A/N: I'm so so so so soooooo sorrryyyyy that I am updating this sooooo late! To be completely honest, I got so caught up in school work, and then once I had free time, I had totally lost my muse for this story -_- But I promised you guys to never leave a story unfinished – and fulfil that promise I shall. This is the final chapter folks. I hope you are pleased with this chapter (I wrote this fairly quickly, so I hope the editing isn't horrible). Okay I shall stop rambling now. Let the end begin! ;)
Chapter 4 – Home Is To Stay
King Thranduil sat straight and tall in his throne, taking small sips of his wine as his eyes travelled over the hall. He smiled, the guests appeared to be carefree and enjoying the feast. Some were still finishing their meal, whilst others laughed and talked; glad to be relieved of the burden the darkness of Sauron had cast over their kingdom. The king's smile grew wider as his gaze swept over Lindariel and Arandur, who were conversing quietly with their four cousins. Thranduil saw Lasneth standing towards the back of the hall with his fellow warriors, who were all chuckling at a joke the hobbits were telling them. The king continued to search the hall for his older son, and finally found him sitting on a bench outside with Aragorn and Gimli, his nephew, nieces and other elflings of the kingdom sitting at his feet as the prince made wild gestures of a pulling a bow and arrow. The king shook his head. Legolas tells little ones what happened in The War of the Ring before his own family can find out! he thought, pursing his lips. Thranduil glanced at Gandalf beside him and nodded his head at the musicians, signalling them to begin, and one by one, elves poured into the centre of the room to dance.
The blur of colours of dresses and cloaks swirled before the king's vision as his guests danced. Blinking rapidly, he titled his head back, only to discover that his glass was empty once more. Sighing, he reached forward to the bottle of wine located at the centre of his table and began to pour himself another glass. Thranduil gave a sudden yelp as his head was abruptly tilted back with a firm yank on his golden locks. Glowering, the king spun in his seat, only to come face to face with a grinning baby elf.
Lalaith laughed and adjusted Estellan in her arms, gently prying his small chubby hands from his grandfather's hair. The king's glare melted almost instantly and he readjusted himself in his seat. Lalaith passed the baby elf into Thranduil's arms and took a seat beside the king after warmly greeting Gandalf.
"Why are you not dancing, Ada?" she asked, narrowing her eyes as the king took another gulp of his drink. Lalaith snatched the glass away from the king and placed it on the table, scowling at the king as if her were a child. Thranduil grumbled as his daughter-in-law chided him: "I will not allow you to become drunk on this eve, my lord."
Thranduil sighed and shook his head, grimacing once again as the baby in his lap proceeded to grab another handful of his hair. Estellan's blue eyes twinkled as he gurgled, humoured by the expression of pain on the older elf's face. Before Thranduil could protest, the baby stuffed his fist in his mouth, along with the hair he was grasping. "Ai!" the king cried, sighing when seeing the bright smile on the baby's face. Lalaith laughed beside him.
"You spoil them all too much, Ada." Thranduil shrugged sheepishly at her and continued to bounce Estellan on his knee.
"Seeing that my brother has abandoned you, would you like a dance, my lady?" Lasneth bowed and grinned at Lalaith, arm outstretched. The princess smiled and took the younger prince's arm, allowing him to lead her out to the dance floor. The music had increased in tempo now, and all the elves were circling rapidly around each other, their merry laughter echoing into the night. Thranduil patted the short blonde hair sticking up off his grandson's head and lifted the baby to his feet. Estellan clapped and gurgled happily at the change of view, and grasped the sleeve of the king's robe, chewing on it. Thranduil chuckled helplessly and kissed the elfling on the cheek as he watched the elves of Eryn Lasgalen in their merrymaking, his eyes glazing over slightly.
The king was interrupted from his reverie by the shrill cry that suddenly erupted from the elfling in his arms. Thranduil rocked the elfling slowly, but to no avail. He shifted the babe to rest against his shoulder and patted his back soothingly, but Estellan continued to wail. Gandalf laughed beside him as Thranduil groaned as he stood from his chair, wrapping his arms tightly around the elfling, whilst trying to maintain as much distance as possible between the baby and his sensitive ears. In a few quick strides, Thranduil walked through the archway outside where Legolas and his friends were sitting. Upon seeing the distress on Estellan's face, the prince immediately stopped bickering with Gimli and took the elfling from his father's grasp, bouncing the child lightly. Estellan paused his crying and stared wide-eyed up at his father before bursting into tears again.
"Allow me," Aragorn said calmly as he took the infant gently into his arms. Estellan gripped the edge of the Evenstar necklace around the man's neck tightly and continued to shriek. Thranduil, Legolas and Aragorn shared a confused and helpless look. Formidable warriors they definitely were, but they were mere amateurs at handling distressed children. Gimli shifted uneasily on his feet and glanced down apprehensively at the elven children, who had begun their own chasing game and were darting about excitedly. The dwarf cleared his throat and raised his eyes timidly up at his friends.
