Dinîf en Qualen
Erestor managed to survive the next few days, which were filled with Glorfindel’s cheerful chatter, awkward hugs delivered by Elrohir, and concerned stares from Elladan. At times he felt intimidated and uneasy, uncertain how to react when Elrohir enveloped him in another hug. The first few times he had frozen, unable to even breathe whilst the hug lasted, but now he was beginning to accept Elrohir’s closeness.
Elrond, who had supervised his recovery, now sat next to his bed, watching him. They were alone in the room, as Glorfindel had left to exercise whilst Elladan kept a close eye on the blond. Erestor shifted in bed, feeling nervous under Elrond’s probing stare. “When can I return to my chambers? The wound has long closed and there is no reason to keep me here.” He looked at Elrond, meeting the half-Elf’s curious gaze. Calling on his strength, he didn’t budge when Elrond’s gaze became piercing. It almost felt the half-Elf was capable of seeing into his very soul.
“I will allow you to leave the Healing House, but why are you so eager to return to your cold and empty chambers when you have the pleasure of Glorfindel’s company here?” Elrond observed Erestor carefully until the counselor finally averted his eyes.
“I cannot take much more of this… attention,” said Erestor, searching for the right words whilst staring at his hands, resting idly in his lap. “It feels like everyone has taken an interest in me and the attention makes me feel uncomfortable.”
Erestor’s honesty surprised Elrond, and he welcomed it. “You nearly died, Erestor. Maybe they now understand what a loss your death would have been and it made them eager to render past mistakes.” Erestor’s eyes flashed with an unidentifiable emotion, making Elrond frown.
“Mistakes? What past mistakes?” Erestor was still trying to deal with the fact that Elrond thought his death would have been a loss.
Elrond cleared his throat, preparing himself for a verbal battle. “Let us start with Glorfindel. He always thought you cold and distant, but since you dived in after him, he realized he never tried to get to know you. The real you, not the one you pretend to be.” Erestor had frozen and now stared at him with dread in his eyes. “Do not deny it, for it is the truth.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” said Erestor stubbornly. “If all you are capable of is speaking nonsense I will return to my rooms now.” Erestor, feeling trapped, pushed himself to his feet and rose from his chair. He ignored the ache that sliced through his abdomen and gritted his teeth. He was about to take his first step toward the doorway when Elrond reached for him and curled his fingers around his wrist, keeping him in place. “Let go of me.”
Erestor’s sharp tone didn’t throw Elrond off. “Sit down, Erestor.”
Realizing he couldn’t ignore a direct order from the Lord of Imladris, he reluctantly seated himself again. Erestor glared at Elrond, hating the way the half-Elf made him feel; afraid and trapped. “What do you want?”
“I want you to listen to me.” Elrond cocked his head, trying to read the expression in his counselor’s dark eyes. /Is he afraid of me?/ His gaze left Erestor’s face and settled on the Elf’s fingers; Erestor’s fingernails were clawing at the wooden armrest. He realized he had to back off or else Erestor would lose the little trust that he did have in him. “I want you to rest once you returned to your chambers. You do not have to join us for dinner if you feel tired and I will visit you to make sure you are not overdoing it.”
Erestor’s relieved sigh made Elrond realize he had made the right decision. The counselor needed more time to recover. “Elrohir will walk you to your rooms.” His youngest son had appeared in the doorway, hearing their voices, and Elrond nodded once, signaling for him to approach.
Erestor was stunned to see a concerned expression on Elrohir’s face.
“Ada, are you sure he is strong enough to leave? Maybe Erestor should stay a little longer?”
Elrond smiled warmly at his son. “Unfortunately Erestor is quite eager to leave.”
Erestor ignored their conversation and rose to his feet. Slowly, step-by-step, he made his way past Elrond and toward the doorway where Elrohir was waiting for him.
Elrohir’s heart went out to his former mentor, seeing the elder Elf’s stiff and hesitant movements. Before he knew it, he had reached out and wrapped an arm around Erestor’s shoulder to keep him from falling. Erestor stiffened further at his touch, but allowed the contact. “I will escort you to your chambers.”
