[Spring evening, The Year 2710 of the Third Age of Middle-earth, the safe haven of Imladris, known in the Common Tongue as Rivendell]
I can't believe
Summer's almost here
I made it through another year
Even if alone
"Pain can endure even unto the end of Middle-earth, itself," Elrond whispered softly. "I pray you never experience such despair." By the Lady's grace, none should suffer as I have -- least of all one so fair of face and soul as you. Legolas had innocently asked about his long-departed wife, yet somehow his response had turned more personal still, referring to a loss far greater than that of a politically arranged consort and mother to his children. He was referring to the very loss of love, and hope, itself.
With a weighty sigh, he turned his gaze away from the stars, their very essence reminding him far too greatly of all that had vanished from his life. His own radiant starlight had fallen in battle all those years before, never to shine upon Middle-earth again. At times he believed the stars mocked him, shined down with an inferior light which only made the other's loss that much more real, and devastating. He had once found some resurrection of his love of the stars, as seen through his precious daughter's eyes. But she had ceased being that wide-eyed child centuries ago, and now studied the night with eyes filled with her own secret hopes and dreams. Now the stars no longer held a fascination for him, except to remind him that there were indeed beings older than him, and perhaps even more utterly alone. The enticing presence of the golden haired prince directly in front of him finally forced his attention back to the solitude of the present.
"You seem to know more about the stars than anyone. Tell me their names."
Their names? There is but one true star, and he has fallen to shadow, as has my heart. Yet, there was something in that simple plea, the innocence of one who knew not of the Second Age, let alone the First, one who had never tasted either the bitterness of battle, nor the depths of agony of a true love found, only to be torn away. Despite the pain which the night brought to his world-wearied heart, Elrond could not resist the allure of the prince's guileless questioning. One graceful eyebrow arched skyward, the elder elf studying the intense expression painted in the other's delicate features. "The people of Mirkwood do not know the stories placed among in the stars?"
"Some," Legolas countered, more than a hint of defensiveness in his tone. "I'm sure my father told them to me, when I was a small child. But... he never told me the names of all of them."
But there's no tears in my eyes
Life is still full of surprise
I'm not looking for a one night stand
Surely he does not believe I wish to insult him. Brushing away the dulling cobwebs of lingering haunted memories from his brain, Elrond purposefully brought a slight smile of encouragement to his lips. "Nor will I. There are not enough hours in the night to do so." Pausing, he delighted for the briefest of moments in the painfully sweet pangs of youthful disappointment reflected in that most perfect of visages, then softly added, "But, if you insist, I will refresh your memory, a little."
Rewarded with a beaming smile that withdrew the very curtain of gloom from the night with its intensity, Elrond sighed far louder than he intended and directed his eyes skyward. Where to begin? Something the prince will surely know. That will restore his confidence in his own knowledge. He pointed an outstretched arm toward the west, to a small cluster of blue-white stars. "There, just above the trees, you surely recognize Remmirath, the Netted Stars."
As Elrond anticipated, Legolas nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, of course! My elder brother always taunted me because he swore he could see thirteen stars to my twelve!"
An eyebrow arched almost imperceptively. So, you have suffered under the yoke of brotherly competition. What my sons could tell of that burden! Despite the fact that his were twins -- or, rather, because -- Elrond had had to assume the role of judge and arbitrator in more than a few pointless arguments over skills of many varieties. In each case, the prideful wounds of the loser could best be balmed with the suggestion of the existence of one even less skilled. "They say the race of man can only see six."
"Six? By Elbereth, they are blinder than I thought possible!" Legolas shook his head, his astonishment clearly written on his face. "No wonder they stumble around in the dark! No wonder they do not appreciate the night as we do!" He stared at the sky still, his sight seemingly directed just above Remmirath. He remained silent, the effort of concentration written clearly across his face. "That one -- the red star nearest them...."
"Borgil. And the gold-toned light above him is Malthenel. They say he is much beloved by the dwarves."
"And my father," Legolas joked. As the prince moved his head ever so slightly to land his sight upon the golden star, his hair brushed back from his shoulders more clearly, cascading down his back in a tumble of silk and starlight.
