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The Scruff Factor  by JastaElf

Elrond Peredhil glanced beyond the doorway into his thankfully massive dining hall, the more formal one used for just such occasions as this, when for whatever reason, half of Ennor had found its way to his hospitality. Everywhere, almost as far as even the eyes of Elves could see, there were people: Dwarves, Elves, Men of one tribe or another, and a sprinkling of Hobbits for good measure. All of them were dressed in their better clothes, with many a family heirloom worn at throat or on hand, or (as was often the case with nobly-born Elves) atop the head. In some cases, the person himself (or herself) was the ornament: Olórin Mithrandir "Flame of Anor" Gandalf Tharkun etcetera had never needed much by way of heirlooms to stand out as precisely what he was, a very powerful Maia of the Istari. Elrond narrowed his eyes at the wizard as he sat among the chatting Hobbits, and was pleased to notice he seemed far more rested than he had been before.

A bath and a change of robes, after a good long rest and some healing, is always a happy thing, Elrond thought, and smiled to consider how fatherly his ancient friend seemed there among the cheery periannath. And speaking of baths…

He could not help it; his fatherly eye was drawn toward the two of his children--one born, one fostered--whom he could see within the hall, the Twins not having made their entrance as of yet. Arwen, as always, was a feast for the eyes: her dark, lush waterfall of raven hair falling in waves about her lissome form, which was clad in a fetching gown of deep Imladris blue velvet, tastefully accented with silver embroidery and a cloth-of-mithril shawl that had once belonged to Elrond's wife Celebrían. The Lord of Imladris smiled fondly, thinking what a delightful blend of both parents the Evenstar was, and what a pleasant whole the combination made.

And then there was Estel….

Elrond's piercing grey eyes narrowed just the smallest bit further, and he passed a critical gaze over his foster-son. Aragorn had clearly chosen to opt for the Rugged, Manly Ranger look this evening, but at least it was a much-neatened "Rugged, Manly Ranger Goes to a Posh Dinner" sort of ensemble. He was closely shaven, his beard neatly trimmed, and the thick dark hair hanging to his shoulders had been washed and combed. His outfit was not quite Dúnedan and not exactly Elvish, but a rather pleasant combination of the two, with every conceivable shade of black layered one atop the other, the fabrics making the statements of difference between them all. A silk undertunic and velvet leggings were overlain by what looked to be an over-tunic of some rich damasked brocade. Overall there was a long, sleeveless coat of sorts, too short to be a robe in the sense an Elf might understand such a garment, but still giving a distinct, Rangerly kind of appearance to the whole ensemble. It was made of sueded leather and had interesting, subtle embroidery in an understated gold, that looked rather Silvan to Elrond's discriminating eye. Perhaps a gift from young Legolas?

Well, never mind; it was the quirky sort of outfit the folk of Imladris had come to expect from their Estel, and among the visitors for the Council, they would see precisely what they expected to see: a Ranger of the North, neatened up for the occasion. Elrond sighed, supposing it was the best they could expect from him for the nonce. Perhaps if the Throne of Gondor ever found a way to fit back into Estel's plans, something a little more fitting could be forced onto his person.

Coronations, Elrond thought, smiling. He preferred not to think too much about the concept of weddings just yet--one thing at a time!--even if he was certain Arwen pondered little else but, these days.

He knew without looking who was behind him, waiting to be acknowledged. Raising one expressive eyebrow, Elrond commented:

"I know I heard young Thranduilion's voice earlier. I do not see him, nor do I see the Twins."

There was a smothered, decorous snigger from his left: Erestor. A snort of amusement from his right: Glorfindel. From their reactions he knew they had heard what he had, drifting over the open balconies of his library that afternoon as the son of Thranduil and his dour entourage arrived from Mirkwood. It was Legolas's curse to have been born much as Arwen had, possessed of a devastating combination of parental beauty, though in his case it was as if the brightest summer day had come to rest with all its loveliness upon his person, where the Evenstar (as her name implied) was the mysterious enchantment of a long summer's night. Elrond had clearly heard the paeans of praise and expostulations of admiration that had come from all sorts of persons, upon the youngster's arrival--and he had heard, as had his ever-observant friends now grinning behind him, the grimly polite, ever-decreasing civility in the responses from the youngest Prince of Mirkwood.

