In The End



"Sauron," Legolas purred, settling across the sorcerer's lap, "what is the matter?"

"They are gathering forces against me." Legolas nuzzled beneath Sauron's ear, moving the sheet of dark hair out of the way with his nose. "You're going to leave a mark." They spoke easily in the tongue of Mordor.

"Do you mind? Who is, mine heart?" He turned back to his task.

"Not at all. Humans and elves." Legolas straightened and shifted so that he could see the bright, flame colored eyes.

"What have you done?" the elf demanded.

Sauron kissed Legolas' palm gently.

"Don't. Just tell me."

"I will not see hatred in your eyes."

"You never could, my love."

"Had your people left well enough alone, I would have ignored them."

"Sauron, answer me." The sorcerer laid possessive siege to his lover's mouth. "You've started a war. That's why you want me to remain indoors. It's that damned ring, isn't it?" Legolas wrapped his hands in thick, black hair. A tear slid down his face. "What have you done?"

The sorcerer didn't answer except to claim his lover's mouth once more and lift him up as he stood. He laid him on the bed, immediately straddling the slender hips. "I would have you surrender to my whims once more." Slowly, Legolas nodded. He laid his crossed wrists above his head. Sauron smiled, almost sadly. "Stay." He slipped off the bed and returned with a handful of silver chain. "Strip." The elf obeyed, dropping his clothes carelessly in a puddle by the side of the bed. Carefully, Sauron pressed a kiss to each wrist, before fastening them to the headboard.

Legolas tugged to make sure the restraints were firm. They were. Sauron kissed his way down his lover's chest. He stroked the stretched arms. He loved the contrast between their skins, sun-burnished tan and moonlight pale.

He left dark, suckling bruises down the inside of each arm and on the side of Legolas' throat. Sauron worked his way lower until he could take Legolas' cock into his mouth. He spread his fingers over the slim hips, then surrounded Legolas' stiffness with warm, wet heat. Legolas strained up against the pinning hands. Sauron lapped delicately at the shaft, until his elf was sobbing in need. "Please."

"Tell me what you need."

"Your touch. Your mouth. Your cock. Anything more than this. Please."

"Tell me what you need."

"Fuck me."

"As you wish, beloved."

He hilted himself in his love. Legolas arched into the contact. He pulled painfully at the chains. "Move," he demanded. Sauron kissed him quiet. He stroked the smooth platinum blond locks and started a smooth rocking movement. Legolas whimpered in the back of his throat. Sauron's pace built until he was pumping as quickly as possible.

Legolas cried out as he came. The convulsions of his body dragged his lover over the edge. Sauron draped himself across his elf. "I love the smell of sex on your skin." He didn't release his lover's wrists. Legolas tugged sluggishly at the restraints. "Not yet, sweet Legolas. Let me watch the strain of your muscles a few moments more. I will go to battle soon, but I want to savor you first." He pressed a gentle kiss to the sweat dabbled brow. "You taste like spun honey."

"Sauron, let me touch you. If you are going to battle, I need to remind you why you should return. I cannot do that, passive and helpless."

"The feel of your hands clamped to my wrists or your mouth at my neck will only distract me from the business at hand." He bit at Legolas' shoulder. "Receptive and sweet, trapped. That makes my heart pound and my cock twitch with the need to be inside you, makes my hands ache to feel the strain of your body against the jessies that hold you to the bed. You are mine for as long as my spirit lives in Middle Earth. If you cannot find me. Find my ring. You know its feel."

"Donít talk as if you aren't going to return."

"Don't fret, my beautiful. The body is still mortal. My ring makes me immortal."

"You cannot hold a ring in bed. You cannot hold a conversation with one." Sauron kissed him.

"I am more powerful than any imagine." He coaxed Legolas to hardness once more. He gently pumped his lover's cock. He stopped on the edge of Legolas' release.

"Sauron, please." Legolas' hips rose in desperation. "Please. Don't be cruel."

"But I am cruel and evil. Have you not noticed?"

Legolas laughed. He made his eyes large and pleading. "Please, lover?"

"I'll be back. This shouldn't take long."

"No!" Legolas fought the chains at his wrists. "Ai!" Sauron shifted off the bed.

"I'll be back for you. Stay here and wait."

"Love, please, don't leave me with those servants of yours. Not like this."

"Very well." He released the chains with a wave. "Just remember," he cupped the hard cock, "this is mine. Unless my ring is destroyed and my body turns to ashes, you are mine. Ever after, Legolas." He kissed him gently.

"I'm yours, my beloved one. Must you fight?"

"Yes, my love. Yes. Watch for me. The tower doors will open for you tonight, my precious." Suddenly, he was gone.

Legolas indulged himself in worrying over the fate of his lover and his people. Then, he dressed. He strapped on his quiver and the bone-handled knives Sauron had presented him with as a courting present. He tightened the strap of his wrist guard, then pulled his loose hair back into three practical braids.

The orcs who were serving as guards didn't dare question him. The human traitor who dared to stop him with a touch found himself curled over in flame-white agony. Legolas made his way to the tower's top. It was taller than any tree and Legolas had a rare moment of vertigo.

He looked out over the battlefield. He chewed at the end of his braid absently. There was a sudden, wrenching pain in his chest. He fell to his knees. "Beloved," was whispered into his ear by the Eastern wind. Tears streamed down his cheeks.

****

The troops froze as the clear, pure sound of an Elven voice carried to them. The song was identified as a lament for lost souls. It brought tears to the eyes of all who heard it.

****

Legolas finished packing his things, even as the chamberlain informed him once more that he was welcome to stay. "The memories here are too thick, Stewart."

"I will miss you, Prince Greenleaf. All of the beauty is leaving Mordor."

"I'd counsel you to all run before the humans come."

"Humans and elves at the gates!" the page gasped. "We couldn't keep them out, sir."

Legolas tousled the boy's hair. He was a quarter elven. His parents were both guards, both dead. "It's all right. Go fetch some sweet wine for me please."

"Yes, milord." The page scampered off.

"Will you take him with you?"

"That depends on the will of the Council and my father. I'd like to though. Has the field been scavenged for metal?"

"As we speak the children are gathering bolts and anything else they can carry. We will not be unprotected."

"Be safe, Stewart. You are a credit to your father." Legolas looked wistful. "It seems only yesterday you were crawling."

Stewart laughed. "My old bones can't remember that. I am 65, my lord."

"Already? Time flies."

"Who's in charge. . . Legolas?"

"Elrond." The lord of Rivendell paused, uncertain.

"We despaired of finding you here. Your father will be overjoyed."

"And my mother less than thrilled."

"Your mother died in battle."

"Good. That is what she wanted. Will you tell me of the destruction of the ring? Of his last moment?" The human king, Isildur, stepped into the passage. The ring on its chain winked in the uneven torchlight. "You did not destroy it? Then it will destroy you. Sauron will never rest so long as the ring remains in Middle Earth." Legolas' words were cold and flat.

Isildur studied the elf-prince. There was an undeniable beauty to him. But his eyes, as they gleamed with the fire of prophecy, were frightening. "The ring is precious to me. And I will keep it as a reminder of what was defeated this day."

"Then your bloodline will share the blame for keeping only his evil here. He will return."

"He is dust."

"You are a fool."

"Come along, Legolas. Your father has missed you greatly. Is there anything you want to take?"

"My things are packed. Stewart will see to them. There is a child. An orphan. I would like to take him with me."

"I will speak to your father about it. If he will not have him in Mirkwood, I shall have him in Rivendell."

"Thank you."

"Wine, milord."

"Thank you, little one. Would you go with me to my home, Sean?" The boy's eyes widened.

"To the place with trees?"

"Yes."

The boy nodded vigorously.

"Then go get your things. Lord Elrond will see to it." Legolas looked at Elrond. "Chamberlain Stewart will answer your questions, my lord. I will go find my father."

"Legolas, stay by me," Elrond ordered.

"You don't trust me."

"Do you believe that I could?"

"So you will back this traitor who would steal power?"

"Legolas, tame your tongue. Isildur, I am taking this one to his father."

****

Legolas viewed the destruction and death dispassionately. There was nothing to fear from the dead. Thranduil caressed his son's cheek silently. Then, he pulled him into a tight embrace. "I have missed you, Legolas, my son."

"Daddy," Legolas whispered, more in disbelief than anything else. He squeezed his father tightly around his waist and let himself be held close.

"It has been so long, my son. I feared you were dead or worse."

"Did you not get my letters? I wrote every month."

"I have received no word from you in decades."

"Then he was stopping my mail. Unfortunately, I am not greatly surprised. Yet, you continued to write to me. Or was that merely to allay suspicion?"

"It was hope. Where are your things?"

"The chamberlain is seeing to them." Reluctantly, Thranduil released his grip.

"You never sent for anything."

"All my needs were met." Legolas watched the emotions cross his father's face with a bemused smile. Thranduil finally settled on relieved. "You thought I was a prisoner?" Legolas laughed. Suddenly, there was a boy running towards them.

"Milord!"

"Yes, Little One?" Legolas went down on one knee.

"Are you really leaving us?"

"It is time for me to go home again."

"But I thought we were your home." Thranduil frowned, unable to understand them.

"Little One, this is my father. He sent me here to learn from Sauron. My time is up now, child. I must go back to my family." The boy was crestfallen. A tear ran down his cheek. Legolas brushed it away. "All things change."

"We will miss you."

"Give the others my goodbye and my love."

"Yes, sir."

"Come, let's go, Legolas." Thranduil touched the back of his son's head. Legolas knocked his hand away.

"Sorry, Daddy."

Thranduil sighed. He never could refuse his youngest. "I didn't mean to startle you. Your brother will take you home."

"There is a child. A page. Lord Elrond will talk to you about him. I wanted, I hoped, I could take him with me." Legolas kissed the child's forehead and sent him off.

"I will discuss it with Elrond."

"So you are my jailer now, big brother?" His brother grinned.

"Just like normal. Come on, brat. We have to tell Pelnir mother's dead."

"Odd. I thought she'd been dead since my birth."

Jeleos laughed guiltily. They picked their way through the dead. "We shall stop in Lorien."

"So Galadriel can poke around in my mind if she can?" Jeleos winced. "I'm not mad, Jel. No matter what they tell you. And they will tell you I'm mad. I've lost my knack for tact. And they thought I was dead, Jel. They're going to tell you I need to be protected. But I'm not the one who will let the Shadow into Middle Earth." Jeleos just let his brother talk. He rubbed a hand in gentle circles on his brother's back.

****

"Isildur's dead? How? Who? Where did he die? Where is the ring? It must be found."

"He was killed by orcs, little brother. We assume the ring was lost in the fight."

"It must be found. Don't you understand? Its power cannot be allowed into the world. Not in the hands of some unknown! It must be found and unmade in the fires of Mt. Doom."

"Legolas, it's all right," Pelnir soothed.

"No, it's not, sister!" Legolas snapped. He turned to the door. "It must be found."

"It is just a ring."

"No, it is not. It is half of his soul. He will live in half-life until it is destroyed." Thranduil's youngest child darted out of his suite and towards the door. He paused momentarily to get his weapons. Hands clamped down on his wrists.

"Legolas, no," Jeleos said quietly. "You've done enough. Leave this to more sober minds."

"More closed minds you mean. They won't find it. They won't destroy it. They will sit back until the Shadow has already taken part of the world."

Using years of big brother experience, Jeleos marched his brother back to his room. Legolas scowled at his siblings. Pelnir handed him a cup. "No, I will not be put to sleep. I will not be silenced."

