In Your Image

by Menel

Chapter 8. Infinite Love

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The Queen of Gondor sat in her silver gilded, velvet brocade chair with her arms stretched by her sides, allowing her ladies-in-waiting to carefully do the intricate buttons on the sleeves of her gown. When the last button was done, the Queen smiled in thanks and reached for the pearl necklace that lay on her dressing table.

"Allow me," a deep voice said.

Arwen waited as her husband strode into the room and came to stand behind her. She smiled at him as he appeared in the mirror in front of her. Aragorn returned the smile, accepting the necklace from the Queen as he did so. Arwen nodded to her ladies-in-waiting and they curtseyed before leaving the King and Queen in peace.

Aragorn placed the necklace around his wife's neck, securely fastening the delicate silver clasp. The necklace was his favorite and he had it commissioned specially for the Queen. It was a simple, but elegant necklace made of a single strand of fine pearls with a magnificent ruby pendant set in its center. The jewel caught the richness of the Queen's dark eyes and stole Aragorn's breath away. He truly loved her. Their passion had not cooled with the passing of years, yet there was so much she did not know. So much he wished to tell her, but how could she possibly understand?

"I did not see Eldarion at the jousting tournament today," Arwen commented, applying a drop of scented oil to her neck. "In fact, I have not seen him since the morning meal." She arched a questioning eyebrow at the King.

Elessar took a deep breath. His confessions could no longer be delayed.

"Yes," he said slowly. "No doubt you witnessed our little disagreement in the breakfast hall this morning?"

"There was not a person present who could have missed it." Although her words were harsh, the Queen's rebuke was softened by the lightness of her tone. "Will you tell me what this disagreement was about?"

"It appears our son has fallen in love."

"And you do not approve of his choice?"

"His choice is . . . unconventional," the King said carefully, resting his hands on his wife's shoulders.

Arwen smiled inwardly at her husband's carefully worded phrase. "I always thought that he was not suited to Lady Eleanor," she continued. "She is a gracious and highly intelligent young woman, but our son needs someone who can temper his youth, while at the same time letting him grow; someone who can guide him, while letting him be true to himself. Someone who is as young at heart as he is."

Aragorn looked down and silently shook his head, believing that his wife had a particular Elven Princess in mind, a mistake he had been guilty of himself, which is why her next words were a complete shock to him.

"Someone like Legolas."

The King's head jerked up, his eyes captured by his wife's piercing gaze. "You knew of their relationship?" he asked, incredulously.

"No," Arwen admitted. "But I knew that Eldarion had fallen in love with him from the first moment they met. And I suspected that Legolas felt the same, but that unresolved issues were preventing him from returning our son's feelings. I see that is no longer the case."

The King found himself shaking his head again at this wife's perceptiveness. The gift of Noldor sight ran deep in her. "I take it then that you approve?"

"I wish for our son to be happy," Arwen replied. "And there is no one who can bring him greater happiness than Legolas."

Aragorn sighed. Were all those he loved against him?

"Have you forgotten that he is our only son? That he will take the throne one day and that he must produce an heir?"

"No, I have not forgotten." Arwen watched her husband's reflection carefully. "Nor have I forgotten that we have three beautiful daughters. It is possible, my love," she said gently, "to change the rules of succession so that they may bear the heir for your line."

Aragorn had a rueful half-smile on his face. "I have heard this argument before," he told his wife.

"Then it is no wonder that you love us both."

The Queen's steady gaze continued to hold Aragorn in place. There was no mistaking the meaning behind her words. The King found that he no longer had the strength to stand. Piece by piece his world was crumbling and he feared that soon his very foundation would be razed to the ground. How could so much have passed without his knowledge? All this time, he believed that he had been the one keeping secrets from those he loved most. Now it appeared that they too had their own secrets to share. The truth was always hard to face and Elessar knew not what to make of these sudden revelations. For one who prided himself on his keen vision, the road had become dark and uncertain. He may as well have been a blind beggar stumbling in the street. He moved away, slowly walking to the armchair by the hearth and sat down heavily.

"You have known all this time."

It was a statement, not a question and Arwen could detect the note of resignation in her husband's voice. She stood up and went to him, the velvet folds of her gown billowing gently as she sat at his feet.

