---------------------------------------------------------"Once again I feel the fading sun
Venice - Rivers Never run
Aragorn has been in Mirkwood for over fifty days. He has followed elusive trails of broken twigs and whispered mutterings into the ever-gathering gloom of the forest. He has had little success up till now. No sighting of Gollum, apart from chewed fishbones and half eaten birds' carcasses, signs that the creature is still alive and has a more than healthy appetite for the living things in the forest. The Wood-elves won't be pleased about that.
Gollum has managed to stretch the limits of Aragorn's Ranger abilities, testing them over and over by managing to escape the Man for so long, and has shown them dearly lacking. The hunt is still far from over and Aragorn starts to get a nagging feeling that capturing Gollum may be something he will not be able to do on his own. Fifty days is a long time to be alone, even for a Ranger, with the company of neither Man nor Elf to relieve his solitude, and during the past few days the inconclusive hunt for Gollum has made him restless, agitated, and frustrated in an almost physical way. Nearly two months it has been since he has spoken to someone else, has seen another person's face, has touched skin other than his own or that of the animals he has hunted and killed for food. And it disturbs him. He misses Arwen most of all, but in time the fact that he is not allowed to see her, or even speak to her, has finally become less painful. It is always there, but never in the foreground. Like all the other things he has had to leave behind - feelings buried deep within his heart - it is there, but he never takes it, nor those other feelings, out into the harsh light of reality to scrutinise them, and give them the place in his life they deserve. In dreams they hunt them, though.
It is dark now, under Mirkwood's magnificent trees, the darkness intensified by the crackling, dancing, flames of his little fire. The fire that he has built partly in the faint hope of luring little Gollum to him since all his other attempts to capture him have failed. Rabbit is roasting over the flames, filling the air with a delicious scent.
Aragorn produces the remains of his supply of pipeweed and starts to fill the pipe given to him by Gandalf just before he left for Mirkwood. He decides he has hunted enough today. Tomorrow he will try again. And again. Until he finds Gollum and can hand him over to the Grey Wanderer as they agreed upon seemingly ages ago.
Aragorn eats the flesh of the silveren roasted rabbit, drinks from the clear water from the rivulet nearby and smokes his pipe. He starts to feel drowsy, a warm glow filling him, the after effects of a full belly and a good smoke. But he is not so tired that he can ignore the insistent tightness of his breeches. He sighs softly, knowing he won't be able to go to sleep before he has dealt with this final, pressing matter of the flesh. He leans back, closing his eyes and slipping his hand into his breeches, finding himself hard and ready.
Arwen, laughing, looking at him lovingly, eyes shut in ecstasy, enters his mind, but he chooses, chases her away, silently apologising to her for doing so. It is too painful to think about her now, knowing it will be months before he will be allowed to see her again, and years before they will be able to be together in that way, if ever. But he has to steer away from that thought, or he will surely go mad. He wants her, but not here, not now, not in the solitude of his mind. His hand stops its movement as a sinking feeling comes over him, but he realises it is uncalled for. His body is demanding its reward for the hardship he is putting it through. He cannot ignore the question it asks of him and he knows he has to answer it. Arwen will understand. He wills his mind blank, lets unbidden and unasked images dance before his closed eyes while he grips himself even harder, his thumb gliding over soft, moistured skin, eliciting barely audible moans from his mouth. Images from the very distant past float by: hair fairer than that of his beloved Elf maiden, a face reminiscent of hers, yet so unlike hers, against his own. Fevered, long forgotten kisses on his skin, fingers even longer and more slender than hers prying loose his own and taking over the sweet task of bringing him to the brink of forgetting. Aragorn moans, his eyes closed, breathing heavily, his back arched against a tree trunk, almost there, almost there, almost.
A soft chuckle penetrates his silence, a cold blade presses against his exposed throat, nicking his skin ever so slightly. Aragorn freezes instantly, knowing he is caught, cursing his carelessness, his mind immediately looking for ways out of this situation.
