Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings and all characters belong to Tolkien. I am merely keeping Haldir alive at Helm's Deep.
Authors Note: I do not know too much about Éomer so I am going to make some stuff up.
A Mortal Love
Part 2 - Awakenings
Glorfindel sat beside Elrond, grateful that Éowyn had left. Elrond was sound asleep next to him, healing slowly. His fingers ghosted over Elrond's raven hair, gently undoing the braids and removing the hair clip. Spatters of blood, gathered in battle, still clung to the locks, and he longed to wash the raven hair, but he daren't disturb Elrond's rest.
Pulling up the blanket that lay at Elrond's feet, he covered the half-Elf with it, making sure no warmth escaped. He had noticed a long time ago that Elrond did get cold, unlike full Elves. Sitting on the side of the bed, he wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around Elrond and hold the Lord of Imladris during his sleep, but again, he didn't dare to instigate such close contact.
He pushed himself to his feet, feeling tired and lost after having witnessed the death of so many Elves. Éowyn had told him that there would be a ceremony later to give everyone an opportunity to say their last goodbyes to the courageous archers and he planned to attend it. Seeing Haldir come alive again had warmed his heart. Looking outside, he found that Théoden's men were separating Elves, Man and Uruk-Hai. "It was slaughter..." Gandalf had eventually come to their rescue, but it had been too late; too many had fallen already.
Glorfindel leaned against the wall and stared at the battle ground, trying to lock out the screams he had heard. During the battle he had found that young boys had been armed and that old men, long past their prime, had been called upon to fight. The army of Uruk-Hai had easily ended their lives, never making a difference between, boys, warriors and old men. All had been slaughtered.
Elves rarely cried, but now tears slipped from his eyes, mourning the death of the 'Lorien Elves and the passing of the men who had fought courageously at their side. When Elrond had first mentioned aiding the people of Rohan, he had thought he had misunderstood. His terror had grown when Elrond informed him that he planned to take part in that battle personally. Elrond's people were sailing to Valinor and only Elrond, the twins and he had remained. At once he had offered his sword arm, declaring Elrond wouldn't fight this battle alone. The twins had also wanted to join, but Elrond had forbidden them to go to Helm's Deep for which Glorfindel was intensely grateful. Finding Elladan or Elrohir's body between the fallen would have devastated Elrond.
Behind him, cloth rustled and he turned around, quickly returning to the bed where Elrond was waking up. "My lord?" He knelt beside the bed and watched Elrond's eyes closely. They were still unfocused, a sight he had grown accustomed to after Elrond had performed a healing. "Would you like something to drink?" How many times had he taken care of Elrond? Enough times to know how to look after Elrond. "Some hot tea?"
Elrond nodded once, smiled and raised a shaky hand. Glorfindel sucked in his breath when Elrond's hand came to rest on his chest, right above his heart. "Elrond?"
Elrond blinked once. His dreams had been haunted by images of the dead and finding Glorfindel this close reassured him. Acting instinctively and needing to touch the living, Elrond raised a shaky hand and caressed Glorfindel's face, letting his fingertips slide down the blond's flawless skin. "Aye, I would love some hot tea."
Glorfindel leaned in to the caress, not fully realizing how much he was welcoming it until he saw the faint amusement in Elrond's eyes. "Tea, right..." He practically jumped to his feet and stepped away from the bed. /I must not do this. Elrond's heart belongs to Celebrian and his children.../ Seeing Elrond raise an eyebrow, he recalled he was supposed to fetch hot tea and he nearly stumbled toward the doorway. Why was he acting like this? Why would Elrond's touch distress him like this? /Oh, because you want it to be more than just one touch.../
"Excuse me while I fetch your tea." Glorfindel composed himself again, but still fled the room. In the corridor, he drew in a deep breath and steadied himself. "Now, where can I get some tea in this place? Best to follow my nose then, maybe it will lead me to the kitchen." Glorfindel sniffed the air and turned right, hoping the smell of herbs would take him to the kitchen.
