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 4 - Saying Goodbye
Hesitant sunbeams touched his face, bringing a forgotten warmth, and Legolas stirred. His eyes fluttered as he woke and he stared into Aragorn's green ones. Why was Aragorn this close? Then he remembered wading into the stream and Aragorn joining him. He had let Aragorn comfort him when he shouldn't have.
"I am well again," Legolas said quickly, seeing concern in Aragorn's eyes. He wanted to sit upright and distance himself but Aragorn's hand settled on his chest, keeping him in place. Why was Aragorn stopping him?
"Do you truly feel better?" Aragorn carefully studied his friend. Legolas' eyes were still troubled by the horror he had witnessed. Aragorn quietly watched Legolas, losing himself in the midnight blue eyes. "We still have a few moments before the ceremony starts. Would you like to eat or drink something?"
Legolas shook his head. The mere thought of food made him nauseous. "I want to get going... The surviving 'Lorien Elves will need all the support they can get."
Aragorn nodded once. "Please remember that I am at your side. You do not have to do this alone."
Legolas' eyes narrowed, finding Arwen's pendant gone. "What happened to the pendant? Did you lose it? I can help you search for it." The pendant meant a lot to Aragorn, and to be without it must surely pain his friend.
Aragorn paled slightly. "I did not lose it." Seeing Legolas' patient expression, he sighed and continued. "I removed it."
Legolas' warm eyes, however, asked a different question, one he didn't dare answer yet. /Aye, I love you, but I cannot speak those words yet./ Aragorn removed his hand and allowed Legolas to get to his feet. "Arwen is sailing to Valinor where she will live forever in the Undying Lands. I have to let her go. I tried to return the pendant to her, but she wanted me to keep it. I decided against wearing it any longer. My heart mourns the loss, but I also know that she wants me not to grieve."
Legolas lowered his eyes, wondering what this meant. Aragorn had let Arwen go? "Why?"
Aragorn swallowed nervously, realizing his answer didn't satisfy Legolas. "Why what?"
"Why let her go? Arwen and you are connected through a very strong love. I cannot believe you would let her go, even if it meant Arwen would live forever."
/Does he know?/ wondered Aragorn. /Does Legolas know I am in love with him? Nay, that cannot be; I never showed my feelings!/ Aragorn got to his feet and met Legolas' inquisitive stare, realizing it was time he revealed part of the truth. "I am in love with someone else."
Legolas nodded thoughtfully, beginning to understand. "You choose Éowyn over Arwen?"
Aragorn involuntarily held his breath; his secret remained safe. Briefly he had been worried that Legolas had realized the truth. "She would suit me better. She is a warrior, and mortal. She would not have to sacrifice her immortality." He complimented himself. /Legolas, you did not ask if Éowyn is the one I am in love with. You merely asked if I would choose her over Arwen.../
Legolas' eyes darkened. "What about Elrond? When will you tell him?"
"Elrond already knows. He spoke to me in my dreams..." Aragorn fell into step beside Legolas. "I still love Arwen, Legolas, but we cannot be together."
Legolas felt mentally exhausted. Why was he still tormenting himself, hoping to eventually win Aragorn's love when the Man was attracted to females? He had to stop deluding himself. "Does Éowyn know yet?"
"That I am attracted to her?" asked Aragorn. "She may suspect it."
"When will you tell her?"
Aragorn suddenly noticed the wary tone to Legolas' voice and probed the Elf's eyes. /He looks defeated... Maybe I should reveal my feelings instead of misleading him? But nay, I cannot. First we must fight this war and defeat Sauron. And maybe, should we both survive, I will tell him... I am not sure if I am reading him right, but it almost looks like he has feelings for me as well. By Elbereth, what if I am wrong? Would I destroy our friendship? Am I willing to take that risk? Nay, not yet.../
"Aragorn?" Legolas stopped walking, wondering about the distant expression on Aragorn's face. He understood that the Man felt worried, but he had never seen Aragorn this distracted before. "Do you fear she won't return your feelings? I saw her look at you and I..."
Aragorn interrupted him. "I do not wish to talk about her. I want to talk about --you--. How are you coping with so much pain?"
