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Lord Celeborn watched the sky as night came.

Watched as the soft blackness, covered with glittering stars, chased
the bright daylight away and rested above Lothlorien. Framing his beloved
woods with silvery starlight and the sweet promises of the Moon.

He thought about the Fellowship and their arrival in Lorien.
But where his wife's thoughts were occupied with the implications,
concerned with the larger canvas, the destiny of the lands - his were drifting
towards someone dear to his heart.

He could feel it coming...It stirred in the air.

The time was now, and there was nothing the Lord could do to prevent
it.

Not this time.

His heart was filled with unease. He had always known that it would
happen. That it was unavoidable. But still, he wished...

The Lord closed his eyes and listened.

Through the familiar voice of the wood, the wisdom of the stars reached
down to whisper to his heart. Mingled with the song of the earth, it created
a different tune: There was a threat, yes. And there was a destiny. But
also there was an expectation of joy. Of fulfillment. Of purpose made clear.

Paths that had been chosen a long time ago.

Celeborn opened his eyes with a sense of loss, yet gain. Fear mingled
with joy. An overwhelming feeling that this was all as it should be.
There would be cause for celebration, although sorrow would lie
therein.

****************

Legolas sat on the forest ground and let the drifting, golden leaves
shower him with the scent and peace that was Lorien.

He needed this time alone. To regain his balance, tend his wounds.
To let the air and the earth heal his pain. The loss of Gandalf weighed heavy upon him.
He had thought the Wizard stronger, more eternal than the Golden Woods themselves.
His death meant more than the loss of a good friend; it meant that Legolas' whole world
was disturbed. Even if he himself were immortal, Legolas did not think Death itself
evil. It was natural. He had seen nature reborn, the cycle of life repeat
itself endlessly. It was how it was supposed to be! Death did not scare him,
but never before had he witnessed a seemingly eternal being like Mithrandir
fall. He had to have this time alone, away from the others. To muse upon it,
think it through. If not to understand, then at least accept it, so he could
go on. Unchanged.

He thought of how Gandalf would have loved this place, this hour, this
night. Nature spoke so clearly. The air itself celebrated the forces of
life. The flowers were still blooming; the trees stood tall and proud,
singing to the stars. The grass on the forest floor shone like silver
and the moon hung full and shining in the sky above. Like a mirror of mithril, casting
its veil over the world. Everything made beautiful. Divine...

He rose from his seated position, deciding to go back to the camp. He
felt stronger now. The others would need him. Need his comfort. But as he
passed through the wood he heard the sound of something familiar; a human
rushing through the trees. Partly alarmed, due to the haste of the person, and
partly glad to be able to share his solitude with someone now that he
had regained his balance. Be it Aragorn or Boromir, he did not mind. He
moved quickly between the trunks of the trees, towards the sounds.
It was Aragorn. His face was flushed and held a wild expression. His
fingers were busy; straightening his clothes, adjusting the silver clasps on
his tunic. Legolas was alarmed. Surely, he thought, nobody in Lothlorien could
have dared to assault the man...

As Aragorn passed by him without seeing, Legolas' sensitive nose caught
the unmistakable scent of arousal. It left him standing, baffled and
shocked, bewildered as to what to do next. Should he follow him back to the
camp? Or, if it was so that he had been attacked in any way, should Legolas try
to find those who had disturbed him thus? He decided on the latter course
of action. The raw scent still haunting his mind. Maybe the man wouldn't
want him to know.

He followed the careless track of the man back through the wood. The
silvery moon shone on the path before him. Making it easy for his elven eyes to
follow where Aragorn had run, or stumbled. He had not been steady on
his path. Legolas was worried. He had never seen Aragorn behave like this.
Whatever could have happened to leave the brave, fearless man in such a
state?

Eventually he came upon a clearing. With soundless footfalls, he
entered it. Keeping to the shadows, out of sight. Watchful eyes searched the
knee-high grass. What he saw there surprised him. But it didn't shock him.

He stepped out of the shadows and walked confidently towards the elf in
front of him. A little smile played on his lips. Half amused, half
annoyed.

"Haldir!" he said,"I should have known it was you!"

The naked elf rolled over, exposing himself to Legolas and the Moon.
Marble skin glittering in the pale light. His hair like a river of mithril
over his neck and shoulders.

"Legolas!" A broad smile lit up his face. " My friend!...You found me
at last!" Legolas couldn't help but chuckle. "Welcome back to Lorien,"
Haldir continued. "We have missed you!"

" I have missed you too..."Legolas answered. "But you have to be more
careful! I was ready to point one of my arrows to your head for
upsetting my friend."

"Estel?" Haldir smiled. "Ah...he is guilt-ridden as always. But surely
it will keep his mind from Mithrandir's fall... I help...in my own way..."
Haldir stretched his long-limbed body on the elven cloak, then curled
himself up. His eyes were warm and dark. His expression one of utter
contentment.

Legolas sat down beside him. Legs crossed, bow and arrows in his hands.

"So you are the reason, then" Legolas said, "for the mistrust that I
sense between him and the Evenstar of Imladris?"

His friend nodded slightly. " You should not play with him," Legolas
said. "They are so fragile those two...And he is to be king, you know that!"

Haldir just smiled and nodded again. His fingers found a dry bud on the
ground, he picked it up and tossed it teasingly in Legolas' direction.

"I never play!" he smiled. "When did I ever play with anyone, be it an
elf or a man?"

