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A Father's Pain

Title: A Father's Pain
Series: A Matter of Perspective
Pairings: Kíli/Bilbo, Aragorn/Arwen, mentions of others
Word Count: 3267
Disclaimer: Like I own this.
Summary: Elrond does not understand his daughter's choices but Kíli helps him to see with new eyes.


Why must children be so difficult? Or perhaps it is only daughters for neither of my sons have ever caused me this much grief. And yet these days my heart is heavy, my shoulders bowed by a greater weight than I have felt since my lady traveled beyond the sea and it is all due to the choices of Arwen Evenstar.

She has been the light of my life since she was born, my one and only precious daughter who cannot be replaced within this world. But when I welcomed the son of Gilraen into my household after orcs slew his father so many years ago, I could not have guessed the grief that he would bring.

Indeed there had been only joy in those bygone days because Estel was a bright and curious child, eager to learn all that my people had to teach and as he neared maturity, Arwen found a kindred spirit in his clever mind. For my daughter returned to Rivendell when the boy was on the cusp of manhood after spending many years with our eastern kin in Lothlórien and the young man was fascinated by the world outside my halls.

Perhaps he loved her even then, hanging on her every word while she told him of her travels, but I saw only the friendship that they formed. A close friendship despite the difference in their ages and it warmed my heart to see my daughter laugh like that.

So I allowed Arwen's relationship with Estel to blossom freely, never thinking that my choice would lead us here. Only now she has pledged her life into his keeping, a gift that I simply can't allow the man to keep.

Estel - or Aragorn as I suppose I should call him now - may be a fine young man; he may even be the rightful King of Gondor, but loving him will destroy the Evenstar. Her heart will shatter when his stops beating and I cannot watch my daughter fade from loneliness and grief. It was hard enough to see this pain destroy my parents when they could have lived on for centuries; I felt an echo of it when I watched my dear Celebrían sail across the sea and I refuse to let such sorrow touch Arwen's shining light.

So I try to split them up, sending Estel to live with the rangers in the North until my daughter’s ardor fades. At least, that was my hope at the time but my daughter’s futures do not change even after months with neither word nor message that I know of and there is nothing I do not see in Rivendell.

But if separation will not cool her ardor, I will simply have to attempt other methods to show Arwen the mistake that she is making by loving Aragorn. And yet for all my eloquence and all my magic, she refuses to recognize the ugly truth which lies before her even now.

Therefore my mood is already grim when I begin to hear rumors of old enemies and darkness stirring in the East. My nightmares start to haunt me with visions of destruction until I cannot find a moment’s peace, for I have sensed the touch of evil on this earth again, an evil that my scars recognize. It is our ancient foe, he who was beaten and forgotten by the short-lived races but whom we elves will always carry with us in the screams of our once kin.

Yet even we do not want to admit that the final war is coming now. No, Thranduil is locked away in the Mirkwood with his bitterness, the elves of Lothlórien have not left the Golden Wood in decades and I? I just want my children safe.

Thus I counsel against the journey when Gandalf brings a company of dwarves to my doorstep, their hungry eyes turned on Erebor. They are going to wake the dragon with their greed and desperation and while I do not have the heart to deny them utterly, I urge Thorin Oakenshield to reconsider before leading so many to their doom. His company of dwarves and my northeastern kin, whose home will become a burning pyre should Smaug’s hate be roused. A single mountain cannot be worth the price of such destruction even if their homeland truly flows with golden rivers as many legends say. So while I might understand his obsession were I a dwarf with a heart that beat for treasure, I have never enjoyed watching anyone march to certain death and that is the only fate which I have seen for him.

However, neither Thorin nor the wizard will be denied their foolishness and somehow their madcap venture actually succeeds. Not without cost for my visions were right about the dwarf lord’s bloody future and yet I know that he would have given his life for Erebor twice over and counted it fair trade.

In a way it gives me hope to know that there is still such strength within our allies and I listen with interest to the stories that the survivors tell. Because I see many of Thorin’s company again over the decades as they crisscross the earth, traveling between the Shire and the mountain in the East. First there is Kíli, one of Thorin’s nephews I believe, who seems to have found himself a hobbit of whom he’s rather fond.

The pair is actually rather adorably in love, their blushing faces reminding me of my first days with my lady, although I could have done without the nighttime serenades.

But it’s difficult to brood when hardened warriors are reduced to whining about the couple’s lack of shame and most impressive volume and so I am almost disappointed when they continue on. For without this distraction all I can think about is my daughter’s continuing denial of the consequences that she faces should she continue to love Aragorn.

