. "I trusted you, Arwen," he whispered. "I thought you were different."

"Legolas..." Arwen was at a complete loss for words. All she could do was repeat his name over and over, hoping for forgiveness. "What were you doing there anyway?" she asked, blurting out the first thing that came to mind.

From the flash in his eyes, it was the wrong thing to say. "I went to be alone," he answered testily. "I wanted time to think. When I saw you and Aragorn, I assumed that you two wanted privacy and climbed up a tree in order to avoid an awkward meeting. I had not intention of spying on you, if that's what you think."

"That wasn't what I meant," Arwen protested, although Legolas' smirk clearly showed his disbelief.

"Well, as much as I have enjoyed this talk, I must be going," Legolas said with exaggerated formality. He stood up, gathered his bow and arrows, and ran off.

"Legolas!" Arwen called. "Legolas, please...I'm sorry. Legolas, where are you going?"

But there was no answer.


"That was a long time ago," Arwen said. "And I've tried to apologize many times. Whether you believe me or not, I am very sorry for what I said. I never meant to hurt you."

"I know you didn't," Legolas said slowly. "But that does not make this any less difficult for me. I love you, Arwen."

"Legolas, I'm sorry..."

"I know that you can never love me the way that I love you," Legolas interrupted her. "I know that you love Aragorn."

Something in his voice prompted her to ask, "Why do you hate Aragorn so much?"

"What makes you think that I hate him?"

"Whenever you speak of him, it is with so much resentment."

"How can I not be jealous of him, at least a little bit? He has something that I will never have: your heart. And perhaps I should hate him for that." A ghost of a smile passed over Legolas' face. "But no," he said gently, "I don't hate Aragorn."


The brown table was cool and rough against his cheek. He could barely smell the subtle scent of the wood behind the more pungent odors that filled the air: smoke, sweat, and ale. He briefly opened his eyes, winced, and shut them again. In the dark solitude behind his eyelids, the room no longer spun and swam, although his head continued to throb in protest of the last few days' activities.

He had no way of knowing how long he had laid here like that. Time had no meaning anymore; minutes ran into hours and hours ran into days until he no longer even cared how long he had been here. In his ale-induced stupor, all feeling receded into an amorphous fog. There was no more pain or anger or sadness. Only the dull pounding of his head linked him with the physical world, and even that was beginning to fade.

He sat up abruptly, stared at the contents of his cup, and downed them in one gulp. The first taste had left him red-faced and sputtering to the amusement of the other patrons, but the sharp taste of the alcohol had long ago faded away along with the rest of the world. He gazed at the empty cup for a while, his eyes barely able to focus on the object. It seemed to bend and swirl before his eyes, and he quickly shut them once more. His head dropped onto the table with a thud, but the alcohol insulated his mind from the sound and pain.

Time once more seemed to expand and slow. He listened to the dull thumping of his heart and his slow, rhythmic breathing. All else faded into nothingness. In some corner of his mind, he was aware of the passage of time. The light in the common-room changed subtlely, and heavy footsteps marked the coming and going of travelers. But all of that seemed like a dream. The only real things that existed to him anymore were the table beneath him and his persistent headache.

His peaceful oblivion was interrupted abruptly as he felt himself jerked upwards by the back of his tunic.


He focused bleary eyes on the speaker. It took his confused mind a moment to realize who it was. "Aragorn."

He felt Aragorn lift him to his feet. "Come on, it's time to get you out of here."

Legolas shook Aragorn off of him violently. "No. Just leave me alone."

"Legolas, you're sick and weak," Aragorn said patiently.

"Don't bother yourself with my welfare. I'm fine."

"Is there a problem here?" a short, fat man bustled over to them. Legolas vaguely recognized him as the owner of the Prancing Pony, Butterbur.

"No problem," Aragorn answered quickly. "My friend and I were just about to retire to our rooms."

"Ah, is he a friend of yours? Well then, perhaps I should be talking to you about this, not him, he doesn't seem to be in any condition for discussion." He glanced briefly at Legolas, who was once more slumped over with his head on the table. "He arrived here a week ago and hasn't left that table since. All he's been doing is drinking, morning and night. I was never able to discuss this with him since he was always so drunk, but...well...there is the matter of his bill..."

Aragorn thrust some money into the man's hand. "I expect that this will cover it."

The man quickly counted the money and stuffed it into his pocket. "Aye, sir, thank you very much. Will you be needing anything else?"

"No, not tonight."

Aragorn waited until the man had left before once again hauling Legolas to his feet. "Come on."

Legolas struggled against Aragorn's grasp, but this time Aragorn kept his hand locked around Legolas' arm. "Let go of me."

Aragorn ignored him and began to lead him upstairs. "Stop struggling; you're making a scene," he muttered. He did not let go until they were both upstairs in his room. He shut and locked the door. "Lie down and rest," he told Legolas.

Legolas tried to be defiant, but the floor shifted under his feet. He stumbled over towards the bed and collapsed onto it. Closing his eyes, he sunk into blissful oblivion once more.

When he finally woke up, he instantly wished that he hadn't. The dull throb in his head was now a splitting headache. A thin stream of daylight poured in through the curtains, and Legolas felt sharp pains in his eyes. He rubbed them and the world slowly fell into focus.

He was sitting in bed in an unfamiliar room. Legolas vaguely recalled that he was in the Prancing Pony in the town of Bree. In a chair by the fire sat Aragorn. His presence startled Legolas until he managed to remember being dragged upstairs by Aragorn.