Elrond was too tired to move on to his right side. Part of his body ached, but he endured it, like he endured so many things. This weakness would pass in a few hours, maybe a day. This healing had taken much out of him, despite drawing of Éomer's life force. He closed his eyes, but they flashed open again once he was assaulted by memories of the battle. "I must be getting old." When he had fought with Gil-galad the dead had never haunted him and he had seen his share of corpses back then.
Scanning the room with his eyes, he appreciated the sparse furniture, making the room less cluttered. He was without any doubt in Edoras, staring at the decorations and woodcarvings. Elrond had never been here before, but he decided he liked Edoras. Now where was Glorfindel? Ah, the blond was fetching him some hot tea.
Pushing deeper in to the comfort of the mattress he mentally reviewed everything that had happened during these last few hours. Finding most Elves dead had nearly devastated him and he was relieved that he had convinced his sons not to take part in this battle. They were inexperienced and would surely have died. He considered it a miracle that Glorfindel and he had survived, fighting such an overwhelming force.
Haldir... Hopefully the 'Lorien Elf was still asleep and recuperating. He wasn't sure Haldir's spirit was still intact and planned to check on him when the Elf woke. What if he had only brought back a part of Haldir? Would the Guardian ever forgive him?
Glorfindel, he needed his friend close, but he had sent Glorfindel to get him some tea... Elrond sighed, recalling the sensation of caressing Glorfindel's face. He had long realized he felt deeply for his seneschal, but he was afraid to offer his heart again. Celebrian's departure had caused him so much grief. Aye, he understood why she had left; she had been wounded in mind and body, but that didn't lessen his pain. He only hoped she had found some relief from her pain at Valinor.
His heart ached with two great pains. He had let Celebrian go, realizing she could no longer be his wife, but at the same time love for Glorfindel had blossomed in his heart and he couldn't reconcile the two. What if he revealed his love to Glorfindel and the blond left?
Another sigh escaped Elrond. He was a warrior and a healer, and only Celebrian had made a lover out of him. Aye, he recalled stolen glances and touches exchanged with Gil-galad, but that hadn't been love. They had turned to each other to find comfort in a time of war and darkness. Now darkness was upon them again and he found himself falling in love once more, but this time Glorfindel was the subject of his affection. /But I cannot risk my heart. I can lose him in the upcoming war./
"My lord? I hope this will do." Glorfindel entered once more and headed for the bed, carrying a mug filled with steaming tea. "It is a herbal tea and their healer said it would give you new strength."
"Healer?" Elrond watched Glorfindel put the mug on the night stand. Glorfindel's arms closed around him, helping him to sit upright. For the briefest of moments he felt cherished and comfortable, but the sensation vanished when Glorfindel left his side to fetch the mug.
"I took a wrong turn," admitted Glorfindel. "I intended to head for their kitchen, but I found the rooms where their healers dwell instead."
Elrond noticed the distress Glorfindel desperately tried to hide. Glorfindel handed him the mug, but his hands shook too badly and the tea almost sloshed over the rim, burning him. Glorfindel's fingers closed over his, steadying them. "What did you see that upset you?" He sipped slowly, the hot liquid warming him inside.
"There are so many wounded," whispered Glorfindel. "They are tending to their own people and as well as ours."
"Then I should help." Elrond sipped again, regretting that his rest had come to an end. He would love to sleep some more, but couldn't, knowing his people needed him. Rohan's healers had no experience treating Elves and their injuries, but he had. "I will see to them." Elrond pushed the mug in to Glorfindel's hands and tried to swing his feet to the floor. His eyes widened, feeling a terrible weakness sweep through him. It was his body's way of telling him that he was far from being healed.
"Nay, my lord, you will rest." Glorfindel placed the now empty mug aside and forced Elrond to lie down again. "I will not allow you to leave your bed. I will restrain you if necessary."
Elrond smiled warmly, looking in to concerned eyes. "Ai, Glorfindel, but I am needed."
"Nay, my lord, you will stay here and rest. Their healers are in control of the situation. I regret giving you a different impression."