Indeed I consider barring Estel from my house even though no ally has ever been turned away from Rivendell; I consider it and then I am ashamed. Yet the thought lingers whenever the young man drops by to visit Arwen on his travels and I consume myself with preparations for the future in order to keep from striking him. Because Gandalf told me what he found in Dol Guldur and while that evil has been defeated for a time, it is only the strength of their denial that lets anyone believe this peace may last.

A denial I allow my people as long as I am able, but when the wizard sends me word that the One Ring has been found, no one can afford to hide their faces from the truth anymore. Not when Sauron’s spirit is struggling to walk upon our world as flesh once more and if he succeeds, all of Arda will be lost.

For there is no grand alliance to drive him back this time and even those who answer my summons do so grudgingly. If Isildur had only listened to me when the dark lord was first broken then things would have been different, but it is far too late for regrets such as these. Even if it is his fault that my family is in danger and I am almost certain that his descendant shares the weakness of his blood.

So I must admit that I give Bilbo Baggins and his dwarf little attention when they return to Rivendell with Erebor’s delegation since, unlike my other guests, they are not going to break our fragile alliance if I do not cater to their whims.

My fondness for the hobbit will have to wait until our plan of action has been decided and if he appears far older than he once did, that is ever the fate of those with mortal lives.

However, when Frodo Baggins arrives on my doorstep with a Morgul blade buried in his shoulder, I begin to see a face of his parents that I never knew before. For neither of them will leave their child's bedside as I struggle to save the young hobbit's life and we fall naturally into conversation to keep our fears at bay.

So we trade stories about our children's mishaps during those long hours and there are many because even elves have misadventures when they're young. We simply also have the years to see our wisdom far outmatch the world’s memory of the stupid things we've done. But even when Kíli and Bilbo are discussing all the trouble that their son has found, their love for Frodo shines through clearly and he is truly theirs, no matter whose blood he carries in his veins.

Indeed, I find this small family strangely humbling and it warms my heart to see their relief when the young hobbit opens his eyes again. I need that memory when the One Ring is revealed during my council, the meeting threatening to dissolve into feuds, recriminations and bloody arguments.

Truthfully I am almost ready to pull out my own blade and start swinging when Frodo unexpectedly volunteers to carry this burden for us, though perhaps I should have remembered that hobbits are always ready to surprise. However, even as I marvel at the young lad's bravery, it is his parents' reaction that I cannot understand. For while they clearly love their child and fear for his safety, neither Kíli nor Bilbo tries to change his mind.

Instead his fathers offer only their support, outfitting Frodo with advice and protection as best they can and then releasing him to face the world with a smile and a prayer. It is a strength I do not know if I could match were our situations mirrored, not when the thought of Arwen or my sons in danger leaves me cold inside.

No matter how strong and skillful each of them has grown, they will always be children in my eyes and I could not let them go so easily. I know that it’s unseemly but I cannot seem to help it and I justify my weakness with the idea that such worries must be different for races that do not share our years. The weight of life lost simply cannot be equal when one compares a few decades to the ruin of centuries, death coming to those who were never meant to pass.

However, I keep these thoughts buried as such ugliness deserves and it is only weeks later that I finally ask Kíli why he would put himself through this pain willingly.

The dwarf and his hobbit have settled in by then; Bilbo often found in the gardens with his book in his hands and his husband napping peacefully at his side. But when he is awake, Kíli cannot hide his worry, the archer spending long hours staring into the distance and pacing through my halls. It makes my heart ache just looking at him and so one evening I ask him how he could have allowed his son to leave.

A reasonable question in my opinion and yet the dwarf does not seem to understand it, glancing up at me quizzically, “Why would we have stopped him? I mean, of course I wish Frodo was not heading into certain danger with such a burden on his heart. It is dangerous and foolhardy and I am well aware that I may never see my son again. But to deny his bravery would be to go against everything that we have taught him, for we did not raise our child to stand back and hope that someone else would fix everything.

“No, we taught Frodo to face his challenges without flinching and take responsibility for the results of his own life. So while I cannot deny that I am worried, I am also as proud as I could be. To deny my son his sacrifice would have been a grave insult to the adult that he’s become and I would never try to choose his path for him.”

I seem to have hit a sore point if this heated response is any indication, the dwarf's tone almost biting by the time he finishes. Indeed Kíli just gives me a short nod of farewell before striding off to recover his composure and that is the end of our conversation for a time.

However, the archer’s words stay with me long after he has left my presence, his unfailing support contrasting sharply with my overwhelming need to protect my daughter's life. Because I cannot step back as easily while Arwen fights for breath, Sauron's evil beginning to dampen her bright light, and if not for Estel and the pledge my daughter made him, the Evenstar would already be safe across the sea.

So while I do feel somewhat guilty when I remember the danger that Kíli's son is facing, this does not stop me from trying to change Arwen's mind.

