By Any Means Necessary
Elrond’s eyelids weakly fluttered and then opened. Disorientated, the half-Elf took in his surroundings and then remembered what had happened. Thranduil had taken care of him after those horrible spiders had attacked, rendering him helpless.
Thranduil… The Ruler of Mirkwood was apparently asleep in the comfortable chair beneath the window, basking in radiant sunlight. Suddenly Glorfindel’s voice demanded his attention as his new lover said his name.
“Elrond?” Glorfindel left his chair and hurried to Elrond’s side. Sitting down, he gave the half-Elf an adoring smile. “How do you fare? You have been asleep for quit some hours.”
Elrond experimentally shifted on the bed and felt relieved when his body cooperated. With Glorfindel’s help, he managed to sit upright and he smiled warmly when the blond moved some pillows behind his back before lowing him back onto the soft fabric. Although he still felt weak, he also felt better. Recalling Glorfindel’s question, he said, “I can move again and my speech is no longer impaired. I am doing better, meleth-nîn. (My love.)” It pleased him that he could form whole sentences again.
At hearing the good news, Glorfindel leaned in closer and pressed a chaste kiss onto the half-Elf’s lips.
The Elda’s action surprised Elrond, but he welcomed Glorfindel’s affectionate gesture wholeheartedly. Smiling into the kiss, he raised a hand and rested it at the back of Glorfindel’s neck. The kiss was long and unrushed, but when Elrond heard a pleased chuckle, he broke off the kiss and looked behind Glorfindel, recognizing his chief advisor. “Erestor.”
Leaving his chair, Erestor made his way over to the half-Elf’s bed and bowed elegantly. “It looks like Thranduil’s salve works. Several hours ago you were completely paralyzed and now you are sitting up and talking again.” He felt somewhat hesitant when it came down to updating Elrond, uncertain how the half-Elf would react to learning about the binding.
Elrond signaled for Glorfindel to move closer, and after gathering his lover’s hand in his, he nodded and addressed his chief advisor. “Remind me to ask Thranduil about the ingredients. This salve has incredible healing qualities.” Maybe he could even use it to cure other ailments.
Feeling contented, Elrond sighed softly, watching the two Elves. Glorfindel was beaming with happiness now that he was conscious again and recovering from the poison, but something in Erestor’s expression made him frown. “You stopped farspeaking with me, why?” The last thing Erestor had told him was that Thranduil was greatly suffering because of the Shadow. His advisor had also been hopeful that an alliance could be formed. But as he glanced at Thranduil, he wondered if he wasn’t too late to save the Sindarin Elf.
Erestor straightened his shoulders, realizing he had to get this over with now. “We were busy fighting the Shadow, Elrond.”
“Must we talk about this now?” interjected Glorfindel. “You are still healing and you need the rest.”
But Elrond shook his head. “I need to know what to expect when Thranduil wakes up. Erestor, tell me what has happened since we spoke last.”
Erestor swallowed nervously. “Thranduil and I never got to discuss the alliance, as the Shadow grew stronger. One night I felt him slipping away from me and I…” His voice faded, wondering how to tell Elrond.
Glorfindel beat him to it. “Erestor bonded with Thranduil.”
Erestor shot the blond a venomous look. He had hoped to tell Elrond in a more diplomatic way!
“You did what?” Elrond’s eyes had widened and his gaze returned to the sleeping Sindarin Elf once more.
“It was the only way to keep him on Arda. His fëa (soul) was already on its way to the Halls of Waiting.” Erestor cleared his throat -- his nervousness mounting. “You told me, by any means necessary, Elrond.”
Elrond’s eyes narrowed, realizing he was being manipulated. “Erestor, I didn’t say that you should bind yourself to him! That was our last resort.”
“I didn’t have a choice,” replied Erestor calmly. “He needed me to be his strength. Maybe if you had arrived earlier Vilya would have sustained him, but I couldn’t allow him to die that night.”
“What is done is done,” said Elrond in a serious tone. “I don’t have to ask you if you understand the consequences of this deed. I am sure you do.”
Erestor nodded his head once. “I won’t be able to leave his side until he has fully recovered.”
