Remember How to Smile

Chapter 13

by Cassia and Siobhan

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“Aragorn!  ARAGORN!” Legolas shouted urgently.  He was afraid to move Dari any further without a healer.  The elf prince’s hands trembled fiercely.  What had he done?  Valar, what had he done?!  He should have known better.  He knew he was prone to dizzy spells lately; he should have thought of that before he placed Dari in danger.

The pounding of many sets of feet could be heard in the hall.  Several people had already been drawn by the crashing sound of the chair falling.  Legolas hoped that either Aragorn or the twins would be one of those people.

“Hold on, Dari, it will be alright,” he whispered quietly in elvish, sincerely hoping he was telling the truth.

Elladan entered the room first with his twin close on his heels.  Raniean was behind them.

Elladan and Elrohir’s eyes instantly questioned Legolas’ distraught features, but all they had to do was follow his gaze down to the floor to know what was wrong.  Dari’s twin uncles dropped immediately to the child’s side.  Elrohir checked the boy’s pulse while Elladan carefully inspected his head.

Raniean had stopped in the doorway, unsure what to do, but quickly moved out of the way when Aragorn finally entered the room.

“Dari...” Aragorn’s horrified whisper made Legolas look up.  The elf thought his heart would break.  He hadn’t meant to hurt his friend’s son, but that didn’t excuse the fact that he had.

Aragorn was kneeling by his brothers’ side in an instant.  “What’s happened?”  He saw blood on the floor and felt inexplicably ill.  It couldn’t be Eldarion’s, it couldn’t...

“I had him in my arms.  He wanted to reach the top shelf.  We... we fell,” Legolas said, still somewhat dazed.  “I’m sorry, Estel.  I’m so sorry.”

“He’s got a concussion, Estel, and a nasty cut on his head.  We’re going to need to see it better before we know how bad this is,” Elladan informed his brother quietly.

“I don’t think anything is broken.  It should be all right to move him,” Elrohir added.

Aragorn was trying to absorb all this information but his mind had partially frozen somewhere along the way... the moment he had seen his baby on the floor.

“All right, let’s take him upstairs,” Aragorn kept his voice strong and steady although he did not feel either of those things.  He gathered Dari carefully into his arms.  In the doorway he paused and looked back over his shoulder.  Legolas was still sitting on the floor, looking dazed and lost.  The fact that Legolas had actually fallen off a chair of all things was not lost on him, but Dari was the center of his immediate concern.

“El...?” he turned a pleading gaze upon Elladan.  The dark-haired elf nodded quickly in understanding.

“Go, I’ll make sure Legolas is all right,” Elladan assured, squeezing his brother’s shoulder before Aragorn hurried off with Dari and Elrohir.

Raniean knelt by Legolas’ side, trying to get his friend to talk to him.  Legolas seemed a bit disoriented.  He glanced up when Elladan joined them.

Legolas tried to shrug off Elladan’s help.  “Go with Aragorn, make sure Dari is all right,” the prince attempted to send the other elf away.

“I’ll go when I’m done with you, so don’t make this difficult.  I just want to be sure you really are all right,” Elladan coaxed.  He was surprised when Legolas suddenly met his gaze.  The elf’s blue eyes were troubled and stormy.

“El, do you think anything about me is ‘all right’?” he whispered hauntedly.


The stars will cry
Their blackest tears tonight
And this is the moment that I live for
I can smell the ocean air...
And here I am,
Pouring my heart onto these rooftops
Just a ghost to the world
That's exactly...
Exactly what I need.

From up here the city lights burn
Like a thousand miles of fire
And I'm here to sing this anthem
Of our dying day

For a second I wish the tide
Would swallow every inch of this city
As you gasp for air tonight...

--Story of the Year

The moon was only a quarter full, making the night an even darker shade of black than usual.  The stars winked down overhead, but they looked sad and distant, as if sensing their failure to cheer the heart of the elf that sat on the edge of the roof.

Legolas sighed as he stared out over the darkened valley.  He knew that Raniean and Trelan were worried about him, but he wanted to be alone for a while.  Everything had been going so well, he had almost convinced himself that he was going to be fine, despite his strangely failing body.  But now it felt as if everything had shattered into a million pieces around him and he had to face the truth that there was something wrong with him.  Something that seemed to be beyond the power of elves and humans to cure.

He told Aragorn that he was getting better.  He had convinced the twins that the herbs and liniments were working but he knew deep down that they were not.  This was not something that anyone could help him with.  Legolas was finally admitting it to himself and that was what scared him the most.  All of a sudden he truly was alone.