"Fortunately," said Glorfindel softly, "the princelet has his mother's patience overlain atop Thranduil's temperament. Otherwise we might have had blood to mop up this noon."

"Blood," Erestor repeated solemnly in a polite murmur, though Elrond knew his eyes would be almost watering with the effort not to laugh. "Very messy, hard to get out of slate. I'd not have liked that."

"And Legolas would have been simply devastated at the breach of courtesy shown by such bloodshed," Glorfindel said, the decorousness of his tone completely undone by the untoward snort that then escaped him, causing Erestor to actually chuckle. Elrond fought the urge to bat them both about the head and shoulders, and settled for massaging the bridge of his nose against the merest twinge of impending headache. It was going to be a long, long Council session, he could certainly see that.

"When all our guests have departed, in whatever condition, I want one of you to remind me I owe you both a beating," Elrond said quietly, in his "Lord of Imladris--herald of the High King" voice. They each took the hint and murmured apologies, but Elrond had known them both for a very long time and could still hear the underlying mirth in their tones. He made a mental note to get them for this later, then turned to face his advisors. Elrond was just in time to catch them schooling their faces toward the solemnity required by two such highly placed members of the Household.

Yes. A very, very long Council session.

"Well." Elrond cleared his throat and straightened. "I do not think we can delay the start of dinner any longer; the Hobbits look hungry."

"Which is to say they look normal," Glorfindel supplied helpfully, elbowing Erestor. Elrond lifted an eyebrow at both of them, even though he knew it would have very little effect. That eyebrow might quell Elflings, Men of Gondor, Dwarves, and occasionally Orcs--but Erestor was a master of calmness, not likely to be ruffled by much of anything short of an Orc invasion. Glorfindel, of course, was a law unto himself, and could remember Elrond when he was quite nearly still an Elfling, arguing over brotherly things with his own twin Elros. That was a very long time ago indeed. No eyebrow would ever overcome that, even if it were wielded by Celeborn of Doriath.

Even if it were wielded by Galadriel, Elrond thought, and managed just barely to suppress a shudder. At least Glorfindel generally had the grace to acknowledge the meaning behind a quirked eyebrow, even if it did not cause him to back down by main force.

"As I was saying," Elrond went on warningly, and the scapegrace lords had the decency to look slightly less amused. "The Twins will doubtless sneak in as they generally do, and young Legolas will have to endure what he has brought upon himself: a late and rather public entrance into an overcrowded dining hall. I daresay, however, that he will be in a somewhat better mood than he was when he first arrived." He glanced hopefully down the hallway; upon seeing no sign of his sons or the Prince of Mirkwood, Elrond sighed. "All right, let us go in and get this over with."

They made their entrance, accepted the accolades of the assemblage, and made their way to the high table. Elrond prefaced with a few mercifully short, appropriate remarks of welcome, then bade them all enjoy the meal. The musicians began to play light, lyrical musics apropos of the occasion, and the servers moved forth from the kitchens like the well-regimented force they were. The hum of conversation was joined by the civilized clink of crystal and the homey sounds of shared dinnertime enjoyment. The little clutch of Hobbits, still minus young Baggins, appeared particularly relieved to see the food, and even Bilbo managed to consume in a perilously short amount of time far more than one might expect of a creature of his great age.

Not too long afterwards, Elrond heard a murmur of awe and delight from the tables nearest the broad stairs of the main entrance, and glanced that way without breaking his conversation with Gandalf.

"Ah, the children have arrived," the wizard said, with a shameless grin. "There is a sight to raise one's hat to, for certain. Samwise, if ever you wanted to see Elves of the finest sort, now would be your opportunity!"

The round-faced, stoutly-built young Hobbit so addressed, Samwise Gamgee, looked up from a well-laden plate at the sound of his name. He smiled at the wizard, his gaze sliding sidewise in the direction Gandalf gestured--and his mouth fell open in astonishment.

"Now there's an eye-opener, no mistake!" he breathed, in tones nearing stunned worship. Elrond could just imagine what had brought that on, and turned around for more than just a cursory glance. Only many, many years of fatherhood kept him from reacting beyond an appreciative smirk, and the comment:

"Well, they took their time, did they not?"

