Author’s Note: Part 1 of the story. Takes place after The Return of the King. Pairing Legolas/Aragorn.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, and I’m not making any money from this story.
Warning: Angsty, H/C
IF YOU CAN GIVE IT…
“What would you have me do, Legolas?” Aragorn’s voice was weary beyond belief; his head bowed and his shoulders slumped as if the weight of the world rested upon them. As, indeed, it did.
“I would have you eat your meal, Estel, and sleep tonight for once. I would have you face the coming day with strength and fortitude, rested and fresh. I would have you set aside your cares for just one evening, and renew your hope. I would have you take a care for yourself, as well as all those for whom you feel responsible.” He paused, searching the haggard face in front of him for any sign of comprehension, and sighed. “I would have you smile again…” he whispered softly to himself.
Wishes to the side, the lives of men and elves continue despite themselves. The door flew open, and a gasping messenger tumbled headlong into the room.
“Here, man, take a seat and catch your breath!” The king caught him as he fell and helped him to a nearby seat. “Legolas, a tankard of ale…” But the elf was already pressing the drink into the man’s hand, and then both stood back and waited patiently while he recovered himself enough to speak.
“I come from Helias Minor, my Lord. There is a curse upon the land; a foul beast attacks the outskirts of the city and moves ever inward. Dozens…nay, scores…of good men have died in an attempt to stop this creature! I was sent to beg your aid…and scarcely escaped with my life…please, My Lord, we are in dire straights…” He ran out of breath, and clutched one arm tightly to his side in obvious pain. It was only then that they realized he was not only exhausted, but injured.
“Here, let me have a look…” Always the healer, Aragorn gently pried the messenger’s arm from his side to examine the flesh under the bloody tunic. He frowned. “It is not deep, but I like not the look of it. We will have our best healers look at this immediately, and find you food and rest.”
“But My Lord!” Obviously agitated, the man tried to rise, but lacked the strength to do so and fell back into his seat.
“Be still, now!” Aragorn commanded. “We will see to your needs, and those of your town as well. Have no fear; help will be on the way ere morning.”
Gratified, the man slumped in his seat. “Thank you, My Lord! We knew you would help…” he whispered wearily.
# # #
The dark of night had not yet been broken by the first rays of sunlight when Legolas found his friend and King striding determinedly toward the stables.
“Surely, Estel, you do not intend to go to this place yourself!” he protested with some vehemence.
“Legolas, my people need me. I cannot fail them…” Aragorn did not look at his longtime companion as he strode towards his horse.
“If you do not get some rest, you will be no good at all to them!” Legolas snapped, close to real anger. “Estel, you have hundreds of troops who can see to this matter! You cannot go traipsing all over the kingdom at a whim, chasing down dragons and vanquishing demons that may turn out to be little more than a hungry wolf! You are the King; send your men to deal with this!”
“I cannot.” Aragorn turned haunted eyes to his oldest friend. “They rely on me, they trust me. I cannot expect others to fulfill my duties for me; I must perform them myself. They must know that their King is here for them.” He looked away. “No matter the cost,” he added softly.
With a jerk, he straightened and prepared to mount. “We will be home in three days’ time. I have left orders for the council, and directed the preparations of which we were speaking earlier. All is in place for the upcoming market fair; I have seen to the extra troops and ordered their assignments. There is no…”
He was interrupted at that point. “And have you slept this night, Estel? Or have you spent the entire time ordering and arranging and seeing to that which you do not trust others to do? Have you even eaten?”
“Aye, of course…” His easy answer was belied by the fact that the King was swaying on his feet, and had to brace one hand on his horse for support.
“Yes, so I see!” snapped the elf. “Here, take this at least.” He handed Aragorn a steaming mug and waited while he drained it, watching closely. As the world blurred around him, the King asked shakily, “Legolas? What…what have you done?”
“Well, it seems I must take things in my own hands, since you obviously do not have the sense to do so…” Aragorn swayed and then collapsed gracefully into Legolas’ arms. “My apologies, My King,” he whispered. He lifted the man and carried him easily towards the hall. “But it is, after all, for your own good.” He quirked a half smile at that; the words so often uttered by the King now being used against him. A quick nod to the Captain and troops to confirm the orders Legolas had issued earlier, and the rescue party left at a gallop.
Behind them, a determined elf carried his King and friend to his chambers and laid him gently on the bed.
Several hours later, Aragorn’s eyes fluttered open and he looked around in a somewhat dazed manner. When his gaze lit on the figure seated next to the bed, obviously watching over him, he suddenly recalled what had happened and sat up abruptly.
“Legolas! What the devil was in that drink you gave me? And why…?” Confusion, anger, and frustration chased across his face one after the other.
