TITLE: "Mirth" (1/1)
AUTHOR: mcee (mcee@fangy.net)
SITE: http://fangy.net/lotr
ARCHIVE: List archives; others just ask.
PAIRING: Aragorn/Legolas
SUMMARY: A rare lighthearted moment a few days out of Rivendell.

* * *

Aragorn stopped mid-stride and his breath caught in his throat. Suddenly he didn't know where he'd been going, what he'd set off to do when he'd gotten up from his place by the camp fire. His eyes stared intently into the forest's thick darkness as though he could find the answer there, but the space between the trees only gazed back blankly, offering no assistance. Aragorn's brow furrowed, and he suddenly felt foolish standing there with his back to the company, motionless.

Then he heard it again, what had drawn him to such a sudden stop only moments before. It rang clear in the small hollow they had settled in, and carried on as though amplified by the boughs leaning in on them like careful listeners. It chimed again lightly, and rose to the sky.

Aragorn turned on his heels and looked at the amassed travellers resting their feet by the fire. Despite their weariness, all eyes were trained on little Peregrin Took. The Fellowship's youngest, delighted with the attention bestowed upon him, was in the middle of an agitated narration of what seemed to be a particularly engrossing story. His hands gestured wildly as he spoke, his eyes ablaze with barely contained glee. The honey-coloured curls bounced off his brow with each motion of his animated tale.

Around him, faces held genuine smiles--rare, even this early into their journey. Gandalf, sitting hunched on a large flat rock, held a kind expression of fond indulgence. At his feet, Frodo, huddled against Sam for greater warmth, smiled softly but mostly with his eyes, the clear blue for the moment unclouded and dancing along with the flames and the moving shape of his young relative. Next to him, Sam was peering back and forth between his Master and Pippin--perhaps by sheer force of habit--but allowed himself to laugh along, his shoulders relaxed and shaking with stifled guffaws. Boromir sat a bit to the side and chuckled softly, while Gimli, who had long ago forgotten his duty of stoking the fire, roared his cheer heartily. Closing the circle was a short fallen log on which sat Merry and Legolas, who were also following the spirited storytelling with rapt attention. Merry nodded and laughed knowingly, clearly enjoying the telling of an anecdote he'd heard countless times already. His eyes followed his friend's movements with something, Aragorn thought, akin to pride.

Next to him, Legolas.

The elf, usually so subdued despite the emotions he wore plainly on his face, was laughing brightly, uninhibited. His voice rose quietly above the commotion, ringing clearly into the night, flowing to Aragorn's ear where it passed like a gentle gust of wind against his stubbled cheek.

Aragorn closed his eyes and inhaled shakily, letting the sound bring back long-buried memories of his childhood amongst the fair kin. The soft baritone of his caretaker. The lilting singsong of the elf-children. And the quiet whispers once spoken against his ear, onto his lips, murmured in his neck, on his stomach, against his breast, that first time when they'd . . .

Rousing applause brought him back to the moment and Aragorn exhaled on a gasp, his hand reaching for the rough bark of the elm tree next to him. The company was clapping merrily as Pippin bowed, cheeks pink with excitement, before bouncing back to his spot on the log between Merry and Legolas.

The elf's chuckles died happily on his lingering smile, and he caught the ranger's gaze from where he sat. Aragorn turned away swiftly, striding off into the darkness, but not fast enough for Legolas to miss the flush that had crept to the man's cheeks.