"Take the draught, Legolas. Don't force me to hurt you." Legolas threw the glass against the wall, smugly satisfied by the splash of red it left there. Jeleos pinned his brother's arms to his side and forced a cup to his lips. "Drink." Legolas heard the tears in his brother's voice, saw them in his sister's eyes, and felt them on his own cheeks. He choked down the bittersweet liquid. He slumped in his brother's arms. His siblings laid him carefully on the bed. He curled up and pressed the simple silver band he wore on the third finger of his left hand to his lips.

The draught dropped him into memories instead of the mind paths he normally walked. Water poured over his naked skin as the rain pounded down in sheets. Sauron grinned at him. "You look like a god, sweet one. Shall I worship you?"

Legolas held his arms out to the sides, palms turned up to catch the rain that was the main source of water for the black tower. "As you wish," he tossed the sorcerer's usual words back at him. Sauron's hair was slicked back and dark as a raven's wing. His eyes burned as he knelt and looked up his lover's marble skin. Legolas brought his cupped hands together and dribbled the water over his lover's head. Sauron kissed each palm, then kissed the tip of Legolas' cock. It twitched at the attention.

****

"He was not to be told!" Thranduil thundered at his children.

"You can't keep it from him," Pelnir stated. She folded her hands in her lap.

"We were doing well until you poked your noses into documents addressed to me."

"Father, you cannot keep this from him," Jeleos stated.

"It is for his own good."

"And it was his good that prompted you to send him as a lamb to the slaughter. He is not mad to wish to be with his Chosen, or to see the ring destroyed. I would take it myself," Pelnir informed her father. "As eldest I am supposed to protect him. I failed once. I will not fail again. No more, Father. You've labeled him mad to hide the Council's mistake. I will not let you kill him like this. I will not stand by this time."

"You have no say in this matter, Daughter."

"He is not mad and I will not let you convince him that he is."

****

Legolas woke groggily. He turned to settle against his lover's back and found nothing but the soft bed. He sobbed into his arms.

****

Light flashed along the blade as Legolas moved fluidly through the Mordor forms. Elves gathered along the balconies that overlooked the central court. Faster and faster he moved, until the flashes of light were all that the watchers could discern. The motion stopped suddenly. Legolas was down on one knee, blades crossed above his head in a sword block.

"So the Deceiver taught you something of worth," Thranduil stated.

"He taught me more than you could ever guess." Legolas stood and settled his knives back in their sheathes. "That is the nominal reason for sending me to him in the first place. Though in a century no one has listened to my learning." The prince faced his father with a small, wry smile. "I wonder at the fact that I am kept at all."

"Legolas."

"Yes, Daddy?"

"You are young."

"In body, not spirit. My heart is centuries older."

"Come, Little One. We have things to talk about."

"Ah, has my fate been decided then?" Legolas followed to his father's study. He settled onto the couch, pulling his knees up to his chin. "And what do the winds tell you, Daddy?"

"That you are to go to Rivendell."

"Why? So that Elrond can decide that he cannot tend my heart wounds? The only thing that will ease my pain is the destruction of the ring."

"Elrond has things to discuss with you about Mordor's defenses."

"Of that I know little more than can be ascertained by his own eyes."

"Legolas, you will go. Jeleos will see you there."

"And bring back Pelnir? I know you don't wish me to see her."

"I merely thought the reminder of your mother would be too painful."

"My mother despised me, Daddy. She did not want a third child. Especially not after the first two were past their first millenium."

"You were a surprise, yes, but she loved you."

"As she did a forest fire. You needn't lie for my sake, Daddy. I know well her thoughts on me."

"She loved you in her way, but she was more wild than most. Which is where you get your temper."

"You remember her more fondly because she was your Chosen. Can you understand that I love my Chosen as deeply?"

"He is dead."

"In body only. His spirit still lives. He is gathering his strength."

"Wishful thinking."

"The reality no one will face. My love will gain strength and find the ring. But it is a perverse existence. To find the ring, he must let the evil fill him. And we can never be rid of his evil because it is his darkness that binds him to the ring."

"You admit he is evil."

"Good and evil both, Daddy. His evil is darker than his light is bright." Legolas sighed. "When do I leave?"

"Within the day."

"How long. . . nevermind. I'm sure Rivendell will provide."

"Yes, Little One, it will."

"I shall be 700 tomorrow. Fitting time to start a journey." Legolas stood. "I will prepare."

****

Legolas looked around Rivendell curiously. He had never been there. Jeleos rested an easy arm around his brother's shoulders. Elrond looked down at them from his study. He always forgot Legolas' youth until he saw his wonder as some new thing. "Pelnir, your brothers have arrived," he called. The princess moved away from the crib.

"Excuse me, Lady Celebrian."

"Of course. I'll bring Arwen out to meet them."

Pelnir enveloped her youngest brother in a tight hug. "I have missed you so much, brat."

"And I you, wench."

She released him and took his hand. "Come see Lord Elrond. Then, I'll show you around."

****

"Legolas."

"Elrond." They studied each other.

"You seem different."

"It is called resignation. I assume you won't hear me either, so I won't bother you. How have you been?"

"Well. And yourself?"

"I maintain. Some days are better than others."

"And today?" Elrond raised his brow in emphasis.

"I am secure in my mind."

"That is all one can ask, I suppose. And you, Jeleos?"

"I am in love, how could anything be wrong?" Legolas hid his smirk.

"Tell me of your Chosen one," Elrond said. They settled around his study. Legolas sat near the balcony. Elrond and his siblings were in the seating area. Jeleos' eyes grew dazed, his smile drugged.

"She is tiny for one of us. Her hair is warm chestnut." He babbled on about his Chosen. Legolas watched the people come and go below, tuning out his brother's voice.

"Legolas," Pelnir said softly in his ear, "come meet the baby."

Legolas blinked once, then stood. He smiled at Celebrian. "Lady, I hadn't heard the twins would be getting a sibling. Congratulations."

"Thank you, Prince. Legolas, meet Arwen." She held the baby out and he took her in his arms automatically. The baby grabbed one of his braids and he grinned.

"Hello, Arwen. She has her father's hair and her mother's grace, I see." Arwen gurgled at him. He stroked along her cheek and she turned towards his finger. He let her suck at it. "She will be a great beauty like her mother." Celebrian was the only one who saw the spark in his eyes. "Too bad we can't remove her from the lamentable influence of her father." He winked at her. Legolas could feel Elrond's anger building. "Of course, her brothers were terrors when I saw them last, but rumor has it that they are getting better. Amazing how children grow up in spite of their parents." Celebrian nodded solemnly.

"Yes, if they had been more like my side of the family, they wouldn't enjoy fighting so much. I put it down to their human blood. That was part of the attraction to my husband."

"Oh, do tell me more." Celebrian patted the seat of the sofa next to her. "I'm hopelessly romantic." He settled by her and watched her with wide, bright eyes.

"I'd heard that, yes." Elrond looked out at the yard, realizing that the younger elf had been baiting him. "Well," Celebrian began as Legolas' siblings drew closer, "when I met him I was much younger than I am today."

****

For the first time in a month, Legolas and Elrond were alone together. "Legolas."

"That is my name. Usually, it is followed by 'the mad prince' in the whispers. The Council's doing I hear."

"I am not the only person on the Council."

"I know that, but you know me as well as my own family. You are supposed to be my Spirit-Guardian."

"And I have done that."

"You taught me hymns. And you convinced my father to send me as the Council's whore to Mordor."

"There was no other choice."

"There were many choices, two of whom are called Elladan and Elrohir. Perhaps they would not have loved him."

"He would have seduced anyone we sent given enough time."

"Or destroyed them. You think I'm tainted because I love him."

"I have said no such thing."

"You do not trust me. You do not listen to me. Even though I was in the best position to make informed decisions about Mordor, I was sent to Galadriel. She found nothing except a tendency towards prophecy and a talent for sorcery that I dare not use for fear of being drugged."

"Then tell me of Mordor, her defenses, her people."

"I have not been allowed out of Mirkwood for a century. Go buy yourself a spy."

"Legolas." Elrond's voice held a note of warning.

"I owe you nothing, Elrond! For a century, my words have been ignored. You fucked up, Soul-father! My advice is useless now. If you had convinced them to listen to me then as you feel the need to do today, perhaps I could have helped. Now, there is nothing I can tell you that I haven't said before." Legolas wrapped his arms around his abdomen."

"Stubborn child. I do not rule the Council."

"No, your mother-in-law does!" Legolas clutched more tightly at his stomach. He hissed out a breath. "It hurts."

Elrond gathered him into his arms and Legolas leaned against him.

"It hurts. He is still around. I can hear him in the wind, and feel him in the night. Just let me find the ring and put him to rest. Even if you believe it to be just in my mind, let me find it."

"No, Little One, that is not a task for you."

"Then for whom? Who will remember? Who knows the ring as well as I?'

"Mithrandir has taken the task."

"And by the time he finds it? Will he not desire to use it? He will have to use power to find it and power can corrupt."

"He treads the ashes between light and dark. There is not better candidate."

"Even the wise can be corrupted. If the ring remains in Middle Earth, the Shadow will build in strength. Even we are not safe from it. The One Ring would corrupt you as it would any other."

"But you wish to find it. Are your motives so pure, Little One? Would you destroy it? Or would you call him back to your side?"

Legolas pulled away. He went to the courtyard window. After a long moment, he spoke, "The ring does not hold sway over my mind. I am under his protection. My love, my desire, I agree, make me less than suitable to hold it. But I've worn it, Elrond. I know its feel. I can find it, if the Council will let me follow its voice. Use me as your spotter. Like a raven for a wolf. Or a human's hawk."

"Legolas, the Council is united in this matter. You are to be protected from the ring." Legolas ran the bright silver of his ring along his lips.

"To the cost of everyone else? The ring will not be found until Sauron wishes it to be. Not by anyone but me. I promised him, Elrond. I promised him I would find him."

"Little One," Elrond sighed. He settled his hands on the prince's taut shoulders.

"My lord. Enough. The Council has ruled my life for four centuries. I understood the power of its edicts. That does not mean that I like them, only that I will abide by them to the letter of their law. I will remain in Mirkwood. I will not speak my lover's name. But know this, and tell the Council, everything will come to pass as I once told them. The ring will be found. The Shadow will rise. And when it is found, they will need my protection. The protection my Chosen gave me. I will take no other lover until the ring is destroyed. I will use the magic he taught me only in emergencies. I am going to drown my sorrows in the beauty of the water here."

"Soul-son, wait."

"Yes, Soul-father?"

"The Council has never asked for you to isolate yourself. We have never asked for chastity. You are unmarried."

Legolas spun. "Fools!" he spat. "I should have stayed in Mordor. At least there I was recognized for what I am. I exchanged vows, Elrond. I bound my heart with his! He was my Chosen. The completion of my soul. How dare you belittle my commitment!"

Elrond didn't move as the archer stalked forward toward him.

"You will lose, Elrond. You do not want the ring destroyed because you will lose the power you wear now. The Elven rings are still subject to the One Ring, even in they cannot be used for destruction. Three rings of protection. Fire to the forge-master, water to Imladris, Air to Galadriel. Did you never wonder why there was not one for earth? Because he did not make it answer to the One." Legolas leaned close. "Because he did not want its master subjugated. The One ring is the gold of the sun. Mine is the silver of the moon. The sun gives her light freely to the moon," Legolas whispered low in Elrond's ear. "There is no question of debt or favors. As it should always be between lovers." Legolas tugged on one of Elrond's braids. "I am going to corrupt your daughter now."

Elrond didn't answer. He sat behind his desk and stared at the sky for a very long time.

****

Legolas sighed and stretched. He wandered around the outer chamber of the tower of Isengard. He examined the tapestries on the walls. The books stacked on the desk, half of them opened, called to him. He stared down at the words for a long moment, then took a seat. He pushed back the hair that fell over his shoulder as he bent to read more closely. "Legolas!" his father's voice suddenly rang through the halls. "Legolas, where are you?"