Seeing the determined expression in his friend's blue eyes, Elrond knew that getting out of bed wasn't an option. He had tried that once before after a healing had made him collapse. Glorfindel had been firm and had carried him back to bed when he had fainted after taking three steps so he gave in and let Glorfindel take care of him. "But you must wake me when Haldir regains consciousness."
"You worry too much," said Glorfindel in a remarkable soft tone. "Haldir is stronger than you think."
Elrond's eyes were locked on Glorfindel's hand when the blond reached for him, hesitantly smoothing back his raven hair. The touch created sparkles inside him and he tried to hide the effect Glorfindel's caress had on him.
"You need more rest," said Glorfindel slowly, suddenly jerking back his hand.
Elrond startled at Glorfindel's sudden retreat, but one look at the blond's face told him that Glorfindel's caress had caught him unaware as well. Glorfindel seemed embarrassed and was about to rise from the bed, whispering an apology for trespassing. "Nay, meldir, do not apologize for touching me. You are a true friend, one I can always depend on." Was it just imagination or did regret and sorrow flash in those entrancing sapphire eyes?
"I will let you rest now. Do not worry, my lord, I will watch over you." Glorfindel exchanged his seat on the bed for a comfortable chair and leaned back, briefly closing his eyes.
"You must be tired," remarked Elrond. "We are safe here. Why not sleep as well?" Until now he hadn't fully realized the exhausted expression on Glorfindel's face.
"Maybe I will sleep for a short while," admitted Glorfindel.
Elrond smiled. "Sleep, meldir. We are among friends here." He had barely spoken those words when Glorfindel's eyes turned vacant. "Ai, I neglected my duty to you, Glorfindel. You push yourself to hard..." But his own exhaustion got the better of him and he surrendered to sleep as well.
Aragorn found Legolas with the healers, trying to alleviate pain wherever the Elf could.
Realizing Elrond and Glorfindel had been at Helm's Deep the entire time had shocked him. Why hadn't his foster father confided in him? The thought of almost losing Elrond made him cringe. He knew that Elrond was a warrior at heart, but this battle had been ill fated from the start. If Elrond and Glorfindel had made their presence known, he would have kept them close, making sure no harm came to them. /But they managed just fine. They fought Saruman's army and survived.../
But now that he had arrived at the improvised Healing House he realized only too well that not everyone had been that lucky. He managed to lock out the memories of the dead, and now concentrated on helping the ones who had survived. His gaze was drawn to Legolas, who moved among the wounded with unease. The blond obviously felt awkward at dealing with the injured and comforting the young ones who had been traumatized by witnessing and surviving the slaughter, but Legolas carried out every order the healers gave him and his mere presence seemed to lessen the darkness that had crawled in to their hearts.
A soft glow still clung to the Elf, even in spite of the dirt and blood that stained his face and hair. That glow eased the pain of the ones who were suffering and it even eased Aragorn's troubled mind. In his dreams Arwen had spoken to him and then Elrond had beseeched him to let his daughter go so she could live forever in the Undying Lands. He had even tried to return the necklace to Arwen, but she had refused, saying it was hers to give.
Éowyn also haunted him. Her eyes revealed her strength and he felt drawn to her, but something kept him back from courting her and it wasn't Arwen. Nay, Arwen would never be his; he wanted her to sail to Valinor and be with her kin. And Éowyn? He didn't see her tending to the wounded, but she was doubtlessly comforting the women. Aye, his heart was drawn to hers, but whenever he looked at her, it was someone else staring back at him. Midnight blue eyes stared back at him.
Ai, Legolas... When had he fallen in love with the Elf? He had met Legolas a few times during his childhood when King Thranduil had sent Legolas to carry his messages to Elrond and they had become close friends, but now he found he wanted more. Friendship wasn't enough any longer.
Aragorn tore himself away from his musings and looked in to startling beautiful eyes. "Legolas..." The Elf stood opposite him, brow furrowed and with a concerned look in them. "I want to help." His voice shook a little and Aragorn averted his eyes, unable to hold Legolas' gaze.
