Sparks of Hope by the_arc5

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Story Notes:

Theme: Young and Old
Elements: charming, cheerful, quiet, tender, steady
Word Count: 1568
Author's Notes: First Faramir, and now Legolas. This weird POV thing is really getting to me. All you people who write elves as a matter of course...I should probably apologize for this in advance. And it may not be strict canon, but Tolkien never said it didn't happen, so...


The whole world grows silver and gold here, a cacophony of shadows and light. There is no brushing where earth ends and sky begins, no disharmony betwixt water and stone. The sharp tang of soft soil kisses the sweeter scents of the trees, and the clean breath of the stream embraces them both. Outside, the world groans with the weight of darkness, but it has not yet touched this place. The Lady's wood grows silver and gold, and the panicked speed of the quests of mortals drops away.

Legolas breathes, feels the slow touch of the trees, and greets the forest as the forest greets him: ponderous, quiet, alive.

When night sinks through the leaves and bids them all rest, he spares a thought for his companions. They nestle amongst the roots of the unchanging trees, more elf-like than they suppose, and sleep, pressed to the earth. So quickly do they sleep, even in these grief-stricken days. Quick to sleep, quick to wake, and Legolas wonders, as he has before, how they ever truly rest at all. He presses his own back to bark and watches, the echoes of a lament in his ears. The trees have seen longer seasons than he, but he has known pain enough, and he lets the sadness wash through him in a voice as old and deep as the forest itself. This is his lament, a hurt that does not lend itself to song; instead, he is still, and remembers, and grieves for a life sacrificed.

By and by, the stillness breaks.

Outlined darkly against the pale trees is a small, white figure, broken away from the nest of his fellows. Legolas tenses against his tree, the unnecessary urge to protect and defend overcoming his usual rationale. One companion lost is too many, and the loss of one of these small ones seems unforgivable. There is nothing to fear, the forest whispers in tongues long forgotten, but the sadness is too near, and speaks in a voice of its own. Legolas watches, eyes too sharp for the dead of night, ears too attuned to the forest's hush. He feels the shadow of war on himself, and in this peaceful place, he feels stained.

The figure crumples, falls to the earth.

Legolas is standing before even summoning the movement, weaving between the sleepers as lightly as a south wind. The figure shows no sign of hearing his approach, but does not startle at the touch on his shoulder. The Moon peers through the leaves, shedding a silver glow over a tear-stained face.

"Pippin."

His voice summons a low cry from the hobbit, and Legolas's arms are suddenly full. Pippin clings to him like a leaf to a branch, shuddering and trembling as if buffeted by wind. Sobs shake his small body, and Legolas remembers, with the force of a knife wound, what it means to be young. He cradles Pippin in manners only half-recalled, sinking to the ground to hold him better.

"I'm afraid," Pippin gasps into his shoulder, clinging tight to Legolas's tunic with both fists. "So afraid. What will become of us?"

There is no answer, and Legolas offers none. He tightens his arms and gives Pippin what comfort he can, the stoic unchangeability of the earth and trees. But Pippin is all movement, hitching shoulders and clenching fists and heaving breaths, and Legolas knows that a stolid tree is not what is needed here.

"Why do you not speak to Merry?" he asks softly, too low to disturb the others. Pippin pulls back from his shoulder, eyes wary and uncertain.

"I can't," he hisses. "They already regret bringing me along, all of them. If Frodo's not on about how young I am, Merry is worried about taking me from the safety of the Shire, and I swear, I don't know how Sam does it, but he manages Frodo and me like we were faunts yet, and he's halfway to doing the same to Merry. Besides, as things lie..."

You are young, Legolas longs to say. All of you. None of them have known years enough to touch the earth, to taste the sky, to know the long aging of the forest, to hold grief without tasting its bitterness. But a second thought intrudes on the first, shaking off the heavy weight of ages past. Young he may be, and frightened as well, but this solitary storm of emotion speaks of bravery. Pippin is shouldering what little of the burden he can, trying to subtract his grief from that of his friends. It is no small task.

