FIC: "Elf Trouble"
In the first light of dawn, Legolas pulled himself out of bed, feeling more fatigued than he had the night before. His sleep-like state had found him fitful and restless, and for the third night in a row he had fidgeted beneath his sheets, unable to create any sort of peace in his uneasy mind.
Somewhere far off he could hear bells ringing. It was coronation day, the day his friend and comrade Aragorn would be christened Elessar, King of the West.
He pulled off his tunic and walked to the gilded mirror in his room. It was not normal for an elf to perspire in the night, but his long, straight hair was damp. He stared at his reflection, trying to mentally rearrange what he saw, stubbornly unwilling to accept the inevitability of his condition.
There was no denying the truth. He was in trouble.
His male organs had now shrunk alarmingly, pulling back into the crotch below his slightly swollen abdomen. His breasts, too, were swollen, the nipples darkened and pronounced. He laid his right palm over the tumescent belly and rubbed, still wanting to disbelieve what he could now plainly see and feel.
He was with child.
He sat down on the edge of the bed, willing himself not to succumb to feelings of fear and shame. When he had first started to notice the changes in his body and suspect the truth, he had entertained a foolish hope this rare condition might act as a sign of unity for the elves and men who had lived through the War of the Ring, as though his own state could serve some larger purpose. He had allowed himself to believe for just a moment that the man who had sired his child would be moved by this miracle to do something almost never done -- to take a male elf as his mate.
That man was about to be made King.
He remembered too well the one night of passion that had led him to this moment. That night had been well earned by many other nights of fear and danger and death.
Legolas had finally set aside the warnings of his father; since he was a youth he had been told to abstain from intimacy with men -- that coupling with a man could lead to trouble. How many times had his father reminded him that the chemistry between men and elves might appear on the surface to be made up of a special, physical allure, but in reality it was a magnetic draw that would contradict nature itself!
"Never lie with a man!" his father had insisted. "It's best not to befriend them in the first place, but whatever you do, stay away from their beds. Men's ways are foreign to elves and taking their seed could end in disaster."
To his father, cut off (or hiding) in Mirkwood from the portentous recent events of Middle-earth, this pregnancy would be just the disaster he spoke of.
But Legolas had always felt pulled to be at the side of Aragorn, even when the man lived as the Ranger Strider, at that time denying his ties to the throne of Gondor and his destined role as the future King of the West. Aragorn was unlike any elf or any man -- or any being -- Legolas had ever known. He was elf-like in his patience and his forbearance, dwarf-like in his stubborn courage, and completely manly in his beauty and pathos.
Legolas would have followed him anywhere. In fact, he had. He had followed him from Rivendell to Lorien to Rohan and finally, to Gondor. He had followed him into the depths of Moria and later, into the Paths of the Dead, places abhorrent to a man, much less an elf. He had followed Strider, the Ranger, as he became Aragorn, the Leader, to this day when he would become Elessar, the King.
For much of that time, they had traveled hard, sometimes walking, more often running, and riding whenever possible. They had slept outside more than inside, eaten little much of the time and fought in many massive battles and lesser encounters.
Somehow, they had survived.
And they had ultimately found victory, as impossible as it seemed.
When they had finally returned to the White City after the battle at the Black Gate, the reckoning of the dead was horrendous. So many had fallen, and so many others still lay wounded. Aragorn, a gifted healer, spent most of his time in the Halls of Healing tending to all he could. Hundreds of fires burned for many days and nights on the Pelennor Fields, consuming the bodies of the dead, cleansing the land and carrying away the stench of war on clouds of black smoke.
The Steward of Gondor, Faramir, and the shield-maiden of Rohan, Eowyn, were both still recuperating from their respective wounds and had somehow found in one another a cure more spiritual than corporeal; in their shared loneliness, they seemed to have found a spark of hope. The attraction was immediately noticeable, and Legolas sensed the melancholy in Aragorn as he watched the two.