"Good. You're awake." Aragorn motioned towards a bowl of some sort of hot cereal on the table. "Hungry?"

Legolas nodded slowly. His mouth was unbearably dry. "Yes," he mumbled.

"Here." Aragorn handed him the breakfast along with a glass of water. "Eat up. You need your strength."

Legolas slowly ate. The food and water revived him. He had not realized how hungry he was until he had begun to eat. He wondered how long he had been asleep. "What happened?" he asked in between spoonfuls.

"You've been asleep for over a day. Before then Butterbur tells me that you had been drinking ale for a week straight." Aragorn paused, smiling a little. "I've never known an elf to drink ale before. I imagine that it was far more potent than anything you had drunk in Mirkwood."

"Well, the elves back home should be pleased," Legolas remarked with forced humor. "They now have even more to add to my reputation."

"Arwen mentioned something about that...the 'strange' one?"

"That seems to be the general agreement."

"I did not quite understand what she meant by that, however."

Legolas shrugged. "Most consider me moody and unpredictable. It was said more than once that I would probably wind up drunk with dwarves." He forced a wry smile. "It appears that they were correct. As I recall, there were a number of dwarves downstairs. I am sure that they will be quite happy to learn that their prediction has come true."

"It must be difficult to live with that reputation," Aragorn noted.

Legolas shrugged. "I'm used to it," he responded casually. "People have been saying it almost my whole life."

"It still must be difficult to know that is the way others see you." There was no mocking or sarcasm in Aragorn's voice, only calm empathy.

"Yes," Legolas said quietly after a moment, "yes, it's very hard."

"Well," Aragorn asked after they had both eaten more of their breakfast, "what do you plan on doing?"

"I can't go back to Rivendell," Legolas said. "I can't go back there and face Arwen. I suppose I'll have to go home to Mirkwood."

Aragorn did not attempt to argue with him. Instead, he offered, "I will go with you if you like."

Legolas was surprised by Aragorn's response. "Thank you. I would appreciate that." He tried to stand up, but his legs refused to support him, and he fell backwards onto the bed.

Aragorn laughed a little. "You may be immortal, but even elves need food. You haven't eaten in a week. We'll get some food into you and then be off."

"Why are you being so kind to me?" Legolas asked. He was not used to people acting this way towards him. Most whom he met had heard of his reputation and regarded him with some combination of suspicion and curiosity. Never before had anyone simply given him kindness.

"Because I would like to know you better. I hope that we can become friends," Aragorn answered simply.

Legolas smiled, not one of his practiced, forced smiles, but a true smile. "I would like that." Before he had been ready to hate Aragorn because of Arwen's love for him. But Aragorn's kindness and offer of friendship were a welcome change from his usual treatment. Legolas knew that he would be proud to be Aragorn's friend.


"I look up to Aragorn. I consider him to be a friend, and I trust him competely."

"What about me?" Arwen asked.

There was a pause. "I consider you to be my friend as well, Arwen," Legolas said.

"Then please listen to me. As your friend, I am asking you not to go on this quest."

"I have to go." There was no hidden meaning in his words, only quiet determination.

"Why are you so willing to risk your life for this, Legolas?" Arwen asked in frustration.

Legolas paused before answering. Arwen could tell that he was seriously considering her question.

"I am not sure," he answered slowly. "Perhaps I need to do it to prove to everyone that there is more to me than they think. Ever since I was a child, I have had to live with the disapproval of everyone I know. I never really understood why, except that something about me made me different. It is hard to grow up that way, with everyone always expecting the worst from you. When I left Rivendell and got drunk in Bree, I fulfilled the only expectations that anyone held for me. No one has ever expected more than that from me. Perhaps I need to prove them wrong."

"Legolas, you are a much better person than they are. You should not let their disapproval control your actions."

"It is easy for you to say that, Arwen," he replied gently. "You have never experienced that. But it is more than that. My father is like everyone else in that he expects nothing from me. And yes," he continued, anticipating her reply, "I know that your father thinks that he is a drunken fool. And your father is correct. But no matter what he does, he is still my father. I long ago gave up waiting for his approval, but I can never stop hoping for it. Perhaps I need to do this to prove my worth to my father."

Arwen paused before answering. "I know that this will probably not change anything, but know that I think very highly of you, Legolas. You are a good person, and I am glad that you are my friend. I understand that you want your father's approval, but you are worth so much more than he is."

Legolas turned his gaze to the valley of Rivendell once more. "Then perhaps I am doing this for myself," he said simply. "Perhaps I need to prove to myself that I am worth something."

Arwen nodded slowly. "Then you are going with the ring..."

Legolas turned towards her. "Please do not leave things between us like this. I would like to have your blessing for my decision."

"You have it. Only..."

"Only what?" Legolas prompted.

"Legolas, be careful. Please come back, for everyone's sake."

"I do not care enough for the general public to return for their sake, nor do I suspect they care whether I live or die. But I will be careful for yours."

Arwen leaned forward and kissed him gently on the forehead.

"And," he added, "I promise that Aragorn will return to you. I will make sure of it."

"Thank you." She smiled, and Legolas knew that her words were for more than his promise. Her words spoke of years of friendship, caring, and love.

Arwen watched silently as he gathered his things and bounded down the steps to meet the others. His step was light, but his straight back and determined gaze spoke of the gravity of his mission. In a moment he had turned a corner and disappeared into the shadows of the dawn.