-Only the Beginning-
Aragorn walked down the center of the assembly, nodding in turn to each familiar face among the happy throng. Gimli, Eomer, Eowen and Faramir... that pair was looking particularly happy in one another’s company and the new King’s heart rejoiced for them.
Then there was Legolas. Dressed for the first time in a long time in the ceremonial silks of his royal house with a circlet resting lightly upon his golden hair the archer looked every inch the prince he was. Legolas was advancing to meet the human at the head of the elven delegation. Some elves had come days ago, but most had arrived only just this morning, gracing the coronation with their presence and support. Aragorn had briefly glimpsed Legolas’ father Thranduil in the crowd earlier and knew that emissaries from all three elven realms, Lorien, Mirkwood and Rivendell were present, but he had yet to discover who and how many.
The King and the Prince hesitated only a moment before they clasped one another on shoulder, their eyes speaking many things their words could not. Between the two of them there were no titles that mattered, not King of Gondor, not Prince of Mirkwood; the only title that mattered was mellon, friend.
Neither had truly expected to survive this last great conflict in which they had found themselves. More than a dozen times both had fully expected to die fighting by the other’s side. Now they were here and it was unreal and yet undeniable at the same time, for Aragorn at least. When he looked in his elven friend’s eyes Aragorn could see that the elf had no trouble grasping their victory.
//I always knew we would see this day gwador-nín.// Legolas’ dancing blue eyes spoke for him. //I never doubted that you would find your way here, that you would someday see what we all saw inside you.//
Aragorn smiled, his gentle grey eyes softening with so many memories. //Oh Legolas... you always believed in me more than I did in myself.//
“Hannon le,” he said quietly, giving his friend’s shoulder a tighter squeeze.
Legolas returned the gesture and then moved back, inviting Aragorn to pass him. The smile on Legolas’ face as he glanced back over his own shoulder was bright and, to the one-time ranger who knew him now so well, somewhat secretive. As if the elf knew something his dear human friend did not and was very pleased about the fact.
Aragorn quirked a questioning eyebrow but moved forward as his friend indicated he should. Suddenly amid the sea of beaming elvish faces one stood out and his steps slowed. Elrond was here. He had hoped his father would come, but when he had not seen he or his brothers with the other Rivendell delegates who arrived two days past he had resigned himself to the fact that somehow they could not or would not be here. For a moment he thought this was what Legolas’ smile had meant, for he had confided to his elven friend not more than a day ago that his family’s absence at this significant time was the one sorrow for him amid all the rejoicing.
Elrond saw his human son’s gaze brighten when they landed on him. Aragorn seemed to want to hurry forward to greet him, but also hung back with a half-question in his eyes. Did his foster father attend the coronation of a king? Or of his son? Did he hold a place in the elf lord’s life only as the re-uniter of Middle Earth, or still as Estel? It was something the human had wondered ever since his and Arwen’s predicament had intensified, creating an ever growing conflict in his foster father’s heart these past few years.
Elrond saw the emotions play clearly across the new King’s face. That endearing mix of joy and hesitancy that was Estel... now Elessar. The elf lord’s clear eyes gentled and he smiled at his youngest. //Estel you shall ever be my son. I hold you not at fault for the workings of the world or of the heart.//
Then the elf lord looked to his side with a more sedate version of the same smile Aragorn had seen on Legolas’ face a moment ago. The king’s gaze followed, coming to rest on a beautifully embroidered banner. That was all he could see although there was obviously someone standing behind, holding the banner in front of them. Suddenly his senses peaked as a familiar awareness reached out hesitantly to touch him.
The banner moved aside slowly, revealing the face he already knew would be there.
He had not expected her here... he didn’t know what he expected actually. Their future was not one he had even been able to contemplate, having tried so hard to put it out of his head for her sake and her family’s. He fought to save her, he fought to save Middle Earth, but he had not expected that it would make a difference for them in the end. He had told her to go. He had let that part of him be content to forever remain the best dream of his life... but now...
His gaze slid to Elrond whose smile was perhaps bittersweet, but filled with acceptance and happiness for the happiness of his children. The elf lord’s eyes gave his blessing.
Aragorn was stunned. He was overjoyed. He was rooted to the spot in surprise. Legolas’ soft, barely audible laugh made him look back at his friend, who was grinning from ear to ear at his friend’s obvious shock and delight. He looked back at Arwen, and then back at Legolas as if trying to make sure he was not still dreaming.
Arwen moved hesitantly forward, still clutching the banner at her side. She had not done as he bid her. She did not leave. She had given up her immortality for him and was almost afraid to meet his eyes and see his reaction to all of this. She need not have worried.
Aragorn took the banner from her, staring in adoring surprise as he reached out to touch her face. Suddenly the shock wore off and Aragorn swept her into his embrace, kissing her with all the love in his heart.
Legolas smiled as he watched his friends. Thranduil was standing by Elrond now and he could see Elladan and Elrohir standing just beyond them, smiling at their brother and sister as the crowd erupted into cheers.
The elf prince folded his arms lightly as he was want to do, leaning back and watching the boy who had become a man, the ranger who had become a king. The friend who had become his brother.
//Yes, Estel. I always knew this day would come. You will find ruling a kingdom to not be one of the easier tasks in your life, believe me, I know, and if you do not believe me, ask my father, he will be more than glad to tell you all about it// Legolas chuckled ruefully to himself. //But I know of no one better suited for the position. And I will continue to be here for you gwador-nín, as I always have. The war of the ring is over praise the Valar, but it is only the beginning of a new and even more beautiful tale my friend. Only the beginning.//