He wouldn’t be as faithless as he felt Aldarion had been.  He wouldn’t hurt those he cared for by making promises and then breaking them, but some part of his heart was beginning to despair over those pledges that bound him here.

Would you sail if you had the chance?  A small voice in the back of Legolas’ mind asked him again and again.

Legolas refused to answer that question, refused to truly look at the thought.  He had promised.  He wasn’t going anywhere.  He might as well be locked in the heart of a mountain – the sea could not have him. Unfortunately, his self-made prison was slowly becoming darker and more desolate.

Legolas heard footsteps on the roof, but did not move.  He easily recognized the heavy, stumping tread of the only dwarf in their party.  Gimli did not favor any kind of height so it was doubtful he had come up here for a breath of night air.  Doubtless, he was looking for the elf.  Legolas supposed Raniean or Trelan must have told Gimli where he was and he scowled slightly.  They knew he wanted to be alone.  Then again, he knew that his dwarven friend could be very... persistent.

Gimli did not see Legolas on the roof at first.  However, as his eyes adjusted to the dark, he saw that the elf had hopped over the railing that hedged in the flat, roof-top observatory and settled himself on the curled lip of the roof itself.  The prince glimmered faintly in the dim moonlight as he sat alone on the edge of the gently sloping eaves.  The elf had a light blanket wrapped around his shoulders and sat with his legs dangling idly off the edge of the building.  For half an instant Gimli wondered if his friend wanted to fall, but then he knew better.  He had seen Legolas in the trees and knew the prince’s strange preference for lofty and seemingly perilous perches.

“Legolas?” Gimli said softly, remaining safely behind the railing.  The dwarf was not at all comfortable with being this high off the ground.

Gimli knew the elf had to have heard him, but Legolas did not look up or give any sign.

“Legolas, those pointy ears of yours are good for something other than looks.  I know you can hear me,” the dwarf tried again.

“Please, leave me alone, Gimli,” Legolas said quietly, without looking up.

Gimli grumbled as he ducked under the railing. “Dratted elves, you’re really going to make me come out there, aren’t you...?” the dwarf muttered as he edged carefully and cautiously out onto the sloping roof-tiles towards his friend’s position.

Legolas did not look up until the dwarf was quite close.  Gimli never listened to him... but maybe he secretly loved the dwarf for that.  He knew how Gimli felt about places like this, and under his irritation he silently appreciated that his short friend would actually come out here for him.

Gimli’s thick boots grated and slid uneasily upon the slanting roof tiles and Legolas was fully prepared to catch the dwarf if he fell, but Gimli was more sure-footed than he looked.  He sat down next to Legolas where the slant of the roof leveled out before rolling to the curled rim and dropping away completely.  The dwarf did not let his feet anywhere near the edge, but sat cross-legged beside the elf.  From here they could see the roof tops of the out-buildings and other houses falling away below them into the lower parts of the valley.

“Legolas, he’s not upset with you,” Gimli said after a moment.  They both knew he was talking about Aragorn.

Legolas gave a wry smile at the dwarf’s characteristic bluntness.  He pulled the blanket a little tighter around his shoulders.  Drawing his legs up to his chest so that his feet rested on the very edge of the roof, the prince let his chin rest atop his knees.  “I know,” he said quietly.

“Then what did ye drag me all the way out here for?” the dwarf asked incredulously.  “Risking life and limb...”

Legolas regarded his friend with a raised eyebrow.  “Drag you?  I asked you to leave me alone.”

“Exactly, meaning that’s precisely what you didn’t need,” Gimli’s odd logic was inexplicably firm.  “Now if you’re not moping about Aragorn’s being upset with ye, what are you sulking about?”

Legolas grimaced and fixed his gaze on some distant, invisible point in the west.  “I’m not sulking,” he murmured absently, but the defense was half-hearted at best.  “I’m trying to be alone.”

Gimli folded his arms and eyed the elf.  He wasn’t getting the hint... or more likely he was simply ignoring it.  “Well you failed at that, so now what?”

Legolas growled between his teeth in frustration.  Gimli meant well, but he really didn’t want to talk right now.  He rose to his feet on the roof edge.

Now, I am going for a walk,” Legolas said with a small, mock bow.  Turning away he intentionally walked along the narrow lip of the roof edge, unfazed by the breathtaking drop off into the valley below.  He smiled slightly when he heard Gimli grumbling loudly behind him.  Something about ‘show-off’.

The cool night wind fluttered in under the blanket Legolas still held like a cloak around his shoulders.  He turned his face to the breeze and closed his eyes for a moment, his feet finding their way perfectly well on their own.