“And you won’t be able to take a lover until the day Thranduil dies. A bond formed under such grave circumstances is strong. Even if he makes a full recovery, the two of you will always be connected.” This was a lot to digest and Elrond wondered if Erestor would pay for his noble deed for the rest of his life. “I hope Thranduil will act kindly toward you.” Being bound to the Woodland King might bring Erestor great loneliness and pain.
Glorfindel noticed the distraught expression in Erestor’s eyes and reacted to it by addressing Elrond. “Thranduil approved when Erestor called him melamin—“
“What?” Elrond unceremoniously interrupted the blond. His eyes searched Erestor, and his head reeled with the new information. “Why did you call him that?”
“Because I am falling in love with him.” Erestor was beginning to feel drained. The nights’ battles had taken their toll on him and being interrogated by the Lord of Imladris wasn’t helping.
“This is too much information,” whispered Elrond fatigued. He was about to suggest to carry on this conversation later when someone knocked on the door.
Now that Thranduil was asleep, Erestor took it upon himself to answer. “Enter.”
A moment later, Lindir entered, carrying a tray filled with food, water and hot tea. Behind him a second Elf entered the room.
Erestor arched an eyebrow, having never seen this particular Elf before. Judging by the Elf’s appearance, he was a warrior. The silver-haired Elf wore green armor, which was decorated with golden and green leaves. His long, silver hair had been braided in warrior’s plaits, but a few wayward locks made it down his back, teasingly brushing his hip. A sword was girded around his waist and he carried hunting knives on his back.
Lindir, sensing the tension, decided to break the silence by introducing the Elf that had joined him. “My Lords? May I introduce Belldoron, the King’s seneschal.”
All three Imladris Elves inclined their heads in respectful greeting. Erestor continued to study the seneschal, wondering why he hadn’t seen the Elf before. “I am Erestor, chief advisor to Lord Elrond,” he paused to point out the half-Elf to Belldoron. “And this is Lord Glorfindel, his trusted seneschal.”
Belldoron caught Erestor’s puzzled expression. “Forgive me for not welcoming you to our realm sooner, but the Spiders, Orcs and other vermin originating from Dol Guldur have kept me busy. Especially now that I cannot count on Prince Legolas to help me fight the monsters.” Bowing in return, he studied Erestor. His spies had told him about the Noldorin Elf that had gotten close to his King.
Glorfindel’s gaze darkened. “I took out three of those spiders. I offered your King my sword arm before and now I do it again. I will gladly fight alongside you to take out those monsters.”
“I thank you for your offer,” said Belldoron calmly as his gaze shifted to Thranduil. It amazed him that his King could sleep whilst they were carrying on a conversation. His eyes narrowed, locating the alien ring on his sovereign’s finger. The last time he had seen Thranduil, his King hadn’t been wearing any jewelry. “I would like to speak with my King.”
Erestor moved to Thranduil’s side and rested a hand on the Sindarin Elf’s shoulder. “I am sure Thranduil will want to talk to you as well, but this is the first peaceful sleep he has had since I arrived. I would hate to wake him now.”
Belldoron wondered about the Imladris’ party. He didn’t sense any evil intent and was inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. To wait a few more hours wouldn’t make much of a difference. “I will trust your judgment then.” In the meantime he would talk to the servants, healers and his spies, hoping to learn more of the strangers. “I would ask of you to contact me when the King wakes up.”
“I will contact you,” promised Erestor. “Maybe we should leave the injured to their rest and take our leave now.”
Belldoron understood the hint. “I will wait for your message.” After inclining his head, he marched out of the room.
Erestor sighed relieved. He hadn’t been sure how Belldoron would react to being asked to leave the room. “I will deal with that one,” he said, addressing Elrond, whose eyes were about to close again. “I will take Thranduil back to his rooms. He will rest more comfortably there.” Pushing his hands beneath the Sindarin Elf’s knees and back, he easily lifted the underweight Elf. “He needs to start eating again.” Finding that Lindir had set the tray next to Elrond on the bed, he said, “Would you bring some food to Thranduil’s rooms as well? I want him to eat once he wakes up.”