"Your help is most welcome," said Legolas in a puzzled tone. "But why do you only offer your help now? What took you so long?"
Aragorn nodded once. "I walked among the fallen, trying to find someone who had survived. So many died last night, Legolas." The hand that came to rest on his shoulder made him look at Legolas and he saw understanding and compassion in the Elf's eyes. "You despaired before the battle took place, now despair has come over me as well. We won the battle, but was it worth it?"
Legolas moistened his lips and Aragorn stared mesmerized, wishing he could kiss those lips and forget the horror he had witnessed for just a short while.
"We must believe it was worth it," said Legolas in a firm tone. "Now tend to their wounds. You are a natural healer. Use your talent to alleviate their suffering."
Aragorn placed his hand on top of Legolas' and squeezed gently. "Thank you for reminding me."
A thoughtful expression appeared in Legolas' eyes, but Aragorn shied away from exploring it and moved toward the wounded, hoping helping them would ease his own pain. Feeling Legolas' eyes upon him, he didn't turn to address the Elf; instead he focused on the wounded.
Legolas stared at Aragorn's back and a sense of deep regret swept through him. When they had thought Aragorn lost he had kept Arwen's necklace, hoping Aragorn would return to them after all and Aragorn hadn't disappointed him. Seeing Aragorn rumpled and exhausted, he had barely restrained himself from embracing his friend, but the feel of Arwen's necklace in his hand had stopped him. Aragorn wasn't his, could never be his.
/I will never come between you and Arwen for I love you too much. I want to see you happy and your happiness lies with Arwen. I will be your friend... as long as you want me to./ Feeling melancholy he returned to help the healers, trying hard to concentrate on the wounded instead of his love for Aragorn.
Haldir startled awake with a dying scream on his lips. His back was on fire and his arm felt numb. Another scream joined the first, remembering the Halls of Mandos and being pulled back to Arda. Misery swept through him and his eyes finally regained their vision, enabling him to take in his surroundings. Unable to move, he was forced to stare straight ahead. /What is a Man doing this close to me?/
Haldir gasped. "Who... are you?" Just uttering those few words exhausted him. The man was a stranger to him and yet an arm was folded around him, soothingly rubbing his skin.
"My name is Éomer."
Éomer, he didn't know that name. Feeling too weak to move away from the other man, he resigned himself to the touch and close presence.
"You probably want to know what happened," reasoned Éomer.
"Aye..." Haldir boneless lay against Éomer, soaking up the man's body heat. He felt cold for the first time in his long life; how was that possible? Then something came alive in his mind and a golden light enveloped him, warming him. His eyes widened, realizing the warmth came from Éomer. "What... happened?"
"Lord Elrond found you among the dead and brought you here."
"Elrond?" Aye, he remembered Elrond coming to Lothlorien to ask for their support and he had gathered volunteers, leading his men to Edoras. But what was Elrond doing here? He was under the impression that the Lord of Imladris would sail to Valinor.
"He asked for someone to step forward so he could bring you back from the dead and I volunteered. Rohan owes the Elves and this was my way to repay that debt."
Haldir cringed. Elrond had brought him back using Éomer's life force? What did that mean? Was he bound to this Man now? /The golden light... It is still there, warming me. It is Éomer. Elrond, why did you do this?/ Haldir tried to move away from Éomer, needing some distance between them, but pain slashed through his back, stopping him effectively.
"Elrond said you should stay close to me until you healed."
Haldir's eyes sought out Éomer's. The Man had admitted that he had offered his life force to pay the debt Rohan owed the Elves, but was that enough reason to step forward and volunteer? His head spun with questions and he groaned softly, embarrassed at showing his weakness. In a way he felt humiliated, having to turn to a Man for strength and comfort. /Elrond, why? Was there not anyone else who would save me? Why a Man?/ He tensed, feeling Éomer brush back his hair. No Man had ever touched him before and it was because of his weakness that he had to allow it now.
"You must still be tired. I know I would be after such an ordeal. You can go back to sleep, Elf."