His guests, on the other hand, were more than happy to react--and in some cases over-react--to the sight that awaited them on the stairs. The Twins, as was generally the case when they were up to something, had dressed completely alike: Imladris blue velvet over-robes, gorgeously embroidered in silver and gold, worn over matching evening robes of heavy slubbed silk in a shade of sky blue that rather neatly matched the eyes of a certain princeling. They were flanking said princeling in the bargain, which only cemented in their father's mind the notion that Something Was Up. But whatever it might be was rendered quite well worth the price (and with the Twins, there was always a price…) by the appearance of their companion.

Always mindful of the fact that he was his father's son, even if his tastes were dramatically less flashy than Thranduil's, Prince Legolas was decked out as every inch a royal Elf of ancient and high lineage.

Make that furlong, Elrond thought in stunned appreciation. An inch is far too short a measurement!

From the mithril circlet (cunningly wrought to depict oak and ash leaves intertwined with a decorous hint of thorn and perfect little acorns) atop his golden head to the form-hugging soft leather boots about his well-turned ankles and feet, the youngster who was sufficiently shamefast to describe himself as a 'simple Wood-Elf' looked absolutely anything but.

Sindarin to the eye-teeth, Legolas was a princely picture of perfection in a deep green velvet over-robe with sleeves that swept the floor, turned back into deep cuffs to show the gorgeous pattern of re-embroidered damask, all acanthus leaves and intricate knotwork. Beneath this he wore a tailored short tunic of leaf green silk, also beautifully decorated and set with a tasteful number of perfect pearls and green and white gemstones. The leggings were softest silk and black as night, while the shirt beneath was of a sky blue so close to the colour of the Twins' robes, there was simply no way it could have been an accident. He cut, as his father would most assuredly have said had he been present, an astonishingly delectable figure--and yet he somehow contrived to look as innocent as new snow, as if he had absolutely no idea the effect he was having on the gathering.

"I thought you said he hated late and public entrances," Glorfindel murmured sidelong to Elrond. The Lord rolled his eyes indulgently.

"No, I said he brought it on himself. Though I will admit, normally he dislikes such things intensely."

Glóin of Erebor almost choked on his wine; his son Gimli, a redoubtable Dwarven warrior if ever there was one, looked up in surprise at such a sound coming from his sire, and turned to see what the matter could be.

It was several heartbeats before he could close his mouth. And several more beyond that, before he could speak. Seated at the end of the table beside Erestor, Boromir of Gondor also looked up--and was caught like a bird in a Mirkwood spider web, staring with his eyes wide in bemused shock. Legolas gave them a brilliant smile, and moved on into the dining hall with the Twins cheerfully by his side; they came to stand before Elrond and bowed deeply.

"I beg your pardon for my tardiness, Lord Elrond," the Mirkwood vision announced in his quiet, lyrical voice. "I bring you greetings from my lord father Thranduil Oropherion, King of Greenwood the Great, known in these dark times as Mirkwood."

Elrond inclined his dark head regally to acknowledge the greeting, and was a little surprised to see Legolas pointedly glance in Estel's direction before continuing: "I would have come straightway to pay my respects, but the rigors of travel on the roads at this time of year left me in a state not befitting decent company. I did not wish to give even the smallest hint of disrespect, and thus sought instead to mend my appearance before daring to put myself before you."

It was Thranduil-esque to the iota, and Elrond could not help the fact that his brows rose in amusement. For someone who rarely strung more than two sentences together inside of an hour, this was the second major speechification young Legolas had uttered within the Lord of Imladris' powerful hearing.

"I completely approve of the amendment to your--err--appearance," Elrond said at last, noting that when Legolas blushed, it was most becoming. He gave each of his sons a cursory glance, equally amused at the expressions of innocence on their matched faces. "And it was most considerate of you to make that amendment in advance of bringing me your father's felicitations."

He heard a strange cough to his left, and wondered if Estel was quite all right; knowing Arwen probably had him well in hand, however, Elrond simply made a gesture in that general direction, where seats awaited the two sons of the household and their charming Wood-Elf guest.