Lindir nodded and left for the kitchens.
Glorfindel and Elrond exchanged a look, eager to have some privacy as well. “We will talk later,” said the half-Elf eventually.
“Aye, we will.” Carrying Thranduil out of the room, Erestor’s worries increased, fully realizing how fragile the Sindarin Elf was. /He weighs nothing./ His first priority was to make sure Thranduil gained weight and grew stronger.
When Erestor had vanished from view Elrond turned toward Glorfindel. “I am displeased with the fact that he bonded with Thranduil.”
Glorfindel shrugged. “I share your concern, but Erestor is capable of making his own decisions.”
“I hope you are right and that Erestor knows what he is doing. I do not want to see him hurt and Thranduil can be spiteful and arrogant at times.”
A thoughtful expression appeared in Glorfindel’s eyes. “Erestor said Thranduil had changed. I can understand that the Shadow -- the suffering -- would cause a change in Thranduil. He did care for you, curing your paralysis. Without Thranduil’s expertise you might have suffered permanent damage. That venom is rather potent.”
“I will give Thranduil a fair chance, but if he hurts Erestor, we will take action. Erestor is a good friend and he has acted selflessly by binding himself to Thranduil. I won’t see him suffer because of that,” said Elrond protectively. “I won’t see him hurt!”
Glorfindel reassuringly squeezed the half-Elf’s hand. “I am on your side, melme. (Love.) You don’t have to convince me. We will watch over Erestor and keep a close eye on Thranduil, agreed?”
Elrond nodded his consent, stubbornly staring at Glorfindel. When he had told Erestor ‘by any means necessary’ he hadn’t thought it would lead to this.
Erestor gently placed his charge on the bed, and after stripping Thranduil and himself, he stretched out next to the Sindarin Elf, wrapping his arms around him. Although it was midday, he decided to try to nap as well. He hoped that Thranduil’s peaceful sleep would continue for many more hours. The weakened Elf needed all the rest he could get.
Watching Thranduil sleep, Erestor lost himself in the vacant, emerald eyes. Even in this deteriorated state the Ruler of Mirkwood looked beautiful to him. It was the eyes and high cheekbones, he decided eventually. And the way Thranduil snuggled up to him. “The Valar may help me, but I am falling in love with you, melamin. I do not know what the future will bring – if we will be happy or not. You might even reject me once you have recovered. But I have to take that risk. I cannot let you fade.”
He closed his hand over Thranduil’s, thoughtfully rubbing the stone that was the heart of Vilya. /Please make him strong again and protect him from the Shadow./ For one moment it seemed like Vilya sparkled brightly, but that might have been his imagination.
“Oh, sweet Elbereth, I never meant to fall in love with him.” But it had happened and now he had to find a way to deal with it.
Haldir grew worried, seeing the deep frown and sincere concern in Celeborn’s eyes. He was still recovering from the scare Celeborn had given him when the silver-haired Elf had collapsed into his arms. The Lord of the Golden Wood had never fainted before and Haldir worried for the elder Elf’s well-being.
During all the time that he had served Celeborn -- several millennia -- he had started to care for the strong and silent Sindarin Elf who ruled the Galadhrim so kindly. He had seen Celeborn and Galadriel’s happiness whenever they were close and at times he felt envious of his Lady.
For decades he had managed to hide his love for Celeborn and he knew it had to remain hidden as his beloved was married to the Lady of the Golden Wood. His brothers had warned him that he was setting himself up for heartbreak, but his feelings were not easily controlled. He consoled himself with the fact that -- except for his brothers -- no one knew about the love he bore Celeborn.
When Celeborn had fallen into his arms, his heart had sped up at the close and intimate contact. He had touched Celeborn before, usually when they had greeted one another or during training sessions the Lord had ordered and led, but he had never held the Sindarin Elf in his arms before and now that the elder Elf had left them, they felt empty.
Haldir forced himself to stop his musings, which would lead to nothing, except distract him from his task. He was the leader of Celeborn’s escort and it was his task to make sure the elder Elf reached Imladris safely.
