Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings and all characters belong to Tolkien.

Author's Note: This is the sequel to 'Inside the Darkness'. The drawing was made by Nellas


Part 9 - Marching Orders

By Morgana


Glorfindel pushed the wheel chair closer toward the dining table. Legolas was talking softly with Thranduil, and the younger Elf's eyes sparkled with happiness now that he no longer lived in uncertainty and had received his father's blessing. Lurtz stood behind him, one hand resting possessively on Legolas' hip. Thranduil smiled at something Legolas said, but Glorfindel noticed that the starlit gaze settled on Elladan, who sat silently at the table, pushing some fruits from one side of his plate to the other.

"Erestor and Elrohir are not here yet," whispered Elrond, worried. He was tired, so unbelievably tired that Glorfindel had let him sleep all day long, only waking him for dinner. Even now he felt like falling asleep again. But he had to stay awake; he was the host and had to make sure everyone's needs were taken care of. Glorfindel sat beside him, instantly folding his fingers around Elrond's shaky hand. Elrond smiled gratefully at his lover. /Do you have any idea how badly I need you?/

"Lurtz? Legolas? Thranduil?" Elrond called them softly and signaled for them to take their seats. Turning to Glorfindel, he said, "Would you mind checking on Elrohir and Erestor?"

Glorfindel nodded, and rose to his feet. Before leaving the hall, he leaned in closer and whispered softly into Elladan's ear. "Look after your father for me. He is exhausted."

Elladan, glad that he could focus on someone else besides Thranduil, got to his feet and walked over to his father. He sat down on the seat Glorfindel had just vacated and watched Elrond closely. When had the dark circles under his father's eyes appeared? "Ada, are you sure you would not rather rest?"

Elrond smiled warmly at Elladan's concern. "I am fine, Elladan..."

But Elladan didn't believe his father and his eyes sought out Thranduil's; why, he didn't know.

Legolas noticed the look Elladan gave his father and wondered about the intensity of that expression. He decided to ignore it for now and concentrate on Elrond instead. "Lurtz told me that you wanted to talk to us?"

Elrond wanted to tell Legolas that this should wait until after dinner, but doubted he still had any energy left later this evening. "Sauron's army is heading for Rohan. Théoden stands alone and I plan to honor old allegiances, fighting alongside Man once more." Elrond raised his eyes and his fingers clawed the armrest, wondering why he did not feel rested after sleeping for so many hours. "Galadriel and I have agreed that an army of Elves should aid Rohan, and volunteers have stepped forward, eager to fight Saruman and Sauron."

Legolas nodded once and caught Lurtz's eyes. Lurtz would be fighting his own kind in this war. "What is it that you want us to do?"

Elrond struggled to keep awake; fatigue was pulling him under again. "Haldir of 'Lorien will lead this army of archers, but..." Elrond briefly searched for the right words. What was it he had wanted to say? "Aragorn, Gimli and Gandalf arrived at Rohan to aid the people there. I thought that maybe you would want to join them."

Legolas leaned in closer. "Aragorn has reached Rohan? What of the others?"

"The Hobbits will find their own way." Elrond's eyes nearly closed, but then they opened again. "But you must understand the danger you will face. Saruman has gathered an army of ten thousand strong. Many of our kin will die."

Lurtz growled softly. "They will need all the help they can get. I will go to Rohan and fight Saruman."

"And so will I," said Legolas determinedly. "When do we leave?"

Elrond met Thranduil's gaze and looked at the Woodland Elf pleadingly. "I regret that you have such little time left with your son."

Thranduil studied Elrond and realized the half-Elf was already half asleep. Glorfindel had every reason to worry about Elrond's well-being. "Legolas makes his own decisions, Elrond. I also wished there could have been more time, but my son is a warrior and he will defend the people of Rohan until his last breath."

Legolas beamed at hearing his father praise him. "I will not disappoint you."

Thranduil smiled. "Fight well, Legolas, and make me proud."

