Rating: PG -> PG-13
Warnings: [violence] [language] [het] [shounen-ai]
Pairings: Takeru/Ken & Ruki/Legolas
Notes: I'll take "Things That Don't Exist In This Chapter" for two hundred, Bob! ^_~
Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon or Lord of the Rings. A short and boring disclaimer this time...
Chapter Seventeen: Lothlorien
The silence was profound, and Takeru couldn't help continuing to grin at the dumbfounded looks on the faces of those within the clearing. He started forward, Wormmon still tucked under his arm. And it was Gimli, who had been seated against the roots of a large tree, who was the first one to speak.
The Dwarf was on his feet in an instant, "Takeru!"
And it was then that everyone else -- with the exception of Ruki, who was leaning against a nearby tree with Renamon beside her once again -- began to speak at once. The babble of voices was confusing, but it was happy babble, and that made all the difference for Takeru. He shook his head at the Hobbits, all of whom were more excited than any of the rest. He should have expected it, though.
"Well," Aragorn strode toward him and clasped his arm, then echoed what Takeru himself had observed earlier; "you look like hell."
Takeru's hand absently went to his head and he nodded, "yeah, I know."
"What happened to you?" Legolas asked, coming up beside the man.
A sigh. "I had a run in with a very... angry... fox."
Across the clearing, Ruki glanced toward him, en eyebrow raised; she looked to the side at Renamon. The digimon simply closed her eyes. Takeru met Ruki's gaze and smiled very slightly, then nodded shortly. Ruki smirked, but the blonde couldn't find the strength to get angry -- or even a little upset -- at her reaction.
"What happened?" This was Merry, who was standing with Pippin a few feet behind where Aragorn and Legolas were. "How come it took you so long to get here?"
Takeru looked back at the Hobbits, "we ran into some problems, what can I say?"
"You're not an Elf anymore..." Legolas observed, then eyed Wormmon; "and this-?"
"Wormmon." Takeru told him, "and no -- I'm not an Elf anymore. I wanted to ask Gandalf about that, actually. Where is he-?"
There was a long silence, and Takeru's heart plummeted; Frodo's eyes welled with tears and he looked away. Sam patted his friend's shoulder comfortingly. Legolas said nothing, Gimli glanced to the side, Ruki closed her eyes and both Merry and Pippin attempted to keep from crying. Boromir -- sitting near to Gimli -- bowed his head. Takeru jerked his gaze toward Aragorn, his eyes wide.
But the Ranger shook his head. "Gandalf," he said slowly, "did not make it out of the Mines."
"Oh no." Wormmon whispered.
<Gandalf... we can't have lost Gandalf... he was... our guide... our friend...> Takeru swallowed thickly, then; "where's Ken?"
Legolas glanced to the left. "He went off on his own. That way."
"He went with Ken."
The Child of Hope nodded, "alright. I'm going to-"
Aragorn stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. "You need to see a Healer. The Elves have many who can-"
Takeru shrugged him off. He was still trying to cope with Gandalf's loss, and all he wanted to do was find the bluenette, "no, I'm fine. I'll get someone to help me in a while -- after I go and find Ken, alright?" Aragorn gave him a harsh look and he waved the Ranger away; "I swear. I've been traveling like this for three days now, I think I can handle a few more minutes. Besides, if he's wandered off by himself -- even in Lothlorien -- someone has to find him, right?"
Aragorn still looked skeptical, but Takeru slipped away before he could say anything. With Wormmon still under his right arm, he headed in the direction that Legolas had indicated, searching for his friend. His heart was heavy, and his eyes were stinging with almost-tears... he just wanted to find Ken... he had to make sure the Child of Kindness was alright...
"Gandalf is gone?" Wormmon asked softly, interrupting the silence of Lothlorien.
"Hm." Takeru nodded slowly, "I... I guess."
"...how could that happen? He was so strong... and he had his magic..."
The digimon sniffled, "I liked Gandalf."
"Me too, Wormmon, me too. We all did."
He continued walking without speaking for some time. The forest went past, shining with life and light, and the trees seemed to blur together. Takeru wasn't really sure when he ceased to hear the voices of the rest of the company, or when his own breathing was the only sound besides the rustle of trees around him. His thoughts were deep and troubled, and took all of his attention. How he managed to walk without tripping and falling -- in later retrospect -- he couldn't begin to decide, but he suspected it had something to do with Lothlorien itself.
"Huh." Stopping suddenly, Takeru glanced down at Wormmon and then looked around; trees on three sides, a stream on the last. "Oh man. How long have I been walking? Wormmon? How far do you think we are from the others-?"
Wormmon shrugged, frowning, "I... don't know..."
"I think I lost track of where we were..."