Celeborn, riding next to him, seemed pre-occupied and lost in thought. Haldir wanted to ask him about the twins, but didn’t want to disturb the Lord of the Golden Wood, so he waited patiently, hoping Celeborn would address him instead.
Celeborn sensed Haldir’s curiosity and concern, and reacted to it. “I told my wife what happened and she shares my worries.”
Now that Celeborn had addressed the matter, Haldir felt comfortable enough to comment on it. “Elladan must have been in an emotional turmoil for his thoughts to affect you in such a way.”
“Elrohir and Elladan are twins, Haldir. You should know how close brothers are. Now imagine Rumil, Orophin and you being triplets, possessing an even stronger bond that the one you already have.”
Haldir nodded in understanding. The bond that he shared with his brothers was intense and he could imagine Elladan’s terror very well. “Do you have any idea why Elrohir is fading?” The younger twin had always stuck him as the more sensitive one. The twins had often visited Lothlorien and as Elflings they had created mayhem in the Golden Wood. Well, Elladan had, to be more exact. Elrohir had always been the one trying to keep Elladan safe.
“Nay, I do not know why. Elladan’s thoughts were too chaotic and his emotions too fierce. They literally knocked me off my feet.” He had picked up on Elladan’s cry for help accidentally, realizing that the elder twin was trying to reach Elrond instead. But for some reason Elrond hadn’t answered. Being close to the twins as well, he had picked up on them.
Celeborn sighed fatigued, relieved to have Haldir at his side. Haldir was his most devoted guardian and he trusted the younger Elf completely. Haldir would support him and do what was necessary to keep Elrohir from fading. “I am glad you decided to lead my escort,” he offered somewhat shyly. He had been attracted to Haldir for decades now, but he loved Galadriel too much to explore his feelings for the march warden. But then again, his instincts told him that Galadriel would leave for Valinor should the quest to destroy the One Ring be successful, and he had decided long ago not to leave for the Undying Lands. He heart was bound to Middle Earth.
Haldir saw the distressed expression in Celeborn’s eyes and wanted to comfort his Lord, but knew his hands were tied. He could only offer comfort in words, not in body, even though he desperately wanted to take away the elder Elf’s suffering.
“It cannot be easy for you to leave your brothers behind in Lothlorien,” said Celeborn absentmindedly. Elladan’s anguish still echoed in his mind and he needed to distract himself.
“I already long to be reunited with them,” admitted Haldir with a deep sigh, “but my place is at your side.” He glanced proudly at Celeborn. The shy smile that surfaced on the elder Elf’s face made his heart beat faster. At times, he wondered if Celeborn felt the attraction as well. But then again, Celeborn already had a mate and Galadriel loved her husband dearly.
Celeborn averted his eyes, unwilling for Haldir to see the affection in them.
Elrohir had postponed returning to their rooms as long as possible, not wanting to evoke another emotional confrontation. He shuffled into their chambers, instinctively knowing Elladan had heard him enter.
Finding Elladan curled up on his bed Elrohir’s heart twitched violently. Elladan would at times sleep in his bed, but never without him. Had his twin felt that lonely? Aiya, was Elladan really trembling?
And then the soft sobs reached him. /Elladan’s crying!/ He wrung his hands, wondering what to do. The fact that his twin was in such agony nagged at him, and in the end, he shuffled toward his bed, sitting down on the side.
“G-go… a-way…” Elladan tensed, folded his arms tightly around his waist and closed his eyes. He had heard Elrohir enter and didn’t know what to do. The pain he felt was impossible to contain and needed a way out. “You… w-will… l-leave… me… at any r-rate… You d-don’t… l-love… m-me enough t-to stay!”
Elrohir bowed his head in defeat. “You are wrong. I do love you, gweniaur. (older twin.)” For one moment his hand remained poised in the air, hovering above Elladan’s shoulders, but then he rested it on his brother’s neck, gently rubbing it. “Please don’t ever doubt that I love you, Elladan, I do.”
Elrohir’s words penetrated Elladan’s confused thoughts and he slowly turned onto his other side until he was face to face with his younger twin.
