Learning to Smile

Chapter 10

by Little Jewel-(T)
January 23, 2017

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Several days passed, and still Elrohir wasn't speaking to Elladan. Aragorn was slowly recovering and begged Lord Elrond to be allowed out of bed, but the elderly elf had refused, saying that if Estel did, he would most likely tear his stitches.

Two days after he had been brought home, Aragorn awoke to find Elrohir sitting in the chair beside his bed, an old, worn book resting in his hand. He twisted his head, trying to read the title. Botany? Interesting choice, he thought. But then again, you could never tell what notion would enter the twins’ heads.

The raven-haired elf looked up when he felt the man's eyes on him and smiled. "Good morning, Estel," he said presently. "How are you feeling?"

Aragorn stretched gingerly, wincing slightly as the wound in his side was pulled against the bandages. "Better than before."

Elrohir nodded. "That is good. Your fever broke yesterday afternoon and you have slept since then."

“Were there any other injured?” The ranger pressed his brother for an answer when he did not reply for several seconds “…Elrohir.”

Elrohir paused and glanced out the window, his eyes sad.

Aragorn leaned over and touched the back of the elf's hand. "What is it?" he asked, although he felt sure he knew the answer. "It's Elladan, isn't it?"

Elrohir answered with a nod. He was slowly recovering to his normal self, his own injuries healing, and he was spending much of his time out in the stables with the horses or with Aerinel.

As if being able to read his thoughts, the ranger leaned over and pulled on the elf's sleeve. "Elrohir, what has become of little Aerinel?" His tone was light, but the worry he felt shone clearly in his eyes. “How is she?”

"She is well," Elrohir said absently.

Aragorn glared at his brother. "That was not the answer I was hoping for."

Elrohir turned around in the chair to face Aragorn properly. "She is well, Estel. I promise you this. She got a bit of fright two days ago when we brought you home. She saw you covered in blood and thought the worst had happened. Given what she had been, though, I wasn't surprised. Elladan was a little...harsh with her."

Aragorn did not like the sound of that. "Can I see her...please?" he asked, seeing Elrohir's doubtful face.

“I do not think Ada would approve.” Elrohir said slowly. “You are still healing, Estel.”
 

“Please, if only for a moment?”

With a sigh the raven-haired elf relented and left the room. He returned moments later, carrying the small human in his arms. The child was still dressed in her little nightgown, rubbing her eyes. Obviously she had woken up not long ago.

Aragorn watched as Aerinel’s eyes became more alert as she realised where she was and who was sitting up in the bed. He could hear Elrohir speaking softly to her as they approached.
  "Now, you must remember to be gentle. Estel was hunt badly and is still quite sore, alright, penneth?"

Aerinel nodded sleepily and Elrohir set her down gently on the bed beside the ranger. Aragorn reached out and gently pulled Aerinel close to him. "Good morning, little one. How are you?"

Aerinel smiled and crawled up the bed on her knees, snaking her arms around the man's neck. "Missed you," she murmured quietly, her voice muffled against Aragorn's sleeping tunic.

"And I missed you too, tithen pen." Aragorn ran his fingers through the young girl's unkempt locks.

Aerinel pulled back and looked into the ranger's eyes, her own similar in colour, large, and sorrowful. "I thought you were gone," she whispered. "They wouldn't let me see you."

"Oh, Aerinel…” Aragorn pulled the child against him and hugged her as tightly as his body would let him. "It's alright. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere, I promise you that."

Aerinel sighed and relaxed. In truth, the child had been beyond worried about the man and had begged Elrohir to take her to see Aragorn every time she had seen the elf. She’d done it until finally he relented and had taken her to see the ranger the previous night while Aragorn was asleep. She had been thrilled when Elrohir had arrived that morning and told her that Estel wanted to see her.

She pulled away from Aragorn and settled down on the bed beside him. She glanced around the room, realising that one of the elven twins was missing. "El'dan?" she questioned. Aragorn held his breath as Elrohir looked away from the bed.

Aerinel, sensing that something was wrong, pulled on Elrohir's tunic politely. "El'hir, where is El'dan?"

Elrohir growled and yanked his tunic out of the child's hands.The anger he felt towards his brother bubbled to the surface and he snapped at the child rather harshly, "I do not know. Probably making another stupid mistake!" he snarled bitterly.


