He awoke with a start, fighting off the bed sheets that had wrapped themselves around his arms and tummy while he was sleeping. Sitting in the middle of the huge elven bed, five year old Aragorn tried hard to calm his breathing. He wiped the tears from his eyes on the sleeves of his sleeping shirt and sniffed quietly in the dark. It was the same dream he had been having ever since he had been dropped off here in Rivendell only two months ago now.
He never told anyone about the demons that haunted him in sleep; the ones who had killed his parents. He saw them again and again. And always it ended the same. Lord Elrond was kind to him and the elder elf had been very patient with the young boy and although he liked his new family, he still missed his parents terribly. Thoughts of his mother broke out in a sob and he began to hiccup as he sat alone in the dark crying.
A slight breeze blew outside Elrond's house whistling down the gorge that Rivendell had been built into. The trees near Aragorn's room bowed under the gentle onslaught, their branches scraping against his window harmlessly. The noise was enough to startled the little boy and without further thought he slid off the tall bed and pelted down the hallway to Elrond's room.
Standing in front of the tall oaken doors, Aragorn stood on his tiptoes and grasped the gold ornamented doorknob slowly turning it and releasing the door catch. Nervously he glanced inside the huge room.
Stopping himself, he chanced a look back down the dark hallway searching for signs that any of the elves were awake. No one was present however and the only sound was the moaning of the wind as it sighed through the gully passing on its way to the higher mountains. Swallowing back his fears, Aragorn squeezed through the narrow opening in the doorway and quietly padded up next to Elrond's bed.
The tall bed was covered in silken sheets that fell in folds from where the elf lay sleeping. Aragorn could barely see the top of the sleep couch so he quietly climbed the wooden frame, catching hold of the sheets, and pulled himself up to lean over the elf and stare at him.
Elrond was asleep on his back his mouth slightly open and his hands resting across his chest. But it was the elf's eyes that caused Aragorn's heart to seize in his chest. Lord Elrond's eyes were open. The child watched him for a few seconds to see if he would blink, perhaps the elf were merely awake and thinking. But when Elrond did not move or blink, horror swept through the child. The only people he had ever seen who lay perfectly still with their eyes open were dead people.
Tears welled up in his eyes afresh as fear spiked through him. Pressing his hands against Lord Elrond's shoulder he shook the adult, calling out his name through the sobs that wracked his small body.
Drawing in a deep breath the elderly elf blinked his eyes and turned towards the disturbance in his room. Coming fully awake he sat up in his bed and frowned towards the side of his bed. He was sure someone had been in the room calling his name and shaking him but there was no one there now.
When the elf lord had blinked his eyes and sat up, Aragorn had been so surprised that he had slipped from the bed frame and jumped back into the interior of the room. Standing perfectly still he waited to see what would happen. Maybe the elf would simply overlook him.
But Elrond had elf eyes and easily spotted the frightened child when he sat up. His frown softened to concern as he shifted his legs off the bed and sat on the edge of the mattress, leaning down to look at the small human.
"Aragorn? What are you doing up at this hour?" He asked the little boy softly, though he was sure he knew the answer. He and his sons had been aware of the child's nightmares and had spent many nights sitting with the human until he fell back to sleep.
Aragorn's eyes were huge and his mouth fell open as he took a step back trying to understand what he had just seen with what he knew to be true.
Elrond became concerned and knelt down on the soft carpeting, bringing himself eye level with the child. "Tell me Aragorn, what happened?" He could see the tears streaming down the boys face and gently held out his hand.
Pointing toward the elf but unable to move he spoke around the sobs that were just settling, his words tumbling around the hitching in his breathing, "Your eyes were open."
The elf lord frowned slightly not quite following the child's unease, "Yes little one."
"But I ...I thought that meant..." Aragorn didn't finish the sentence, he couldn't and he dropped his gaze guiltily to the floor.
Elrond still was at a lost to the child's distress. Leaning forward he gently hooked his long fingers under the tiny chin and lifted Aragorn's head until the boy was forced to look into his eyes. "You thought what?"
His voice was soft and encouraging and Aragorn swallowed hard as he finished speaking, his words a mere whisper as they fell from his mouth, "I thought you were dead, sir."
"Oh Aragorn." Sudden realization hit the elf, stealing his breath away for a moment as he gathered boy in his arms and held the tiny human tightly against him.
Aragorn laid his head on the elf lord's tunic and pressed his ear against Elrond's chest, listening to the steady beat of the elven heart. His hands tightened involuntarily in the folds of the silky shirt as the elf picked him and sat back down on the edge of the bed. Not quite knowing how to proceed and now finally understanding the child's fears, Elrond rocked the boy for a few minutes before he spoke again.
When he spoke his voice was very soft, but it reverberated loudly in his chest under Aragorn's ear and the child did not move. "Aragorn, elves sleep with their eyes open." He stroked the boy's hair with his free hand and continued, "So when you saw me, I was merely sleeping. You have nothing to worry about."
Aragorn nodded slightly. But then a thought wrapped itself through his young mind and he pushed away from the elf and stared up into the large dark eyes, "Maybe then my parents were just sleeping? Maybe they weren't dead after all!"
