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 9 - Secrets
Éomer slowly made his way back to his private chambers, not looking forward to facing Haldir and having to explain his sudden departure. Haldir's possessive kiss had caused certain memories to return, which he had believed buried deep within. Remembered pain and fear made it hard for him to think rationally. /What should I say? Will Haldir push for an explanation?/
The 'Lorien Elf confused him; Haldir had acted distant at first, and then the silver haired Elf had unexpectedly kissed him. /Was he merely playing games or was he serious? Does he care for me as well?/
Sighing anxiously, he came to a halt in front of his rooms. The connection was now strong enough for him to recognize Haldir's presence in the next room. The Elf was curious as well as... concerned? /Does he worry about -me-, or about me leaving him whilst he still needs my support?/
He grew tired of asking himself these questions and he stepped inside, pointedly ignoring Haldir, who awkwardly rose from his chair. From the corner of his eye he noticed Haldir's pallor and the worry etched onto the Elf's brow. He wanted to cross the room and sit behind his desk, hoping Haldir would lose interest in him when reading reports and thinking up new strategies for the upcoming war in Gondor, but Haldir slowly walked up to him, blocking his path.
"I already neglected my work and..." Éomer considered pushing Haldir aside so he could pass, but he didn't want to accidentally aggravate the Elf's injuries, which were still healing.
"Nay," said Haldir in a clipped tone. "I want to know what happened after I kissed you. Why did you leave? I demand an answer." Concerned, Haldir noticed the wet clothes, rain dripping from the long mane, and the shivers that ran down Éomer's back. Why had Éomer gone outside in this weather when he could be perfectly warm in his rooms?
"You -demand-?" Éomer's anger began to rise, burning his insides and quickly uncoiling in his stomach. "I owe you nothing!"
Haldir raised an eyebrow. "We are mated now and should not keep things from each other." The reply was given instinctively, realizing that he had to allow the Man in. He couldn't push Éomer away, not when they were to spend the rest of their lives together. "Did I do something wrong?" He seldom voiced his doubts aloud and instantly noticed Éomer's surprised expression. "I -did- do something wrong, did I not?"
Éomer grew quiet; what should he do now that Haldir wanted to discuss this matter seriously? He shrugged his shoulders. "I wanted to kiss you... And I wanted to be kissed back, but..."
"But what?" Haldir took one step closer to Éomer, halting when the Man backed away. Apparently Éomer was determined to keep some distance between them.
Éomer averted his eyes, and stared at the floor. "The... intensity of your kiss took me aback."
Haldir's thoughts raced. /The intensity? By Elbereth, I did come across too forceful - but why did he not simply stop me?/ He slowly raised his right hand and rested it on Éomer's shoulder; beneath it, shivers wracked the Man's body. /Why does he react like this? It began when I took charge of the kiss./
Éomer felt embarrassed for his previous behavior. "'Tis nothing. I probably just need more sleep and a few decent meals."
Haldir didn't believe Éomer; the fact that the Man kept his eyes averted triggered his alarms. /He was fine when he kissed me, but he panicked when I took control... I want to try something./
Haldir placed two fingers beneath Éomer's chin, slowly raising it and meeting the Rohirrim's gaze when the Man finally made eye contact. "Will you kiss me again?" Trying to ease Éomer's apparent worries, he smiled warmly.
"Kiss you?" Éomer sucked in his breath. "Why ask me?" In a much softer tone he added, "I do not understand you. At one time you act like you can barely tolerate my presence and at other times you sneak into my bed after chasing me away. Where do we stand? I need to know what to expect."
"A very understandable question," mumbled Haldir thoughtfully. "Where do we stand? You proved your loyalty when nursing me back to health. Thanks to your care I will make a full recovery, and it is time I set aside prejudice and admit that a Man saved my life. I will commit myself to this relationship, if you do the same. I will spend my life at this foreign court as your mate, whilst I should be guarding 'Lorien's borders. I will miss my homeland and my brothers, but I am willing to endure this if you will commit to this relationship as well."
A lump formed in Éomer's throat. "Are you serious or is this just a game? I must be certain you are sincere."
Éomer's obvious uncertainty surprised Haldir. "I regret giving you the cold shoulder and fighting you over everything, but I will change my ways. You can put your trust in me."