"It is not difficult to see great love if one knows where to look," she said, placing an ivory hand on his knee.

"Arwen," the King said, leaning forward and taking her hand in his own, "you must never doubt my love for you. Our marriage has not been a lie. I would not change a single day that we have spent together."

The Queen squeezed his hand reassuringly. "I have never doubted your love," she said in return. "I have wondered in the past, whether you would have chosen differently if fate had not given you such a heavy burden to bear. But such thoughts are foolish and do nothing but breed uncertainty and distrust. I would not have that come between us."

Aragorn was moved by his wife's heartfelt words. He felt that he did not deserve her understanding.

"What happens now?"

"Only you possess the answer to that."

"What would you have me do?"

"I cannot tell you what to do, Aragorn."

The King smiled slightly. "Then what advice do you have to offer?" he asked, rephrasing his previous question.

The Queen shook her head, but there was a glint in her eye. "It is time you made peace with Legolas," she said. "It is time for you to release him."

"How can I release that which does not belong to me?"

"Do you not see, my King?" Arwen asked, gently squeezing his hand once more. "You have kept his heart in your hands. Only you can set him free."

"How do I do that?"

"Legolas will show you."

~*~*~*~

Eldarion stood in the wings of the royal theater. The performance would begin soon and yet the backstage activity was strangely calm and measured. It was a far cry from the hectic pace and frantic last minute scrambling he had seen from other groups of players. *Elvish composure,* the Prince thought to himself with a shake of his head.

"Have you been waiting long?"

Eldarion smiled as he turned around. "I have been waiting all day," he replied, as he moved to embrace the Elf.

Legolas kissed him and the Prince returned the kiss deeply and urgently. His anxiety rose whenever he was left alone and the fear that his time with Legolas had ended before it had even begun was ever present in his mind.

When the kiss ended, the Prince found himself in the now familiar position of resting his head on the Elf's shoulder. He sighed.

"Do you know what I plan to do?" Legolas asked him, while gently stroking his back.

Eldarion nodded. "Onela has told me."

"Do you understand what my offer may lead to?"

"Yes."

"And what do you have to say?"

Eldarion looked up. "Do you seek my approval?"

"And permission," Legolas answered, studying the Prince carefully.

"It is but one night."

"One night may mean all the difference between a lifetime of happiness and one of distrust. I would not have the latter."

"And we shall not," Eldarion responded confidently. "I am certain of that." The Prince's brow furrowed as the Elf continued to gauge his reaction. How could he assure Legolas that he understood? "I cannot explain it," he said slowly. "But I know that this is the way it must be. If you do not make peace with my father, there will never be a future for us and I shall remain forever in his shadow."

Legolas smiled and kissed the Prince on the forehead. "You possess wisdom beyond your years."

"My parents have raised me well," the Prince replied, "and now I have you to guide me."

~*~*~*~

The Prince of Gondor entered the theater from one of the side wings and made his way to his seat. Along the way he passed by the Guardian of Lórien, who was deep in conversation with Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth. They both nodded in respect to the Prince and Eldarion returned the gesture. He could also feel the King's eyes following him and he curtly acknowledged his father before sitting down.

"Is everything well?" Onela asked on his left.

"Yes," Eldarion replied.

The Princess smiled reassuringly and gave his hand a gentle squeeze.

"There is nothing to worry about," Gimli stated from his right. "Although he often does not look it, that Elf knows what he is doing."

Eldarion couldn't help but chuckle at the Dwarf's remark. He had listened to Gimli's often scathing comments all afternoon and was yet to grow tired of them. Even praise for his dearest friend was veiled by a touch of sarcasm.

"No matter what happens," he told them softly, "we plan to leave tomorrow morning. We will journey with the Lórien Elves to the silveren Wood and stay with them until they are ready to depart. It will give us time to decide what to do."

"It is a wise course of action," the Dwarf agreed. "Distance and time brings clarity to the mind and calms the emotions."

The Prince smiled to himself, feeling at ease in between his companions. Onela and Gimli were loyal and true, he could not have hoped for stauncher supporters. He glanced around him and his attention was caught by the Steward of Gondor as he moved to take his seat beside the King.

"What news, Faramir?" Aragorn asked in greeting.