Suddenly, the inexplicable happened.  Legolas felt the by now familiar sensation of dizziness sweeping over him with a small thrill of alarm.  He halted and wavered, trying to keep his balance as his body seemed to forget which way was up.  Not now, not here!

It all happened so quickly Legolas only had time for a small burst of panic as he stumbled and lost his footing on the narrow ledge.  “Idiot!” the thought shot through his head.  “Didn’t you learn anything from what just happened in the library?”

For a few moments the world was a whirl of disjointed shapes, colors, sounds and flickering lights.  Legolas had fully expected to fall, but the impact was not nearly as bad as anticipated.

Half a moment later Legolas realized he had not fallen off the roof after all, but lay on the cool, smooth tiles by the edge with something warm and scratchy pinning him in place.


The dwarf was shaking the elf’s shoulders roughly.  “Legolas?  Legolas are you all right?  Can you hear me, laddie?!”

Legolas wondered if maybe he had actually passed out briefly, because he didn’t seem to have a very clear recollection of getting to this point or when exactly Gimli had started shaking him.

“Stop, stop, I’m all right!  A stone-deaf troll could hear you...” Legolas moaned softly, rolling onto his side.  He did not rise or try to sit yet.  He didn’t know if that was wise.  Gimli had saved him from falling once; he wasn’t about to test fate again until he knew he was in control of himself once more.

Gimli still held his friend’s slender body pinned carefully against the roof lest he slide again.  The dwarf frowned.  Legolas was trembling lightly under his hands.

The elf pulled away presently and sat up carefully.  He looked down at his numb hands and shook his head.  He should have known better than to be out here, just as he should have known better than to be lifting Dari around.  His body was a traitor to him and could not be trusted.  No, Aragorn wasn’t upset with him, but...

“He should be,” Legolas murmured.

Gimli cocked his head to the side, confused.  “Who should be what?”

“Aragorn,” Legolas returned the dwarf’s previous candor.  “He should be upset with me.  I was careless and Dari paid for it.”  The elf sank his head into his hands.  “All those months... I struggled to keep Dari safe from behind a wall of bars and now, now that we’re in the safest place on Arda, *I’m* the one who injures him.”

“It was an accident...” Gimli started to say, but Legolas cut him off sharply.

“Maybe so, but that’s just it.  I’m nothing but a walking accident now.  Look at me, Gimli.  LOOK at me!”  The elf’s voice was intense.  He pushed his hands forward.  One was still swathed in bandages.  “Every day I feel them less.  I couldn’t draw a bowstring if I wanted to.  I’m no use to anyone, least of all Aragorn.  I’ve become his burden, his responsibility...” the elf’s voice faded into quieter, sadder tones as his frustration spent itself.  “And I fear I shall fail him.”

Gimli shook his head. “You’re wrong.  No one thinks of you like that but you.  All Aragorn wants is to see your heart whole again.  He’d do anything for you, you know.”

“I know,” Legolas whispered softly.  “And that’s exactly the problem.  He has so much to worry about now, he doesn’t need me on top of it, doesn’t need... this.  He does so much for me... he does too much.  He doesn’t think I know what he’s doing, but I do.  He’s trying so hard... I want to give him what he desires, Gimli.”

Gimli closed his eyes for a moment as he understood everything the elf wasn’t telling him.  “So you think if you pretend you’re happy, that will make everything all right?”

“Why can’t it?” Legolas’ quite tone begged some kind of answer that would help.  “Why can’t believing make it so?  Why won’t this all go away?  What have I done that I should be punished like this?  Do the Valar hate me for refusing the call to Valinor?  Can they not understand what would happen if I left now?”

“Oh, the world would go to pieces, mountains would crumble to dust, the stars would fall from the sky...” Gimli’s tone was jesting, but kind.

Legolas chuckled mirthlessly.  “Are you saying you would like me to leave, Master Gimli?”

“Well it certainly might make the world a safer place...” the dwarf said with a glint in his eye.  “But not a more interesting one.  Of course I want you to stay, but tell me honestly, Legolas.  What do you want?”

Legolas blinked at the question.  He wanted to stay, didn’t he?  Wasn’t that what this was all about?  “I have to stay, Gimli, there’s never been any question about that.”

“Maybe there should have been,” Gimli said quietly.

To his immense surprise, Legolas found himself agreeing.  “Maybe.  But it’s not really an option.  I’ve made too many promises to break them... I can’t leave, even if I wanted to, which I don’t.”