Legolas laughed again, then he became serious...He played with the
multi-colored feathers on one of his arrows. Fixed his gaze on them
before speaking;

"What I call play, you may call a conquest," he said. "And I know you
always think you have good reasons for what you do, even if those reasons seem
unfair to others. But good intentions do not prevent people from
getting hurt, Haldir."

Haldir sighed and stretched out his body again. One arm across his
forehead while the other one fell limp to his side. His lips and nipples the
color of ripe plums in the dim light.

"Do you think me a child, Legolas of Mirkwood?...And do I not recall
having had this conversation before? Honestly...I was so happy to see you, I
had almost forgotten how annoying you can be!" Haldir's eyes were
glittering with humor. Legolas lifted his gaze and let it rest on Haldir.

" I was looking forward to seeing you too," he replied. "But I do care
for Aragorn. He is carrying a heavy burden. He has so many battles ahead of
him...And he is my friend." Haldir's voice grew soft:

"I care for the Ranger as well, Legolas. Do not doubt that."

Legolas shook his head.

"Do you love Aragorn?" He asked surprised, distrust painted on his
beautiful features.

Haldir rose to a half-sitting position. He was still smiling, still
comfortable:

" Estel is my friend." he stated. " And I love him..."

"...and what you love you must have?"

"Why do you sound so bitter, my friend? Surely the ages must have
taught you something! My heart has many rooms. And there are many kinds of
love...Besides," he added," you know that I love *you* as well. But I
have never tried to persuade you to something like this, have I?"

"No," Legolas smiled. "Should I be flattered?"

"That depends on what you want..." Haldir murmured. His voice, dark and
low.

"Ah...You're hopeless!" Legolas exploded with a wide grin.

"You never could stay angry with me." Haldir teased.

"No," Legolas admitted and looked down in his lap. "But be careful with
Aragorn, will you?"

Haldir rose to his feet and stretched his arms above his head.
Revealing himself in all his elven glory. Legolas did not move a single muscle in
response.

"Why are you so protective toward him, Legolas? Is there something I
should know?"

"No!" Legolas cried out in surprise. "Why...why do you ask me that?"

"Because..." Haldir said with a strange look in Legolas' direction.
"He thought it was you that I wanted tonight."

"What?!" Legolas could not hide his surprise. "Why would he think that?
His expression changed as a realization grew inside of him. "Haldir! What
did you say? What did you tell him?"

"Nothing!" Haldir replied innocently. " I merely looked at you..."

"...And made sure that he saw?"

Haldir smiled:

"And he reacted as a jealous lover," he said." He nearly strangled me
for it..."

"Jealous, yes" Legolas said softly. " But not over me... Can't you see
what
you're doing to him?"

Haldir ignored the last question;

"You should be careful," he said with a smirk. "The man is working up
an appetite for beautiful elven males."

" Haldir..." Legolas pleaded. "Listen to me!" His eyes fought to keep
Haldir's gaze in his. " The Ring is making it even more difficult for
Aragorn to keep mind and soul together. And with the...death...of
Mithrandir still so fresh in his mind...Haldir! Would you let him go... for me?"

Haldir sighed but kept his gaze steady on Legolas'.

"For you," he said at last. "Yes, I will do it for you."

"Thank you!" Legolas said with a soft smile.

Haldir closed the distance between them, bent down and gave Legolas a
soft, chaste kiss on his temple.

" I am glad to see you again, Legolas!" He said and hugged the other
elf tenderly.

"And I you!" Legolas replied and kissed him back. "Now put your clothes
on, you shameless elf!"

Haldir laughed;

" Don't tell me you don't appreciate the sight of a naked elven warrior
under the moon. I know you better than that, Legolas Greenleaf!"
Legolas just smiled.

As he walked around the clearing, picking up his clothes Haldir
suddenly said;

"Arwen thinks me heartless, do you think that as well?"

Legolas carefully weighed his words before speaking;

"I do not think you incapable of loving," he said. " But I am not sure
that you are capable of the love between two as it is counted among elves
and humans."

"Why is that, Legolas?"

"Because I have never seen you lose yourself, totally, completely in
another being. I have never seen you tormented by the sweet, ravaging
thing that is love..."

Haldir came to stand in front of him. His clothes clutched in his
hands.

"Neither have I seen you, Prince of Mirkwood, lose yourself to those
feelings. Does that make you incapable of it?"

Legolas paused;

"I have loved," he said at last. "You just didn't happen to see it..."
Haldir's face was unreadable. Legolas continued, tried to make the
other understand. "If I had come to you willingly in this moment, would you
have enjoyed it at all...Or would you miss the thrill of the hunt?... The
conquest?"

"All would enjoy your company, Legolas. You are beautiful!" Haldir
replied, but his voice was distant, his eyes a blank stare.

"But would you have done it?" Legolas pursued the question. It suddenly
seemed very important to get an answer from the other.

Haldir laced his tunic, fastened his sword.

" No, I could not do that..." he said at last. "Not to you. I love you,
you are my friend."

Several questions, none of them new, came stumbling into Legolas' mind,
but the other elf had left the clearing before he had time to voice any of
them.He was left stuck with the last, most important one: What was wrong
with him? What was so wrong about him, Legolas?

What Haldir loved, Haldir had to have, he knew that. So why not
Legolas? Not that it mattered. Legolas had convinced himself he didn't want
Haldir in that way, not really. Not anymore. But still... Did Haldir think him
unattractive? Was that it? Legolas lifted his hands to his face and
trailed the smooth features with his fingers. Why didn't Haldir want this? Why
had he *never* wanted it?

Embarrassed, Legolas shrugged off the thought. Pride was hardly
suitable for an elf, and definitely not something he wanted to nurture.

~~
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