Remember How to Smile

Chapter 14: When My Weakness Shows

by Cassia and Siobhan

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I am lying awake, swallowing my fear.
There's something I must say, you need to hear...
Will you be here
When my weakness shows?
If I really expose what is under the surface
that no one else knows?
Will you be here?
Will you still be here?

Should be easier now wrapped in the dark
Still there's some courage required
And I'm missing the mark
Weary and worn, torn at the seams.
My insecurities rise and devour my dreams

I'm sorry to see you sharing this burden of mine.
But I cannot relieve you by telling you
Everything's fine.
Maybe you see.
Maybe I'm blind.

Now the torture must end.
The secrets I hide
Can't be denied anymore
God knows I've tried.
So I breathe my confession
With nowhere to run
And wonder if I'll see your face
In the light of the sun.

--Michael Gleason

“Legolas?” Aragorn’s soft voice interrupted the quiet of the night.

Legolas was still sitting on the edge of the roof with Gimli.  He looked up when he heard his friend’s voice, but did not answer.  What was this, the town square?  The elf pulled back into the shadows.  He glanced at Gimli and pressed his finger to his lips, asking for silence.

Gimli snorted softly.  He had his own ideas.  The dwarf pushed himself carefully to his feet.  “Down here, Aragorn.”

“Gimli!” Legolas hissed through his teeth.  He had been trying to avoid the human until his thoughts and emotions were a little clearer.

“Talk to him,” the dwarf said firmly.

Aragorn peered over the railing, bemused at the sight that met him.  It was not at all surprising to find Legolas here, but he would never have expected to find Gimli near anywhere so precarious.

The King swung his legs easily over the roof-rail and picked his way down the slope towards his two friends.

“I see you still favor... unusual places, mellon-nín,” Aragorn said with a smile when he reached them.

“Aye, a death wish, that’s what he has,” Gimli grumbled good-naturedly.  “Well I’ve had my fill of needless peril for one night,” he said as he began an ultra cautious journey back up towards the safer parts of the rooftop.  “Dwarves weren’t made to be holding elves up on rooftops.  Don’t let him fall again.”

“What?” Aragorn raised his eyebrows, his gaze turning upon Legolas who was beginning to flush.

“GIMLI!” the elf growled in dismay.

Gimli, already a safe distance away, chuckled as he ducked under the railing and out of sight.

“He seems to be the one with the death wish...” Legolas muttered under his breath.

Aragorn chuckled as he sat down next to Legolas, letting his legs dangle off the edge of the roof beside his friend.  “What is all this about falling?”

“Nothing,” Legolas replied with a scowl.  “Gimli is imagining things again.”

Aragorn doubted that, but let the matter rest.  “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I wanted to talk to you, Legolas.”

Legolas’ gaze had shifted back out to the western horizon once more.  He shrugged slightly, as if indicating that was fine.

“Are you feeling all right?” Aragorn asked quietly.

Legolas sighed.  Why did Aragorn always ask him that?  “If I tell you I’m fine you won’t believe me,” the elf said with a hint of wryness in his tone.  “How is Dari?”

“He’ll be just fine.  Legolas, I want you to know, I don’t blame you in any way for-”

Legolas held up his hands.  “I know, I know.  I believe Gimli and I just had this conversation.  It was an accident, everyone’s going to be all right, no one’s upset.  So let’s just let it go, all right?”

Aragorn was a little startled at his friend’s uncharacteristic brusqueness.  “No, it’s not all right,” he countered quietly.

Legolas looked up sharply.  A soft flare of fear passed through his eyes as he considered the fact that perhaps Aragorn was angry with him after all.

“It’s not all right because you’re not all right, Legolas.”  Aragorn made his tone gentler when he saw the uncertainty written across his friend’s face.

Legolas smiled, but it did not reach his eyes.  He shrugged and looked away.  “I’m fine, Estel.  Just tired.  I’m sorry I was short with you.  I did not mean that to come out the way it sounded.  Please forgive me.”

Aragorn pinched the bridge of his nose.  “Legolas, please,” he whispered softly.  “Don’t shut me out.  You don’t have to pretend for me.  We’ve been friends almost all my life... you used to trust me.  You used to trust that I could still be your friend even when you weren’t fine.  I know a lot of things have changed, Legolas, but I haven’t changed towards you.  It’s all right to not be all right,” he said earnestly, taking Legolas gently by the shoulders and turning the elf towards him.  “You don’t have to pretend you’re happy to make me happy.  Can’t you trust me as you once did?”

In the starlight, Aragorn was surprised to see Legolas’ eyes well up with tears.  The prince quickly turned his head away to hide them.

“I do trust you, Estel,” he whispered hoarsely.  “I didn’t mean to lie to you.  I just... I want to be all right.  I need to be.  I can’t stand wallowing in this abominable weakness!  I could never stand it, in the old tales, when people would just go to pieces from despair and lose sight of all the beauty and wonder that life had yet to offer.  Sometimes it seemed like they must enjoy being stuck in their misery as they dragged it on and on... I couldn’t understand why they did not just pull themselves together and get on with their lives.  I don’t want to be one of those people, Estel!  What’s wrong with me?!”