"Do join us, fair Prince of Mirkwood, and avail yourself of the hospitality of Imladris. I am most pleased to have you beneath this roof once more."

Legolas bowed with singular grace, and followed the Twins to the indicated seats at Elrond's table. He gave a nod of friendly greeting to Arwen as he passed, and quirked one dark eyebrow at Aragorn, as if in appreciation of his turn-out. The quirk made him look just the slightest bit more like his father, which unaccountably caused a shiver to run up Aragorn's spine. Thranduil was, after all, a rather imposing and occasionally scary Elf-Lord, as one might expect from the being who had kept Mirkwood free and nominally under Elven control for thousands of years without recourse to a Ring of Power. No mean feat that, and Aragorn appreciated it more than most, having had many an occasion to pass through Thranduil's realm over the years.

He was also well aware that the adorable princelet who now sat to his left through the machinations of Elrohir (whose seat it ordinarily would have been) was one of Thranduil's first lines of defense in the matter of keeping Mirkwood safe. Let others stare and wonder if this porcelain doll of an Elf might break if a good, stiff wind came up; Aragorn knew it was far more likely that if anything blown into the environs by such a wind chose to be disobliging, the princelet could turn in a heartbeat into a killing machine of nerve-wracking skill and speed. Feeling the need coming on for a good militant discussion of Orc-killing techniques, Aragorn turned in his seat and grinned at his old friend.

"Aren't you lovely tonight," he murmured, pinching up a fold of the green velvet. "You look like your Ada. I thought Glóin was going to lose his composure at the sight of you."

"Is that what it's called?" Legolas wondered with an innocent twinkle, glancing behind those to his right to where the Dwarf-Lord's broad back could be seen beyond Elrond, encased in finely-tooled leather and suede. "There's a reason I look like my Ada. This is his robe--or was, he's more into moss greens this year."

Aragorn snickered. Thranduil was noted for being extremely fond of appearances, though to be fair, he was also equally noted for being able to keenly see beneath them. His son was often hard-put to get anything over on the old Elf, that was for certain. And getting things over on people was one of Legolas's more finely honed abilities….

"So, how fares everything in Mirkwood these days?" he asked, and genteelly thanked the hovering servant before ladling gravy over his meat from the proffered bowl. "Quiet, I hope? Save for the curious sound of a certain creature swallowing curiously?"

Blushing oddly, Legolas ignored him, choosing instead to lean behind Aragorn to fondly greet the waiting Evenstar. He kissed her slender hand and murmured brotherly sweet nothings at her in Quenya, which was extremely gallant of him, given how his father looked askance at such maunderings. If nothing else, it enabled him to bypass Aragorn's inquiry, save to say in swift passing that all was well at home, thank you, and wasn't it kind of him to ask?

"Where did you get that damask?" Arwen purred appreciatively, fingering the deep turnback cuffs of Legolas's robe. He grinned at her.

"Out of my father's clothespress. But I suspect it was originally made somewhere far West of here, if you catch my drift." Legolas tipped his fair head toward Aragorn's broad back. "Estel's looking rather lovely tonight himself--your doing?"

"I do know how to clean up and dress for nice occasions, you know," Aragorn retorted through Arwen's giggles, without turning around. "And it is not precisely polite of you two to carry on like that behind my back."

"Yes, he knows how," Elladan grumbled from their left at the other end of the table. "He simply does not often indulge in the knowledge."

"I do when there's need," Aragorn protested, but was forestalled from further complaint by the arrival of a servitor with a platter full of plump game hens stuffed with pecans and wild rice. Elladan gave a decorous sniff of disdain.

"The hell you say. Estel, please, forbear--this is me, your eldest brother. Your protestations are as dust in the wind."

"Oh, that's good," Elrohir said with a snicker, helping himself to a roll and passing the basket along. "May I use that next time? Because we know there will be a next time."

"Not if you lot do not begin showing nicer manners," Elrond put in warningly from the centre of the table, without apparently breaking stride in any of several conversations he was tracking--and managed to put the comment in, thank you very much, in his elegant Quenya, to spare the younger members of his household from prying ears of guests. "I brought two of you into this world, I retain the option to take you back out of it."

"My father uses that line on me and my brother all the time," Legolas observed with a merry chuckle, from the midst of the family. "Only, he is not quite so polite about it."

