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What If ...?

One Title: Your Story

A Fairy Tale, Middle-Earth style

Games People Play

Friends in Small Places

Heart to Heart by Erin


Rating: PG -13

Summary: Estel and Legolas go out hunting. They have a conversation.

Notes: This is NOT slash. Estel and Legolas are just friends and the love mentioned is that between friends.

Estel and Legolas had made camp early after the young man, who had been feeling ill for a few days, began to feel worse. Although usually of a strong constitution, the two had been out hunting for the better part of a week in the cold, snow covered forest.

This particular winter was the harshest the elves of Rivendell had seen in many years and the game was scarce, making hunting a challenge. Normally the Twins and Glorfindel would be available to help but due to the rough weather, the Rangers were having difficulties and had called on the help of the elves. Elrond had sent his sons, Advisor, and a contingent with much needed supplies to aide the humans who had had a small yield of crops due to a dry summer and early winter.

The storerooms of the Last Homely house also had to be restocked and Legolas, who had decided to spend the winter visiting his friends, had gone hunting and taken Estel with him. Their trip went uneventfully until the fourth day when a badger spooked Estelís horse and he was thrown into a partially frozen pond. Despite the fact that they had immediately made camp and warmed the young man, by the fifth day he was feeling decidedly worse for wear and on the sixth was running a fever, having issues breathing and sick to his stomach. They decided to make camp early beneath the trees that protected them a bit from the biting wind, which had started around noon.

About an hour after the two had eaten, Legolas tensed, sensing the approach of a familiar evil. It wasnít long thereafter that the two found themselves battling for their lives, greatly out-numbered by a band of twenty Orcs who had also ventured into the frozen forest for food. The start, like every battle, was quick. Legolas brought several of the foul creatures down with his arrows before their dark tempered steel was met with his own. Estel sucked in a deep breath and rallied himself for the fight, raising his sword to the darkling foe. The frozen ground refused to give under the clashing feet of chill orcish armor and elven leather.

Estel swung low hoping to feel the soft barrier of flesh on his blade but only the shock and sound of steel returned. His vision was hazy, his responses slow, his skin covered in a fevered sweat. The fuzzy line of an Orc blade came into his vision, aimed neck level. His dizziness was a saving grace, poor coordination causing him to slip on the icy ground and allow the blade to swing wide, over his head. Estelís blade on the other hand found its mark.

A thrown knife caught the human in the shoulder forcing a grunt of pain from his lungs despite his attempt to stifle it. Legolas promptly removed the orcís head for such a presumptuous attack. Pain slowed Estel adding to the sickness and before he could turn back around he felt a dagger slice deeply into his side. Falling to his knees with a gasp he swept his sword upwards with the last of his energy disemboweling his attacker. Legolas, who had mopped up the few remaining Orcs as they fled, rushed to Estelís side afraid of what he might find.

Estel looked to Legolas as he approached, blinking as if to clear his sight, the human offered a wane smile, "This is not exactly what I had in mind when I agreed to this trip." his breathing was rather fast and shallow. He hadnít risen from the ground.

"You really should be more careful, do you know what your Ada will say when we get you home?" Legolas joked, forcing a smile as he tried unsuccessfully to hide his concern for the human.

"Heíll blame you," Estel replied weakly as the elf moved him so that he was leaning against the nearest tree. Estel sat there, his eyes closed trying to fight the nausea and pain that were assaulting his senses.

Startled when Legolas shook him, he opened his bleary eyes.

"Iíve got to check your wounds Estel then get you home but I need you to stay awake for me. Can you do that?" his voice full of worry.

Estel began to nod but when the world spun as a result he quickly stopped and closed his eyes once more only to be shaken by his friend again "Iím awake" he slurred weakly.

Legolas didnít have much training as a healer only what was necessary for a soldier, so after carefully removing the knife which was still imbedded in the young manís shoulder he washed the wounds as best he could, packed them with an ointment he knew Estel always carried in case of an emergency, and bound the wounds tightly.

Clearing their campsite, he opted to leave immediately for Rivendell and the healing skills of Lord Elrond. He loaded the supplies on Estel's horse then gently mounted his own horse keeping the human in front of him, careful not to jostle him too much. The young man had fallen unconscious while Legolas tended his injuries and could not be woken by the elf. Knowing that time was short, he spurred his horse into a fast trot while Estel's horse followed. Fortunately even though they had been gone six days they were only three and a half days from the Elven Valley and if Legolas were able he would travel day and night to get there, hopefully making the trip in less than two days.

"Hold on Estel," he whispered. "Iíll get you home."