"Yeah." Takeru agreed. He set the digimon on the ground, "you might as well stay here while I-" a hand came down on his shoulder, making him jump nearly a foot into the air. "Ahh!" Spinning, he brought his arms up in defense...
"Takeru!" Wormmon shouted, "it's-"
Confronted with bright blue eyes when he turned -- and partly due to Wormmon's shout of warning -- Takeru paused. Lowering his arms, he took a step back and blinked when he recognized the person. "Ken!"
The bluenette nodded, "yes."
"Jeez, you scared me!" Takeru heaved a sigh, "sorry."
The Child of Hope tilted his head to the side and regarded his friend carefully; "are you alright?"
"..." Ken reached a hand up to brush his fingers against the growing bruise on Takeru's face. "I was worried... are you... are you okay?"
"Hm." Takeru raised his hand and caught Ken's. Closing his eyes, he squeezed the other boy's hand. "I'm alright. I'm sorry we worried you, though... it took some doing to get out of Moria, and then we had to track you here..."
"Wha-?" Takeru stumbled back a step, releasing Ken's hand, when a flying ball of beige-and-white catapulted from the bushes nearby and launched at him. He caught Patamon (even as Ken was stooping to pick Wormmon up) and the digimon smiled up at him happily. "Uh, hi Patamon."
"Takeru! I thought you were gone!"
"Nah. Hell, Patamon, you think I'd go down that easily?"
Patamon giggled, "I should have known better!"
"Damn right. Look, Patamon-"
The digimon cocked his head to the side, glanced at Ken, and then nodded knowingly, "uh, Wormmon-" he said, "you know this whole forest is pretty cool." He grinned, "plus, the Elves all think digimon are neat so they treat us great! C'mon," he flapped away from Takeru and hovered over Wormmon, who was still in Ken's arm; "I'll show ya' around the place and then we can go back and catch a nap where the others are."
Wormmon looked somewhat reluctant to leave Ken, but hopped down from his partner's grasp and scuttled away with Patamon flying overhead. The winged digimon chatted happily about the greatness of Lothlorien and the Elves, and Wormmon simply listened silently.
Takeru watched until they were out of sight and then turned to the bluenette. "Ken-"
"They told you?" Ken interrupted, "about Gandalf?"
"He... he died protecting us." Eyes glistening, the Child of Kindness continued; "he... fought the Balrog for us and... was dragged into the depths of Moria along with it... I watched, and... we couldn't do anything!" A tear fell from his eyes and ran down his cheek. It was ignored. "And I thought that you-"
"Shh." Takeru stepped closer and reached up to brush the tear-track from the other boy's face. "It's okay... I'm okay, see? I'm okay. I just got a little roughed up, that's all. We all made it back... me and Wormmon and Renamon-"
"But I thought -- I didn't know, and I-"
"Aw, hell, Ken..." the blonde sighed and, grasping Ken, pulled the other boy toward himself. Wrapping his arms around him, Takeru hugged him tightly. Normally he wouldn't have done it, and normally Ken wouldn't have been so emotional, but... the bluenette hugged him back so tightly that Takeru's breath was forced from his lungs. "Ken -- Ken! Okay, you got to..."
Ken loosened his grip. "...sorry..."
"It's alright, really..." Takeru assured him, "I wouldn't have hugged you if I didn't want to. I just need to be able to breathe to do it, ne?"
A soft chuckle, "I guess."
"You guess, but I'm pretty sure."
The bluenette stepped back, "yeah." He frowned, "seriously, Takeru-?"
"I know, I know." Takeru shook his head, "I look like hell."
"You should have seen a Healer before-"
"That's what Aragorn said, too."
"He was right."
"Definitely." Ken grabbed his arm and tugged him toward the stream, "come on. At least we can try to get some of the dirt off you." He knelt next to the water, dragging Takeru with him; "you look like you dug your way here, you know."
"It's not that bad."
Ken rolled his eyes and pulled a strip of cloth from his already tattered tunic. At Takeru's blink, he shrugged. "It's ruined already. Did you really think that after what happened in Moria it would last for the rest of the trip? I might as well use it for something before we have to throw it away all together." Dipping the cloth in the stream, he turned to Takeru, "close your eyes, dummy, or you'll get water in them."
Takeru sighed. "Fine." He shut his eyes tightly, and Ken began the task of scrubbing away some of the grime. "...speaking of Moria, Ken," he said, "your shoulder seems to be alright now. How'd you manage that?"
"Oh." Ken shrugged and returned the cloth to the stream to rise it before continuing to scrub. "The Elves healed me up when we got here. My shoulder still hurts, but it isn't bleeding or anything anymore..." he paused, "which is more than I can say for this cut on your head. I didn't do anything and it's bleeding! What did you do to yourself?"