Lurtz watched the exchange and nodded once. /And I will keep him safe. No Orc or Uruk-Hai will end Legolas' life. I will be his shadow until we return here./


Elrohir knocked on Erestor's door, ready to convince the elder Elf to join him for dinner if Erestor should object. Not receiving an answer, he knocked again. The door was ajar, allowing him to look into the room. Erestor stood in front of the window, watching the rain rivulet down the glass.

"Erestor?" Elrohir softly whispered the other's name, stepping inside. "Erestor?"

Suddenly the elder Elf stirred from his trance-like state and turned toward him. Elrohir cringed, seeing the tears flowing down Erestor's face. "Why are you crying?" Slowly, giving Erestor time to adjust to his presence, he advanced on the Elf. "Was it something I did or said?"

Erestor shivered violently and the expression in his eyes changed as he woke from his trance. Realizing tears were dripping from his chin, he quickly wiped them away. "I lost myself..." He had been staring at the never-ending rain and suddenly tears had formed in his eyes. The full moon cast a haunting light over the landscape, reminding him of that dreadful night when the Orcs had overwhelmed Celebrian's escort.

Finding Elrohir at his side startled him. When had the half-Elf approached? "Pen-neth, I am in no state to join you for dinner. Just leave me alone."

But Elrohir shook his head determinately. "Will you tell me what makes you this sad?"

Erestor sighed deeply and bowed his head. Lacking the strength to stay on his feet, he slid down the wall until he sat huddled on the floor.

Elrohir acted at once. Concerned, he sat down beside Erestor, claiming the elder Elf's shaky hands in the process. "What scares you, Erestor? What haunts you?"

"Sweet Elrohir," whispered Erestor as his head lolled from one side to the other. "I cannot tell you." He couldn't ruin their friendship by admitting he had never told the twins the truth about that fateful night.

Elrohir raised a hand and rested it on Erestor's chest. When Erestor didn't flinch away from his touch, he stroked the skin through the thick fabric of the robes. Seeing the anguish in Erestor's eyes, he made his decision. "Ada told me." Elrohir held his breath, unsure what to expect. To his surprise, Erestor remained calm and motionless. "Why did you not tell us? Elladan and I are old enough to know what happened. We could have supported you through the years. We lost mother..."

Hearing those words, panic crept up on him, and he began to pant, drawing in too much oxygen and he doubled over, trying to regain control over his raging emotions.

"Calm yourself, mellonamin." Elrohir followed his instincts and enfolded Erestor in his arms, rocking the Elf like Erestor had rocked him when he had been a child. "You are safe, Erestor. I won't leave your side. Please let me keep your nightmares away."

Erestor shook his head against Elrohir's chest. His instincts told him to get up and run, to put as much distance between them as possible. Elrohir was much too close and a pair of strong arms was holding him tightly. He should be panicking, fighting to get free, but instead he leaned against the half-Elf's body, sobbing softly.

Elrohir sighed, relieved, feeling Erestor melt into his embrace. "Tell me what to do. Tell me how to comfort you."

"There is nothing you can do, pen-neth." Erestor had managed to slow down his breathing and through the strands of his hair, he peeked at Elrohir's face. The pity he was afraid to find there was absent from the warm, brown eyes. Instead, affection and concern stared back at him. "You must think me weak for caving in like this."

"Nay, you are not weak. You are strong, Erestor. You endured so much and yet you stayed. You love us. Please do not think of yourself as weak. You are strong... Strong!"

Erestor couldn't help it; he chuckled against Elrohir's chest. "Strong? You must confuse me with someone else. Did you not wonder why I stayed at Imladris and never left? The mere thought of riding out with a patrol makes me feel sick to the stomach. It is the fear that it might happen again. There are still Orcs out there, and..."

Elrohir continued to rock him, stroking the long black hair in the process. "I understand, mellonamin. When Elladan was attacked I feared for his safety as well, but he was lucky Thranduil was on his way to Imladris. When Glorfindel found mother and you, it was already too late."