Erestor wanted to decline, but one look at Elrohir told him how determined the half-Elf was. He reluctantly gave in and leaned heavily on Elrohir, who tightened his hold.
Elrond watched them leave, feeling content after all. Now he only had to wait for Glorfindel to return to the room.
“Glorfindel, stop it. You are exhausting yourself!” Elladan sighed, troubled by Glorfindel’s determination to walk without the aid of a crutch. “At least let me help you.”
Glorfindel placed a hand against the wall to support him and he made his way down the corridor, occasionally stifling a pain-filled moan. The bruised knee no longer troubled him, but the broken leg continued to throb disturbingly. “I have had enough of being confined to bed. I want to walk again!”
Elladan knew reasoning with Glorfindel wouldn’t get him anywhere when the blond was in this sort of mood and he just let him be. “We should return to your room. Ada mentioned earlier that he wanted to talk to you.”
Glorfindel nodded slowly, needing his concentration to keep him from falling. “Let us head back then.” Elladan sighed again, dramatically this time, and Glorfindel grinned, knowing he was frustrating the twin.
Walking back took several minutes, but in the end, Glorfindel reached his bed and slowly sat down. “Where is Erestor?” Finding the dark-haired Elf gone from the room worried him.
“I allowed him to return to his rooms.”
“Isn’t it a bit early for that? You should have made him stay longer.”
“I could not do that, Glorfindel.” Elrond’s gaze met Elladan’s and he dismissed his son for the moment. Elladan left and Elrond focused on the blond again. “Erestor felt trapped. Forcing him to stay would have agitated him further. Now that he can return to his rooms he will feel safer.”
“But I feel hesitant to leave him alone. Erestor will never admit it, but he did enjoy the company whilst he stayed here.”
“We will visit regularly until he has recovered enough to return to his duties, which won’t be for another week.”
Glorfindel nodded. “Is there anything else you would like to discuss?” Now that Erestor had left, he would do the same and return to his quarters, which were fortunately located close to Erestor’s.
“Yes, there is something I want to discuss with you. I received two letters today. One was from Thranduil, and the other was from Eridhren.”
“Erestor’s father… What does he say?” Glorfindel, growing curious, leaned in closer.
Deep lines, etched onto Elrond’s brow, appeared. “He has no idea why Erestor might be acting strangely. According to Eridhren no one hurt Erestor in the past. It was a very formal letter, devoid of any emotion or interest in his son. It worries me.”
“I do not believe him. Something bad happened to Erestor.” His conversation with Elrohir returned to him. “Can it be that Eridhren is the problem? You said that Erestor begged you to not contact his father when he arrived here. It almost seems to me that he was afraid of Eridhren.”
“That thought crossed my mind as well,” admitted Elrond, not liking its implications. “A father abusing his son in that way is unheard of.”
“But it could have happened,” Glorfindel pointed out to him. “What do you know about Eridhren? And where is Erestor’s mother? Does he have siblings?”
“Erestor never mentioned any.” Elrond really didn’t like the sound of this. The more he thought about it, the more convinced he became that Eridhren was the key to Erestor’s behavior. “In that case I might have bad news.”
An ominous feeling swept through Glorfindel at hearing Elrond’s tone. “What is it?”
“Thranduil announced a visit to discuss joined border patrols.”
Glorfindel’s eyes widened. “That is the first time Thranduil will be visiting Imladris and aye, the timing could not have been worse.” Although he was thrilled to hear Thranduil wanted to join forces against the Orcs and Uruk-Hai, he wasn’t looking forward to the visit. Seeing Elrond’s expression darken, he realized the worst was yet to come.
“And Eridhren will be accompanying him. They will arrive in a few days.”
“That is most unfortunate. I had hoped we could gather more information first.” Glorfindel leaned back into the pillows and his eyes took on a brooding experience. “Elrond, can it be that Eridhren caused those scars on the back of Erestor’s neck?”