"Nor would he be likely to spare our feelings with Quenya," Elrohir chuckled. "Here, Legolas, try one of these stuffed squash--they're absolutely delightful, the spice mix is not to be believed."

And so dinner went on, as Elven dinners will, with a very great deal of delectable food and equally delicious conversation. Afterwards the musicians moved on to playing songs one could sing along with if so inclined--and it seemed most folk were, as quite a gathering took place over in the gallery corner where they had set up earlier. Under pretense of wanting a breath of fresh air, the Twins and Legolas managed to maneuver it so that Aragorn and Arwen were caught up in their general move toward one of the several balconies. Arwen twigged almost instantly that something was going on, and placed herself smoothly between her Estel and harm's way--until she realized that both brothers were here, as well as Legolas. How to protect him while still leaving two directions uncovered?

She solved the problem by making certain Aragorn sat up against the balcony wall--and then placed herself decorously across his lap, a sweet smile of great dignity decorating her lovely face. Legolas cocked an eyebrow at her and grinned, choosing only to take up a place between the couple and the Twins; this earned him looks of gratitude from the Evenstar and snorts of amusement from her devilish older brothers.

"What a lovely evening," Elrohir said brightly, as Legolas poured fresh glasses of cordial for all of them from the decanter he had snagged on the way outside. "Whatever shall we talk about?"

"I know!" Elladan said, raising one finger pedantically. "We shall discuss wardrobe."

"Having new furniture made?" Aragorn asked innocently. Legolas almost choked on his miruvor.

"I do not think he means furniture," the prince murmured, dabbing delicately at his chin with a pocket square of fine silk. "I believe he speaks of clothing."


"Yes." Legolas somehow managed that 'driven snow' expression he did so well. "You know: as in, 'the habiliments of princes, the wardrobe of great men and heroes.' That sort of thing."

"Isn't that from The Númenóriad?" the Ranger asked, perking up. Surely now the discussion would turn to more militant things, even if there was a lady present. Legolas sighed, rolling his eyes.

"As it happens, yes--but that is beside the point. I believe Elrohir is trying to introduce the subject of what one wears."

"Elladan is," said the owner of that name, skewing his mouth sidewise in amusement at the confusion betwixt himself and his twin. "But that is neither here nor there."

"Or perhaps, neither here--" Elrohir pointed down toward his own feet, where he perched on the balcony railing where the wall ended and delicate-looking wrought iron took up the decorative theme--"nor there." He pointed to Elladan, who just looked annoyed. Amused, but annoyed. "But I daresay that is beside the point."

"How much farther are we going to stretch this metaphor, before we have to put it out of its misery?" Arwen asked rather archly, doing a very fine imitation of Elrond with her own lovely eyebrows. She glanced at Elladan meaningfully. "Why exactly are we discussing wardrobe, brother mine?"

"Oh good, your turn to claim him," Elrohir said with a grin, earning himself a poke from Aragorn.

"I dressed up for dinner," Aragorn said with a hint of steel in his tone. "Really, it's all very well for the two of you to cozen and bedevil me no end about cleanliness and habiliments and such--you're Elves, and we all know the Firstborn use unfair access to magic in order to stay tidy. I have no such access, so you'll pardon me if I feel altogether righteous tonight."

"He shaved and everything," Arwen added, rubbing one hand on the unbearded part of her beloved's sculpted cheek. The expression in her eyes would have ignited war banners miles away, and the answering light in Aragorn's grey eyes was nothing short of incendiary as well. Legolas cleared his throat.

"Save that for later on, you two," he advised, his blue eyes gleaming with merriment. "Estel, we are all aware that you dressed for dinner. And may I say, you did a fine job--at least in my humble opinion."

"Humble? In that get-up?" Aragorn retorted, gesturing at the prince's regal attire. Legolas struck a pose; there was a sound from within the hall that could possibly have been breaking crockery. They all turned and looked--to find a flustered pair of servants, one male, one female, staring in admiration at the Mirkwood vision before them. At their feet were a broken platter and an utterly smashed pitcher, both of which appeared to have been mercifully empty.

"Ooops," Legolas apologised, blushing faintly. Elrohir just barely caught himself before falling backward off the railing.