Aragorn pulled the elf close, hugging him tightly.  “There’s nothing wrong with you, Legolas.  The call of the sea is a powerful force... and it’s not a bad thing.”

Legolas gave a slightly choked laugh.  “It certainly feels like it!”

Aragorn smiled.  “I know, it does.  But the Valar put it in your heart; let us not despise them for that.  Perhaps they know better than we do.”  The human pulled back a little.  He met the elf’s eyes earnestly.  “Legolas, I think we’ve been approaching this all wrong.  You and I... we’re trying to fight something we’ll never win.  You will sail someday, Legolas, because you are meant to do so.  It’s a gift, a wonderful one.  When you get to Valinor... I can’t even imagine what it will be like.  We know the peace and joy that lingers here, in Rivendell, even now as she slowly gives herself back to Arda... how much more will it be there?”

Legolas’ shoulders were shaking slightly.  He was trying not to cry, and failing.  “Aragorn... please... please stop... I can’t imagine it, not without you.”

There were tears in Aragorn’s eyes as well, but he smiled through them at his friend.  “No... Legolas, don’t cry for me.  Ilúvatar is not so cruel as to separate us forever; I believe that, Legolas, I do.” 

Legolas could read the burning conviction in his friend’s eyes and it comforted him.  Aragorn had always been his light of hope when he could see only darkness.

“Dari says that you told him the tale of Aldarion and Erendis.  You know, I always thought that their problem was that Erendis did not truly love Aldarion enough to let him go if that was what he needed to do.  I won’t make that kind of mistake.  I love you, Legolas.  You’re my brother in everything but name.  I want you to be happy.  I can’t pretend that it would not hurt to part from you now, but I promise you, mellon-nín, that it would hurt me far less than knowing that you were living every day in despair simply to remain near me.”

“Aragorn...” Legolas was shaking his head, but his friend stopped him.

“No, please, Legolas, listen.  This isn’t easy for me to say, but I want you to know I mean it, from the bottom of my heart: Don’t stay here for me.  I can’t bear that kind of responsibility... don’t make me, please.”

“But I promised...” the elf’s voice was hoarse.

“You promised to always be with me, and you will be, Legolas.”  Aragorn touched his heart.  “Just as Elrond is always with me.  I will carry you in my heart for the rest of my days.  Now tell me truthfully, my friend.  Do you want to sail?  Please, Legolas, if you value our friendship, be honest.”

Legolas searched his friend’s eyes.  He could see Aragorn was telling him the complete truth.  Slowly, he nodded his head.  “I do,” the elf whispered.

Aragorn smiled gently.  That was what he had both feared, and expected.  He did not try to hide the bittersweet sorrow in his eyes, but he also let Legolas see the joy that he did feel when he thought about where his friend would be going.  The King enveloped his dearest friend in another large hug.

“Then I rejoice for you,” Aragorn whispered, his voice rough with emotion.

Legolas pressed his face against his friend’s shoulder.  He could feel in the strong, encouraging embrace around him that Aragorn was at peace.  Oh yes, the human grieved, but Legolas did not sense the deep, devastating anguish he had so feared.  He let out the breath he did not realize he had been holding.  It felt as if a great weight had lifted off his chest.  Aragorn would be all right.  He wouldn’t unintentionally destroy his best friend.

The elf’s fingers tightened in his friend’s velvety tunic and he finally let himself cry.

They remained thus for a long time until peace settled upon both of them.  The night winds dried their tears and they lay back against the roof tiles to watch the stars.  They didn’t speak again, but Legolas seemed exhausted.  Aragorn was tempted to say they should retire inside, but he hated to break the quiet peacefulness.  When he realized that Legolas was now sleeping on his shoulder, the human decided not to wake him.  It was rare lately for the elf to be able to sleep without the aid of any teas or medicines, and Aragorn would not disrupt him for the world.  He didn’t want to think about the future right now, about saying goodbye.  He just wanted to live in the moment and watch his friend sleep naturally for a change.

When dawn slowly began to paint the edges of the horizon behind them, Aragorn was surprised to realize that so much time had passed.  Legolas stirred as the sky began to lighten over them and his clear blue eyes focused slowly, showing he was waking up.

Legolas stretched and smiled at Aragorn.  “It’s been a long time since we slept in a tree together, mellon-nín,” he teased.

“This is hardly a tree,” Aragorn pointed out as he stretched his own aching muscles.

“True,” Legolas conceded.  “But in any case, you have improved.”

Aragorn chuckled.  “If I have, it’s all your fault.  We should go back in now though; the others must be wondering where we are.”

“I’m sure Gimli fulfilled their curiosity,” Legolas remarked as he rose to his feet.  “That dwarf seems incapable of holding his tongue.”

Aragorn laughed and rubbed his back.  He was getting too old for these kinds of unusual beds.

They climbed back up to the flat part of the roof but lingered a moment longer in the cool morning air.  Aragorn was gratified to see more color in Legolas’ pale cheeks and more twinkle in his eyes than he had in some time.  As much as he didn’t want to let him go, he was glad that Legolas’ decision last night was already having a positive effect on the elf.

“When do you want to leave?” Aragorn asked quietly.