For a time Eowyn had seemed in romantic pursuit of Aragorn, and although the man had long committed himself to Arwen Evenstar, the daughter of Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, he had not been able to completely turn his eye from the courageous, fulsome niece of King Theoden. Legolas wondered if there were any regret in Aragorn now that it seemed he had lost Arwen forever.
But it wasn't something he felt comfortable asking.
As the work of cleaning up the tiered city of Minas Tirith continued and the preparations for the crowning of a new king began, Aragorn seemed at times to be sitting back and watching, like an unwilling spectator.
Finally Legolas could no longer stand by and witness his friend's pain. He set aside his father's warnings about the dangers of intimacy with a man and went to him. He knew what Aragorn needed most, and it was comfort, closeness and love. For the first time in their friendship, it seemed fitting to cling together, wrapped in the warm cloak of the present, refusing to be chilled by the past or buffeted by the future.
He went to Aragorn's room late one night and climbed naked into his bed. Without a word, he pushed his body close to his friend's and reached a hand to his face. First their lips came together, then their bodies.
For that time, they had privacy.
For that time, they had security, a safe place to lie in one another's arms, unafraid of attack or even interruption.
For that time, they had peace -- peace both without and within, peace born of a task completed, a job well done and a victory earned.
For that time, they had passion, a passion more fervid than anything Legolas had ever known, a passion both tender and fierce in the way they reached for one another, clashed their limbs together like weapons, then cradled one another afterward in those same comforting limbs.
For that time, they had each other.
Aragorn needed him, needed what he could give him before any other. After months of being unable to think of anything beyond survival -- the ultimate survival of their respective races and of Middle-earth itself -- they could relax for long enough to look aside from danger and terror and to look inside to their own needs.
For Legolas it probably would have been enough to simply lay in Aragorn's arms, tightly held and for once, coveted. But he knew that Aragorn, a man who had long enough denied his body's needs, required much more. Aragorn needed to lose himself for a while in the fleshy recesses of another physical being.
And Legolas could not pretend he didn't want the same. Even elves required physical love. And how long had he silently wished for a proper time to show Aragorn just how strongly he felt and how physically capable he was of expressing those feelings!
"You are so dear to me, Legolas," Aragorn had told him, using the common tongue. During their long night together, they had spoken mostly in Elvish, except when the talk turned rather earthy.
Now Legolas stretched and smiled as he replied. "I will always be here when you need me. Always."
It was a promise he intended to keep.
And then, soon after, he started to notice the changes in himself. First, his body temperature became irregular, a strange state for an elf. He would find himself uncomfortably warm, even during the cool evenings, or he would find himself suddenly chilled, even on a bright, spring day.
He found his appetite affected. He would be voraciously hungry, craving a bowl of stew with a tangy broth or a bite of his beloved lembas. Then, sometimes in the very middle of the meal, his stomach would suddenly turn and he was unable to finish, or, worse yet, he would finish and be unable to hold the meal down.
Finally, his very mood was affected. He would begin the day feeling lonely and unsure, afraid of what he sensed was happening to him. Later he would start to feel a sense of confidence and even euphoria, excited about his condition and proud of his secret. All too often by nightfall he would give in to despondency or even anger, blaming himself for his weakness, blaming his father for his dire predictions, blaming Aragorn for his potent seed.
He brooded for a time, then he started to study his body, consumed by every tiny change, remembering the tales his father had told.
"If you don't do as I say, you'll find yourself in a world of trouble. There's nothing lower than a male elf with a big belly. No one will have you. Not the elves . . . and not the men. Not even the Orcs! You'll be outcast. I've seen it happen, and I won't have it happen to one of my line."
What would King Thranduil of Mirkwood say now if he saw his son with a swollen belly and male organs shrinking into the recesses of a magic womb?
When he suspected the truth of his strange state, a small part of Legolas wanted to believe it might bring about some welcome change in his world. First, Aragorn's dark moods could be dispelled by the knowledge of his own perpetuation. Although long-lived, Aragorn's years could never rival those of an elf. But offspring bring immortality, even to men.
