First Steps by Karri

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Thranduil's grin drew ever wider as his Little Leaf tentatively let go of his mother's fingers and toddled one wobbly step toward his father. Kneeling and spreading his arms out, ready to enfold the child when he reached them, Thranduil bobbed his head encouragingly, as he murmured soothingly, "That's it, my Little Leaf, come to da."

Legolas wobbled another step forward, before overcorrecting his balance on the next and falling onto his rump. He glanced, wide-eyed, at his father.

Thranduil leaned forward on his toes, in response, thinking to rise and gather up the child. Two steps—accomplishment enough for a first effort. In his periphery, though, he caught his wife's slight frown and shake of the head, so he rocked back onto his heels and fluttered his fingers at his Little Leaf, instead. "Come to da," he repeated.

Setting his chubby little features in grim determination, Legolas maneuvered himself back onto his feet. Then, taking a breath, he toddled forward another step, and then another. Glancing up, he grinned, reflecting his father's expression. A pause as he wobbled a little too far one direction, but then another step and another…and he was there!

Thranduil laughed merrily as he gathered his child into his arms. "Well done, Little Leaf," he murmured dotingly. "You'll soon be off chasing deer and climbing trees." Legolas quirked his head, as though considering attempting those very acts next, and Thranduil laughed again. "Not yet, my little one. We've some time, yet, to carry you in our arms before you're fully ready embrace the wider world."

Legolas responded by wrapping his chubby arms around his father's neck and resting his small head on his father's shoulder.

Thranduil pet his child's head, reveling in the moment. Yet, his merry grin dimmed, as his mind wandered.

"Come, Little Leaf. So much excitement calls for a nap, I think." Thranduil started at the voice, then peered up at his wife, with a chagrined smile. He handed over his charge as Legolas leaned toward his mother's waiting arms. "I will tuck him in, and then return for you, my love," she promised, with a twinkle in her eye.

Thranduil smiled, half-heartedly. His thoughts were still miles away, lingering where they'd wandered as he'd pet his Little Leaf, and there they remained, until a soft caress pulled him back into the present.

"What dims your light, my love?" asked his Queen, in the same soothing tone she'd no doubt used as she'd tucked their Little Leaf into his nap.

"Naught…" Thranduil began to say, with a slight shake of his head, but she stopped him with another caress.

"There is aught, my love, else your joy would not have turned to woe," she pressed, and Thranduil wilted a little. He knew she would not leave the matter now, and yet it seemed like such a daft thought as he pondered how best to voice it. "Nothing that darkens your heart so can be wholly daft, whatever it may be," she encouraged, and Thranduil's head lifted to meet her eyes, inquiringly. "Nay, my love, I do not read your thoughts; it is only that your mind is troubled enough to write some of them in your expression," she assured, with a soft smile.

"He has taken his first steps…" Thranduil began, tentatively, but then let the sentence die.

His Queen gave him a moment, and then prodded, "Indeed! His first glorious steps! And, for a moment, you reveled in the wonder of them." Thranduil nodded, pensively. "And then..." she pressed.

Thranduil bit back a sigh and replied, "And then, my thoughts wandered from walking to running, and from playing to fighting…"

His Queen chuckled softly, "He is a long way from running or fighting."

Thranduil nodded, woefully. "And yet both shall come… One day, in what will seem as no more than a blink of an eye, he will be grown."

"Grown does not mean gone, my love," consoled the Queen. "He will still be our Little Leaf, even then."

Thranduil nodded again. "Indeed, he shall always be that. But no longer will he be sheltered by our arms. Instead, it will be his own arms he draws to hand."

The Queen caressed his cheek, once more. "We will always be his shelter…"

Thranduil smirked, jadedly, as he replied, "Indeed, and yet not so secure a shelter will we be to save him from darkness, should it come to claim him." Thranduil gaze fell and his Queen's concerned eyes studies his.

"The Shadow…" she murmured, and Thranduil nodded.

"It grows ever stronger," he lamented.

"As does our Leaf," assured the Queen.

"Indeed," agreed Thranduil. "Yet strength alone was not enough to save his brother, or my father, or yours from shadow."

His Queen nodded. "That is true, as is the possibility that the new shadow spreading across the land will one day overcome our Little Leaf. Yet will it matter so much if the light he brings to our lives is supplanted by the darkness of despair?" Thranduil's brow furrowed. "It is good to prepare for darkness, hence a fortress beneath a hill and a storeroom full of weapons that all are trained to use. Yet for all that preparation, we must not dwell in the unknown future, for that is not truly living; we must live now. We must revel in the light and joy that the present offers, so that the memory of it may sustain us when darkness threatens to consume us," she argued. Thranduil nodded, hesitantly. "Do not dampen the light of his soul now for fear of that darkness may dim it later. Rather soak up the light and joy while you can, and let it strengthen your own," she urged, and then chuckled. "Think of it as preparing for the Shadow, if you must," she added. "For the brighter your light becomes, the harder it will be for the darkness to consume when it reaches our doors."

Thranduil's brown furrowed, again, but then he smiled. Gently raising her chin, he ducked his head and kissed her softly. "My wise Queen…" he breathed. "Shall we content ourselves for moment with resting beside our little light as he rekindles?" he asked, taking her by the hand and stepping toward the doorway.

With a smile, his Queen nodded and followed.

The end.


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