Erestor swallowed hard, tried to wipe away his tears, but found that Elrohir's hold didn't afford him much space to move. That realization should have triggered another anxiety attack, but it didn't. Instead he soaked up Elrohir's warmth. His thoughts raced; memories of the past mingled with the future and he felt adrift on a sea of maddening emotions. In the end he blurted out the one feeling that felt true to him. "Elrohir, amin mela lle..."

Elrohir's eyes now swam as well, hearing the hope in Erestor's shaky voice. "Aiya, aratoamin. You fought so hard and you carried this burden for so long. Rest now in my arms and let my voice soothe you. I will stay with you as long as you need me and then we will discuss this in depth."

"Amin mele lle, Elrohir... amin mele lle." Erestor suddenly raised his head to make eye contact with Elrohir.

Elrohir smoothed back the black mass of hair and stared into Erestor's pleading eyes. "You need rest, Erestor and I will guard your dreams. Come, let me lie you down so you may sleep." Erestor stared blindly at him and Elrohir gently pulled the other Elf to his feet, guiding him to his bed. "Lie down, mellonamin." Erestor had gone limp and Elrohir made sure the elder Elf was resting comfortably on his side, before joining Erestor in the bed. To his surprise, Erestor wrapped his arms around him, holding him close. Elrohir smiled, saddened, seeing Erestor's eyes turn vacant. "How much will you remember when you wake again? Will you finally let me in and share your pain, or will you pretend nothing happened? For your sake, I won't let you lock me out ever again."

Elrohir tucked Erestor's head beneath his chin, stroking the tangled mass of dark hair. "I will be there for you as long as you will need me."


"Elrohir?" Glorfindel slowly entered Erestor's chambers, uncertain what to find. "Elrohir? What happened here?" He walked over to the bed and pulled up a chair. Seeing Erestor's tear streaked face he moaned softly. "How I wish I could carry this burden for him."

Elrohir locked eyes with Glorfindel, and continued the soothing motion of stroking Erestor's hair. "Has it ever been this bad before?"

Glorfindel nodded. "I am afraid so, Elrohir. Most of the nights, when the memories overwhelm him, either Elrond or I stay with him." Glorfindel frowned. "He never lets us hold him though." The frown quickly changed into a smile. "I always hoped he would put his trust in someone. It seems like he chose you."

"He is in love with me," whispered Elrohir after making sure that his charge was still asleep. "I suspected it, but now he has told me."

Glorfindel leaned back and rested his feet on the side of the bed, watching them. "I cannot remember Erestor ever taking a lover. Having these feelings for you must have been a shock to him."

"He kept whispering he loved me... Glorfindel, what do I do?" Elrohir searched the blond's eyes. "I refuse to hurt him when he is already suffering."

Glorfindel carefully considered the question. "You do not return his feelings then?"

Elrohir's face briefly contorted. "I do not think so. I love him, but... I do not think I love him as a lover should."

Glorfindel nodded once. "Do you have any idea how long Erestor has been in love with you?"

"I do not know... I guess a few years and I never noticed, but thinking back I recall moments when he lingered a little longer than necessary. Or he appeared out of nothingness to help me. He was always close." Elrohir wondered about the Elf in his arms. "What do you think, Glorfindel? Can I learn to love him?"

Glorfindel raised an eyebrow in puzzlement. "Do you want to love him then?" Elrohir never ceased to amaze him. "Erestor is... was your teacher. He is much older than you and he suffered greatly. Would you not be better off loving someone closer to your own age, who does not carry such a burden?"

Elrohir knew there was wisdom in Glorfindel's words, but somehow it sounded wrong. "Erestor loves me. He probably did for years and he would have continued hiding his feelings if he had not broken down a few moments ago. Glorfindel, I do love Erestor... Is that not enough?"

"What you feel is compassion and sympathy for a soul in need. That is not passion. You still have to taste love, Elrohir. Support Erestor if you will, guard his dreams, but what you feel differs from what he feels for you."

Elrohir soothingly rubbed Erestor's back when the Elf groaned softly, twitching in his arms as another nightmare attacked. "Glorfindel, I know you mean well, but how can you know my feelings when I do not know them myself?"