Legolas didn't expect the change in subject and shrugged slowly. "I can barely believe it really happened..." His voice died at the sight of over a hundred funeral pyres. "They arrived at the Halls of Waiting at Mandos. Maybe their souls will be re-embodied. Maybe not." A great sadness overwhelmed him, but he managed to hold back his tears.
Aragorn's heart twisted as well, fully realizing for the first time how few of the 'Lorien Elves had survived. "They will always be remembered."
Legolas remained quiet, as the surviving archers joined them. He counted forty of them and his heart bled for them. They had lost friends, brothers, fathers, sons maybe even lovers. The grief was palpable as they gathered near the first funeral pyre.
"What will happen now?" Aragorn rested his hand at the small of Legolas' back. Looking at Legolas he found that the Elf was blindly staring at the corpses.
"Haldir will be asked to light a torch and in his absence Lord Elrond might be asked to light the first pyre..." Legolas wiped at the first tears that made it down his face. Several other Elves softly cried as well, and one started an ancient lament. One by one, the Elves joined in, until the lament became strong and haunting.
Aragorn watched Legolas' lips move as well, but no sound left the Elf's lips. Acting instinctively, he wrapped an arm around the blond's waist and encouraged Legolas to lean on him, lending his friend all the support and strength he needed. Deeply moved, he stared at the pyres, regretting that the cost was this high. What had possessed Elrond to do this?
Letting go of his musings, he focused on Legolas once more. The lament came to a sudden stop and the blond swayed on his feet. Aragorn folded his other arm around Legolas' shoulders and held him close. No one spoke and he didn't want to disturb the silence, waiting patiently for either Haldir or Elrond to join them.
Éomer had woken some time ago, and was watching the pyres multiply as more wood was gathered. The 'Lorien Elves placed their dead on the pyres, said their last goodbyes and then moved on to the next pyre. The sight made his heart crumble. Such beauty wasn't supposed to burn.
Standing near the window, his gaze shifted from the pyres to Haldir, whose sleep was restless and shallow. The Guardian had awoke with a start a few times, calling out for Rumil and Orophin - names that meant nothing to him, but seemed important to Haldir. Now the injured Elf stirred once more and exhausted eyes came to rest on him. He made his way over to the bed and sat down, watching Haldir closely. The Elf still looked pale and a sheen of cold sweat had formed on his forehead.
"They are calling me," mumbled Haldir, staring at Éomer in confusion.
"Who are calling you?" Following his instincts and Elrond's instructions to touch Haldir as often as possible, he placed his hand on Haldir's brow.
Éomer absentmindedly rubbed the damp skin beneath his fingertips, realizing how quickly he had become used to caring for Haldir and finding him close. Now the haunted tone of Haldir's voice added to his worries. "While you were asleep you called out for a certain Rumil and Orophin. I never heard those names before."
"I called out for my brothers then..." Haldir briefly closed his eyes, longing to be reunited with them.
Éomer barely dared to ask his next question for he feared the answer. "Are they among the dead?"
Haldir's eyes flashed open. "Nay," he said softly, relieved that he had forbidden his brothers to join the army of archers. "They remained at Lothlorien to serve the Lord and the Lady."
Éomer felt slightly reassured. "Take comfort in the fact that they are alive then." The unwelcome knock on the door annoyed him, but he rose to his feet and opened the door. He wasn't surprised to find Elrond and Glorfindel waiting for him. Another Elf had joined them, one he didn't know, but he wore the same clothes that Haldir had worn when they had taken him to the Great Hall.
"Haldir must light the torch," explained Elrond in a heavy tone. Now that Haldir was unable to light the pyres, Elrond would perform that duty, but it weighed heavily on his heart.
"Torch?" Éomer frowned.
"Aye, I will do it..." Haldir struggled upright, but he broke out in a cold sweat when pain and dizziness swept through him.
Éomer returned to the bed and supported Haldir, as the Elf found it hard to remain upright. "What are they talking about?"