"I'm here, Father." He went to his father with a smile to derail the obvious distress in Thranduil's face. Thranduil settled a hand on his shoulder.

"I told you to wait here."

"I got bored. I just looked around a bit. I didn't leave the hall. I didn't go wandering around outside. Although, considering the length of this meeting, perhaps I should have."

"They want to speak to you."

"Why should I bother? They won't listen to me."

"Legolas."

"Yes, Father." Legolas rolled his eyes. "There is an absolutely exquisite treatment of the human elf alliance in the second chamber." He looked at the table as he entered. Mithrandir, Sauruman, Galadriel and Celeborn, a dwarf, a man, and a ranger. He nodded in greeting. "Hello. Have you diegned to listen to me finally?"

"You may speak."

"Let me find and destroy the ring. This is the same as I have been saying since Sauron fell. He lives on and you are all foolish enough to deny it. Although, I sense that this council has begun to believe me. The Shadow is growing stronger every day. Yet, you tarry here and talk as opposed to acting. If you strike first, you may be able to prevent his return."

"Young prince, I understand that your experiences with the Deciever have scarred you. However, the Shadow can never win," the dwarf said not unkindly.

"He was damn well close enough last time." Legolas shook his head in amusement. "I am only here in the hopes that you will give my father cause to release me from my cage for awhile. I doubt that will happen, but I came to try. I have long since given up hope of anyone actually listening to me."

"We do not know that Sauron is still active. The Shadow has been with the earth since its creation, but that does not mean that it will win."

"You are philosophical for a man, but I suppose that would be because your lifespan is so short."

"Legolas!"

"Yes, Father?"

The ranger smirked in quickly hidden amusement. He had children of his own.

"And what then, does this foolish little group wish to know? There is no better way to make sure nothing happens than to make decisions by committee. Anyone here can tell you that. Does Galadriel answer to anyone in Lorien? Or Mithrandir ever tell anyone of his actions? I think not. I do wish that I were allowed to my own devices so quickly. Perhaps you would need never fear the return of the ring. Then again, perhaps you would."

"You are not helping your cause, youngling," Celeborn stated.

"My dear lord Celeborn, my cause is so far beyond help at this point that I merely speak for the pleasure of hearing my own voice and irritating those around me."

"And indulging in your sharp tongue," Galadriel added. He gave her a small bow.

"As my lady states." He looked more closely at her. "Didn't you used to wear your hair straight?"

"I got bored."

"I understand. Perhaps you could convince Father to let me out on occasion. To hunt less anger prone prey."

"I would not suggest loosing you on the world at liberty." Legolas smiled at her.

"Then perhaps, you would accompany on my travels."

"If I were a few centuries younger and you several older, then I might have once considered it. But I am married. I've had children. I fear you would find me dreadfully boring."

"A lady with your tongue need never fear being boring."

"And what do you know of my tongue, little prince."

"I know that it has an evil sting. But answer, what do you wish to know? Why was I brought here?"

Sauruman cleared his throat. "I think you know."

"I do not."

"Tell us of the forging of the ring."

Legolas frowned. "Did I not tell you that three times already? Or were those dram-dreams?" He looked at his father in consternation.

"I think they were dreams, Legolas," his father stated. "Sit down." He pushed gently on one shoulder until Legolas sank into his father's chair. The younger elf rubbed his hands over his eyes.

"Very well. I wasn't there for the forging of the one ring. I know it was done in Mt. Doom. That is where all of them were forged. Anything can melt in that heat. He started doing the spell for it long before I became aware of it. He must have begun it at the same time as the other rings."

"You were involved in the forging of the rings?" the dwarf demanded harshly.

"Yes. I was learning spells. He was using them to teach me. He wanted to know what sort of things the elves would want. He wasn't too pleased with the answer, but the results came out for the proper purpose."

"Why wasn't he pleased?"

"Because he couldn't understand why we'd want to protect things when we could rule them. I laughed at that. He was so possessive that it surprised me that he didn't understand protective instincts."

"And did you tell him that?" Mithrandir asked with a smile.

"Yes." Legolas smirked.

"I see your tongue affected that relationship as well," Galadriel stated.

Legolas smiled at her. "He liked my tongue well enough. And to better purpose than this council does." Thranduil smacked him lightly across the back of the head. "It is true you and you know it."

"It is inappropriate."

"What is the point of being mad if I can't act up in boring meetings?" Legolas demanded.

"Let the boy talk," the man stated. "It is a damn sight more interesting than the reading of ancient scrolls."

"Oh, I can read from a scroll if that would make it more acceptable. There's any number of things I could write down for the purposes of educating the world."

"Legolas."

"Father," he sing-songed back.

"Answer the question. Tell us of the forging itself. What he told you if nothing else."

Legolas took a moment to gather his thoughts. "He didn't tell me at first what it was for. He was acting a bit oddly and I confronted him about it. He wore it all the time after he made it. The spell is the etching." The elf-prince leaned on the table. He traced out designs with a finger. "I never saw the words clearly. It wasn't important to me. It can change size. I've seen it. He could wear it on the outside of his armor. And his armor made him at least two times his usual size. He could wear it on his hand. It fit me as well, the one time I wore it."

"You wore it?" the ranger raised a brow.

"What is so odd about that?"

"Sauron let you wear the one ring."

"Sauron let me do many things. I've no desire for power and he well knows it. He enjoyed my freedom. The one being that came to him by force and stayed by choice. I would have stayed in Mordor had the memories been less painful. The ring was forged in the volcano. It cannot be destroyed by anything but that." Legolas shrugged. He cocked his head to the side. "There's a storm coming up."

"Yes. It's been building for a few days now. I was hoping this council would be finished by the time it hit. However, it doesn't surprise me," Sauruman stated.

Legolas rolled his eyes. "I bow to your wisdom, oh all-knowing bastard." Thranduil didn't even pause before smacking the back of his son's head. Legolas grinned up at him. "Just because everyone else was to chicken to say it, doesn't mean I should get into trouble."

"Sometimes I wonder if that's what fate always had in mind for you."

"I could have turned into my mother."

"Doubtful."

"Oh?"

"She'd have killed you and left the body out for the wolves."

Celeborn blinked at the fact that Legolas actually looked pleased about that.

"I always thought she had more sense than you did. Is there anything else?"

"Not at the moment. We have many things to discuss. You're dismissed," Sauruman stated.

"No, you are not dismissed to go wandering around the woods," Thranduil stated firmly. "Nor are you allowed to go poking into other people's things. And you will keep your nose out of the store-rooms as well."

"You are such a spoilsport."

"I just know you too well. Haldir is here. Perhaps the two of you could share bow-techniques or something."

"With Haldir the Insufferable Prick?" Galadriel forced her serene mask to stay in place at Legolas' increduility. "You want me to *talk* to the Insufferable Prick. His own *wife* doesn't like him around all the time. She tried to get me to push him off of the mountain last time they came to visit."

"Why didn't you?" the dwarf asked. From what he'd been told the "Mad Elf" had no qualms about killing.

"She wouldn't meet my price." Thranduil looked down in surprise.

"Your price?" Galadriel prompted with a smile.

"I wanted her to break me out of Mirkwood." Legolas pouted. "She wouldn't do it."

Mithrandir's lips twitched once before he got them under control.

"Go on, Little One. I'll come find you later." Legolas rolled his eyes and left without taking his leave.

"I think I should get myself declared mad," Galadriel stated. "I think it should make for much more interesting times."

"The last thing we need is to indulge him," Sauruman stated.

****

Legolas settled at Sauruman's desk and continued to read. His brow creased. "Oh no," he whispered. He shook his head. "You fool. You old fool." He forced down his laughter. "Oh my lover, come to me."

"I am always here," the wind informed him as it howled against the building. "Shall I blow the place down?"

"Would that suit your purposes?"

"No."

"Tell me you aren't considering Saruman as your new body."

"No, my love, I am not that foolish."

"Good." Legolas hummed, his melody following the storm.

****

Haldir looked into Saruman's study. He frowned. Legolas shouldn't have been there. He should have been locked up somewhere. He certainly shouldn't have been reading the wizard's spellbooks. Haldir drew himself up. "What exactly do you think you're doing?"

"Mind your rank, Haldir," Legolas snapped. He didn't bother to look up.

"Legolas, you should be resting."

"I should be hidden from view in a dungeon or a bedroom, you mean. You don't want me anywhere near you."

"I didn't say that."

"You aren't the only one who thinks that way. Do you know what the old fool is doing? He's trying to find the ring. He's trying to bespell it so that it will answer to him."

"You don't know that."

"I do. And no one will listen to me until it is too late." Legolas shrugged. "Even the wise can be corrupted. I think he's not too far down the path to be turned back, but it may already be too late."

Haldir looked down his nose at the prince's back. "I don't think you should be reading his books."

"And I don't think you should be talking to me, so we're quite even."

"Legolas, these are. . ."

"Watch your tone, Archer."

Haldir winced. "Prince, I think. . ."

"You think too much and you speak your mind too often for my pleasure. Be reminded that I am not subject to Galadriel. You have no authority over me. And even in terms of skill, I can beat you. Leave me be, Haldir."

"Legolas, come with me to the inner chambers where the storm is less buffeting."

"I think not. I prefer the presence of the storm to your company. Go play with the other elves that are cavorting or cowering in the feasting chamber."

"Come eat something with us at least."

"Leave me alone."

"Why?"

"Because you disturb my thoughts."

"And you disturb everyone around you. Come along, Legolas. At least attempt to be sociable."

"Why should I bother? All they will do is whisper about the mad prince or look down at me with distain. Is there even one elf there that understands me? I don't think so. Unless Elrond has sent young Arwen."

"She is too young to travel alone and you well know it."

"She is far older than I was when I was sent *alone* to Mordor. She is as good a hand with a sword as I can make her and as fair a mark with the arrow as any in Rivendell. She is not to be taken lightly Haldir."

"Very well. You should eat something."

"I have no hunger for food or drink. I thirst only for solitude."

"You wish to brood."

"Yes."

Haldir shook his head. "You are making a mistake, my dear madman."

"Now, you are being insulting. I am not a man."

"But you are mad."

"I am now." Legolas looked over his shoulder, eyes cold. "It was not always so. Leave me, Haldir. You are uncomfortable with me and my whims."

"I am uncomfortable because you do not react as others do, yes. But I will not leave you here alone."

"Why not?"

"Because I think you have been alone too often. You have forgotten how to speak act with another elf. I am not one of your subjects any more than you are mine."

Legolas smiled briefly. "Very good, Haldir. Very good. Come and sit. We can send a servant for wine if you'd like."

"No."

Legolas turned back to the books. "Have you any learning in languages, Haldir?"

"Only in Elvish and Westron. I have no need for anything else."

"Then you are missing a wealth of information."

"I suppose you speak more?"

"Of course, what else am I to do with my time? Archery and sword-forms can take only so much of it." Legolas raised his brows and blinked. "I've mastered everything I could find."

"So the mad prince hides himself in books."

"Better than listening to the whispers."

Something in the tone brought Haldir up short. He knew what the whispers of Lothlorien said about the mad prince. He had to assume they were worse in Mirkwood. Perhaps even in Rivendell despite Elrond's acceptance of the prince as his daughter's soul-guardian. "Legolas?"

"I am sorry. My bitterness overcomes my tongue again." The prince shrugged, but the apology was insincere. The truth lay in the previous words.

Haldir tasted and tested the shame that the truth invoked. He didn't like the flavor or the texture of the feeling. He was often party to those whispers, fed them occasionally. He hadn't realized that Legolas was aware enough to know what was being said behind his back. Like the rest, he assumed that his oddness set him fully apart. Perhaps even thinking that the shadows clouded his hearing more than his mind. Haldir didn't speak for a long moment and Legolas buried himself within a page of parchment full of brilliant golds and reds.

