Disclaimer: I own nothing in this marvelous universe; it all belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson.
Author's Note: Mae Govaennen! It has certainly been a while! I have wanted to work on this for ages, and now I have ::grins::. I will be continuing this for at least one more chapter, probably more, so please enjoy this small contribution to the LotR Fandom!
P. S.: "Estel" is Aragorn's childhood name, given to him by Lord Elrond to protect him.
Summary: Seven years have passed since Legolas has visited Imladris. Now he returns, no longer the Elf he was, but the tiny Human child he meets there may just be the key to his healing…(Moviebased. Slightly Bookbased. Friendship and Family fic more than anything.)
"Westron/Common Speech (double quotes)"
'Sindarin (Elvish—single quotes)'
/Personal Thoughts (Italics)/
By Sentimental Star
Chapter I: Eskimo Kisses
His twin brothers' hushed voices woke Imladris's youngest inhabitant late that evening, 'I don't know, 'Dan. Are you sure we should leave him in here alone? I know Estel's just next door, but…'
'It's where he's always slept, Elrohir, mayhap some good will come from familiar surroundings…'
Even his brother didn't sound too certain of his words. Estel blinked blearily and yawned, lifting his head up slightly from his pillow, ''D-Dan?' he called softly, rubbing sleepily at his eyes. 'R-Ro?'
Elven-light footsteps pattered to his door, and it creaked open as his oldest brother poked his head in, long, dark hair somewhat mussed and tangled where it hung around his face. He still wore his traveling cloak, 'Estel?' he asked in a quiet murmur. 'Sorry, did we wake you?'
Estel yawned and scrubbed at his cheeks. 'N-Not really (yawn). W-When did you get back? Ada said…' another yawn nearly split his small face in half. 'Ada said you were s'pposed to (yawn)…s'pposed to be back by supper.'
In spite of everything, a tiny smile flitted across Elladan's lips as he entered the room. 'We were slightly delayed, Estel. That is all. Everything's all right.'
Tiny fists rubbed silver eyes streaked with cerulean. 'Wh-Who's (yawn)…Who's with you? Y-You were talking to 'Ro…a minute ago...'
Elladan hesitated, sitting on the edge of the mattress, '…A friend of ours. H-He'll be staying…a little while. Next to you. Is that all right? We can find another room, if it's-'
Estel was already shaking his head. A large, sleepy smile spread across his lips, 'I wanna meet him!'
Elladan chuckled softly as a yet another yawn interrupted whatever else Estel intended to say. Gently, the older being eased his little brother back underneath the covers and tucked them under the child's chin, 'Another day, Estel. You need to sleep.'
'But I'm not tired!'
'Really, now?' Elladan asked with a slight grin—the boy's eyes were already drooping.
Another yawn: 'N-No...fair (yawn)…'Dan! Y-You did that…on…'
Estel's words trailed off into a general glaze of mumbling before ceasing altogether.
Elladan chuckled as the small child's breathing evened out. 'Not hardly, tithen pen,' he murmured as he leaned down and brushed a kiss across Estel's forehead.
A moment later, he stood and, with his footsteps hardly like a breath of wind, turned and quietly exited his brother's room, allowing the door to fall silently shut behind him.
The moon had just barely started its descent when a harsh, sudden cry shattered the silence that cloaked Imladris's halls: 'No! NO! Leave him alone, Spawn of Sauron! LEAVE HIM BE!'
In his bed, Estel jerked awake.
'NO! ERIDANUS! NO!'
Estel's chest ached at the tear-thick cry, even more so because he knew it belonged to an Elf.
Moisture filled the small Dúnadan's silver eyes as he listened. He had never heard an Elf in such pain! He knew them as creatures of light: of happiness and music and laughter. To hear the pain of this one…it hurt.
'Don't leave! Saes! Saes! ERIDANUS!'
He could remain in his room no longer. Crawling out from underneath his covers and bringing his stuffed horse with him, Estel clambered down from the big bed onto the wooden step stool Elrohir had placed for him against the side of the mattress. Quietly he crept to the door.
He froze, hand on the ivory and gold knob, and bit his lip to keep from crying. Even though he knew he would catch trouble if he were found out of bed, it did not matter. He could not stay here after hearing such raw cries.
Pushing open the door and creeping down the hall, he clutched his stuffed horse close. A few light globes, magicked to flicker on to a dim setting for the occasional mortal visitor to Imladris, lit themselves as he passed.
Two doors down from his room, he stopped at the guest quarters Elladan and Elrohir had entered earlier this evening, hand on the knob. Quiet sobbing came from behind its door.
Estel's bottom lip trembled. Slowly, he pushed open the door. It barely creaked.