"It appears our Elvish friends have changed the program for this eve," Faramir replied.

"Is that so?" the King asked curiously. "Do you know what performance they have planned instead?"

"I have some idea," the Steward responded. "Lindfir suggested that they were going to perform a rather obscure tale that tells the story of a doomed love. Interestingly, it is not an Elvish tale," he added, "but has its origins in southern lore." Faramir paused, trying to recall the tale. "Once upon a time, there were two magnificent kingdoms by the sea. It was a period of great unrest and there was much looting and pillaging by warlords throughout the lands. In order to fortify their realms, the neighboring kings decided to arrange a marriage between their only children. Naturally, the Prince and Princess were unhappy with the prospect of an arranged marriage, but they also respected their father's wishes. They understood the strength that would come from such a political alliance and so they consented."

Elessar found himself nodding his head in agreement. It was a tale that clearly illustrated the very tenets he had instilled in his own children, particularly his son, from their youth. Perhaps tonight's performance would give Eldarion more to dwell on.

"The marriage was to take place on board a glorious ship, so that neither kingdom would be favored. Both kings considered the ship to be 'neutral' ground," Faramir continued.

"Fate appeared to be smiling upon the Prince and Princess, for they fell completely in love the moment they laid eyes upon each other. They knew then that their marriage would not simply be a political alliance, but a true marriage of happiness and bliss."

"That is fortunate indeed," the King commented.

"Ah, but the tale does not end there," Faramir continued. "On the night of the wedding ceremony, there was a terrible storm and nearly all on board perished. The two lovers were separated before they could even take their vows. The Princess and her family managed to make it on board a lifeboat, but the Prince was thrown into the raging seas and never heard from again. Fortunately, the boat carrying the Princess and her family was able to make it to land, but the Princess was heartbroken and cried for many moons.

"The kingdom of the Prince fell into disarray. With the death of their King and his family, the noble lords fought amongst themselves for the right to claim the throne. Their lack of unity proved to be their downfall and their land was soon overrun by the cruel warlords. Eventually, the Princess married another Prince from a more distant land, providing the political alliance that her family needed to survive. Although she did not fall in love with him at once, he was a good, kind man and in time, she grew to love him. But despite her newfound happiness, the Princess lived a life veiled by shadow, for she was never able to forget her lost love."

"The tale has a bittersweet end," Aragorn said.

"That is not the end, your Majesty," Faramir chuckled. "That was only the beginning."

"The beginning?"

"Yes," Faramir replied. "This tale has a rather interesting twist, for the Prince did not perish the night of the storm. A sorceress had seen the Prince through the eyes of her raven and desired him for herself. Watching the wedding ceremony through her magic pool, she created the storm that would separate the Prince from his betrothed and bring him to her. The rolling waves washed the Prince onto an enchanted island where the sorceress lived. When he awoke the next day, he found himself in a comfortable bed, his cuts bandaged and an exotic raven-haired woman with gleaming bronze skin by his side.

"'My name is Melena,' she told him.

"The Prince had no memory of who he was or how he came to the island. Melena simply told him that she had found him on the shore and brought him to her home to care for him. He soon discovered that he was on a magical island and that Melena herself was some sort of witch. The Prince decided to remain on the island with her, but as the years passed his heart grew restless and he could not explain why.

"One day he found a dolphin trapped by an old fishing net that he had left behind. He immediately went to help the poor creature, which thanked him once it was free. The dolphin wished to repay him for his kindness and so told him the truth about Melena.

"Melena was a lonely sorceress, trapped on this island by her former Master for betraying his secrets to a mortal man. To ease her loneliness, she sent out her raven to scour the lands in search of young men who could be worthy companions and then would find a way to lure them to her magical island. The men would have no memory of their previous life and would live out the rest of their days on the island with her.

"The Prince was horrified to hear such a tale. He confronted Melena and demanded to know the truth about his identity. Shocked by the Prince's fury, Melena told him about his heritage, the arranged marriage and the storm. The truth of his stolen life enraged the Prince further and Melena's pleas for him to remain with her fell on deaf ears. He built a ship and left the island to return to his former home.

