He smiled, feeling more loved and at home than he ever thought possible. “You know… if either of you have things to ask me, now would be a good time to do so.” He lifted his head, forcing himself to stay awake properly now. He needed this time with them. He smiled up at Celeborn and reached up to wipe away a stray tear, knowing it for what it was - only one of joy. “We are alone, and I do not know when we will have such privacy again.”
He thought for a moment, then looked to Thranduil, uncertain. “I… do not know what I would ask of you…” Perhaps his trouble with thinking of a question was the possibility of there being many things he wished to ask him - he figured that he simply didn’t know which to ask first. Some questions were more selfish than others (about Celebrían mostly, but also concerning other things in the Halls), and others were simply out of curiosity, such as his experience with death… however, the question was certainly not one to ask seeing that the subject was so sensitive to him. If he was destined to know, he would know. If not, it would remain a mystery.
Sighing softly, he said, “There will be other times, won’t there? This can’t be the only time we are alone. You could use some rest…”
Thranduil stared absently into the air for a moment after hearing Oropher’s words, his mind buzzing with all the questions he wanted to ask. There were so many, and he knew not where to begin… He heard Celeborn speak, but one question stood out more than the others, one he burned to ask… and though he wanted his father to get the rest he needed, he wanted to have answers, too. It was better to get it over with than wait forever.
“What were…. your thoughts…?” he began haltingly, looking over at them finally, settling his gaze on Oropher. “When you…. When I held you. Just before you passed on. Were you…. at peace with what you had decided to do? Or…?” It was difficult to ask, but he hoped he would understand what he meant.
He tensed a little at the question, but relaxed almost instantly. He had expected such questions, after all, and he had given them both free reign of what to ask him. He took a moment to think back before he answered, though he didn’t need to think too hard. When he spoke, his voice was soft and quiet.
“My thoughts…? There was only one, really. As I fell, I… I thought of you, Thranduil. I thought of you out there on the battlefield, if you were safe… and then there you were, holding me close. I will never forget that image, you know… your hair was tangled and splashed with blood, and there was more on your face, but you were alive, and you were safe. The Orcs… they were fleeing. You survived, and that was all that mattered to me.” He reached up and touched Thranduil’s cheek, just as he had all those years ago on the battlefield. “My sweet boy, you were safe. The pain, it… it was gone, the second I looked up into those bright green eyes of yours. I felt… happy. I had given my life to a good cause, and I had stopped my beloved son from falling to Sauron’s armies. I was… I was at peace.”
Celeborn smiled gently, happy to hear that Oropher was not too bothered with the subject. He had felt him tense for the briefest moment at first, but Oropher now seemed more prepared to talk about what had happened, meaning he had perhaps come to terms with it. Of course, he knew the memories would never leave him, but being able to discuss it openly - albeit perhaps only in their company - was a start. “You did the most noble thing I’ll ever come to see again. You single-handedly changed the course of the Last Alliance… I am relieved to hear that you felt at peace.”
He grew instantly worried as Oropher tensed, afraid he had gone too far, and he was ready to begin apologizing before he replied. He was nervous as Oropher began to speak, but the words instantly calmed him and even surprised him, and he managed a tiny smile. “Really?” he wondered softly, curiously, and reached up to cover Oropher’s hand with his own. “I’m happy. I never knew what you felt that moment… in a way, I could sense you were more peaceful, but I did not know to what extent.” He smiled a little more. “I am happy, ada. That is good to know… thank you.” He looked over at Celeborn as he spoke, and nodded in agreement. “You did so much for all of us. I could not be prouder of you, though your fate was not what it should have been.”
He smiled, fingers lacing with Thranduil’s as he turned his face into Celeborn’s chest a moment, breathing in the familiar scent that clung to him - something he had very nearly forgotten, but was now so soothing it chased away any echoes of the nightmare he’d had the night before. “My sacrifice was worth it, then. I am glad of that… I only wish so many others had not died along with me, though I know they would have done it no other way. It is a curse of being a well-loved king that your people would die for you no matter what. It pains me that Edhellos…” He squeezed his eyes shut, trying not to think about how he’d watched his closest friend, his wonderful advisor, be cut down right in front of him - saving his life. “He should not have died.”
“There are many - too many - who died, and did not deserve what came upon them. We cannot change that. But it is as you have said, Oropher; they loved you, not only as their King, but as their guidance into doing what they sought out to do. There is no war without casualty, unfortunately… I’m sure they would do it again, knowing that you only had the world’s best intentions at heart.” He offered a small smile of reassurance, trying to do what he could to make certain that Oropher did not dwell too much on what was lost. War was full of loss and despair, but with the knowledge that after everything that had happened, hope had prevailed… It was worth it to him, at least. He hoped Oropher felt the same as he did, in that regard.
He gave Oropher’s hand a small squeeze, nodding along with Celeborn’s words. He said it better than he himself could ever hope to. “Celeborn is right, adar. If they did not love you and trust you they would not have followed you to that field. As for Edhellos… he loved you more than most, as your most trusted aside your family. I know he would have done it all over again, several times, should he have to, because he would never be parted from your side. Do not feel guilty, anymore. Let that fade away.” He sighed softly. “Life never goes the way we want it to… we will just have to make the best out of it.”
“Ai, I know you are both right, but I still feel guilt for causing so many of my people to lose their lives so brutally… and I certainly would not have forgiven myself if you had been hurt, Thranduil. That would have killed me all over again.” He sighed, burying his face further into Celeborn’s chest. “I know I said I would answer questions, but… I… I do not think I can talk about this much longer. Not anymore. Perhaps… perhaps another time?” He felt weak, pathetic for needing to take a break simply from talking, but it was emotionally exhausting for him.
Celeborn offered a small smile; it was to be expected. He was honestly surprised that he could answer Thranduil’s question. Even now, he had some difficulty talking about the traumatic events of his own past. Of course, he had never experienced anything like Oropher did; his trauma had to have been much worse. Nevertheless, he stroked a hand through Oropher’s hair as he did when he was younger. It never failed to calm him down and he was certain that wouldn’t change. “Whenever you feel you are able to. We will not ask you for any more answers until another time. For now, let us simply enjoy the company of one another, yes?” He only wanted to hold him closer, make him forget the terrible memories; Oropher didn’t deserve to live with such guilt or grief. He had done a great deed and sacrificed himself for his people and for the good of Middle-earth. Celeborn wanted him to only think of that and not to focus on all that had gone wrong. War, nor life, would ever come without casualty or sadness. But there was life and happiness alongside it, too. That was what truly mattered.