Legolas considered the question a moment.  “Perhaps a few more weeks.  I think we have that long before Faramir and Brenyf are both chafing to get us back to our rightful places.”

Aragorn blinked in confusion.  “But, I thought... you said you wanted to sail.”

Legolas nodded slowly.  “I do.  Someday.  Not right now.”  It had not been an easy decision to make, but last night, watching the stars, he had finally been able to consider without fear or shame the voice that asked him if he would sail right now if he had the chance.  He found he could answer them.  And to his surprise he discovered the answer to be no.

No, not now.

The warring within his soul was quieting now that he had simply been honest with himself and faced down the fears that had gripped him so tightly.  It was a relief to be rid of the constant nagging doubt that had weighted his soul.  When he had answered the question within himself it had stilled that part of him.  The sea longing was not gone but perhaps he could learn to live with it.

“Are you sure?” Aragorn was hesitant to know what to believe.

Legolas smiled and gave another nod.  “Yes, Estel, I’m sure.  I’m not ready yet, my friend.  Truly I’m not.  It... it’s not going to be easy, I know that, but I want to try.  I want to.  Will you help me, Estel?”

Aragorn smiled and clasped Legolas’ elbow firmly.  “With all my heart.”


Still you are here
Though my weakness shows
Did I really suppose you did not know
Already the things I disclosed?
Still you are here...
Still you are here...

--Michael Gleason


Aragorn gently held Legolas’ hand as he examined the healing burn.  Carefully probing the elf’s unburned fingers he questioned the prince.

“Can you feel that?  Does it hurt?” Aragorn asked softly as he continued his examination.

The two friends were at the far end of the pantry that also served as an impromptu medical room when necessary.  They spoke quietly to one another keeping their conversation to themselves.  Arwen, who worked at the opposite end, easily overheard their hushed conversation. She smiled to herself as she listened to her husband in his healer role.  He spoke softly and calmly, always concentrating on the person with whom he was dealing.  It was one of Estel’s gentler sides that she loved so much.  She was busy grinding tea leaves for Eldarion’s last water call.  The little boy had been sleeping fitfully and the cut to his head, though healing, still gave him headaches.  She wanted a good night’s rest herself tonight and had ventured into her father’s pantry only to find Aragorn and Legolas intently studying the elven prince’s hand.

“Yes I can feel it, a little.  It’s not much improved but the tingling sensation has gone,” Legolas answered the questions Estel directed at him.

“That’s good.  That’s something.”  Aragorn was encouraged by the elf’s admission and smiled up at his friend as he washed the burns.  Legolas nodded slightly before returning the smile. His heart was much lighter but he still feared the injuries that his body seemed to have inflicted upon itself.  The hesitation was not lost on Aragorn.  He gently squeezed the elf’s shoulder and began digging through the supplies for bandages.

A quick searching of the pantry turned up nothing with which to rebind the wound.

“Wait here, I’ll be right back.  I know where there are more,” Estel ordered as he headed out the door.  Stopping just on the threshold the man turned and leaned back in giving his wife a quick kiss on the cheek before disappearing once more.

Arwen waited until she could no longer hear her husband's light tread in the hallway before she turned to the Silvan elf.  Legolas was massaging his numb hand, trying desperately to get the feeling to return.  He did not realize that Arwen had stepped near him until she gently reached for his hand and took up the gentle ministrations.

“He worries over you,” she said simply.

“I wish that he would not,” Legolas replied.  He glanced to the floor, unable to meet her piercing gaze.

“And that would work as well as wishing the sun to never rise again.  You cannot stop what the heart begins.  He cares for you deeply.  To ask him to stop caring would be like asking him to throw his heart away and that is something he can never do.  His heart is too big for him to deny his feelings.  Let him care for you, you will find healing in his hands if you allow it.” Arwen smiled as Legolas gasped softly.  He had felt her touch, if for only a moment.  “See?  Even now you are getting better.  He has his part to do and you, dear prince, have yours.”

She stopped and cupped the prince’s face in her hand, forcing him to look at her as she continued.  “I know what you fear.”

“Then you know why I fear it also,” he countered.  When she nodded, Legolas moved back and leaned against the counter behind him.  “I found the story of Aldarion and Erendis in your father’s library the other night.  Are you familiar with it?” he asked, watching her carefully for her response.

Wrinkling her nose Arwen smiled at the blond-haired elf.  “I always hated that story.  It’s a terrible one,” she commented dryly, nearly sounding just as disparaging as her son had when Legolas had told him of it.

Legolas laughed softly at her remark.  “You know, Eldarion said nearly the same thing when he asked me to tell him about it.”

Having found bandages in another supply closet, Aragorn was on his way back to the pantry when the sounds of elvish laughter met his ears.  His steps faltered and slowed as he reached the doorway.  He leaned back against the wall of the corridor and listened to the conversation inside.  There were times he had found that Arwen had a healing touch of her own and he did not want to interrupt.

“You hate it because you can relate to it?” Legolas pressed hesitantly.  He needed to know.  He had to talk this out with someone else who had faced and made, in his opinion, a much more difficult choice.

“Relate to it?  Goodness no!” Arwen’s gentle laugh flowed out into the hallway again.