Estel regained consciousness several times over the first night. Each time he stirred Legolas would force him to drink some water and tried to get him to stay awake and while he was successful with the first endeavor, the second was more difficult due to the fact that Estel kept passing out. The humanís breathing worsened and he had developed a nasty cough. His fever had also risen but he shook with cold despite the extra cloak and blankets Legolas had wrapped him in before having left their campground.

As the sun began to rise Legolas slowed his horse and dismounted carefully with his cargo. Setting the human against a nearby log he went back to the manís horse and gathered their packs. As the horses rested, munching on grass they had uncovered with their hooves, the elf checked on the young manís injuries.

The shoulder wound was looking dire. The edges were red and inflamed, and, knowing that infection was setting in and that he didnít have the skills to treat it, he washed and bound the wound again. Moving on to the side wound, he noticed that it was still slowly seeping blood. Apparently the jostling of the horse was aggravating it, but knowing there was nothing he could do to avoid it other than slow their pace even further than he was already forced to, he cleansed the wound and applied more ointment. Wrapping it tightly in and attempt to stop the blood flow completely, he sighed knowing that it might not be enough. Lost in thought he gathered the supplies and put them back in the pack. He was startled out of his thoughts when a weak voice called out to him.

Smiling as he leaned down next to the human he comforted, "Iím here Estel, donít worry."

The young man smiled at that. "You always are." Then he found himself supported by the elfís strong arms as a coughing fit shook his entire body, stealing his strength.

When it had passed Legolas grabbed a water skin and helped the human to drink.

"Thanks." Legolas just nodded. "How long?" he asked as he was handed some dried meat.

"We were attacked last night. The snow on the ground slows our progress but I believe we should reach your Ada within two days. Iím not much of a healer and I want to get you to him quickly. It looks like your injuries are beginning to develop an infection and I am worried about your breathing. That cough you have is rather nasty plus you have a high fever."

"Bring me my pack," Estel instructed hoarsely. Pulling out several herbs he added them to the water skin. "The next time we stop, heat some of this and Iíll drink it. It should help out with the fever and fight any infection." Then he removed a few leaves and placed them in his mouth, telling Legolas what they were for and how much he should be given. "These plants are for numbing against pain, while these should help with the fever and keep it from taking a stronger hold."

Another coughing fit caught them both off guard and Legolas was back supporting Estel as he struggled to breathe. When the attack ended Estel was exhausted and the elf was trying to hide his concern. "How about we get you home, Estel."

The man only nodded and Legolas whistled. The horses trotted over and after placing the packs back on Estelís horse, he helped the human to his feet and then to mount the horse. Making sure Estel was as comfortable as possible he mounted behind him. Taking the reigns he set out again, his arm gently wrapped around Estelís waist to keep him from sliding off the creature as it passed over the snow-covered ground.

The two attempted conversation but it soon became apparent that Estel was too sick to contribute much and Legolas spoke up, sensing his friend becoming tired, "Lean back against me and rest. I wonít let you fall."

Estel sighed but did as Legolas suggested. Shutting his eyes he leaned back against the strong chest listening as the elf began to hum. Not long after he was asleep, secure in the arms of his friend.

Legolas had felt how tense the human was and knew it was due to the pain of riding. He figured that now that they were on their way to help, it might do his young charge some good to rest and it would also keep him from feeling some of the pain caused by the movement of the horse. Estel had been silent for a while and so Legolas trailed off from his story to suggest the man lean back and try to rest. After a few moments of indecision he felt the body relax against him. He began to hum and it was not long before he felt Estel relax completely into the comfort of sleep.

Legolas sighed as he once again stopped to rest the horses. It was taking longer than he wanted to reach the Last Homely House. Part of it was the fact that he was worried about Estelís condition, since they really had made better time than he had originally thought.

Estel hadnít woken the whole day and Legolas wasnít sure if that was a good thing or not. He had been giving Estel sips of water every half-hour while riding, not wanting to dismount, but still wanting to make sure he didnít become dehydrated.

The horses were a blessing, both were strong and sensing the elfís concern, they trudged without complaint through the snow, tirelessly attempting to get the pair quickly home. Legolas knew this and was grateful, not stopping to rest until sunset. While the horses went off he gathered a few sticks and lit a small fire near where he had placed Estel and the packs.

Putting the water on to heat he took a small bite of dried fruit from his pack and waited, watching over the young man. After a few minutes the water was hot and he poured in into a cup and carefully forced an unconscious Estel to drink, hoping that it would help.

They rested there for an hour while once again Legolas checked over Estelís wounds. Noting that they hadnít gotten any worse, he called the horses back and they continued on their journey.