Peeking cautiously into the dimly lit room, he searched out its occupant: a blond-headed Elf thrashed in the bed, alternately sobbing and crying out denials and entreaties in Elvish. The sheets and blankets twisted around him, Estel fancied, like snakes.
Slipping through the door and into the room before shutting it, the small Dúnadan tiptoed closer to the large bed, practically crushing his stuffed horse against his chest. Once he reached the bed, he stopped at its foot, quietly watching the tossing Elf as he saw the other's face for the first time.
A broken sob passed the Elf's lips: 'Don't leave me here.'
And for Estel, that was it. Giving his beloved toy one extremely tight squeeze, he clambered atop the high bed. Once there, he slowly crawled forward.
With a final, heart-wrenching cry, the Elf shot awake, sitting up straight in the bed. Nearly knocking their foreheads together, he fell forward, wide awake. His hand clenched in his sweaty silver sleeping tunic just over his heart and his blond hair hung limply around his face, badly rumpled and disheveled.
Estel froze where he was, eyes wide. Never having been told (and with good reason) that Elves could die of broken hearts, he hardly understood the danger this stranger was in right at this very moment. No. He only knew that this Elf was in pain, and that it burned his heart to see it.
When his companion's breath hitched and shuddered, Estel resumed his crawling.
Far too focused on the pain ripping his heart apart, Legolas Thranduilion therefore gave a violent start when a tiny hand curled around the limp strands of his hair.
Jerking his head up, Mirkwood's young Crown Prince found a small Human child worriedly watching him with cerulean-streaked silver eyes, clutching an equally small horse in one arm.
He blinked. "Hello, little one," greeted wearily in Westron, voice hushed. "And what would a Human child be doing in the home of Lord Elrond?"
The tiny boy gazed at him in confusion. Which, in turn, puzzled the prince. "Little one?" he prompted.
The child frowned slightly. "Ada told me all Elves spoke Elvish. Don't you, too?"
As much startled by the usage of the Sindarin word for father as he was by the question asked, Legolas replied, "Aye, young Human, I do…"
The boy grinned. 'I knew it!' he exclaimed triumphantly. In flawless Sindarin.
Needless to say, the Wood-Elf was utterly dumbfounded. This Edan had to be a Dúnadan, the only race of Men who yet spoke the Grey Tongue—and they were rapidly nearing extinction. He smiled. Barely. 'So you did, tithen pen, so you did.'
Estel's grin disappeared as he noticed…'Your eyes are dark,' whispered sadly.
The statement floored him: /He sees that?/
A sudden weight rested warmly against his chest. A glance down revealed to Legolas that the child had all but seated himself in the prince's lap and proceeded to press his ear against the Elf's chest, listening with a tiny frown of concentration marring his young face.
Legolas could only stare, completely unsure how to respond to the determined innocence encompassed (unintentionally) by his arms.
Estel's keen ears picked up this visitor's wildly pounding heartbeat. He frowned. It sounded different from his father's heartbeat, or the twins', and Ada had once told him that if an Elf's heart (or a Human's, for that matter), sounded different than usual, that meant something bad had happened.
Pulling back, he knelt very straight, and stretched up as high as he could reach. To Legolas's bemusement, the child placed one tiny hand on his hot and sweaty brow.
Another frown marred the young face as he felt the heat radiating from the smooth skin, 'You are very hot,' he whispered. 'Elves aren't s'pposed to be that hot.'
Legolas offered a weak smile, finally finding his voice, 'No, we aren't. I have had a lot happen…t-to me…'
His voice caught. He could hardly talk. Tears brimmed his midnight eyes, the cruel memory of a dear face flitting past his gaze—so dear…
Blood, and bruises. Eridanus's face, set in hard, determined lines; twisted, too, in pain. The slack grip, the fluttering of eyes that should have never shut; the screams and cackles of Yrch…
A low wail forced itself to the surface. Estel's eyes again flew wide. Legolas saw, and tried to hide it. He should have known 'twould not work, not with this child who saw so easily into his soul.
Tiny hands framed his face. He felt the brush of coarse horsehair against his cheek. He forced himself to look into the tiny Dúnadan's eyes, reading all too clearly there the wisdom a child all of five springs should not have, 'Ada told me it's okay to cry if you're hurting.'
This time, it was the prince whose eyes grew large. Seconds later they had filled with searing hot moisture which he released on a broken sob.
The Human suddenly leaned close, rubbing his nose up against Legolas's, 'It'll be okay, I promise,' the child whispered, with perhaps the most beautiful smile in the world.
Another sob struggled loose. Small arms wrapped around Legolas's head, leaving the prince with little choice but to rest his head against the tiny Dúnadan's tiny chest…and cry.
Some innumerable amount of time later, an exhausted Legolas gently tugged himself free of the child's arms, having cried himself out. The tiny Dúnadan watched him with quiet, serious eyes, 'Hannon-lle, tithen mellon,' he murmured, through a throat that rasped with each syllable spoken.