"Elrohir!" a voice thundered sharply. All three heads looked towards the door at Lord Elrond as he entered the room.

Aerinel had backed away from Elrohir in fear and was now curled up against Aragorn, her face buried against his side. Aragorn was glaring at his brother, his eyes like daggers. “Don’t shout at Aerinel. It is not her fault!”

Elrohir gazed defiantly at his father, ignoring the man. "It's true! It was a stupid, immature decision. Elladan just couldn't wait, could he? And because of it, Estel is lying here injured!" He was shouting now, his voice rising with anger.

"Elrohir, I think you should leave. You are frightening Aerinel." Elrond spoke calmly, his eyes betraying none of what he was feeling. "I will speak to you later on this matter."

Elrohir stood there, his eyes blazing with anger. It was rare for the younger twin to get so upset, but when he did, his fury was unrivaled.

“Elrohir, go now.”

With a snarl, Elrohir stormed from the room, slamming the door behind him with enough force that it ricocheted back open and banged against the wall behind it. Elrond winced slightly. His eyes traveled down to where the child sat, still curled up in a tight ball beside Aragorn. "Do not fear, Aerinel." He crouched down beside the bed. "Elrohir is just a bit upset at the moment."

Aragorn ran his fingers through Aerinel's hair. "He did not mean what he said."

"El'hir upset because you are hurt?" Aerinel gazed up at the man, confusion written in her grey eyes.

"Yes, little one," Aragorn said with a sad smile. The child was too young to understand the difficulties between Elrohir and Elladan beyond that simple assessment.

"Why?" Aerinel asked. "He is not hurt, is he?"

The man smiled down at her although his eyes were beginning to close as tiredness caught up with him. "Nay, he is not, but he is upset that I am." He chuckled at the child's confusion. "Do not trouble yourself about it, Aerinel. It will pass." He sighed tiredly. He was not as strong as he would have liked to have been.

"Come on, penneth." Elrond leaned down and scooped the child up. "Estel needs to rest."

"She can stay," Aragorn murmured sleepily.

Elrond chuckled lightly. "I hardly think Aerinel will find it entertaining to sit here and watch you sleep."

"Mmmm..." Aragorn murmured as he finally succumbed to the sleep that beckoned to him. Elrond smiled and took Aerinel out of the room with the promise to read to her later on.”

~*~*~S~*~*~

On the third morning after the disastrous hunting mission, Telwen washed and dressed Aerinel. She had taken over this task since neither of the twins felt like doing it and Estel was not able to. This particular morning, the elleth was concerned, for the child seemed quieter than usual. Not a sound passed her lips. Perhaps she is worried about Estel? Telwen thought to herself as she helped little arms through the sleeve of the tunic before folding away the child’s nightclothes.


However, when she turned around, Telwen was surprised when Aerinel spoke. "I'm in the way here, aren't I? No one wants me, do they?"

Telwen didn't know what to say. "No, child," she said gently, kneeling down in front of the small girl. "No, Aerinel. Hîr Elrond is just busy at the moment. Why would you ever think of such a thing?"


"Elrohir said so when I asked him to help me make a picture for Estel yesterday." Aerinel sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand.

Those brats of elves, Telwen fumed. "No, penneth, he didn't mean that. They love you, I promise. Now, how about we get some food for your little tummy?"

Aerinel nodded and allowed the elf maiden to pick her up.

Telwen entered the small dining room where the morning meal was laid out, carrying Aerinel in her arms. She found Lord Elrond and Glorfindel already seated and talking quietly among themselves. There was no sign of either Elladan or Elrohir. She set Aerinel down beside Glorfindel before she turned to Elrond. "Hîr-nín, may I speak with you?"

Something in the elf maiden’s tone of voice made the elven lord look up earnestly. "Yes, Telwen, of course.” He stood up and moved away from the table, confident that Glorfindel would keep the child occupied for at least a few moments.

"It is Aerinel, hîr-nín. She feels that she is a burden and is in the way here."

Elrond was blinked. "I beg your pardon?" he asked, unsure that he had heard correctly.

Telwen nodded. "I am afraid so, Lord Elrond. She said so herself this morning. When I asked her why she said that, she said that Elrohir had told her so."

Elrond's eyes hardened and he made a mental note to have a serious talk with his son later. "Thank you, Telwen. Will you join us?"

