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Author's Chapter Notes:
This story is part of the Naked Yule Challenge: a challenge for Peppy, which required the fic to include: Aragorn, Legolas and Glorfindel; a naked elf; a horse; snow; a confession; and a Christmas image such as a tree, Yule log, holly, wisemen, drummer boys, etc.

Coordinated by Nieriel Raina and Fiondil.
Blush
By Nea’s World


Aragorn was trying hard not to blush.

He was a ranger. The Lost King of Men. He was a man, and not a boy. He could track a shadow across a plain. He had tamed wild horses and rode in the way of elves. He spoke more languages than most thought healthy. He had a wizard for a friend. He was sort of engaged to an elf. He did not blush!

Or so he kept repeating, and continued to fail. He had managed to keep from blushing too terribly red, but elven eyes would notice even the slight staining of his cheeks.

At least now he knew why Elladan and Elrohir had sent him to tell Legolas about the evening’s plans.

It hadn’t even seemed like an unusual request at the time. A little odd, yes, but not overly unusual. As a lad he’d felt important when given small tasks to be accomplished, and several of his surrogate family seemed incapable of seeing him as an adult, even now.

He supposed he couldn’t blame them, really. All old beyond any chance he had to know the same, so his thirty-odd years were of little importance to them.

Still. To send him unwittingly into…

He blushed again.

“How far did you go this time?”

Aragorn blinked.

“You went north? I believe that’s the general direction Elladan gave,” Legolas added absently, his head tilted to the side as he studied his open wardrobe.

Aragorn tried, as discretely as possible, to clear his throat. He still squeaked. “Yes. I met up with the last remnants of my kin and stayed with them for the winter.”

“A change from what you’re accustomed to, I’m sure.”

“Yes,” he agreed, thinking briefly of small fires fighting the howling wind—and of the large fires of the halls he’d grown up in. “I feel like I aged three winters in one.”

Legolas glanced back, and nodded just slightly. “Your face bears some aging.”

“You haven’t seen me in three years,” Aragorn countered dryly.

An amused smile quirked the elf’s lips. “I’m able to count the passing of the seasons, Estel.” The fine head tilted slightly. “You are still Estel,” he added, seeing the slight shift of emotions in Aragorn’s eyes.

“Yes.”

“And no.”

Aragorn nodded. “And no,” he agreed. “Part of me will always be here…”

“But even if you don’t like it, part of you will always be out there, as well, looking after the people you never knew were yours to look after.”

A grimace.

“It is understandable.”

And he understood. Aragorn nodded. “I feel out of place in both worlds.”

“Perhaps because you view them as separate worlds.”

“Are they not?” Aragorn asked wryly. “Most humans don’t even believe elves exist. Or at least, no longer in the world. If I say I was raised among them…” he shook his head.

“There are many great and obvious differences,” Legolas conceded. “But many things are the same.”

“Like what? Humans don’t do anything as elves do!”

“Love?”

Aragorn stilled. He had seen many examples of love while wandering. Seen it held as the most precious possession… seen it perverted into something sick and dark.

A darkness, a sickness, that would not come naturally to an elf.

Suddenly, though, Erestor’s voice rose up from the creaky confines of his old history lessons, and a few names and dark stories arose. Stories of love—of murder, of madness. Of elves.

“Perhaps,” he admitted slowly, frowning.

“Hate?”

With even more hesitance, he nodded.

“Not so different, then. Clothing, yes. Customs, certainly. But as long as the heart remains unchanged… You will find your way, your place.” A small smile turned Legolas’s eyes, hiding again the shadows of knowing things Aragorn had forgotten, but Estel had known.

Being in the wild, left in the cold and often alone, it had been easy to forget that even elves are not perfect. While they are given a long time to appear so to the world, that time also gave them many opportunities for mistakes, for bitterness.

Aragorn bowed his head, feeling a slight bit of the overwhelming weight on his shoulders ease.

The door slammed open, startling both into turning sharply.

Glorfindel stood braced in the door, his robes open and slipping over his shoulders, his hair falling out of the queue he’d pulled it back into for the day, his undershirt’s hem showing beneath his tunic. He panted, strands of wild gold hair drifting about in the wind of his arrival. “Es…tel…” He lifted a hand to point vaguely, then clutched his chest. “Help… stop…” He paused, dropped his head, and took several deep breaths before attempting to explain again. “The twins are trying to welcome you back…”

Asfoloth stuck his nose into Legolas’s room, looked around, and then went back to mouthing the tapestry beside the door.

“What is Asfoloth doing in the hallway?” Aragorn asked, blinking at the frazzled elf.

“He… Well, I was tired of running.”

Aragorn shook his head, and looked back at Legolas. “I’m asleep, right?”

Legolas shrugged helplessly, looking so unsettled at the turn of events that Aragorn felt vindicated for his own confusion.

“What are the twins doing?” he finally asked, still half-sure he would wake up soon. He pinched the bridge of his nose.

“They’re trying to convince everyone they’re in the festive spirit, but I think they’ve gone mad! They’re marching around beating on pans, claiming they’re ‘little drummer boys’!” Glorfindel ran a shaking hand through his bedraggled hair. “What in Eru’s name are they doing?”

Aragorn groaned, rolled his eyes at the ceiling, and left, patting Asfoloth as he went. The horse stomped a hoof, letting his characteristic jingle fill the hall.

Glorfindel and Legolas blinked at each other for a long moment. “Legolas…”

“Yes?”

“Why are you naked?”
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