Éomer wasn't so certain. "Time will tell if you are sincere. If you'll now excuse me... There are reports I need to read." He froze when Haldir used his hold on his shoulder to keep him from leaving. Panic fluttered in his stomach, and it almost made him run away from Haldir once more.
Éomer's body tensed before growing rigid, and Haldir immediately removed his hand, realizing that the Man felt cornered. His worries increased, seeing the haunted expression in the brown eyes, and a sharp pain slid through his soul, leaving him gasping in surprise. For one moment he had felt Éomer's panic and distress. He took a few steps away from Éomer, giving the Rohirrim the space he obviously needed. "Those reports will still be there tonight. I think we need to talk about your reactions."
"What's there to say?" Éomer sounded defensive, and he glared at Haldir. "My secrets are mine to keep and do not concern you."
"That is where you are wrong, Éomer. They -do- concern me, since we are mated for life." Haldir eyed Éomer closely. Everything about the Man screamed that he wanted to be left alone, but nothing could come between them; if it did, it would weaken their bond and cause it to break. "You are soaking wet, Éomer, and you should change into something warm and dry." He looked about and reached for a blanket on the bed. "Remove your wet clothes and wrap this around you."
Éomer stared at the floor, realizing a pool had formed at his feet. Reluctantly, he nodded his head, took hold of the blanket, and quickly removed his shirt and stepped out of his trousers. He instantly wrapped the warm blanket around him, never meeting Haldir's inquisitive gaze.
Haldir pushed some stray dark blond locks behind Éomer's ears. Droplets dripped from the ends, slipping onto the blanket. "Stay here..." He slowly made his way into the bathroom and returned with a towel, which he gently wrapped around the wet mane. "Now that you are warm and dry, will you sit with me in front of the fire and tell me about your worries?"
Éomer was at a loss; Haldir had never expressed any concern before, and now the attention made him feel shy. The bickering he could deal with, but this gentle concern confused him. He allowed Haldir to lead him over to the fireplace and sit him down on the large warm furs. He worried momentarily that Haldir would seat himself next to him, as he wasn't sure he could deal with such close presence, but thankfully Haldir kept his distance, sitting down opposite him.
"You were uncomfortable when I kissed you... It was different when you approached me; at that time you seemed at ease. Did I somehow scare you?" Haldir put it that bluntly on purpose, hoping to get Éomer to talk to him.
How had he gotten himself into this situation? Éomer stared blankly at the wall, avoiding Haldir's hazel eyes. He felt lost and at Haldir's mercy. Why had he returned to his rooms this quickly? He should know better by now than to let his vulnerability show! He needed time to get back in control of his emotions.
"Éomer?" Haldir frowned. The Man wasn't listening! "Your behavior has changed greatly. Why?"
"I am not feeling that well," said Éomer evasively. "As I mentioned before, I am tired."
"Why are you lying to me?" Haldir wondered about the growing unease in Éomer's eyes. "You can confide in me. I am worthy of your trust." But that was the problem, wasn't it? Until now he had done nothing to prove Éomer he was trustworthy. "How can I convince you I am sincere?"
"I am not sure you can," mumbled Éomer. In the end, he hesitantly met Haldir's eyes. "I do not trust easily, Haldir. I trusted people in the past and they betrayed me."
Haldir cringed at Éomer's pained tone. "Who betrayed you?"
Éomer almost answered, but stopped himself just in time. "I cannot tell you." Éomer decided he'd had enough and rose from the floor, tightly clutching the blanket. "I am going to study those reports and..."
Haldir rose slowly; his injury still hampering him, but once more he blocked the Man's path.
Éomer glared at the Elf. "I refuse to discuss this with you."
"You can run, Éomer, but do you wish to run for the rest of your life? I do not know what troubles you, but I wish you would share your burden with me. Or will you make us suffer for the rest of our lives?"
"Why would -you- suffer?" Éomer shook his head. "This is -my- burden, not yours."
Haldir slowly placed his hands on Éomer's shoulders, keeping the Man in place. "You still do not understand. We will share -our- lives, pain, sorrow and happiness. Everything you struggle with affects me as well."
