A Hard Road

A Hard Road

By

Jaimie-Erin

Fiction Rating: T (Teen)

Disclaimer: Not mine, written for entertainment, nothing else.

A/N: This was written for the Teitho theme, "Growing Up".

It wasn't fair.

No matter how often Aragorn looked away and then back again, nothing changed. Arandorion never changed.

It wasn't fair, it wasn't fair, IT WASN'T FAIR!

It was the only thing going through the man's mind as he stared at the elf's lifeless body. The battle still raged around him, but he didn't care. All he cared about was that his lifelong friend now lay in front of him, a black-shafted arrow protruding from his heart.

He felt something slam into his chest and he was knocked backwards, away from the body of the elf. He didn't think to use his sword; rather, he dropped it and punched whoever had knocked him over squarely in the stomach. A sharp grunt, born of surprise more than real pain, told him he had just hit Legolas.

"Oh, mellon-nin, I'm so sorry!" he said.

Legolas paid him no attention; he was shooting arrows at breakneck speed at the oncoming orcs, fighting with twice the ferocity to make up for Aragorn's inactivity.

Finally getting his senses back, he grabbed his sword and moved over to defend Arandorion's body from coming to further harm.

The battle was over quickly; the orcs had never really stood a chance against the ambush of elves. Aragorn had only killed about five before the rest had turned and fled their camp, vanishing into the trees.

Finally, with no distraction left from his grief, Aragorn sank to the ground next to Arandorion. I won't cry, I won't cry, he looks like this when he sleeps anyway...

Except for the blood, a small voice in the back of his head reminded him. Except for the arrow. Except for the pale skin. Except for the lack of a pulse. Except for –

"I KNOW!" Aragorn cried out loud.

The remaining elves paused from checking the heartbeats of fallen warriors to stare at the man, who ignored them.

Legolas fell to his knees beside the ranger. It was only when Aragorn had cried out that the elf had looked this direction and had seen the lifeless body of his friend.

Images flashed through the wood elf's mind, images of his childhood shared with the man next to him and the recently dead elf. He was five, in human reckoning, and had fallen out of a tree when he decided to show off and do a cartwheel on one of the branches. He had gotten away with a few scratches, and Arandorion had comforted him as he cried. He was twelve, and had just beaten Arandorion at an archery competition. The other elf had taken it hard, and Legolas had agreed to equally split his prize – a quiver full of arrows of the finest quality – with his friend. He was forty seven, and had taken an arrow to his lower chest. Arandorion and Aragorn had fought their way through twenty orcs to get him to safety. Legolas had not been able to do the same for his friend.

He put his arm around Aragorn's shoulders, which were shaking from the man's effort to hold back grief.

"We have to go," Legolas said in a near-whisper what seemed like hours later, but was really only about fifteen minutes.

Aragorn nodded, his head still lowered to the ground. The elf knew it was a poor attempt to disguise his tears. The ranger walked over to Arandorion and pulled the arrow free from his friend's chest before picking him up, his body shaking as he did so.

Legolas watched from the sidelines, every inch of his being spilling compassion for both man and dead elf. He spared none for himself as he completely ignored his tears; choosing instead to comfort his one remaining best friend.

He rode the journey back to the Mirkwood palace next to Aragorn. He felt numb; numb to the entire world save Aragorn and Arandorion. He was dimly aware of one of the soldiers asking him a question, but his mind did not register what. Eventually the elf made his own decision and moved away.

Many elves died in the fight against the Shadow. What made the loss of Arandorion so traumatic for the Mirkwood prince was not only the fact that they had been best friends, but also the horrors that were Arandorion's parents.

X X X X

Arandorion had grown up with two older brothers and one younger sister. His brothers had already joined Mirkwood's patrols when he was old enough to begin training.

Iauron, his oldest brother, loved nature and trees even more than most wood elves. There had not been a single moment during his childhood that he had not been out in the garden. Then, once he had grown, his parents destroyed his ambitions to become a healer. He had been forced, against his will, to fight, and he had taken his own life two years later.

Maethorion, the second brother, had likewise been ordered into the patrols. He had been planning on doing so anyway, so it was not such a bad thing to happen. He settled down with a beautiful wife, who became pregnant with a daughter. Four days before her birth, Maethorion was killed fighting the spiders.

His sister, Alassëa, learned from the time she walked to cook, clean, and be a good wife. Her family was highly traditional, a fact that was constantly being forced upon her. She was suffocating, and still was to this day.

Arandorion never got any praise. Everything he did was wrong. Not all elvish families were good and kind, a fact he had always loved to press upon men he met who admired the Firstborn.

X X X X

Legolas choked back a sob as he thought of this. He had always promised Arandorion that things would get better for him, that he would find a lovely, untraditional wife and have lots of children. Now that promise would never come to pass.

Why could Legolas not have saved Arandorion? He had saved Aragorn from an arrow, pushing him to the ground out of harm's way at last moment. It had earned him a punch in the stomach, but so be it. Why could he not have done the same for Arandorion?

He passed through the gates to the palace without really seeing them. He dismounted and handed his horse over to one of the stable hands wordlessly before turning and taking Arandorion from Aragorn's horse. He set his gaze firmly upward; he wanted his memories of the elf to be ones with him laughing, not ones with his blood-stained corpse showing no emotion.

Aragorn was not dismounting. He looked as though he had forgotten how. Legolas swallowed against the lump in his throat and handed the dead elf over to another before pulling his human friend to the ground. He would have to save his grief for another time. Right now, Estel needed him.

X X X X

Elf and ranger sat together on Legolas's bed, talking quietly. Aragorn, now that he was in private, was weeping freely. He could believe that Arandorion was dead, and the logical part of his mind did believe so; but he could also refuse to accept it, as the emotional part of him was doing. He continued to sit on the bed and ramble on about absolutely nothing, ignoring the meaning behind the consoling hand on his left shoulder.

As for Legolas, he felt somehow numb. He could not seem to access his own emotions. All he could think of was the inner turmoil of the man he called brother.

He was barely listening to Aragorn's speech. He thought it was about one of the twins' pranks, though that had been ten minutes ago and he could not be sure whether the ranger was still talking about that. Instead, he was listening to Aragorn's soul.

The man's eyes spoke of what the conversation did not: pain. His body language, too, betrayed this. He was slightly hunched over, his hands crossed over and tensely gripping the sides of his stomach rather hard. It was probably more painful for Legolas to see than for Aragorn to feel.

Suddenly the man looked up, and his eyes were gazing intently into those of the elf.

"I know you aren't listening, Legolas," he said, though his voice held no hint of blame.

Legolas blinked but did not say anything.

Aragorn sat up straighter, his hands coming away from his stomach. "How are you taking this?"

Legolas blinked again. "I am fine," he lied. "I don't think you are. You haven't been acting right since the battle."

"Don't change the subject," said Aragorn, a little sharply. His eyes continued to bore into Legolas's. "You are the one who has not been acting right. You've become numb. Don't think I haven't noticed."

Legolas was silent, though he had acquired the look of an elfling caught in a wrongdoing, though slightly sadder.

"You're an elf," Aragorn continued in a softer voice. "You can't continue pretending. I know you're taking this hard, but pushing it away isn't going to help.

They both knew that "this" and "it" referred to Arandorion's death.

Suddenly, Legolas let out a sob, and tears he hadn't known he was holding back flowed. Aragorn wrapped his arms around him and held him until the sobs died down.

A/N: I'd love it if you would review. I'm really sick at the moment, I need something to read and make me feel better. Lol.