And since Legolas was the one who offered this special sort of immortality, the spark of Aragorn's seed he carried could cement their bond forever, beyond even death. This was something Legolas had longed for, a longing that probably abetted his pregnancy.
And, hopefully, Aragorn's pining for Elrond's daughter could be abated by his relationship with Legolas.
Legolas even began to fantasize about the possibility of the two comrades joining themselves together officially in a rare public mating between two males, elf and man. He tried to imagine how Aragorn could be convinced of the efficacy of such a pairing, formulating a plan to take his friend aside and tell him the news of the pregnancy on the day of his coronation.
Then Legolas got news of his own.
The day before Aragorn was to be crowned, they had arrived in Minas Tirith -- Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, and his daughter, Arwen, the beloved of Aragorn. Of those close to Aragorn, only Legolas knew of their coming. It would undoubtedly be a wonderful surprise for Aragorn on the day of his coronation.
But for Legolas it was bittersweet. He was happy for Aragorn, but he now knew an announcement of his own condition would not be welcome.
So on the morning of the coronation, he carefully dressed in his silver tunic, using the belt to disguise the changes in his body. He slowly re-braided and brushed his long, golden hair until it gleamed in the spring sunlight glinting in his window. What he now studied in the mirror was his face, and he found it comely, full of peace and promise. He hoped Aragorn would feel the same when he looked on him, before he lost himself in the eyes of Arwen. He longed for that moment.
And the moment had been perfect. For one instant, standing facing one another in the crowded Court of the Fountain, he and Aragorn were the only people in Middle-earth, and their understanding of one another was a bond no other being could break. Crown notwithstanding, this was still Legolas' beloved Aragorn, and there was still a chance he would take the elf in his arms there on the plaza beneath the White Tower of Ecthelion.
But then, as Legolas had foreseen, Aragorn beheld Arwen tucked behind the tall form of Lord Elrond. And it was as if Legolas had faded from view.
So it was now best for him to fade out of Aragorn's life for a time -- for as long as it took to complete his confinement, at least.
After the ceremony, Legolas went to the room of his companion, the dwarf Gimli. He needed to share his secret and find an ally in the person who had become his closest friend.
He stood staring at Gimli, a small smile on his face. Suddenly he was unsure of what to say.
"Why are you staring?" Gimli asked. "Never seen a dwarf in full regalia before?"
Legolas shook his head. "I feel awkward."
"Come in here, laddie. What's ailing you?"
Taking a place in one of the larger chairs in Gimli's room, Legolas sat back and sighed. "I don't know how to tell you. But I have to tell someone. I need your help."
It was difficult to discern, but Gimli's hirsute face seemed to take on a softer expression. "Whatever it is, you can count on me."
Legolas sat forward, his long hair fanning out. "I'm in trouble."
Gimli hobbled forward, tossing a decorative sword out of the way. "Out with it. What's the trouble?"
How could he explain it to Gimli -- how could he tell what he had done without betraying what he had shared with Aragorn?
"I did something impetuous, and now I have to face the consequences."
Gimli made noises of impatience. "What are we talking about?"
"What? You got a child on some woman? Who? I've never seen you pestering any females -- didn't think you were interested all that much. In fact--"
"Gimli," Legolas interrupted. "It's me who's with child."
Gimli's heavy brows seemed to reach for the air above his head. "You? Don't jest, boy! What elf magic is this? I've never heard of it."
Legolas sighed. "It's rare. But it does happen with some males, especially if the tie with the sire is a tight one."
Gimli looked away. "Ahh. I see," he said. "So it's Aragorn's babe."
He knew! Legolas felt he should not be overly surprised by his friend's assumption, but his own denial of his condition was strong enough to make Gimli's awareness even more discomfiting -- almost embarrassing, in fact. Legolas felt himself flush, another symptom of his plight, and while the warmth spread up his neck and face, he found himself unable to comment.
