Summary: One is unbearable, Two is desirable, Three is completion. Legolas left Minas Tirith soon after the War to spare himself the pain but when duty calls him back, everything has changed.
Warning: Explicit slash, explicit het. Threesome. That's your warning, right there.
Disclaimer: No, Tolkien would probably not approve of this either. He owns them so he should know, but I didn't ask...
A/N: It's been brewing for a long time. Even narrow-minded, stubborn slashers can change ;)
Three – infinite new possibilities
Three – doesn't it seem like there's no end to what we can be when
Every touch our grace is multiplied
Every kiss our souls are opened wide
Every moment is precious and sanctified
And our time is filling like cups of honey wine
Sweeter the water, the deeper the well
Life is spilling out all over
We're spilling out over ourselves
Basically three – basically three
~ from 'Three' by Gaia Consort
It was as if summer commenced the moment Sauron was vanquished in his dark pits, torn into nothingness, destroyed beyond measure, when a tiny Hobbit, worn and wearied, fought with the wrecked creature Gollum in the very core of Orodruin, and lost the One Ring in the sea of fire that was its undoing. And Aragorn of the Dúnedain conquered too, for he had challenged the Dark, thrown his own precious life into the foul game we were playing as a bet, in a last and desperate attempt at diverting the enemy's attention from the strategy our faith rested on. When the reek of Mordor rose in wrath at the trickery, my eyes met Aragorn's and we were set free at last. Freer than the mighty eagles swooping down, and yet the iron shackles of my own doom clicked and locked around my ankles and I knew I stood before despair; and it was mine to bear alone.
And so it was that the Sun shone down upon the White City which Men loved so fiercely but I only feared as we returned, and Faramir, the one surviving son of the late Denethor offered Aragorn his kingship. Gimli, ever present at my side said nothing and for that I was thankful. Indeed, no one spoke to me, not even the hobbits, though their eyes were full of wonder and they whispered eagerly among themselves. It was the only time after the fall of Sauron that I saw Frodo thus elated.
Anor was cruel during those early days. She filled the world with light when I would have darkness, a desire so foreign now that Darkness was torn from Middle-earth. Swept up by the tidal wave of his new responsibilities, Aragorn seldom sought me out. I found instead that my feet more and more often guided me to the study of the Steward and I spent many a long night in effortless conversation with young Faramir whose boundless interest in the outside world but steady temper and quick wit pleased me. But when a fortnight had passed he ignored one of my questions regarding the surrounding lands of the Moon and leaned forwards in his seat instead.
"Please, Legolas," he said, almost gently. We had abandoned titles quickly. "Will you not tell me what ails you? I wish to think that you seek my company for my own person but there is more to it, I can tell..."
Momentarily fearful I had led him to believe I had come with ulterior motives, I was lost for words. He was not unlike Aragorn in appearance. They were both tall with grey eyes and dark hair. But Faramir was not as broad-shouldered and he was shyer, and he spoke with more care as if he feared his words might harm another, however ordinary they were.
Could I love him? This I wondered, and must look deep inside my own heart to know if I were deceiving myself. Men think we are so pure and clear-sighted; little do they know of what happens to a heart and a soul that lives ever on while life and death replace each other in the endless cycles of time.
"I come not hither to..." I began but could not finish. To seek your love? Because I am in need of a new lover who can spare me the pain of separation?
He regarded me for a while. "You are fleeing," he said at last, not with distaste or scorn, but with a neutrality I found oddly comforting. "From what? If you do not mind my asking..."
My eyes fell then to my hands, clasped in my lap. I loved hands. Oftentimes they made possible the only physical connection between myself and Aragorn. When it was not seemly to kiss or embrace, a simple brush of one hand against another must say more than any other caress. In the darkness of the Moria mines we had slept next to each other, fingers twined together, hardly daring to breathe.
I could not lie to Faramir. It was said he was long-sighted, just like his father before him. I did not think Boromir had shared the same trait or he too would have known there was something more to mine and Aragorn's friendship.