Éomer swallowed hard. "This dark mood will pass shortly. I merely require some time to deal with this."
Haldir shook his head firmly. "-We- must deal with this. You cannot do this alone, not anymore. The bond changed that. Please, confide in me. Maybe I know of a way to ease your suffering."
"No one can ease my suffering," whispered Éomer stubbornly. "It has become a part of me, and the memories will never leave."
"Éomer, I ask once more, who betrayed you? Who was it you placed your trust in and then betrayed you?" Haldir kept Éomer's gaze prisoner, making sure the Man knew he was listening with his heart as well. There would be no arrogant sneer, or bantering; that had changed. "I will face this with you if you let me."
Éomer sighed resignedly. One day Haldir would find out anyway. Maybe it would happen one night when sleeping in each other's arms, or maybe during another kiss, but Haldir -would- find out eventually. He collapsed back onto the furs and bowed his head in defeat, staring at the floor. He didn't resist when Haldir sat beside him, loosely wrapping an arm around his shoulders; the bond told him he was secure and that Haldir would let him set the pace. "I am not sure I can talk about this... I never did before..."
Haldir remained silent, but gently squeezed Éomer closer. The Man was struggling with a shadow from his past and the Elf sensed Éomer's emotional pain through the link.
"My father died when I was little. I could not have been more than eight when my sister and I arrived at Théoden's court. The King's son, Théodred, liked having some children of his own age around, and Éowyn and I were quickly accepted into the family. Théoden always treated us as his own." He paused momentarily, closing his eyes, remembering happy times. "Éowyn, Théodred and I became good friends. At times we forgot that we were not siblings for we felt as close as blood."
Haldir nodded patiently. "It sounds like you were happy."
"Those were happy times." Éomer shivered and closed his eyes. "But then our new tutor arrived... and followed our every step."
Haldir soothingly rubbed Éomer's shoulders, massaging the tense muscles.
"I was just a child and had no idea how twisted this man's mind was. His gaze would shift between Éowyn and me... making us shiver. Théoden made it very clear we were to obey our teacher. Éowyn cried herself to sleep every night... and the only thing I could do was to make sure she was never alone with him. Théodred noticed that something had upset her, and he told his father. Théoden decided that Éowyn should be raised among women, and she was sent away for some years. She got away from the snake... but I did not... When his eyes could no longer devour her, they turned to me... and the nightmare began."
Goose pimples formed on Haldir's skin, as he finally realized what Éomer was hinting at. In utter disbelief, he stared at Éomer. "He lusted after your sister when she was a child? By Elbereth, that is unheard of! How come Théoden did not send him away? How could he allow this creature to remain at his court?"
Éomer shrugged. "Théoden did not know." He pleadingly met Haldir's eyes. "Must... I... continue?"
"Aye," said Haldir firmly. "There cannot be any secrets between us. What happened after your sister left?"
"He stared at me with his black eyes..." Éomer bit his bottom lip, trying to emotionally distance himself from his memories, but he failed like he usually did. "He followed me and began to corner me... never speaking... simply staring at me. He was my tutor so I had to spend a lot of time in his company. Then... then he started to touch me... I instinctively recoiled from his touch, but he threatened to ask Théoden to send for Éowyn so she could live with us once more, and, being a child, I believed his lies... Éowyn was safe, and I had to keep it that way. The touches grew more... vile... and I..." Éomer cleared his throat, trying to swallow his emotions so they wouldn't flood him.
Haldir sighed distressed. "I cannot imagine such a thing happening to a child! Was there no one who suspected what was happening?" Someone must have noticed!
A sad smile crossed Éomer's face. "Théoden's guards, Hama and Gamling, found out one night when I was reported missing. At Théoden's command they searched every room and eventually they... found me... in his chambers..."
Haldir's anger blazed hotly. /Should I ever encounter this monster I will end his wretched life!/
"I still remember them forcing the door open and storming inside. I... was on the bed, naked... hands bound and face down... When they turned me onto my back I screamed hysterically; I never recognized them and thought my tormenter had returned." Éomer's voice dripped with fear and anger. "I hoped they would send him away... now that they knew... but he convinced Théoden to let him stay... Hama and Gamling however stayed at my side... keeping me safe."