So far on the trip they had been lucky; it had only snowed once during the second day and even it had been light. Now however, it seemed their luck had run out. A few hours into the night it began to snow lightly but within an hour they were forced to stop, unable to see very far through the dense flurries of snow as the clouds made up for lost time.

Frustrated, Legolas made camp but fortunately as he pulled up the horses he noticed the burnt out stump of a tree that had been hit by lightning some time preciously. Using it to make sure Estel was sheltered from the snow as much as possible he lit a fire outside the hollow, far enough so the wood of the shelter wouldnít ignite but close enough to provide heat, Legolas then brushed the horses down quickly and covered them in blankets, not wanting them to fall ill. Then he scooted in behind Estel and wrapping his arms around the boy, spent the night trying to make sure he stayed warm.

Legolas watched the snow fall hoping all the while that it would stop soon because it would only make their trip more difficult and possibly hazardous, but as it continued to fall he gave up. He would just have to slow their pace in order to be safe.

While he was thinking Estel began to wake. Slowly fever glazed eyes opened and tried to take in his surroundings. "This is cozy," he slurred.

Drawn from his musings, Legolas smiled down at Estel. "It began to snow again and this seemed like a good place to stop." More seriously he continued, "How are you feeling? Are you warm enough? Do you need some of the herbs?"

Estel smiled weakly, saying, "Iím fine."

"You are anything but Ďfine,í Estel, and you know it," the elf scolded gently. "You donít have to pretend to be strong; I already know you are. What would your brothers say if they heard you?"

Estel scowled, "What would you have me say Legolas? I feel no better or worse than I have previously and therefore I am Ďfineí for the moment and while I may have a few injuries, fever, and headache, there is nothing more that can be done other than what you have already done or by getting me home to Ada, which we are in the process of doing. You and my brothers, on the other hand, have no room to talk. The three of you can be knocking at Mandoís Halls after having been shot, stabbed, beaten, AND poisoned and still have the nerve to claim to be Ďfine.í"

Legolas had the decency to look reproachful at that, but it turned to worry as Estel began coughing, gasping for air, his eyes watering. Slowly the fit passed but Legolas continued to hold him, rubbing calming circles on his back. When the man was able to draw in air without choking again, Legolas conceded, "Youíre right, Estel. I do the same thing, Iím sorry. I just feel so helpless right now."

Estel waved away the apology and gave his own, "I am sorry I snapped at you. I suppose you were right. I do have a rather nasty headache."

Legolas shifted so he could reach into the pack beside him, and rummaging through the contents, pulled out some of the pain-reducing herbs that Estel had shown him earlier. "These will help," he said handing them over.

"Thanks." Estel sighed, leaning back once again against the elfís chest as he chewed the leaves, using the muscled shoulder as a pillow, he shut his eyes. The fire outside their shelter was bright and he had been having difficulties focusing his eyes on anything since he woke anyway so he let himself relax, determined not to let on how truly awful he felt. Shortly thereafter he passed out again, unaware of the worry he caused the elf when he did not respond.

The snow stopped before dawn and Legolas doused the fire after making more tea and forcing Estel to drink it, then prepared to leave the hollow that had sheltered them most of the night.

The snow had fallen thickly, adding more depth to the already snow covered ground but fortunately for the elf, the bottom layers had not yet frozen and turned to ice. Snow and ice were a danger to both horse and rider whereas snow was more of merely an inconvenience.

Once the campground was cleared Legolas mounted up behind his charge once again. As it turned out they had, so far, made good time, and were only about fourteen hours from their destination. Due to the delay they would probably have to spend another night camping but Legolas tried not to worry about that yet.

Setting out, he carefully guided the horses along the path, watching out for rocks and anything which might impede their progress.

The day passed slowly with Legolas urging the horses onward. The snow was about two and a half feet high with drifts up to three feet. It made the going difficult for the horses and riders, but the closer they go to the valley the less snow covered the ground. It was almost as if some power protected the inhabitants from the harshness of winter.

By the time evening rolled around they were only a few hours away and Legolas decided to keep going. Estelís fever had climbed even higher and he suspected that the wounds were getting worse. Knowing that blood loss would be an issue, he was concerned because the stab wound to Estelís side had yet to stop bleeding entirely. Plus his breathing had gotten shallow and fast.

About five hours later they were passing through the borders and two elves dropped from the trees. "Mae govannen, Legolas, do you need aide?"

Weary from worry and travel he was greatful to be so close to his destination. "I am well, however if you could send an elf ahead to wake and warn Lord Elrond that I bring an injured Estel so that he may prepare for our arrival that would be most welcome."

"Of course." With that the elf on the left took off at a run toward the Last Homely house. The lone elf traveling faster on foot over the snow than he would on a horse. Legolas followed slower, even though he snow was less deep, only about a foot, he was still careful, not wanting to injure his friend with a stumble.