"The torch will set fire to the pyres, and it is tradition that their leader performs this duty. But, as you pointed out earlier, I cannot walk yet, and I cannot light the first pyre. Therefore Lord Elrond will carry the torch." Haldir felt exhausted and it was getting harder to speak. Even the simple act of breathing wore him down and caused him pain. He loathed asking the Man's help when he should be doing this personally, but he lacked the strength. "Would you light the torch?" Haldir stifled a pain filled yelp, and didn't object when Éomer gently lowered him on to his right side.
"I feel honored to do this for you." Éomer nodded once to reassure Haldir and took the torch to the fireplace. Carrying the burning torch back to the bed, he reached for Haldir's hand and curled the Elf's fingers around the wood.
Haldir swallowed hard, wondering how much strength he had left. "My lord Elrond? Would you take my place and perform this task for 'Lorien?"
Elrond nodded, approached, and stood silently next to the bed. He accepted the torch when Haldir handed it to him, and bowed respectfully. "I will see to your men, Haldir. Rest easy and trust in me. I will light the first pyre and stay with the Elves of 'Lorien until the last fire has died."
Haldir sighed, relieved. "I am in your debt, my lord."
Elrond met Haldir's eyes, assuring him that everything would be taken care of. He then looked at Éomer, pleased that the Man was finally taking proper care of Haldir.
Haldir watched the door close behind Elrond and he closed his eyes, trying to hold back tears which he refused to cry in front of the Man. The haunting lament reached his ears and his eyes opened, finding the window, but he looked away again, unable to see the pyres.
"I can move you to the window where you can watch the ceremony," offered Éomer, touched by the lines of pain etched on to Haldir's brow.
Haldir's eyes showed his gratitude when he couldn't find the words to thank Éomer for his offer.
Éomer inclined his head in understanding and slowly, gently, pushed his hands beneath Haldir's neck and knees. A groan escaped Haldir and Éomer mumbled an apology, regretting inflicting more pain. Carefully, he lifted Haldir and carried him over to the window where he placed him in a comfortable chair. After pushing the window ajar, he stood next to Haldir, suddenly feeling the urge to touch the Elf. Uncertain whether his touch would be welcomed, he slowly rested his hand on Haldir's shoulder. Haldir didn't react and Éomer glanced at the Elf's back now that the robes had partially slipped. To his utter surprise, he found that the wound had stopped bleeding, and had even closed!
Haldir felt Éomer's eyes upon him, but didn't comment on it. His full attention should be with his fallen brethren. His heart cried out in agony, seeing only so few had survived. This loss would never leave him and haunt him for the rest of his life.
Elrond solemnly walked toward the 'Lorien Elves, noticing Legolas and Aragorn among them. He briefly met their gazes and then focused on his task. Glorfindel suddenly fell back, no longer walking beside him. Elrond looked at the blond, saw the lowered eyes and quickly grabbed Glorfindel's wrist, pulling him beside him once more. /I will not let you do this now. You have every right to be at my side as my equal. I may be unable to openly acknowledge I love you, but we both know the truth; I --need-- you./
Glorfindel was startled, seeing the dark gleam to Elrond's eyes. An echo of Elrond's thoughts suddenly swept through him, leaving him mystified. He had never heard any of Elrond's thoughts before... but it was not unheard of among the Eldar. Knowing Elrond needed him, he fell into step again, this time staying at Elrond's side.
Elrond frowned, wondering what had happened. For a moment it had felt like he had touched Glorfindel's mind - but he had never been able to do that before, so why would he be able to reach out now? He put these thoughts aside for the moment, concentrating on the ceremony. Reaching the first pyre, he started a soft lament, hoping to ease the pain of the survivors. Glorfindel joined in and so did Legolas and the 'Lorien Elves. Lowering the torch, he set the first pyre on fire.
