It was a few years later that I found my ranger again. He was pacing the halls of Rivendell. I was attempting to tone down my father's latest bit of rhetoric so that I could present it to Elrond without the use of insults. I was surprised to see that he hadn't aged as much as he should have. It had been nearly ten years since I saw him last. Perhaps living off the land suited him. I fell into step next to him. He glanced at me, but didn't say anything.

We paced nearly three miles that night without a word. Arwen leaned out from her balcony and waved to us. Aragorn waved back with a fake smile, but she wouldn't mind that. At least he was trying to be cheerful. We paced past the river and he paused. Finally, he spoke. "Hello, Legolas."

I was embarrassed to have waited so long to speak to the Elf, but he didn't seem to take offence, merely put his hand on my shoulder and pulled me in for a quick hug. "Hello, Aragorn. Your cares seem heavy tonight. Do you need help carrying them?"

"I'm remembering things."

"Such as?"

"As a young man I ran into."

"Ah, and this young man has a name?"

"Boromir. He's the son of the steward of Gondor."

"Things begin to come clearer. And what is this young Boromir like?"

"He is very young. He is no more than eight. He should not be out on the roads alone, but he was wandering very close to the edge of the territories. The guards weren't far behind, but I couldn't help but keep a discrete eye on him. He was pretending to kill orcs."

"And what did the guards think of a ranger near their charge?"

"They didn't see me. He was so fierce. I dread the thought that one so young should be born into the midst of such strife."

"As you were. As I was. As all who live today were. There is no lessening of strife, my friend. But time makes it harder and easier to bear at the same time. You aren't a child any longer. And he will not be a child for long."

"And you are as full of pompousness as Elrond at the dinnertable. Tell me, Legolas, what has happened to make you suddenly act like a lordling?"

"My father sends me on errands." Legolas rolled his eyes.

My father's exact terminology is that he sends me on "learning excursions so that I might be better prepared to take over the kingdom," but I did not tell my ranger that. Let him think of me as young. It is so much easier than the alternative. I don't want him looking up to me like I've got all the answers.

"Errands? Thranduil sends you on errands to Rivendell? Will wonders never cease?"

"Only if I can get the two of them to see eye to eye without anyone here or in Mirkwood getting caught in the crossfire. I cannot understand how two Elves can be so stubborn."

"They aren't perfect."

"No, but it would be a start if they'd realize that."

Strider winked at me. "Have you considered asking Arwen her opinion on the matter?" I heard her moving behind me. The phrasing had to be perfect.

"And draw in Lothlorien as well? No, I think there should be one land left where I can seek refuge when this blows up in my face. Elrond doesn't kill the messenger, does he?"

Legolas' plea was pathetic and Arwen rolled her eyes behind him. "The doors of Rivendell will never be closed to you as long as I live here. Of course, if I move in with Galadriel, then you'll have difficulties." She patted Legolas' back comfortingly. He gave her a set of pathetically pleading eyes and she laughed at him. She put an arm around each of our waists. "Now, why are the two of you moping about when the moon is so bright and the voices are rising high? Come and have a drink with me and we will solve the world's troubles by daylight."

She drew us back to her room. I ended up sprawled across her bed as Legolas perched on her balcony and she straddled her vanity chair like the warrior she is at heart. We each had a goblet of the finest wine we could smuggle up from the dining hall. I am almost certain that Elrond heard us, but he'll never let us know if he did. Somehow Arwen managed to get Legolas accepted at Rivendell. She adopted him, I think, but I've never asked.

"So, my two brooding ones, what seems to be our little problem?"

"We don't have one," Legolas sniffed at her. "This is quite excellent," he said taking a sip of wine. "Strider is having a crisis of faith or something like that. I am attempting not to get smote by your father."

Arwen winced. "Is *he* being troublesome?"

"There is some disagreement as to who has the use of a certain road, that I am loath to mention to either of you."