"Hate it when that happens," Elladan said, smirking shamelessly. "Elrohir, contain yourself."

While Elrohir levered himself back into position and looked about aimlessly for something in which to contain himself, Aragorn found himself squared off with Elladan, who had his "son-of-Elrond-and-I-mean-business!" look firmly in place.

"See here now, pen-neth, it is time you realized you're all grown up," the elder twin announced. "This Rangerly habit of yours is all very well and good--but you are no longer a Manling, for all your youth, and I daresay I am not the only one who would like to see you tricked out in something far more appropriate to your station when Council convenes in a day or so. Am I not right?"

He turned pointedly to include his twin and Legolas in the declaration. Elrohir only nodded solemnly, giving Aragorn much the same look as Elladan; in tandem it was daunting indeed. Legolas merely looked like a deer caught in the sudden flash of an Istari's staff, in an otherwise dark and drear forest.

"I think he looks quite masterful," Arwen protested, rising to poke her brother in the chest. On her, the businesslike facial expression became something that bespoke feminine mysteries far more powerful than any Lore-Master, no matter who he might be: the lovely Evenstar ducked her chin and narrowed her blue eyes at Elladan, giving him her own "grand-daughter-of-Galadriel-and-don't-you-forget-it!" look. "You should learn when and where to pick your battles, lend Balrog!"

A distressed but curiously amused noise came out of Legolas then, rather like someone attempting to suppress a sneeze when their mouth is full, but Arwen was not finished. She rounded on Elrohir, who was beginning to laugh uproariously; the train of her gown swung like the tail of an angry cat.

"And while we are at it, tithen Môrroch, let us not hear anything out of you either!" she growled. "Pots of honey or no, I will remind you that the pair of you have not always been known for your own sartorial splendour!"

"That was an accident!" Elrohir exclaimed, the very picture of wounded innocence. "And anyway, you were the merest baby Elfling back then--and celair-heneb, here, wasn't even a twinkle in Varda's right eye, so you may cease from staring at me as if I've just turned green, tithen ernil!"

This last was addressed to Legolas, who had already boggled at the epessë of "brilliant eyes", and was simply bristling at being called a princelet yet again.

"Gripe not to me, einior Adar," the son of Thranduil exclaimed, a distinct glint coming into those brilliant eyes. "Just because I was not there does not mean I have not heard the tale. My father tells it with great relish from time to time--and with quite a few flourishes, I might add. It is a very popular tale in his halls!" He glanced sidelong at Aragorn with not a little humour. "I was not there, you see--but Thranduil was. And there was something about a spoiled tunic of his owing to the contents of that honey pot!"

"What honey pot?" Aragorn asked, intrigued. Legolas winked, laying a finger aside his nose.

"Tell you later."

"The hell you will," Elladan growled. "Whose side are you on, anyway?"

"Why--my own," Legolas announced, as if that should be obvious to the veriest dunce.

"We are straying leagues away from the mainstream of this evening's symposium," Elrohir felt constrained to point out, making placatory noises at his siblings and their guest. Cheerfully ignoring the various looks of bemused annoyance from the gathering, he went blithely onward: "I do believe we were discussing Estel's choice of clothing. 'Rugged Manly Dúnadan' is all right for taverns in Gondor or Bree, and maybe even out in the wild--but here you are a son of the House, and should dress accordingly."

There. It was said. All Ennor paused for breath, waiting to see what would be the outcome.

Aragorn coughed politely behind one hand. "Gods forfend I should disagree with those so very much my elder," he said gently, with just the tiniest hint of disobligement in his eyes, "but I completely and utterly disagree. Nevertheless--I do thank you for your concern."

Arwen gave her brothers a "so there!" sort of look, and sat down with great decorousness in her previous place on Aragorn's lap, arranging her beaded skirts about her slender little feet. Legolas displayed a sudden, rather intense interest in the architecture somewhere along the roofline of the dining hall, affecting an expression that spoke of deep Elven amazement that he could possibly have reached so great an age as he had without ever realizing how rivetingly fascinating that roofline was--after all the many times he had been here, too, and missed noticing it every time, can you imagine that!