Glorfindel waited for Elrohir to look at Erestor and then grinned wickedly. /Elrohir is willing to fight for you, Erestor. Mellonamin, you have fallen in love with a noble soul, very much like his father's. Elrohir is determined to learn to love you... I hope you can deal with his youthful enthusiasm and stamina./

"Please give Ada my regrets and tell him that I cannot join you for dinner. I am needed here." Elrohir placed a chaste kiss on Erestor's hair, like his former tutor used to do when he put the twins to bed during Elrond and Glorfindel's absence. "I want one chance to make this work, Glorfindel. Do you think Ada will object?"

"You are an adult, Elrohir, your own master. You reached maturity many years ago and you are capable of making your own decisions. Elrond will respect your choice." Glorfindel smiled warmly. "Erestor deserves to be loved after everything he went through... Elrohir, this is your decision."

"Do not tell Ada yet. Let me talk to him," said Elrohir, feeling Erestor relax in his arms.

"I will not tell him," vowed Glorfindel. "But do not wait too long to tell your father."

Elrohir nodded. "I will tell him tomorrow. Will you excuse Erestor and I from dinner?"

Glorfindel walked over to the doorway. "I will make up an excuse."

"Diola lle." Elrohir watched Glorfindel close the door and then focused on Erestor again. "Sleep, I will guard your dreams." Pushing deeper into the mattress, he got comfortable as well, and settled in for a long night.


"Did Elrond really fall asleep on us?" Thranduil smiled warmly and looked to Elladan for an answer.

The twin slowly shook his head in disbelief. "I think he did. Glorfindel was right; Ada is exhausted." Elladan shifted on the chair. What was he supposed to do now? Wake Elrond? Let the half-Elf sleep through dinner?

"In Glorfindel's absence we will take your father back to his quarters," said Thranduil, taking charge. He smiled when Elladan's troubled gaze met his. "Do you want to carry him or shall I?"

Elladan cleared his throat. "We could use the wheelchair instead."

"But the motion will surely wake Elrond," mused Thranduil. "I will carry him, then." He turned to address Legolas. "I will visit you and Lurtz later tonight so we can say goodbye."

Legolas nodded. "Ada, take good care of Master Elrond." Legolas rose from his chair, quickly followed by Lurtz. Legolas leaned in closer and pressed a chaste kiss on his father's brow. "We will be in the gardens tonight."

"I will find you there," said Thranduil, getting to his feet as well. He smiled, seeing Lurtz follow Legolas out of the room; the protective gleam in the Uruk's eyes told him that his son would be safe during the upcoming battle.

Thranduil walked over to Elrond and found Elladan nervously shuffling his feet. It seemed like Elladan wanted to carry Elrond after all. "Go ahead, Elladan."

"What if I jostle his feet?" Elladan made eye contact with Thranduil. "Would you mind carrying him? I will open the doors and guide you to his rooms."

Thranduil slid his arms beneath Elrond's back and legs and slowly lifted the half-Elf. Now that he got a good look at Elrond, he noticed the exhausted expression in the vacant eyes. What Elrond needed was a break from his work. He had never understood why Elrond so willingly accepted to carry the burden of Middle Earth on his shoulders, but he respected Elrond for accepting this responsibility. "Show me the way, Elladan."

Carrying Elrond through the long corridors, Thranduil followed Elladan, who barely kept from fussing over his father with every step they took. In the end they reached Elrond's chambers, and Thranduil gently lowered Elrond onto the bed.

Elladan pulled up the blankets and tucked them around his father's form. Seeing Thranduil's slightly raised eyebrow, he explained. "We do feel the cold... Maybe it is because we are half-Elven. I want him to be warm."

Thranduil leaned against the wall, watching Elladan watch Elrond. The two dark haired half-Elves were obviously father and son; they shared the same features, the hair color, their stubbornness... The only difference was their eye color. Elrond's were greenish grey whilst Elladan's were chocolate brown.

