title: Bonds of Brotherhood
fandom: Lord of the Rings
characters/pairings: Aragorn/Arwen, Aragorn/Legolas, Eowyn
rating: G/Teen
warnings: kissing, snuggling
summary: Aragorn is questioned on his love of elf-kind.
notes: this is set entirely in the continuity of the movie Two Towers, because i haven't read the books yet, so i don't know anything about the characters, situations, etc of the books. this is inspired by the look on Eowyn's face when she realizes that Aragorn's love is an elf, and from the realization (after repeated viewings, natch! ^_^ ) that Eowyn and Legolas share no interaction at all in the movie.

It was the sorriest march Aragorn had ever had the misfortune of participating in, no matter how much he admired the Rohan people. Theoden had made his choice, and Aragorn respected his authority, but if it were up to him, they would not be stopping, not even for the night. The sooner they got these women, children, and farmers out of danger and into the relatively safe Deep, the better. It would also give them more time to prepare for the inevitable onslaught.

But, Theoden was quick to remind that Aragorn was not king here, and, truth to be told, despite history and destiny, Aragorn had no desire to be king here. Better to let another man make a wrong choice than to make the right one yourself, and have to defend it.

Aragorn steadfastly ignored the voice whispering in elvish inside his head, sounding remarkably like Arwen, chastising him for his weakness.

"My lord Aragorn."

He almost kept walking, so enwrapped in his own thoughts as he was, but he stopped abruptly, turning only slightly to greet Eowyn. "My lady. How fare you on this dark night?"

Eowyn made a gesture with her hands and mouth that could have been anything from dismissive to disgusted. "Our people are secured for the night. Everyone has shared what they have, so that we may all eat enough to keep up our strength. At times like these, it is almost more than we could ask for."

Her failing attempts to keep up good cheer endeared her enough to Aragorn that he turned to face her fully, and even stepped closer to her. "And how fare you on this dark night?"

Her smile faltered for only a second, and she tilted her face down a little to hide it. "I am glad that the people are well."

Aragorn nodded slowly, the small smile that played with his lips whenever he spent time with this remarkable maiden in full force. He was almost ready to step away when she moved closer to him.

"My lord... Will you stop awhile and rest? You and your allies took the first watch, did you not? You should rest a spell. You will not be any good to us tomorrow if you do not rest tonight."

She took his arm and drew him to a nest of blankets she had set up. He allowed her to place him the middle, simply because it wasn't worth his effort to defy her.

"I do not sleep easily, I am afraid, my lady. But I am grateful for your offer."

Eowyn sighed silently, her eyes narrowed in concentration. "May I ask where you were going if not to find someplace to rest?"

Aragorn considered the horizon. "I have not seen Legolas since the march came to a stop. He was guarding the rear flank. Have you seen him?"

If Eowyn had been born a cat instead of a girl, the hair on her back would have been standing on end. As it was, she stiffened, turning her face from Aragorn as she busied herself arranging some stacks of blankets into something of a pillow. "Your elf friend? I don't suppose anyone has seen him."

Aragorn felt his own spine stiffen, but he was fortunately much slower to lose his temper than his 'elf friend,' even when he suspected that there was an affront. "How do you mean?"

Eowyn smiled at Aragorn again, but it wasn't the same smile that he was used to seeing on her. "I suppose you must have spent a great deal of time amongst the elf-kind. I certainly have never met a man who could speak elvish as well as you can." There was no mistaking the bitterness in her voice on that last note, but she still smiled and shrugged airily.

"I have had the fortune to stay at Rivendell, and other elf-lands." He spoke guardedly, cautious and uncertain. He was a man of action, who preferred to know who his friends were at all times. Eowyn was still an ally, and Aragorn knew that whatever hostility she was venting was probably more stress than anything else.

Eowyn shook her head dismissively. "You have many friends amongst the elf-kind. That is... admirable. But surely you do realize that most elf-kind do not look favorably upon the world of man."

Aragorn did not respond, merely focused more intensely on Eowyn's face.