"Do you want to know the truth of the matter, Haldir, or do you wish to remain in ignorance as the rest? Would you listen if I told you what I know? I am not bound by any conscription of the council's being or the constraints of office. Even if I were eldest, I would not be in line for my father's crown. Nor do I wish to have it."

Haldir strained to make out the words over the storm. "Yes, I want to know. Tell me."

"I will tell you then. Come let us go to the roof so that you can learn to enjoy the storm and I will teach you some secrets."

****

Thranduil ignored the pleas from the other side of his son's door. Until they knew who or what had taken residence in Dol Goldur, Legolas was to be held by order of the Council. "Daddy, please! Don't do this. Don't lock me up like some criminal. I've done nothing wrong!"

Legolas sank down to the floor. He closed his eyes. "My love, come to me," he whispered in the language of Mordor.

"I am here, as always, my beauty."

"I cannot remember what I'm to do to get out of a locked room. Why can't I remember?"

"Because that bitch hurt you. Let me show you." Legolas listened avidly. He mouthed the words and the portal opened. He stepped into Mirkwood proper. "Thank you, my love."

"Come to me, Legolas."

"I will, Sauron. I will." Legolas started through the forest, the familiar weight of his quiver and bow at his back. The woods seemed darker than he remembered. And the animals seemed more odd. He didn't recall having seen black squirrels before. His feet found the path towards Dol Goldur with no difficulty. He avoided the man and elf eating spiders, the trolls, and the assorted other nasties in the woods easily. He moved with single-minded determination. He needed to be far away before his father realized that he had left.

****

Thranduil cursed fluently. The captain of the guards looked at him in surprise. He'd never heard the elf curse before.

****

Mithrandir looked up at the elf who had stopped in the tree above him. "Legolas."

"Bastard."

"I see you're well."

"What do you want here?"

"I want to know if it is indeed Sauron. You have answered that question."

"Perhaps I am merely spreading chaos."

"That is not in your nature, young prince."

"And I am not so young as I once was. It is Sauron's voice that calls me, yes. He is here. He has taken the seventh dwarf ring."

"Come down here, Elfling. You make my neck hurt."

Legolas smiled brightly and laughed before jumping down. "Is that sufficient Master Gandalf?"

"It will do for now. And I thought the White Council had sent word to your father to keep you indoors until I had investigated Dol Goldur."

"Did you truly think that my father had anything that could hold me against my love's magic?" Legolas' eyes twinkled. "Your hope is a credit to you."

"My dear mad elf," Mithrandir said shaking his head, "you continue to surprise me."

"If you will excuse me? I have an appointment to keep." Legolas bowed with a flourish and turned to head to the fort. He never saw the blow coming, but he felt the staff hit. He collapse to the leaves. Gandalf looked down sadly.

"I'm sorry, Greenleaf. It is not time yet." He lifted the elf carefully into his arms and headed back towards his home. He was met half-way by a contingent from Mirkwood. Thranduil took his son into his arms.

"I will never forgive you, Mithrandir. Never."

****

"Hello, Estel," a voice said from the branches overhead. Aragorn looked up in surprise. He didn't know anyone who climbed trees on a regular basis. He met a pair of deep brown eyes with his own steel grey.

"Hello. I didn't catch your name."

A wry grin answered him first. "I am Legolas."

"Pleased to meet you, Legolas." The elf dropped lightly to the ground. "I haven't seen you in Rivendell before."

"That's because I live in Mirkwood."

The sixteen year old human blinked. "Are you. . ." he trailed off, blushing.

Legolas snickered. "The mad prince?"

"Yes."

"Yes, I am. Don't worry, Estel. I've been called much worse. The Council labeled me mad so that they would have more leeway in dealing with me. Let's walk some." They wandered down the paths in silence for awhile.

"What else do they call you?"

"You are bold." Legolas smiled. "The whore of Mirkwood. Sauron's Pet. Shadow-touched. The others do not bear repeating." Estel was quiet.

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Have you been labeled thus?"

"Because Sauron is my Chosen. Did Elrond not tell you?"

"The Dark Lord? Like in the painting in the memory chamber?"

"The same."

"No wonder they say you are mad."

"How so?"

"If I hadn't seen my lover in three thousand years I'd probably go crazy too.

Legolas couldn't remember ever having laughed so hard. He wiped a tear from his eye as he attempted to recover. Aragorn watched him with the haughty satisfaction of a cat. "You are a wonder, young one."

Elrond tracked the sound. He found the two of them on one of the high paths that looked down on the valley. "Not that I mind, but what is funny enough to make you laugh, Legolas?"

"Your ward has explained my madness. Can I keep him?"

"No."

"Blast."

"I won't have you corrupt another young mind."

"Spoilsport."

"Go back to your books, Legolas." Legolas yawned. "Shoo." Legolas stretched.

"You don't impress me, my lord."

"It would take a sword to the throat to impress you."

"I didn't know you were into that sort of thing."

Elrond swiped at him. "Ai! You get more irritating as the years go by."

"I should hope so. I take great pride in making the Council as uncomfortable as possible."

"I've noticed. What are your intentions towards my son?" Aragorn stared at his father. The lord of Rivendell was glaring. Legolas met his gaze levelly.

"I plan to use him shamelessly to allieviate my boredom by ingraciating myself with him so that as he ages, the relationship will make you squirm."

"So long as there's a plan. Why do you delight in tormenting me?"

"Because petty revenge suits me. And I'm not so shadowed as the Council believes."

"Oh?"

"If I were, I'd just kill you all in your sleep." Legolas tugged on Estel's collar. "Come, I've got much to teach you."

Aragorn followed out of curiosity.

****

Glorfindel raised a brow. "What is the matter, my lord?"

"Look out into the courtyard."

"I see Estel at lessons."

"With whom?"

"How should I. . . is that the prince? I didn't think he was involved in. . . this isn't something you asked for? He is one of the best fighters I've ever seen. And with the shadows gaining strength Estel will need any advantage he can get. Besides, he's the one of the elves who isn't interested in leaving Middle Earth."

"Few of the Wood Elves are. Mirkwood is the only community that isn't losing members except to war. No, he is doing this to prick at me."

"Really? Perhaps he just likes the boy."

Elrond snorted.

****

Aragorn retired to his room. It was, in typical elven fashion, open to the night. He curled up in the bed that was far too large for one person and slept.

Elrond was waiting for Legolas when he came down from the tree. "Finished enchanting Estel's sleep?"

"I only wove protections for him." They walked towards Elrond's favorite enclave.

"What is your interest in him?"

"He reminds me strongly of someone." Legolas evaded the question.

"Who?"

"Someone I knew as a child. He is clever. I like him. Who is he really, Elrond?" Legolas looped his arm through the low branch of a tree as Elrond sat on the stone bench.

"I'd rather not say."

"Who is he?"

"Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir to the throne of Gondor. He doesn't know."

"Isildur's heir? Interesting." Legolas frowned. "I hadn't realized that Isildur shared a common ancestor with. . ." he drifted off. He shook himself out of the wonderings. "So he will be king?"

"If he so chooses."

"One does not choose a rank, Elrond."

"He can refuse to return."

"I don't think you'll allow that."

"I will not make that decision for him."

Legolas snorted. "Don't give me that, Elrond. You don't want him to become king. You don't want to risk him falling prey to the same weakness that tainted his ancestor."

"I do."

"He is not so weak in character, I don't think. He would actually listen to you. And the ring doesn't want a new master. It's quite happy with the one it has at the moment."

"Where is it then?" Elrond asked mildly.

Legolas smirked at him. "Ask me nicely. I'll go fetch it."

Elrond shook his head. "I am not quite so stupid as that, Legolas. Give me a little credit."

"I do. But just a little. The rest of it, you'll have to earn."

"What do you plan to do with him, Legolas? A real answer this time."

Legolas was quiet for a long moment. "I was thinking to be his friend."

Elrond blinked. "Is that all?"

"What else would I do with him? He's a child. A human child. And he may look familiar, but he's not the same man that I knew all those years ago. I'll teach him to fight and to shoot. That's all, Elrond."

"And sorcery?"

"I don't teach that." Legolas' voice dropped into its iciest range. "And I would not teach it to a human. His body would not withstand the stress of it."

"How do you know?"

"I've seen humans who learn sorcery. They all look like Mithrandir, despite being nothing more than a couple of decades old. No, I will not teach him that."

Elrond studied the younger elf for a long moment. "When did we lose you, Legolas? How long before you were his?"

"Nearly a century. He was so patient, Elrond. You don't understand that at all. We both knew why I'd been sent. He thought me a spy. A clever ploy, but still a spy. He read my mail. I know that. That's why he stopped my letters leaving Mordor later. Because he didn't have time to read them. Then, no one came to visit. No one wrote regularly. I was alone, Elrond. Completely alone. I missed Mirkwood. I missed the trees and the breeze and the rain. I missed the animals. Mordor wasn't completely ruined then, but it was a wasteland none the less. There was only one tree there. It's still there, I think. A twisted, angry oak. He found me in the branches there whenever I was upset." Legolas shrugged. "It's in my nature after all. He talked to me, Elrond. No one else did. I don't know if it was by his order, or because in the beginning I didn't speak the language and they didn't speak the common tongue. I suppose by the time I'd learned to speak it, they were so used to my not understanding them, that they didn't bother trying. They didn't trust me. Have you ever been that cut off, my lord?"

"No."

"I enjoyed my lessons. My guard taught me forms at first, then Sauron took over. After a certain level, the teacher needs to move you into the positions so that you can learn them. You cannot see the subtle differences, only feel them. The guard didn't dare touch me. He was afraid he would hurt me. I'm so fragile, you see." Legolas rolled his eyes. "I needed him. I was barely holding onto my center. I spent more time in dreams than in reality."

"You still do."

"You mistake memories for dreams." Legolas paused. "He was the only person who forced me to make my own decisions."

"What?" Elrond leaned forward. Legolas settled between the roots of the tree.

"He did not want me dependent upon him or anyone else. It was about 50 turnings into my training."

"Before you started sleeping with him?"

"Well before I gave him my heart, my lord. Well, perhaps. I think I loved him before I knew it."

"That is the way love goes."

"Yes, it is." Legolas closed his eyes. "I was his completely by the end of my first century there. The Council seemed to have forgotten me. I had no distractions. And we spent so much time together."

"We sent you as a student, not a whore."

"Bullshit. I've spoken with Mithrandir. He always predicted that sex would be a part of the equation. He just didn't tell the Council."

Elrond sat straight up. "No, he did not. He didn't seem to think it would be a factor. You were so young, and Sauron, we thought, was more concerned with military matters. He said that your heart might stay the growth of his darkness, but it didn't work."

"But the darkness had not taken full hold of him. But now, now, I think the only thing he might care about besides the ring is me. Before, he cared for his people. Not the orcs, but for the ones that joined him willingly. For the children that were born there."

Elrond reached forward and carefully brushed away a stray tear. "What do you mean before? Sauron is not going to return."

"He was at Dol Goldur. Mithrandir stopped me from getting to him then. That is when he took the last of the dwarf rings back." Legolas' voice was listless. "Daddy started drugging me again. If only he'd known."

"Known what?"

"That the drugs give me my memories as if they were real once more. Excuse me, my lord. I need some space." Legolas bolted towards top of the tree before Elrond could stop his movement. The lord of Rivendell returned to his bed. It was cold without his wife's presence. He put his hand over the place where she would lie in the blissful moments following making love. It was cold. He hung his head. He hadn't understood before. He hadn't known the pain of losing his lover. To be given a taste of memories that felt real, only to be returned to the harshness of reality over and over again was cruelty. It was a wonder that Legolas hadn't gone mad indeed.