"In her anger and spite, Melena placed a curse on the Prince, condemning him to a life of eternal loneliness. Any who would fall in love with him or even offer him their comfort would crumble like a pillar of sand. The curse could only be broken by a kiss from the woman he loved.

"The Prince returned to his former kingdom, which had by this time become a safe haven for cutthroats and thieves. Mindful of his curse, he became a cold, cruel man so that no one could possibly love him or seek his friendship. He moved effortlessly among the criminals, finally growing tired of an outlaw's life and joining a band of wandering players. The players were wary of him at first, but they could not deny that he was a talented actor and drew large crowds with his performances. The Prince became Nadir-Khân, the most feared villain on stage. With his black silk cloak and matching porcelain mask, which he never removed in public, the fame of their troupe spread far and wide, until they were invited to perform in the kingdom of Alsacia, where his former love now lived and ruled as Queen.

"Knowing that this was his only chance to break Melena's curse, the Prince asked his fellow players to perform a special play that eve. They thought it a strange request but consented, owing their success to his arrival. That night, unbeknownst to the players, they performed the story of Nadir-Khân's life until the very moment when the Prince himself stood on stage and removed his mask for all to see. The Queen had been visibly moved throughout the play, but nothing could prepare her for the sight of her beloved alive and well. She knew then that the performance she had witnessed had been the ordeals that the Prince had faced."

Faramir stopped suddenly and looked at the King.

"Well?" Aragorn said questioningly. "What happened then?"

"I do not know," the Steward replied. "Apparently, Lindfir does not know either. The end of the tale has been lost."

"How unusual for the Elves to perform a tale that they do not know the ending of," the King commented.

"Perhaps," Faramir responded. "I have grown used to the Elves of Ithilien, but I cannot deny that I still find their ways different from ours. Besides, Lindfir appeared convinced that Legolas would know what to do."

Elessar looked at his Steward for a moment, trying to discern if there was any underlying meaning in his words, but could find none. He glanced at his son, who was engaged in conversation with the Dwarf. The King was beginning to sense that the play to be performed that eve would have a special significance for them both. *Legolas will show you.*

The velvet curtains opened and the performance began. The Elves greatest form of expression was song and so, unlike the plays performed by Men, their tale had been set to music with a chorus narrating the events. Aragorn was not surprised when Legolas himself appeared on stage in the leading role of the Prince and the King watched fascinated as the events of the tale unfolded before him. It was exactly as Faramir had recounted.

When the moment came for Nadir-Khân to remove his mask and reveal his identity to the Queen of Alsacia, Aragorn found himself leaning forward in anticipation. The music had stopped and the theater was filled with a hushed silence. As the mask fell from the Prince's face, Legolas did a most unusual thing: He turned to face the audience and spoke in his clear, harmonious voice.

"Your Majesty," he said with a sweeping bow, locking eyes with the King as he did so, "I have traveled these lands for many years in the guise of a wandering player. I am weary of this life of isolation and I no longer recognize the man that I have become. I come to you now in search of peace, for only you can remove this terrible curse that has been placed upon me. It is time to put the past behind us, lest their shadows remain forever cast upon our future."

~*~*~*~

The remainder of the evening went unnoticed by the King of Gondor. He sat through the sumptuous dinner after the performance; he danced with the Queen in the grand ballroom; he discussed new treaties with delegates from South Gondor; he congratulated Eomer on the success of the Rohirrim at the jousting tournament. Yet in his mind, time had frozen the very moment Legolas had stood onstage and stretched out his hand saying, "I am but a poor player in fate's design and I have naught to offer one who has everything, except myself. I do so willingly. Will you see me tonight and lay the past to rest?"

Elessar knew he would accept. Could one night unravel the web they had spun for themselves or would it simply weave another intricate strand? He pondered this as he approached Legolas' door in the silent hallway. His hand reached out to turn the knob, then paused in mid-air. With a sly smile he lifted his fist to knock first. He had barely completed the action when the door swung open of its own accord. Shaking his head he stepped inside, taking the time to ensure that the door was safely locked behind him.

He strode into the center of the room and surveyed his surroundings. There was a candle burning on each bedside table, casting flickering shadows on the tapestry-covered walls. The scent of jasmine hung heavy in the air, mingling with a sweeter scent that Aragorn recognized as belonging uniquely to the Elf. Legolas was nowhere to be seen, but he could sense another presence in the room.

