Mirkwood, Third Age 3019
Thranduil’s chest swelled with so many emotions they threatened to break his calm mask of indifference; relief, love, white-hot anger. How he had worried! Yet here his son was walking into the palace like nothing had happened; as if he had not left on a dangerous quest to Mordor, risking his life and the succession to the throne, and as if he had not conveniently “forgotten” to send word of his plans to his father before it was too late.
Legolas looked up at him from beneath the throne. Thranduil could read reserve, defiance and a hint of anxiety in those big, expressive eyes; his son’s ability to hide his emotions had always been nonexistent. It was a relief that at least that part of his innocence remained. That Legolas’ journey had not changed him irrevocably.
Checking his features to make sure he betrayed none of his own feelings, Thranduil sternly met his son’s gaze, well knowing the effect his icy stare would have and secretly despising himself for using his father’s methods.
The defiance very soon left Legolas eyes and he lowered them, but not before Thranduil saw the hurt that had come in its place. Ignoring the pain ignited in his own chest, he held his prepared speech, revolving around topics such as disobedience, disregard of duty, recklessness and irresponsibility. If he could, he always carefully thought out beforehand what he would say. Spontaneous conversation had never been his strength.
When he had finished, Legolas was silent for a long time, staring at the floor. Thranduil wanted to run down the steps and wrap his arms around him, admitting how much he had missed him and how worried he had been, but his feet would not move.
When was the last time they had hugged? He could not remember. He did remember a much earlier occasion, however, when he had held that wrinkled, ugly little baby in his arms for the first time, his chest painfully contracted, promising his son that he would be a better father than Oropher.
Had he failed? He probably had. Why else would Legolas have left him?
“Ada… I am sorry I caused you pain, but I did consider what was best for our realm,” Legolas said at last. “The quest was necessary, and in the end, the destruction of Sauron will benefit us all.”
“The Ring had to be destroyed, aye, but you did not have to go!”
“I did not want to cowardly hide behind our walls forever. There is a world outside our realm.” He said it without any trace of accusation, but yet the words hit Thranduil like an arrow in his chest. Legolas’ mother had said the same thing, many times over the years. Called him weak and a coward.
“Wanting to protect one’s people is not cowardice,” he said coolly, fighting hard to remain impassive.
“I know that, and I do not blame you!” said Legolas earnestly. “I heard you achieved a lot here at home when I was gone, finally clearing out Dol Guldur and everything. It made me proud to hear.”
Thranduil could not get any words out. He wanted to say how proud he was over Legolas too, and how much he loved him. “I did enjoy myself,” he admitted instead. “And it was good to meet my old friend Celeborn again after so long. Perhaps, in the future, I shall see him more often.” Perhaps his friend could help him become a better father too?
“That sounds great.” Legolas smiled and Thranduil cautiously returned it. Thank the Valar, his son was such a sweet, complacent ellon. He did not deserve him.
When Legolas had left and Thranduil was alone in his grand throne room, he finally relaxed his features. His wife had hated his “glass face” as she would call it; nothing could annoy her more than when he hid his emotions from her. And now he had done the same thing to Legolas.
With a pang of grief, he wished, not for the first time, that she could have stayed and helped him raise their son. Everything would have been easier then.
Oh, how much he missed her, especially at times like this! He felt a tear trickle down his cheek. Damn. He should not think about her, or he would cry his eyes out. It was pointless to mope anyway – especially now, when he would soon join her in Aman, after fulfilling his promise to stay with Legolas. Perhaps in only a couple of decades he could sail to her.
He was patient. He could wait.
He grinned through his tears when he thought of what might happen when they finally met, after some hundred years of pent-up longing. Oh yes. It should be fun! The physical part of their marriage had never been wanting. That had been just about the only advantage the first millennia…
Thranduil had never told Legolas what a disastrous marriage it had been at first; that was way too humiliating. Yet, it had been worth it in the end. Those last, sweet years of true happiness had made all the preceding heartache worthwhile.
How long was it since they met, now? It had been late in the First Age, he recalled, so it must be over sixty centuries ago.
Thranduil chuckled when the memories flooded him, and for once, he allowed himself to wallow in them.
She had been so cute. And annoying! Quite the little shadow…