The elleth nodded again. "I would be honoured." She pulled out a chair on the opposite side of the table and sat down as Elrond resumed his seat at the head of the table. Turning to the child, the elf lord smiled at her kindly. "How are you this morning, penneth?"

"I am well, Lord Elrond," Aerinel replied in a small voice.

"She is absolutely the best girl ever!" Glorfindel corrected brightly as he lifted the girl into his lap and hugged her, drawing a small giggle from Aerinel.

Elrond smiled as he watched Aerinel played with one of Glorfindel's long braids, quite content to sit in the golden-haired warrior’s lap.

"Now then, Aerinel, what adventures are you on today?" Glorfindel asked.

Aerinel shrugged. "I don't know. Telwen said she would read to me later, and Estel said he would talk me for a walk if he is allowed up. He says there is a nest of little birds outside his window he would show me."

Glorfindel raised an eyebrow at Elrond at the lack of mention of the twins.

"You look after Estel if he goes for a walk." Elrond ruffled the dark strands of hair gently. "He can sometimes be reckless."

Aerinel nodded proudly, feeling important. She jiggled around on Glorfindel's lap as the elf cut up an apple for her.

"You are full of energy this morning, Aerinel," Elrond remarked, watching the child as she made a picture out of her fruit. Aerinel looked up and smiled at the elven lord before returning to her work of art, humming happily to herself.

"She is sleeping well at night, hîr-nín," Telwen said softly. "The nightmares seem to have left her," she added, dropping her voice.

Elrond nodded in agreement. It seemed that Aerinel was finally beginning to settle down into life at Rivendell, although there was that ever-niggling thought at the back of Elrond’s mind that pointed out the child could not stay in the elven house forever.

Telwen could see that the two elven lords wanted to resume their conversation and stood up. "Come along, Aerinel. Shall we go and visit the cat and her little kittens in the kitchens?" She held out her hand to the young girl.

But the child shook her head and wrapped her arms around Glorfindel's neck. For some reason the child decided this morning would be a good time to be rebellious.  

"Come on, Aerinel."

But Aerinel didn't want to go. She felt safe in Glorfindel's arms. Telwen didn't know what to do. She did not want to remove Aerinel from elf's arms, for she did not know how the child would react, and she did not want to cause a scene in front of the two elven lords.

Aerinel looked at her sadly and nodded as she slipped from Glorfindel's lap. The golden-haired elf couldn't bear the look of disappointment on the child's face and knelt down in front of the little girl. "Aerinel, I know someone who needs a hug more than I do."

Aerinel looked up blankly. "Who?"

Glorfindel pointed towards the door. "I think Elladan needs some love right now very much."

Aerinel looked out the doorway, into the corridor and towards the direction where she knew Elladan's room was, then blinked at the three elves. Finally, after a moment of thinking, she nodded and slipped down from Glorfindel’s lap.

Telwen opened the door and followed a few steps behind as the young girl climbed up the staircase and headed towards the large, carved, oaken door. She opened the door for the child before moving further down the corridor to wait.


Aerinel pushed open the door a crack and slipped into the gloomy room. She moved towards the bed slowly, unsure if the elf was asleep or awake. She gripped the rumpled covers in an attempt to clamber onto the bed.

"What?" Elladan demanded nastily, his voice muffled from his face being buried in the pillows.

"El'dan," Aerinel asked plaintively, making another attempt to get onto the bed.

"Go away, Aerinel!" Elladan snapped.


"No." With determination Aerinel pulled herself onto the bed. "You are upset. Do you want a hug?"

“No! Go away!"” Elladan repeated more loudly and angrily, pulling the blankets over his head.

Aerinel crawled over the bedclothes until she was beside the elf. "El'dan?" Gently, she poked the elf. "Why are you sad?" Receiving no reply, Aerinel leaned down and gently pulled the blanket away from Elladan's face. "El'dan? Please come out."

"Go away!" Elladan ripped back the covers and dumped the child on the floor with a thump. "Go and pester Elrohir or Estel; they should be delighted that I haven't murdered you! Go on! Get lost, brat!"

Aerinel regarded the elf with large doe eyes. “But you always say a hug can make anyone feel better.”

Elladan lay back on the bed, turning away from the child and closing his eyes tightly.

Aerinel tiptoed around to the other side and scrambled up so that she was Elladan's face. "Why are you crying?" The young girl reached out and gently stroked a white cheek, for Elladan's eyes were red and there were tear tracks on his face.