The hope in the little boy's eyes stabbed through the elder elf's heart and he looked away with a sigh before returning the gaze that was begging him to agree. "Such hope in such a little person. You should have been named Estel." He smiled down at the boy. He couldn't bear to explain the truth to the child and stare into the huge tear filled eyes. Pulling the child back into his arms he waited until Aragorn had once again settled against him and continued to explain.
"Humans don't sleep with their eyes open, Aragorn. Only elves do." He waited to see how the boy would respond.
When Aragorn didn't speak he leaned down to look into the child's face, "Aragorn?"
The boy nodded trying hard not to cry again, "I understand. I just... hoped." He fidgeted with the button on the elf's shirt near his hand not meeting the elf's eyes.
"Estel." Elrond rocked back holding the boy a little tighter and looked off to the far wall shaking his head, the deals fate handed them were sometimes cruel and hard. Humans lived such short lives. He really hadn't wanted to grow attached to the child when they had brought him to Rivendell. Now as he comforted Aragorn he realized it was too late and smiled wryly to himself.
After several minutes Elrond spoke again, "Are you ready to go back to your own bed now?"
Aragorn stalled. It felt so safe to sit here in the older elf's arms and it had been a long time since he had remembered feeling that way. Quietly he finally responded, "Can I just stay here for a little bit longer?" He tightened his hold around the elf's waist dreading being denied the safety. "Please?"
Elrond smiled as he felt the small human clutch him more tightly. Placing his hand on the child's head he returned the embrace, "Of course you can."
Aragorn sighed against him and released his grip, relaxing into the strong arms that held him. As he sat there with his ear pressed to the elf's chest listening to the steady heartbeat, Elrond softly began to hum. It was an old evlish lullaby that he remembered his wife singing to his own twin sons. The child in his arms smiled against him and relaxed further, the soft humming lulling him back to sleep.
In moments the boy was fast asleep. Elrond brushed the stray locks of hair from the small face and watched the sleeping child. The human's long dark eyelashes brushed his pale cheeks and his mouth was slightly open as he breathed slowly and deeply.
Carefully readjusting the boy in his arms Elrond stood and walked out his room and back down the hallway. Elladan was leaning in the doorway to his own room, arms crossed over his chest and smiling at the elderly elf as Elrond approached him.
"More nightmares?' The twin asked his father. His hair was sleep tousled and his eyes half open as he yawned around the question.
Elrond smiled, looking down at the child in his arms, "Yes. I am afraid so." He laughed lightly as he continued, "and he just discovered that elves sleep with their eyes open."
Elladan chuckled softly at that thought, "Oh yes, humans don't. I had forgotten that. What a revelation."
"Well it would have been humorous had not the only beings Aragorn has ever seen who lie with their eyes open been dead ones." Elrond sighed and stared at his son who instantly sobered.
"Oh, that would be like me finding you with your eyes closed."
"Yes." Elrond shook his head, "He hoped it meant his parents were still alive."
Elladan looked to the floor beneath his feet his heart going out to the human. "Poor child."
"I think his parents named wrong." Elrond smiled as he gazed at the boy in his arms sleeping soundly, "It has been many years since this house has had children in it Elladan." Aragorn moved slightly, nestling his head against the elf lord with a quiet sigh.
The twin knew that look in his father's eyes. "And just what name have you given the boy?" He smiled a lopsided grin at the older elf, "As if his own weren't good enough."
"Hope." Elrond still stared into the sleeping face.
Rolling his eyes Elladan pushed away from the doorframe and moved closer looking down at that human his father carried, "Estel? Father you cant, he'll get beat up with a name like that."
"I wasn't asking your opinion." Elrond's eyes snapped up and caught his son's, stilling the laughter in the young elf. "That is what this child is, what he holds for us and for all men in Middle Earth."
Elladan nodded trying to hide his smile. His retort was cut off as the door to Elrohir's room cracked open and Elladan's twin stumbled out into the hallway bleary eyed and confused, "What's going, everything all right? I heard voices."
"Back to sleep Elrohir," Elladan called to him quietly, "It's nothing."
Elrond smiled at the older twin and moved down the hallway passing Elrohir, "Aragorn had another nightmare."
Elrohir immediately became concerned and moved towards his father, "Is he okay?"
The soft heartedness of his youngest twin touched him and the elf lord smiled, "He will be. Go back to sleep my son."
Hesitantly Elrohir turned and re-entered his room closing the door behind him. Elladan remained in the hallway watching his father walk back to the human's room softly humming the lullaby their mother had sung to them. It was good to hear the tune again under the rafters in Rivendell. His father was right; perhaps the boy would bring them all a new hope. The house of Elrond could use some light in these dark days. He smiled to himself and left the hallway. Time would tell; it would be fun to watch Estel grow up into a man. He wondered absently as he fell back to sleep what type of man the young child would grow into and what kind of world the boy would face.
Three doors down from Elladan's room, Elrond gently laid Aragorn in his own bed, covering him with the thick blanket they had brought in for the human as the same thoughts about the youth's future flitted through his mind.
Estel. Hope. It was a good name; he nodded to himself as he left the room closing the door quietly behind him.