"You--what?" Elladan queried, the slightest ruffle of confusion creasing his brow.

"I disagree with your assessment of how I ought to dress for tomorrow," Aragorn elaborated kindly. "And your assessment as well," he added, glancing sidelong at Elrohir, just in case he might somehow have confused which twin had made the comment. As they both looked similarly perplexed, this was entirely a possibility.

"And just why, pray tell, do you disagree?" Elrohir purred, deciding it was well past time to go on the offensive. "Are you ashamed of us?"

"Valar know I am," Arwen whispered, batting her eyelashes. Elrohir sneered with internecine affection.

"Unimpressed, tithen muinthel. Get over yourself." She merely stuck out her tongue.

"Stop it, both of you," Aragorn commanded, putting a bit of a bark behind the words. "I am neither ashamed of this House, nor even particularly ashamed of any of you, despite the behavior you are now exhibiting. Heaven knows someone around here ought to be mature."

"Oh, very good," Legolas murmured admiringly, still examining the roofline, the hint of a grin curving his mouth.

"Then why do you insist on shaming us with this silly tendency to dress like the rag-picker's illegitimate stepchild?" Elladan demanded, pinching up a fold of Aragorn's over-robe. Legolas turned then, fire in his eye.

"Excuse me," he growled. "That particular garment was a gift. From me."

Aragorn managed not to smirk, at only the Valar knew what price. Elladan had the grace to blush, albeit faintly. "Oh."

"Well, never mind the individual pieces," Elrohir put in, trying to salvage the moment. "Even you, Legolas, must admit that in the main Estel dresses somewhat below the salt. And it is not something of which I am particularly fond, for it is not one of his more amusing habits. Can you not reason with him?"

"I should like to hear his explanation," Legolas said with kind patience. "He has, after all, been trying to explain for at least the last several moments. Can you not hear him out?"

"You could, you know," Aragorn said, putting on a look of dogged mannerliness that was completely belied by the twinkle in his eye. Elladan swatted him.

"Do not make eyes at me, bratling," he commanded with affectionate sharpness. "I had that particular look down, aye, and the delivery too, long before your thirdfather was out of leading-strings. Pray though, do tell us why you insist on dressing like some wandering Danwaith--ai, avo garo, Greenleaf, I'm older than you and far more experienced!"

"Youth and cunning will overcome age and experience every time," Legolas growled cheerfully, having managed to move fairly smartly and silently to take Elladan by the front of his robe. "Danwaith my eye… any idiot can see that is purely Vanyar embroidery on Estel's over-robe, and particularly nicely done work, too!"

"Which brings us back to the question," Aragorn said somewhat pointedly, slipping calmly in between to separate the two Elves. "Elladan, Elrohir, you are just being difficult. You know as well as anyone else I am proud of my association with this House. But especially at this Council meeting, under duress and difficulty as it is, with much depending on cooperation--do you honestly think it would serve anyone's needs if I come across looking overly Elvish? Really, now. And with the eldest son of the Steward of Gondor present, too!"

"Don't let's get started on that," Legolas pleaded, making a show of smoothing down Elladan's rumpled over-robe, and tweaking the elder Elf on the chin when he glanced down to see what the prince was doing. "We'll be here all night, and the discussion could get acrimonious."

"As opposed to whatever this has been," Arwen put in mildly, and with great ladylike dignity ignored the round of catcalls.

"If no one minds, I do intend to dress properly," Aragorn finished, drawing himself up to his full height. "You won't have a single complaint, I assure you. But I do intend to dress like the Man that I am."

"King of Gondor?" Elrohir could not help putting in. Legolas held his breath, but Aragorn took neither offense nor lost his patience.

"No, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, sometime Ranger and upper-class gentleman-about-Ennor," said he for whom the epithets were most fit. "And now, if you will excuse us, I do believe my Lady and I have some catching up to do."

"For what?" Elladan demanded to know. "You've spent every spare moment with each other since you came home, Estel. No fair--especially with Legolas just having arrived."

Legolas contrived to look hurt, but spoiled it by grinning. "And you claim to be my friend," he sighed. "I'm either stuck with the Twins, or I must go back into the Hall of Fire and sit with Cellar Dwarves all night."

"Cellar Dwarves?"