She cleared her throat, and carried on, keeping her eyes down. "Well, your elf friend for example. He is always so distant, so cold... I dare say he has not yet exchanged more than four words with anyone save yourself and Gimli."

"Perhaps," Aragorn offered, slowly, as if he were considering his words carefully, "it is because he does not feel welcomed."

Eowyn blushed, finding the words sticking in her throat a little as she tried to speak again. "I... I certainly do not mean to speak ill of your friends. But... being so... attached to, and accepted by elf-kind, you probably do not see how... how elf-kind treats man. I... I should not have spoken, I am sorry, I didn't mean to..."

"Speak plainly," Aragorn advised quietly, "and do not fear to speak your mind."

Eowyn gained her courage as she met Aragorn's eyes. "Many men are enamored with elf-kind. It is not uncommon. Elf-kind is tall, and beautiful... but they are not of our world, Aragorn. They are immortal, and untouchable. They behave as if they are superior to us, and sneer upon man whenever they can. There is a reason there is no longer a bond between the world of man and elf-kind, Aragorn. And it is dangerous to put too much trust in elf-kind."

Aragorn considered her words carefully, nodding slowly. "Have you ever met an elf before Legolas?"

Eowyn went silent for a moment, her whole body completely still as she stared off into space. She opened her mouth several times before she actually spoke. "Forgive me, my lord Aragorn. You must... must think so little of me."

Aragorn smiled, and unexpectedly brushed a lock of hair away from her face, tucking it neatly behind her ear. "You know my opinion of you, Eowyn. Nothing could change who you are."

She blinked, seven times, before lowering her eyes. Aragorn would have to have been dead not to notice how lovely she appeared when a blush stained her cheeks. "You shame me, my lord. I suppose... I was thinking... Just that, well. I suppose that I was feeling jealous of the lady that gave you that jewel." Her eyes fixed upon Arwen's gift, though she moved not a muscle to touch it. "As you say, I have never met an elf before Legolas, but seeing how... he surpasses all men that ever I had seen, and with all the songs and poems that wax eloquently on the fairness of the elf-maiden..." She raised her eyes and openly asked Aragorn, "How is a maiden from the world of man to compete with an elf?"

Aragorn tapped her nose gently with his forefinger. "We should not compete with our elven allies, especially now. We need all the friends that we can gather."

He smiled again as he stood and took his farewell of her with a single wave of his hand.

Aragorn wandered away from the camp, meandering closer to the river to think, when the lilting tones of elvish tickled his ears.

"She does not like me."

Aragorn fought the slight sense of unease that was climbing up his throat. Replying in unconsciously perfect elvish, "She does not know you."

Legolas raised one eyebrow, elegantly expressing his disbelief. "It would not matter. She does not like my kind."

Uncomfortable, Aragorn sat beside Legolas, close enough so they could whisper the elvish between them, unheard by anyone else. "There are those among your kind who are not fond of world of men, either."

Legolas sighed, breathily. "You like her."

The hint of disapproval was not lost on Aragorn. "I admire her."

Legolas looked away, hiding his eyes. "That is quite plain."

Aragorn tilted his head to the side, wishing it were dawn already so that he could see his friend's face more clearly. "Have I done something wrong?"

Legolas did not reply, but he lowered his head a mere fraction of an inch. After a pause long enough to fill the silence with the songs of the crickets, "I would not speak, for fear of speaking harsh words that could not be unsaid."

"If I must hear a harsh word," Aragorn replied, "I would rather hear it from you than from any other."

"I am older than you can fathom, even knowing the number of winters I have seen. I have lived mostly in the company of my fellow elves. If we are anything as a people, we are constant." Legolas paused, his face turning fractionally toward Aragorn. "If there is any cause for censure, it is most likely of me, for judging too quickly. But..." His eyes rose to meet Aragorn's, and he lifted his hand to touch the jewel dangling from Aragorn's neck. "I cannot help but feel that you forget my kinswoman too easily."

