By the way... "Run For Your Life" is a song by the team of Lennon and McCartney, recorded by the Beatles. I like it. Forgive me, friends, for setting it upon the characters of Middle-earth.
Run For Your Life
Well I'd rather see you dead, little girl
than to be with another man
You better keep your head, little girl
or I won't know where I am
"The woods seem so much more treacherous after the sun has gone down." A swift breeze twisted and turned its way through the tangles of eldritch trees to alight on the upturned faces of the two men.
"Are you frightened?" The fairer haired man- no, elf- shrank back at the almost predatory words coming from his companion. He turned to look upon the grizzled and tired apparition beside him with a silly smirk gracing his features.
"Perhaps... would you hold me if I am?" He nudged a shoulder playfully into the hollow between the man's shoulder blades, not hard, but enough to throw a person off balance. The elf snickered to himself, pleased with his actions, until he felt the heel of a boot make contact with his lower back and sent him flying forward from the rock he'd been perching on. He blushed, feeling very foolish indeed when that same boot came down lightly atop his splayed fingers.
"I would not," a memorable voice growled from above, "Because I think you are big enough to take care of yourself, Legolas." The elf pouted and stared up sullenly at the standing man. "And I do not think you are at all frightened. I think you are trying to... philosophize."
At this, Legolas scowled. "You have no head for romanticism." The boot was lifted and retreating footsteps were heard along with a snort of acquiescence.
"You are right." A pause. "What was it you wanted, then?"
"How are you so sure that I wanted something from you?"
The man sighed. "We've played this game for far too long."
"Long enough, then, that you can guess what I want?" The elf had drawn upon his graces to stand and walk to where the man was waiting, rocking back and forth on his heels in the darkness, without a sound. He stood before him a moment, head cocked to one side, before placing his arms around the man's neck and letting his head fall in the warm, familiar crook of the man's neck. After a moment, he felt arms engulf him from behind into a fierce hug. "Aragorn?"
"I am frightened."
The silence hung between them, heavy and uncomfortable. "Why?" Aragorn answered finally, running his hands absently through Legolas's fine, blonde hair. The elf laughed bitterly.
"Do we need to ask 'why?' anymore?" Legolas paused, his eyes wide and his body warm. "Are you frightened?"
"It's ok to say if you are, you know."
"I wouldn't think any less of you."
"I think you want someone to share in your misery." Legolas blinked.
"Perhaps." He sighed and pushed his nose against the smooth leather of Aragorn's cloak, breathing the heady scent of musk and of time. "Are you sure you're not frightened?"
"Very sure. Why are you suddenly so afraid?"
Legolas shifted again, moving closer to Aragorn and tightening his grip on the man. "I'm not afraid."
"Not shaking, trembling afraid. I'm not going to up and run away like a scared, little bunny." He grinned and shivered. "It's just like a nagging, like a buzzing in the back of my mind. I am frightened."
"No, I don't think you do."
"What are you afraid of then? The Ring?"
"...I don't know."
Aragorn's head moved softly and slowly so that his mouth was level with Legolas's ear. When he spoke, his voice was thick and rusty in the cool night air. "You cannot be afraid of nothing. And you should not be afraid of the obtuse."
"I don't understand."
You better run for your life if you can, little girl
Hide your head in the sand little girl
Catch you with another man
That's the end'a little girl
In one sharp movement, Aragorn pushed Legolas backward and drew his sword. The elf stumbled, but did not fall, and as soon as he raised his head to have an angry word with his friend the blade caught him across the neck, not cutting but simply holding him there.
Aragorn gave a half-smile in the darkness. "Do you fear me?" He asked, voice dangerously quiet.
"No," Legolas replied, standing as still and straight as he could manage.
"Because I know you will not hurt me."
And as he stood, still, straight, and silent, he felt slight pressure below his chin, a prick on the skin of his neck, and the trickle of warm blood down his collar.
"Do you fear me now?" Legolas swallowed heavily as Aragorn withdrew his weapon with a smirk. His hand went instantly to the shallow wound, and returned wet and sticky. In the dim light of the moon he stared at it, eyes wide with disbelief. "One lesson you should learn: do not always trust that which is familiar."
Expression still fixed at that of astonishment, Legolas shifted his gaze to Aragorn. "You cut me." He whispered, incredulous. "You really cut me." Aragorn sheathed his sword and reached out a hand to the startled elf, who backed away in bewilderment.
"Why do you shy away from me now?" Aragorn asked. "I hold no weapon; I cannot hurt you further."
"I'm not so sure of that." Legolas drew his cloak around himself and withdrew further away. As he backed up, his nimble feet encountered a prominent tree root and he found himself falling onto his bottom while Aragorn still towered over him.
"Lesson number two," he whispered, kneeling and reaching a gentle hand to stroke the elf's cheek. "Even without weapons, things you trust can bring you harm." Firmly, he grasped Legolas's hand and stood, pulling the other up with him. Legolas stood beside him, very close, and shuffled his feet. "Follow me now."
With that, Aragorn began to run in the direction of the camp and the fire, still firmly grasping Legolas's hand within his own, thus forcing the confused elf to follow him. They ran together through the tangles of the underbrush, thorns catching on their cloaks and trousers. As the circle of the sleeping Fellowship drew ever closer, Legolas felt a particular catch in his throat. He tried to slow Aragorn.