Elladan's eyes shot back open. "I am not crying," he shouted into the little face. "I am angry because a certain little nuisance will not leave me alone!"

Aerinel backed away, her eyes swimming with tears. She half-climbed and half-fell off the tall sleeping couch as her frightened cries filled the room.

Telwen heard the sound of the child's sobs from down the corridor and rushed into Elladan's bedchamber. Aerinel stumbled out, tears streaming down her face.

"Aerinel!" Telwen reached out for her, but the small girl pushed past her and ran down the hallway, sobbing hard.

Telwen stormed into Elladan's bedroom.

Elladan looked up and sat up in the bed, startled to see the elf maid in his chambers. "Telwen," he said softly, all traces of his anger gone. "What can I do for you?" He respected Telwen. But he frowned as he noticed her appearance. Her normally pale cheeks were flushed with anger and the steely green eyes were glinting. "What's wrong?"

"How dare you!" Telwen hissed. Elladan gasped as she slapped his cheek. "How dare you?" the elleth repeated.

Elladan clutched his cheek, speechless in surprise, his eyes watering from the sting. Never had any elleth hit him, and certainly never Telwen.

"You may stomp and sulk all you like, this being the House of Elrond and you being his brat of a son." Telwen was furious. "But she is a child. She has done nothing. She is only trying to care and show you some love. But you just yelled at her. She's been through enough already!" She took a deep breath. "I can't believe that you are the same elf that sat beside her, caring for her, rocking her and soothing her while she was ill."

There was sound of the main door slamming and Telwen glared at Elladan. "You’d better pray that she comes back!" Telwen hissed before turning and exiting the room, slamming the door behind her and leaving Elladan in darkness.

Elrond and Glorfindel, who had come running when they heard the sound of crying, paused as Telwen stormed along the corridor towards them. "You’d better have a serious word with your son, Lord Elrond," she snarled as she passed by the two elven lords.

Elrond laid a hand on her arm. "Telwen..."

But the elf maid turned and vanished down the corridor.

Elrond scowled, clearly torn between the need to search for Aerinel and to talk to Elladan.

“Telwen and I will look for Aerinel." Glorfindel inserted, listening to Telwen calling for the child.

Elrond looked venomously through the doorway to his eldest son's room. "I think I need to discuss certain matters with Elladan."

Glorfindel nodded, decided that it was time to leave, and made a hasty exit from the family quarters.

~*~*~S~*~*~


Rain poured down over Imladris. Elladan stood under an arch, raindrops pouring down his face as they mixed with tears. His clothes were soaked and his raven hair was plastered to his head. Taking a shuddering breath, he tried to control himself. He shouldn't be crying. Estel's injury wasn't his fault.

But it was, a voice inside his head whispered. You didn't wait for Glorfindel's signal.


Elrohir had not looked at him since they had brought Aragorn back. When the ranger had woken and Elladan had tried to face his twin, the only response he had received was a blank "Oh, you're still alive then?"

Lord Elrond's few but pointed comments to his son that morning had been even more hurtful. It made no difference that he had not meant to frighten the small child. He was in no doubt that if such an incident was repeated then his position in the family quarters would come into question as well as the question of being allowed near Aerinel. Much to Elrohir's joy, probably.

"Elladan?" Elladan shrunk back into the tree trunk, hoping that whoever it was would pass him by. However, they did not. Glorfindel had seen Elladan. He stood next to the younger elf, a hand on Elladan's shoulder.

Elladan shook the arm away angrily, moving away from the elder elf. Glorfindel sighed. Elladan had always been quick-tempered, stubborn, and angry when upset, hiding his true feelings from everyone. It was not until a battle with Orcs two months after rescuing his mother and Elrohir had been injured that Glorfindel had seen the hot tears the younger elf could hold in no longer streaming down his face.

"Oh, Elladan," Glorfindel said softly, wrapping an arm around Elladan's shaking shoulders. The younger elf had come of age more than a millennium ago, but Glorfindel would always think of him as a small elfling.


Elladan allowed himself to be pulled into the embrace, leaning his head against Glorfindel's shoulder. "I have destroyed the bond between us. Elrohir cannot even look at me,” he sobbed.

"Elrohir is hurting right now. Your father nearly lost Estel." Glorfindel waited for Elladan to say something. When he didn't, the golden-haired elf continued, "Sometimes it is easier to hurt another than face the pain yourself."