"Is that why I saw Mirkwood archers gambling by the road the other day. Vaguely interesting. I assume your father is being his usual graceful self?"

"Irritating and arrogant as usual, yes. But if you breath a word of that to your father I will beat you shamelessly about the head and shoulders."

"And what does your father say about mine?" she asked. She took a sip of wine herself.

"Don't ask me that. I refuse to lie to you and I refuse to be cursed at. Pester Strider instead. It's much more fun."

"For you," I interjected. "I personally want to know what's biting at you."

"I know what isn't biting at me, more's the pity." He leered at us both.

"Be careful or I'll tell him to take you back to the river and throw you in. And we all know how much you enjoy the water."

"It's cold. I'm not a fish, like you are, Arwen."

Arwen rolled her eyes at me, but turned to Strider. "So what is eating at you."

"Thank goodness you didn't say that to him. Who knows what he'd have said."

"Probably exactly what you're thinking right now." Legolas stifled a laugh with his wrist. He looked out over the courtyard and waved to someone passing across the way. Suddenly, both of them went still. Legolas took a large gulp of wine. Arwen shook her head at him. "Come in, Father."

Elrond opened the door and I sat up quickly. Legolas prepared to rise. "Oh, sit down you two. Honestly, you'd think you'd never seen a king before. He shut the door and held out his own goblet. "And since you three have taken to stealing my wine, I want a bit of it."

"Permanently borrowed," Legolas murmured.

Elrond forced his smile down. "And what news did your father send you to report this time, young Legolas?"

"I was hoping to avoid that topic for a few more hours, but it seems time has suddenly run out." Elrond took a seat in the chair Arwen reserves for reading in.

"Speak up."

"My lord Thranduil would ask that you please discontinue any traffic on the Wyhill road until an agreement is reached."

"And you may tell Thranduil that his can cease his travels there as well. That road has been traveled by Elves without regard to clan or kingdom for millennia and he knows this well. I will not go to war over something so foolish."

Legolas nodded.

"Rephrase that however you think best. I'm sure you've been editing your father's messages for years now."

Legolas cocked his head to the side.

"Thranduil would never be that gracious to me. He swears like a dock-side sailor."

Legolas blinked once. "He does?"

"Must be where you picked it up," I stated.

"I don't swear all the time, like some," he retorted. Elrond raised his brows at me.

"I have no idea what he's talking about," I stated.

Arwen started to snicker and I glanced out over the courtyard to control my mirth. I waved to the children that waved up at me. "No, of course you don't," the master of Rivendell said dryly. "More wine if you would, daughter." She filled his glass once more and he shook his head. "Why did I end up with some of the most stubborn children imaginable?"

I bit my tongue to avoid the comment that leapt to my lips and took a sip of wine instead. I felt his eyes on me.

"You were going to say, young one?"

"Not one word, my lord Elrond."

"And now I am sure that there is something interesting swimming behind your eyes. Tell me, Legolas, what is the response Thranduil would have had for me?"

"You are being punished for lax discipline. If you cannot manage troops, you cannot manage children," I said with my best imitation of my father's voice. I couldn't hold the straight face, of course, but I did try. Arwen's jaw dropped and Elrond's eyes flashed.

"Is that what that old whoremaster is saying about me lately?"

"Not lately," I replied mildly, ignoring the slight. My father's words against Elrond have often had a similar flavor. If Elrond weren't married, and Father weren't married, I'd think they were having a lover's spat. As it stands, I still think they're having a lover's spat, but won't admit it to themselves or anyone around them.

Elrond shook his head. "He still blames me for your grandfather's death, then?"

"Did you perhaps expect something so ingrained to change overnight?" I asked in surprise. I must learn to tame my mouth, even when surrounded by allies.

"No, young one, I did not. And do stop looking as if I'm going to shoot you for speaking your mind. I have no patience with diplomacy or flattery. I also do not kill my children's playmates no matter how often I've wished to."