"You were already breathing so loudly, Ranger, that I could have killed you hours ago, but this noise is ridiculous. Are you planning on waking up every Elf and animal in Mirkwood with your moaning? Gandalf should have prepared you better before he let you go off on your hunt for Gollum."
His eyes flicker open.
Of all the Elves in Mirkwood it has to be Legolas to find him here, exposed, vulnerable, his mind filled with images of them both, together. Aragorn's already flushed face turns even hotter and he swallows against the knife, feeling the pain intensify like a streak of lightning burning his flesh.
Aragorn remains completely motionless, remembering they did not part in the best of ways, years ago in Rivendell.
"I was just thinking of you," Aragorn says, managing a slight grin, trying to make light of the situation. Legolas laughs, a clear Elven laugh, and squats down near Aragorn, an amused smile now playing around his lips, but it is not quite reaching his eyes. The blade is still at Aragorn's throat, but it lies there less threatening now; its metal is almost a sharpedged caress.
"Were you now, Aragorn, son of Arathorn. I don't know if I should be pleased or insulted."
Legolas shifts into a slightly more comfortable position, the knife not moving at all, and not even a leaf is rustling as he does so.
"Tell me, Ranger, have you 'thought' about me many times since you decided to bestow your affections solely on the lovely Lady Arwen? Have her caresses driven my touch completely from your mind?"
Legolas' fair face hardens, and Aragorn knows his life depends on the answer he gives now.
He knows that Legolas will not kill him, too many political difficulties will come of it, but to have an enemy as formidable as the Elven prince of Mirkwood will surely change the rest of his life. He can only answer truthfully, as honestly as he answered Legolas when the Elf questioned him about his relationship with Arwen back in the halls of Elrond. He looks up and gazes into well remembered eyes and sighs softly before speaks.
"Yes, Legolas, I have. Numerous times. First love is never easily forgotten and especially a love like yours can not be squandered lightly, although it may have seemed to you that I did at the time. I still love you, Legolas, but you and I cannot be together."
Aragorn involuntarily reaches up and gently touches the silken braids, twirling a soft silveren strand around his fingers, his fingers following a well-known path, but letting it fall immediately, knowing he has no right to claim even this featherlight touch. He smiles in spite of himself, remembering.
"You still wear your hair the way you did when we were together."
Legolas shakes his head, as if he wants to shake away Aragorn's touch, wants to steer clear of any connection with the other Man, maintaining the sharpedged blade as their only contact.
"Do you remember the first time we met, Aragorn," his soft Elven voice drops even further. "You were standing watch on the riverbanks when my father and I rode through the gate of Rivendell to visit Elrond. I had heard stories about you, knew you were no Elf but that you were being raised as one in the halls of Imladris. I saw you standing there, silent, as any other Elf would stand, but otherwise Man in every other respect. Our eyes met before you bowed your head in greeting and from that moment I loved you. Over dinner that night I could not keep my eyes off of you, drinking in your movements, studying the way you ate, admiring the silent, amused smile when my father and Haldir started to argue about which forest would have to be considered the most beautiful: Mirkwood or Lothlorien. And watching your smile turn into a secret laugh when Elrond settled the question by declaring that both Mirkwood and Lothlorien were as beautiful as the eternal woods of Aman. And your eyes sought out mine too, our gazes met and I felt hope stirring in me that you might see in me what I saw in you. You came to my room that night, slid silently into bed with me and did not leave when dawn arrived. Since that first night we spent all of our sleeping hours together and our waking hours as well. You were so impossibly young but so wise for your years. How could I resist you, how could I refrain from taking what you so freely gave to me for the first time in my life: unconditional love. You showed me the shards of Narsil, not yet aware of its special meaning. You took me through Rivendell's long and beautiful hallways, to your room where we lay together night after night, not caring whether my father or Elrond would know about our love."