Elladan stiffed in Glorfindel's arms. "Elrohir would rather that I was the one that had been injured...or dead." The elf's voice was so full of pain that Glorfindel looked at him anxiously.

"No." Glorfindel hugged Elladan closer to him, stroking the soaking wet hair. "He loves you more than life itself, Elladan. You are his twin, his brother. He will forgive you. Elrohir will not throw away his love for you. This I can promise. The two of you share a special bond that not many experience."

Elladan gulped back some sobs. "I should not have spoken to Aerinel as I did. After all she has been through – her terror, fear, sorrow – I just added to that. I made her think that I did not love her. She will never trust me again." Grey eyes gazed down at the puddles in shame. "Neither will anyone else. They will not forgive me for what I have done."

"No, you should not have. Aerinel is a child; she doesn't understand the complexities of life as of yet. She saw you were hurting and wanted to return the love you have shown her." Glorfindel shifted as the rain ran down inside his collar and down the back of his tunic. "You must learn control your temper, Elrondion. It will get you into more trouble if you don't, especially when a child is involved. You should understand this from when Estel was small.”

A dull flush crept up Elladan's neck. He had been unable to control his temper more times than he cared to remember.

"However, they will forgive you in time; they all will. And Aerinel will trust you again and forgive you. She loves you like a brother, Elladan."

Elladan shook his head biting back bitter tears. "Adar will not. You did not hear him, Glorfindel. And even if he does, Aerinel will not. I have ruined the trust between us." His hands curled into fists at his side, regretting what he had said that morning.

"Oh, Elladan." Glorfindel scraped back the wet raven hair to look into Elladan's sorrowful face. He did not mention that almost the entire household had overheard the shouting match between the elven lord and his son. "Do not think for a moment that your father does not love you."

"No,” Elladan said, then faltered, "but so much that I do causes him displeasure and makes him disappointed with me.”


"And yet he loves you in spite of that, as do Elrohir and Estel." Glorfindel smiled. "And so does Aerinel."

"No," Elladan said softly, but Glorfindel cut him off.

"Elladan, do not misjudge the endless trust and love a child has. The trust Aerinel holds for you will allow her to overcome her fright this morning...Who was it that held on her the way back here? Who was it that sat beside her bed day and night, caring for her? Calming her troubled sleep? Coaxing her to eat and drink when others failed in the task?"

"I did..." Elladan whispered hoarsely "But..."

"Your father will never stop loving you. No matter what you do."

"But he said…” Elladan paused, frowning. He did not really wish to repeat what Lord Elrond had said. The words still stung his heart.

"Elladan, your father has a temper; where did you think you had got yours from?" Glorfindel said with a raised eyebrow. "I truly doubt it was from your gentle mother…you may possess a temper, but you also possess a gentle and kind heart when you choose to show it."

Elladan shrugged, smiling weakly. Glorfindel clasped the young elf in a crushing embrace. "They will forgive you, Elladan, I promise. It may take some time, but they will. Show them you are sorry and that you understand what you did was not the wisest action."

Elladan nodded silently.
Glorfindel tilted his head. "Are you coming inside? It is rather wet out here," he remarked, but Elladan shook his head. "I want to clear my head for a while."

"Alright." The golden-haired elf turned away, but Elladan caught his wrist. "Tell me, has Aerinel been found?" His eyes searched Glorfindel's desperately.

Glorfindel sighed heavily. "I am afraid not. But we have every available elf out searching for her, both inside the house and the grounds. Children tend to find the most unlikely hiding places."

Elladan nodded slowly. "I need a walk."


The elder elf watched as Elladan stepped out from the shelter of the arch and walked away through the rain.
 
~*~*~S~*~*~

Elladan walked through the gardens, paying little attention to the constant rain. Reaching the end of the garden he crawled into his childhood hideout, an old hollow in the base of a large oak tree, pulling his knees up to his chest. His body shook with the force of his sobs. What have I done?

His mind flew back to how Aerinel's little face had looked as he’d yelled at her. The small child had been heartbroken. What have I done? She will never forgive me.

The young elf lord curled in on himself and cried like he had not done in many years. His anger had once again blinded his mind and made him take reckless action with Estel ending up injured.

How long he sat there crying he did not know. The rain continued to pour down, but the elf was oblivious to the wetness. The evening rolled in, coating everything a grey gloom as dusk approached.