"First, you do not lock your doors," Elessar said aloud, "now you do not even bother to close them."

"It is the sign of an open invitation," came the reply from behind him.

Aragorn did not turn around. Instead, he waited for the Elf to move in front of him. Legolas did so elegantly, until he was standing face to face with the King, close enough to smell the wine on the his breath and the musk upon his skin.

"A dangerous proposition," Aragorn responded. "For anyone may choose to accept."

The Elf shook his head. "It was made to one person only and I am pleased that he has come."

"Who is this person, Legolas?" the King whispered.

"He is my friend," the Elf whispered in return.

"Just a friend?"

"I know now that friendship is all that fate will grant us and no longer shall I hope in vain." Legolas paused to brush a lock of hair behind Aragorn's ear. "But for this one night, we shall steal from fate what has been deprived of us for so long and we shall do so with the blessing and understanding of those we love. There are no kings and princes in this room. Just two dear friends who shall share in one another's love."

No sooner had the Elf stopped speaking than Aragorn had wrapped an arm around Legolas' slender form and pulled him close, claiming his mouth in a passionate kiss, his tongue seeking and being granted entrance. Their kisses grew more urgent and clothes were quickly discarded. It was not until Legolas found himself on his back on the soft sheets of his bed did he give pause and place a hand on the man's broad chest.

"There is no need to rush," he said softly. "I would have us savor the moment."

"And I would not have us waste a moment," Aragorn replied, before claiming the Elf's sweet lips again.

But Legolas would not be swayed, displaying his strength by reversing their positions. Slightly winded, Aragorn looked up at him in surprise. Legolas wore that secretive fey smile he so loved and he sighed in contentment as the Elf gifted him with soft kisses, trailing them down his face and neck, taking the time to suck one nipple and then the other. Instinctively, Elessar's hands drifted to the Elf's back, his fingers running teasingly up and down the Elf's spine causing Legolas to moan. When the sensations threatened to overwhelm him, the Elf broke free and looked at the man with dark eyes.

"Turn around," he said raggedly.

Aragorn obeyed, hard with anticipation. He could feel the Elf mount him, the added weight pushing him deeper into the bed, the gentle friction from the silk sheets giving his throbbing erection a moment's reprieve. He heard a small popping sound as Legolas uncorked a bottle. Elessar held his breath as the Elf's now oil-slicked hands rested on his back and then exhaled under their soothing ministrations.

Legolas began massaging the King's tense shoulders, his nimble fingers manipulating the man's back with skill, moving ever downwards, easing the knots and tightness he found along the way. He applied more oil to his hands before kneading the man's firm buttocks, a slender finger slipping down the cleft to graze the puckered entrance. Carefully, Legolas slipped a finger inside. Aragorn remained relaxed. He had been with other men in the past, when the hardships that came with a ranger's life had lead him to seek comfort in a warrior's embrace.

The Elf continued his exploration, adding a second finger as he did so. When Aragorn moaned in pleasure Legolas smiled to himself, brushing the man's sensitive gland once more to take note of its placement. He withdrew his fingers, all thoughts of 'savoring the moment' leaving him as the desire to feel the King clench around his aching flesh took hold. Aragorn needed no further preparation and the anticipation between them grew as the Elf positioned himself. With a firm hold on the man's hips, Legolas pushed himself inside, withdrawing slightly and then entering again, repeating the process until he was fully sheathed. With a sigh of contentment he laid himself on top of the King, marveling at how well their bodies seemed to mold together.

"Move," Aragorn said, his voice laced with need as he pushed back against the Elf.

Legolas planted a kiss on the man's back before he obliged, delighting in the tightness surrounding him.

"Harder," Aragorn urged.

The Elf increased his pace, driving harder and deeper into the King. The man's cries echoed in the chamber as the Elf hit his secret spot with each carefully angled thrust. His hands clawed at the bed sheets in pleasure and he arched his back, turning his head slightly to look at the Elf. Legolas captured his mouth in a brief kiss, a porcelain hand weaving its way down the King's body to grasp his leaking shaft. With practiced skill the Elf stroked and squeezed the length to the rhythm of his thrusts. Aragorn could feel his climax approaching and he grabbed hold of the bedpost in front him, bracing himself for the moment when they came as one, the Elf's seed spilling deep within him. Legolas lay on top of him as waves of pleasure wracked their bodies.