Aragorn listens, entranced and enthralled by the story Legolas weaves before him, knowing he is a major player in it, but forgetting this for the moment as he is being mesmerised by Legolas' soft,
melodic, voice. He hears a story of young love, innocent and simple, of lives still unformed, untouched by heritage and bloodlines. An autumn in Rivendell that never ended. Until he turned twenty and
Elrond told him about Isildur, and Sauron, and Narsil. And then Arwen came to Rivendell to visit her father and everything changed. He fell in love with her, not wanting to, not wanting to betray
what he felt for Legolas, but it was stronger than he was. She did not make him choose, but he knew he had to. He had to if he wanted to do what was right, to fulfil his obligations to his people. He
had been raised by Elves but he would be Dunadan always and would make his choices in life accordingly. It was the hardest thing he ever had to do, and even Arwen's love could not convince him
completely that his choice had been the right one. It certainly had not been the right choice as far as Legolas had been concerned. Even as Legolas had told him he understood and would defer to his
choice. The day after their conversation the Elf had left for Mirkwood, without parting word or goodbye kiss.
Legolas is silent now, having finished his storytelling and he sits back, blue eyes hooded, wary, the knife now resting in his lap. Aragorn sees a tiny bloody droplet gracing the edge. His blood. His life. The life that he seems to be squandering away in vain and useless hunts, in valiant but unasked for attempts to protect unknowing and ungrateful people from evil, in a quest for a kingdom he does not even know he really wants. Will he ever be his own man, free from worries, free to love whomever he chooses without any obligations? The way his life was when he and Legolas were lovers. Silently he curses Isildur once more, curses the bane put over his life by history, forcing him to make impossible choices over and over again. Aragorn dares to lift up his eyes and cast a longer look at the person he used to call his lover and best friend, wondering what he will see there. Anger, hate; or any other emotion that would be completely understandable given the circumstances in which they last saw each other. But is not so. There is no hate there, no anger even, only sadness.
And something else.
Something he has not seen in a very long time. Aragorn knows that Arwen loves him and yearns for him and he feels the same way about her, but this is different. His love for Arwen is entangled in political intricacies, history and broken heirlooms. Nothing there is ever simple, uncomplicated. In Legolas' eyes he sees reflected the unbridled emotions a man may feel towards another man, regardless of the consequences; in Legolas' eyes he sees simple lust.
Legolas' clear, dark eyes meet his own, promise and longing hiding in their depths and Aragorn becomes aroused again, remembers the thing things he had Legolas do to him in his mind just before he arrived.
Legolas leans forward, his face now nearly touching Aragorn's, his eyes twin seas in which the Man seems to drown once more. The knife falls to the ground, forgotten, as Legolas puts his hands close besides Aragorn's head against the treetrunk. Aragorn is captured between those hands, captivated by Legolas' presence, by his scent: a hint of leather, horse and autumn leaves.
"Why did you leave me, Aragorn?" the Elf's cool breath is on his skin, burning, burning words, etching him, marking him all over again. Aragorn closes his eyes and is afraid to answer but knows he must. He owes it to his first love, the first person that loved him for who he was, not for who he might become one day. He opens them again and gazes straight into Legolas' eyes.
"You know why, my Elven prince. You told me you understood, that you knew duty and heritage made for inevitable choices. It was the right thing to do, Legolas. I owed it to my people, my heritage, my bloodline. A lasting liaison with you, childless by nature, would have made everything my ancestors strove and fought for irrelevant and useless. So I chose. And believe me, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I did not want to, but my honor demanded it of me. I love you as much as I could ever love Arwen, but we had no future, you know that as well as I do."
Aragorn is silent once more and is surprised as Legolas does not answer but leans in even further and kisses his lips. A long forgotten touch rekindles fires within him that he has suppressed for so long, apart from dreams. This kiss tells him he will be finally forgiven, that it is all right and that after this they will be friends again. Friends, not lovers. This is their parting gift to each other and he knows that Arwen will understand. They are entwined, the three of them, and Legolas is now unravelling the knot in which Aragorn has found himself even as he thought he had severed the bonds forever. Legolas whispers words against his lips that convey a hurt Aragorn has never fully realised was there, moving him beyond measure.
