Dinîf en Qualen
Glorfindel was definitely driving him insane. The blond had first played his flute and had then started reading to him, despite his request to be left alone. Erestor closed his eyes momentarily, trying to lock out Glorfindel’s warm and enchanting voice, but he failed. Instead he found himself clinging to every word, hoping Glorfindel would stay close a few more days. With difficulty, and biting down the pain, he managed to turn onto his right, turning away from Glorfindel.
Glorfindel’s features distorted when Erestor turned his back on him. What was he doing wrong? He was trying hard to entertain Erestor, hoping to see the dark-haired Elf smile just once. He sat upright in bed, placed his crutches beneath his armpits and pushed himself up to his feet. Moving slowly, he made his way to Erestor’s bed and came to a halt in front of the injured Elf, forcing Erestor to look at him. The Noldorin Elf’s eyes closed, frustrating him even further.
Erestor wasn’t sure what he wanted Glorfindel to do. He had expected the blond to tire of his behavior, but at the same time he hoped that the Elda wouldn’t give up on reaching out to him. He couldn’t help that he had lost the ability to trust!
“Erestor? Would you just look at me? I feel locked out.” Glorfindel decided on the direct approach. “Why are you pushing me away? I am trying to be pleasant company and the least you can do is to talk and look at me. Am I invisible to you?”
Erestor sighed, dejectedly. “Why can't you leave me alone?”
“Is that what you really want? To be left alone?” Glorfindel studied the silent form. “A week ago I would have believed you, but I no longer do.” To his utter satisfaction Erestor’s eyes opened to stare at him in shock. “And I am right, am I not? You like my company.” Victoriously, he smiled at the Noldorin Elf. “You do not have to admit it aloud, Erestor. I read the answer in your eyes.“
For one brief moment Erestor considered protesting, but he was hurting and in dire need of a friend, so he allowed the blond to continue.
“Why do we not call for a truce?” Glorfindel, growing tired as his pain increased, lowered himself onto the chair next to Erestor, which Elrond or one of his sons usually occupied. “We are both in the same situation and we can draw comfort from each other’s company.”
Erestor wasn’t sure that giving in was the right thing to do, afraid he might regret trusting Glorfindel later, but he nodded once. “A truce, then.”
“And you will stop pushing me away.” Glorfindel studied the dark eyes, which revealed hurt and loneliness, two emotions he had seen there before when Erestor had taken care of him during those cold and wet nights.
“I will try,” said Erestor softly, “but I am not sure I can.” Locking others out had been his way of making sure no one could ever hurt him again -- and now Glorfindel was asking him to trust him. Could he do that?
Glorfindel’s smile was saddened, realizing a world of hurt hid in Erestor’s eyes. Throwing caution to the wind, he leaned in closer. “Who has hurt you so badly in the past?” He instantly regretted his words when Erestor’s eyes widened in shock. An expression of indifference then appeared, where just loneliness and pain had been.
“I have no idea what you are talking about.” Erestor gritted his teeth against the pain, turning onto his other side as he was no longer able to look Glorfindel in the eyes.
The fact that Erestor didn’t trust him after all these centuries hurt, but didn’t come as a surprise to Glorfindel. “Erestor? You promised to not shut me out.”
“Then do not ask such stupid questions!” Erestor’s voice hitched, revealing his shock.
“I regret asking you that question, but I am worried about you.”
“Do not worry about me. I can take care of myself.”
Glorfindel suddenly realized something about Erestor. “You always had to take care of yourself because no one else did.”
Erestor’s discomfort increased; Glorfindel was discovering too much about him and it had to stop before he caved in and entrusted his pain to the blond. “Can we change the subject?”
But Glorfindel considered everything he had learned so far. Elrond had told him that when Erestor had arrived in Imladris he’d had no self confidence, never spoke up until the half-Elf convinced him it was expected of him as his advisor.
By Elbereth, he was still missing too many pieces of this puzzle and it didn’t look like Erestor would help him. /The babies. Elrond said Erestor adored the twins when they were babies… Why can I not solve this riddle?/ Getting frustrated, he rested a hand on Erestor’s shoulder, feeling the Elf tremble at the touch. “What would you like to talk about then? The twins maybe?” Erestor froze beneath his touch.
“The twins? Why would I want to discuss them?” Erestor tightly closed his eyes, wishing Glorfindel would leave him alone. The blond was learning too much about him!
“You scared Elrohir when you remained unconscious. He was afraid you would not return to us, and choose to stay at Mandos instead.” Glorfindel knew he was treading on dangerous grounds, but still continued. “He also told me that you comforted him when he was little.” Erestor was now shaking like a leaf and Glorfindel realized it was time to give the Noldorin Elf some personal space. “Would you like me to read to you?”
Erestor shook his head. “I can read to myself if I so desire. I do not need you to read to me.”