"Does he know?" Gimli asked.
"No! And I don't want him to. He'd be appalled!"
Gimli shook his head. "I doubt that, lad. He's a man of Middle-earth, hardly born yesterday. As uncanny as this is, it's not the strangest thing we've ever seen, is it?"
"I should have listened to my father!" Legolas said, his voice sounding whiny, even to him.
Gimli reached out and squeezed the elf's arm. "There, there. You should try to calm yourself. If you had listened to your father, we never would have met, would we?"
Legolas sprang up, nearly knocking the dwarf over. "I have to get out of here, Gimli. Before everyone knows!"
Harrumphing into his beard, Gimli righted himself. "Have you talked to Gandalf? Maybe he has an idea of what to do."
Legolas shook his head, dismissing the suggestion. "You'll go with me, won't you? We need to go somewhere far away from here."
Gimli was silent, perhaps contemplating what might be the best place for a male elf's confinement. Legolas strode impatiently around the small room.
"Rivendell. We should go there," Legolas announced. "At least if there's anyone left, it will be elves. And it's far enough away."
"So, you plan on telling Lord Elrond, do you?" Gimli asked.
Legolas shot the dwarf a sharp look, eyes narrowing. "Elrond is here in the city, and he'll stay here until the marriage, at least. That probably won't happen for a few weeks. We can get to Rivendell long before him."
Clearing his throat, Gimli said, "And when he returns to Rivendell, we'll tell him then?"
"I'll worry about that later. I can't face him now. It would be worse than trying to tell my own father." Legolas tried to put the thought of Thranduil, King of Mirkwood, out of his head.
"Well, Laddie, this won't be the first time Elrond's heard of a male elf coupling with a man. Just think of those sons of his! Don't tell me those two haven't had an occasion where they--"
Gimli looked strangely at Legolas. "I think there's sweat on your brow," he said. "You really are in a bad way."
"As soon as you can be ready, I want to leave. I need to tell Aragorn some story."
"Isn't he 'Elessar' now?" Gimli asked, his gruff voice a little teasing.
"Whatever he wishes," Legolas said in an exasperated tone. "He'll always be Aragorn to me."
Gimli snapped his short fingers. "Tell him we're going to Erebor. You promised to accompany me there, and we'll say it can't wait. Sorry to miss the wedding!"
Legolas nearly smiled. "Good idea. I knew we'd think of something."
"Yes, of course. We are no fools," Gimli said, emphasizing the "we." Then he climbed up on a chair and motioned the elf toward him. Legolas approached warily.
"Legolas? Do you mind if I touch your breasts?"
Legolas gave him a long look, then sighed and opened his tunic.
"Look at that! Lovely, lovely," Gimli said, stroking the swollen flesh. "I think I'm going to like this condition of yours."
The parting with Aragorn was rather abrupt. Legolas ignored the gentle question in the man's face; in fact, he attempted to ignore those entreating eyes altogether. They had had their moment. Now the new King of the West had a kingdom to run and a marriage to plan. He had no time for the drama of an un-wed male elf. While he had undoubtedly enjoyed the poignant culmination of their heroic pairing, he would probably have many others, both male and female, offering to share his bed. This was the way with kings. And the soon-to-be-queen Arwen Evenstar was considered by many to be the most beautiful female in Middle-earth. Legolas knew better than anyone the years of love and longing Aragorn had experienced since the first time he laid eyes on Elrond's daughter.
He would probably have little time to miss Legolas.
The thought was so bitter, it nearly brought the elf to tears. Silently cursing himself and his erratic emotions, Legolas laid a full pack across the saddle of his horse. He was ready to leave the White City and head north and then west to the legendary elven-refuge founded by Elrond. It had been many months since he had been to Rivendell, the place where the leaders of the respective races of Middle-earth had been summoned to council to discuss the future of their world. There, for the first time, Legolas had stepped forward and garnered the attention of important people like Elrond and Gandalf, pledging his bow to the Fellowship and the defense of the Ring-Bearer. It was a moment that had changed his life -- a relatively young life for an elf.