A lump of fierce emotions settled in Elrohir’s throat, seeing Elladan wipe away hot tears with his sleeve. For one moment Elladan seemed an Elfling again. An Elfling who had just lost his mother and was now hurting so deep inside that no one could soothe him. No one except his twin.
“Oh, gwanunig, (twin brother.) come here. Let me hold you.” Throwing caution to the wind, he pulled Elladan close and wrapped his arms around his twin. He soothingly rubbed Elladan’s back and allowed for his brother to release some last strangled sobs against his shoulder. “You are the other half of my soul, Elladan, and you know that. I will never stop loving you. You are my twin.”
Elladan slowly composed himself, wiped away those last tears and then pulled back slightly so he could look his twin in the eyes and realized Elrohir was speaking the truth. Now that he bothered to look closely, he saw love and affection stare back at him. “Then… why? I don’t… understand?”
Elrohir drew in a deep breath, telling himself he had to be strong for his brother’s sake. “I am doing this because it is in your best interest.”
“How can it be in my best interest?” Elladan’s voice had grown louder with every word and he now glowered at his twin.
“I cannot elaborate. You will have to trust me.” Elrohir pleadingly looked at his brother. “You do trust me, don’t you?”
“Elbereth help me, but I trust you,” whispered Elladan breathlessly. “But I don’t want to lose you.”
“You have to trust me,” repeated Elrohir, who now lay down next to his brother. His arms were still folded around Elladan and gentle warmth spread throughout his body now that he was so close to the one he loved. “I love you. I really do.”
Elladan let Elrohir’s words soothe him and he allowed himself to enjoy his brother’s embrace. He tried hard not to think of the fact that Elrohir would fade within the year and that he would be alone. Truly alone. For then his mother and his twin would have both left him. Aye, his father, Glorfindel and Erestor would still be there, but it was Elrohir who he wanted and needed most. Burying himself against his twin’s chest, he tried to savor the moment and push all distressing thoughts deeper into his mind.
Thranduil blinked once, waking up from a restful sleep. By the Grace of the Valar, he couldn’t remember the last time he had slept that peacefully! Growing aware of the pliant and warm body beside him, he lovingly searched Erestor’s face. The raven-haired Elf was asleep, his eyes open and lips slightly parted.
Erestor was an enigma to Thranduil. The advisor had made him rethink his views on the Noldor and now he had even bonded with one. Aye, by accident, but he didn’t mind being bonded to Erestor, which was strange to say the least.
His fingers tenderly trailed through the long, dark tresses, which made him realize that he loved seeing the raven mane loose. Vilya caught his attention and he stared at the ring in wonder. Elrond had actually traveled to Mirkwood to aid him. What was Arda coming to now that he couldn’t even trust his enemies to be his enemies?
But Vilya’s presence was helping. During his sleep the whispering voice had been absent and the Shadow hadn’t weighed that heavily on his mind. He had still felt its presence, but it hadn’t hurt him.
He brushed his lips against Erestor’s brow. /I don’t know why you saved me, but I feel grateful that you did. In time, I will repay you./
Suddenly he fully realized that they were mated now. Bound, until one of them died. It was the first time he had truly bonded with someone. Not even his dear wife had taken that step. When he concentrated, he could actually feel Erestor’s presence in his mind. And it felt soothing, comforting.
/I am in love with you too, Noldorin Elf./ He chuckled privately, careful not to make any noise, knowing Erestor needed his rest after all these nightmarish nights. Just when he had thought that the evil would claim him, Erestor had appeared. /I owe you my life, nîn-cuil./ (My hero.)
Erestor moved closer to him. The raven-haired Elf had probably picked up on his emotions and was now reacting to them. Thranduil tightened the hold he had on Erestor and held him close, soothingly rubbing circles onto the other’s back.
/Should I ever regain my strength -- and for some reason that seems more likely than fading right now -- I will make things up to you. You sacrificed yourself by binding yourself to me when you didn’t have to. I will make sure you won’t regret reaching out to me./
Thranduil smiled lovingly into the dark strands that tickled his face. “Im mela lle, nîn-cuil./ (I love you, my hero.)
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