"I wonder where Glorfindel is. He should have returned from checking on Erestor some time ago." Worried for his father's well being, Elladan eyed Elrond closely. "It looks like he is getting worse instead of better."

Thranduil nodded once. "Your father is a very busy man, and his body is not getting the time it needs to heal."

Elladan's eyes pleadingly looked at Thranduil. "Is there anything we can do to help?"

"Glorfindel visited me earlier, asking me to step in for Elrond for a short time so your father can recover."

Elladan frowned. "I do not think Ada will agree to that."

"That is what I told Glorfindel." Thranduil looked at the blond, as Glorfindel dashed into the room with a stricken expression on his face.

"I could not find him!" explained Glorfindel. Immediately he sat down on the bed and stroked Elrond's hair. "The dining hall was empty, but the wheel chair was still there and I..."

"You panicked," finished Thranduil for him. He didn't remember anyone telling him officially that Elrond and Glorfindel were lovers, but then he shrugged; it was too obvious to ignore. "Maybe you should tell him about your plans. Elrond won't heal, running himself ragged like this."

"He will never agree to it," whispered Glorfindel regretfully. "It would be best for him, though. I know of a lovely house near the Bruinen where he could recuperate, and it would still be close enough to return to the Homely House when needed."

Thranduil considered his options. "Maybe we need to convince Elrond?"

"And how do you plan on doing that?" Elladan's gaze shifted from Elrond to Thranduil. "Ada is stubborn - like I am." A ghost of a smile appeared on his face.

Thranduil inclined his head. "Very true, but I can convince Elrond easily."

"That is something I want to see," mumbled Glorfindel. "I never managed to convince Elrond to do anything against his will, even if it was in his best interests."

Thranduil smiled. "You really want me to do this? He might agree to your plans now, but he will fight you in the morning."

"But there will be witnesses who heard him agree," said Glorfindel slyly. "Elrond is a man of his word."

 Thranduil disliked manipulating Elrond, but it was in the half-Elf's best interest. "Let me sit on the bed."

Elladan vacated his place, but remained standing near the bed. Thranduil made eye contact with Glorfindel. "Wake him, say his name."

"Elrond? A'maelamin, please wake up for me." Glorfindel caressed his lover's face and Elrond's eyes regained some awareness, but the half-Elf was far from completely being awake. "Now what?" Glorfindel looked at Thranduil.

"Let me do this," said Thranduil, placing his hands on either side of Elrond's head.

Elladan sucked in his breath, hearing that extra quality to Thranduil's voice. It had also been there when Thranduil had stopped him from falling asleep after suffering that head injury. He exchanged a questioning look with Glorfindel, who also remained alert.

"You need to rest, Elrond. You need to find some peace and quiet away from your obligations," said Thranduil in an entrancing tone.

"Aye..." whispered Elrond sleepily.

"Glorfindel here knows the perfect place for you to recover from your injuries. Imagine living near the Bruinen. You could sleep all day long if that is what you desire, and Glorfindel will stay with you."

Glorfindel looked at Thranduil. /He knows about Elrond and I and he is using that knowledge to his advantage. By Elbereth, I would rather have Thranduil as a friend than an enemy./ He had never known Thranduil was capable of bewitching people with his voice, but now he filed that information away; maybe he would need it later.

"How does that sound, Elrond? Resting in the sun, sitting near the Bruinen with your love at your side?" Thranduil moved a little closer, looking into Elrond's blurry eyes. "Does it sound good? Would you like to be there? Near the Bruinen? With Glorfindel?"

"Aye..." A smile uncoiled on Elrond's face and he blindly grabbed Glorfindel's hand, squeezing gently.

Thranduil smiled smugly. "You will go there then? You will let Glorfindel take you there? And do not worry about Imladris. Erestor and your sons will take good care of it." Thranduil added in a mere whisper, "And I will help them."

Elrond's eyes mirrored his desires as he managed to look at Glorfindel in this trance-like state. "I would like to go there with you, nîn ind."

Thranduil smugly met Glorfindel's gaze. "The three of us heard Elrond agree to this. He will object when the morning comes, so I suggest you prepare for your departure, Glorfindel. Do not give him a chance to go back on his word."