****

Legolas settled in the branches of the best Aragorn-watching tree. The young man's hair spread out over the pillows in a dark fan. He slept as still as an elf, curled up in the center of the bed like a cat. "My love."

"I am here." The warm breeze caressed Legolas' body. "And who is this? My replacement?"

"Never."

"He is nice to look at."

"True."

"Do you remember?"

"Remember what?" It was an old, but enjoyable game now.

"The first time you pounced?"

Legolas smiled. If anyone had seen it, they would not have been soothed. "Yes.'

"Let me take you there tonight, love."

"Wherever you wish me to be."

Legolas drifted into the memories, his body relaxing into the tree. Legolas was bored. He'd finished his lessons, written his father, practiced his forms. He didn't want to read. He didn't want to write. He wanted to hunt. He slipped through the corridors on cat feet. Sauron wasn't in his throne room, nor the war room. That meant either he was looking things over from the roof or sulking in their bedroom.

He was in the bedroom. He had laid down to think more clearly. He scowled up at the metal canopy, bored with the red drapes. He was in the middle of listing colors when there was a sudden, pinning weight across his thighs and a steel grip around his wrists.

"Hello, lover," Legolas purred. He leaned down for a delicate kiss. Sauron pushed against the hands that held him with elven strength. "No," Legolas said. He laid a possessive kiss on his lover's lips.

"Legolas!" a sharp voice invaded his reverie.

"What?" he snapped, peering down.

"Come down." Elladan grinned. "We need you."

"As what? A punching bag?"

"A judge."

Legolas growled, then dropped to the ground. "And what do you want me to judge?"

"A matter of history."

"This had best be worth the dream you pulled me from."

"Oh, it will be. It will be. Therisian doesn't believe that Sauron's ring existed at all."

****

"What has happened, Elrond?" Legolas demanded. "My father did not wish me to be here, but there is something happening that Gollum was only part of. The ring has been found. The wraiths are riding. I know that much. But what is going on?"

"The ring is to be destroyed. All of the races are gathering here."

"Now you listen? Now? If you had let me find it, this would never have come to pass."

"And we would not have had these years either."

"What? You think the rings he gave you are the only reason our kind have stayed in Middle Earth? Do you believe our faith and works are that dependent upon the rings?" Legolas crossed his arms. "Then you are a fool."

"Do you see the future so clearly, then, Legolas?" Elrond snapped. "Then do grace me with your wisdom."

"Sarcasm does not become you, Elrond." Legolas' voice went cold. His eyes were flat. "I know the power of the ring. I helped create the band that sits on your finger now. I know its limitations. It would be nothing without your power behind it. The age of man is coming. And the saddest part is that nothing my lover could have wrought will equal that change. And we will be in pain because of it, but the men will not even notice as the rest of the races disappear."

"They will miss us."

"They will forget us."

"Why do you say these things, Legolas?"

"Because they are truth. Have you not seen it already in your years? There are so many of the creatures, even in Mirkwood, that have now disappeared. The Shadow is not to blame for it either. It is the way the world is meant to go. There are endings in the phrases of music. Why not in the phases of the world?"

Elrond looked evenly at the younger elf. "So, you would still see the ring destroyed?"

"Now more than ever before." Legolas looked past the elf-lord. "What is *he* doing here?"

"Looking after the ring."

"He's done a piss-poor job for three thousand years. I do hope he's not the one carrying it."

"No."

"Good."

Elrond waited for the next question.

"I have something I owe him," Legolas said flatly. "I'll see you before you call this foolishness to order. It must be destroyed." Suddenly, his face lit up. "Aragorn is here? Grand fun to be had then. Are he and Arwen finally going to get married?"

"No."

"Why not? They love each other."

"I will not see my daughter marry a ranger."

Legolas stared. "Why on earth not? He's going to be the king."

"Perhaps. If he chooses that path."

"He will. His sense of responsibility will niggle at him until he cannot ignore it."

"Why do you, of all people, support the man who will help destroy Sauron's legacy?"

Legolas blinked. Then he laughed. "You know absolutely nothing, Elrond," he smirked. "I win either way. Should he take the ring, Sauron will take his mind and I'll have my lover back. Should he see it destroyed, my love will finally be put to rest. And in any case, I'll have something to look at for awhile."

Elrond blinked. "You think he's attractive?"

Legolas stared at the older elf in confusion. "You don't. . . of course, oh, Elrond, I can't even begin to explain this to you in any way that even approaches understandable. I'm sorry."

"I am merely surprised. It has been years since you found anyone attractive. In fact, this is the first I can remember since you were an adolescent."

"He looks very much like Sauron." Elrond strained to hear the answer. "Enough to make me wonder if it the completion of the pattern. In the final balance, Sauron's darkness has been growing. It was easier to sense his light before." Legolas drifted towards the window.

"The Council will not allow you to see this to the end, Legolas."

"What do you mean?"

"You are not to go with the ring to Mt. Doom."

"You are not strong enough to keep me from the matter. You need me."

"There are others who can find the way."

"Then I will merely follow at a distance. Better to have me with them boldly."

"Appeal your case to Mithrandir. If you can convince him, then you will have my support."

"Do you have a good sturdy cane about?"

"Why?"

"I owe him a crack to the back of the head."

Elrond had to ask. "What happened?"

"I was trying to get to get to the Necromancer. Mithrandir knocked me out with that blasted staff of his. Now, where is that stick Celebrian used to keep in here?"

"In the corner. If anyone asks, I never saw you take it."

"Oh, and you won't. Just turn back to your business, my lord." Elrond did as he was told. He didn't look up again until the door was closed.

****

Legolas smiled brightly at Gandalf. "Hello, you miserable excuse of a conniving con-artist."

"Ah, Prince Legolas, always a ray of sunshine into my life."

"You're lucky that Iím not more willing to act up." Legolas toyed with the jeweled walking stick he carried. "I mean, honestly, do you think that Daddy's got anything that could truly hold me?"

"I think he's done pretty well for the past few centuries."

Legolas laughed. "Oh, I don't know. Since Daddy doesn't keep me anywhere, I stay of my own accord. I rather like it when everyone jumps at my shadow. And they don't know me nearly as well here in Rivendell. I even went to visit that dragon you got killed. He wasn't that bad. He only acted within his nature. The same way I act within my own. I live in the woods, not the palace, Mithrandir." Legolas twirled the stick. "Isn't it pretty? It's Celebrian's. She always used to prod people with it when she was walking. Especially if you were asleep." He poked at Gandalf's ribs. "Poke. Poke. Poke. Until you just wanted to scream at her. I think Elrond kept it to make sure they wouldn't send her back from the Havens."

"That has never happened."

"There's a first time for everything." Legolas smirked.

"What do you want, Legolas? Or are you merely making trouble?"

"I want to see the ring destroyed and unless you agree, Elrond won't back me. I'd rather not fight him on the matter." The elf shrugged. The fabric of his shirt shimmered in the light. Gandalf sighed.

"You should be nowhere near it."

"You worry too much. It never bothered me when he used to fuck me wearing it." Legolas loved seeing the wizard wince. "Oh, is that the problem? You don't like to face your mistakes? So let me go. If I happen to die along the way, you don't have to look at your mistakes any more."

"Legolas, this is more important than making petty points."

"Yes, it is."

Gandalf sighed. "Sit down."

"No. I think better when I'm standing."

"Little prince."

"No, don't you dare. Don't you fucking dare. I will not be treated as if I'm some mental child. I know well what has happened, and I think I, better than anyone, know the risks involved in this situation. I will see the ring destroyed and you will help me do it."

"No, I will not allow it."

"You have very little choice in the matter, wizard. I'm not so distracted as I was last time. You will not be able to knock me out and bind me with mithril. I will not be left out of this. And you will not keep me from seeing this to the end. You chose this path for me. I gave everything and I have been shoved in a corner since then. I have not fit into the mold of a proper prince. There is no elf that would have me. There's no leader who does not look at me askance. I am belittled and patronized. I will not stand for it any longer. I will not stay behind."

"Legolas, this is too dangerous. You have already played your part."

"You know less than you think. Even the wise can be corrupted or manipulated. Sauruman has fallen." Legolas leaned in close. "I know because my lover told me of his fall. We savored it together because of what that greedy creature is a part of. He is one of you. One of your precious Council. I would see all of you in shadow for a few seasons. I would have you truly understand me, Gandalf. Understand that what I am did not change when I fell in love. I did not fall into shadows, I fell into light. And you can never understand that until you see it. I will see the ring destroyed."

"Very well. We will see what the council of the ring decides tomorrow."

Legolas nodded. "Until tomorrow then." Legolas turned. "Oh, I forgot." He turned and landed a solid punch to Gandalf's jaw. The wizard fell backwards to the ground. Legolas checked to make sure he was still living, then walked calmly out of the room. He sent a healer to check on the wizard and went in search of Aragorn.

****

Legolas watched Arwen bind herself to Aragorn. He shook his head. She was a fool, but who was he to tell anyone who she could love. She would be a good wife to the man when he became king. He applauded her ability to see that. Arwen, more than anyone, understood that choices were to be made based on her own mind and heart, not what someone told her to do. They made an interesting couple, but Legolas would have bet anything that Aragorn wasn't in love with her. He loved her, but he wasn't in love with her. He was too hesitant around her. It was amusing to see her necklace around the ranger's neck.

"You want him."

Legolas stiffened. "Did I wake you?" he asked his lover's voice.

"You're mine. Remember that."

"Always, my love." He let his eyes drift shut. "Stay with me awhile?"

"I am always with you. We are one. Your vow."

"I remember." Legolas pressed a hand to his chest. There was an almost suffocating memory of pain. "Don't leave me alone."

"Hush, beloved." A hand ghosted over his cheek in a gentle caress. "I am growing ever stronger. All I need is the ring and I shall return. I will rule this world. No tears, my sweet one. You will feel no pain, Legolas."

"You will kill them."

"Yes, but you will have me forever. They donít care for you. They want to forget you. Hide you away so they don't face your truth. My wild beauty. Fight them, Legolas. Not everything is lost to you. I will never leave you. Never."

"I love you."

"Ever after, Legolas. Ever after." A breath of air, like a kiss, flew across his lips and was gone, taking the comfort of the voice with it. It was Arwen who first heard the soft sound of tears and looked up from the bench where she sat with Aragorn's head in her lap. She smoothed his hair absently. He woke when she tensed.

"What is it?"

"Someone's crying." Aragorn concentrated.

"I can't hear it."

"Of course you don't. You don't have an elf's ears," she teased gently. "I am going to find the source. Will you come with me?"

"Yes." She tracked the sound to the tree.

"Legolas?" she called up. "Come down, Legolas. Please?"

"Just a moment." He mopped up his tears and tried to will the blood from his cheeks. It didn't work. He jumped down. "What is it, poppet?"

"You were crying. I came to see if I could help."

He shrugged. "You know I have fits of depression. It will be gone as soon as it came." Aragorn rubbed a gentle hand across his friend's back. Arwen slipped her arm around his waist.

"Come with me to my room. There is no reason for you to be alone."

"Arwen." Legolas' voice was a warning.

"I'm taking him too." She shook her head. "Honestly. You'd think it was the first time you'd shared a bed with someone."

"It has been a very long time, poppet. Your father will not approve."

"And I didn't think you cared."

"I don't, but Aragorn might."

"With the three of us there, no one will question it. It's not as if they can't see what's happening. Honestly. One would think you were a dwarf or something."