/Elf, the way he says it makes it sound like an insult./ A part of him knew he wasn't being fair, but realizing that Elrond had bound him to this Man shocked him. "I do not...wish to sleep."
"Stubborn, aye?" Éomer laughed. "Trust me, Elf, you look like you are about to lose consciousness again."
Haldir wasn't sure how to react to Éomer's teasing and simply glared at the Man until sleep overwhelmed him once more.
Éomer looked toward the doorway, hearing Elrond's voice. "Aye?" He had expected the healer to call on them.
"I want to check on him." Elrond, supported by Glorfindel made his way over to the bed. "Haldir? Look at me?"
"He is asleep again," muttered Éomer. "It's very distressing to see him sleep with his eyes open." He had woken some minutes before Haldir had stirred and had been stunned to find the Elf's eyes open, staring at him. Only then had he realized they were expressionless and that Haldir was either unconsciousness or asleep. "I know nothing about Elves..."
Elrond wearily sat down on the side of the bed, studying Haldir. "When he woke, did he seem coherent?"
"Aye, he was already questioning me," said Éomer, pleased that the injured Elf seemed to be recovering. "How much longer must we stay like this? I have matters to attend to and my duties..."
Elrond raised a hand, silencing him. Éomer waited impatiently, staying quiet out of respect for the elder Elf who was about to speak.
"When you volunteered to pull him back from Mandos, you bound yourself to a Guardian of the Wood. Haldir is of noble birth and the best warrior Lothlorien has to offer." Elrond's gaze shifted from Éomer to Haldir. "You must understand that your life now includes him as well. You might be needed for a long time... or do you already regret your decision?"
Éomer stared at the blond Elf in his arms. So many thoughts swirled through his head that they were making him dizzy. "What did I do?" When Haldir had been about to die, his decision had seemed the right one, but now he began to doubt, realizing the enormity of his responsibility. Haldir would depend on him for some time and what would happen after that? /My life will never be the same again. He will always be there, at my side and in my mind. I can still feel him, a cold presence, reaching out and embracing me./
Elrond looked up at Glorfindel, reading a puzzled expression on his seneschal's brow. "Do not dwell on what you lost," said Elrond, once more addressing Éomer. "You gained so much and in time you will realize how much Haldir will enrich your life."
"But does he want me?" Éomer frowned. "Does he know he is bound to me in life? Does he know he will die when I do?"
"He suspects it." Elrond sighed. "Haldir is proud, smart and cunning. He will figure everything out quickly."
"How do you think he will react?" Éomer wasn't ready yet to face his own emotional turmoil but knew he would have to confront it sooner or later. His whole life had changed by aiding Haldir. How would King Théoden react to the fact that his heir was bound to an Elf? And could he still court and marry a maiden, knowing Haldir would always be there in the back of his mind? What had he done? He had willingly upended his life!
Elrond sensed some of Éomer's panic and sought out the Man's eyes. "Do not fear this. Our ways may be strange to you, but I would never have proceeded if I did not think you strong enough to change your life."
"I never wanted my life to change. I was happy the way it was," grumbled Éomer, but he had brought this on himself. Looking at Elrond, he saw the strain on the healer's face and he realized Elrond had given some of his life force as well when guiding Haldir back. "He must mean a lot to you then."
Elrond, too tired to answer, looked to Glorfindel to deal with the question.
"Haldir of 'Lorien saved Lord Elrond's sons when they were little. Like you, we owe him a debt, but we paid it with happiness in our hearts for it meant that Haldir would live again. You do not know Haldir yet, son of Rohan, but once you do you will respect him as a warrior and a trusted friend. You are very blessed to be bound to him."
Éomer frowned, hearing Glorfindel speak that passionately about Haldir. "Tell me more about him."
"Haldir was born several thousand years ago," Glorfindel explained, keeping the exact date of birth from Éomer, scared that it would intimate the Man to know he was holding such an ancient Elf, "and he has been a Guardian of the Wood his entire life, serving the Lord and the Lady of Lothlorien. He is a very skilled archer, swordsman and," Glorfindel chuckled briefly, "though some think him arrogant, he is kind and compassionate. He has lived through a lot and it changed him, forcing a mask upon him. Do not let him fool you when he acts haughtily."
