Spring, Year 8, F. A.

Legolas drew his mount to a halt and stared toward the city of Minas Tirith rising in the distance. "A reunion of the Fellowship," the message had said, and he had been glad of the invitation, but now tension curled within his belly and his limbs trembled slightly. Soon he would see his friends again.

He would see Aragorn again.

Legolas sucked in his breath, one hand unconsciously clenching his horse's mane at the thought. It must have been too much, for the horse snorted once and then stamped his foot. Legolas gave a small humorless laugh to himself.

"Peace, Arod I am nervous is all." He smoothed his horse's mane back down.

Arod whickered his understanding and Legolas patted his neck affectionately.

It was oddly calming talking to his horse, and allowing the wind to carry his words seemed to set his worries adrift as well.

"Aragorn must have changed a great deal these last years." Legolas' voice dropped to a whisper as he admitted aloud for the first time what he had thought and felt these past seasons, "I've missed him, Arod."

As always when he thought of Aragorn, his musings turned to the kiss they had shared. It was hard to forget; in fact it was becoming far more difficult to *not* think of it. Now Legolas wondered how he would react around the man himself if mere memories of that encounter could conjure such feelings of yearning within him as they did. What would seeing Aragorn every day for several weeks do to him?

Arod snorted and moved restlessly and Legolas shook himself to clear his thoughts. "We will not tarry much longer, old friend, for I am glad to be home as well," Legolas smiled absently.

Home. The word seemed to pierce through him, and his breath caught in surprise. That was what this felt like-coming home. Why he felt so he could not explain.

His anxiety settled and his excitement over seeing the others mounting, Legolas uttered a soft command. Soon the two of them were flying across the ground, drawing ever closer to the White City.

000

Aragorn was also urging his horse into motion. The steed galloped eagerly out of the gate and onto the plain in the direction from which Legolas' message had said he would arrive. He felt neglectful in his duties as host to the others for leaving to meet Legolas alone, but Faramir and Eowyn had seen how anxiously he awaited the Elf's arrival and had insisted that he go on while they entertained the others. And when he came upon his friend, all feelings of guilt over abandoning the Hobbits and the Dwarf were forgotten as he beheld his friend for the first time in nearly ten years. Aragorn dismounted and moved stealthily forward.

Legolas had stopped near a stream from which Arod was happily drinking. The Elf stood in profile, one hand idly stroking Arod's flank, while the spring breezes lifted and toyed with Legolas' hair. The sight made Aragorn's heart skip a beat and his breath catch, and it took him a moment before he could attempt a greeting.

"You're losing your touch, Ranger." Legolas turned toward him, smiling, before Aragorn could say a word.

Aragorn laughed and shook his head. "So it would seem."

They embraced quickly before drawing apart to look at each other once again. Legolas studied Aragorn's features with delight. There were more lines of care on Aragorn's face, a few streaks of gray in the dark hair, but otherwise he looked the same as he had the last time Legolas had seen him. Only his eyes were different; hope sparkled in the gray depths. Legolas' smile broadened.

The brilliance of it made Aragorn's palms sweat even more than Legolas' perusal of him had done. There was something in those blue eyes that made Aragorn feel warm, though not uncomfortably so, but rather as he would resting before a small fire, basking in its heat. His answering grin faltered slightly as his gaze dropped back momentarily to Legolas' mouth. With an effort he tore his eyes away, though not before the memory of those lips moving with his flashed through his mind.

They spoke at the same time. "It's good to see you."

They laughed together, each starting to speak again, and after several false starts Legolas managed, "I didn't expect you to ride out and meet me."

Aragorn shrugged. There was no ready excuse for him being out here other than that he had wanted to see Legolas, to have him to himself for a little while. Even to his own mind it sounded odd to admit that. They were friends, after all, not lovers. Aragorn blushed at that thought, wondering where it had come from even as he shook it away.

"Well," he said instead, "if you're ready, we should be off. How fast can you ride?"

"Faster than you," Legolas challenged and leaped into his saddle.

Aragorn mounted his own horse. "Oh, you think so?" He kicked his heels against its flanks and took off.

Legolas chuckled. "All right, old friend, let's show them what a real horse can do."

Arod snorted and tossed his head and jumped into motion. They caught Aragorn and his horse after only a few minutes and rushed past. Aragorn quickly caught up and dashed ahead. They changed leads several times, both of them racing to beat the devil and laughing all the way.

000

They reached the gate of Minas Tirith at the same time and drew their horses to abrupt halts. Aragorn threw back his head and laughed in sheer happiness. It seemed like a lifetime ago that he had enjoyed himself so much.

"It looks as if you've surprised your guards," Legolas grinned, glancing up.

Aragorn looked up and nodded at his men. The guards were staring down at them opened mouthed, but hastily drew themselves back at their king's look. Still laughing to himself, he and Legolas rode through the gate.

Talking of small inconsequential things the two of them quickly stabled their horses and made their way up to the highest level of the city. Gimli met them as they entered the hall.

"There you are. I thought you'd decided to stay and have a chat with a tree somewhere," he harrumphed.

