For Eli, for his birthday. Beta by RiverOtter.
He’d first seen the adan as a child, a mere boy. He’d been small and eager, although with an innate courtesy that Legolas had found both surprising and endearing. They’d met when Legolas had come to Imladris with a message from his father to Elrond, and the child had been drawn to the newcomer as are iron filings drawn to a lodestone.
Legolas seen him next when he’d come east of the Misty Mountains into the vale of the Anduin and beyond into Mirkwood, accompanying Mithrandir and Elrohir. He’d been newly come to manhood, tall and earnest; and his courtesy had been improved with a courtly manner that even Thranduil had remarked upon. Such grace was seen rarely enough in the Second-born--but then, Aragorn son of Arathorn had been raised in Elrond’s home as if he were a son of the place.
From time to time Legolas had seen him after that, especially after the Dúnadan had returned to his own lands from his sojourns within Rohan, Gondor, and the lands controlled by the Enemy. It was amazing for Legolas to see how swiftly the Man matured, and how grim he could appear--only for that grimness to melt away at the sound of Elven singing and the sound of Sindarin spoken by a full Elf, as if Elven voices were able to renew that young third son of Elrond.
The last time he’d seen Aragorn before the Council of Elrond had been when the Man, tired and worn with a long, arduous and thankless journey, had brought the creature Gollum to Thranduil for its keeping until Mithrandir could come to question it. Legolas had brought him to the healers, for the Man’s hand had festered where Gollum had bitten him. There had been some question as to how well he, as one of the Second-born, might recover from such a serious infection. However, he’d proved remarkably hardy for a Man, and had left with his hand much recovered and the scar already fading, barely to be seen by others afterwards. Legolas had sparred with Aragorn during the last few days of his stay, and had found the Man to be remarkably well skilled with his blade, a fit opponent even for Legolas’s white knife.
Within Rivendell at the time of the Council the Silvan Elf had found the Man seemed even older, somehow. His expression was mightily serious, and rightly so, what with the Enemy’s Ring found as it had been and Its bearer so wounded on the Ranger’s watch. Legolas was already disposed to see the joint son of Arathorn and Elrond as a friend, and for his sake he held his tongue as well as he might about the Dwarf. It was because Aragorn was named early as one of those who would serve in the Fellowship that Legolas had put his name forward as one who would be willing to go forth alongside the Perian as one of the Ringbearer’s companions. All accepted the Grey Wizard as their primary guide, but Legolas already respected the knowledge the Man had for the lands through which they’d traveled. And when Gandalf had fallen in Moria, the Man had simply moved into the role of leader so naturally that none had questioned him, not even the Steward’s son.
When was it that Legolas had first realized how deeply he loved Aragorn as one as worthy as any Elf? That was hard to say. It was after he’d found the even more surprising friendship growing between himself and the Dwarf. Aragorn had proved himself even more competent than Legolas had perceived before: an attested guide through the lands through which he led them; skilled at healing; a lore master in spite of his lifespan that didn’t even reach a century as yet; welcomed and honored by the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien in spite of his claim on the love of their granddaughter; honest; steadfast in his rejection of the lure of the Ring; true in his commitment to the Fellowship; magnanimous and comforting to Boromir; tireless in his intent to recover Merry and Pippin; observant and heartening.... In him was married the best of his mixed heritage as a descendant of Beren and Lúthien Tinúviel, Idril and Tuor, Eärendil and Elwing. As wise as his ancestor’s brother; as honest and dedicated and courageous as the truest of the Edain who’d fought alongside Elves, Dwarves, Maiar, and Belain against Morgoth himself--Aragorn was one full worthy, Legolas judged, of the respect and love he found himself bestowing on the Man.
He’d shared so much of the Man’s life--had witnessed his marriage and the birth of his children; had been there to see him prove indeed the wisest of Kings, the most formidable of defenders, the most skilled of healers. For love of Aragorn he’d allowed himself to become close to his children as well, and to share all he could with Eldarion in preparation for the day when he would take his father’s place.
But now, as he left his mortal friend for the last time, Aragorn Elessar’s fëa fled the cooling shell of his body, for the first time in his long life Legolas felt his age. He watched after Undómiel with pity for her overwhelming grief as she was led away from the tombs by her son that the embalmers could do what they must for the King’s body, and set a hand that was beginning to feel transparent upon the shoulder of his one remaining friend from the Fellowship, and felt there, also, a growing fragility that indicated that Gimli, too, was nearing the proper ending of his life. “I begin to know the weariness that all too often is our lot as Elves,” he murmured in the Dwarf’s ear. “It is time to prepare to leave Middle Earth.”
Gimli stopped, and looked up at him, his face stricken. “You would leave ere I do?”
Legolas shook his head. “Nay, mellon nín, I would not leave you. Remember, an invitation was granted you as well. Will you come with me?”
The Dwarf searched his eyes. “You know I’ll grumble--I’ve never been a good sailor.”
Legolas was surprised that at that moment he could still laugh. “I look forward to it, friend Gimli. Then we shall sail?”
Still the Dwarf searched his eyes, and then that familiar grin split his now white beard. “Oh, I’ll go with you, Legolas--and make you regret it for the rest of your unnatural life! You’ll bless the day I finally go to join my fathers in the Halls of Waiting.”
And the two of them still laughing together, they returned to their quarters within the Citadel, their arms about one another, comforted in their shared grief.