Glorfindel sighed, exasperated. Why was Erestor making this so hard on them?
“Is my patient giving you any trouble, Glorfindel?” Elrond entered the room with a bemused expression on his face after hearing the last lines they had exchanged. Had Glorfindel really thought he would reach Erestor that easily? The Elda was in for a surprise.
“He is being difficult, yes,” scowled Glorfindel, frustrated.
“Why don’t you return to your bed, Glorfindel? I need to check Erestor’s bandages.” Elrond waited for the blond to move back to his bed and answered his friend’s frown with a smile. /Do not give up yet./ It would take time to get through to Erestor. He came to a stop next to Erestor’s bed and pushed down the blankets. “How do you fare today? Are you still in any pain?”
Erestor was now forced to open his eyes and return Elrond’s gaze. “Only when I breathe in too deeply.”
Elrond sat down on the bed and slowly pulled Erestor into an upright position. “Lean against me, meldir-nîn.” He distinctly noticed the stiffness to Erestor’s movement when the injured Elf’s chest came to rest against his shoulder. Gently, he removed the bandages and then lowered Erestor back onto the bed again.
Erestor quickly glanced at his stomach, finding that the wound had closed, though it would probably leave an ugly scar for some years. Well, it wasn’t like he didn’t have any other scars, what difference made one more? Elrond’s fingers cautiously probed the wound and Erestor’s lips became a thin line, stoically enduring the examination.
Once Elrond was convinced that the wound was healing properly he placed fresh healing herbs on the mending area, and after pulling Erestor against him, applied the bandages once more. “I might allow you to leave your bed tomorrow, if you promise to not overdo it.”
Lying flat on his back again, Erestor hesitantly made eye contact with the healer. “Does that mean I can return to my rooms then?”
Elrond had expected that question and had his answer ready. “No. You will stay here for a few more days.” Erestor’s eyes darkened at that, but Elrond gave his friend a stern look. “You almost died a week ago. I want to keep an eye on you a little longer and I cannot do that when you are back in your rooms. Like Glorfindel, you will stay here at the Healing House.” Elrond noticed the smug look on the blond’s face and realized Glorfindel didn’t want Erestor to leave either. “Who knows,” said Elrond, only half jokingly, “Maybe the two of you will even become friends.”
Glorfindel smiled warmly at that, whilst Erestor swallowed hard, trying to rid himself of the emotions choking him. Friends? Elrond had better not count on that.
“I would like that,” said Glorfindel, sincerely, and he managed to catch Erestor’s elusive gaze with his.
Erestor sighed, fatigued, wondering why they were teaming up against him. “Can I sleep now? I am tired.”
Elrond and Glorfindel realized Erestor no longer wanted to talk to them and stopped pushing him. Elrond nodded his head. “You can go to sleep now. When you wake up again Elrohir will probably be keeping you company for my presence is required elsewhere.” Thranduil had sent a letter, asking his help in keeping their borders safe. The letter had surprised him, but Elrond had welcomed the offer to combine their forces. “I will visit later.”
Erestor forced himself to fall asleep again, unable to keep up this front much longer. He wanted so desperately to let them in, to tell them how much he was hurting, but didn’t dare; he was afraid to have his trust betrayed again.
Elrond and Glorfindel’s gazes met, and both were filled with worry.
“He promised to not push me away, and what does he do?” Glorfindel sighed, dejectedly. “I do not know how to get through to him. He completely shut down when I asked him who had hurt him in the past.”
“You asked him that?” Wide-eyed, Elrond shook his head. “Glorfindel, you need to be subtle. You cannot be that direct!” Releasing a deep sigh, he studied his friend. “What else did you do?”
“I mentioned he adored the twins when they were little. He shut down at once. I just do not understand why we are not allowed to know he cares.”
Elrond made sure Erestor was sound asleep and then brushed the dark tresses aside, revealing the scars his son had discovered earlier.
Glorfindel gasped at seeing them and reached the same conclusion as Elrond had. “Fingernails.”
“I have been thinking about that. Someone must have held him down. Standing behind him, pushing him down.” Elrond let one hand hover above the scars. “Someone did not want him to move.”
“But why? And who did this?” Glorfindel’s eyes narrowed. “Are they recent?”
Elrond shook his head. “He must have been an Elfling when this happened.”
“So that is why he wears his hair loose. I wondered about that.”
“Plaits would reveal the scars.”
“This happened when he was a child then?” Glorfindel tried to make sense of this new information. “Who would be holding down a child like that? The skin broke and must have bled. He must have been in pain.” Elrond’s eyes had widened, alerting Glorfindel. “What is on your mind?”
But Elrond quickly shook his head. “It is impossible. No one would do that to a child.”
“Discipline him in such a way… That would be abusive.” Elrond’s thoughts raced.
A painful moan leaving Erestor’s lips pulled them away from their conversation.