Elrond sighed deeply. “I must admit that I thought the same thing. It does make sense when one thinks it over. Erestor fled from his father and came here, seeking refuge, which I granted him. He begged me to not reveal his whereabouts, and—“ Elrond paused, recalling how timid and insecure Erestor had been upon his arrival. “His confidence grew during his stay here. Probably because he was finally away from his father.” It was important that he learned more about Erestor’s family. “I suggest we do not tell Erestor just yet that we are expecting his father to accompany Thranduil. He needs more time to recover.”
Glorfindel nodded. “I won’t let him out of my sight.” He slowly rose to his feet, eager to return to his rooms and pay Erestor a visit. “You should make sure Eridhren’s guest rooms are located in the other wing, as far away from Erestor’s rooms as possible.”
“What if we are wrong? By Elbereth, I hope we are wrong. What kind of father can hurt his child in such a way?” Elrond shook his head in saddened disbelief.
“We will find out,” said Glorfindel reassuringly. He walked, using a crutch to support him, toward the doorway and exchanged another look with Elrond. /But what if we are right and Eridhren abused his son? What do we do then?/
Elrohir opened the door to Erestor’s room and stepped aside to let the elder Elf pass. The pallor had returned to the counselor’s face and his hand pressed against his stomach, as if afraid that the wound might reopen again. “Why do you not sit down?” Elrohir pushed a chair closer to the fireplace, where he began to build a fire.
Erestor took Elrohir’s advice and slowly sat down on the chair, watching the youngest twin. It was beyond him why Elrohir had begun hugging him again after such a long time. He had stopped displaying his affection when Elrohir had reached his majority.
The fire was blazing warmly and Elrohir pulled a chair closer to Erestor’s, whilst his eyes scanned the counselor’s rooms. They were Spartan, bereaved of any luxury, and the furniture consisted of a bed, three chairs, a desk and a cupboard. The walls had been painted brown and grey, only adding to the depressive atmosphere. Erestor’s rooms felt cold and empty. “Are you sure you will be comfortable here?” Suddenly he felt guilty for never visiting Erestor before; this was his first visit ever.
“I will be fine,” whispered Erestor, dreamily staring into the flames. Now that he was back in his rooms he felt safer, and involuntarily he began to let down his guard.
Elrohir rose to his feet again; seeing the distant expression in Erestor’s eyes told him the elder Elf needed to rest. He came to a halt in front of Erestor, went down on his heels and slowly wrapped his arms around the Elf’s form. Erestor shivered at his touch, but didn’t push him away.
“Why do you fear my touch?” Holding Erestor’s gaze prisoner, Elrohir tried to get through to the other Elf. “You have known me since I was a baby. Do you really think I could ever hurt you?”
Elrohir wasn’t prepared for the outburst that followed. Suddenly Erestor’s arms locked around him, holding him tightly and soft sobs left the elder Elf’s lips. He felt shocked and pleased at the same time; shocked that such a flood of emotion had been released and pleased because the counselor was no longer hiding from him. Instinctively he began to rock Erestor, making sure he wasn’t putting any pressure on the Elf’s healing injury. “What is wrong, mellon-nîn? You can trust me.”
Erestor finally realized what had happened and reined in his emotions. His arms dropped onto the armrest, and he began to freeze again in Elrohir’s embrace. It had never been his intention to return that hug, but he had felt so lonely, so empty, and his emotions had gotten the better of him, urging him to accept the comfort Elrohir offered.
Elrohir pulled back and looked at Erestor’s face. The tears had left streaks on the elder Elf’s face and Erestor quickly wiped them away.
Lowering his gaze, Erestor stared at the floor. What had possessed him to return Elrohir’s embrace? Now the half-Elf would feel encouraged and never leave him alone! But did he really want to be alone?
Elrohir kept one arm folded around Erestor and used one hand to lift the other’s chin, making Erestor look at him. “Why did you pull back? I really enjoyed that hug. It reminded me of the times when you soothed me as a child.”
“Returning that embrace was wrong,” whispered Erestor, upset.