His eyes shifted to Legolas; seeing the younger Elf's pallor worried him. Legolas trembled and his eyes released a river of tears. Elrond's eyes narrowed when Aragorn tightened his hold on Legolas, pulling him close. /What is it that lies in his green eyes? Are they friends or would Estel want it to be more? That expression in his eyes... Celebrian looked at me like that and now Glorfindel does. I thought Estel loved Arwen... Was I wrong?/
He continued to study Aragorn's posture, his expression, the way the Man's hand rested at the small of Legolas' back. /Why did I not notice before? Estel is in love with Legolas... Is that the reason why he released Arwen from her promise that easily? Is it because his heart belongs to Legolas? I should be angry with him, but my heart rejoices for it means Arwen will sail to Valinor. But what about Legolas? Does he return Estel's feelings? If he does, do I dare meddle in this affair?/
Elrond moved on to the second pyre and then the third, but his thoughts remained with Aragorn and Legolas. It was hard to tell if Legolas returned Aragorn's feelings because he was mourning their dead, but the way the blond leaned into Aragorn's touch did tell Elrond something. /I will watch them carefully. If Legolas returns Estel's feelings I might be able to mediate.../
Glorfindel's voice pulled him from his musings and soft, reassuring words left his lips as he started a second lament. His melodic voice echoed through the fires, comforting the survivors. Moving on, he lit the other pyres as well, always moving slowly and dignified. Looking up, he found Haldir sitting near a window, watching silently. Tears flowed down the Guardian's cheeks.
Needing some comfort himself, his gaze returned to Aragorn and Legolas and found them locked in an embrace. Legolas had averted his eyes and his head now rested on Aragorn's shoulders. Aragorn had wrapped his arms around the blond, soothingly rubbing his back. /Aye, I do believe Legolas loves Estel as well. Arwen's future is now secure and she will sail for Valinor, but ai, I want to see Estel happy as well. He is as a son to me. Maybe I can find a way for them to admit their feelings.../
"Elrond?" Glorfindel was getting worried, seeing the brooding expression in Elrond's eyes. Now that all pyres burned, he took the torch from Elrond's hand and handed it to the 'Lorien Elf who had accompanied them to Éomer's room. "You look tired. Would you like to retire to your room now?"
Elrond's piercing eyes settled on Glorfindel, who shuffled his feet, feeling nervous being the subject of that stare. "My lord?"
"Aye, we will retire. There is something I need to discuss with you, Glorfindel." Elrond could tell that his words made Glorfindel uncomfortable, but he wanted to explain himself in the privacy of their rooms, not here.
"Of course, my lord," whispered Glorfindel in a wavering tone.
Elrond turned to the 'Lorien Elves, bowed and then signaled Glorfindel to follow him. "Did you see Haldir at the window?"
"Aye, I did. You should talk to Éomer. Haldir is not yet strong enough to be moved."
"I think he will recover quickly. It seems like Éomer is beginning to care about Haldir... As I hoped he would."
"You foresaw this?" Elrond's manipulations would never seize to amaze him. The Lord of Imladris was a master at scheming.
Elrond shrugged. "Éomer is an honorable man. He has a bit of a temper, but so does Haldir. I think they are evenly matched."
Glorfindel had to agree. "Do you plan to stay until Haldir's injuries have healed, or do you wish to return to Imladris at once?"
They entered the corridor that would take them to their guest rooms. "Aye, Glorfindel, we will stay a little longer. There are certain matters I need to look into."
Glorfindel opened the door and stepped aside to let Elrond pass. "What else is troubling you?"
Elrond walked over to the window and sat down. Leaning back his head, he studied Glorfindel. "Did you watch Legolas and Estel?"
"I noticed they were present, but..." Glorfindel closed the door and remained standing near the bed, waiting for Elrond to continue. He knew that particular look; the half-Elf was plotting again! "Tell me what is on your mind." Elrond had never seemed this distant before, and his heart filled with sadness, realizing something he desperately craved was so close and yet so far away. /Stop it. You will never have his love!/
"Did you notice the way Estel looked at Legolas? Or the way he was holding the Prince? I know now why he set Arwen free." Elrond got to his feet and slowly paced the room. "I believe Estel loves Legolas."
Glorfindel frowned. "That never occurred to me." But he figured that this discovery would please Elrond. If Aragorn loved someone else Arwen was truly free to travel to Valinor. "I did not know Aragorn fancied males as well..."
"Neither did I, but that means nothing..." Elrond looked at the blond and wished he could put his arms around Glorfindel and pull him as close as Aragorn had Legolas. But nay, his fears were still too strong. He didn't dare lose another loved one. It was safer to distance himself. "I want to make sure they become lovers..."