They reached the courtyard an hour later and were greeted immediately by Lord Elrond. Dismounting he followed the Elf lord into the house, carrying Estel as one of the stable hands took the tired horses and cared for them.

Elrond was headed for the healing ward and as they walked Legolas told of their trip. Motioning for the prince to place his son on the bed, he nodded as Legolas told of the treatments he had provided. Glad to hear that Estel had been conscious for part of the return journey, he made sure Legolas sat down, knowing that there was no chance in getting him to leave. Once acquiring a promise from the Prince to not get in the way, Elrond began to unwrap his son from all the blankets and cloaks placed upon him, then continued with the bandages so he could inspect the wounds.

Elrond began with the side wound; "He was lucky the dagger deflected off a rib, it kept any serious damage from being done." While it was true that it continued to bleed slowly it was due in part to how deep the damage went and the constant movement of the horse. Washing the wound, he then packed it with herbs and bound it again. Moving on to the shoulder, he closed his eyes as the bandages came off. The wound was obviously badly infected, the edges red and swollen, but it was the dark substance that oozed from it that had Elrond really concerned. The wound was poisoned and as Legolas saw it he gasped. "I am sorry, my lord, I did not notice the poison."

"It is well, Legolas, I have seen this poison before and it takes time for it to make itself known. You cleansed the wound and did all you could. I do not fault you." He then set to work on cleaning as much of the dark substance from Estelís shoulder as possible and packed it with the same herbs he had used on the humanís side. Binding the wound he then asked Legolas to get him some water, and prepared a tea to fight the poison, then another cup to help with the illness the man was suffering from. Placing a cold compress to Estelís forehead he tucked the covers in around his son.

Elrond sent Legolas to get some rest in his own room. The prince knew that Elrond would sit with Estel all night, but his concern for his friend kept him in the room. Only after swearing that Estel would make a full recovery, and would sleep the rest of the night, did Legolas finally retire to his room.

Smiling softly as the younger elf left the room, Elrond was glad his son had made friends with the prince. He didnít know exactly what the future held for his son, but he knew that whatever it was, the woodland elf would be a part of it.

It had been a little over a week since their return from the forest and the human was well on his way to a full recovery. It was true that he did still get slightly winded if he overexerted himself, but for the most part the cold was nothing more than a memory and even the residual effects would be gone in another week at most. The stab wounds were almost healed and the poison was no longer a concern.

Legolas found Estel sitting on the balcony gazing out over the valley lost in thought, a blanket draped over his shoulders as the sun made itís way toward the horizon. Sitting down next to the human, Legolas waited, knowing that Estel had something on his mind and that he would speak of it when ready.

After a while, without shifting his gaze, Estel began to speak, "I am sorry I was not strong enough to defend myself against the Orcs. My weakness could have caused us to lose the fight and you could have gotten hurt or even killed, that is unacceptable."

"If it is forgiveness you seek, I can not offer any," Legolas began and watched as Estel flinched at this comment. Placing his hand on the blanket covered shoulder he continued, "There is nothing to forgive, mellon nin. You were ill, and even if you were not, there is no telling what may happen in battle. Even had I been with your brothers or another elf, the outcome was not guaranteed to be different. In all likelihood I would have had two elves to drag home to Lord Elrond instead of one human." Smiling slightly he continued twisting Estelís words around, "Had I not been fighting with a human I may have been injured or killed."

Estel studied him for a moment before grinning, "I suppose you are right, my brothers do seem to attract more trouble than they can handle." Turning serious again he went on to say, "I am sorry I hid the poison from you." He dropped his gaze to the balcony floor and continued, "There was nothing that could be done for it and I... I just didnít want to worry you."

"Oh Estel, I love you even though you are young and naive. I was already worried about you. You are my friend, and the brother of my heart. The only thing that would keep me from worrying about you when you are injured is to see you recover. I will always be there for you, gwador nin."

Estel was silent for a long moment, not knowing what to say. Finally he asked, "Do you really mean that, mellon nin?"

"Yes, Estel, I do. * 'A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born in adversity.' * I think we have been through more than enough dangers to make that statement true, donít you?" The elf smiled and looked down at the human sitting next to him. Making sure the man knew that what he said next was true, he continued, "There is no one else I would rather have by my side."

Their eyes locked and showing more grace and dignity than a seventeen-year-old human should, he replied equally seriously, "I would be honored to call you gwador."

Legolas smiled and nodded. The two fell into a comfortable silence, both watching as the sky turned purple, the last of the suns rays sinking below the horizon.


* 'A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born in adversity.' * (Book of Proverbs, 17:17)

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