“Have you never felt that way?  Don’t you wonder why he didn’t stay?”  Legolas tipped his head and gazed perplexedly at the female elf.

“Are you asking me if I have ever felt the call of the sea?  Or do you ask if there has ever been a call deeper that can override its siren song?” Arwen questioned sincerely.  She wanted to understand what exactly Legolas was driving at.

“No! I mean... yes.  Actually, both,” the Silvan elf stammered.  He realized he had just ventured into an area he had never meant to trespass upon.

“Yes, I have heard the call of the gull and it is a strong one.  I felt it strongest upon the shores of Mithlond the day Mother left for Valinor; perhaps that is why I did not make the second journey with Father.  One who has not felt it could never understand its pull.  And no, I don’t wonder why Aldarion never stayed.  I think the answer is simple.  He had not found his heart’s true love in Erendis, although she had found hers in him,” Arwen answered softly, her gaze never leaving the other elf.  “The call of a million gulls could never drown out the desire of my heart and, since the day I first laid eyes upon him, that has always been to be with Estel.  My love for him bade the sea longing to silence and I could have never left Middle-earth without him.  As I understand it, your reasons for staying are the same and yet different, but you must decide for yourself.”

Legolas dropped his gaze, studying the floor beneath his feet while he thought through Arwen’s words.  They were nearly the same as Aragorn’s a few nights ago on the rooftop.

“I have made my choice and I chose to stay for myself and not out of obligation.  I love Estel as the brother of my heart and I will not leave now before him.  I have peace with that decision, but how do I live with it?” he whispered softly.

The despair in the elf’s question touched Arwen and she took a moment to think through her answer.

Out in the hallway Aragorn held his breath and listened harder.

The soft sounds of rain on the roof reached Arwen’s conscious thought and she smiled to herself.

“Legolas, do you hear the rain?” she asked the Silvan elf.

The question startled the prince.  He frowned and glanced about them, shifting his perception to beyond their immediate proximity.  There, yes, he did hear the soft patter of rain on the eaves.  The sound was soothing and low and he realized that it had been in the background for the better part of the day.

“The rain is your answer,” Arwen continued.  “You know the rain is falling.  You can hear it if you concentrate on it.  It is always there, but you don’t always pay attention to it, do you?  That is how you treat the sea-longing.”

“But...” Legolas’ question was cut off as the queen continued.

“It will not happen overnight, Legolas Greenleaf. You must give your heart as much time to heal as your body requires and then even more.  You cannot start to count time like humans do.  Let the sea-longing have its way.  In time your soul will accept it as simply part of the rhythm of your heart.  It’s a gift from Ilúvatar.  We may not always appreciate it, but it is his way of telling us that he misses us and wants us home.  He knows your desire is to stay here with Estel and Gimli and all your kin that have remained with you.  And I cannot believe he would fault you for that.  Do not despise the fact that your heart yearns for the place that has been made for you ere you and I were born.  Let it simply become a part of you.  Own that longing, look forward with joy to the day when it can be fulfilled, and do not despise the time between.  If you accept it, eventually you will feel it fade,” Arwen explained gently.

“And this?”  Legolas held up his injured hand.

Aragorn answered for his wife as he walked quietly into the room.  Taking Legolas’ hands in his own he rubbed them gently as he spoke, “That, dear friend, will heal when you stop fighting yourself.  Your body is weary from the turmoil of your heart.  When you release the warring and accept your decisions and future then your body can rest and recover fully and you will find yourself the same old prissy elf you always have been.”  The king smiled fondly into the blue eyes that held his gaze.

With a small laugh, the elf pulled away and wrapped his arms around the man, enveloping Estel in a strong hug.  Arwen stepped quietly away, taking her tea mixture out of the room and giving the two friends a moment alone.  She had every suspicion that her husband had heard the whole conversation, but she would pry the truth out of him later.

Before Legolas released Aragorn, he pressed his lips near the man’s ear and whispered fiercely, “How long were you out there?”

“Out where?” Aragorn feigned innocence poorly.  He started to laugh when Legolas released him and leaned back against the cabinets once more.

“You were eavesdropping, admit it!” Legolas accused with a smile.

“I dropped no eaves,” Aragorn laughed, “In fact I don’t think eaves even came into the picture. I simply went in search of bandages in the supply closet where there were no eaves and then returned here.”

Legolas glared at the human but couldn’t resist the impish smile that tugged at the corners of the man’s mouth.  In moments both were laughing.

“She is wise you know,” Legolas commented quietly as Aragorn bound his burned hand.  “I can see why you married her.”

“Pretty too,” Estel grinned evilly, egging the prince on.

Legolas snickered as Aragorn tucked the edges of the bandage in on itself and turned the elf’s hand over, inspecting the cloth.

“I actually felt with my fingers when Arwen was massaging them,” Legolas spoke quietly into the easy silence that had fallen.

Aragorn glanced up quickly at the elf, questioning him with his gaze.

“I did,” Legolas reassured.

“That’s excellent my friend. See I told you, you are improving.  You have to listen to your healer when he tells you things,” Aragorn bragged trying to lighten the mood once more.