Estel offered a sleepy smile, patting the Firstborn lightly on the head, and carefully slipped off the tall bed.
Legolas watched him curiously, half-hoping he intended to return to his own room, 'Where are you going?' he asked scratchily.
'To get water,' came the child's matter-of-fact reply, followed quickly by another beautiful smile. He placed the stuffed horse in Legolas's lap, standing on his tiptoes to do so, 'Celebgil told me he wants to keep you company. Make sure he doesn't run away—'Dan will be mad if he does!'
It startled a half-strangled laugh out of Legolas, even though he knew not who "'Dan" was. 'I promise I shall.'
As he watched the boy stumble off, Legolas felt a deep pang of remorse. The child was young, too young to be up so late, and all because Legolas's cries had woken him. Yet, even so, the small Dúnadan had taken it upon himself to bring comfort.
That thought simply overwhelmed him.
Dropping his face against toy he clutched in his arms, Legolas bitterly rued the way his eyes yet burned. He remained so for several minutes, before a light tug on the arm of his sleeping tunic startled his attention back to the child who had returned to his side.
In his small hands, the child held a large glass of water which he offered to the prince with yet another sleepy smile, 'For you,' he murmured.
Gently releasing the stuffed horse, Legolas hesitated a minute, before accepting the glass. When he went to place it on the bedside table, however, a pout formed on the child's lips and he crossed his tiny arms over his chest, 'You're s'pposed to drink all of it,' the boy chided.
It nearly startled an involuntary laugh from the prince's lips. Somehow…he had the feeling that he would be hearing that same nagging, from this same child for many years, yet. 'My mistake,' he murmured, and did as he was told.
The urge to laugh grew stronger when he realized the tiny Human's eyes followed his every sip, the intent gaze ensuring that he did finish, as if he were a mother hen, or Lord Elrond.
Once done, he placed the now empty glass on the table and turned back to his watcher, smiling slightly, 'There. Is that good, penneth?'
Satisfied, Estel nodded firmly and, clutching handfuls of the bed's coverlet, shimmied his way back onto the bed. His upward movement halted when the Elf's slim hands suddenly reached down and carefully plucked him off of the sheets, bringing him close to the visitor's chest. Once the Firstborn had him in his arms, he found himself gently crushed in an embrace.
Sensing more to it than simple gratitude, Estel squirmed around until he could face the Silvan Elf, looking up at him with a troubled, determined frown, 'May I…stay with you?'
Legolas blinked, sure he must have heard incorrectly, 'Wha-what?' he asked shakily, pulling back slightly, utterly startled.
'May I stay with you?' Estel repeated, more firmly.
Torn, Legolas gazed helplessly down at the child in his lap. He knew what would happen if he let the boy return to his room. Oh, yes, he knew. Nightmares.
The child needed sleep, though, and the prince loathed to deprive him of it. And surely…surely, he would not feel comfortable, nor sleep well, in a stranger's room, 'Oh, tithen mellon…your heart is very great, very great and very good, but surely you would feel better in your own room? I am but a stranger to you.'
A stubborn frown worked its way onto the boy's lips, 'You're not a stranger, you're a visitor, and you're hurt.' He ducked his head, 'Saes. I-I want to stay with you.'
Dumbstruck, Legolas's could only stare down at the dark curls tumbling over his arms. This child…wanted to stay with him?
Reaching out, the prince gently stroked back the waterfall of brunet, seeking and finding silver eyes, 'I…would like that very much, tithen pen,' he murmured at last.
Immediately, the tiny Dúnadan brightened.
With tight squeeze, Legolas whispered around a weary chuckle, 'But we must sleep,' another chuckle escaped his lips at the boy's sudden, wide yawn, 'I daresay your Adar will be very unhappy with me if you are tired on the morrow. Mayhap you'll take me to meet him?'
Estel gave another yawn and a weary grin…before snuggling into the warmth of the Elf and, very quickly and easily, falling asleep.
Marveling, Legolas watched him without a word. How could a mere babe have such a capacity to love? Giving to others without thought of return?
Shaking his head, he decided not to think on it, and silently picked up the stuffed horse, smiling a bit at how well-loved it was, and tenderly settled it alongside the sleeping child. Easing the two of them down onto the bed and underneath the covers, he lightly kissed his little companion's head, smiling just the smallest amount when the tiny boy unconsciously snuggled closer to him. 'Hannon-lle,' he breathed, just before falling asleep, 'for you know not the good you have done.'
End Chapter (TBC)
Sindarin (Elvish) Translations:
Tithen pen: Little one
Tithen mellon: Little friend
Penneth: Young one
Hannon-lle, tithen mellon: Thank you, little friend.