"Actually with several," Legolas retorted. He enfolded the Dwarf in a quick hug, laughing when Gimli pulled away with another gruff noise.

"I knew it," Gimli grumbled. "I swear it's a wonder you made it out of that forest of yours."

Legolas laughed again, but before he could say anything else Legolas found himself swarmed by friends he hadn't seen in many years as Sam, Merry, and Pippin raced forward, nearly toppling him over. He grinned with delight and knelt down to embrace them all, his eyes meeting Aragorn's above their heads.

Home. The feeling hit him again.

"It's good to see you all," Legolas smiled.

Aragorn walked forward from where he had been watching the exchange. Legolas' smiles and laughter were doing strange things to his stomach again, filling him with warmth and happiness, and he had found himself reluctant to pull apart the little group, but his friend had just traveled a long way and most likely would welcome a short rest. "Come, I'll show you to your chamber."

"I would like that," Legolas nodded. "I could use a proper bath as well, if it is no trouble."

"None at all," Aragorn replied, nodding to a nearby servant who hurried away to carry out his bidding.

They stood some moments later in the room that had been set aside for Legolas' use. The Elf moved to the window and looked out. From here he could see nearly all of the gardens. Aragorn's voice floated over his shoulder. "I remember how much you enjoy being around growing things and short of camping out in my gardens, this room has the best view."

Touched more than he would ever admit, it was several minutes before Legolas felt he could safely turn around and not have his face give anything away. He said simply, "Thank you."

Eyes met and held, but before either of them could say anything further, a knock on the door startled them both. "Pardon Sire, but the water is ready."

With that servants began bringing in hot water to fill the tub that stood on the other side of a screen.

"I will leave you then," Aragorn moved to the door.

Legolas nodded to him, and when Aragorn slipped out, he found himself listening to the long, firm footsteps moving down the passageway. When the servants left as well, Legolas quickly stripped and sank into the steaming water and sighed.

He dunked his head under the water and came up, grabbed the soap and began washing his hair. He paused, listening for familiar footsteps. The passageway was silent. He rinsed his hair, listened again, then frowned to himself at what he was doing. He reached for the soap and began vigorously scrubbing his body until his skin was tingling.

With a final rinse he was done, and he stood and reached for a drying cloth. As he toweled off his eyes flew to the window, his heart catching again at Aragorn assigning him this room. It was a small thing, a simple gesture really, but Legolas found himself pleased all the same.

He had just pulled his leggings on when he heard footsteps approaching. He hurriedly tugged on his boots just as there was a knock at the door, and he moved to answer it, surprised to find Aragorn standing there. The archer's face heated with unaccustomed embarrassment as Aragorn's eyes fell to his bare torso then flew upward again. He noted a tinge of red on Aragorn's cheeks as well, but the knowledge that his friend was likewise discomfited made him relax a little. "Please, come in."

"I forgot to remind you there will be a bell for dinner," Aragorn explained, following Legolas back into the room. "Or if you're on the grounds a servant will come for you."

Legolas nodded absently. "Thank you."

Legolas moved to his pack and withdrew a fresh tunic, slipping it on, fastening it before running a comb quickly through his hair. He decided to leave it down rather than pull it back into braids. Grabbing a belt, he slipped it about his waist and faced Aragorn, who was now standing looking out of one of the windows.

"I'm glad you are here. I have something for you, and I wanted to give it to you in private."

"For me?" Aragorn turned to face him.

"Yes," Legolas replied. He began searching through his pack, pulling out more tunics in the process. In a bit he found what he sought and turned back to Aragorn, his heart hammering. He tried to sound casual when he offered it. "It is for your birthday."

Aragorn looked from Legolas' face to the package and up again. "You did not have to . . . I did not expect. . . ."

"It would not be a proper gift if it was expected, would it?" Legolas countered.

Aragorn's fingers brushed against Legolas' hand as he reached for the bundle. The touch sent heat searing through Aragorn's body, and his heart began thudding loudly, but that did not stop him picking up the fleeting feeling that Legolas had enjoyed his touch as well.

Aragorn untied the tiny string and removed the cloth. Inside was an intricately carved pipe. Upon closer examination he saw that the carvings were his name in several scripts, and there beside those was a miniature version of the White Tree. He looked up to find Legolas anxiously awaiting his reaction. "It is beautiful, almost too beautiful to use. Thank you."

Legolas smiled. "I commissioned it in Dale. Of course the city is known for its toys, but I thought perhaps someone who was skilled in that art could do such fine work. I was most pleased with the result." He stopped abruptly, realizing he was babbling in a most un-princely fashion.

"I shall think of you each time I use it," Aragorn replied, his throat tightening both at the beauty of the pipe and the thought that had obviously been behind it.

Legolas ducked his head, but not before Aragorn saw both relief and pleasure flit across the handsome Elvish features.

"Well, I should let you get settled," Aragorn said quietly. "And make sure the Hobbits aren't raiding the larder."

Legolas' musical laughter filled the room. "I will see you at dinner, then."

Aragorn smiled and walked away, closing the door behind him. His smile did not fade as he moved through the corridor, both his steps and his heart lighter than either had been in years.