"I know all this, I know, and I know you made the right choice, but, Aragorn, I know this with my head and not with my heart. My heart still screams in the silence of the night for you. I still miss your heartbeat against my chest at night, assuring me you are alive; not dead, but merely sleeping. I still miss your companionship, your scent, the way you would smile at me when you'd wake up next to me in the morning, realising I kept watch over you once again."
Legolas' hands cup Aragorn's face, gripping his matted dirty hair as his mouth traces the contours of his mouth and nose and chin and the Man's hands slide around the Elf's slender body, wanting to gather him to him but he is being hindered by the arrow-filled quiver and the Elven bow. He wants to hold Legolas as close as possible, make up for all the lost years they could have spent in friendship and he reaches between them, hands shakily unfastening the clasps that hold the quiver. Legolas slides out of it effortlessly; bow and quiver fall to the ground, unheeded. Legolas leans into Aragorn, need searching need, as Aragorn's body rises up from the treetrunk to get as close to the other man as possible.
"Legolas. I I'm sorry, I didn't want to " Aragorn's voice chokes on tears that seem to well up without any warning. Legolas smiles and kisses the Ranger's eyes, salty wetness on his lips. Aragorn holds on to Legolas as if he will never let him go again, realising that they are living in stolen moments, out of the natural flow of time of the world. No one will ever know about this, apart from themselves and they will treasure this moment until the end of their times. Legolas' hands roam over the Man's body, skin over leather and cloth, defining the contours of Aragorn's body, defining Aragorn. His lips travel over exposed throat, kissing the tiny knifewound he inflicted, muttering barely audible apologies that make sense only to himself. Aragorn holds Legolas close to him, years stripped away as his body remembers and responds with a will of its own to his former lover's touch. He is eighteen again, lying on the soft moss in the woods near Rivendell and Legolas is his lover. Nothing comes after this, nothing has ever been before this moment. He sighs, sigh turning into a sharp moan when Legolas' hand slides over his breeches, kneads the inner side of his leg, sneaking upward. He tries to sit up, but the Elf pushes him down, grinning, and Aragorn lets himself be held down, knowing his time will come. Legolas unbuttons the leather vestment, exposing a dirty, smelly, undergarment. His grin widens.
"You verily need to wash more often, Aragorn. You may never know who you meet along the way, it will not always be friendly Elves, you know. But I do not mind, I love the smell of you, even if it's a month old. Even though, I think we should be rid of this."
Aragorn laughs, the wordplay bringing familiar memories back to his mind. They used to fool around like this, teasing each other mercilessly, but always ending up in bed, in a dark corner in the halls of Rivendell or on a soft bank of moss in the woods surrounding its beautiful halls.
"I most assuredly think so, Legolas. Of course I knew you would come and follow me, so I decided to add insult to injury and not wash my clothes for as long as I could hold out, knowing that your sensitive Elven senses would be offended by it. But I am more than happy to take off this shirt and have you wash it in the stream nearby."
Aragorn sits up, removes his leather garment and pulls the shirt over his head, handing it to Legolas, who takes it, and tosses it aside without giving it another thought. Aragorn's mock protests are smothered in passionate kisses as Legolas falls on top of him, his mouth covering Aragorn's, his hands sliding over his now bare upper body. Aragorn shivers with cold and heat simultaneously as he fumbles with Legolas' upper clothes, while trying to kiss him still at the same time. He manages to remove them and pulls them off, exposing a well-remembered, well-formed slender body. He moves his mouth down over Legolas' throat, manoeuvring himself in a more upright position, supporting himself with one hand, the other sliding over the Elf's smooth torso, finding a nipple, already erect, merely waiting for his touch to be set aflame. Legolas sighs, a soft whisper leaving his lips as Aragorn rediscovers once familiar territory and journeys into the past, Legolas' body the landscape through which he travels, his moans and sighs the signs showing him where to go. Legolas is fulfilling a quest of his own, his hands having found the entrance to Aragorn's breeches, and he is starting to pull them off, caressing the Man's hips while he pulls the fabric down.