"You are right," I said, and I sounded weak to my own ears. As of yet I had never given voice to my own despair. "It is so."
He did not move but his words contrasted to his searching gaze that lingered on my face. "You need not tell me, but if I can help in any way...?"
I remembered, then, that I had heard the faint traces of a rumour of him and Éowyn, now turned sister to a King. If there was love between them, surely Faramir did not look for a lover's touch in me?
"I'm afraid you can do nothing," I said, even as I felt contempt for the despair in my own voice. "The path I have followed for a year has come to an inevitable end, that is all." What was one year out of thousands?
"And you mourn it," he concluded, quietly.
"Aye..." I rose and walked over to the window. In the courtyard below, lamps were being lit and the soft glow seemed a mockery of my sorrow.
He did not follow me but remained in his chair. The wine glasses stood forgotten on the tray. I had not meant to speak but suddenly the words rushed out of me unchecked. I leaned my forehead against the window-glass and closed my eyes to the sound of my own voice.
"I followed Aragorn... I joined in the Quest out of compassion for Frodo, but I really followed Aragorn. I have known him since he was first brought to Rivendell to be fostered there."
I cared not that Faramir might be poorly informed about this tradition; Lord Elrond had throughout the years housed the children of the Dúnedain, the heirs to the throne of Gondor, as they were safer in the elven realm than in the wild North.
"Long have I loved him and I could do nothing else... I decided in that moment that I'd rather die by his side than sit within my father's walls and receive the tidings of his passing from a messenger."
"The King is easy to love," said Faramir in his usual sedate way. "I would have done the same."
"No!" I shook my head and the fierceness of my emotions collided with the cool glass. "No, you do not understand. I love the King, Faramir." I turned to face him and could see that my words had caught and that he was trying to make sense of them. "I love Aragorn."
I returned to my chair and dropped my head into my hands. "I knew but joy when he touched me the first time... We were trapped underground. I could not curse the Dwarves, then, for their greed for it bound us together in our fear. And we shared a kiss in Lothlórien after we had seen Gandalf meet his death in the fire of the Balrog. He was curious and on the verge of losing all hope and that is a powerful blend. I did not hold back..."
Silence followed when I had finished. Memories came unbidden to me: of the rare rays of sunlight which made Aragorn's eyes sparkle, of the nights in Edoras where the rooms were dark and kept secrets well.
"You are lovers..." It was a statement made gently, and there was a hint of wonder also in it.
I was compelled to look up for even though the admission frightened me, it was a great relief to finally having heard someone else speak the words out loud. "Yes."
I knew what was coming and I nodded – my head and my heart equally heavy – before he had finished his sentence. "He is betrothed to another. He is pledged to the Evenstar."
Faramir's hand upon my own was a welcome rock to cling to. "I am sorry," he said, and there was nothing more to say.
Three days later I stood in the Tower Hall, clutching a document that Aragorn had handed me with practised ease. I would have despised the smooth arc his hand made as he held it out for me to take if it had not been for his eyes which were so dulled they looked to me like a muddied pond, forgotten in some barren land. Faramir stood a few feet away and I knew he had played some part in this though I had not asked. I was grateful, somewhere in the bottomless sorrow that had deformed my heart.
"You will care well for Ithilien," said Aragorn, and I supposed it was a good thing that not a single one of Gondor's dignitaries was there to hear the King's voice shatter and break.
I nodded, my throat so tight I could not speak. Then I left the Tower and Minas Tirith and did not return for many months. Not even for the wedding.
When it became impossible for me to stay away any longer, the autumn storms had already raged through the lands for weeks. Those of my own people who had left Mirkwood – known now as Eryn Lasgalen – to dwell with me in this new place had laboured long and hard to make everything ready before the onset of winter. I had nearly drowned myself in the work, seeking with mounting desperation to banish the aching in my body that mercilessly flung itself at me each night and had me utterly wearied by morning. My people needed deliveries from the City and there were agreements and treaties which required the seal of the King. I could have entrusted these to a swift rider but, in the end, I confessed that my own desire to see Aragorn outweighed every other argument I challenged myself with. Therefore, it was with great longing and anguish that I packed my saddlebags and rode towards the all-superior city of Men.