The blonde laughed, "it wasn't me!" He told his friend, "it was Renamon. She thought I needed a lesson, and I was too stubborn to take the first hint she smacked into me. It hurt like hell, but she didn't mean it."
"Renamon did this?"
"Well, not all of it."
"Just the part that's bleeding."
Takeru opened his eyes and grinned at Ken's expression. "It's no big deal. There's more bruising than anything else. I'm pretty sore, but I'll live." His lips quirked, "to tell you the truth I was more worried about you than myself -- your shoulder was pretty messed up."
"I'm okay now."
"Yeah, I see that."
"Anyway," Ken continued, "close your eyes!" And when Takeru heaved a suffering sigh and complied, he went back to washing the dirt and blood from the blonde's skin. There was a long silence as he worked, and soon he sat back. "There. I think that's the best I can do." He shook his head, "you still look like hell, but at least it's a relatively clean hell now."
"Ha, ha, ha, v-e-e-e-ry funny."
Ken chuckled, "I thought it was."
"You would." Takeru climbed to his feet and offered the bluenette a hand, "come on. We should go back to where everyone else is before they start to worry. I said I was going to find you, and God only know how long I've been gone, now."
"I guess," Ken took his hand and allowed himself to be pulled up, "I disappeared a while ago, too..."
Takeru nodded, "how long have you guys been here for?"
"...um, a couple of days?"
"That's what I figured."
"Aragorn brought us here after... Gandalf and Moria... I didn't want to leave you and the digimon there, but he said we had to leave before nightfall..." Ken trailed off and looked down into the water. "I thought..."
"I know, you thought I was gone." Takeru finished for him, "but I'm not, so don't think about it anymore, and-" his sentence cut off when Ken suddenly looked up at him, hesitated, and then grasped his head and kissed him. Takeru blinked. <This was unexpected.> A moment later, when Ken released him -- not to step back, but to hug him once again -- he found himself holding the bluenette tightly and staring down at him in confusion. "Ken, what was that all-"
"I missed you."
Takeru had to smile, "me too, but seriously-" he unwrapped his arms from the other boy and held him at arm's length, "we both agreed that we have to go back."
"Well, come on then." Taking hold of Ken's arm, he steered the Child of Kindness back the way he had come... or, the way he thought he had come. He hoped he wasn't just wandering farther into Lothlorien. <Not that it'd be a big deal> he thought as they walked, <but we really SHOULD get back to the others and figure out what we're doing now that Gandalf...>
"Hey, Takeru look-"
"Hm?" The blonde blinked. "Um..."
Through a thin veil of foliage and vines in front of them they could see the rest of the Fellowship. They both blinked, shocked. They had only been walking for a handful of minutes... they couldn't have gotten back so soon... could they..?
They both stopped.
"Magic." Ken stated.
Takeru nodded, agreeing -- he really didn't feel like trying to wrap his brain around it right then. "Yeah."
"Ah!" Gimli said when they stepped from the forest and into sight, "we were wondering where you were!"
Takeru shrugged, glancing at Ken; "he'd wandered farther than I figured."
"Now that you're back, we are all together." Aragorn looked around, "we will be leaving tomorrow morning, so everyone should get some rest. The trek will not get easier from here, I assure you."
There was an almost-silent groan from most of those listening.
"Well, I guess we sleep?" Takeru wandered over to the base of a large tree with Ken following. Rolling his shoulders -- the right one was still extremely sore -- he sat down at it's base and leaned against the trunk. Ken sat down next to him a moment later, and Patamon fluttered over from where he and Wormmon had been talking with Legolas. The bug-digimon followed on the ground, and shortly they were curled up with their partners, both snoring softly. Takeru laughed, "they fell asleep quickly enough."
"This whole thing had been very trying on them."
The blonde shut his eyes with a tired sigh and listened to the soft singing from around them in Lothlorien. It had been there all along, but somehow he had never really taken notice. <It's... sad, I think...>
"They lament of Gandalf."
Legolas's voice made him open his eyes again, slowly. The Elf was standing near the water, looking around at the trees.
"What are they saying?" Sam asked.
Legolas turned sad eyes to the Hobbit; "I have not the heart to tell you," he said softly, "for me the grief is still too new."
<For all of us, I think.> Takeru thought, closing his eyes again.
He started to drift off, and by the time Ken's head found his shoulder he was too far into sleep to do anything but unconsciously move closer to the bluenette.
Me: ...I. Really. Don't. Like. This. Chapter.
Me: It's stupid!
Ken: I thought it was nice.
Me: It. Was. Stupid.
Takeru: She's in a loop, don't listen to her.
Ken: So I noticed.
Me: Man, I'm sorry! The next chapter will be better, I swear! In any case, only three more chapters to go and then on to the sequel. I've got a whole whack of good ideas for it, and I'm really looking forward to it. It might take me longer to write, though...