"Long story."

"Ah." Aragorn glanced at the Twins, then back at Legolas. "Sorry, tithen ernil. I love you dearly, but you are no Arwen. Do feel free to come help me pick out a tunic to wear on Council day, though--see you around!"

Thus in triumph he sailed back through the Hall and away, with Arwen floating victoriously on his arm. Elrohir cleared his throat.

"Looks like you’re stuck with us," he said, swallowing a grin. Legolas scowled affectionately.

"Well, I think that went well," he murmured, and glanced back to where Aragorn and Arwen could be seen disappearing out the other door into the long autumnal darkness beyond. "My Plan is working perfectly."

"What Plan?" Elladan grumbled, and drained his cup of miruvor. "The most we got out of him in concession is allowing you to pick his tunic for him. What a marvelous plan."

"Silly boy," Legolas chuckled. "Little do you realize! Did you not mark how the assumption was all on you two? Not a smitch of suspicion rests on my golden head, thank you very much, and he himself gave me leave to pick his clothes."

A look came into those calculating blue eyes, then, and it occurred to Elrohir that Sauron himself might have access to such an expression when plotting something dire and terrible. "Nothing is suspected," said the youngest Prince of Mirkwood, staring off the way Aragorn had gone. "Everything is right on schedule."

The Twins exchanged a significant look, right eyebrows curving upward in mute testimony to their paternal heritage.

"What in the name of the Valar have we unleashed here?" Elrohir asked, just a little nervously. Elladan gave a shrug of disdain, but his eyes were wary.

"I have an awful feeling I know precisely what we have unleashed," he replied, "and I think we will wait a long time in Mandos's Halls before we are forgiven for this. Legolas--I feel I needs must ask. What are you going to do to our brother?"

The son of Thranduil shortened his gaze back to the present time and place, and put on a look of unalloyed innocence.

"Absolutely nothing," he said, and there showed nary a hint of dissembling that either of the Twins (past masters at dissembling if ever there were such a thing!) could see. "Why do you ask?"

Having so spoken, Legolas turned on his booted heel and headed back into the Hall, leaving by a different staircase, heading back toward the living levels of the House. He was unaware of the stares of admiration that followed his departure, and was so focused on his task that he failed to even take note of old Glóin choking on his pipeweed, having taken a particularly healthy inhale on his pipe just before the son of the Elven-king breezed on by looking perilously like his father in the teeth of a good plot.

"Should we follow him?" Elrohir asked.

"Do Balrogs relieve themselves in the deep-delved places of Ennor?" Elladan asked puckishly, before suiting suggestion to action and heading off in Legolas's wake. Elrohir's brow creased in disgusted amusement.

"I certainly hope they do it there," he remarked as he hurried after his brother. "Forests do have a tendency to burn, after all, and such a thing could quickly kill many a good old tree!"

His twin's words floated back to him in tones of fond exasperation: "Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to go to Adar's library and look up rhetorical in a good dictionary!"

"Oh," Elrohir murmured, glad the evening dimness hid his blush.



pen-neth= young one
lend Balrog= sweet Balrog, nickname fastened on Elladan by Elrond in childhood, after a "certain incident" not related here. Yet.
tithen Môrroch= dark little horse, Elrond's nickname for Elrohir
celair-heneb= brilliant-eyed (M-e equivalent of bright eyes…)
tithen ernil= little prince= princelet
epessë= an "after-name" or byname given to certain Elves. ;-)
einior Adar= elder father, usually an epithet of honour. ;-)
tithen muinthel= little sister
Danwaith= an old name for the Nandor Elves, meant as a fond slap at Legolas's choice of garment for Aragorn…
avo garo=don't do it!

The Númenóriad does not exist, I made it up, as well as the quote. The only poetic quote I could find in Bartlett's containing the word 'wardrobe' came from Shakespeare, and did not fit the conversation. But if it did exist, it would be an epic poem, along the lines of Beowulf and that ilk, and would be about--uhh--the Númenóreans.

Thank Bill Cosby for childhood memories of what Elrond says to his family... "I brought you into this world, I can take you back out! Don't make no difference to me, I can make another one looks just like you!" (snicker) Except Elrond already did, and they're both sitting there... :-)

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