“A mild sedative is all, Estel. Nothing else. You were exhausted enough you needed nothing more. And as to why…” He paused, staring directly into Aragorn’s disturbed countenance, “well, someone had to do something. You have been running yourself ragged trying to be everything to everyone. You’ve paid heed to none of us when we counseled temperance. You had neither slept nor eaten in the last two days, and yet you showed every intention of riding off into an unknown battle a day’s journey away without a second thought. I simply took the decision out of your hands.” He smiled faintly. “The rescue party is well under way, and I have no doubt that they will quickly accomplish their mission. And you have had a night’s rest, at the least.”
“You took the decision out of my hands.” Aragorn repeated, catching at that statement as if he had heard nothing else. “What right had you to do that?” He sprang to his feet and began to pace. “What right had you to overrule my orders, to undermine my authority with my men, to make me seem a weak and cowardly caricature of a warrior! What right had you to deny my people the strength and presence of their king, their protector, in their time of need?”
Legolas opened his mouth to reply, but was forestalled.
“NONE! You had no right at all to do this thing! What is it, Legolas? Do you envy me my position? Wish to have me seen as an inept ruler, a pitiful child who must be cared for by others? You believe I cannot make my own decisions, cannot determine what is needed by my people, what is right and good for their benefit and for the peace and prosperity of this land? You think you are wiser, stronger, more competent than I? Well, you are not!”
Angrily, the king wheeled on his silent victim, fists clenched tightly at his side, eyes black with fury. “That decision was not yours to make! Nor will I permit the possibility of such an error occurring ever again!” His words cut like a knife through the shattered silence.
“No longer can I trust you; no longer can I be assured of your loyalty and devotion as I once was. Once I would have sworn you would give your life for me; now I wonder if you have instead begun to take mine away! You have played me false, my friend, and that is something I cannot risk again.” His fury had turned cold and unyielding, freezing the very air they breathed. Legolas stood rooted to the floor, seemingly unable to comprehend such a turn of events.
Sight clouded by anger did not recognize the hurt in the cornflower-blue eyes, did not see the way Legolas’ hands twisted suddenly together, did not feel the pain emanating from every pore as the elf stood deathly still in the path of his unbridled fury. Anger vanquished reason, fear and mistrust replaced love in the space of a heartbeat, and the King of men spent the force of his wrath in words neither of them had ever expected to say or hear.
“Leave me, Legolas. I no longer wish to have you by my side.” Cold, hard eyes stared at the elf unflinchingly, looking straight through him.
Without a word, he left.
# # #
The door opened quietly, and Aragorn did not bother to look up from the papers with which he was absorbed. “Just leave it on the table, please…” he spoke distractedly.
“Indeed, my love, I will if you wish, but as you well know the table can be most uncomfortable…”
Startled, he raised his head to see his wife’s gently teasing smile. He rose from his desk and went swiftly to her side.
“Arwen, I did not know it was you! I have been busy…” he trailed off, giving her a quick kiss.
“Yes, I know how busy you have been. Far too busy for me. Far too busy for rest. Far too busy for food. Far too busy…” she paused, looking at him gravely, “even for Legolas. And even for yourself.”
He ran a hand through his hair in agitation. “My dearest, I did not mean to neglect you. I would never…”
“Estel,” She interrupted him. “I do not feel neglected. I have no complaint with your treatment of me, as you should know.” She kissed him gently on the lips in reassurance. “But you are not taking care of yourself. You scarcely eat, you seldom sleep, and now it seems you have put yourself at odds with your oldest, dearest friend.”
“I have done nothing of the kind! He is the one who has caused this breach, with his self-righteous attitude! He errs in his judgment; I can no longer trust him to do that which is best for my kingdom, best for my people. He refuses to see the responsibilities, to acknowledge the small sacrifices necessary when one has been chosen to serve. He…”
Arwen interrupted him with a gentle finger against his lips. “He does not, Aragorn. He simply puts your well-being first, so that you may be fit to see the responsibilities, to do that which is best for your kingdom and best for your people. He cares for you, that you may care for them. And if you do not see this, if you cannot admit how much he loves you, how important he is to you, how much you love him…then you are not the man I believed you to be.” As she turned to depart, he saw clearly the sorrow and disappointment in her eyes; heard the pain in her voice.
“Arwen, you are wrong! I swear to you…”
She turned on him in a flash of impatient anger, speaking coldly. “Swear not to me, Aragorn! For once you swore to Legolas as well, yet now you cast that vow lightly aside! You forget years of love and loyalty and trust in a moment of anger and self-righteousness. You wound one whose love has never deserted you, whose faith in you has been stronger than any other. You do not think of what is best for your people, O King, for you would turn their hope into a falsehood, their trust into a mockery! You would make of their king a shallow, self-important shadow of a man! For if you cannot see the importance, the need, the VALUE of one, then how can you see that in the many?”
She turned on her heel and left, closing the door quietly behind her. She left behind a man, and a king. A man who was at war with himself, at war with those he loved. A King, who was all powerful, all knowing, all wise…and all alone.