Legolas turns and pulls Aragorn's boots off, tossing them aside and pulls off his lover's breeches, exposing strong brown legs, marked with old wounds and scars. Legolas strokes them, admiring the muscle beneath the soft skin. His hand slide upwards, following rivers of muscles upstream towards the source from which so much bliss has sprung for both of them in the past. Aragorn is reclining on shaking arms, watching Legolas reclaim his body, marking his territory with strategically placed licks and bites and kisses. The Elf looks up from his ministrations and lust, mingled with sadness, is in his eyes when he speaks softly yet insistently.
"I've missed you so much, Aragorn. Thirty years have passed and may it be like a mere breath in time to most Elves, they felt like an eternity to me. I did not know how I could go on without you, yet somehow I managed. I could tell no one about this, although my brothers guessed as much and tried to comfort me by taking me on extensive trips, hunting Wargs, Orcs and other vermin. It helped taking my mind off things, although I probably put myself in more danger than necessary because of our separation. I survived however. I never stopped missing your warm and welcoming body, your touch that brought me alive, and I have not sought any of this after I left. You spoiled me for good, I'm afraid. And I will not have any Man after you, I promise you as much."
Aragorn sits up and pulls Legolas up to him, folding his arms around him, not speaking, because no words can be found to provide an answer to this confession. He kisses Legolas' eyes, surprisingly and un-Elvishly moist with tears and captures Legolas' mouth with his own, pulling him down on top of him, his hands working to rid the Elf of his breeches, not wanting to have any barrier between them anymore. It has been too long, far too long. Legolas shrugs out of his breeches, managing to simultaneously get rid of his soft leather boots in one fluid moment.
They are both naked now, their urgent need captive between their bodies, pressed against each other and their mutual passion rises. Hands grip skin and muscle and slide over bare backs and shoulders and legs. Aragorn reaches between them and grips both their erections in his hand, holding them firmly against each other, his thumb stroking both him and the Elf simultaneously. It is as if he and Legolas have become one entity, bodies merging into one, two minds focused on the same thing. Aragorn spreads his legs even wider and folds them over Legolas' legs, a loving vice to hold his lover as close to him as possible, but it is not enough. He needs more, something only Legolas has ever been able to give to him. He looks into Legolas' clear eyes, shining bright with passion and whispers almost inaudibly.
"Come inside me, Legolas. Let me feel you inside me, please, grant me this a final time."
He swallows as he has uttered the words, wondering if he has presumed too much, as Legolas seems to sag slightly, seemingly starting to collapse on him, but he realises it is not the absurdity of the request that has shocked Legolas, but the mere fact that he has asked it which has increased Legolas' passion even more.
"Are you sure of this, Aragorn, my love?" Legolas asks softly and as the Man beneath him nods wordlessly he gently removes himself from their entanglement and stands up, gracefully, effortlessly, despite his obvious arousal, and moves towards his pack. Aragorn cannot do anything but lie there and look at the Elf, naked body tantalisingly outlined by the flickering red light of their dying fire, while Legolas rummages in his belongings and returns with a little flask of weapon's oil.