Haldir tried to catch Éomer's gaze, and succeeded eventually. The hazel eyes swam with tears, which Éomer refused to release. "Do I know this monster?"
Haldir's question pulled Éomer back into the present. He forced himself to answer. "His name is Grima and he was Théoden's advisor. He worked for Saruman and Théoden banished him from Edoras a few weeks ago. He is gone now..."
Haldir's eyes burned with fury. "Banishment is not enough punishment for what he did."
Éomer's smile was utterly sad when he met Haldir's eyes. "Grima had a certain hold on Théoden. Maybe the Lord of the Mark wanted to punish Grima, but for some reason he could not."
"He failed you," whispered Haldir compassionately. "This scarred you for life, did it not?"
Éomer stared blindly, not really seeing Haldir's face; it was more like a big blur. His tears finally surfaced and he angrily swept them away. "I thought I had dealt with this..."
Sudden realization dawned on Haldir. "What was it about the kiss that brought it back?" Haldir felt at a loss at how to proceed. He was tempted to let go of Éomer, but then again, he didn't want to lose this closeness.
"The possessiveness. You did not give me a chance to pull away. I panicked; it reminded me of a time when I had no say in the matter. Believe me, Grima did not accept no for an answer." He laughed bitterly, and shook his head at the distorted memories. "I am certain it was much worse than I remember, but thankfully time heals many wounds. Most of the time Grima does not haunt me, and this took me completely by surprise. I will try to handle it better in future."
Haldir cringed. "Éomer, I offered you my support. You no longer need to carry this burden alone." He had never before met anyone we had suffered this much as a child, and he had no idea how to deal with Éomer's pain. Maybe Elrond could advise him? /I will be careful when kissing him.../
The tears in Éomer's eyes dried and faded. Instead an immense sorrow appeared in them. "I do not wish to burden you with this," said Éomer softly. /Now you will think even less of me for being unable to cope with this. I should never have told you./
Éomer's apprehension was palpable in the connection between them, telling Haldir what Éomer dreaded most; loathing. Maybe a distraction would work. "Cormlle naa tanya tel'raa..."
Éomer frowned deeply; the words were alien to him. "What does it mean?" He wasn't sure he wanted to find out. What if Haldir had just expressed his disgust or even worse... his pity?
"Your heart is that of the lion, Éomer. You suffered terribly and yet you came out the victor. Grima did not break you. You are a strong and wise Man, and you should be proud of yourself for overcoming this." Haldir saw wonder in Éomer's eyes. "I mean it, lle ume quel..." Éomer's puzzled look made him explain. "You did well."
Éomer allowed a weak smile onto his face. "That means I have to learn your tongue as well... I want to understand what you are saying." The soothing heat of the fire seeped into his bones, warming him pleasantly. For some elusive reason it didn't really bother him that Haldir was this close, looking at him intently. Haldir had wrapped one arm around him and the gesture made him feel safe. He even caught himself leaning into the touch and resting his head on Haldir's shoulder. /I should not be doing this... I should not trust him... Not yet anyway./
Haldir enjoyed holding Éomer whilst contemplating everything he had just learned. /I want Grima's head... I never before felt this eager to take a life, but.../ He looked down, and saw that Éomer's hands shook slightly. He curled his fingers around them, rubbing them in an effort to warm them. "Voronwer, we will overcome your fears together."
Éomer smiled, staring absentmindedly into the flames. "Voron..."
"Voronwer; loyal one. You did not desert me when I needed you." Haldir played with Éomer's hair, which had started to curl now that it was drying. "Tell me what you desire, Éomer. Do you want us to become friends, or would you like it to be more? Can it ever be more?"
"I hope so..." Éomer's voice was barely audible. "I have never been in love before and I always wondered what it would feel like. Now I find myself hoping that the feeling is mutual. Aye, I want it to be more, but I understand if you do not want to be with me in that way."
Haldir's heart contracted painfully at hearing the self-doubt in Éomer's voice. "What happened was not your fault. You were a child."
"I know that! But that does not change anything! I told myself countless times that I was not to blame, but... There are some nights when I still hear his voice, telling me I bewitched him." Éomer stared at the fire. "His touch tainted me, I realize that, and--" He stopped as Haldir moved closer. Looking up at the Elf, he wondered about the expression in those chocolate eyes, and found himself holding his breath in anticipation.