“Or at least listen to his wife,” Legolas smirked.

“She’s wise,” Aragorn threw back the elf’s own words as he cleaned up the items he had been using.

“Pretty too,” Legolas murmured as he leaned on his friend’s shoulder and raised his eyebrows.

“Hey! Now that’s my wife you’re talking about.  Only I’m allowed to say such things,” Aragorn defended playfully.  Gently he shoved the elf out into the hallway before him and pretended to call Elladan or Elrohir for help.

Legolas grabbed the man from behind, covering his mouth and pulling him backwards.  They both tumbled off balance and hit the wall behind them falling into a pile on the floor and laughing so hard they could not breathe.

This was how Jonath and Raniean came upon them, acting like two overgrown children. Wrestling on the floor, each tried to gain his feet while holding the other down.  It wasn’t working. It was however rather amusing and no one stopped them until Elladan waded in and moved them apart, chastising them both.

“You both act younger than Eldarion!” Elladan reprimanded.  “One would think you still a fledgling headstrong ranger,” he commented glaring at the human who was bent over trying to catch his breath, before glancing at the blond-haired elf, “And you, King of the Silvan elves acting like an elfling.  For shame... both of you.”

Aragorn glanced up at Legolas through the strands of hair that fell into his eyes and obscured Elladan’s view of his face.  He smiled wickedly at the elf across from him and raised an eyebrow in question.

Before he knew what hit him, Elladan found himself on the floor beneath the two he had been reprimanding.  Laughter echoed through the rafters and in moments the hallway was thick with friends and family breaking up the impromptu scuffle and dragging the participants off to the Hall of Fire.

Aragorn turned and glanced back at Legolas.  The human was firmly pinned in the strong grip of the youngest of the twins, while Raniean gently man-handled his liege behind them.  A genuine smile broke across the elven face and Aragorn felt himself mirroring it as the two were seated side by side near the burning hearth and told to behave or Jonath would sit between them.

Moranuen brought flagons of wine and fluted cups and began pouring the sweet drink and dispensing it round the room.  The Hall was alive with chatter and music and laughter, soothing sounds that mixed with the rain outside.

Legolas listened to the gentle patter of the storm against the windows and thought he could hear for just a moment the swell and rhythm of the sea.  He let the sounds dim about him and recede to the background, focusing instead on the lives around him and his heart seemed to ease up just the slightest bit.  With a sigh he leaned back against the pillows stacked behind him.

Aragorn passed him a cup and leaned over closer, noting the expression on his friend’s face.

“Are you well?  Do you need to rest?” He asked worriedly.  They had been rough-housing and he feared they might have accidentally pushed the Silvan elf too hard.

“I am,” Legolas answered cryptically.  He continued when Aragorn raised an eyebrow in a perfect imitation of Elrond, bidding the elf to explain further.  “I am resting.  And it feels good.”  He smiled, glancing down at his hand.  The fingers of his wounded hand were wet with sweat from the glass.

“I feel the water, Estel.  On my fingers, it feels cold,” he whispered, slightly surprised that he could feel anything at all.

“To healing,” Aragorn toasted as he clinked his fluted glass against Legolas’.  His smile echoed the elf’s.

“To life,” Legolas countered throwing back his head and draining his cup in one gulp.

Elrohir noted the quiet conversation and approached the two friends with a full flagon of wine.

“Did you not promise us a story tonight?” he asked with a laugh as he filled both glasses once more.

Aragorn glanced at Legolas out of the corner of his eyes.  The blond-haired elf shifted his gaze into the center of the room that was quieting under the expectation of entertainment.

“That we did, good Elrohir.  What would you hear of?” he prompted lightly.


The arrow missed the target by a wide berth, burying itself in the woods beyond.  Draecyn sighed, disgusted with himself.  He had been feeling off lately and it was showing in his accuracy.

The sounds of soft laughter caused the soldier to roll his eyes and glance at Jonath with a look that begged to be released from being diplomatic.

“If you think you can do better why don’t you get out here and prove it,” the younger soldier commented darkly.  His barb was thrown to the woods behind them as their watchers had not made a point to disclose their positions.

The two men had known they were being watched for some time and the quiet, musical laughter only confirmed their suspicions.

Jonath and Draecyn had left after the morning meal to spend some time alone practicing their bowmanship.  They intended to spar when they had tired of archery.  It was good to be where there was no war or threat or immediacy but Jonath wanted to make sure that they did not grow lax.  They were still the King’s guard and as such their skills needed to remain sharpened.  By his counting they had been in Imladris nearly a month now and neither of them had had any battle practice the entire time.

The meadow to the north of Rivendell had been a perfect place to quietly work on their skills.  It was bracketed on all sides by thick woods and was easily a hundred yards in diameter.  The two humans had only been practicing a short while when their easy banter had been surprisingly interrupted by quiet laughter.

Think I can do better?” The retort came from their left.  “Human, I could do better blindfolded and with a broken arm.”

Trelan emerged from the woods with Raniean trailing him.  The taller of the two elves was trying hard to contain his laughter.

In the past few weeks Draecyn and Trelan had developed an easy friendship.  The two were nearly the same height and from all outward appearances, had one not know that Trelan was an elf, they looked as if they were the same age.  Perhaps mentally they were sometimes, more than Trelan wanted to admit.