“He is still in a great deal of pain,” said Elrond, concerned. “I will check on him in a few hours after I have answered Thranduil’s letter.” Seeing Glorfindel’s curious look, he added, “Do not worry about it. I can manage.” Elrond rose to his feet, but then froze again. “I could ask Erestor’s father.”
Glorfindel raised an eyebrow. “Erestor’s father?”
“Eridhren is one of Thranduil’s closest advisors. I can add a second letter and address it to him. Maybe he knows who hurt Erestor in the past.” Elrond had considered writing to Erestor’s father when the Elfling had first come to Imladris, but back then Erestor had begged him not to. Maybe it was time to get to the bottom of things. “Aye, I will write to him, but we will have to wait for an answer.”
“And in the meantime I will continue to try to get through to him,” said Glorfindel determinedly. “And I won’t give up.”
When Erestor woke next, he was awfully thirsty and his abdomen was aching again due to Elrond’s probing earlier. He spotted the healing tea on the nightstand next to Glorfindel’s bed, but it was way out of his reach. This past week he had been confined to bed and he had no idea if he could walk unaided; a fall might cause the wound to reopen, but the pain was growing worse. He needed that herbal tea for it would dampen the pain and help him sleep. Why had Elrond placed the teapot out of his reach?
Realizing he had to get the tea himself, he pushed back the covers, cringing when his stomach contracted. /You have been through worse. You can do this./ Erestor slowly pushed himself into a sitting position and then placed his feet on the floor. Vertigo overwhelmed him and he sat motionless, waiting for the sensation to pass. When it did, he pressed one hand against his healing wound and with the other he supported himself, using the wall to guide his steps.
He was relieved when the terrible agony, which he had been in since right after the flood, didn’t return. Trying hard to bite down the ache, he carefully placed one foot in front of the other. /Don’t stumble; don’t fall!/ Glorfindel was asleep and he hoped the blond wouldn’t wake until he had returned to his bed.
Now that he had reached the nightstand came the tricky part. He had to let go of the wall to pour the tea. Swaying on his feet, he let go of the wall and curled his fingers around the handle of the teapot. Raising it caused a wave of pain to course through his abdomen. It ruined his concentration and his fingers slipped away; the teapot dropped onto the floor with a loud thud.
Glorfindel awake at once, startled by the crashing sound and sat upright, searching the room for a possible intruder. His heart missed a beat at seeing Erestor sway on his feet and with a guilty look on his face. His gaze dropped, and at seeing the broken pot he realized Erestor had left his bed to drink some of the healing tea. But the Noldorin Elf had apparently overestimated his strength. Glorfindel grabbed a crutch and struggled to his feet. Only the leg that had been broken still troubled him, but Elrond had assured him the fracture would heal with one more week of rest.
Stumbling toward Erestor, Glorfindel determinedly wrapped his other arm around the dark haired Elf’s waist. “What are you doing on your feet?” Realizing he didn’t have the strength to support Erestor, he called for help.
A moment later Elrohir appeared. “Ada told you to stay in bed!” He hurried over to Erestor, carefully folding an arm around the Elf’s shoulder and guiding him back to bed. “And Glorfindel? Ada told you to rest as well.”
Glorfindel, still worried about Erestor’s health, obeyed wordlessly and returned to his bed, keeping a close eye on the counselor.
“Sit down slowly,” instructed Elrohir, helping Erestor sit down on his bed. Erestor was panting softly and he waited for the elder Elf to catch his breath. Pain shone from the dark eyes and Elrohir felt the overwhelming urge to hug the other Elf.
Erestor froze completely when Elrohir’s arms came up behind his back, pulling him into an embrace.
Glorfindel, who could see Erestor’s eyes, noticed the shock, almost fear in them. /Whatever happened to him caused him to be afraid of physical contact./ Hopefully Erestor’s father knew what troubled his son.
When Elrohir pulled back, tears shimmered in his eyes. Erestor had not answered the embrace and now sat paralyzed, as if scared to breathe. “What is wrong, Erestor?” He released the other Elf reluctantly; he had hoped Erestor would welcome the embrace. “Why does my closeness make you feel uncomfortable? You held me in the past when I was hurting and now I want to soothe you as well. Was I wrong to hug you?”
A shudder traveled through Erestor’s body as he collapsed into himself. He had hurt the younger Elf’s feelings and he hated himself for that. Unable to answer Elrohir, he closed his eyes in misery.
Elrohir realized he wouldn’t get an answer and helped Erestor to lie down. “I will clean up the floor and prepare new tea.”
“I am sorry about the mess I made,” whispered Erestor, shakily.
“You are wounded, still hurting. Why did you not call me? I would have loved to help,” said Elrohir in a friendly tone.