Gimli turned an intent gaze upon the prince.  It was unusual for Legolas to be quite so defensive.  “Be frank with me, laddie, and with yourself.  You know I don’t hold you to your promise if you can’t keep it.  You know I’d be all right if you had to go.  Your friends in Ithilien would get along without you until their time came.  Your father, all your kin has already gone.  Why do you feel you don’t have a choice?”

Legolas turned his gaze back out over the darkened valley, hugging his knees to his chest again.  “Not all my kin,” he whispered softly, rubbing the faint scar almost completely hidden in the lines of his left palm.  Because of the human blood and the poison that had transferred into his system at the time it was made, the scar had never quite faded.  It an unusual mark for an elf, but Legolas treasured it.

“Legolas, do you really think Aragorn would want you to keep your promise to him at the expense of yourself?” Gimli asked quietly.

“Of course not.  You don’t understand,” Legolas shook his head.  “I know if he thought it were best for me he would want me to go.  But I can’t leave him.  If you had seen the look in his eyes at the mere thought... I won’t hurt him that way.  I won’t!”

“Give Aragorn some credit, Legolas,” Gimli argued.  “He’s not so fragile as all that.  You really think his world will end if you leave?  Isn’t that a big conceited, even for an elf?”

Legolas was not amused.  Gimli didn’t understand.  Very few people could ever understand what he and Aragorn meant to each other.  “Mine would, if he did,” the prince whispered quietly.  “So perhaps you give me too much credit, Master Gimli.  Maybe this seems foolish to you, but I am in earnest about my concern.  I... I almost died once, some years ago,” Legolas tried to explain.

“Only once?” Gimli snorted skeptically, but Legolas ignored him and kept speaking.

“At that time, Lord Elrond had a vision of what the results of my death might be.”  Legolas swallowed hard.  “Due to... some events that transpired, I became privy to that vision and a number of other things I should not have known.”  Legolas had never told anyone that he could recall Elrond’s memories of those final moments on the mountain and the vision that had prompted the elven lord to attempt to give his own life to save Legolas’.  Elrond had never spoken of the vision, so Legolas certainly wasn’t about to do so.  Forgotten for years, that particularly grim glimpse of the possible future had been weighing very heavily on the elf prince’s mind lately.

“Gimli, he saw everything I hold dear fall to pieces, including Aragorn.  I know the situation is different now, I know this is different, but...” Legolas didn’t know what to say.  How could he explain to Gimli what he could not explain to himself?  “I’m immortal, Gimli.  I have forever, what are a few more years here in Middle-earth that I cannot spare them to be with my friends in the time they have?”

Gimli could hear the war in his friend’s hoarse voice.

There was silence for several minutes before the dwarf finally shook his head.  “I heard it said once that even the right thing can be the wrong thing if you do it for the wrong reasons,” he muttered.  “Maybe I finally understand that.”

Legolas raised an eyebrow.  His friend had been around elves too long; he was starting to think like one.  There was truth in that statement, but the prince wasn’t sure he was ready to find it yet.  “Gimli, that statement was worthy of an elf.”

“No need to get insulting,” the dwarf huffed, but his smile softened his tone.

Legolas chuckled.


The room was dark except for the flickering of a solitary flame.  Aragorn’s old, shell nightlight sat on the dresser by Eldarion’s bed, casting a soft, comforting glow over the sleeping child.

Aragorn sat on the edge of the bed in the semi-dark, his hand resting on his little boy’s curly head.  The cut on the back of the child’s scalp was bandaged carefully, the white cloths partially hidden by the boy’s hair.

Sitting here like this, Aragorn could not help remembering how many nights Elrond had sat by his bedside when he was injured or ill.  Some part of him had always feared he was a burden to his adopted father, but sitting here looking at Dari, that concern finally evaporated.  The love in his heart for this child, for his child, was so strong it ached.  Eldarion would never be a burden to him, and maybe he could now in retrospect believe his own father’s assurances that he had not been one either.

Soft, slender hands came to rest upon Aragorn’s shoulders from behind.  One brushed his cheek gently.  Reaching up, the King captured the hand and brought it lightly to his lips for a kiss before looking up to see his Queen.

“Is it all right for him to be sleeping now?” Arwen asked softly, sitting down on the bed beside her husband.  She had only been gone a few minutes and Dari had been awake when she left.

Aragorn nodded, still holding her hand as they sat beside one another.  “The danger is past.  He’ll be all right,” he assured.

Arwen rested her free hand gently on her son’s side.  She smiled in relief.  “Trelan wanted to see you, I told him it was all right.”  She inclined her head towards the doorway.

Aragorn turned around, realizing he had been so absorbed with Dari he hadn’t even noticed Trelan’s quiet presence in the doorway behind him.