Something touched his knee, and he looked up in surprise to come face-to-face with Aerinel.

~*~*~S~*~*~

Aerinel had hidden away for most of the day. After what had happened that morning, she hadn’t felt like being around anyone, not even Telwen. The offer of taking her to see Estel had not been able to tempt her out of her hiding place. Towards the evening, she had crept out into the gardens, and since then she had been wandering around in the rain. Slipping and sliding her way down towards the bottom of the garden, she had spied the elf in the base of the tree crying, and her little heart had broken for the raven-haired elf.
 

Slowly, Aerinel had approached him, hovering a few steps away, unsure if her presence would be welcome or not. Hearing the elf sobbing, her mind was made up. Reaching out her small arm, she gently touched his knee with her fingertips. She jumped back in alarm as the elf looked up, startled, his face white, the skin around his eyes red from crying.

"A-Aerinel..." Elladan whispered, brushing away the tears that still clung to his cheeks. "What are you doing out here?" The child was soaked to the skin, her tunic and leggings giving little protection against the driving rain, and she looked frightened.

"Aerinel,” the elf whispered again. His hand reached out to brush the wet hair away from the child's face. But Aerinel jerked away suddenly, her eyes wide and fearful. She held up her arms in front of her face. Almost as if she was expecting a blow.

Elladan closed his eyes, tears falling down his face. "I am so sorry, Aerinel." He buried his face against his knees. "Oh, what have I done?"

Aerinel watched the elf with saddened eyes for a moment. Although she was still frightened of the elf, she hated to see him so upset and hurting. Something within her doubted that it had been his intention to scare her – that he had lashed out at her in anger not intended towards her. "El'dan?" She touched the elf's dark hair, causing him to look up with tears still clinging to his dark lashes.

"Aerinel, forgive me for what I said to you. It was so wrong of me. Never again shall I speak to you thus. Please forgive me," he repeated, sobbing. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I wrongly took my anger out on you and….and…”

Aerinel dropped to her knees beside the elf and took a deep breath. "I forgive you, El'dan."

With a choked sob, Elladan gently stroked her hair with his fingers. "What did I do to deserve your forgiveness?" he murmured through his tears.

Aerinel crawled closer to the elf, her movements slow and cautious, her eyes large, begging to be loved and forgiven. She reached up her arms towards the elf and Elladan gladly scooped her up into his strong arms and held her close to him.

"I'm sorry," Aerinel whispered.

Elladan looked up, puzzled. "For what, penneth? You have nothing to be sorry about. It is I that should be sorry."

Aerinel gazed up at him. "You were upset and wanted to be alone. But I wouldn't let you. It was my fault you got cross and your father got cross with you."

"Nay, little Aerinel." Elladan shook his head. "The fault is mine. You were only trying to help and I turned my anger on you when I shouldn't have. There is no reason for you to say that you are sorry."

Aerinel blinked large silver eyes up at him. "But I made you angry and that means I'm in trouble." A slight sob escaped her lips.

"Is this something your uncle told you?" Elladan questioned gently, but there was a firm tone in his voice.

Aerinel nodded slowly, unsure of the elf's reaction.

"Oh, Aerinel," Elladan murmured. "You did not make me angry, nor are you in trouble. I was being a grumpy old pig-headed elf and I took my anger out on you. You do not have to say sorry. Do you understand?"

The child nodded and snuggled closer to Elladan, ignoring the soaking wet clothes, and wrapped her small arms around the elf's neck.

Elladan rested his chin lightly on Aerinel's head and leisurely rocked back and forth. He could feel the child shaking against him. "Did I frighten you this morning, Aerinel?" he asked softly.

There was a pause before Aerinel nodded her head. "A bit," she whispered.

"I am so sorry, little one. I never meant to scare you." Elladan closed his eyes and sighed deeply. He could not understand why the child had forgiven him when he was finding it so hard to try and forgive himself.

Aerinel touched the elf's cold cheek and Elladan's eyes snapped open. "I know," she said simply.

Elladan brushed his lips against her forehead. "What did I do to deserve your love, little one?"

Aerinel just smiled, nestling down into the elf's arms once again. The rain continued to pour down outside the hollow, but inside the two beings, one small and one large, for the most part ignored it. The simple song of the raindrops fell into the background.

"El'hir shouted at me yesterday,” Aerinel spoke up, fiddling with one of the gold buttons on the elf's tunic.