When Legolas first entered Rivendell, the autumn leaves were falling like burnished snowflakes, and the future of Middle-earth was as chilly as the upcoming winter.
Now it was spring. And by the time winter crept up to the gate of autumn again, Legolas would be the one awaiting an important harvest. Hopefully he could wait in Rivendell.
The two friends made the long journey without incident, meeting few travelers on the roads north. Most of the places they passed had been marked by some battle or encounter, and they noted each one, amazed at how full the past months had been with both elation and despair. Here, for instance, was where they had first met the gallant Eomer, now king of Rohan, who had gifted them with fine horses, rider-less after many bloody battles. Here was where Aragorn had fallen, seemingly dead and lost to Legolas forever, only to later reappear inside the stone walls of Helms Deep. Here was where the brave and doomed Boromir, son of the Steward of Gondor and brother of Faramir, had been laid out in a boat and placed in the River Anduin. Here was the auriferous canopy of Lorien, where they had received the special gifts of Galadriel and Celeborn, including the golden lock of Galadriel's hair that Gimli cherished and carried with him always.
It was as if Middle-earth were crowded with memories of people and incidents from the not-so-distant past, even as the two comrades traveled forward, facing together the uncertainty of their respective futures and that of the child Legolas carried.
They usually rode together and led the second horse, which they burdened with their packs. Gimli had a hard time keeping his seat when he rode alone, and Legolas enjoyed having his small friend on the saddle in front of him, nestled against his burgeoning belly; it made him feel as if his unborn child were being especially well protected.
As the days passed, Legolas' body slowly changed. While he retained his firm musculature, his breasts and belly grew enough that he was forced to make minor alterations to his clothing to keep himself comfortable. Gimli seemed to enjoy watching his friend's figure evolving and often made pointed comments. Depending on his mood, Legolas might find Gimli's remarks either incredibly rude or somewhat amusing. Occasionally, he even found himself flattered by Gimli's attentions.
When they slept under the trees and the nights were cool, the dwarf snuggled against Legolas' back, one hand reaching around to stroke a swelling breast. When it was warmer, Legolas would push Gimli away, still suffering from his fluctuating body temperature. Then, chilled from the dampness of his inevitable night sweats, he would turn and pull the dwarf back to him.
Gimli never seemed to mind.
On the occasions Legolas was forced to dismount, lean over and retch up a meal, Gimli stood next to him on tiptoe, holding his long hair and stroking his neck. Legolas was amazed at how solicitous the dwarf could be; he couldn't have asked for a more caring companion in this trying time.
When Legolas was forced to stop for a call of nature and run into the woods to relieve his bladder or bowel, Gimli was especially amused. For this first time in his life, Legolas was unable to govern his body's elimination of waste, and as much as it vexed him to have no control over the choice of time and place, it seemed to please his friend.
"Don't worry, lad. You'll get used to it," Gimli said with a laugh.
And on the infrequent evenings when Legolas longed for the baby's sire and grieved that every mile took him farther from Aragorn, Gimli sat close to him, holding his hand, sometimes crooning in a low tone.
"Look at all the nuisance you're causing, little one. You're more like a dwarf than an elf, giving your poor father -- or is it mother? -- all this aggravation. You are, indeed, nothing but trouble."
Gimli took to speaking directly to the child, sometimes in a near-whisper, and a few times even Legolas' sharp elven ears couldn't discern what was being said.
And so the odd pair -- dwarf and expectant male elf -- made their way back to the genesis of the quest they started months earlier as two of the original nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring.
It was summer when they arrived in Rivendell.
The great elven-refuge nestled below the Misty Mountains was an even more beautiful sight to Legolas than it had been when he arrived there for the Council of Elrond. Without the threat of Mordor casting an evil influence from afar, the city seemed more of a celebration of beauty and good living than a site for a conclave of world leaders or a hiding place from impending danger. Certainly it was far from bustling, as so many of the elves had taken their leave of both Rivendell and Middle-earth, setting sail for the Undying Lands. And, with the master of Rivendell away, the place seemed even less like the one Legolas remembered.