Glorfindel gulped. "Elrond?"
"As far as I am concerned Estel and Arwen are no longer betrothed, but there is already so much pain and terror in this world that I want to give this love a chance. I doubt Estel will ever tell Legolas, so we must find a way for my foster son to admit his love for the Prince."
"How do you want to accomplish that?" Glorfindel leaned against the wall, and stared at Elrond in shock. /The Valar help them if Elrond's mind is set on this./ Legolas and Aragorn wouldn't stand a chance against a manipulative Elrond!
"I want you to seduce Legolas."
"What?" Glorfindel's eyes widened in shock. "You cannot be serious! He is a Prince of Mirkwood! I cannot play with his feelings!'
Elrond grinned. "I want you to make Aragorn jealous so he will act on his feelings."
Glorfindel shook his head, his heart breaking. "Do not use me in this way."
Glorfindel's pleading tone caused Elrond's heart to miss a beat. He walked toward the blond and placed his hands on Glorfindel's shoulders. "I am certain they love each other, meldir. Do you not want them to be together? Without you making Estel jealous my foster son won't tell Legolas... or do you want them to suffer from an unrequited love for the rest of their lives?"
Glorfindel's eyes darkened. "You do not play fair, my lord." Elrond was now manipulating him as well, hinting at his own unrequited love. /Aye, I want them to be together. I cannot have you, but Estel can and will have Legolas... --if-- the attraction is mutual./
Elrond tensed and hissed softly, receiving an echo of Glorfindel's thoughts. He looked up sharply, but it appeared that Glorfindel hadn't noticed anything was wrong. /Then he cannot hear my thoughts. I am on the only one aware of this connection. Why is it manifesting now?/
A gentle caress made Glorfindel wonder. Elrond wasn't touching him... It was a caress to the mind, which felt more intimate than anything he had ever experienced before. Was Elrond the source of this caress? Glorfindel sighed deeply. "I will do your bidding, my lord."
Elrond felt displeased, hearing Glorfindel address him like this. /You should be whispering different words, words that speak of your love for me. If only I could put my fears aside... I do not want Estel to make the same mistake I made - am still making - by turning away the one who loves me./ Elrond cupped Glorfindel's chin in the palm of his hand and forced the blond to look at him. "The ceremony tired me. I need to rest."
"It was exhausting," agreed Glorfindel, feeling emotionally drained as well. "Please lie down."
Elrond saw regret in those azure eyes and acted on it. "You will rest as well." Glorfindel headed toward the chair, but Elrond stopped him. "I thought I made it clear that the chair is not acceptable?"
"My lord, it is hardly appropriate that I share your bed. I will ask one of the servants if there is a spare room where I can rest."
Suddenly Elrond panicked and he grabbed Glorfindel's wrists roughly. "Nay, you are --not-- leaving me!" Realizing he had raised his voice, his eyes widened. "Glorfindel, I..." He released the blond's wrists, gathered his robes close and turned abruptly, unable to meet Glorfindel's knowing gaze. "I apologize..."
Glorfindel's voice was soft when he spoke. "My lord... Nay, Elrond, I understand. I lost loved ones as well and I know the pain that accompanies the loss." He wasn't sure he should continue, but did anyway. "But your loss will be much greater if you do not love again. Then you will be truly alone."
Elrond's eyes swam. "By Elbereth..."
Glorfindel boldly placed his hands on Elrond's hips and forced the half-Elf to turn around and look at him. "Meldir, I love you and you know that. I also suspect that you love me as well, but you are scared to lose me after admitting your feelings to me. Life is fragile, Elrond, and even the Firstborn can die. Nothing is eternal. We could be dead tomorrow..."
A lump had formed in Elrond's throat, making it hard for him to speak. "Will you stay with me? I cannot be alone now."
Glorfindel gently gathered Elrond's hands in his and led the raven-haired half-Elf to the bed. "Lie down and let me guard your dreams."
Elrond obeyed and pulled Glorfindel close, wrapping an arm around the blond. Suddenly it was very important to him to keep Glorfindel close.