"I'm no dwarf. Somehow, I don't think Iím much elf either. I'm nothing really." Arwen steered them towards her room, unwilling to let go of her friend's waist. Aragorn maintained steady contact. He'd found out years before that it was the only way to keep Legolas rooted in the real world.

"Don't speak like that."

"I will not lie for you or anyone else, poppet. I'm nothing anyone understands. I don't think even he understood me."

"Tell me, what has happened? Why are you crying, Legolas?"

"I have glimpses of the future that are mixed up with the past. And I miss my lover. That is all, Arwen." Aragorn's hand moved almost of its own accord, stroking down Legolas' back.

****

Elrond strode into his daughter's room. He stopped dead. Gandalf was a pace behind him. Elrond blinked carefully to bring the room into focus. Aragorn was in his daughter's bed, with an elf to either side. Legolas and Arwen's hands were clasped lightly on Aragorn's chest. Aragorn had an arm around each of them.

Gandalf rested a hand on Elrond's shoulder and squeezed. They moved out carefully. "I hadn't realized they were so close."

Elrond smiled sadly. "Legolas is Arwen's Soul-Guardian and has long had a fascination with Aragorn. He feeds the boy's rebellious streak."

"This complicated matters. We could easily forbid Legolas to go, but enforcement is another matter all together."

"Can we deny him this though? He has been correct about many things. Galadriel has said that he has a talent for prophecy. He was right about Sauroman. He warned us against his corruption centuries ago."

"But we never listened." Gandalf sighed. "Even though my jaw aches I cannot find it in my heart to be angry. At least he didn't use the stick."

"Did you truly knock him unconscious?"

"Yes," Gandalf admitted. "And bound him to return him to Mirkwood. His father was less than pleased. Appearantly, Legolas got free through sorcery. I hadn't been aware that his power was that strong."

They wandered to Elrond's study and shared some sweet wine. "Elrond," the wizard said at length, "have you considered that the destruction of the ring might kill him?"

"Yes. For many year, Mithrandir. It may well be the only thing that binds him to Middle Earth. It certainly has been the only focus of his life. Ai! It may be for the best. Not to hide our mistake as Legolas suggests."

"Of course not," Gandalf said wryly. "Why would we wish to send him away? After all, he's such a sweet child."

Elrond smothered a smile. "Now, Mithrandir, you've picked up our shadow-dancer's tongue."

"Surely I'm not that acidic."

"At times. I can't believe he is as sharp as he is. I think we are more to blame for his madness than Sauron."

"What have you discovered Old Friend?"

Elrond settled down. "Thranduil and I have never seen eye to eye. More certainly never about this whole situation. Do you know that they must use force to give him the draughts?"

"What? That would interfere with the potency of the mixture wouldn't it?"

"It sets him to wander the halls of memory, Mithrandir. He relives his nights and days with Sauron. He names the Dark Lord his chosen."

"I thought he was interested in Aragorn."

"He has told me that if Estel gives into the temptation, Sauron will take over his body."

"And we are going to allow this shadowed creature to go with the quest?"

"Yes."

"Of course, he still has his anger towards me to draw his attention."

"Very true." Elrond gave a rueful smile. "He is less willing to strike at me."

"He does not see you as a demon."

"You did not tell us your plan was for them to become lovers. He was a child!"

"Sauron would have taken in no other."

"If you had told us, we would have. . ."

"Prepared him? Refused to send him?"

"Possibly either. Mirkwood is on the brink of breaking free of the Council altogether."

"Mirkwood has been fighting for years. It didn't help that the necromancer took up residence there, though we should have expected it."

"True. He warned us of Sauroman's betrayal."

"He did. We did not listen to him then. Perhaps this will act as restitution for our lack of faith."

"Perhaps. How is your jaw?"

"Fine. Or rather, it will be. Our little prince throws a nasty punch."

"I know. He knocked Elladan down. He's mad, not weak."

"To madness then?"

Elrond raised his glass. "May it give us perspective."

****

"You've managed to manipulate Elrond. I congratulate you," Aragorn said with a raised brow.

"It was not my doing. It was Arwen's." Legolas sighed. "I probably shouldn't have struck Gandalf down, but he irritates me to no end." Legolas was settled in the trees above Aragorn's head. "I scarcely believe it. Of course, Mithrandir is going as well. He'll try to leash me. Bastard."

"Legolas!"

"It is the truth, Estel. He doesn't like me well and I like him less. I cannot believe how easily he can rouse me to anger. I can do the same to him, however, so it matters not."

"Please try to restrain your tongue on this trip, Greenleaf."

"I will try, Strider." Legolas sighed. "You have grown. Part of me wishes you never had."

"I have had many more years than most humans, my prince."

"I know." Legolas sighed. "You were so young when we met." Legolas smiled down at the human. "Don't worry so, Aragorn. I'll be good. This is what I have always wanted, you know that well."

"Yes, I know. That is part of the reason they finally saw reason. Come, old friend, let us have a toast to the road."

"Yes, let us do that." Legolas dropped lightly to the ground.

****

Legolas looked Boromir over with interest. He had been an irritating prick at the Council of the Ring, but that didn't mean he was without promise. He could nearly taste the capitulation that the ring would instill in him. Oh, my love, he thought, what have you wrought? He could see the shadows gathering in the halfling. Frodo was ill. The blade wound in his arm would never heal. Even Legolas, who had treated many a training wound for the warriors of Mordor, could do nothing for it. He found a smile for Samwise as they walked by the pony. Samwise's shoulders eased a bit. This trip would be hard on all of the Hobbits. It would be hard on the humans as well. Legolas knew the way to Mordor well. It was not Sauron's eye that worried him, though the others thought it was paramount to avoid its gaze. Legolas had stopped himself from snapping at Gandalf that the Dark Lord already knew where they were. He probably knew better than half of the company where they were at any given time. Sauron had always had a passion for geography.

Legolas listened to the trees. He could hear the whispers they passed along. He hummed a soft song as he walked and Sam's steps moved more easily. They didn't speak much on the trip and Gandalf wouldn't stand for a nice rousing campfire either. Legolas had glared at him. Most of the company needed the warmth. They were taking the long way and Legolas couldn't understand why they hadn't merely taken the High Pass over the mountains and caught the river to take them to the very gate of Mordor. They could even have stopped at Lothlorien to visit Arwen's grandmother. Studying his companions again, he tried to see what Gandalf saw. He closed his eyes against the images. His feet continued to move while he thought, following Aragorn's lead.

He registered Aragorn's voice calling to him from very far away and roused to attend to it. "We have to find shelter from the storm," he told Gandalf. "It will be a strong tonight. Legolas can look after Bill."

"Why should I?" Legolas muttered in Elvish. Aragorn merely glared at him and he subsided, bedding the pony down and covering him with a blanket to stave off some of the rain.

****

Legolas lifted his arms to welcome the storm. His companions huddled under what shelter the trees provided. The tree elf shook his head. He pressed a hand to one of the trunks. He asked it quietly to spread its leaves to catch the rain. The hobbits looked at him in wonder. Gimli just snorted.

Legolas settled into the rhythm of the knife forms and let his mind wander where it would.

"What is that?" Boromir asked Aragorn. "Some Elven form I've never seen?"

"No, it's the art of Mordor."

Boromir's eyes widened. "Mordor? It's so beautiful though."

"Yes. Mordor has beauty too. But there are few who remember forms such as those. I doubt they are practiced within the black tower at all now."

"Likely not. We've seen no evidence of any such talent during our fighting."

"I'm sure he'd teach you if you'd like."

Boromir shook his head. "No, not at this late a date. I think we're better off focussing on the little ones. The storm is growing. Should we force the elf to cover?"

"He will be fine. He enjoys storms. They appeal to the wildness of his heart."

The lightening that struck the ground around him did not make Legolas pause. No, indeed, the strobing light highlighted his limbs and lit his face in a bewitching display. He ended in a final block. Then, slowly, his attention returned to the waking world. He sheathed his knives and turned his face up to the rain.

He loosened his outer jacket to reveal the lighter tunic beneath. Aragorn was surprise that he stopped with just that. He could just make out the melody that twined into the howling of the wind. The hobbits settled into a clump and finally slept. Gimli too had nodded off. Boromir pulled himself more completely under his cloak and his eyes closed almost without his permission. Gandalf leaned back, his hat shielding his face. Aragorn felt a tingling lassitude creep into his limbs. Legolas looked toward the group. The warmth increased and Aragorn relaxed into it. His eyes slid closed and he slept.

****

Sam watched Legolas settle into the trees branches. The elf stared back at him with equal interest. Legolas seemed so different from the others they had met in Rivendell. They'd truly understood that he was a prince at the dinner before they'd left. He and Elrond had had an intense debate that finished with the blond scowling for a moment. Then, Legolas had sighed and fished a crown out of the pouch he always carried. He settled it in place and put his hands out to invite comment. Elrond had straightened it. Legolas had tilted it once more to the side. Elrond had merely shaken his head and let Legolas have his way. They were traveling with something like three princes, if Sam understood correctly. Maybe four.

But of them all, Legolas was the hardest for him to understand. Aragorn and he seemed to be friends. Gandalf and he seemed to be at odds. He and the dwarf seemed to agree to dislike each other. Sam sighed.

Legolas looked at the little hobbit. The halflings were interesting little creatures. He'd never met one before, but that wasn't too odd, considering his lack of travel. Sam was the easiest for him to understand. Pippen and Merry were so young that it was painful to be around them. But Sam, Samwise Gamgee, he could understand. Sam was desperately in love with someone who was just beyond his reach. Legolas wondered if Frodo was even aware of the fact that he was so loved. The ring could have blinded him to that fact. Coming to a decision, Legolas jumped down.

Sam watched as the elf suddenly left the tree and came to sit down by him. "Samwise, there is something I'd like to discuss with you."

"Yes, Mr. Legolas?"

"Just Legolas will do, Sam. Tell me, Samwise, does your Mr. Frodo know your devotion to him?"

Sam shrugged. "That doesn't matter so much, sir."

"I didn't ask that."

"No, sir. I don't think he does," Sam confirmed.

"I thought not, but it was best to make sure. Do you understand what the ring is?"

"It is evil."

Legolas smiled faintly. "A small but not so simple word. The ring can twist the perceptions of the wearer. It is half of S. . . the Dark Lord's soul, Samwise. He lives through it and because of it. His spirit lingers here in Middle Earth and will do so until he can overtake the wearer of the ring or have it returned to him so that he can manifest himself once more in this world."

Sam shivered. "It must be awful to live like that. With nothing but a bit of gold to think about it."

"Well, that's not all he has, but it is close. What do you know about me, Samwise?"

"You are a prince. An elf. You can shoot wonderfully well."

"Thank you, Sam." Legolas inclined his head. He took a deep breath. "This is difficult for me to explain. It will alarm you, but I want your word that you will hear me out."

Sam was confused, but said, "I won't go flitting off, sir."

"Thank you again, Samwise. Do you know what they call me?"

"Legolas?"

That brought a true smile to the elf's lips. "They call me mad. Shadow-touched. I know Sauron better than any in this world, Sam. I am the only one in this company that ever met him." Sam's eyes grew wide. "I am his lover, Samwise. I've watched him three millenia lingering in a state which is not death and is not life. I would see him put to rest." Sam nodded. "I offer this freely and you may refuse if you like, but will you accept my protection?"

"What does that mean, sir?"

"I am unaffected by the ring and those I choose to give my protection to will be protected from his influences."

"I need to think about that, Mr. Legolas."

"Good. The offer will remain open. I will say this, do not wait to long." Legolas scrambled back up his tree and settled there. He sang a soft melody as he made arrows.

Sam looked deep into their small fire. He was surprised when Strider sought him out. "Is there something on your mind, Samwise? Something I can help with?"

"I don't know, sir."