This obvious sign that Legolas will actually have him, take him as he has not been taken in over thirty years, makes Aragorn dizzy with need. The Elf kneels between the Man's knees, and opens the flask, capturing Aragorn's eyes with his own, a serious half smile playing around his lips. He pours some of the oil over his fingers, and puts the flask away, just out of reach, but readily available. Legolas sits up on his knees, and kisses Aragorn's lips while his slick fingers find Aragorn's entrance. As Legolas' tongue slides into Aragorn's mouth he gently slips a finger in, gently, but persistently. Aragorn makes a sound against his mouth, somewhere between a moan and a sob and Legolas waits the merest moment until he feels relaxation set in. He continues to kiss Aragorn, his tongue sliding in and out, mirroring the rhythm his hand sets further below. Aragorn's breath is becoming ragged now, his eyes are closed and he is writhing underneath the Elf's smooth body, a slight sheen of sweat making his skin glisten softly in the firelight. His hands glide over Legolas' nipples, flicking over them, setting them on fire. Legolas slips in another finger, taking the time to prepare his lover for him, even if Aragorn's actions make him want to become one with him right now. When he feels that Aragorn is ready for him, he slowly retracts his fingers, and the Man moans softly at the loss, closed eyes flickering open, asking wordlessly for more. Legolas smiles, and moves himself so he can easily enter Aragorn's body, knowing that Aragorn soon will have forgotten the temporary loss. He reaches for the little flask again and applies more oil to Aragorn's entrance. Aragorn gasps as Legolas touches him, his body already sensitised to the limit. Legolas knows it is time now, for them both: Aragorn's response to him and his caresses are almost enough to make him loose himself. He puts away the flask and starts to push in, slowly, lovingly, but insistently. He will have Aragorn now, tonight, a gift that he had never thought of asking and would never have thought to receive. He slides in, feeling Aragorn welcoming him; familiar, yet almost forgotten hotness surrounding him, focussing his entire being on the very spot where their bodies are united. Aragorn has closed his eyes again, but Legolas' are still open. He will not close them, he will not shut out the vision of Aragorn moving beneath him, head bent backwards, body arched towards him, one with him for this brief blissful moment in time. He starts to move, settling into a rhythm his body remembers all too well, matching that of Aragorn's perfectly. They move together in practised unison, providing point and counterpoint to each other's body, slowly building towards a crescendo that still comes as a surprise because of the sheer intensity of it. Legolas comes deep inside Aragorn, feeling himself empty in his lover's body, while at the same time Aragorn is reaching his own orgasm, hot wetness between them as he comes, and he is moaning Legolas' name. At the sound of his name on Aragorn's lips Legolas' very being is turned inside out and tears well up in his eyes as he collapses on Aragorn's sweating, spent body and kisses the mouth that has asked for forgiveness which he can now give without holding anything back.
They lie together, spent, satisfied, in the full knowledge that everything is all right between them once more. They were lovers once, and if maybes would make for realities they would have continued to be so. But here, in this world they will be friends from now on. In the end Legolas pulls himself back from Aragorn, but not wanting to let go of his friend just yet he reaches behind him and gets hold of his travel cloak. He pulls it over them both, and he pulls Aragorn close against him. He caresses Aragorn's face, kisses it tenderly and gathers him in his arms.
"Be at ease now, Aragorn, my love. Tomorrow we will hunt together, as friends, you and I, but now you sleep while I keep a watchful eye."
Aragorn smiles and returns the kiss, comforted, knowing their past has been laid to rest and will not stand between them anymore. Legolas kisses Aragorn's brow gently and folds him even further in his arms, the soft grey Elven cloak covering their naked bodies. Aragorn start to drift off, feeling safe and sated, while the dying embers of the fire relinquish the tall trees of Mirkwood to the shadows once more.
Fire is dying as well in the luminous eyes that have watched the horrible man that hunts and hunts him and the mean, ugly Elf lying close together near the bright, eye hurting, fire, their gentle words and lovemaking rekindling long forgotten feelings. Love is something Gollum has not known for a very long time, but somewhere in the back of his mind gentle laughter resounds and ringless fingers lovingly caress his ancient, tormented, skin. He could kill them, he could. But for some reason, known least of all to himself, he will not. Gollum spits and mutters a foul word and he slinks back into the shadows, in search of some nice raw fish.