When last I had seen it, it still bore the wounds of battle. Now it shone even in the dreary rain that had begun falling sometime after the noon hour. I even pushed my hood back a little to take a better look. The enormous Gates were swung open but there were guards there and they scrutinised everyone passing through and demanded the name of every traveller seeking entrance. I handed over the now sad looking decree and stated my name and purpose as clearly as I could in the pouring rain.
"Legolas son of Thranduil, King of Eryn Lasgalen," I all but shouted through the clatter of hooves against stone, effectively losing some of my meticulously gathered courage and dignity.
The guard eyed me intensely, silver rivulets of water criss-crossing the polished armour of his helmet. He too wore a cloak, but his was the duty to be attentive and so he could not hide within it. I pointed to the decree, increasingly fearful it would dissolve into nothing in the rain. "My people and I dwell in Ithilien," I said, "as ordained by the King."
He unfolded the decree and leaned over it so that at least the ink was moderately protected. When he was done he handed it back to me with a last suspicious glare. His face sported several scars and I guessed he had always lacked faith in many creatures, not only Elves, and probably rightly so.
"Welcome to Minas Tirith," he grunted, while his keen eyes already strayed to other newcomers behind me. "Tower is at the top."
I urged Arod on and stuffed the parchment into the folds of my cloak. The paved stone streets were covered by a thick layer of brown mud but despite the rain people trudged up and down them with covered carts or baskets; life must go on and there must be food on the table no matter the mood of the weather. More riders pressed on from behind and I must ride at a greater speed than I desired. I needed to compose myself, find a balance that would hold now that I drew nigh to what my heart longed for. I glanced up at the Tower and the Banner of Númenor floated in the wind, unhindered by the rain, announcing that the King was in residence.
Arod bore me all the way to the seventh City Circle. There, unwillingly, I was forced to part with him, but I carried my own saddlebags under my arms as I crossed the Court of the Fountain. More guards demanded from me my name and errand but I gave them now as if detached for my heart was beating faster and the swirl of anxiety in my stomach would not go away.
I did not know what I expected. An empty Hall with Aragorn only, crowned and robed, seated on his throne with a drawn face and hard eyes? Or the chatter of children I did know they had had no time to have, and yet, Aragorn with the Undómiel, ever-shining by his side, with a rounded belly and his hands in hers?
But I was met with none of this for the Tower Hall was swarming with people that were dragging the mud over these stones as well. Steam rose from slow-drying cloaks and two great fires roared in their places. A hundred voices mingled and there were random cries or laughs springing up all around me. With dread clawing at me I glanced over at the dais but the Throne of Gondor stood abandoned. I pushed through the crowd, not knowing where I was headed, my heart twisted into an alien item in my breast at the disappointment.
A hand on my shoulder caught my attention and I half-turned to my right, trying to avoid bumping into a vividly gesturing man next to me.
"Legolas?" Faramir's grey eyes were full of surprise but he was ready to smile in greeting. He looked happier and healthier than I remembered him. "Is it you?"
His genuine astonishment at my presence in the Tower drew an unforeseen laugh from me. "Aye, 'tis me, my friend. Have I changed so?"
"You were always dry and clean." He grinned and refrained from winding and arm around my shoulders. "What brings you here?"
The annoyed – or delighted – man next to me swung his arm out in such a wide circle as he could muster and I, weighed down by my luggage, was not fast enough. His hand struck my cheek, not very hard and though I knew it was not his intention, it felt like a blow to me. Faramir's hands steadied me when, taken by surprise, I stumbled and the man shot an excuse over his shoulder without looking.
"Come." Faramir urged me deeper into the mess of people. "You are drenched and have ridden for quite a few hours, I reckon."
I let him guide me through the throng and I did not even protest when he without comment took one of my saddlebags from me to carry himself. The voices seemed to rise unhindered around me and I prayed for some solitude and peace.