But it was, after all, a home for elves and a place to come and wait for the arrival of his baby in some peace and isolation. And so the sight of the falling water and the high, airy structures filled Legolas with elation.
The few elves still inhabiting Rivendell were warily welcoming to the pair. While Gimli had certainly proven himself an invaluable ally, he was nonetheless a dwarf; and the tension between dwarves and elves had not dissipated overnight. Legolas requested the two be quartered together, and as members of the Fellowship, a lovely home next to the house of Elrond was made available.
The first place Legolas visited after settling in and resting was the grave of Aragorn's mother. Months earlier he had looked on as Elrond and Aragorn stood at this very spot, just before the Fellowship set out on their quest. He had wondered then what it had been like for Aragorn to be a man raised among elves. Now he reflected on what it had been like for this woman to carry Aragorn in her womb the way he now held the man's seed in his own. At the grave he found some peace and began to contemplate his future and that of his child.
Would the child choose to live as a man or as an elf?
As time passed, the two were accepted and even embraced by the elves of Rivendell. They stayed together in their ornate home, enjoying the mild summer weather, the good food and the serene surroundings. They slept in the same bed, finding comfort in the closeness, just as they had nestled together at night on the long journey. Legolas borrowed books from Elrond's library, and often he read aloud to Gimli.
Legolas' belly and breasts grew, and while his nausea and temperature swings abated, his back and legs would sometimes ache from the strain of carrying the extra weight. Gimli would rub his sore muscles with a soothing balm, often stopping to fondle the swollen breasts.
"Those are the most beautiful I've seen on male or female!" Gimli said. "They've improved your looks immensely."
The serenity and acceptance that had begun for Legolas at the grave of Aragorn's mother slowly grew during their stay in Rivendell. He began to believe that he was not only resigned to his condition, he was pleased with it. While he had given up the fantasy of being joined to Aragorn, he started to be curious about what it would be like to have a child. He even began to believe he would now be unafraid to tell his father about his pregnancy.
Then Elrond returned to Rivendell.
It was a late summer afternoon, and Legolas and Gimli sat together on the terrace of their house, enjoying the temperate day and a glass of cordial. Below them in the city the very air suddenly seemed to vibrate with excitement, and Gimli went to the railing of the porch and squinted down to see what was happening.
Legolas looked up from the large book he was reading. "What is it?" he asked. "A visitor?"
Gimli shrugged. "Who can say with elves? Perhaps someone has discovered a new kind of bird."
Smiling to himself, Legolas returned his attention to his book. Then Gimli cleared his throat pointedly just as a long shadow fell across one page. Legolas looked up to see the Lord of Rivendell standing over him.
Legolas pulled the book tightly to his body, glad it was large enough to cover his swollen stomach. Elrond stood there, tall and formidable, his brows arched and mouth tight. Legolas swallowed nervously. He had been unaware of Elrond's approach; his elven senses had been somewhat dulled of late, probably another effect of his pregnancy.
"Lord Elrond," he began. "You've returned."
"It seems so," Elrond said.
"Yes, welcome home," Gimli said, moving from foot to foot, as agitated as Legolas himself. "It's so good to see you."
Elrond shot the dwarf a look. "Is it? I thought I heard you had gone to Erebor."
Gimli attempted a smile. "We changed our minds."
"We told an untruth," Legolas corrected. "We thought there was good reason at the time."
Elrond leveled his gaze on Legolas; the two elves studied one another, their eyes locked. Warmth crept up Legolas' face under the power of Elrond's scrutiny. He knew! Undoubtedly he had already been told by the elves below about the strange pair -- a dwarf and an elf with a decidedly swollen belly.