"You've been talking to Legolas, that can twist the most complex of minds. You've seen how he and Gandalf go after one another." Aragorn looked up at the elf. Their eyes met and Legolas inclined his head. "Ah, I think I can guess the problem. He's told you who he is." Aragorn studied the hobbit carefully. "And he's offered you protection."

Sam started.

Aragorn smiled. "He did the same thing to me when I was about seventeen. It took me three years to answer him. Unfortunately, you don't have that time. I've been under his protection for nearly, oh, fifty years now. It's done me no harm. Rest easy, Samwise. He would not hurt you. His stake in this is about as large as yours. He's lost his love, he would not see you lose yours."

"Does everyone know, Strider?"

"Oh, Samwise, all of us that have eyes. Of course, except Frodo. His eyes are too shadowed right now. But when this is over, he will understand as well."

****

Legolas stared at Gandalf. Why had they not just skirted Isengard? Mithrandir looked back at him calmly. Legolas sighed and shook his head. He was here for protection and observation. No one was going to listen to him with Mithrandir around. No, now they were following Frodo, which of course, was probably what Mithrandir was attempting to set up. Bilbo had be dropped into the middle of Mirkwood to the same purpose. Had Legolas been anywhere near the palace when Bilbo had slipped through things would have gone very differently. He could see the ring-bearers even when they were "invisible." It was merely a matter of looking on more than one level.

Moria made him shiver. There was true evil living in the mines. Evil more dark than he'd ever sensed in Sauron. A creature made completely of shadow without even a trace of light. A Balrog. Legolas wandered up the stones and down again, hovering near the party. The orcs didn't bother him, but he could smell the demon even now. Could Mithrandir not feel it? It was Gimli who finally convinced him to sit by the simple expedient of pulling on his quiver until he was on the ground near him.

****

Legolas met the Lorien elves with his bow ready. He hadn't seen them for a few millenia. He doubted they would know him, or if they did, that he would be welcome. He'd forgotten that Aragorn was engaged to Arwen. He fumed at the man for putting them under Haldir-the-incredibly-irritating-prick's protection.

Celeborn silently asked if someone had done Gandalf in. "He has fallen into Shadow," Galadriel stated. Legolas ignored her pompus pronouncements. She was doing her true predictions on a different level. //I will speak with you later, little prince.// He kept himself from snapping at her.

He saw his companions to sleep. Aragorn resisted rest even more than Boromir. Legolas sang softly until he too slept. He settled against one of the tree thick roots. He pulled his knees to his chest and took comfort in the texture of the bark against his back. The ring's presence rang harshly in his mind now that Galadriel's ring was magnifying it. The band he himself wore made his whole arm tingle, fighting the Lady of Lorien's influence. He pressed his forehead to his knees. He heard Frodo move to follow Galadriel.

"My love," he called, not sure if he spoke aloud or not.

"Yes, beloved, I am here. Rest. None will harm you."

****

Galadriel looked down at the sleeping prince. She didn't want to wake him, but there was no other option. "Legolas," she said. She placed her hand on his head. He came sharply to awareness. He stared at her for a long moment. She put out her other hand and he took it. Then, he rose to his feet. "They will sleep a good while yet, little one."

"You know how I despise that name."

"Why else would I use it?"

They walked through the shimmering paths of Loth-Lorien. "You're leaving," he stated quietly.

"Yes. There are not so many of us as there were. I will see my people off safely then travel West myself. Come with me, Legolas."

"No."

"Why not? What is left for you here?"

"I must see this through, Galadriel. If the Elven Council had listened to me then, there would have been no need for this. But I was ignored."

"Legolas, you were distraut."

"I was *right*, Lady. I know him better than anyone."

"We did what was best for you."

"Labeled me insane and drugged me so that you wouldn't have to listen to me. I don't think you know what you've done. I wasn't mad back then, but Gods help me, I am now. You couldn't destroy him, so you tried to destroy me. Small wonder Father has turned his back on the Council."

She slipped her hand into the crook of his arm. "You used to be so sweet, Greenleaf."

"Times change. And Haldir is still an arrogant prick. Would you mind terribly if I took him down a notch?"

She followed the jump in logic. "Yes. He can't afford to lose face on the brink of war." They walked a while longer and the whispers and laughter followed them. "You'll look after Estel won't you?"

"Of course. He is a good friend."

"I didn't think you had friends."

"I've a few. And more supporters than the Council would find comfortable. Elrond's leaving too isn't he?"

"If the ring-bearer is successful. If not, we have an enemy to fight."

"If Frodo fails, you'll have two."

Galadriel closed her eyes. "He would not let you fight your own kind."

"He has changed. I am older. There are many things he would allow now that he did not before."

She shivered. "Should we have killed you as Sauroman suggested?"

"That would only have strengthened his hold over that demented soul. Sauroman has deluded himself into thinking he is strong enough to use the ring for his own purposes. He doesn't see that he is nothing more than a puppet. I warned you all. I warned you that my lover controlled one of your precious White Council. I didn't know his name then, but I know one had fallen. More will fall before this is over."

"I know one that is in danger. Who else do you see?"

He shook his head with a small smile. "Do you believe it is that easy? Dance with me."

The Lady of Lorien laughed. He twirled her into a simple dance. They separated when Celeborn cut in. Legolas bowed to both of them and returned to his companions.

****

Aragorn woke to find Legolas watching him. No, he wasn't watching, Aragorn corrected himself, the elf was resting. He took the opportunity to study his friend. The elf's face didn't show his age, his wicked sense of humor, his intelligence. He was beautiful, even for an elf. If only he hadn't vowed chastity, Aragorn thought with a sigh. Even Arwen had a crush on him.

****

"If he pleases you, love, take him. Make him ours."

"Sauron, my heart, I gave you my word. It would not be fair to either of you. It is nothing but a fantasy. Unfulfilling."

"Think of the power, sweet one. Kings have a power all their own. If we owned that as well. . . I will take his form, if that would please you."

"Not while he lives. I would rather have you in your form and he in his."

"Two at once?"

Legolas laughed. "No, I want you."

"I am always with you, Beloved. Soon, my hands will caress you once more."

"And do you still taste of smoke?"

"You will see. The ring is close. Bring it to me?"

"They will not let me touch it. I would rather not lose their trust this early in the game."

"Always logical. Elves." Legolas could almost feel the silky brush of hair against his cheek.

"You own the Steward don't you?"

"At times. He has not chosen to serve me, but the Ring knows."

Legolas frowned. "Don't you control the ring?"

"At times. It is half of me, beloved. Put the ring on his finger, beloved, and you will have us both."

"He must choose it, Sauron."

"How long will these noble actions persist?"

"I am an elf, not an orc."

"That it quite obvious, my precious."

"I love you."

"Ever after, Legolas. Ever after."

The presence faded from the elf's mind. He woke to find Aragorn watching him with a fond smile.

"Was I talking in my sleep?"

"No," the human reassured him. "The Hobbits have started breakfast. They can consume an amazing amount of food for such small creatures."

"And you want to eat before it is all gone."

"Is my stomach that loud?"

"Not for any but elves, I suppose. Come along then, child."

"I am not a child any longer, Legolas." Aragorn caught the elf's eyes.

"No," the elf said seriously, "you are not. Have you come to a decision then?"

"Yes."

"Good."

"Will you support me?"

"When have I not?"

****

Legolas paused, frozen as he sensed both Aragorn's sorrow and his resignation. He cocked his head to the side. He saw the tears flowing from Aragorn's eyes. The boy had always been far too compassionate for his own good. But Boromir had died well, even as he stood on the knife's edge of the choice.

They laid him to rest in the mighty river. Gimli looked on sadly. Legolas was more interested in the progress of Frodo and Samwise and the little creature Golem who was following them. Aragorn had already chosen to go to the city. They had to follow Merry and Pippen, that much was clear. It only made sense to distract Sauron and kill the wizard of many colors. Legolas' lips twisted up into a smile. And to keep him out of Mordor of course. Silently he wished the hobbits luck as his mouth formed the words Gimli needed to hear and Aragorn needed him to say. On to battle and damn the consequences for the moment. It felt so good to be part of something instead of being on the outside of it.

*****

Legolas stood at the top of the white tower and looked into Mordor. The wind blew his hair back from his face. He stared, unafraid into the fiery red eye of Sauron. He stood as still as the dead tree in the courtyard below him. The wind howled and the darkness clung around the city. Against the darkness, Legolas glowed like a small star.

Gandalf looked up in shock. "No, Legolas, don't do this," he whispered.

Aragorn looked at the wizard in concern. "What is wrong?" he asked in worry.

"Did you not know?" Gandalf looked at the human in surprise. "He was Sauron's lover."

Aragorn's jaw dropped, pretending surprise. "A traitor?"

"No, you misunderstand me. He helped cast the rings. He was lover and helper to Sauron for years. We thought that he would be able to save him, you see."

"You thought?"

"When we sent him. We thought that his purity, his honesty, his beauty would sway Sauron's lust for power."

"You sent him as a whore then."

Gandalf winced. "He wanted the ring destroyed. Isildur refused to destroy it and with his death it was lost. Thranduil told me that they had to sedate him when he heard. He wanted to search for it. They thought it would destroy him. I know now that we should have listened to him back then. He was right in this matter. And he should have had the right to destroy the ring then. We would not have taken Sauron's things from him were he Sauron's wife. But we ignored him then, and we have been doing so for millennia. He was labeled mad. But all these years, he was right."

"Right about what?"

"That Sauron was not dead. That his spirit still lived. But I cannot believe that he would risk Sauron's wrath thus."

"Risk his wrath?" Aragorn smiled, pleased to understand something no one else did. "Sauron would not strike down his lover." The king nearly laughed. "And I think this distraction may save our young friends. He can not see everywhere at once, Gandalf. And if he looks to his beauty, to his lover, than he will not be watching our Hobbits."

Gandalf scowled. "How can you look at him and not see the frailty?"

"How can you look at him and not see strength? If he had asked, you would have let him go to the Gray Havens, but he has done nothing against your wishes. He has lived in solitude, without a lover because he was pining for a spirit he could feel but not hold. How dare you see him as weak? He was Sauron's *lover* you say. He is not a child, Gandalf. He is a warrior. And this, my dear wizard, is an example of tactics."

The wizard did not respond.

A voice rose above the battlefield. Legolas talked plainly in the language of Mordor. "I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end it doesn't even matter. I had to fall, to lose it all. I don't know why. It doesn't matter how hard you try. Things aren't the way they were before. You wouldn't even recognize me anymore. Not that you knew me back then. I didn't know you. You kept everything hidden from me. I tried so hard, but it all fell apart. I don't even know when it happened. I miss you so badly. I put my trust in you. I've gone as far as I can go. And I have come full circle to see you once more. You destroyed my people. Are you happy yet with the destruction?

"I know I betrayed you. I didn't put you to rest as I promised. I didn't find your ring. It doesn't matter how hard I try. It's so unreal. You didn't even know. I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end it doesn't even matter. I put my trust in you. Remember all the times you fought with me? I'm surprised it got as far as it did. But this will all be memories soon, my love. In the end nothing matters. I loved you then. I love you still. I put my heart in your hands once more. Are you yet satisfied with your work? My kind are leaving these shores. Your precious men will soon reign. I tried. I tried to come for you. I tried to find you. I tried to save you. But in the end it comes to this, my lord, my love. I am here. Come back to me Sauron. Make me believe that giving you the ring will make all things right. Make me believe that the one I love has not been turned into nothing more than one of the wraiths that serve it.