I had almost forgotten my own worries when we came to a stop at the edge of the crowd, nearer to the dais than I would have liked. He turned to face me and there were lines of worry in his face. "Legolas," he began, in a hushed voice though I doubted no one paid us any heed. "You must know that Aragorn married Arwen at Midsummer..."
It could have been a question and so I nodded. "I knew it was to be so and word reached me in Ithilien some days later."
Faramir seemed to weigh his words carefully. "They are... happy together, but..."
I nodded again, automatically. "He has always loved her." My feet were grown numb and the feeling spread through my entire body. "Listen, Faramir," I said, through the layers of despair I had known for months now, "I have not come to upset the King of Gondor or his wife... I am here because there are documents he needs to see, and treaties he must read and we will need more grain before winter and..." My voice broke when I could support it no longer. I dropped the saddlebag to the floor and stood before him, willing in vain the tears to drain from my eyes.
"Legolas..." There was a slightly reproachful note in his voice. "You did not let me finish."
I met his gaze, then, for never before had he upbraided me and now I felt like an elfling before my elder. Which indeed was strange for Faramir was no more than seven-and-thirty. But his eyes were kind.
"I said, because I truly believe, that the King and the Queen are happy together, but he rarely smiles and his eyes are distant."
It was a cruel twinge of hope that woke in my breast then; his words pressed upon me and would not let me be.
"He loves her, yes," continued Faramir, quickly, "but when you left a shadow settled in him and he is not himself. Even I who have not known him for long can see as much."
I craved for more but he only reached down and picked up the bag I had left ignored on the floor between us. He turned wordlessly away and, as one entranced, I followed him. I knew my mind filled with thoughts but I recognised none of them. He led me towards one of the fires: we skirted the crowd and then dove into it again. Somewhere along the way he handed over my bags to a passing servant and gave him orders I did not hear. My hood had fallen back and I could tell people were staring at my ears, but I could not care less. Then, almost magically, the crowd parted before us and my eyes fell on the tall form by the fire. He was neither robed nor crowned, but his hair was freshly washed and fell in soft dark waves around his face, and he wore simple leggings and a wine-red tunic I had never seen before.
The moment he saw me, all air left my lungs in a long exhale. He looked well. He was safe. He was alive.
Faramir stepped aside with a small bow and after that I knew not what he did for I was staring so at Aragorn. There was not silence around us and the Valar did not make time stop, and the sun did not break through the clouds, but he was safe and he was alive.
He took one step forward, and then another. I stood rooted to the floor as he closed the distance between us and wide-eyed wrapped his arms around me and brought me close. My legs gave way and I fell against him, squeezing my eyes shut and holding on to him as if I were dying and leaving life forever.
"Meleth nín... manen?" His voice, hoarse and yet impossibly soft to my ears, drowned out the chatter in the Hall.
I pressed closer to him, breathing in the scent of herbs and rain, or maybe it was bath water...
"I..." But no words came to me and I gave up any attempt at speech at once, instead winding my arms around his waist and hoping all my longing spoke for itself.
When we parted, his eyes were filled with liquid silver and his tunic was adorned with large, wet patches that my cloak had generously bestowed upon it.
"Elbereth knows I missed you," he whispered, his hand on my shoulder trembling slightly.
Yet I stood silent before him, not knowing what to say. It was true what Faramir had said: the light in his eyes was gone and he was pale despite the long summer which should have left some trace upon him.
When his eyes left me I knew something was amiss. There was a murmur drifting through the crowd and again it parted to let someone through. I dragged my gaze away from his face and my heart sank as I beheld the Queen, slowly approaching us. And she really was a Queen now, with her shining ink-black hair flowing down her back and the rich gown of silk rippling about her as she moved. Not only my eyes lingered upon her but she held the attention of almost every male in the room; even those who stood too far away to see her properly craned their necks to catch a glimpse of her.
"Legolas." Her voice drifted out towards me and she smiled. Aragorn's hand slid from my shoulder.
