The stars were bright, the wind was racing across the plains, and Legolas Greenleaf paced the campsite and sang quietly to himself. He forgot the next verse and paused, then quickly started over. Anything to mask the soft sounds coming from the campsite.
It wasn’t the fault of the halflings; no doubt they were unaware of the keenness of elf ears. And it seemed like they were trying to be quiet.
At least, they had started out trying to be quiet. Hushes and whispers and a stifled laugh, and then quickening breath, the rhythmic rustle of dry leaves under their bedroll. A soft, animal sound, muffled in someone’s shoulder, followed by more whispers and laughter. Breath fading back to the slowness of sleep, matching the rest of the Fellowship.
They are wed, Legolas thought to himself, with some wonder.
He had asked Aragorn if the Ringbearer and his guardian were married at the start of their journey, and had been told no; so this must be their wedding. It was a strange place to do such a thing, devoid of ceremony, in the wilds on the twentieth day of their journey from Rivendell.
Legolas understood that mortals were shyer about such ceremonies than elves, hence the singing to give them their privacy. But he still felt an obligation. Even if it was private, even if it was made in desperation on a dangerous quest, marriage was sacred and deserved to be celebrated.
Through the rest of the night, as the Fellowship drowsed around him, Legolas plotted.
“Frodo,” said one of the other halflings, Legolas could never keep them straight, “where did that blanket come from?”
Frodo sat up, sleep in his face. His new husband was already up, helping Aragorn kindle a fire. Legolas watched with shy pleasure as Frodo looked down at the blanket. He had spent the night weaving it together from scraps of fabric. Not his finest work, and rushed, but tradition must be observed.
“I’ve no idea,” Frodo said, blinking in confusion.
“T’was there when I woke up,” Samwise said.
“ Congratulations ,” Legolas said, unable to contain himself any more. “I do not pretend to know the customs of your people, but in the halls of Mirkwood we gift blankets to newlyweds.”
“Newlyweds,” Frodo said. “Er. Sam? Did you tell Legolas we’re married?”
The two young hobbits snorted, and Samwise turned a remarkable shade of red. “No I did not sir, I mean, Frodo. Glory, what a thought to go getting in your head, Mr. Legolas!”
Legolas realized everyone was looking at him.
“But you did,” he said. “Forgive me, if it was meant to be done in secret. But I heard you.”
“Oh my stars,” said Frodo, and buried his face in the blanket. Samwise had somehow gone past red and into an alarming shade of purple.
Aragorn and Gandalf looked at each other and suddenly burst into laughter, Gandalf coughing into his cloud of morning pipe-smoke and Aragorn hiding his grin behind one hand. “I believe I understand your error, my friend,” Aragorn said.
“Error?” asked Legolas, feeling unsettled for the first time in several centuries.
“The customs of the Eldar around marriage are different from those of mortals,” Aragorn said delicately. “What you consider a wedding, for them is -”
“A pleasant diversion,” said Gandalf, still chuckling.
“Wait,” said one of the halflings, standing up and looking around like he had been given the most marvelous gift. “ Do you mean to tell me that a roll in the hay for elves means they’re married ?”
Aragorn’s shoulders were shaking and the other halfling was grinning with unbridled delight. “Oh, Legolas, I’m afraid old Frodo and Sam have gotten married several times already,” he said. “I’ve walked in on them getting married at least once - ”
“Please stop,” Frodo said, muffled from where he was fully hiding under the bedroll. Sam had simply frozen with his eyes very wide, similar to a hunted deer that hoped through stillness to not be spotted.
“Wait,” said Gimli, and Legolas closed his eyes for a moment, praying to Iluvatar for grace. “Do you mean to tell us you’ve never, er, been married, laddie?”
“ It is a sacred thing ,” Legolas said, with eyes still closed. There was another wave of laughter.
“Elves,” snorted the dwarf in contempt. “They’re odd about everything .”
“Merry has quite a few husbands and wives back in the Shire,” one of the halflings piped up, and dissolved into giggles.
“Yes, and you haven’t given me a single wedding present,” the other said tartly.
“I am going to scout,” Legolas announced, and sprang up and ran away swiftly. The laughter of the Fellowship followed him for quite some time.
But later; later, when they were walking and the mortals had moved on to other topics of conversation, the Ringbearer found Legolas.
“Thank you for the blanket,” he said.
“I apologize for the misunderstanding,” Legolas said, keeping his eyes on the road ahead.
“The thing is,” Frodo said, in a hushed voice. “It’s not just a pleasant diversion, not for us.” Legolas looked down at Frodo, who was looking back at Samwise. And the look in his eyes - Legolas was becoming aware of many things he didn’t know, but he knew that was how one partner looked at their other.
“I would, if I could,” Frodo said wistfully. “Marry him.” He looked up at Legolas brightly. “So. There’s something a bit sweet, knowing that we are, in your eyes.”
Perhaps he had not misunderstood, after all.