"You are not tainted, Éomer. You are the most courageous and compassionate Man I have ever met." Haldir released Éomer's hands and gently tangled his fingers in the long curls. "May I kiss you?"
Éomer swallowed hard. "You may." Butterflies tickled his insides and he sighed blissfully when soft, gentle lips brushed his in a slow kiss, which was completely different from the possessive one that had made him panic. This one was light, gently given, and eagerly accepted.
When Haldir pulled back he smiled at the perplexed expression on Éomer's face. The kiss had told him everything he needed to know; Éomer desired him as well. Their bond was strong and they would become lovers in time. "Will you rest now? You look tired." Expecting protests, he added, "And I could do with some sleep as well." He wasn't tired at all, but would pretend he was exhausted if it made Éomer lie down and rest.
"Maybe I should try to sleep. Will you wake me in an hour?" Entranced by the warm expression in Haldir's eyes, he allowed the Elf to pull him into a lying position, resting his head in Haldir's lap. The furs were warm and comfortable and he closed his eyes, trying to relax. At first he tensed slightly as Haldir stroked his hair, but then found that the soothing motion helped him relax.
Haldir smiled; the tension finally left Éomer's body. A soft snore echoed through the room and Haldir sighed happily, thankful that he had managed to ease Éomer's burden just a little.
Elrond had changed into dry robes and now headed for the great hall, eager to speak with Théoden. After mentally reviewing everything he had heard he had drawn a terrible conclusion, one he hadn't yet shared with Glorfindel. First he had to make sure his suspicions were correct.
Entering the ancient hall, his eyes quickly scanned the room. Théoden was talking to his second in command, Gamling, but Elrond proceeded nonetheless. He cleared his throat, announcing his presence. "Sire, can I speak with you? In private?" He didn't want others to learn of his worries.
Théoden calmly studied the half-Elf, and shook his head. "Gamling will stay. I have no secrets from my trusted friend."
Elrond considered protesting, but then dismissed the thought; Théoden wouldn't change his mind. "I worry about Éomer."
"Because he bonded with Haldir? Did anything go wrong?" Worried, Théoden left his throne and approached Elrond. "It was a very brave and honorable thing to do, but maybe a tad foolish."
"Nay, it is not the bond, which is still intact." Elrond cast a probing look at Gamling and decided to continue, even with the other man present. The matter was urgent, and he needed answers! "Haldir kissed Éomer and your nephew panicked. I followed Éomer when he ran and I found him crying, mumbling. He repeated; 'He is gone,' the entire time. I am most concerned about his well being, nay, -their- well being. Whatever affects Éomer affects Haldir as well." Elrond raised an eyebrow, seeing the cold expression in Théoden's eyes. Gamling sighed, distressed, and Elrond's gaze shifted from Théoden to Gamling and back again. "You know to whom Éomer was referring."
"I do. Gamling, guard the door. This information should not leave the room." Théoden returned to his throne and collapsed into it. His shoulders slumped forward, but they straightened out again, once more facing Elrond. "I should have banished Grima many years ago, but even back then his hold on me was strong."
"What does Grima Wormtongue have to do with this?" Elrond's brow furrowed.
Théoden locked eyes with Elrond. "Grima was twisted in more ways than one, which made him a perfect tool for Saruman."
Elrond moved a little closer. "In what ways was his mind twisted?"
"He lusted after Éomer's sister... I sent her away when Gamling told me Grima haunted her steps, but I did not expect the snake to turn to Éomer instead. Éomer was an adorable boy, with big brown eyes and untamable curls." Théoden averted his eyes, staring at his hands. "I noticed Grima's perversions too late. Gamling alerted me when Éomer became silent and distant and the boy began to flinch when we touched him. One night Gamling did not find Éomer in his room and I ordered a search. Grima's foul nature was revealed at last. We found Éomer tied to his bed. The boy panicked and started to scream when we tried to free him. Later I found out that Grima had been tormenting Éomer since his sister had left. I will never forgive myself for not noticing earlier."