I bowed before her for she was of higher rank now. My sodden hood almost covered me up again. The spot where Aragorn's hand had rested felt cold.
She came to stand before me and to my great surprise she kissed my cheek. "It is good to see you again. It has been too long." She made it not sound like a reproach though I knew I had insulted her by not attending her wedding. "Have you news of my kin in Eriador?"
I shook my head. "I am sorry, my lady, I came in another errand."
"Well, then we should greet you properly." She laid a hand on Aragorn's waist and pulled him closer. "I think you have given them quite a show already," she hissed, and despite the jealousy that rose in me I started at her words.
They exchanged a glance I could not read and suddenly I was pushed in front of them quite decisively. Confused, I could only obey as Arwen took my arm and smiled brightly as she steered me towards the long corridor that led off the Hall.
"How fares Ithilien, Legolas?" she asked, not minding to keep her voice down. "Word is that the grass grows greener there than anywhere else in Middle-earth."
"We... do our best," I said, all too conscious of Aragorn coming up to walk beside me. "The land is generous with its gifts."
She smiled at this too and for a moment I thought that the light which had left Aragorn now lived in her. "You are weary," she said in a tone that brokered no discussion. "Let us find you a guest chamber and some water and food."
"But," I began, as all my plans fell into pieces at my feet, "I will not be staying–"
"We shall be glad to house you as our guest," she cut across me. "Is that not so, my love?" She now directed her smile at Aragorn who nodded but did not meet her eyes.
She conducted me all the way to a pair of double doors. The pang of recognition soon gave way to a rush of panic but I could not protest as she ushered me inside the royal chambers. This was not what I had come for. I had hoped to see Aragorn, to satisfy my hunger before I once more fled into the wilderness. I had not bargained for this.
Aragorn closed the doors behind us and I was finally released. I stood, stripped of purpose, my soaked cloak hanging about me in sorry waves. My boots were muddied and strands of wet hair still lay plastered to my neck where they had slipped free from my single braid. This was a sitting-room, not too small and not too large. A fire was merrily dancing in a hearth and now I heard the rain again, throwing itself against the window-glass. Arwen was lifting a carafe and poured three glasses of a deep red wine. I was too lost in reality that I did not notice Aragorn behind me until his fingers were at the base of my throat, gently unclasping my cloak, and lifting it off me.
He laid it aside. I saw it not, but when he returned he came to stand so close to me I imagined I could feel his heartbeat in my own body. The craving returned in full might, blending with the confusion and tugging at my heart. I longed to lean against him, needed his touch, but Arwen was coming closer too, and she did not bring the glasses.
"Your return is a blessing," she said quietly, and every trace of her smile was gone.
I swallowed and pushed words past my nervousness, "My lady..."
She patiently waited for me to finish but when I did not, she shook her head. "You never spoke of it... You could have stayed, Legolas, and told me." She raised her eyes and I supposed she was looking at Aragorn. "You could have told me together and much pain would it have spared you. And me."
Every one of my thoughts fled me and I stared at her in disbelief.
"But you ran away, Legolas... and the man I was fated to marry was left empty." She regarded me now and I am afraid I shrank before her. "I came here with much hope and joy in my heart but found that I could heal no wound."
Aragorn reached around me and laid a shaking hand against her cheek. "But I love you..." His voice was a broken whisper.
She let him touch her but she did not smile. "I know you do," she sighed. "But we cannot live like this, Aragorn."
In the midst of the whirlwind of emotion that now held me in a firm grasp, I got the impression that this was a discussion they had been through before. I dared to turn around and look at Aragorn. Tears were filling his eyes as he silently pleaded to his wife for something that was a secret to me. My gaze darted between them both, and the simple touch that connected them. His broad hand on her cheek... For a moment I forgot my own pain as I watched them, and I kept silent and waited.
At last, she covered his hand with hers and lowered it. Their fingers twined together and she nodded. She was pale when she turned to me but she did not speak. Instead, Aragorn lifted his free hand and stroked my hair. The touch sent a thousand sparks through me and I must fight for my breath.