Elladan glanced down. "Did he now?" It seemed that he wasn't the only one that had being frustrated with everything and everybody. He smirked inwardly.

"I wanted to make a picture for Estel, but couldn't find any paper to draw one. I asked El'hir, but he just said I was in the way and a nu'ance." The child struggled to get her tongue around the long word.

"Nuisance," Elladan supplied gently.


Aerinel nodded. "Then Lord Elrond got mad at El'hir too."

The eldest twin couldn't help but chuckle. It seemed like there was a pair of them in it. The elf and the child lapsed back into silence; the only sound to be heard was the sound of breathing and the pitter-patter of raindrops.

Little by little, Aerinel's hold on Elladan's robes loosened as her eyes began to close, the small child drifting off to sleep in the warm, yet wet, embrace of the elf. Elladan looked down at the child that was almost asleep in his arms. Leaning down, he brushed her damp hair away from her face and bestowed a gentle kiss to her forehead, noting with slight alarm how cold the child's skin was.

"Let's get you out of the cold and the rain," Elladan murmured as he stood up, carefully cradling Aerinel in his arms, hoping not to disturb her slumber. He did not want to face his family just yet, but his concern for the child’s health forced him to bury the feelings of guilt and remorse for the time being.

He quickly made his way through the gardens towards the lights that spilled out of the windows of the house, trying to shield the child from the driving rain with his own body, tucking the edges of his tunic around her.

In the dying light of the evening, he could see figures standing on the steps of the Last Homely House. Some held glowing lanterns others held flaming torches. He could hear Aerinel's name being called over and over again. There were more figures across the bridge that led to the forest. Stepping around the last few bushes, he approached the main doors of the house.

It was Elrohir who spotted him first. His twin’s face held an expression of concern mixed with anger as he saw Elladan approaching. “So you decided to help search for Aerinel, whom you scared off this morning?” His words were bitter and held much resentment. 


Elladan said nothing, but pulled back the folds of his tunic to reveal the pale face of Aerinel pressed against him.

"What have you done to her?!" Elrohir yelled as Elladan stepped into the light, completely soaked, carrying an equally drenched child in his arms.  

Lord Elrond appeared followed closely by Aragorn when they heard Elrohir yell. The man had refused to stay in bed after word reached him of Aerinel's disappearance. He hobbled along after the elven lord as quickly as he could.

"Nothing! She is asleep, that is all!" Elladan snapped back somewhat tiredly. “She found me.”

Elrohir took a step back as Aragorn moved forward and tried to take the child from Elladan. But Aerinel awoke at the movement and clung to Elladan. "No," she moaned, batting Aragorn's hands away feebly. The ranger looked helplessly at Lord Elrond.

The elven lord came down the steps, a slight smile tugging at the corner of his lips, watching Elladan cradle Aerinel protectively against him. He had no idea how his son had managed to coax the child to come to him, but it seemed that whatever had taken place in the gardens that afternoon had sorted out the misunderstandings between Elladan and Aerinel. He could also sense the change in Elladan. The bitter anger that had been there earlier was gone, replaced with what was almost calmness.  "It would seem, ion-nín, that you will be putting Aerinel to bed this evening."

Elladan looked up at his father and for a moment their eyes locked together. With a curt nod, Elladan turned and climbed the steps towards the house. As he passed by his twin, Elrohir reached out and squeezed his forearm. Elladan stopped for a moment in surprise, disbelief written across his fair face.

Elrohir just nodded and turned away again. Aragorn watched as Elladan vanished into the house and then cautiously approached Elrohir. "You should talk to him."

"Why?" the younger twin questioned.

Aragorn shrugged. "He's your twin. His actions may have been unwise, but I do not think he intentionally intended for them to happen. He is still your twin and my brother, and I hate to see the two of you fighting."

Elrohir chewed his lip thoughtfully, although his eyes were unsure.

"Are you going to fall out over some silly mistakes?" Aragorn asked.

"Silly mistakes that could have cost you or someone else their life." Elrohir retorted sharply.

Aragorn shrugged. "Think about it. Do you really want to lose your twin? I’m still alive, you’re still alive, and no one died. Is this really that important?” He gave his brother a knowing look before walking off.

~*~*~S~*~*~


Some hours later Elladan sat on the side of the bed, watching Aerinel sleep. The room glowed a faint gold from the small shell nightlight that stood on the mantelpiece on the far side of the room. His thumb brushed over the small hand that rested in his.

