Authors Note: So. Here it is. Really really really really late. This story took far longer than I thought it would, so I will offer one last apology. I really enjoyed writing this last chapter and it would be wonderful to know what you think about it. I will be writing more stories, but probably much shorter ( I hope you've enjoyed the story as much as I have. Thank you to all of my loyal reviewers and readers.

Lady Winter

IT RAINED THAT DAY

Legolas was summoned late in the day as dusk approached. The royal guards were agitated, telling the prince that guests had arrived without warning and he was needed immediately at the main gate. The prince briefly thought of tracking down Aragorn and his younger charges, but they had been with the King for the afternoon and the guard's urgency caused him to abandon the thought. With no other information, Legolas could not help but wonder who it was that had arrived, especially so late in the day without any previous communication to warn Mirkwood of their arrival. Leaving his quiver behind in the courtyard, the Prince tugged on his richly embroidered robes and hurried to follow his guards.

When he arrived at the main gate, he was informed that a company of men and elves – together (this seemed to surprise some of the royal guards) – were approaching and would be there momentarily. It was whispered that the men were Rangers and Legolas could only assume that they had come to collect their errant Captain. As for the elves, he was not sure of what to expect, but was unsure why he had to be summoned and not one of his brothers.

Soon enough, the party came into sight. The party was of a handful of Rangers, distinctive in their black and brown garb and two elves, all on horseback. Legolas recognized the sons of Elrond immediately and sighed aloud. He thought that he should have known if word reached their sensitive ears that Estel had been wounded they would not wait to meet him at the appointed place. The twins were known far and wide in the elven kingdoms as accomplished warriors to be well respected. Many of the guards watched them in a bit of awe, but some watched them warily, for they were also known to have a reputation of tricks and practical jokes (which Legolas supposed was a fairly recent thing and would have started to spread about the time they had come to have a little "brother" in their home).

"My Prince!" both twins said in the same moment, sweeping an elegant bow as they dismounted, nearly in perfect unison. Legolas thought wryly that they enjoyed the fact that so many struggled to tell the difference between the two of them.

"Welcome to the forests of Mirkwood," Legolas said as he too bowed, as they stood on tradition, rather than warm friendship. No amount of antics would be displayed openly in front of the guards or the Rangers. "I welcome the Lords of Rivendell." Both elves tilted their heads in acknowledgement.

"We apologize for not sending word of our arrival, and also of our late arrival. The trip was," and here Elladan, for Legolas could tell them apart, paused, "unexpected," he finished softly with a gentle smile. Legolas was not so unaware as to miss the look of concern in both twins' eyes, though they did not betray their thoughts aloud.

"I am afraid it is my fault, my Lord," a new voice said quietly, entering the conversation in the common tongue, though he clearly had understood the elvish that had been spoken. A Ranger, who looked tired and worried, bowed low before the Prince.

"There is no harm done. You must be Halbarad," Legolas said, offering the man a warm smile as he straightened. The Ranger, who was probably ten or fifteen years Aragorn's senior, smiled half-heartedly, something obviously weighing on his mind, making him look anxious.

"Aye, I am. We would not have arrived so late if we were not stopped earlier by a small bit of trouble, nor would we have bothered you at all, but I have come in search of Strider." Halbarad stood unmoving, awaiting some confirmation that Aragorn was there.

Legolas could not help but be amused at the way Halbarad got to the point. Clearly this was not the first time he'd had to track Aragorn down nor, Legolas realized, would it be the last.

"Fear not, my good Ranger. Your missing Captain is indeed here. Did you not receive word from the company of Rangers that left here several days ago? Strider is well." As the Prince uttered these last words, Halbarad noticeably relaxed, and the twins, who had been unconsciously leaning forward, rocked back a bit and exchanged relieved glances. Legolas would have laughed, but stopped himself short, realizing that Aragorn had begun to rub off on him.

"Yes, my Lord, I did receive their word that he was here, but," and here Halbarad paused, obviously searching for some polite way to say that the information he had received made him worry more than it eased his mind. "It is just that we thought to," again he paused, clearly not one for as much diplomacy as was going on. Legolas put his hand on the man's shoulder.

"Do not worry of it."

"So, where is Estel then?" Elrohir asked, stepping past his brother and glancing around, clearly suspicious that his brother was not on Legolas' heals as he supposed he would be.