"I.. I could give it a try... if you would like..." Gimli stuttered, shifting his weight side to side. With a feeble shrug, Aragorn deposited the crying infant into the dwarf's arms. Estellan continued to wail and flap his arms, until his tiny fist came into contact with Gimli's long, thick beard. The elfling's cries gradually subsided and he sniffled as he reached for the hairy mass hanging before him.
The two elves and man merely stared in shock at the dwarf.
"I'm... I don't know anythin'... how?" Gimli muttered in disbelief at the now quiet baby in his grasp. Estellan glanced curiously up at the dwarf, before laughing in delight. "No, laddie! Not the beard!" Gimli cried as his beard was given a sharp, firm tug. "Just like his father." He continued to grumble. "Always goin' for the beard."
Thranduil gave a half-laugh, half-sigh of relief and led Legolas, Aragorn and Gimli back into the hall. The dancing was under full fire now, and the sound of clapping and laughter of the many elves in attendance echoed across the hall. A few candles had been extinguished to provide a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere, which accentuated the large shadows that danced across the walls. Legolas smiled as he saw Miriel dancing with Gandalf in the distance, the pair laughing gaily as they twirled across the floor. He then spotted Lalaith emerging from the crowd of dancers. She smiled fondly down at Gimli, who still held Estellan in his arms and was blushing terribly.
"Where is Lasneth?" Thranduil asked, searching the crowd.
"He was dancing with Lindariel before," Lalaith began, trying to regain her breath. "But I think he is dancing with another elleth now." Lalaith winked and flung an arm over Aragorn's shoulder. "You, my lord," she addressed mockingly. "Have not yet danced."
Aragorn chuckled and inclined his head towards Legolas next to him. "What about this poor, lonely elf standing here? He's been telling stories all evening."
Lalaith turned her nose in the air and feigned annoyance at the prince standing behind her, grinning. "He will have his turn later! Come now, Estel, do not be so fussy." Aragorn shook his head and allowed the princess to lead him into the crowd. Thranduil had taken Lindariel to dance, leaving Legolas and Gimli seated at the royal table by themselves.
"Argh! Don't pull so hard, you crazy elfling!" Gimli grumbled as he attempted and failed to disentangle Estellan's fist from his beard. He turned sharply to face his friend. "Aren't you going to be of any help here, you pointy-ear princeling! He's your son, why don't you let him pull your hair, eh?"
Legolas grimaced and leaned back in his chair. "He is obviously very fond of you Gimli," he said, smiling tenderly down at the infant. "For some wild reason, you keep him from crying. For that, I both thank you and beg you to keep him in your company for a while longer!"
Gimli harrumphed and mumbled something about "prissy elves and their arrogant heads," but could not refrain himself from giving the baby prince in his lap a soft grin. Legolas could not help but laugh loudly at the gentle expression on the face of his stout and tough friend, causing the dwarf's face to turn a vibrant shade of red.
Lalaith emerged once more from the crowd and collapsed into a chair beside Legolas. The prince poured her a drink and she smiled in thanks as she took it from his hands, slowly sipping the liquid. She sighed and rested her back against her chair comfortably and blinked slowly. Legolas flung an arm over her shoulders. "Have a break now, meleth (love)," he said gently. "We have yet to rise for the last dance." Lalaith nodded and leaned her head on his shoulder. The elves and dwarf sat in silence for a few short moments watching the elves, Aragorn, Gandalf and the four hobbits taking joy and pleasure from the night's celebrations.
Legolas shared a brief grin with Gimli and then his shoulders sagged, his expression contorted into one of sadness and pain. The fact that he had not yet revealed his sea-longing to his family weighed heavily upon his shoulders. He had meticulously avoided direct eye contact with anyone for too long, for fear that they may discover his inner turmoil before he could have a chance to explain. It then also dawned on him that the other members of the Fellowship were to depart to their own homes later that week. He glanced down at Lalaith and fixed his gaze upon the merry residents of Eryn Lasgalen. Although his heart longed for Valinor, a part of him was still reluctant to completely leave behind the one home he had always known in Middle-earth. Legolas shook his head absently. His family and friends were still here, he could not leave Arda or Eryn Lasgalen so soon. The promise Legolas had made to Aragorn filled his thoughts and his posture relaxed. He was home now, and that was where he would stay, for as long as he could.
A/N: Wow, this story is so happy and corny and cheesy and... yeah haha. It's quite strange actually, because most of my non-fanfiction works are really morbid and violent and quite serious... Anywho, please review and let me know what you think! =)