The child had been too tired to even make a small protest about having a bath and had sat quietly in the water as Elladan had washed her, rubbing her sleepy eyes every so often.

Now she lay curled up under the warm blanket, her old stuffed bear tucked in beside her. Her hair, still slightly damp from her bath, was scattered across the pillow, the dark brown strands a stark contrast to the white pillow.

Elladan leaned over and tenderly brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes. his fingers continued to stroke her hair, marvelling at the softness of the dark locks and the peaceful look upon her face. This was the first time that Aerinel had slipped off to sleep without any trouble at all.

Aerinel murmured something in her sleep and shifted towards Elladan's hand. The elf smiled, but stiffened as he heard the door opening behind him. He knew who it was before he even stepped into the room.

"The child sleeps?" Elrohir asked, leaning over the edge of the bed, peering down into the small face.

Elladan nodded and glanced down at Aerinel's tiny fingers, examining each tiny nail but unable to meet his twin's eyes. He felt Elrohir sit down on the opposite side of the bed, but said nothing.

"Elladan?" Elrohir asked softy.

Slowly Elladan looked up and saw his brother's sorrow-filled gaze.

With a sigh, Elrohir continued. "El, I'm sorry about the way I've been behaving these last few days, towards you, towards Estel, and even towards Aerinel."

Elladan said nothing, but his fingertips brushed over Aerinel's cheek as he fought back the lump in his throat.

Elrohir tried again. "Elladan, I am sorry. It wasn't your fault that Estel got injured, it could have been any one of us. But yet I blamed you."

When Elladan didn't reply, Elrohir stood up to leave. He had tried. As he reached for the doorknob, Elladan's soft voice pulled him back.

"I am sorry too."

"For what?" Elrohir turned and slowly approached his twin's side.

Elladan looked up. "What I did was foolish. I should have waited for Glorfindel's signal. But instead I thought I could handle it on my own." He felt his brother's hand come to rest on his shoulder and squeezed his eyes shut against the tears that threatened to fall. "I have disappointed you, Adar, Estel, and Glorfindel and frightened Aerinel all in the space of a few days.”


"But you haven't." Elrohir sat down on the bed. "Estel does not blame you, neither does Glorfindel. Ada was just worried for you." He glanced at Aerinel who was still sleeping peacefully. "And by the looks of things, Aerinel has forgiven you as well...and so have I."

Elladan looked up and Elrohir saw the tears that clung to his dark lashes. Unable to bear the sadness, he enfolded his twin into a crushing embrace. "What's done is done," he told Elladan. "But at least now let us put it behind us and concentrate on the future."

Elladan nodded and swiped at his eyes. "I do not deserve your forgiveness," he whispered.

Elrohir pulled back and looked at Elladan sternly. "What sort of a person would I be if I did not forgive my own brother? My own twin?" He tilted his head to the side in question.

Elladan cracked a small smile. "Thank you, brother."

"You are welcome, brother dear." Elrohir smiled back at his twin. He clasped Elladan’s shoulders. “Oh El,” he whispered. “I do hate arguing with you!”

Elladan returned the embrace. “So do I.” Then his grin turned mischievous for the first time in many days. "Although I hear that you were quite harsh towards Aerinel also, am I correct?"

Elrohir bowed his head. "Yes," he whispered. "She wanted help making a picture for Estel and I told her she was in the way...well, shouted at her would be more truthful. Then she ran away before I could apologise."

"So I was not the only one who tested Ada's temper lately?" Elladan asked.

"No" Elrohir shook his head. Beside him on the bed, Aerinel muttered something and rolled over, then turning to lie on her back again. "I think we have both been unkind and unfair towards her."

"We will find a way to make it up to her. I promise," Elladan said as he picked up the discarded bear and gently tucked it beneath Aerinel's arm so that if the child awoke, she would not miss her stuffed toy.

"Come," Elrohir stood up quietly. "We had better leave before we wake her. As much as I love her, I do not want to have to deal with a grumpy child tomorrow."

Elladan nodded and stood to his feet slowly. Taking one last glance at the sleeping child, he leaned down and bestowed a soft kiss to her temple. "Sleep well, little one," he whispered into her ear. He did not notice the faint smile that spread across Aerinel's lips. Straightening up, he followed his brother out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

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