"I never stopped loving you," he whispered, his fingertips brushing my temple. "I desire you still... and I beg you to stay here."
I stared at him now, unable to comprehend. His skin against mine, no matter how brief or impersonal the touch, had always made me tingle and want more. But I could not listen to such words in the presence of Arwen for all had changed and I was no longer on a doomed quest, never knowing when death would single me out.
The bleakest ghost of a smile passed over her lips as I faced her in wordless wonder. "I will share..." she said, and I could see that the decision had not been an easy one. "He is yours also."
The full impact of her words stabbed me like a blade but it was a sweet wound, and though it tore my world apart it never hurt me. With the room spinning around me, I fell to my knees before her, "Le hannon... Híril nín, le hannon..."
A first trace of mirth slipped into her voice when she stroked my cheek. "Rise, Legolas. Please... Embrace your destiny."
They were dramatic words but I thought that it could be no different. She had made a choice many long years before and now her fate had changed and she had been forced to choose again. I looked up into her face and saw her tears and I kissed her hand. "I will not intrude–"
But again she cut me off, "We have another proposition. Come to the fire and we will talk."
I rose unsteadily, swaying on my feet, but then Aragorn's hands were on my waist and his lips brushed my ear and soon kisses decorated my cheek. I could set nothing against it - indeed, I wanted nothing else – and so I joined our mouths together and the kiss was one of trembling reunion.
He tasted as he had always done, of the wild lands and the turning seasons. So fiercely I hungered for it that I at once pushed my tongue into his mouth and sought to reacquaint myself with every little part of him. His arms came around me and he kissed back feverishly, scraping his teeth against my lips; and I swallowed down his groan and begged for more. His whole body was hard against mine, and my own was strung with the tension that had been building ever since I fancied myself beginning to understand Arwen's words. I clutched at his tunic, suckled his lower lip and yielded when his hands cupped my behind and pressed me so close against him that I could feel every tremor that ran through him. When we finally parted, his ragged breathing washed over me and my heart was ready to leap out of my body.
"My love," he rasped, stealing one more kiss from my lips before I could respond.
My eyes would not leave his eyes. They were brighter now, reflecting the hope for something better that I could sense had wakened in him. I drew a long breath and thought I would burst.
"I missed you so," I said, not recognising my own voice. "I love you... I always will."
Then, finally, he smiled and I knew him again: the Ranger I had longed for ever since he had grown out of his boyhood, the man I had been given one blessed year with, and now was allowed to have again.
He took my hand in his and I noticed it was less calloused than it once had been. He brought it to his lips and kissed it, his smile not dwindling even the slightest. "Never leave this room, Legolas, swear to me..."
At his words, laughter broke through the haze that held us and I looked up to see Arwen shaking her head at us. "He cannot very well stay here, Aragorn," she said. "There is only this settee and it gets quite uncomfortable after a while." She lowered herself into it and her smile acquired an edge of something else completely. "If you should hold him captive anywhere, you would do better choosing the bedchamber I think."
I had never known Elrond's daughter to hint at such things that lay beyond chaste kisses, and for a moment I must adjust. Then I actually understood what she had implied and my cheeks warmed. I did not know if she had come to Aragorn as a maiden – I guessed I had always supposed it was so – but now I was not so certain. Surely she had not been born with the knowledge that after two, almost three, thousand years in Middle-earth she would wed the future King of Gondor?
Aragorn was still smiling, and he steered me towards the settee and the fire, and we sank down beside Arwen with Aragorn in the middle. She had arranged the wineglasses as if she had intended just this. With Aragorn's hand still holding mine I did not bother to reach for the wine; I needed little else to make me happy.
"So..." Arwen traced the length of Aragorn's thumb where it rested against my skin. "There is more you must know, Legolas."
It was as if she handed over command to her husband, then, for Aragorn drew a deep breath and met my gaze. "Once we spoke of... past lovers, did we not?"
I nodded, a wave of fear once more crawling through my stomach. "We did..."
