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Rating: K+/PG-13
Legolas/Aragorn; hurt/comfort, angst
Disclaimer: As always, I own nothing.


Legolas awoke with a shiver from his elvish half-sleep. Something evil had been there in his dreams – the pictures of the huddled orc-bodies, an image of Boromir, pale, dying, a Nâzgul’s cry... He lay still for a moment, listening to the sounds of the woods in the dark, the rustling of leaves, distant cries of small animals.

It was not yet his turn, though he would be next in line to do nightwatch and keep the fire burning against the cold of the night. The strange needs of Men. He half-opened his eyes and looked across the fire at Aragorn, who was presently nightwatching, sitting up with his head upon his knees. The Dúnadan’s angular face was drawn tightly, and he was staring blankly into the fire. The orange light threw shadows around the creases and lines in his face. He looked weary and worn-out and very old.

Legolas could feel something inside himself tear. He knew he was not meant to witness this, but he could not bring it over himself to feign sleep again as if nothing had happened. Aragorn didn’t seem to notice the elf, who kept watching him. He folded his arms around his knees and buried his face in them. His body was shaking – was he actually... Legolas’s question was answered when the Man let out quiet but audible sobs.

Legolas could bear it no longer. He got up and went over to his friend on the other side of the fire. Aragorn was so absorbed in his grief that he didn’t notice the elf until Legolas sat beside him, placing an arm around his shoulders.

Aragorn turned his face towards him with a look of embarassment and tried to get away from the elf. But it was no use: Legolas’s grip was gentle, but firm. Aragorn sniffed and wiped his face on his sleeve. Then he looked at his companion’s face again. For a long second, they were lost in each other’s eyes.

Aragorn cleared his throat, embarrassed by the silence.

“I’m sorry, Legolas. I meant to keep this to me.”

The elf looked at him and smiled an enigmatic smile. “I know. I might as well have feigned sleep, but I just couldn’t leave you out here like that.”

Aragorn breathed in heavily. “Ever since we lost Gandalf, things have been getting worse by the minute. And it’s all my fault. We’re losing everything this quest is about, and all thanks to my great qualities as a leader of Men.” He covered his face again, shaken by another outburst of tears, while the elf gently stroked his back, sitting beside him, just listening.

“I’ve failed you. I’ve failed Gandalf, and Frodo, and Elrond. Everything goes amiss, and I am afraid I cannot help it. The Halflings may be dead, or worse. Boromir’s dead already, and the Ringbearer has gone off on his own on a journey he can hardly survive.”

He interrupted himself and allowed the tears to flow, allowed Legolas to sit behind him, cradling him with a warm embrace. He could feel the warmh of the elf’s body enveloping him, the firm muscles of the arms which held him, there and then, the noblest of Men sobbing away into his companion’s tender embrace.

Legolas wanted to say something, anything, some word to comfort his friend, to brighten up the situation, but words failed him. He could do nothing except for sharing Aragorn’s grief and being there. And maybe, he thought, that was enough. Hardly knowing why he did, he started rocking his friend in his arms, the way you rock a child to chase away bad dreams. The fire was cracking a little. At last, when Aragorn’s crying was subsiding, words came to him.

“You have not failed me, Elessar. You are not responsible for everything that goes on in the world. Boromir was a warrior, you didn’t have to protect him. His death is not your fault. You had to care for the Halflings.”

“Yeah. Perfect care,” Aragorn snapped sarcastically, half turning his head. “I care for the hobbits, and because I am so good at it,half of them set out to Mordor on their own while the other half is carried away by mischievous orcs. That’s care for you.” Aragorn looked bitter. He tried to get up, get away from Legolas. He wanted to get away from it all, to shake off the bitter memories that came to him.

But the elf would not let him go. He tightened his grip around Aragorn, wanting to keep him here, by the fireside, in his arms, in his embrace. Aragorn gave up struggling and surrendered himself to the elf’s gentle strength.

“Aragorn,” he heard him say, “do not blame yourself for what others do. If Frodo chose to leave us, it was his own choice after all. He would have done it anyway, sooner or later. There is nothing you could have done to stop him from doing it.”

“But...” Aragorn wanted to interrupt, but the elf silenced him.

“No ‘but’. I know what you want to say. The orcs who took Merry and Pippin were just too many. You cannot be everywhere, and even the three of us together could hardly withstand them. Sometimes things go wrong, but that’s not your fault. You did everything you could.”

Aragorn shifted a little and turned his head around to meet the elf’s gaze. Despite his efforts to dry his face on his cloak, the tears were still visible in the corners of his eyes. He sighed deeply. “Thanks”. Legolas gently took hold of the Man’s face, looking directly at him.

“You have not failed me, Aragorn son of Arathorn. We are in this together now, and we have a purpose: to find the Halflings. Let’s not be hopeless while there still is hope.” He smiled. “And now, you go to sleep and rest while I take over nightwatch.”

But Aragorn did not move, and Legolas sat up all night caressing his sleeping companion.


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