The Price He Pays|
Summary: During a moment of near tragedy, Gimli observes the cost demanded from an Elf who chooses to surround himself with mortals.
Legolas is afraid.
I have never seen him short of courage. He has fought the dark all his long life. He has stood in the shadow of the nazgul when the rest of us were consumed with terror and still had the composure then to strike it from the sky.
But, today, he is afraid.
His fear is a living thing. It flows off him in waves and fills the room. . .
I cannot stop it.
He will not stay still. He paces like a wild thing caged behind bars—back and forth—never stopping and finally I can stand it no more.
"Legolas, you will wear a hole in the floor and it does not help us, this moving. Sit down, lad, and be still."
But he will not listen.
"Why do they not come, Gimli?" He asks me. Worry and trepidation dance their way through his words as he speaks, as if he does not really want to hear the answer to the question he asks. “It has been so long—surely there must be news now."
His face is drawn and anxious and he looks at me in desperation, begging me to fix this. . . And I would—for him—if I could.
But I cannot.
He is still in his riding clothes, dirty and blood-stained. The blood I see there makes me sick for it is not his; no. It is the blood of our friend.
"Get changed, Legolas!" There is an edge to my voice I wish I could conceal but my temper grows short and I am afraid myself. "I am sick of looking at those clothes. You are a state and it only reminds me. . . " I trail off as he glances down to see the blood for himself, as if for the first time, and his eyes widen. That was not smart, Gimli. I tell myself. Not smart at all.
I am softer then, filled with a sudden compassion at the sight of his terror. Someone must keep him on an even keel. Someone must steady him, and, it seems, that someone is me.
"Clean yourself up and then we will go in search of answers," I say gently, trying to patch up the damage my words have done. Trying to rid the both of us of the sight of that blood. "but I cannot take you out in the streets like that, lad. It will cause pandemonium when they see you."
I had not wanted to take him out at all. My first thought was to hold him here, safe and out of sight, but that is not proving to be easy, and now he works himself up into this distress. Perhaps if we are closer. . . Perhaps if he can see things are being done, it will make this waiting easier?
And so he does what I ask. The promise of escaping this room prompts him into a cursory change of clothing and at least an attempt to wash most of the blood off his hands. When he is finished he looks marginally better.
I take his hands then, before we leave the safety of his room to face the outside world. I hold them still, those hands that flit in their anxiety, to twist his hair, to tug his sleeve. Always moving, never still, his long and slender hands. I hold them now in my calloused, sturdy ones to help him find that steel core he has inside. He will need it to face whatever awaits us outside these walls.
The people lining the streets are as afraid as Legolas. Their terror at the possibility that lies ahead of them is palpable. This is why I did not wish to bring him out here. This is what I hoped to save him from. They call out as they see us, begging for news we do not have. Some of them are even brave enough, or desperate enough, to try and reach out to touch him. They surge around us in a huge, flowing mass of fear.
It is bad, terribly bad, for me. How much worse it must be for Legolas who can feel others emotions in the depth of his soul . . . A child grasps at the edge of his tunic as we pass, a boy-child with big eyes and brown curls. A boy so alike in looks to the one closest to Legolas’ heart he is an agony to see—for what will happen to Eldarion at this day’s end?
Legolas puts his head down, turns away so he does not look, grits his teeth and charges through the crowd. He acknowledges none of them and I am pulled along behind him.
It is a relief when we finally reach the healing halls and the doors open to remove us from the crowds and pull us instead into the quiet silence that exists there.
It is as if we have passed into another world. A world of hush and peace which leaves the chaotic turmoil outside these doors behind us.
And, yet, the fear remains.
"What is happening? How is he? Why have we heard no news?" Legolas barks the questions at the first Healer we see. His voice is sharp and caustic but I know he does not mean it to be, and so—it appears—does she.
"There is no news to give, my Lord," she says softly. "But no bad news either. Come," she puts a hand to his elbow and steers him past me. She is brave indeed to lay a hand on him when he is in this state but he allows it. “Let me show you to a place you can rest while you wait."
She takes us to a room, away from the open area of the halls. A small room, quiet but cosy. A place of comfort and respite. It is here we must stay. I will not have Legolas in the midst of the healers as they work. It would not help; them, or him.