Elrond nodded once. He would probably blame himself as well, had he neglected to notice the abuse. "And yet you kept Grima here."
"It must have been Saruman. I tried to banish Grima from Rohan, tried to speak the words and later, growing desperate, I tried to write the order down. But my voice and hands refused to co-operate and Grima remained here, slowly pulling me deeper into his web."
Théoden raised his eyes, and Elrond saw the sorrow in them. "It explains why Éomer panicked, " said Elrond thoughtfully, "Did you ever discuss this with him?" /Talking about this, acknowledging the abuse may help Éomer heal./
Théoden shook his head. "I did not dare bring it up. After Hama and Gamling rescued Éomer, the boy was distant for weeks. When he finally began to react to our voices, we did not dare address the matter; we were afraid it would bring back memories he had apparently repressed. With the passing of time, he remembered what had happened to him, and his mood could change within seconds, ranging from immense sorrow to a frightening fury. The boy was hurt and he did not know yet how to deal with these emotions."
Gamling cleared his throat and Théoden nodded his permission. "At night, the boy sneaked into my room. Éomer would lie down at the foot end of my bed, curling up beneath the blankets. I tried to pull him close once when a nightmare haunted him, but he fought me off. I never tried again."
Elrond felt immensely saddened. What had Grima's presence during all those long years done to Éomer? Every day Éomer had been confronted by the snake that had ruined his life. "He is gone now..." Elrond finally understood. "Sire, maybe you should discuss this with Éomer when the time is right. It might be important to him to hear his pain acknowledged."
"I am not sure I have the courage to do that." Théoden's eyes mirrored his sorrow and regret. "You see, I failed him all those years ago. He was a child who placed his trust in me, hoping I would love him and keep him safe. The bitter truth is that I failed him."
"It is never too late to admit your mistakes and to make amends," whispered Elrond thoughtfully. "Haldir should know what happened to Éomer as a child. Will you tell him or must I?"
Théoden cringed privately. "Éomer should tell him."
"But is Éomer strong enough to confide in Haldir?" Elrond wasn't sure the proud Rohirrim would admit something this personal to a Man.
"Éomer told me," said Haldir, slowly entering the hall. It had taken him long moments to ease Éomer into a sleeping position on the furs. The Man didn't even know he was gone, sleeping peacefully in front of the fire. Now that Éomer wasn't close he felt weakened, and he already yearned to return to the Man.
Théoden's eyes widened in surprise. "He told you about Grima?"
"He did." Haldir's gaze traveled from Elrond to Théoden. "Is Grima still in Rohan? I want his head."
Gamling shivered at the cold steel in Haldir's voice; the Elf was deadly serious. "Nay, he is not here any longer. Grima, and cursed be his name, headed for Isengard to be reunited with his master, Saruman," said Gamling calmly.
"Isengard..." Haldir met Théoden's gaze. "He is out of my reach then..." But Grima couldn't hide at Isengard forever. The snake would leave in time. /I cannot leave Éomer and Edoras, but Rumil and Orophin can hunt Grima down./ His brothers would understand and help him avenge Éomer's honor.
"For what it is worth," said Théoden, "I am relieved he confided in you. This is such a heavy burden and one he always refused to share. Maybe now he will heal."
Haldir nodded earnestly. "I will help him to the best of my abilities." Weariness grew heavier, making him turn around to head back to Éomer's rooms. "I still want Grima's head - and I will get it."
Gamling almost offered his assistance, but refrained from doing so, knowing that the Elf needed no help. He had seen Haldir fight, and had been greatly impressed.
Haldir left the great hall and stepped into the corridor. Théoden's words echoed in his mind. /Théoden knew about Grima, and failed to protect Éomer.../
Haldir entered Éomer's rooms and headed for the fire, lying down and loosely wrapping his arms around Éomer, who still slept soundly in front of the fire. /I should wake you and tell you to go to bed, but you seem comfortable here and I do not want to disturb your sleep./ He settled for holding Éomer, marveling at the feelings of protectiveness that washed through him. Rumil and Orophin also awakened those feelings in him, but with Éomer it was different now that their love was deepening.
Pressing a chaste kiss onto the dark blond mane, he whispered into the curls, "Amin mela lle."
Amin mela lle = I love you.
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