"I suppose he's still with my father." Legolas enjoyed the look of panic that crossed both twins' faces as they looked at each other in confusion and worry.

"Alone?" they asked together, in a manner unbecoming of their stations as sons of the Lord of Rivendell. The guards tensed a bit at the mention of their king and glanced at Legolas and back at the two young elf lords. Legolas smiled at them.

"Of course. Come, I'll show you too him." With that, Legolas turned with a flourish. One point for him, zero for the twins, who hurried to join him, not needing to stand on ceremony of walking behind the royalty of Mirkwood because of their own stations. Halbarad and his fellow Rangers followed, easily keeping pace with the long legged elves.

"Legolas," Elladan hissed so that neither Halbarad nor the guards would overhear him. "Alone with your father? Are you mad? Not that I don't respect the King of Mirkwood, but you know how he normally distrusts men, Rangers and Estel alike."

"You worry too much. Your brother has a way of making his way into the likeness of everyone he meets. My father could only hold out for so long it seems. I have never been so surprised, I must admit." Legolas turned to look at the twins, each on either side of him. They both could only stare at him, unsure how to respond to their friend. The rest of the walk to the Palace was made in silence, though Legolas was not unnerved in the least bit.

Inside the main hall, they found Aragorn. The Ranger was leaning against a tall pillar of ancient wood that served as a support of the grand ceiling. He was intently watching Thranduil as the Mirkwood King taught Lancen and Cressen the fine art of painting with elvish water colors. Legolas could tell right away that he was beyond amused, but with the slightest stir of the door, his attention turned to the new arrivals. Legolas could not help but smile as he saw Estel's face light up as he saw his brother's step silently into the room. With little that betrayed he had been hurt not long ago and with no kingly bearing what-so-ever, he rushed to greet his brothers, who met him halfway. There were no words as the three of them embraced in the middle of the hall, though all in proximity watched curiously as they hugged and smiled knowingly at each other. Legolas turned to look at Halbarad only to be surprised at how much younger the Ranger looked and assumed it was the mantle of worry being lifted off the Ranger captain. He too was smiling at the family reunion, but Legolas could also see him carefully scanning Aragorn's body to gauge any tell-tale signs so injury.

Thranduil himself smiled warmly at the three brothers and was reminded of his own sons. Elladan carefully pushed Aragorn away to inspect his brother for himself. Aragorn instantly rolled his eyes and they began to bicker, resulting in Aragorn pulling up his sleeve so that Elladan and Elrohir could scrutinize the now healed arm that had so recently been useless. As Halbarad approached the group and joined in their laughter and talk, Legolas felt a stab of sadness. Now that they had arrived, Aragorn would surely leave with them and he knew their time of mirth and fun had passed. Despite the sadness, he also knew that this was not the end, but a beginning.

The twins and the Rangers stayed for three days. When Elladan, Elrohir, and Halbarad had finally convinced themselves that Aragorn was more than fit for travel, they announced that they would depart the following morning. Thranduil made sure they had fresh foods out of the royal stores to take with them and, though he ignored Halbarad and the other Rangers completely, he bid that Lancen and Cressen return often and that they would always be welcome in Mirkwood. Finally he entrusted the twins with bound scrolls for Elrond and spoke to Aragorn privately, from which Aragorn walked away looking quietly thoughtful. It was then time for the new friends to say their goodbyes.

"I thank you Legolas."

"It is you who saved me, Estel. I will forever be grateful."

"It is not just for my life that I thank you, my friend. It is for everything else. I've been honored to become your friend and to share in your life," Aragorn said sincerely, bowing a bit before Legolas. Legolas smiled warmly and touched Aragorn on both shoulders.

"The honor is mine as well. You and I are now bonded."

"I will hold you to that, my Lord," Aragorn said with a mischievous smile. "Until our paths cross again," he said, extending his arm. Legolas grasped his forearm and they embraced in the way of warriors. "And we will meet again, mellon-nin," Aragorn said knowingly.

With a final wave and a quiet sigh, Legolas watched as the party departed through the heavy, ornate gates that guarded Mirkwood. He did not realize then how right Aragorn had been when he had said they would meet again. Little left in their lives did not include the other.

Legolas would often look back on the circumstances surrounding how he and Aragorn had met and when asked what it was like, he would always start the story simply. "It rained that day."