Another big thanks to those who read and review, most notably to Legolass Q who lifted by spirits! :)
whilst i appreciate that not everybody is happy with the nature of this story, can i ask that reviews are used for constructed criticism not a platform for religious, political or moral bias. We are all on this site to enjoy the exploration of fiction, and i would not wish to report anyone else for offensive comments. If you you are not comfortable with this themes within this story, please do not read it.
It was late in the morning when Aragorn was roused from his sleep by the scuffle just outside his door, his mind still foggy from a restless sleep that had not come to him until the first rays of the sun had started to colour the eastern sky, and even then he tossed and turned in his sheets, seeing beyond the darkness to torturous dreams.
He sat up with heroic effort, rubbing at his face as the bedroom door opened and he was treated to the comic sight of both Gimli and one of the citadel guards trying to walk through at the same time, becoming stuck in the jamb for a moment before the dwarf squeezed his way through. They both looked a little out of breath as though they had raced there, the guard had a somewhat put out expression that the dwarf had beaten him at the final hurdle.
"Nearly noon and still abed?" Gimli all but roared, his hair wild now it was not held down with the weight of his helm. "Come Aragorn, tis a glorious day! Our friend awakens!" He tugged at the blankets and sheets as though to drag Aragorn from the bed himself.
Aragorn halted, his heart lurching painfully in his chest with his hand halfway through his hair. Surely he had misheard; surely Gimli talked of someone else. "What?"
"Come! Come, rise." The dwarf tossed a shirt into his face, startling him and sending the guard into near apoplection to see his lord treated thusly. "Legolas wakes, we must see how he fares."
"He's awake." Aragorn's voice had lost all colour, breathless and shallow as he mutely watched as Gimli continued to hurl clothes at him until he had little left to do than start pulling on the sheets again. His heart was racing, his mouth dry, it was glorious news indeed and a part of him rejoiced that the elf would recover, that the final shot had not yet stripped him of life. But the darker part of him was at war, the part of him that ached to touch, to see, to smell, to taste, that yearned for nothing more than hold the elf and never let go, that part of him stirred with a sparking fire that gave him doubts. He had not given thought as to what he would do once Legolas woke, what he would say, or do, whether his actions or words would give him away somehow.
He hadn't had enough time to think, to be able to sit in silence and gaze upon that face while he struggled through the complexities that snagged at the fabric of his mind. "When did he wake?" he asked, rolling back the covers and stalling.
"Some time ago, we thought you would have made an appearance by now, he asks for you." Gimli smiled broadly, motioning for Aragorn to hurry.
He climbed from the bed, reaching for the shirt and tugging it over his head. He should have been there when he woke, should never have left his side.
It only took him a minute to dress, tugging on his boots as the guard held the door for him. His footsteps rang through the hallways as they walked, deafeningly loud and fast, though he felt restrained. He wanted to run, to fly through the city, prudence be damned. His fingers played at the fastenings of his shirt, kept brushing the hair from his face and he forced himself to regain composure, to stop from biting at his tongue in order to quell the urge to speak that name that had been forever on the edge of his lips these last few days.
He took the stairs at speed, leaving the dwarf behind and dismissing the guard with a quick motion of his hand. He saw the hobbits outside the healing house, standing up on tip toe as they peered in through one of the windows, trying to see round the edge of the curtain.
He paused on the threshold, suddenly overcome with nervousness, wiping his hands on his shirt and smiling back at Pippin who grinned at him and bid him good morning.
The door was already ajar and needed only for him to lightly push against it to swing open, gaining him entrance to the cool room. His eyes were drawn immediately to the bed, ignoring the healer who hovered quietly at the back of the room, her head bowed in deference to the company, he didn't pay heed to Gandalf who sat crouched over in a chair at the bedside, his voice dying away as Aragorn entered. All he could see was the light in the elf's eyes as Legolas turned to smile tremulously at him.
A relief unlike any Aragorn had ever felt before flooded through him, his knees week and he grasped at the door handle to ground himself, holding in the breath that sought to escape him in a rush of gratitude.
There was a soft murmur as Gandalf rose, his hands clasped warmly around the elf's as he bowed to press a quick kiss to the top of the Prince's head. He paused at the doorway to fix Aragorn with a deliberate look before turning his head to bid the healer to follow him, the door sliding quietly into the latch behind them as they left, leaving them alone.
It took a conscious effort for Aragorn to step forward, to plant one foot in front of the other to stand beside the elf's bed, aware that he was staring but not finding the strength to draw his gaze away. Surely he must be able to hear how his hard raced, how it hammered against his chest and deafened him.