He nodded also, as if confirming this. "And you said that you had taken lovers of both sexes…?"
The memory disturbed me now – now that I had found Aragorn again. But this, too, was true. "Yes."
"So..." He echoed his wife, and her fingertips now brushed my hand. "We are asking you to... to love us both... To join with us both." In his eyes I saw mirrored my own fear, and I was too stunned to find the means to soothe.
"You...?" I frowned, then looked down at our hands resting on his thigh.
"You would not lie with me, Legolas," Arwen said softly, "for I may only bear the child of the King, but it would be the three of us..."
"Not every time..." said Aragorn. "But..."
As the first stab of shock ebbed out, I recovered my speech enough to hear words stumble out of me. "You and I would..." I stared at Arwen. "And you would be there? And you two? And I would be there...?"
She leaned across Aragorn and she was serious. "You and I are different, Legolas. We will never be a threat to one another. Think about it," she suggested, "if we stay apart we might end up hating each other instead."
"And I love both of you," murmured Aragorn. "I could not choose one of you and cast aside the other for that would break me."
They gave me the time I needed to collect my thoughts. I withdrew my hand and they released me. I wandered over to the window and saw when dusk replaced afternoon and still the rain fell incessantly. I thought about the home I was creating for myself in Ithilien, and I wondered how it all had come to this. But when I reflected upon it, it did not surprise me as much as perhaps it should.
I traced a vein in the stone that made up the wall... the floor... the ceiling and this whole city. Suddenly I longed for my new Moon-land, even though the storms had battered it hard and rendered it less pretty than it had been during the summer. I knew this longing, but it was not strong enough to drown out another. I turned away from the window and embraced.
Yes, I embraced. I remember crossing the floor, kneeling once more – now before both King and Queen– and offering them my very soul. For the ties are strong between the elven soul and the elven heart, and I would have withered away had I made any other choice. And it has struck me later that so it must have been also for Arwen for her bond with Aragorn is so strong that eventually her light would have waned in the face of his pain.
An ocean of time separates that moment from now, and yet it is not so very long ago.
Now, I lie stretched out in the royal bed – the old one was inevitably replaced with a larger one not long after my return to Minas Tirith – pressed against Aragorn's naked form, one arm wound around his waist and one leg draped over his. He is holding his wife, but one of his hands drifted to my thigh in his sleep in unconscious confirmation of our love.
Dawn is yet far away and our chamber is dark. Midwinter was but two moons ago but though the year has turned, snow still lies heavily upon the ground and all cities are white now, not only this one. When we have broken our fast, I will ride out with Faramir and we shall journey through Ithilien together. I try to divide my time evenly between my two homes, as does he, and we are both grateful for the company. These days, he says that he fears the royal apartments for he knows not what one might see in here, but at least his King no longer looks as if he would rather have followed Sauron into the fire that destroyed him.
I press a kiss to Aragorn's shoulder. The covers have slid down during the night and so it is easy for me to map his skin and the curves of muscles. I should let him sleep in peace but, as it will always be – even with elves – what we should do and what we actually do are completely different things. He sighs in his sleep, a warm puff of air that drowns in Arwen's hair. I leave a pattern of kisses on his upper arm and then proceed to taste his neck. I brush away the hair that covers it and let my lips linger against the softness before I explore the stubble on his cheek.
"Mmm..." His lips curve into a smile as I draw nearer and nearer to them. "What time is it?"
I kiss him without much pressure at first. "Past midnight."
The hand that has been resting on my thigh suddenly cradles my head and he holds me in place as he returns the kiss, pushing his tongue past my lips and claiming me fully. He never needed to imprison me: his desires are mine. Heat starts to build deep within and it flows outward as he runs his tongue tip over my lower lip and nibbles experimentally. I already know where this is headed for he never kisses me like this and then goes back to sleep. We tried that once but it was no success. I press another kiss to his lips and smile as he hums approvingly. Where she lies against him, Arwen stirs and lifts her head.
"What time is it?"