“You should not badger her so much,” the dwarf opines one evening after my daughter and I have had a rather deafening argument. “Even if elves do things differently than we younger races, attempting to control her will only lead to resentment in the end.”

“I'm not trying to control her; I am trying to save her life,” I retort somewhat defensively, caught between guilt and annoyance that he would question me. “She is throwing her grace away on Aragorn, sacrificing everything to chase this foolish love of hers. Because all his years will be no more than a blink of an eye compared to the centuries that she should have before her and I cannot watch her die so long before her time.”

I am expecting some sort of grand pronouncement in the usual dwarven fashion, a discussion of private glory that would never change my mind. But perhaps I should have realized that Kíli does not walk the usual roads and instead he just laughs bitterly.

“You sound like my brother and if you are not careful, you and your daughter will end up like he and I.”

“And why would this be a bad thing? You and your brother met here in Rivendell not twenty years past if I am remembering your family tree correctly and the reunion was quite joyous from where I stood.”

“Yes, it was, but before that day Fíli and I had not spoken for sixty years.” Kíli's lips quirk briefly at my obvious confusion, though I trust there will be a point eventually. “I know this is hardly a great span of time in elvish thinking, but sixty years is nearly half my life and I would have kept my silence unto death if he had not apologized.”

“Apologized for what? If you do not mind the tale.”

“Tales are meant for telling, are they not? And if it will help Arwen find happiness, I cannot refuse to speak even though the memory still brings me pain sometimes,” the dwarf replies, settling against the wall with a quiet sigh. “Because when Bilbo and I first fell in love, Fíli acted much as you are now. Indeed I think your reasons are probably similar for my brother only wished to protect me from the sorrow that our love would bring.

“You do not need to know all the gory details of what happened, but it should suffice to say that when Fíli forced me to choose between Bilbo and my family, it was my brother who was left behind. Dwarves love only once, you see, and I could no more leave my husband than I could carve out my own heart.”

Kíli's face is pensive and I can tell that he was not lying when he said this story still weighs heavily on him. But while his tale is sad, I still do not see what this has to do with Arwen until he speaks again.

“Have you ever thought about a hobbit's life span?” the archer asks, meeting my eyes straight on and I am shocked to silence by the pain I see within. “I have been thinking on it far too often these days because they are lucky to reach one hundred while we dwarves see three and Bilbo is already far past that age now. My husband is going to die soon and I may well follow him, particularly if Frodo does not survive.”

“But why? Why would you tie yourself to his future when you have so little time?” I ask after a moment, unable to understand such a sacrifice.

Though perhaps I do understand it in a way for this is the truth I wish I wasn't living with my Celebrían so far from me. Only the hope of seeing her again in the Grey Havens keeps me from fading and I could not hope to survive knowing she was dead and gone. But this was not my choice, it was fate and sorrow, and I cannot imagine choosing such grief willingly. Yet that is exactly what Kíli and my daughter have done and so I listen with slightly macabre fascination to the dwarf’s reply.

“Because it was worth it. It still is worth it despite the pain that I am facing and eighty years or a thousand, I would make the same choice again. For while I considered doing as my brother asked, pretending that my heart did not beat for Bilbo and my dreams were not entwined with his, I would have been miserable at heart. So I made my decision with eyes wide open and even if it has been far from perfect, I do not regret a single day.”

The dwarf’s speech is filled with the utmost conviction, an absolute certainty that makes his words impossible to doubt. Kíli truly believes that his love was worth the torture that it will cause him and if my daughter burns with the same passion, then my cause is lost.

Arwen will fade whether or not I allow her marriage and is an eternity of pining truly better than a brief burst of happiness? For she does not smile in the Grey Havens, not in the futures I have seen. She does not glow with the same light as she does with Aragorn and thus perhaps this dwarf is right, perhaps the joy and love would outweigh her grief. Perhaps the child that I have seen only in ghostly possibility will tie my daughter to this world when all other hope is lost.

“I will think on your words,” I tell him, as close to gratitude as I can bear to come. Because I still cannot support my daughter's decision with a whole heart, but Kíli has shown me that I need not compound her agony.

The archer obviously carries scars from his brother's denial even now that they've found peace between them and if Arwen must face the same heartbreak soon enough, it would be cruel to make her face that day alone. Instead I must show my daughter that I will be there for her even in this foolishness; I will be waiting to comfort her once Estel passes on and perhaps this knowledge will keep her safe when I cannot.

But first we must survive the coming war with Sauron and so I must fulfill a new purpose now. I must give Aragorn the weapon of his fathers with which to slay his enemies; I must reforge the blade that was broken and thus see the ranger crowned.


Finis