At last the Elf fell on his side facing the King, too spent to move. Aragorn turned and drew him closer, wrapping an arm around him possessively. Legolas snuggled against him, feeling secure and sated in the man's embrace. He felt so tired all of a sudden, as if the burdens and worries on his mind had been taken away. Finally, he could allow himself to relax, to be at peace.

"Legolas," Aragorn said softly, his lips brushing the tip of a pointed ear, "about that play you performed tonight . . . I have never heard that tale before."

"That is not surprising, Aragorn," the Elf replied sleepily, "for I invented it."

The Elven Prince smiled to himself as the gentle rocking of the King's laughter and the love and warmth of his embrace soon lulled him to sleep.

~*~*~*~

Aragorn could not rest. His heart was still troubled as he watched the sleeping Prince in his arms. Legolas had never seemed more beautiful. He could not remember anymore how long he had desired this. He thought back to the quest to destroy the One Ring and the many nights he had kept watch, his eyes inadvertently drifting to the resting form of the Prince, whose eyes were glazed in peaceful Elven reverie, as they were now. He had never felt so weak with temptation so near, the call of the Ring whispering insidiously in his mind. *Take me, Aragorn. Wield me. Only I can give you that which you desire.* A lump formed in the King's throat at the thought of the Ring's lies. Deception. Deceit. False promises were all it offered. And yet, how he had wanted to believe!

A tanned hand reached out now, as Aragorn gently traced the contours of the Elf's face. First the brow and then the finely sculpted cheekbone, the outline of the delicate nose, his hand finally coming to rest on the Elf's soft lips. A tear ran down his cheek as his fingers brushed these lips he so longed to kiss. It took a moment for him to register the gentle pressure being exerted in return as the pads of his fingers were kissed one by one. Aragorn blinked in surprise as a porcelain hand took hold of his own and the Prince turned to face him.

The smile on the Elf's face faded and he released the King's hand to brush away the tear from the man's face.

"Why do you weep?" he asked, his melodic voice filled with concern.

Aragorn let out a harsh laugh. "I weep for us," he replied bitterly. "I weep for this one stolen night and I curse the cruelty of fate for keeping us apart. For I know that I shall lose you tomorrow as sure as the sun rises."

"You could never lose me!" Legolas said urgently. "Although I have stayed in Ithilien, I have always been with you. I live here," he said, placing his hand on the man's heart, "where love never dies. And if you ever have need of me, you have but to call and I will come, no matter how great the distance, no matter the obstacles in our path."

Aragorn could feel his resolve weakening. "I love you, Legolas," he said, choking on his heartfelt words. "I have always loved you."

"And I you, Aragorn."

"You deserve such happiness," the King whispered, calming his emotions. "I cannot deny you or my son."

"Let us not speak of that now," the Elf said, running his hand down the man's firm chest. "There is much time to resolve questions of the throne and your heir." His hand traveled deeper, brushing the curls of the man's groin until he reached his desired goal, the member springing to life under his touch. "This is our night," he continued, stroking the hardening shaft. "I said that we would share in each other's love and now it is your turn. I want to feel you in me. I want us to be one in body, one in soul."

The Elf sealed his request with a kiss, allowing the King to move on top of him. He wrapped his long legs around the man's waist, pulling him closer, not breaking their kiss. His spine straightened in response to the pain when Aragorn entered him, but it quickly faded, lost as he was in the sheer bliss of being with the one whom he had loved for so long. Aragorn set a languid pace and the Elf responded in turn, laving the man's neck with wet kisses and gentle nips as his own erection remained trapped tightly between their bodies. He could taste the salty tears as they fell on his face and he knew that Aragorn was crying once more.

"Infinite love, infinite love," the Elf whispered over and over again, the mantra echoing in the otherwise strangely silent room.

He held his lover tightly and closed his eyes as he felt the man spill deep within him, his own release coming soon after, warmly wetting their sweat-sheened bodies. The King's tears were falling freely now and Legolas could hear him asking for forgiveness.