“I do not want to be a burden and I thought I could cover the distance myself.” Erestor’s eyes remained close, unable to meet Elrohir’s gaze.
“You are –not- a burden!” said Elrohir firmly. He sighed deeply, disappointed that he hadn’t been able to offer Erestor any comfort. “I will return with the tea shortly. How much pain are you in?” His father had told him what to do in case Erestor’s condition worsened.
“It is bearable,” said Erestor, unwilling to take more up of Elrohir’s time.
But Elrohir heard the truth in Erestor’s forced tone and opened one of his father’s pouches, removed the dried herbs and placed them against Erestor’s lips. “Chew on them. They will lessen your pain and help you sleep.” Erestor’s eyes finally opened and Elrohir fought the urge to hug him again, seeing the misery in them. But he refrained from embracing Erestor, vividly remembering the dark haired Elf’s reaction a moment ago. “Chew.”
Erestor obeyed, and began to chew on the herbs, which released a bitter essence. He recognized the taste, swallowed and within moments his pain began to fade away.
Elrohir nodded, pleased. “Now rest.” He brushed some stray strands out of Erestor’s face and expected to see him shiver, which Erestor promptly did. He waited for his former mentor to fall asleep, and once he was sure that Erestor could no longer hear them, he looked at Glorfindel. “It almost seems like he is afraid to be touched.”
Glorfindel had reached the same conclusion. “We must be patient. If we try hard enough, we will find out in time.”
Elrohir picked up the broken teapot and cleaned the floor. “We need to be more careful in future. I do not want him to leave his bed to get to the tea.” Elrohir got to his feet and looked at the counselor. “When I was little and he hugged me, he always trembled. I never understood why. My closeness must have terrified him.”
“But still he rocked and held you. Your father clearly stated that Erestor adored the babies.”
“But things changed when we grew up.” Elrohir disposed of the teapot and then pulled up the covers, making sure Erestor remained warm. “Do you think he will ever allow us in and tell us why?”
“Maybe.” Glorfindel, sitting upright, cocked his head. “Elrond is writing to Eridhren to find out what is wrong with Erestor.”
Unfamiliar with that name Elrohir looked at Glorfindel curiously.
“Eridhren is Erestor’s father and advisor to Thranduil.” Glorfindel frowned deeply. “I do not recall ever meeting him.” He had often escorted Elrond when he and Thranduil had met to discuss urgent matters, and, come to think of it, Erestor had never accompanied them. Wouldn’t he have been thrilled to see his father again? /His father; what role does Eridhren play? Elrond said that Erestor was severely intimidated when he arrived in Imladris and did not want to return to his family. His father… Eridhren is the missing piece to this puzzle./
“Glorfindel?” Elrohir walked over to the blond’s bed and tried to read the expression in his friend’s eyes. “What are you brooding about?”
“Erestor’s father. Why did he never visit his son? And I cannot remember Erestor ever leaving Imladris to visit his father. That does not make any sense.” Glorfindel frowned. “We just discovered one more piece of this puzzle, but I do not know what to make of it.”
Elrohir sat quietly, trying to help Glorfindel solve this mystery. “Erestor cannot have been very happy when he sought refuge here. Ada told me Erestor begged him to not contact his father. He was rather worried about Erestor, who was still very young to be away from home.”
Glorfindel drew a conclusion that worried him. “Can it be that he was trying to get away from his father?”
“It surely sounds like it,” agreed Elrohir, worried. “But why?”
“We should ask Erestor, or confront Eridhren.” Elrond’s letter would take care of that. They just had to be patient.
Elrond handed the messenger his reply to Thranduil and a letter for Eridhren. He had almost reconsidered writing to Erestor’s father, but his concern for his counselor urged him to take action. For centuries he had let Erestor lock them out, and Glorfindel was right; that had to stop now. He had ignored the matter for much too long.
The messenger left and Elrond left his study to check on his charges. Glorfindel had recovered quickly, and he would have released the blond yesterday, had it not been for his request to be allowed to stay close to Erestor.
Erestor, however, did worry him. Although the wound had closed and had begun to heal, he worried about the counselor’s emotional health.
Elrond reached the Healing House and peeked into the room Glorfindel and Erestor shared. The blond was awake, reading, but regularly looked up to check on Erestor. Glorfindel’s recent interest in Erestor pleased Elrond. He had always hoped someone would look beneath the face of indifference Erestor usually wore.
He did, however, wonder just how deep Glorfindel’s interest in Erestor ran. Lately, there was an unreadable emotion in the blond’s eyes that reminded him of the way Gil-galad had looked at him decades ago. Even now, Glorfindel was looking at Erestor in that certain way.
For as long as he could remember Erestor had never mentioned a lover. Maybe that was what was missing from Erestor’s life? A mate? Maybe Glorfindel was about to render that?
Elrond smiled; Erestor didn’t realize it yet, but his life was about to change.
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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