Glorfindel stared at Thranduil in amazement. "You are truly devious, Thranduil."

"I will take that as a compliment," chuckled the Woodland Elf. He gently released his hold on Elrond and signaled for Glorfindel to comfort the exhausted half-Elf. "I will start with my new duties, then. Elladan, will you take me to your father's study? We should attend to the most urgent matters at once."

Elladan nodded eagerly. His father was in the best hands and he would like to spend some time alone with Thranduil. "I will show you the way."

Thranduil rose from the bed and looked one more time at the sleeping Elrond. "Glorfindel, you have witnesses who heard Elrond agree. I suggest strongly that you take him away from here for some time. The Bruinen will strengthen Elrond again; the water possesses a strong life force of his own and Elrond stopped using it some time ago. Why, I do not know. I use the trees to replenish my powers, and Elrond used to the same thing whilst using the Bruinen's powers. Make him remember the old days when we drew strength from the heart of our realms."

Glorfindel nodded. "I will take good care of him and we will be in close contact... of course."

"Ha!" Thranduil laughed. "You already regret asking me to look after Imladris during Elrond's absence? It was your idea after all!"

Glorfindel shook his head in disbelief, hearing the amusement in Thranduil's voice. "What terrible menace did I unleash on Imladris?"

Thranduil heard Glorfindel's remark and continued to laugh. He was allowed to manipulate them just a little, wasn't he? After all, he had done so at Glorfindel's request! Seeing Elladan's concerned expression, he quickly sobered. "Lead on, Elladan. I will teach you how to rule Imladris..."

Elladan heard the confidence in Thranduil's voice and he sighed deeply; Elbereth help them when Elrond realized what they had done!


Erestor woke in the middle of the night, wondering why he felt warm and cherished. This pleasant feeling vanished however, at realizing that Elrohir was once more keeping him company in bed. He was taking up too much of the twin's time; Elrohir should be looking after Elrond instead!

He began to free himself of the embrace, but frowned, realizing that it wasn't Elrohir holding him close, but the other way around. His arms were wrapped around Elrohir, preventing the half-Elf from leaving. "I am sorry," he mumbled regretfully. "I have been keeping you here when you should be at your father's side." Memories of his breakdown returned to him, making him feel ashamed and embarrassed. He recalled talking to Elrohir, but what had he said?

Elrohir's eyelids fluttered and the large brown eyes opened. It had taken him years to grow used to see those eyes close in sleep and open upon awakening. He instantly released Elrohir, removing his arms, but the half-Elf remained motionless. "Elrohir, you should not be here."

"But I could not leave you alone, Erestor; I worry too much about you. Mellonamin, how much do you remember of our conversation?" Elrohir hated pushing the issue, but he couldn't allow Erestor to hide behind his walls.Erestor shook fiercely, and Elrohir re-established the embrace, showing Erestor that the Elf didn't have to do this alone. "Erestor? What do you remember?"

"I said something, did I not...? I said...?" Erestor frowned, trying to remember what he had said exactly. His eyes widened in shock and his breathing quickened, as memories of clinging to Elrohir and confessing his love for the half-Elf in his darkest hour surfaced. "What did I do? Why are you still here?" He had always been afraid that Elrohir would hate him, should the half-Elf learn about his true feelings. But Elrohir was still there, holding him close. "I should never have told you."

"You really love me, do you not?"

Erestor nodded mutely, afraid to trust his voice. His body tensed, feeling Elrohir soothingly rub his back through the fabric of his robes. "I am afraid so," he mumbled eventually.

Elrohir frowned at that reply. "Erestor?" He waited for the elder Elf to meet his gaze and only then continued. "I am truly flattered that you love me. To hear you whisper those words... Why did you not tell me earlier?"

Erestor's eyes were still wide, revealing his shock. "You are not offended that I have these feelings for you? You were my student and I..." His voice faltered, recalling something Elrohir had said earlier. "Elrond told you... You know what happened that night when the Orcs attacked?" A panicked expression appeared in his big eyes. "I tried to lure them away from your mother. You must believe me, pen-neth, I tried to keep her safe, but..."