Stepping up next to his new friend, the Silvan elf pulled an arrow from his quiver, sighted the tree across the way that was serving as the target and without any effort let the projectile fly.

It struck the small sapling square in the trunk.

With a satisfied smile the small elf turned to the man and raised his eyebrows in a smirking question.

“And how many years have you been practicing?” Draecyn quipped drolly.  “Probably only a thousand, eh?”

“Well maybe a bit more than that,” Raniean answered for his friend.

“We were raised to be bowmen.  It’s in our blood,” Trelan explained.  “Ran and I work with the new archers.  Would you like some tips?”

His offer was genuine.  It took Draecyn a few moments to decide whether the elf was teasing him or not.  Glancing at Jonath, the guard frowned not sure at all if he wanted to admit inadequacy.

Jonath shrugged and glanced back at Raniean.

“I think I’ll watch for a few minutes.  Go ahead.  It can’t hurt.”  He softened the rebuke with a smile.

Sighing deeply the Gondorian glanced back at the elf, his eyes mere slits as he conceded his need.

“Only if you stop laughing,” Draecyn growled.

“Agreed!” Trelan acquiesced.  He was instantly excited.  He loved archery and he loved teaching those younger than him.  In actuality he was one of the better teachers that had remained in Middle-earth.  His height made him perfect, putting him at the right eye level for most elven sights and his patience in teaching was renowned.  He could as easily stop an argument or calm an upset elf as he could start a major fight.  When he had a mind to, his temper could get away with him, but never in the teaching arena.

Time was something that elves had on their side.  So learning slowly or difficulty was not viewed as a problem, simply something to overcome.  Patience was the gift of the older elves and they passed it down through their dealings with those younger than themselves.

The elf began quietly instructing the human while their elders watched.

The days had grown colder over the passage of the week and Jonath drew his overcoat more tightly about him.  Raniean glanced at the man before looking skyward.

“The weather has turned,” Raniean commented.  “Winter will soon be upon us.”

“It is said that elves do not suffer cold nor heat,” Jonath observed.  “Is that true?”  He took in the light clothing that the elves favored.  The wood elves especially seemed more disposed to leggings and a comfortable tunic overlaid with a vest that was fitted for easy movement.  He himself was layered with an inner and outer tunic and a heavy duster to stave off the chill.

“For the most part it is,” Raniean agreed.  He had meant to explain further when their conversation was interrupted by boisterous laughter behind them startling the group.

“Oh my, this looks familiar,” Aragorn commented.  He stepped out into the glade and glanced back and forth between his men and the Silvan warriors.

“I do believe we had this lesson years ago,” Legolas agreed.  He stood next to the King, his hands on his hips surveying the field before them.

“Just like teaching the young ones!” They both chimed in at the same time.  Their private recollections caused the two lords to break out laughing once more.

Draecyn’s face blushed as he stepped away slightly from Trelan.  The elf had been trying to teach him the proper stance and had his hands on the human’s shoulders.  He was suddenly very self conscious about what his liege would think having caught him in the act of requesting help.  The Gondorian soldiers prided themselves in being highly skilled in the art of war.

Shaking his head in disgust the small elf addressed the newcomers.

“If you can’t help, then leave!” Trelan threatened.  “Teasing isn’t allowed on the range.”

“Well you’re doing it wrong.  You’re teaching a human, Trelan, not an elf and it’s a bit different with them,” Legolas answered with a wise smile.  “You need to show him how to stand by doing it with him.  Like this...”

The prince grabbed Raniean’s bow and pulled Aragorn along behind him.  Reluctantly the king followed, knowing where this was leading.

Dragging Aragorn to stand next to Draecyn, Legolas handed the human the elven bow and passed him an arrow offered by Trelan.  The King glanced at Draecyn and rolled his eyes as he accepted the weapons.

“Take your stance,” Legolas commanded his friend.

Trying not to laugh, Aragorn notched the arrow and pulled back on the string, sighting in on the tree across the glade.  He didn’t flinch as the elf stepped in behind him and took hold of his shoulders.

“Like this, Trelan,” Legolas instructed.  The prince placed his chin on the man’s shoulder, his face nearly touching the side of Aragorn’s.  Knowing how his friend stood, he kicked the man’s right leg back with the tip of his boot, widening the human’s stance.

Aragorn simply let himself be positioned by the Silvan elf.  His shoulders shook from silent laughter prompting the prince to gently smack his head.

“Pay attention! You never did learn this the first time,” he whispered to the man as he lined his sight back up with Aragorn’s.

Trying to be serious, the man quieted and concentrated.  The king felt the gentle touch of Legolas’ fingertips against his temple pushing his head back into a straight position.

“Don’t tip your head,” Legolas commented.  “How long has it been since you fired a bow, anyway?”

“Legolas...” Aragorn growled out his friend’s name.  He didn’t mind being used as a demonstration but he wasn’t about to let the elf make fun of him in front of his men.

The king felt more than heard the prince’s soft snicker.

