A melancholy Arwen stood on the balcony overlooking her garden, thinking of Elrond and Celebrían and wondering as she often did if her parents had found the peace and happiness in Valinor that she wished for them. She did not doubt that they missed her as much as she missed them, but the gentle kick from her unborn child was reminder enough that she had made the only choice possible. The sound of childish laughter echoed through the hallway announcing the arrival of the other reasons for Arwen’s contentment and she turned away from her sad contemplations to be enfolded in Aragorn’s loving embrace.
“I see you decided to bathe as well,” she said as she ran her fingers through his damp hair.
“It was a prudent course of action after our son slipped and almost drowned,” he replied with a wink at Eldarion.
“Of course it had nothing to do with the beginnings of a water fight I heard when I left you?” The almost identical look of feigned innocence on their faces was answer enough to the one who knew father and son so well and even had Aragorn wished to deny such childish behaviour, Eldarion’s giggles gave them both away.
“Our dear friends from the Shire often found it necessary to employ the same tactic on our journey,” said an amused voice from the doorway. The elf and the one time ranger exchanged a look that spoke of their fond memories of their shared history as he entered the room.
“Legolas! It is good to see you again, mellon nin,” said Aragorn, leaving Arwen’s side to offer the elf a brotherly embrace.
“Greetings Aragorn, it has indeed been far too long since we last met,” he replied, accepting the display of affection. Aragorn glanced over Legolas’s shoulder, frowning slightly at the unfriendly scowl on Eldarion’s face and was about to say something to his son when Legolas shook his head slightly.
“Let him speak from his heart and not because he is simply obeying you,” he whispered in a soft voice meant only for Aragorn to hear. The King nodded and indicated they should take their places at the table.
“You are looking lovely this morning Arwen, I trust you are well rested?” he asked, bending to kiss Arwen’s cheek as Aragorn helped her to her chair.
“Aye and I thank you for your assistance last night, Legolas,” said Arwen smiling her approval as Legolas chose to sit next to Eldarion.
“How fares your injury this morning, Eldarion? Is it still painful?” he asked pleasantly as he poured himself a mug of herbal tea.
“It only hurts when I move it,” Eldarion replied with cold politeness. Legolas sighed inwardly at the rebuff and Aragorn cast a decidedly displeased glance at his son but refrained from interfering.
“I see we are still on unfriendly terms,” Legolas said to his sullen companion who made no reply. An uncomfortable silence filled the room, to be broken by Arwen’s cheerful question.
“Aragorn, did you chance to encounter dear Gimli while you were in Rohan?’ she asked, becoming slightly startled when Aragorn laughed out loud.
“Indeed I did. In fact Éomer and I were guests at the first official tasting of the ale the Dwarves are now brewing.” He said, eyes sparkling with delight at the memory of an extremely pleasant day, and a more hazy recall of the evening in Aglarond.
“Was that poor excuse for ale to your liking?” Legolas asked, his nose wrinkled in distaste at the very thought what his palate considered to be a vile drink.
“The first few mouthfuls were rather bitter, but we soon became accustomed to the taste as the night wore on. It was a very potent brew,” he offered by way of explanation at the disbelief on Legolas’s face that anything could make Dwarvish ale likeable.
“As you no doubt discovered the next day.” Arwen said dryly, knowing as Legolas did that both Aragorn and Éomer would have matched Gimli tankard for tankard. Legolas laughed heartily at the implication and the rueful nod from Aragorn.
“I like Gimli,” chimed in a small voice from next to the elf.
“So do I, very much, he is my dearest friend,” Legolas said, hoping to start a conversation with Eldarion.
“I thought father was, how you can have more than one best friend?” demanded Eldarion.
“I have much room in my heart for all those I hold dear, and I can certainly have more than one best friend. In fact until last night I mistakenly thought I had at least three,” Legolas said sadly, allowing the full extent of the sorrow and pain the ill spoken words had caused to show in his voice.
Aragorn and Arwen watched their son in silence as he digested the elf’s words, his eyes filling with tears as he realised how much he had hurt Legolas and without thought for his injured arm, he climbed onto the elf’s lap and hugged him as fiercely as the splint would allow.
“I did not mean to send you away. I love you Legolas, I am your best friend, too. Don’t you still love me?”
“With all my heart, sweet child, and I will ever be your friend,” he replied, his eyes filled with happy tears as he returned the hug and kissed the child’s cheek.
“Now that is more like the welcome home I expected,” said Aragorn as he squeezed Arwen’s had and they both regarded their son with pride.
“What are your plans for the day?” Arwen enquired of Legolas as he helped Eldarion spread the butter and jam on his toast. The child had decided that the elf’s knee was a far more preferable place to sit, and Legolas had offered no objection.
“I intend to go to the archery range and prepare the targets for the competition,” he replied, feeling Eldarion tense slightly at the mention of the contest. “Although it just occurs to me that I am more accustomed to the placement of targets suitable for adults rather than young children Do you happen to know of some talented young archer who might assist me?” he asked Aragorn, who was barely hiding his amusement at the eager interest in the eyes of his son.
“I will have to think on it,” replied Aragorn, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose you could ask Sarien,” he said finally, deliberately teasing his son. Sarien was Eldarion’s closest friend, and his equal on the archery range.
“But that is not fair! Sarien will likely win and everyone will think it was because he already knew the course,” declared Eldarion indignantly.
“That is a very wise observation for one so young, but who then can I ask?” Legolas wondered out loud.
“I will help you, no one will mind if the King’s son, who is not competing, assists the archery master,” offered Eldarion with a genuine desire to make amends to both his father and Legolas by behaving in a responsible manner.
“I do not wish you to become upset any further,” replied Legolas doubtfully, in an act of perfect innocence that belied the fact that his was the outcome he had hoped to achieve.
“I will not, I promise. Please, Legolas? It will really be fun and I will have a whole week to tease Sarien by not telling him anything about the course even though I will know all about it,” Eldarion pleaded. The elf’s eyes sparkled with delight and mirth.
“Very well, how can I possibly deny you the chance to tease your best friend, when I enjoy doing the same to mine,” he replied, smiling affectionately at Aragorn who rolled his eyes in exasperation.
“I am very proud of you for putting aside your disappointment and offering your assistance, Eldarion, but tormenting one’s friends is hardly the lesson my son should be learning,” Arwen admonished the elf in a friendly manner.
“I agree, my dear, but speaking of teasing, I am reminded that I have a letter here for Legolas from Gimli.” Aragorn said as he showed the missive to Arwen, who glared at him then covered her mouth as the evidence of Gimli’s wicked sense of humour made her giggle. Barely able to keep a straight face, Aragorn handed the message to Legolas.
The elf’s eyes widened in astonishment and he laughed heartily as he read his name, written not in Dwarvish runes, but those of the Elves.