Legolas' eyes widened. He was looking very human right then. His eyes weren't glowing and you could actually see the woods within their depths. I think it must have been the wine. It was quite good, and the Elf does not hold his liquor well. Elrond hastily amended his statement. "I was not referring to you, Legolas. Relax." Legolas blinked carefully several times and seemed to shake off something. "I should let these two do more re-training of your mind before I say such things." He shook his head.

"I think I've gone right out of my mind," Legolas stated. "Did you just hear something about red birds?"

Arwen tipped her head to the side. "Yes, actually. It's the newest children's game. It's supposed to teach them rhythms for sword fighting and smithing."

"It is?" Elrond asked. "I thought it was a new fad."

"You think everything is a new fad, Father."

"Because they often come and go with the century. I seem to remember someone with red feathers braided into her hair for a century or so." I laughed.

"That was a personal statement. Not a fad."

Legolas' lips twitched. "A pity. That would have been a sight. Though silver suits you better."

"Why thank you, Legolas. At least someone here is a gentleman."

Elrond smiled fondly at all three of us. "Do not drink too much, children." He left us alone.

"And someone should stop flirting before he gets into trouble," I said softly. Legolas rolled his eyes and leaned back against the wall.

"What say you, Arwen Evensong? Will you leave this mortal lout where you found him in the woods and come roam the world with me?"

She snorted. "No, you silver-spoken idiot of an elf, I will not leave my Chosen and you well know it."

"Then, I shall have to start telling you his faults. You'll never get a moment's rest. He snores when you let him have too much beer. He steals the heat from the fire."

I found the first missile I could, a pillow and launched it at him. Arwen intercepted it. "Boys! When will I learn that men don't grow up? Legolas, your braids are a mess."

"That's a fine way to change the subject," I said as I put down my glass and started undoing my braids.

"Come here. We'll let Strider get some rest, since he's nearly asleep anyway and I'll redo your hair."

"Should I trust her?" I asked Aragorn. He nodded and held out his glass for one of us to take it from him. Arwen took it and set it on the table. He didn't move, just closed his eyes and fell asleep, legs dangling off the edge of the bed. Arwen changed her position and I settled on the floor in front of her.

"Are you drunk, Legolas?"

"I think I may be."

She smiled. "Don't worry. I won't taunt you too badly when you come to your senses. Just stop flirting with my Chosen and you might get out of this intact."


"True." Her fingers were quick and deft. "You'll watch over him for me, won't you?"

"As often as I can, sister."

When I awoke, Legolas was standing guard over me again. "Arwen's gone off to do something or other with the children. I don't know why."

"Because she likes them."

"As do you. You are going to bond with her and have children right?"


"Because I want to be able to spoil them and your grand-children and down the line until they can't abide Elves on these shores any longer."



"Stop talking of the future."

"Perhaps, you can stop the strife, Aragorn."


"Stop being stuck in the past. You saw the future in a little boy."

"And you reminded me that war has always been."

"And I was a fool to forget that things can change. That one person can rule the fate of the world without even knowing it. That even the smallest among us can do that."

"Arwen's been telling stories hasn't she?"

"A bit. But none that aren't true from other sources. She just reminded me of some things I'd already learned. You have a good heart, Aragorn, though you try to keep it hidden. You're defending the Shire and you help damsels in distress on a regular basis."

"I'm not a hero, Legolas, I'm a ranger."

"To some that is the same thing."

"Don't pull the older and wiser stunt."

"I'm not. I'm speaking from the heart you stubborn idiot. I don't know why Arwen puts up with you."

"Because she loves me, why do you?"

Legolas just smiled and flicked my nose. "Come along, Elrond wants to see me and I don't want to go without a guard."

"He was serious about not killing you."

"I'd just feel better with someone at my side who reminds him of that fact. He can get rather angry when he hears things he doesn't like."

I agreed to come with him and we walked to my Father's chambers.

"And Aragorn, you can end the strife if you try."

The Elf gave me no chance to respond since we were already at Elrond's chair.


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