"Come to my house so I can examine you," Elrond commanded. He started down the terrace steps to the walkway between the two houses.
The two friends followed without argument.
Elrond's hands were those of an expert healer. He pressed here and there on the young elf, pushing against the firm skin of the swollen belly until he was answered by a fluttering kick, squeezing both dark nipples until each offered up bubbles of fluid, lifting the stub of Legolas' male organ and poking a finger behind. Legolas found he did not mind the examination; in fact, he welcomed it. He imagined he was not the first pregnant male elf Elrond had seen, and as they conversed he found he was right. The knowledge and skill Elrond had amassed over his long life both impressed and relieved Legolas.
Elrond could list the names of many well-known elves grown in masculine wombs. He himself had handled several male deliveries, and he declared Legolas to be healthy and probably very near to his time, judging by the size of his belly.
While it surprised Legolas to think the time had come so soon, it also excited him. Before long he would have a child!
Gimli was as curious as Legolas himself, and he watched every examination closely and asked many questions. Elrond patiently responded to the dwarf.
"How will the babe come?" Gimli asked one day. "Will you have to make a cut?"
Elrond shook his head. "No. The womb has grown from the inside out. A portal was formed when Legolas' organs regressed. The womb and the opening have both grown gradually, and when the time comes, it will be sufficient." Elrond's eyes smiled at Gimli. "The opening will close when the male organs drop. And then Legolas will be returned to the beautiful elf you love."
Gimli's eyes widened. "Oh. Yes . . . That's very well," he said awkwardly.
Reclining on a nearby couch, Legolas leaned forward to catch Gimli's eye. "Gimli, Elrond and I need to speak together for a moment."
Gimli nodded. "Yes. Good idea. I'll see you at supper." He left the room, his short legs more than adequate to carry him quickly away.
Elrond took a seat next to Legolas. "What is it?" he asked.
Looking up at the tall, dignified elf, Legolas took a deep breath. "Elrond, this is not Gimli's child. Surely you know that."
One eyebrow shot up on Elrond's face, but he said nothing.
Legolas cupped his abdomen. "This is the seed of Aragorn," he said. "Of Elessar."
Elrond drew in his breath, his eyes suddenly unfocused. "What a fool I've been!" he said. "This is why your belly is already so ripe!" A large furrow appeared between his brows. "How could I not have recognized the spark of Isildur when I touched your flesh?"
"I suppose it was a natural mistake, with how close I am to Gimli. Perhaps the other elves think the same."
Nodding, Elrond said, "Yes. They do. And a child between an elf and a dwarf is almost unheard of."
"No wonder they found us so strange."
Elrond walked to the window and stared out. "The heir of Elessar . . ," he said, as if to himself.
Legolas stared at the ornate carvings of the chair next to him. "This illegitimate baby is no heir to anyone! Your daughter will carry the heir of Elessar. What difference does it make whether he knows about this child?"
Legolas was surprised at his own sudden jealousy. He had never felt anything but pleasure at the pairing of Aragorn and Arwen; he had always felt himself an ally to their love. Now the thought of them together was bittersweet -- more bitter than sweet.
"What difference?" Elrond asked loudly. "There is a great difference! The son you carry may grow to become King!"
"Yes," Elrond said. "The child is male, I feel that. I cannot fathom how I did not sense the spark of Elessar in him."
Legolas dropped his head and hugged his belly. "My father warned me against coupling with a man. He hinted this might happen, but I ignored him. And now I'm in this trouble."
"Trouble? What backwoods talk is this?" Elrond demanded. "Are the elves in Mirkwood still so ignorant and rustic? This child is a great gift, not something to be dreaded! And his father has a right to know about him immediately."
"I was dishonest with Aragorn. I kept the truth about this baby from him. How can I face him now? How can I tell him?" Legolas rubbed his hot face with his hands.
Elrond sat down next to the young elf and stroked the silken hair of the bowed head. He sighed. "Leave with despair," he said. "We will tell him together. After the babe comes, we will travel to Gondor and place him in the hands of his father. It will be a fitting offering for a new king."