“As you wish, my friend.  Now breathe in,” Legolas commanded, falling easily back into instructing.  “Hold it.  Sight in on the tree.”

The elf’s soft words could barely be heard by anyone other than the man.  The barest of touch to the human’s forearm readjusted the tip of the arrow.

“Breathe out... and... release.”

Aragorn barely moved.  Only the fingers of his right hand straightened as he let go of the bowstring.

The arrow flew on an arcing trajectory and embedded itself into the tree right next to Trelan’s.

“That is how you teach a human how to shoot,” Legolas commented with a laugh.  He stepped away from Aragorn, allowing the man to drop the bow to his side.

Draecyn stared wide-eyed at Aragorn.

“Did he really teach you just like that?” the soldier questioned.

“Just like that,” Aragorn answered with a smile, “many, many years ago now.  The wood elves are renowned for their skills with the bow.  You should be honored to learn from them.  But it still takes practice!”

“Something you rarely do,” Legolas retorted quietly as he walked back to the edge of the wood.

Following his friend, Aragorn passed the bow back to Raniean and gained the prince’s side.

“I’ll have you know I practice all the time when they let me!” the man replied in feigned disgust.

“Don’t you mean as often as Arwen will let you?”

The new voice came from their right and the speaker was revealed as Elladan and Elrohir joined the small company.  The twins had been out earlier in the morning making their daily circuit of the grounds.  It was a habit that they had developed from earlier years and never quite broken themselves of.  When they had heard the conversations and laughter coming from the far glen they had taken it upon themselves to investigate.

“I’ll tell her you said that!” Aragorn threatened wryly.

With the coming of the twins the banter and taunting only increased.  In moments a mini-tournament had started with the men on one team and the elves on the other.  It was a highly unfair competition as the elves excelled in the art of archery and outnumbered the men.  But the humans gave it their best, much to the pleasure of their elven companions.

It dawned on the company slowly that their vision was being obscured by a soft, slow downfall of snow.  Seconds later the contest came to an abrupt halt as everyone stopped to gaze skyward.

“No...” Aragorn growled.  He dropped his gaze to the dirt beneath him and slowly shook his head.  The King’s disappointed comment was nearly drowned out by Legolas’ shout of joy.

“Yes! Yes! I was correct!” the elven prince said smugly, pointing in emphasis at the frowning man.  “Therefore it will be you in the kitchen tonight and not I!”

The smile that brightened the twins’ faces only added to Aragorn’s chagrin.

“What is he speaking of, Estel?” Elrohir called.  He shook his head causing a spray of snow to drop around him as he walked closer to his younger brother.  Slinging his bow over his shoulder, he couldn’t resist the smirking smile that slowly spread across his face.

“Did you loose a bet?” Elladan continued to prod.

“I did,” the man relented with disgust.  “I told Legolas I knew Rivendell better than he and that he was incorrect about first snow coming so soon.  He bet me it would be today and I took that bet.”

“Foolish,” Legolas commented quietly.  The soft jab reached the King’s ears and he glared at the prince.  The elf was calmly packing his things readying to set off for the house.  He knew very well that it was not smart to keep the humans out in the snow especially as Aragorn had not heeded his word nor dressed appropriately.

Picking up his cloak he walked over to Aragorn and draped it over the man’s shoulders, pulling the hood up over the human’s head.  Aragorn did not fight the attention nor did he resent it.  The elf and the man knew each other too well.  Legolas’ intentions had been pure and they were accepted as such.

“We should head back, my friend,” Legolas taunted with a smile, “It wouldn’t do to have you catching your death of a cold before I get my dinner.”

“I hate wild berry potatoes,” Aragorn groused as he fell in step with the elf.

“Well that was part of the bargain and you are not getting out of it,” Legolas shouldered the man.  “I hate panjacakes.”

“Hey!  I like panjacakes!” Draecyn piped up from where he still stood next to Trelan.  The smaller elf and Raniean were continuing to practice, firing their bows in the midst of the snow flurries.

“Has to be a human thing then,” Elladan remarked sarcastically.

“Although we hate wild berry potatoes,” Elrohir chimed in.

“Has to be a Silvan elf thing,” Aragorn muttered as he turned around to watch the men behind him.

He stumbled sideways when Legolas gave him a good shove.

“Come on, men,” Aragorn called, “we need to get back.  No sense catching a cold out here in the snow.”  He knew from experience how susceptible they were to illness when the weather changed as abruptly as it had this year.

Draecyn watched the elves beside him effortlessly shooting as though they had not even realized it was snowing.  The temperature had dropped fairly quickly over the last hour.  It just hadn’t been noticeable from the exertion of the games.

“May I stay and practice more?” the young Gondorian soldier asked.  He wasn’t ready to concede defeat.  The fact that it was the weather that was now threatening to show him up and not just the elves, seemed humiliating to the man.  He hadn’t spent enough time around the fair beings to realize what he perceived as human weakness was simply a difference between the races.

“Just like the one young ones!” Aragorn and Legolas laughed, remembering the exuberance of another young human so many years ago.  They had moved beneath the shelter of the thick woods out of the snow flurries and were waiting for the others to join them.

“I wouldn’t advise it,” Elladan kindly answered the guard’s question.