Glorfindel stroked the dark hair, and whispered soft reassurances. "I will not leave you, Elrond. I vowed to stay at your side as long as I live. I will always be there for you. Now rest." Elrond's behavior puzzled Glorfindel. Why had Elrond acted the way he had? The half-Elf had pushed him away one moment, and had then ordered him to stay the next. /He is emotionally drained, and the ceremony made it worse./
Elrond listened to Glorfindel's breathing, feeling the blond's chest rise rhythmically. He clung to the blond, hoping Glorfindel would chase his fears away.
Legolas stood staring at the dying flames, unaware of the tight hold that Aragorn had on him. Without the Man's support, his knees would have given out beneath him. Leaning against Aragorn, he simply enjoyed feeling someone warm close to him. The fires didn't seem to radiate any warmth, in spite of the flames.
The 'Lorien Elves were still present as well, hoping their loved ones had taken their rightful place at the Halls of Waiting at Mandos. Suddenly the urge to run overwhelmed him, but when he tried to do so, strong arms kept him back. He blinked once, and only then realized how strong Aragorn's hold on him was. His eyes focused and once more strayed to Aragorn's chest. He still wondered about the missing pendant. When he had questioned Aragorn, the Man had given him half truths, staying clear of the real reason why he had set Arwen free. He wondered if Aragorn would ever tell him the real reason for releasing Arwen.
"Would you like to rest?" asked Aragorn, concerned about the Elf. He felt the lithe body shake and sway and pulled Legolas close. The ceremony demanded a high toll from all involved. Elrond and Glorfindel had already retired and he wanted Legolas to leave as well. The smell of burned flesh was horrible and the heat that emanated from the pyres almost made him nauseous. "I'd prefer to spend some hours in the guest rooms."
Legolas nodded absentmindedly. He wasn't thinking rationally, being consumed by memories of the burning pyres. Would he ever be able to banish those thoughts from his mind?
Aragorn suddenly pulled him along and Legolas' feet automatically carried him inside the keep, letting the Man guide him. Tears still slipped from his eyes and he no longer made the effort to wipe them away. The tears didn't seem to stop... Would they ever?
Aragorn opened the door to his guest room, guided Legolas to the bed and then closed the door again. When he returned, Legolas was still standing beside the bed, not having moved at all. "Lie down, my friend," whispered Aragorn in a concerned tone. He gently folded an arm around Legolas, and, whilst lying down himself, he pulled Legolas along until they both rested comfortably. Looking at Legolas' eyes, he saw they had turned vacant. /He was half asleep on his feet already./
Shivering, Aragorn pulled up the covers and tucked them in. Thoughts of Arwen and Éowyn were gone; he no longer had an interest in the two women. All that mattered was the Elf in his arms, and he marveled at how easy it was to touch Legolas, to hold and comfort him. He wanted to never let go again.
Haldir's eyes were distant and swimming with tears when Éomer got a closer look at him. The fire had died, and he was moving forward to close the window when Haldir's soft, protesting moan reached his ears. He closed the window irregardless and then moved to the silver-haired Elf. "It's growing cold and I do not want your condition to deteriorate. I will move you back to the bed where you can rest."
The fact that Haldir didn't react worried him even more. Until now the 'Lorien Elf had done his best to protest his every intention, but as he lifted Haldir, he found that he was being ignored. He was tempted to ask Lord Elrond to drop by, but he had seen the raven-haired Lord of Imladris move slowly among the pyres, equally affected as Haldir.
He placed Haldir on the bed and used the opportunity to check the Elf's back. Involuntarily he sucked in his breath. The wound had closed and was healing. Elrond had mentioned that his presence would help Haldir recover, but he hadn't taken Elrond's words that literally!
Éomer was about to rise again when Haldir's fingers curled themselves around his wrist, keeping him from leaving. He sighed and managed to make eye contact with Haldir. "Do not worry. I will stay." The words seemed to ease Haldir's spirit, and the Guardian released Éomer's wrist again.
Lying down behind Haldir, Éomer found himself stroking the silver locks. /Only a few days ago I didn't even know Haldir existed, and now he is quickly becoming a part of my life... I don't want to admit it, but I like him fighting me over everything. I don't like this subdued mood he is in. I'll give him a few hours to rest, but then we will talk.../
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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