“Why? Why is it wrong? There is nothing wrong about accepting comfort. I give it freely.” Elrohir’s breath caught when Erestor’s eyes shone with need. The elder Elf devoured his words and hope formed in his dark orbs. “Why don’t we try again?” Elrohir pulled his chair closer, sat down and enfolded the shivering Elf in his arms. “You can hug me back. There is nothing wrong with showing your emotions.”
Erestor didn’t dare to breathe, afraid that this warm and magical feeling would disappear again. “But it is wrong.”
Elrohir gasped at hearing Erestor’s words. “Why is showing your emotions wrong?” One arm came up behind Erestor’s back and he gently stroked the raven-haired tresses. Erestor’s hair was an even darker color than his.
Erestor shook violently, feeling Elrohir’s fingers tangle in his hair. “It is best to hide them.”
“Why?” Elrohir knew he was on to something when the sobs began again. “Explain it to me?”
“When you hide your feelings, they cannot see how much you are hurting. Knowing that would give them an advantage. No, it is best to hide them.” Feeling entranced by Elrohir’s closeness and warm, he involuntarily rested his head on the half-Elf’s shoulder. It felt good to be held like this and he buried his face in Elrohir’s hair, finally feeling some semblance of peace for the first time in centuries. The sobs faded away.
Elrohir’s eyes were also swimming, feeling Erestor finally relax against him. He kept up the soothing strokes to the dark hair and simply held the other Elf close. In the end, Erestor’s breathing calmed, telling Elrohir his charge had fallen asleep. Releasing him reluctantly, he rested Erestor back in the chair and collected a blanket from the bed, tucking it around him.
He then sat back to study his former mentor, unwilling to leave. Erestor was in no condition to be left alone and he planned to stay for as long as the hurting Elf needed him.
Glorfindel had made his way back to his quarters and now knocked on the door to Erestor’s chambers, hoping the Elf was resting as ordered. He was surprised when the door opened and revealed Elrohir. “How does he fare?” Elrohir signaled for him to enter and Glorfindel complied, slowly moving toward the fire. “He fell asleep on you?”
“He cried,” whispered Elrohir, still somewhat shaken. “He held onto me and cried.”
Glorfindel swallowed hard, seeing the bafflement in Elrohir’s eyes. “What happened?”
“I wanted to comfort him and I folded my arms around him. At first he froze, like he usually does, and he began to ramble about having to hide his feelings because showing them would put him at a disadvantage. I hugged him again and suddenly his arms came up to return the embrace. The loneliness that radiated from his eyes made me cry as well. He broke down and I held him close until he dozed off.”
“He will feel embarrassed when he wakes up and remembers that he caved in.” Glorfindel studied the counselor. “But it is a good thing that he did. Apparently he trusts you or he would not have allowed for his vulnerability to show.” He had been inclined to relieve Elrohir, but now he felt it would be best if the twin stayed.
They sat down and Glorfindel quickly brought Elrohir up to speed with all newest developments. The young half-Elf paled visibly, hearing about their suspicions. “Do you really think his father is responsible for those scars?”
Glorfindel nodded, thoughtfully. “I think so. It certainly looks like Erestor tried to get away from Eridhren.”
“And now he is coming here, accompanying Thranduil?” Elrohir’s gaze shifted from the blond to Erestor. “He is very fragile, even if he does not want to admit it. The fact that he began to sob when I held him worries me. Who knows for how long he has bottled up his hurt.”
“That is exactly why I want you to stay.” Glorfindel met Elrohir’s gaze. “He trusts you. Erestor has known you since birth and he does not fear you as much as he does Elrond and me.”
“Fear Ada and you?” Elrohir’s eyes widened.
“You did not see his reaction when Elrond examined him.” Glorfindel studied the sleeping counselor. “I won’t rest until this matter has been resolved.” His gaze settled on Elrohir and he asked, “Will you stay with him? Look after him? Elrond and I will continue to gather more information about Erestor’s family.”
“I will watch over him,” promised Elrohir. “But how can we keep him safe and sane when Eridhren visits?” He had a hard time believing Eridhren had mistreated Erestor, but he couldn’t rule it out.