Legolas looked gratefully at the Lord of Rivendell, his eyes brimming with tears. "Yes, I want him to see his son." He stared past Elrond, imagining Aragorn's face when the man first beheld his child.
"I want that very much."
Elrond sighed. "It might be a good idea for me to examine you again, knowing as I do now that you carry the seed of man. You'll have a little longer to wait than I originally thought."
The wait proved to be an easy one. Under the watchful eye and caring ministrations of Elrond, the rest of Legolas' confinement went smoothly, with little discomfort. Legolas and Gimli watched the seasons change in Rivendell; once again autumn reigned, turning the colors of the city to brown and green and orange. Now Legolas and Gimli huddled together at night for warmth as much as comfort. There was a hint of winter in the night air when Legolas was awakened by a sharp cramp. He felt pressure in his belly and had a strong urge to run to the privy. He turned over and shook awake a snoring Gimli.
"Get Elrond," he said. "It's my time."
Gimli scurried away to find the healer, while Legolas lay, breathing deeply. Two elves came to help Legolas to Elrond's house. In the large Hall of Fire there were several cushions arranged near the hearth. Here Elrond stood waiting, as though he had already known of the child's impending arrival.
Word of Legolas' labor spread through Rivendell, and the elves made themselves busy with a myriad of unnecessary details while their Lord tended to his business. Gimli was underfoot, trying not to let go of his friend's hand and ignoring Elrond's impatient glare.
"Make yourself useful, master dwarf," Elrond said. "You will catch the baby. You're perfectly made for the task."
"Yes. Get behind Legolas while I position him for birth," Elrond ordered, helping Legolas to squat on one of the cushions.
Gimli's eyes were huge. "What if I drop it?"
"You will not drop him! Be brave," he said with a smile.
And so the first arms to cradle the son of Aragorn and Legolas were those of a dwarf, who grinned and crooned as he held the squalling baby, tracks of tears wetting his beard.
Elrond gently washed Legolas' lower body and helped him to a nearby divan. One of the elf attendants used a cloth to clean the child, while Gimli whispered softly to him.
"Hand the babe to Legolas so he may give suck," Elrond told Gimli.
Gimli placed the tiny child in Legolas' arms. "He's beautiful," he marveled. "He's golden, just like you."
Legolas felt the tug at his nipple; a strange euphoria filled him as his milk came.
"What will we call him?" Gimli asked.
"His father will have some say in that," Elrond said. "After we return to Gondor, we'll have a naming ceremony."
Gimli pulled a stool and climbed up close to the divan so he could reach the child. "I think I will call you trouble, little one. For that's what you've been up to now!"
Elrond's eyebrow shot up. "Trouble? Why do you use that word?" He shook his head, looking more disapproving than usual.
"It's a joke between us," Legolas explained. "He means no harm by it."
Elrond turned away. "Trasta . . ," he murmured.
Gimli gave his friend a quizzical look. "It's the Sindarin word for trouble," Legolas explained. "Trasta."
Patting the baby on the top of his flaxen head, Gimli began to chuckle. "That's what I'll call you then. Trasta-las. My little trouble-maker."
Elrond gave a sigh of resignation. "Not a very appropriate nickname for a possible king. But then," he added, a smile in his eyes, "trouble sometimes brings out the best in a man -- or an elf."
Legolas sighed, silently agreeing. He watched his son feeding with a sense of awe, almost disbelieving that the little being had come from inside him. Tiny hands kneaded his breast, and he reached a finger out to touch one of them, marveling at its strength of purpose. When the eyes of the baby opened, he saw they were Aragorn's eyes.
"Do you think we can cross the mountains before winter sets in?" he asked Elrond.
The tall elf nodded. "You and the babe have done well. We can leave within the week."
"Good," Legolas said, smiling over at Gimli. "When we pass Mirkwood I'll send word to my father. He needs to come and meet his grandson."