"All I know is that time is flying by, my love. Life is ticking away. I am falling once more. I am so close. Could I have walked through the front gates to you? Would you have let me destroy the ring? Would you destroy me as well? Will you destroy me? It doesn't matter how hard I try, I cannot make myself believe their words. Despite the way they mocked me, acting like I was nothing more than property, I never lost faith in you. Will you come back and be the one I loved? Or will you be nothing but the creature that I loath? I put my trust in you now, then and forever, my love. Let the ring be destroyed. Let me fall. Let me go. Free me, Sauron. The ring twisted you so slowly that I didn't see it. I didn't see time take its toll on you. But none of that matters. The past does not exist, my lord. I cannot survive if I live there. Will you free my heart? Can you free my heart? Do you love me still? I have not taken off your gift in the millennia that have passed since our time. Have I wasted my time? Have I wasted my faith? Does none of it matter? Do I not matter to you any more?

"Answer me, my lord! I know you can. You made my protections. You can unmake them. Things aren't the way they were before. I cannot be sure of you. Has the ring twisted your heart now as well? Or is your love of power the only love you have room for now? I put my trust in you. I've gone as far as I can go. For all this, there's only one thing you should know. I tried so hard, and got this far, but in the end it doesn't matter. I had to lose it all. To fall. But it doesn't even matter. The world is not ours. Fate is not ours. It never will be. The future is not for us. We are remnants of the past, best laid to rest. Come to my light and be my darkness." Legolas closed his eyes as the wind whipped around him.

"Beloved one," he heard hissed on the wind. "I will not harm you, beloved. You will ever be safe, beloved. And those you put under your protection." He raised his arms and the light embraced the shadows around him. "I trust in you, Legolas. You will do what you know is right. You will follow me past death, my love. My elf. The world is ours to take. Right now, Legolas. The future hangs in the balance, my beauty, and I will not be distracted by your flame."

"Then, why not the hardness of my hands holding you down, or the heat of my blood in your mouth? How about the edge of pain that makes the pleasure more sweet? Will those distract you? Remember the feel of my skin against your wrists. Remember the iron in my grip and the calluses on my fingers from the bow string. Remember the strength of my kiss, the blood it could draw when you fought back against me. Remember the sweetness of my skin and the sharpness of my teeth. Remember my anger and my apologies. Remember these things. Remember what I could do to you in the darkest shadow of the night. Remember the feel of the rain against your skin as I laid you out in the summer storms and made you beg. Remember those things, Sauron, my beloved. And come to me."

"I will come to you, beloved. Close your eyes and find me in the dreams, my elf. Find me."

"I will find you," Legolas whispered. "As I could not before, I will find you now." Tears streamed down his face as he felt Gandalf's arm wrap around his wrist and pull him from the wall as the storm raged. He allowed himself to be taken outside of the walls to lay in the shelter of Aragorn's tent. He curled up by the ranger's side. Aragorn stroked his head, as he would a lover's.

"What have you done, my friend?" he asked in Elvish.

"You know what I am now."

"I know. You love him." Legolas nodded and unraveled one wet braid absently.

"I will seek him in dreams and keep him distracted awhile longer. His forces will not have his full strength behind him tonight or tomorrow. I will keep him to me with force if I must." Aragorn nodded. "I will have Gimli keep guard over you."

"That is a good idea." Legolas tuned out of his surroundings and into the embrace of the nature around him. He deliberately turned his back on the memories he spent most of his time in and moved forward into the living maya that surrounded them. He looked for his lover there with fretful intensity. He wandered the paths until he simply sat down, his eyes pricking in frustration. He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Sauron as he'd last seen him looking down at him. He raised his hands and Sauron pulled him up.

"Beloved," he said sadly. "You know you cannot distract me."

"I know that, my love." Legolas folded himself into Sauron's embrace.

"Then why do you insist on trying?"

"I had to see you. Just in case the unthinkable occurs."

Sauron kissed him gently. "I will win the day."

"You told me that once before," Legolas whispered.

"You've fallen from grace. Your people no longer want you. Come to me, Legolas. Come to Mordor. Bring the ring to me."

"I have no access to it. Your pet socerer took it from me. He stole the hobbits and with that your ring escaped by watch. I could not turn my back on Strider, you know that well. Better to have the king's support, than to be alone in my path."

"Beloved," Saruon said chidingly, "you know the feel of the ring and your little halflings would give it over to you. The little gardener at least. Why did you extend your protection to that one and not the one they call Elf-friend?"

"Because Samwise is more Elven than the one they call and Elf-friend. He speaks of and to the earth, he feels the living seasons, he knows what it is to love, and he knows duty. He is the purest soul I have ever met, my love." Legolas sighed. "I could not watch his destruction."

Sauron lifted Legolas' ring to his lips. "And earth to protect innocence. Ah, Beloved, I taught you too well, I think." He kissed him once more gently. Then, he tugged on one braid. "Until we meet again, beloved. I will love you ever after, Legolas, no matter how this ends."

"Ever after, Sauron." Legolas stepped back and let Sauron leave him. He woke to find tears on his cheeks and a concerned dwarf looking down at him.

"You'll miss the battle, Master Elf."

"There will be little battling down with knife and bow, I think."

"More than you'd believe. Why can you believe they've given the little ones weapons?"

Legolas smiled through the last vestiges of his tears. There would be time enough to mourn, and tears enough to join the sea.

****

Aragorn waited patiently for Legolas to detach himself from the mob of children that always wanted to hear his stories. "Hello, old friend."

"Hello, Aragorn."

"Let's walk some. Perhaps I can convince my guard that I am in good hands."

Legolas looked over at the Elven and Human guards. "I doubt that." Legolas nodded off the elf he'd given charge of Aragorn's well-being. Aragorn dismissed the human. They walked boldly out the front gates of Minas Tirith. They stood and stared at Mordor. The trees were beginning to take over again, due to the concentrated effort of Legolas' community. "You are going to leave me," Legolas stated.

"Yes," Aragorn said softly. "I am tired, Legolas. It is time. You will go to the Havens?"

"I will take Gimli, but I am not welcome there. I will return to Middle Earth and become someone no one knows. I have a duty to those here, Aragorn. I must see Mordor put to rights."

"Will you not go over the sea?"

"I will see what the world beyond the sea holds once I see the fellowship from theses shores."

"I have always loved you, Legolas."

"I know that. You know I cannot return it. The pain is still too deep for me."

"Yes, Legolas, I know. I am going to lay down this gift. It has been far more years than I ever believed I could have."

"We cannot predict the world, Aragorn. Perhaps I shall meet you again. Perhaps the Gods will give you back to me when my heart can be opened to let you in."

"Perhaps. Goodbye, Legolas."

"Safe journey, my Aragorn." Legolas touched Aragorn's cheek tenderly. He kissed the human's brow.

Aragorn pulled Legolas' lips to his own for one, sweet kiss. Then, he left. Legolas looked for a long time at Mordor. When he stepped away from the sight, the word had spread. Aragorn was dead.

****

Arwen smiled. It was brittle. "Soul-Father."

"Yes, Soul-Daughter?"

"Carry my necklace to my father?"

"Yes, Poppet." Legolas wiped away her tear with his thumb.

"You warned me once that love would take more than I could imagine. I didn't believe you then. The taste of love was so sweet, that I gave myself freely to it. But the loss of my immortality scares me."

"I know, Poppet. You gave yourself away freely."

"Yes, I know." She smiled. "And it was worth it, to have those few sweet years. My heart aches with emptiness."

Legolas hugged her close.

"I must go alone, Legolas."

"I know, Arwen."

"Goodbye. Tell my father and mother that I love them."

"I will. Goodbye, Poppet."

****

"They have left, Gimli. Will you come with me to the Havens?"

Gimli stroked his beard which was more grey than red now.

"You will see Galadriel again," Legolas offered.

Gimli snorted. "I was just deciding what to take with me." He fingered the delicately wrought pin that housed Galadriel's hair. "My affairs are in order. I have known this day would come since Aragorn died."

"Am I so predictable?"

"In this respect? Yes. We are the last. They will not remember."

"It is for the best, Master Dwarf."

"Ach. You're probably right in that respect, Master Elf. Let us have one last adventure then."

****

The master of the Havens looked down his nose at Legolas. "Hello, Prince Legolas. I have heard quite a bit about you."

"Don't believe anything Mithrandir told you."

"I was thinking of Elrond."

"He's even more trouble."

"You cannot stay."

Legolas smiled. "Yes, I know that. I came to say goodbye. When I leave your shores I will not be able to return."

"Very true. Will your father be coming to join us?"

"I believe his is already on his way. Pelnir has taken charge of the Greenwood."

"Very good. I believe there are some here who would speak with you." He stepped aside and Legolas stepped past him and the barrier with a shiver. His ring hand fisted. He stared.

"Well, finally." He stepped forward and knelt to embrace Samwise and his Mr. Frodo. They had grown older than he had thought, but they were smiling at last. Frodo's memories of Middle Earth were dimmed and the pain line was gone from his forehead. He held them close. Then, he greeted Galadriel with a kiss, right on the lips. Celeborn frowned to keep from smiling. Galadriel laughed. "Hello, Greenleaf."

"Hello, Lady. Where is that reprobate of a son-in-law of yours?"

"Ah, if is isn't my favorite ray of sunshine," Mithrandir said with a raised brow.

"Hello, you old bastard." Legolas nodded to him. "How's your jaw?"

"It still slips out of joint every once and awhile," Gandalf acknowledged with a smile. He held out a hand. "Hello, Shadow-Dancer."

"Hello, Wizard." They shook hands. Legolas turned to the sound of Elrond's voice as Galadriel greeted Gimli warmly.

"Legolas."

"Elrond." He smiled. "Celebrian. You look well, my lady."

"Thank you, little prince." She held out her hand and he took it, giving it a squeeze. "Have you brought news?"

"Sad news, my friends. Aragorn laid down and returned his gift several months ago. Arwen went to Lothlorien to return to the earth. She has sent this to you both with her love." He placed Arwen's evenstar around Celebrian's neck.

Elrond sighed. "Thank you, Legolas." He put his hand on Legolas' shoulder. "Will you not stay?"

"I cannot." Legolas smiled softly. "Will you distract Gimli and the little ones? I can not take anymore sad goodbyes."

"Of course, Soul-son."

"Thank you, Soul-father, Soul-mother."

Legolas slipped into his ship. He waved cheerily at the master of the Havens and sailed into the world he didn't know.

****

Baltimore, MD 2005

"Mr. Greenleaf? There's a Mr. King here to see you."

"Send him in, Mary." Legolas composed himself and looked around the office. Everything was in order. Architecture suited him. Companies were clamoring for his business to design the environmentally correct and beautifully detailed work they were famous for. He stepped toward the door with his hand out. "Mr. King, I am glad to finally meet you. I'm hoping that the. . ." He stopped dead.

"Hello, Legolas," Mr. Arthur King stated. "Miss me?"

"Aragorn," he breathed. "Sweet Gods."

Aragorn took the still extended hand and pulled him into a tight hug. Legolas' arms tightened around him on the edge of painful. "Is your heart open to me, Legolas?"

"Yes," Legolas whispered. "Mary," he said after clearing his throat, "reschedule all my appointments for the rest of the week, some urgent business has come up. I'll be reachable by my cell phone in case of emergency only. And by that I mean that the building it falling down around your ears."

Mary blinked out of her shock and she nodded. "Yes, sir, Mr. Greenleaf." She settled at her desk. She hid her amusement behind her professional face.

"Let's go, my foolish ranger," Legolas breathed in Elvish.

"Yes, let's, my mad prince," Aragorn responded. They walked out of the building, falling into step easily. "You've done well for yourself, Legolas."

"Thank you, Strider. Honestly though, are you truly building a ranger school?"

"Yes, I am. Yes, I am."

"I can't wait to see it. I hope your patience has increased."

Aragorn laughed.

FINIS

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