"Estel." Legolas smiled softly, voice hoarse from disuse as he beckoned him closer.
Aragorn sighed quickly, finding a smile lifting his own lips as he placed his hand on the back of the chair. "It is a great relief to hear you speak again my friend." He could not hide the delight in his voice. "Gimli said you asked for me?"
Legolas smiled again, "If only to see you well." He lifted his hand briefly and Aragorn took notice that he shook as he motioned him towards him. "Sit closer Estel, if your time can be spared to offer me your company."
Aragorn wasted no time, stepping smartly across the floor and sitting down upon the edge of the bed, taking the hand offered to him to hold within his own. "My time is yours whenever you should ask for it." Aragorn replied, honesty adding vehemence to his countenance. "How do you fare?" His eyes roved over the face before him, noting that little colour had returned to the pale cheeks, the eyes that had shone so brightly only moments ago now ringed with tiredness, he held the cool hand within his tightly, hoping to calm the tremor that shook him.
Legolas fixed him with a pointed stare causing Aragorn to smirk. "Given time I shall recover. Gandalf says you have yet to send word to my father."
"That is true," Aragorn nodded. "I did not wish to alarm him unnecessarily. I will have a messenger sent out this very afternoon." He assured him. This seemed to appeal the elf.
"And what of the others? It was good to see so many of our fellowship whole and unscathed, but they did not speak of the others we rode into battle with."
"Most are well," Aragorn reassured him. "Eowyn still recovers, but she is on her feet. We were lucky, so few of us were harmed, but it was a quick fight, over shortly after it had begun thanks to our little Halflings."
"There is a weight that seems to be lifted from Frodo, that is for sure." Legolas sighed, "He and Sam seem to be quite well despite their ordeals. But what of you? What of your hurts?"
Aragorn shook his head. "You need not worry, the healers here are quick and skilled, they saw to my wounds with such care that they barely pain me even though they are yet to heal."
"That is a joy to me my friend." Aragorn felt the hand within his tighten for a moment, assurance and comfort reflected in the simple touch. "I worried for you."
Aragorn looked down, letting his hair hide his face as he dared to trace his thumb across the back of the hand cupped within his own, marking the difference in their skin with stark contrast. His throat felt tight, a wave of guilt washing over him. "I should not have left you." He whispered quietly. "I am sorry. I ...I thought you dead when they took me from your side, had I known..."
"Aragorn..." Legolas interrupted, "Do not think yourself to blame for my being here. Had you not been beside me they may not have found me at all."
The incredulity in the elf's fair voice did little to offer Aragorn the comfort to cease his racing heart. He wanted to argue, to castigate himself as he had already done a thousand times when he spent his nights alone picking over a hundred different scenarios and 'what ifs'.
"Will you help me sit Estel?" Legolas asked, breaking Aragorn's reverie. "The taste of blood in my mouth is enough to make me feel faint again."
Aragorn jumped to comply, holding him gently and moving pillows and cushions, ignoring the feel of silken hair against his cheek and warm breath against his neck. He helped hold the glass of water as Legolas drank his fill, thanking Aragorn with a small smile as he settled back against the pillows with a pained sigh, the movement sapping what little strength he had left in him.
"You are tired." Aragorn spoke, "I should leave you to rest."
He began to rise but was halted by a cool touch on his arm and a disarmingly blue gaze that rooted him to the spot. "Stay a little longer." Legolas asked him, as though expecting Aragorn to dismiss him. As if he could ever deny the prince. The tension in his brow eased as Aragorn settled once again on the beds edge. "Tell me of what I have missed." He asked, his eyes weary but holding Aragorn's warm gaze.
He nodded, and started from the beginning, filling in the days that had passed from the end of the battle, of the heroic deeds and brave stories that had been garnered and shared amongst those that returned, his voice filling the room with a steady hypnotic sound that soothed them both and it was not long before Aragorn looked up to find the elf asleep, soft breaths falling from parted lips and lashes dark upon pale cheeks.
He paused in his story telling, his hand coming to rest lightly on that of the elf's that still lay against his arm, taking it within his own and placing it gently upon the bed. He sat for a moment, glad to see no pain lining the fair face, so young and elegant even in rest. With daring he leant forward, his fingers reaching out to brush away an errant lock of hair, tucking it neatly behind pointed ear.
Aragorn smiled to himself, allowing himself this time to simply sit and take solace and joy at having him returned and knowing that in time they may once again talk and laugh and sing and dance as they had done so many times before. His heart light within his chest for the first time in days, it would no doubt grow heavier later, given time to think and chastise himself, but for now, he felt alive again.