"Don't go crashing in like some great goblin!" He hissed, dragging his feet. "They're all sleeping! Show some respect!" But Aragorn kept running, his grip on Legolas tightening all the more with the warning. He leapt a low bush and-
Stopped dead. Behind him, the elf came tumbling over the bush and into the back of the man; Aragorn barely felt the impact. He stared in rapt fascination at what lay before him. "Do you see?" He whispered serenely. "Do you see?" Legolas peered curiously over Aragorn's shoulder, still slightly red in the face from his near fall.
"It's Frodo," Legolas gave Aragorn a sideways glance.
"Indeed it is." Aragorn raised one finger to his lips where the ghost of a smile was traced. "See at how peaceful he looks in sleep?"
Legolas looked again. Certainly, Frodo had lost that vaguely hunted look he always wore when he was awake and traveling with the Fellowship. His lips were slightly parted, his hair tousled; he was buried against the cold in a number of small, hobbit blankets. Beside him, as always, was Samwise. And in his hand was...
"The ring..." Legolas breathed, steam rising in trails from his nose and mouth into the cold air above. Aragorn nodded.
"Yes. Look at how he clutches it so fiercely in those little hands..." he trailed off a moment, lost in thought, before turning his head to get a look at Legolas. "Does it upset you?"
"Upset me?" Legolas blinked. "I'm not sure..."
"The power of The Ring," Aragorn explained, letting one hand slide back to Legolas's; the two laced fingers. "The power it holds over all of us."
"Yes... maybe it does."
"It is a powerful little thing."
"Just a gold band really."
"You really aren't helping much."
"Still..." Aragorn's eyes gleamed in the darkness, "Still, for all that power, it can be destroyed... can't it?"
"Well, yes. Otherwise, I don't think we'd be here."
"Yes... even it has to succumb to the great fires of Mordor and Mount Doom..." They stood a moment in silence, watching the sleeping figures and the gentle beauty of life that contrasted so sharply with the gloom of the forest. "Lesson number three: know thine enemy's weaknesses, for it makes for a less intimidating opponent."
"I'll remember." Legolas had made himself comfortable by resting his head on Aragorn's shoulder and letting his eyes slide half-closed. He found himself quite content, until a sharp tug knocked his head off of its comfy perch and a second tug on his hand forced him to start walking. "What? What now?"
"We're going into the forest." Aragorn was leading them away from the camp again.
"Wait, wait!" Legolas protested. "I'm supposed to be on watch!"
"You'll be able to see and hear them fine," Aragorn said smoothly as he ducked a tree branch and motioned for the elf to do the same. "Not that you were paying much attention before, anyway." Legolas scowled and followed. He didn't have too much choice; Aragorn still had hold of his hand.
Well I know that I'm a wicked guy
And I was born with a jealous mind
And I can't spend my whole life
trying just to make you toe the line
They walked a good ways away from the campsite and from the fire that lit it. The dark was so thick that you could barely see your own hand in front of your face; Legolas could just make out Aragorn's outline in front of him. He looked back. The campfire was a spark to interrupt the bleak nothingness. It was all very disturbing.
Aragorn made another sudden stop; this time Legolas was able to anticipate it and stop as well. "Are you afraid now?"
"I'm a little confused..."
"No, afraid. Are you afraid because you can't see me in the darkness? Or because you can't see your surroundings?"
"...I just may be if you keep talking like that." Abruptly Aragorn let go of Legolas's hand. Immediately, the elf missed the connection.
"We are going to play a little game..." Legolas said nothing in reply, instead following Aragorn's movement by that of his voice. "I will count to ten." Legolas heard a sword being unsheathed. "And you will hide. Once I finish I will try to find you." There was a foreboding pause. "The object of this game, for you, is not to be found."
"One..." He was counting in Elvish.
"I don't think I like this game much."
"In fact, I know I don't like it..."
"I'm afraid... that's what you wanted me to say, isn't it?"
"Five...I would hide if I was you... six..." Legolas moved silently over the dry leaves of autumn and tried to keep himself behind where he though Aragorn was, secure in knowing that the man couldn't see either. "Seven..." He was sure that hiding in this game was the best way to get caught; once found, there was no way you could escape. By keeping upright and moving, he reasoned, you could be doing that for quite awhile.
"Eight..." Now the sword cut through the air, quick and hard. Legolas backed away a bit further from where those sounds were coming from.
"Nine... Find a nice hiding spot?..."
"Ten!" Aragorn spun around (Legolas heard it in the leaves) and made a great leap for the approximate place the elf was standing. Legolas gave a cry of indignation and began to run blindly, feeling his way among the trees and forever tripping over roots and rocks and other unfortunate things. He was heading for the campsite, back to that nice round circle of near normalcy, but he wasn't sure he was going the right way. Was the light getting bigger? It almost looked to be getting... smaller...
He was actually beginning to panic. And it was only supposed to be a game. Aragorn was crashing through the woods in that way that men do, loud and harsh. And, even though Legolas knew that he was making no sound on the forest floor, Aragorn was still tracking him perfectly in the darkness.
He began to run faster and to zig-zag between the trees. It was like throwing off a predator or a highly trained assassin. It was, above all frustrating. But he kept running because, that night, he wasn't particularly keen to find out what would happen if he didn't.