The human quickly gestured the elf into the room.  “Trelan, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.  Please, come in.”

Trelan nodded and complied.  He glanced towards Eldarion questioningly, but a nod from Aragorn told him it was all right. Now that he was finally allowed to sleep, Dari was resting too soundly to be wakened by the quite voices of the other occupants of the room.

Aragorn offered Trelan a chair, but the small elf preferred to stand.  “No, I won’t take too much of your time, your Highness,” Trelan assured.

Aragorn’s brows knit slightly.  Raniean and Trelan were used to addressing royalty by title, even someone they were as close to as Legolas, but there was something else in Trelan’s tone or manner that concerned the former ranger.

“Is... is Eldarion going to be all right?” the wood-elf inquired, his gaze once more straying to the small figure under the covers.

“Yes, he will be just fine,” Aragorn replied.  “Although he’s going to have to take it easy for a little while.  Is something wrong?”

“No, but...” Trelan sighed.  “I wish you’d talk to Legolas.  He feels terrible about what happened you know.  He didn’t mean to hurt Dari.”

Aragorn’s brows knit in earnest.  He had been so worried about Eldarion he hadn’t had time to check up on his friend yet.  Elladan had told him Legolas was no more injured than he had already been, but until now Aragorn had been too preoccupied to consider his friend’s mental state.  He didn’t blame Legolas for what happened, so the thought that the elf blamed himself came as a momentary surprise.

“Of course, I’ll talk to him right away,” Aragorn promised, rising to his feet.

Trelan looked relieved.  “Thank you.”  He gave a quick bow and left the room quietly.

Aragorn started to follow, but Arwen gripped his hand tightly, holding him back for a moment.  “Wait.”

Aragorn looked down at her with a puzzled expression.  “Why?”

Arwen’s beautiful dark eyes were fixed on her husband.  She patted the bed next to her, asking him to sit once more.  “Before you go to him, I want to talk to you, Estel.”

Aragorn slowly re-seated himself, trying to decipher what his wife was thinking.  “All right.”

“Estel... you were right.  Legolas is very troubled right now.  He has found a balm for his soul here in Rivendell that helps him deal with the pain.  Here he can laugh and love and forget his troubles awhile... but none of us can remain here forever.  It’s helping, but not curing him, meleth-nín.”

“But he’s getting better...” Aragorn found his throat a little tight.

“Is he?” Arwen’s eyes were full of love and heartache as they watched her husband.  She knew how hard this was for him.  “Or is he trying desperately to show you what he thinks you want to see?”

Aragorn looked down at his hands.  “What are you saying?” he asked quietly.

Arwen brushed her fingers gently down Aragorn’s weathered cheek.  Her fingers slid under his chin and tipped her husband’s head up once more.  “I’m saying that he needs to know his best friend will be all right no matter what happens.”

Aragorn blinked against the unwanted moisture in his eyes.  “And if that’s not true?” he whispered hoarsely.

Arwen felt her own eyes fill with tears.  “Oh, Estel... I know you love him, but you have to set him free.  If he truly wants it, he has to stay for himself, not for you.”

Aragorn dropped his head into his hands.  “She stays for you, she belongs with her people...” Elrond’s voice echoed through his mind.  Those words had cut like a knife.  He had long ago reconciled with his elven father over the strain in their relationship that his feelings for Arwen had caused, but the horrible irony of his current situation was not lost on the former ranger.  Would he always be a source of pain for the elves in his life?

“Like you did?” Aragorn’s voice was barely audible.  “Do you regret that choice, Arwen?”  His hurting eyes begged an honest answer.

Arwen blinked in surprise.  “No, never!” she ran her long, graceful fingers down Dari’s arm.  “I would not trade what I have for a million life-ages.  I would not trade you for anything.  But my choice is not the same as the one Legolas faces.  In some ways his is easier, in some ways harder.  I have felt the call of the sea... but it did not bind me.  Perhaps you might say that it was not fated for me, or perhaps rather that I simply found another call much more irresistible.  I did stay for you, my love, but I also stayed for myself.  You told me to leave, you set me free, but I chose to come back to you.  I begin to believe that Legolas doesn’t feel he has that choice.  He fears you will be desolate if he leaves, and he would never hurt you.”

“I don’t want him to be torn like this, Arwen.  I told him I’d take him to the Havens,” Aragorn said quietly.  “I told him I’d be happy for him.  What more can I do?”

Arwen’s eyes were sad.  “Mean it, meleth-nín,” she said gently.

Aragorn closed his eyes tightly and let his forehead rest against hers.  “What if I can’t?”