Aragorn caught Legolas' hand at his chest, and took a moment to appreciate the fine, incomparable texture of elvish skin. Eowyn was right about some things; no woman born in to the world of man could match the quality and beauty of any elf. "I dream of Arwen every night. Sometimes, I dream of times we have been together, and things that I wished I had not said. Sometimes, I dream that she is with me, and the dream is so rare and perfect I fear the light that will wake me. She lingers in my thoughts like the mist over a bog, so integrally a part of my psyche is her memory."

"Forgive me, Aragorn," Legolas pleaded with him in gentle elvish, "I knew that I should not have spoken."

"No," Aragorn shook his head, leaning closer to Legolas, breathing the clean scent off the elf's hair. "I am a man, and weak, perhaps, in contrast to an elf. I am in need of comfort, Legolas. I... I will never see Arwen again."

Such despair colored every word, that they felt black to Legolas' ears. He slipped an arm around Aragorn's shoulders, and was not at all surprised when Aragorn leaned closer still to him. Legolas flattened his palm over Aragorn's heart. "She will be with you always, my friend. She will never leave your heart."

Aragorn shut his eyes, and pushed aside the image of Arwen that automatically appeared. "I told her to leave, though she wanted to stay and wait for me. I thought... it was the honorable thing to do. The proper thing to do. But... when I think of how we shall never touch or speak again, a blackness fills my belly and I want to fall on the ground and die. So I try to not think about it, but... I wish that I had asked her to stay. I wish... I wish that I asked her to join us on this quest! And even as I speak the words, I cannot regret the selfishness behind them. I would even subject her to the terror and the fear we are about to face in Helm's Deep, if only I could hold her in my arms once more."

Legolas put aside all semblance of decorum, and took Aragorn firmly into his embrace. "Aragorn... Though I have lived and outlived you many times over, I must confess... I have never been one given to romance. I have always found the bonds of brotherhood to be the strongest over my heart. But... " He lifted Aragorn's face, brushing his long thumbs over the stubble on Aragorn's cheeks. "Whatever comfort I have to offer is yours."

They sat in the moonlight, only a feather's breadth apart, before Legolas closed the distance.

Aragorn had the unique experience of realizing that not only did male and female elves smell alike, and feel alike, but they tasted alike as well. Simultaneously, he was forced to concede that Eowyn was right, and that he was enamored of elves.

They separated, their mouths still in contact, their foreheads resting on each other's. Legolas brought them to rest on the ground slowly, cradling Aragorn loosely in his arms.

"You know, Aragorn... for a man, you are not so weak." Legolas spoke directly into Aragorn's ear, brushing aside a few dirty locks of hair as he did. "In fact, the reason that Gimli and I have followed you and continue to follow you still is because of your strength."

Aragorn closed his eyes, not responding to Legolas' unfounded statement.

"It never once occurred to you to take the ring from Frodo, did it?"

That did surprise Aragorn. He opened his eyes, and angled his face so that he could see Legolas. "You thought to take the ring?"

Legolas smiled, almost as if he were smiling at a younger brother. "It passed through my thoughts, I must confess. I daydreamed about power and dominion. I would sooner have sliced off my arms and legs than to make even the slightest move on Frodo, but it did cross my mind." His eyes glinted in a faraway manner. "But it never touched your thoughts, did it? If you could, you would toss away the ring you do have..."

Aragorn looked over Legolas' shoulder, to the black waters wafting back and forth, catching the light of the moon as it seduced the shore.

"That is why we have taken you as our liege, Aragorn. I trust you more than I would trust myself, and I care for you more than I care for my brothers." Legolas curled around Aragorn, settling in to sleep the night through. "Whatever solace it can offer, you should know that your friends will be by your side through whatever there is to come."

Aragorn closed his eyes, shifting his face so that his nose was buried in the pool of fine, blonde hair at Legolas' neck. "You humble me, my friend."

"Anytime, Aragorn." Legolas' smirk was visible plainly in the moonlight. "Anytime."

Aragorn chuckled quietly, falling quickly into pleasant dreams of Arwen and Legolas.