The Elf's heart broke at the sound of Aragorn's hushed whimpers and he held the man close. He wished to share in the man's pain, but no tears would come for he could not cry. Instead, he whispered Elvish nothings into his lover's ear until Aragorn wept himself to sleep.

~*~*~*~

Sunlight gleamed through the cracks of the drawn curtains as Legolas lay on his back, the King's head on his chest. Aragorn was still in peaceful slumber. The Elf knew it was growing late and that Eldarion and the others would be waiting for him. He glanced down at the man's sleeping form, gently disentangling himself from the warm embrace. Aragorn shifted slightly, but did not wake.

Soundlessly, the Elf made his way to the bath. His movements were quick and efficient as he bathed and put on fresh clothes for his journey. He had packed his belongings the day before and they were waiting by the door. When he was ready, he returned to the bed where the Aragorn still slept and brushed the man's hair.

"Namarië, Aragorn," he whispered. "May the Valar keep you safe and may we both find peace at last. Know that I shall love you always." With these words he kissed the King's brow and quietly slipped out of the room.

Aragorn was having a beautiful dream in which Legolas' stood over him, radiant and bathed in silveren sunlight. He whispered words of farewell and immortal love and the King understood. The silveren light was enveloping him, caressing him, bringing him peace.

"Namarië, Legolas," he whispered in his sleep. "I, too, shall love you always."

~*~*~*~

Legolas walked down the hallway, his heart and his step light. He made his way to the courtyard, where he had agreed to meet Eldarion and the Lórien party.

A woman was standing just outside the courtyard's entrance. Legolas did not have to wait for her to turn around to know that it was the Queen of Gondor. Her smile was as radiant as his own. She moved to meet him, taking his hands and leaning upwards to kiss him on each cheek.

"Have you found your peace?" she asked him.

"Yes," he answered. "Have you found yours?"

"I made my peace with him many years ago," she said, "without him ever knowing it. It is for you that my heart has ached. I am sorry, Legolas, for so many years of pain."

The Elven Prince shook his head. "Dear Arwen, there is nothing for you to be sorry for. You have never caused me pain by your actions. I have caused myself pain by my choices. I chose to love your husband, knowing that my love could never be returned. Now all is well and it is your thanks I seek. You have given me greatest gift of all, for that I can never repay you."

"Legolas, you already have," the Queen said earnestly. "I could not have wished for a worthier mate for my son. I know that you shall love him and treat him as he deserves. I entrust his future to you and I want you to know that both of you shall always have a home here in the White City."

"Thank you, Arwen," Legolas replied, embracing the Queen warmly. "We shall always come home."

When the embrace ended, the Queen gave the Elven Prince once last knowing look before he stepped out into the morning sunshine. Legolas breathed deeply of the morning air, his senses heightened by his state of happiness. The light reflected off the glimmering city buildings was clearer, the air crisper, the sound of chirping birds more musical to his ear. He looked at the steps below where Haldir stood in between two steeds, stroking the neck of Legolas' mount as he listened to Gimli speak. Eldarion was already mounted, a braced arm leaning against the pommel of his saddle. The Prince looked up to see his lover standing at the top of the courtyard steps and his heart filled with love. He knew that it would always be like this. With a wave of his hand, he motioned for the Elf to join them. Legolas smiled, swiftly descending the steps.

"It is about time," the Dwarf declared when he saw the Elf approach them.

"I apologize Master Dwarf for my tardiness," Legolas replied, with a regal bow.

"It must be a special morning indeed," Gimli commented, "if I am blessed with an apology from you."

"Is all well?" Haldir asked the Elven Prince with a slight tap on his arm.

"Yes," Legolas said, nodding. "It could not be better."

In one smooth motion the Elf mounted his steed, bending down to assist the Dwarf. With Gimli seated securely behind him and Haldir on his right, Legolas leaned across to kiss the Prince, not caring who saw or what they thought. Their love would not be hidden behind closed doors and they would face their challenges together as they came. For Legolas had learned long ago from a scruffy Ranger that both Elven and human hearts possessed the capacity for infinite love.

~The End~

Author's Notes: Special thanks goes to Zasjah for the encouragement.

 

Chapter 7   
Parting Gift