And it is a hateful task at that, to be left comfortless and alone. A noble thought, indeed, but Legolas will not let him bear his grief with no friend beside him.

"Pippin," he begins, and discovers all at once the uselessness of words. "Pippin."

Pippin looks at him, his eyes glinting grey-green in the silver moonlight. Drawing a deep, shaky breath, he stands and lays a tender hand against Legolas's cheek.

"You're scared too, aren't you?"

And he is, unexpectedly and strongly. The loss of Mithrandir is a grievous wound, one that came without warning and bodes ill for the journey ahead. He does not fear death, should it come to that, but he fears the suffering the shadows bring. He fears with a sudden pang for the death of the small one in his arms, the being that looks so like a child, cries like a child, yet bears his burdens as a Man. He fears for all of them, this company that walks into darkness. He fears for a night that will not end, no matter how long he waits. His eyes slip closed, and he feels Pippin's arms gently twine around his neck, giving comfort instead of taking it.

Held tight in Pippin's embrace, Legolas understands, with a dazzling clarity, the unwavering faith Mithrandir held in these creatures of the Shire, the hope he saw in their unassuming ways. Even in comfort, Pippin is not still; he strokes Legolas's hair, pats at his shoulder, and whispers nonsense into the darkness. Here is a hope that never grew in a forest, nor knew the passing ages with impunity, nor waited for time to change around it. Pippin's is a hope that presses on in spite of fear, that cries in the night and carries on in the morning, that deepens and grows strong in a blur of life and motion.

The whispers of the trees pale in comparison.

He pulls back slowly, gripping Pippin by the shoulders. "If hiding your fear and grief is truly what you seek, why do you come to me?"

Pippin gives him a quizzical half-smile. "You came to me, then, didn't you? And you can't blame me for the answers you get, when you're the one asking the questions."

Legolas's smile is as slow as the dawn, but it breaks at last. "I don't believe I asked you anything, Master Pippin."

Pippin laughs silently, nudging Legolas with his shoulder at the joke, his face changing from sorrow to gladness in an instant. Legolas's own heart feels lighter in the face of Pippin's merriment, and he gives a whisper of laughter himself. In his mirth, though, Pippin catches sight of his sleeping companions, and his face falls grave once more.

"Please...please don't tell Merry. Or Frodo. Or Sam, for pity's sake; he'd sling me over his shoulder like a bairn and carry me to Mordor himself," he says, low and urgent. Legolas affects an affronted look and stands.

"Like so?"

He snatches Pippin up with no regard for dignity and Pippin only just muffles a squeal of laughter, his whirlwind of emotion turning round yet again. Silently, Legolas carries Pippin to a sleeping hollow at the base of a tree and wraps them both in his own blanket, as he has seen the hobbits do for each other. None of them ever sleeps alone, and Legolas will not suffer Pippin to be without the comfort of contact, not while such comfort is left to be had. Pippin squirms until he finally finds a resting place he deems suitable, half sprawled on Legolas's shoulder. Legolas lies quietly on his back and waits for Pippin to still.

"There is much to fear, Pippin," he says, whispering into the still night. Pippin squirms again. "But there is reason to hope, as well. Young you may be, but there is strength in you."

Pippin snorts. "Of course there is, y' wee daftie. You think I got this far on my charming good looks and cheerful disposition?"

"No."

Pippin nudges him with a sharp elbow. "Are you saying you think I don't have charming good looks and a cheerful disposition?"

"I think you have worms for bones. Can you lie still?"

Pippin freezes mid-wriggle, and Legolas smiles again. "Rest easy, my friend, and take comfort. The dawn will bring trouble of its own, without us to cloud the night as well. Shall I tell you a story?"

This time, Pippin truly relaxes into stillness, and his voice is small and wistful in the dark. "Oh, please. Would you?"

Legolas begins a tale in Elvish, then switches back to the Common Tongue to explain. Pippin makes no comment either way. It isn't long before his breathing is deep and slow, another tone in the steady chorus of the forest's song.

Legolas holds him close, a spark of hope in the darkness, and finds his own rest.




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