"Legolas says past midnight."
Now fully recovered from childbirth, she can once again wholly participate in any game we wish to play. It came as a surprise to me when I, during the last weeks of her pregnancy when she would only kiss or be kissed, realised I missed her touch. Yet I treasured that feeling for I knew then that we had reached our goal. Now little Mearíl sleeps in the cot in the adjacent room but the door stays open during the night and only Aragorn's snoring will wake her, we joke. He glares, then, and has his way with us until he is exhausted and we drop one more comment about how the Valar blessed us with a child with selective hearing.
She pushes herself up into a sitting position and flicks her hair back so that at least my sharp eyes see the outlines of her breasts, heavier now that she has carried a child. She vehemently refused to hand over her daughter to a wet-nurse and will suckle Meraíl for many more months ahead. It was a strange sight, at first, seeing her like that, and seeing body parts that would normally arouse both me and Aragorn used so differently. And it took us a while also to find our rhythm again after she was healed.
She slips out of bed and I know where she is headed. We all do it though we have not discussed it openly. I too have abandoned scrolls and letters, my bed or my food to tiptoe into the room where our daughter sleeps just to make sure that she is breathing.
When she returns, she crawls into what has become my side of the bed and she leans down and kisses me. I taste her sweetness, so different from Aragorn's, and then I feel a hand on my hip and Aragorn turns over to face me. His fingers drag along my skin and I shiver in response. He leaves kisses all over my chest and I lift my hand to her breasts and trace their fullness. Her tongue flickers over my lower lip and the heat that rose in me before returns, and I quiver as Aragorn grows bolder and his caresses change to match his mood. I swell at his touch and her warm wetness and then my hand finds another type of wetness as she parts her legs. Aragorn's fingers wrap around my exposed length and he teases me at first, and only when I arch upward with a moan does he increase the pressure and begin to stroke in earnest.
My own fingers, on their own quest, part the soft folds and find the entrance to her body. A tiny whimper falls from her lips as I slide a finger inside and the kiss is momentarily broken. Aragorn drapes himself partially over me and I feel his hardness press against my thigh. He coaxes shivers to race across my skin and I curl my finger inside Arwen's wet heat and rub her from within. She responds with a soft cry and I feel a rush of heat through her, through me... Aragorn mumbles something and I can feel my own member weeping at his touch, and the slickness eases the friction. I kiss Arwen and aim again for the hidden pleasure spot buried inside her, and listen to the moans that rise and fall around us as we push each other deeper into the swirl of ecstasy...
I barely know what is happening when Aragorn urges me onto my side and slides a slick finger inside. I hear my own groan tear from my lips and I press the pad of my thumb to the small nub between Arwen's parted thighs. She jerks back at the touch but does not pull away. I dip into her wetness again, coating my thumb liberally so that she will not find my skin coarse where she is so sensitive. I hope I am breathing as I massage her and feel Aragorn stretch me at the same time. Then he pushes inside, fills me completely, and his hand on my length quickens its pace and I lose track of everything but him inside me, and her pressed against me, shaking with pleasure, and I know not whom I am kissing but it matters not at all.
"You must tell Faramir to bring Éowyn hither for the babe will be here soon..." Arwen's voice is sleepy.
"I will not allow you to corrupt them too," I say, and her lips curve upward in a smile though her eyes remain closed.
"We are the best healers..." she mumbles.
I turn my head to look at Aragorn. "You are a midwife now?"
He lifts one eyebrow and smirks. "For you: anything."
I shake my head against the pillow but I, too, smile. Their hands lie joined upon my chest. Arwen has curled around me and Aragorn has done much the same to my left, though he would not phrase it so himself perhaps. The room is still dark, only the faintest hints of dawn have blended with the darkness in the far-off East. And such a sweet darkness it is.
My eyes drift once more to their entwined fingers: Aragorn and Arwen. Or Aragorn and I. Or Arwen and I. All of us. Three.
What do we think?
meleth nín – my love
manen? - how?
Le hannon – thank you
Híril nín – my lady