An imperceptible stunned sigh was given breath, and Elrond found his fingers once more drawn toward the siren's song of those gilded braids. Just to touch them once, to feel their silk roll across his fingers, finer than the most comfortable and familiar of his robes....
Regret halted his motion before it even began in earnest, his fingers instead curling into the palms of his hands and clenching in the pangs of unrequited longing. No, it would not be fair -- to himself, or Legolas. He could not deny the warning in his heart that to taste the other once would never be enough. What he so desired could cause him the greatest of happiness, yet also reward him with the most cruel of pains.
And to be rebuked would be a pain far too grievous to bear.
I stand behind you
And I watch you from a mile away
I'm wishing you could be the one
But not here, this way
Ever grateful that Legolas was too absorbed in his scholarly perusal of the stars to catch his expression, Elrond dared a surreptitious study of his own. Not of the long-seen stars, but of the prince's beauteous form. He memorized every gently angle and curve of the taut, slender body, from the graceful alabaster line of the skyward stretched neck to the wonder-parted lips so utterly crying out to be blessed with kisses. No, even the vividness of his dreams could not begin to reproduce the actual magnificence of reality. Let the heavens have their golden stars -- I have one far brighter and more lovely still right here before me.
Shattering the mood, Legolas thrust an insistent arm skyward, the extended fingers gesturing low in the southwest below Borgil. "There -- Menelvagor, the swordsman of the heavens!" He flashed a cheeky smile at Elrond. "That was always my favorite pattern of stars as a child. Although, I always pictured him as an elf bowsman. See -- there, that arc of stars is his bow."
His heart simply set aflutter at the raw, untapped sensuality in the prince's demeanor, Elrond forced his focus safely upon the brilliant diamonds of light which traced the constellation, his lips pursing as he pretended to ponder. "I, too, have always seen a bow in his hands," he offered, unwilling to or incapable of allowing even the slightest hint of disagreement to color the magical manner of the moment.
Yet, it had become a game, and the thrill of the chase swept him up into its tight grasp. "There -- below his belt. Name for me that one, if you can!" Elrond eagerly teased, a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth.
To Elrond's thankful surprise, Legolas answered with the confidence of someone many times his age. "Every child knows Helluin. It is the brightest light in the darkness, save for Earendil and Alcarinque!"
"And Ithil, itself," Elrond teased instinctively, gesturing up at the moon. He had caught his daughter in the same simple oversight, on one of their first tours of the heaven's geography.
The pout of disappointment was given voice in the prince's quick tempered retort. "That does not count! You are, indeed, a trickster, Elrond!"
Have I pushed the game too far? Have I offended him? Elrond realized his insecure concern must be more obviously written upon his face than he wished when lines of worry marred the perfect smoothness of the prince's brow in return.
"It is something my father says of you. I... I do not truly believe it," Legolas softly explained, his tone abashed and ashamed.
I've got to know your name
And I must know who you are
Elrond turned away, his shoulders slumping beneath the weight of his office, and his past. So many burdens to bear, some he had chosen, some which had been chosen for him. The insults of ages long past still seemed to encumber them all. Can you honestly say that, Prince of Mirkwood? What do you truly know of me? By Elbereth, what do I even know of my own heart at this moment?
A cajoling voice, obvious in its well-intentioned meaning, urged his eyes skyward, once more. "There -- nearly overhead. Edegil. It can be used to find one's way home."
A hint of a smile twitched at the corners of Elrond's face, despite the depths of his sorrow and turmoil. "Yes. The seven starred sickle of the Valar." He paused, peering farther northward, looking for one of his daughter's most beloved childhood constellations.
"Wilwarin has passed behind the falls. We shall not see her for several hours."
"Gwilwileth -- the butterfly. You do not know of her?"
Legolas paused for a moment. "Yes, I do. I prefer real butterflies, though."
And you are the fairest of them. A devilish glimmer gleamed in the elder elf's twilight-hued eyes. "Do you wish to know a secret?" After Legolas eagerly nodded, Elrond continued his thought in a whisper. "So do I."
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