Raising an eyebrow, Éomer looked at the Elf asleep in his arms. He liked what he heard, but knowing he was bound to Haldir for the rest of his life intimidated him. His life was dedicated to battle, his men and the horses of Rohan. He didn't know how to deal with this.
Elrond pushed himself to his feet and immediately Glorfindel slung a supportive arm around his waist. "We will let you rest. I suggest you sleep as well, Éomer. We both know pulling back Haldir weakened you as well. Draw comfort from his presence and knowing him alive." Elrond's eyes briefly burned. "I think you made the right decision, son of Rohan. Time will bring you closer together and maybe true understanding will blossom between the two of you."
Éomer nodded once. "Thank you for your kind words, Lord Elrond. I do not take this responsibility lightly and I will see to it that he recovers. Once he is fully healed he can return to Lothlorien and resume his former duties."
"You still do not understand," whispered Elrond, too softly for Éomer to hear. "You cannot be separated in this life."
"My lord? Did you say something?" Éomer frowned, what was Elrond hiding from him? He didn't like it when people kept things from him; he preferred the direct approach.
"You will find out in time," said Glorfindel, alarmed to see Elrond sway on his feet. "Take care of your charge and I will look after mine."
Elrond smiled involuntarily at hearing the concern in Glorfindel's tone. "I am well.."
"Nay, you are not." Glorfindel privately wondered if Elrond would protest against being carried back to their rooms, but in the end his concern outweighed his doubts. Moving swiftly, he swept Elrond off his feet and cradled him against his chest.
"What are you doing?" Bemused, Elrond met Glorfindel's eyes. This was one move he didn't expect.
"You are to rest, remember?"
Éomer watched the little scene unfold with interest. Until now he had never seen two men care this much about the other. /Nay, that is not true. I have seen my men lay together after a battle, finding comfort in each other's arms, but yet, this is different still./
Glorfindel nodded once, and then left the room, carrying Elrond tightly cradled against his chest.
Éomer's mind raced. /Are they lovers?/ At Edoras such behavior was not encouraged, but not condemned either. Even his father ignored such love affairs, giving the impression that such love didn't exist in the kingdom of Rohan, but it did.
He turned his attention back to Haldir, wondering if the Guardian had ever been attracted to a man before. A sudden jolt shook his body. /What if this bound entails more than Lord Elrond told me?/ Startled, he wondered what to do with this newly acquired knowledge. /Does it mean we are... mates for life as well? Nay, it can't be. Elrond would have told me... wouldn't he?/
"I do not like being carried like a child," growled Elrond softly. In reality he enjoyed Glorfindel's concern and protectiveness of him, but he couldn't openly show it.
"You are not yet strong enough to walk these corridors, Elrond," chided Glorfindel. "I told you to rest some more before seeking out Haldir, but you refused. It is my task to make sure you do not neglect your needs and I will not fail you."
Elrond shook his head against Glorfindel's chest. "Put me down on the bed then." By the Valar, he still felt weak! Feeling the soft mattress beneath him, he sighed. He watched Glorfindel closely as the blond covered him with a blanket. "What would I do without you?" Glorfindel's eyes saddened unexpectedly, and their expression took him aback. "I need you, you know that, do you not?"
Glorfindel nodded slowly. "I will always be there to watch your back in battle or to take care of you when you are recovering."
Elrond's smile died on his lips, realizing their friendship was much deeper than he had thought. /Ai, I cannot turn to you for comfort... What if I lose you?/
"Sleep, my lord. I will check on Haldir and keep you informed."
Elrond nodded once. /Glorfindel, I regret denying you... I read love in your eyes and yet I cannot admit mine.../
Glorfindel waited for Elrond to fall asleep and then indulged himself by fingering a raven lock. /Nîn ind, I will always be there for you, I just wish... but nay, that is selfish. I cannot have you... In the end I must respect your decision and I will not pursue you... But I will never stop loving you.../
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