"Erestor, please calm down." Elrohir's hand rested above the elder Elf's heart and the fast, much too fast, heartbeat echoed in his fingertips. "I know you tried to protect mother. No one blames you."

"I blame myself," said Erestor, barely audible.

"Aiya, Erestor... You did the best you could. Orcs are foul creatures and they delighted in tormenting mother... and you." Elrohir grew frustrated when Erestor avoided his gaze. "Do not blame yourself for something you had no control over."

Erestor shrugged noncommittally. "Your father told me the same thing, but I... I cannot believe it. There must have been something I could have done to stop them from..."

"Erestor!" Elrohir cut the elder Elf short. "There was nothing you could do. You have to forgive yourself for being outnumbered and helpless." Erestor flinched in his arms. "I know it is hard, but it is the only way for you to heal. Forgive yourself."

"I cannot. I still hear Celebrian's screams and..." Erestor bit his bottom lip until it bled. /Stop it! You do not want to remind Elrohir of what happened to his mother! It took him long enough to accept her departure; there is no need to reopen this wound!/

Elrohir ignored his own pain when Erestor referred to his mother, and focused on the Elf instead. "And what about -your- screams?"

"I did not scream hard enough... They still turned to your mother and..." His voice collapsed, abandoning him.

Elrohir held Erestor protectively, still rubbing the other's back. "It was not your fault. You suffered terribly as well."

"Will you forgive me then? But nay, I do not have the right to ask for your forgiveness." Erestor felt paralyzed now that remembered pain coursed through him. His screams had echoed through the lonely night and had mixed with Celebrian's. It seemed like it had taken Glorfindel days to find them, but only hours had passed.

Elrohir grew alert at hearing Erestor's question. If he said he forgave the elder Elf, Erestor's belief that he had failed would be strengthened. "There is nothing to forgive, Erestor. You did nothing wrong."

Tears flowed down Erestor's face, hearing those words. "But..." 

"Erestor, you did nothing wrong. You are not to blame. You tried to save my mother. You did everything right." Erestor now sobbed in his arms and Elrohir held on tight. "You did nothing wrong. You are not to blame. You tried to save my mother. You did everything right." He repeated the words time and time again, hoping to finally get through to Erestor. "You did nothing wrong. You are not to blame. You tried to save my mother. You did everything right." Maybe if Erestor heard it enough times, he would allow himself to believe it.

Elrohir's words rang in his ears and Erestor desperately clung to them. /I did nothing wrong? I am not to blame? I tried to save Celebrian... I did everything right?/ He waited for the taunting voice to appear in the back of his head, but the mocking voice remained silent. /Can it be true? Did I do everything right? Elrond said many times that he does not blame me - and now Elrohir is saying the same thing./

Tentatively, he raised his eyes and met Elrohir's. Sheer determination shone from those brown orbs, almost willing him to believe. "I did nothing wrong?"

Elrohir flinched at the hesitant, fragile tone. "You did nothing wrong."

"I am not to blame? But how can that be?" But the mocking voice remained quiet, and Erestor began to believe Elrohir. "I did try to save your mother..."

"You did everything right," said Elrohir, "but you got terribly hurt in the process. Do you believe me when I say that you carry no guilt?"

Erestor nodded slowly. "If you say so I must believe it."

"Good," said Elrohir pleased. "Erestor, you carry no guilt, do you hear me?" Erestor nodded and Elrohir smiled. "Let go of the pain. You have been suffering for so long."

Erestor held his breath, feeling Elrohir's lips brush his brow. The kiss burned his skin and he released every tear he had ever kept back.

Elrohir held Erestor tightly as the Elf sobbed in his arms, and his lips traveled lower, kissing the tears away. /And so the healing of your soul begins./



Beta read by Ilye, thank you!

And the lovely drawing was made by Shari. Click on the drawing or here to go to her site!

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