“You’ll catch your death of a cold,” Elrohir continued.

“It happened to Estel a few times when he was younger,” Elladan resumed the explanation.  He followed his twin as they jogged back to the safety of the trees.  The storm was slowly increasing.

“And once when he was older!” Legolas added.

“Don’t elves get sick when they get cold and wet?” Draecyn asked.  He was curious now.

“Elves don’t get sick,” Raniean answered.

“You don’t!?” The look of surprise on the Gondorian’s face made the older elves laugh.

“No, we don’t get sick and we rarely get cold.” Raniean stated simply.  He began to pack up his belongings hoping to encourage the young man by example.  Jonath had already left the open meadow and joined the others beneath the canopy of trees.

Trelan was ignoring them, intent on the target across the meadow.  It was getting increasingly difficult to keep his shot true as the snow began to fall faster.  That only made it more fun for the elf to practice, in his way of thinking.

Jonath recognized the look in his guard’s eyes as Draecyn watched the Silvan elf.  The soldier didn’t want to give in so easily and be thought less of by their companions.  Under normal circumstances Jonath would have allowed Draecyn to stay till darkness fell, but the young guard was his responsibility.  He needed his men at their best even during this time of rest.

“Draecyn, lets pack it in.  I won’t have you sick and I don’t’ want to have to put up with you if you come down with something,” Jonath directed his underling.

With a nod of compliance the human wordlessly packed up and jogged towards the woods where the majority of the company now stood.  There was no arguing when his captain took that tone with him.

“Trelan, stop showing off; let’s go as well.  I know what its like to have sick humans around and I do not relish the thought.” Raniean called back to Trey as he slowly joined the others.

Reluctantly the small elf retrieved his arrows and caught up with the others.  Aragorn had turned towards Rivendell and was leading them back to the house.  The walk was not a long one but it would take them a quarter of an hour at best; with a storm on their heels it might take longer.

“Its miserable having a sick human on your hands,” Legolas taunted.  He smiled widely when Aragorn protested.  “Oh please, you know it’s true.  You’re grumpy and irrational.  Nothing helps but time and sleep and you even fight those things plus anyone who tries to give you aid.  The last time you were sick and we were stuck near the gap of Rohan it was miserable.  I thought you were going to die and you thought you were going to die.  It was awful. I never want to do that again.  Do you know I actually started carrying herbs that your father gave me for just such an occasion should it happen again?  You scared the life out of me!”

Aragorn chuckled lightly as they all headed back to the house.  He adjusted their course slightly easterly as they wound their way through the trees. "That was miserable.  But I wasn’t that bad of a patient!” he protested lightly.

“No, you were worse!”

Legolas walked closer to him as the air about them dropped a couple more degrees.  Their breath ghosted on the air and Aragorn had tucked his hands up inside his sleeves to keep warm.  The woods thinned about them and the snow was falling heavier now.  The small group picked up their pace.

“No one could ever be a worse patient than an elf!” The king countered throwing the taunt over his shoulder at his brothers.

“I beg to differ. I have been around you on more than one occasion when you were ill and you were horrible company to keep,” Elladan concurred.

Legolas saw the wicked smile that crept across his friend’s lips and wisely remained quiet.  He glanced at the human out of the corner of his eyes awaiting the man’s retort with glee.

“You should never speak on such things dear brother,” Aragorn warned.  “I seem to remember one elf in particular who was a horrible patient, thought he was going to die and complained bitterly throughout his recovery!”

They picked their way back through the woods, sheltered from the worst of the storm as they entered another thick grove of trees.  The sound of the human’s footfalls could easily be heard over that of their elven companions.

“What!?” Elladan rounded on his brother.  The look of confusion on his face belied the fact that he had not followed Aragorn’s train of thought.

Elrohir however knew exactly what Estel was referring to.  Before he could warn Elladan off and get him to drop the subject, his twin repeated himself.

“What is this you speak of?” Elladan asked.

“Only the time you shot yourself in the foot!”

The twins’ mouth dropped open in protest but no words came out as a bright blush crept up onto his cheeks.  Legolas burst out laughing. This story he had heard.  Aragorn had regaled he and Gandalf with it years ago on their way back to Rivendell from Strayton.

“Actually if I recall correctly,” Aragorn continued.  “It was all your fault.”  He laughed as his brothers objected vehemently and simply talked over their protesting.

“I was in my early teens at the time.  I had been late getting up and we were supposed to go out hunting.  The coffers were low and we needed the food.  I had been up the night before helping in the pantries to sort things out and didn’t awaken on time. So they left without me, thinking to teach me a lesson.”  Aragorn smirked in Elladan’s direction.

The Silvan elves moved in closer to hear better, followed by the Gondorians.  Jonath kept a pace back from his liege allowing the King time with his family and friends.  He could hear perfectly well from where he walked and had heard part of this story already.  Draecyn, ever curious, had not and eagerly pressed in closer.  The stories of his King’s life fascinated him and he was thoroughly enjoying his stay amongst the elves.  The tales they told were the best he had ever heard in his young life.

“We were supposed to have headed south but they changed their mind sometime during the day and headed west instead. I picked up their trail on the high ridge behind the house...”