There is food on the table and drink in glasses by the chairs but Legolas drinks nothing, eats nothing and resumes his pacing.
Moving him closer—it seems—has done nothing to help him.
Since we can go no further than this and I can do no more, I do eat. There is no reason for the two of us to starve and it has been long since we had our breakfast. If I am to get him through this I need my strength, I tell myself. That is how I justify sitting and eating while he climbs the walls, anyway.
How long it is until Arwen comes I do not know, but by then Legolas is beside himself and I am beginning to think I can hold him there no longer. He sits himself down, only to stand again seconds later, he picks up food but then drops it untasted. It is painful to watch his agitation. I open the window thinking the breeze may soothe him, but instead it brings to us the noises of fear from the street. I shut it immediately.
So when Arwen steps through the door with a smile, bringing a rush of calm along with her she is most welcome. Smooth dark hair, soft blue dress; tranquility follows in her wake. Her eyes light up at the sight of us and she goes straight to Legolas, straight to my anxious, frightened friend.
"It is alright." She says and she gathers him in her arms and pulls him close. “It is alright, dearest. He is safe."
I imagine I can feel her quiet calm rushing over him to soothe his battered soul and he stops. Finally the never-ceasing movement comes to an end as he leans into her touch, pale gold hair next to dark, and she will know. She, of all of us, will know the dark places to which his mind has been flitting.
I watch as she pulls herself back from him then and reaches up to cup his face in her hands.
"He is awake and quiet—do you want to see him?" She turns to me, "Gimli?"
It is a foolish question and she already knows the answer. Do we want to see him? There is nothing we want more.
"If we have to." I say with a smile and she knows I joke. "I suppose he will not rest without us granting him our presence."
And Legolas says nothing; not one word.
Aragorn, when they lead us to him, lies still and pale upon the bed, face as white as the sheets that cover him. Still he manages a smile at the sight of us, and the tight twisting in my stomach I have been carrying these last few hours eases a little at the sight of it.
As we inch nearer I can see he is in pain. It is etched into his face, and yet I think they have given him something for it, for his eyes have lost their usual sharpness and he views us through a haze.
"Well, you have caused us no end of worry today," I say, in an attempt to lighten the tension that still follows us as if it seeps in, through the very walls, from the streets outside. And Legolas pushes past me, sinking to sit in the chair beside the bed in one smooth movement full of elven grace.
To all appearances Legolas is the youngest of us all. Normally, no trace of the reality of his age exists upon the smooth youthfulness of his face. Today though, in this moment, it does. I imagine I can see every single year lived hiding in the back of his haunted eyes.
Aragorn lifts a hand, slowly, carefully—as if he is not sure he can achieve it—and touches that ageless face. A gentle brush of fingers against skin.
And Legolas breaks.
The tears begin to flow, silently down his face, tracks of silver on his skin. I do not think I have ever seen him weep, at least not like this.
"Hush, you fool," Aragorn says gently, "I am still here." He tries to wipe those tears away but still they flow endlessly.
I know this is the sacrifice Legolas makes to be our friend, this deep and hidden grief. It is the price he pays and he carries it with him always. Usually, we do not see it. He buries it deep—never wanting us to know—but it is always there, following him, tainting his memories, choking him with its nearness. It stalks him in the night.
Today these hours of fear have set it free, have allowed us a window into the depths of his soul so we can see the agonising pain we cause him. And yet he chooses to be with us despite this.
I am still here, Aragorn is saying, but one day he will not be. One day the fear will be real. One day, the grief will be endless; one day this will not be a near miss, a lucky recovery, a false alarm.
One day, Aragorn will be gone.
And then Legolas' sacrifice will be made and grief will come to claim its prize.
So I sit and watch him weep, I watch the tears fall down his face, the shaking of those courageous shoulders that bear the weight of so very many years and I know I cannot save him from this fate. It is far too late for that.
But when that day comes, when Legolas is torn apart by pain, I know one thing. As much as I will also hurt. As much I wish it would not be so, I will be there. I will hold his hand; I will brush away his tears. I will do all I can to repair his heart. I will see him to safety.
He will not be alone.
In his tears, his fear, his grief,
I will be there.
I will be the support that keeps him upright. The bedrock underneath his feet. The light to lead him forward.
He will never be alone. . .
Until he grieves for me.