“Elrond and I will talk to Eridhren before he will be allowed close to Erestor. If our suspicions prove to be true, Eridhren will never see his son again. Our prime objective is to protect Erestor, and we won’t let him down again.”
“What else did Eridhren do to Erestor?” Elrohir’s eyes filled with sadness.
Glorfindel frowned; Elrohir’s question puzzled him. “What do you mean?”
Elrohir shivered momentarily. “Do you think it possible that Eridhren raised his hand against his son?”
Glorfindel drew in a deep breath, wishing Elrohir hadn’t asked him that question, for the thought worried him as well. “It is possible. If those scars really stem from Eridhren’s fingernails, he might have done other things to Erestor as well.”
“What do we do now?” At a loss, Elrohir stared at Erestor. Even in his sleep a single tear slid down the elder Elf’s face, and Elrohir instinctively reached out to stroke the long hair. He expected Erestor to flinch away from his touch, but the counselor allowed it.
Glorfindel finally found the strength to smile. “See, he trusts you. That is why you have to stay. You might be the only one who can get through to him. Whenever I push him, he shuts down.”
Elrohir involuntarily held his breath when Erestor shifted to get closer to him. “You may be right. But I do not know what I am doing, Glorfindel.”
Suddenly Glorfindel remembered just how young Elrohir was. Assuming responsibility would place an enormous burned on the half-Elf’s shoulders.
“I will watch over him,” said Elrohir determinedly. “But I am afraid I will make mistakes which will only hurt him further.”
“You are doing excellently thus far,” said Glorfindel reassuringly, “Just continue to follow your instincts.”
“Do you really think so?”
Glorfindel nodded. “Do you want me to tell Elladan that you will be staying here?”
“Please do. And tell Ada as well.”
“Elrond will drop by shortly to check on Erestor.” Glorfindel struggled to his feet. “And remember to call me if you need assistance.”
“Thank you,” said Elrohir, smiling. “And I will call for you should I need your help.”
Glorfindel slowly made his way back to the doorway. “Take good care of him.”
“Elrohir is currently sitting with Erestor,” said Glorfindel when he joined Elrond and Elladan for dinner. Elrond raised an eyebrow and Glorfindel explained, “Apparently Erestor had some sort of emotional breakdown and allowed Elrohir to comfort him. I felt it best to not separate them at this point.”
“An emotional breakdown?” Elrond’s worry increased. “I do not like the sound of this. I will check on Erestor after dinner.”
“When will Thranduil and Eridhren arrive?” asked Elladan. His father had told him what they had discovered.
“In three days,” replied Elrond. “I did manage to find out one more interesting detail about Erestor’s family.”
“And that is?” Glorfindel wished Elrond would hurry up and just tell them.
“Erestor’s mother died giving birth to him.” Elrond’s dark voice echoed through the dining hall. “Erestor never knew his mother.”
Glorfindel’s thoughts raced. “And Erestor was left in Eridhren’s care. Growing up without his mother must have greatly affected him.”
Elladan stared at the food, which remained untouched on his plate. Their words brought back his own pain; he still longed for Celebrian. Suddenly his father’s hand settled on his, gently squeezing it.
“She loves you, Elladan. Your mother never stopped loving you and leaving you behind broke her heart.” Celebrian had asked the three of them to sail with her to Valinor, and their hearts had been torn. In the end, none of them had been able to turn their back on Imladris, their home, and Celebrian had sailed for Valinor alone.
“I know she does, Ada, but the pain remains.” Elladan blinked in sudden understanding. “Erestor’s pain must have been even worse. At least I know I have my mother’s love.”
Saddened, Elrond had to agree with his oldest son. “Erestor lacked a lot of love whilst growing up.” He hoped for Erestor’s sake that his suspicions were wrong and that Eridhren was a loving and caring father. “We will find out shortly.”
“And we had better watch Erestor’s reaction when he sees his father again. I do not want to see him hurt again.”
“Neither do I,” Elrond assured Glorfindel. “We will watch Eridhren closely and until I am convinced otherwise we assume that he is responsible for Erestor’s pain.”
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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