Dinîf en Qualen
After selecting a book from Erestor’s collection, Elrohir sat down, reading quietly whilst Erestor slept.
Hearing a tormented groan, he looked up and found that Erestor was struggling with the blankets, trying to throw them off. Elrohir placed the book aside, leaned in closer, and gently pried the blankets from Erestor’s hands. Suddenly the counselor’s eyes opened, and fear stared back at him. Elrohir drew in a deep breath, sensing the other’s panic. “You are in your rooms, mellon-nîn. There is no reason to feel threatened.”
Erestor continued to stare at Elrohir, trying to figure out what the twin was doing in his rooms. Suddenly he realized that Elrohir had a hold on his hands, rubbing his skin. His first instinct was to pull back, but he was too tired to move. “Why are you still here?”
“I am keeping an eye on you. I am worried, you know.” Elrohir smiled reassuringly. “You would be more comfortable in bed, don’t you think?” He hoped Erestor would take the hint and agree to go back to sleep.
Erestor’s gaze traveled from Elrohir to his bed. He couldn’t deny he longed to lie down and return to sleep. He nodded slowly, agreeing to Elrohir’s suggestion.
“Let me help you.” Elrohir released Erestor’s hands, but remained close, just in case the elder Elf stumbled. He escorted Erestor to the bed, wrapping one arm around the Elf’s shoulder when the counselor swayed. “Sit down.” They had reached the bed and Erestor allowed Elrohir to help him lie down. “Aren’t those robes uncomfortable? Do you have a sleeping robe? I can help you change into it.”
“No, no sleeping robe!” Erestor’s voice shook. “I am fine.”
Elrohir sat down on the edge of the bed, covering Erestor with a warm blanket. “I know you do not want to discuss personal matters, but—“ he paused, and the frightened expression in Erestor’s eyes almost made him change his mind, but in the end he continued, “I want to know why you flinch every time I touch you. Are you afraid of me?”
Erestor averted his eyes, stared at the ceiling momentarily and then began to roll onto his side, away from Elrohir. But the twin wouldn’t let him and placed a hand on his shoulder, keeping him from moving away. “Please tell me, Erestor.”
“I cannot talk about this,” said Erestor in a choked tone. “Do not make me.”
Elrohir took pity on the trembling Elf and let Erestor roll away from him. “I was right; there is something that upsets you.”
“Let it go.” Erestor’s voice was barely audible. What use was there in dragging up the past? “You do not have to stay. I am sure Elladan is already looking for you.”
“He knows I am here, and so do Ada and Glorfindel.”
Erestor closed his eyes. Why was everyone so interested in him? He hoped things would quickly settle down and return to normal. At least he could go back to carrying out his duties tomorrow; then the commotion about him would die. “You do not have to stay here,” he repeated, hoping Elrohir would leave him alone.
“But I want to stay.” Elrohir, fed up with Erestor’s behavior, walked over to the other side of the bed and sat on his heels so he was level with the elder Elf. He was going to do what Glorfindel had suggested; follow his instincts, and they told him he couldn’t allow this kind of behavior, not if he wanted Erestor to take him seriously. “You cannot lock me out like that. I won’t put up with it.”
Erestor’s eyes widened. He must have misheard! “What did you say?”
“I won’t allow you to push me away again. I got close to you when I was little, but then you put all this distance between us. I want that old, comfortable feeling back.” Elrohir slowly raised his hand, saw apprehension in Erestor’s eyes, and gently placed his palm on the raven hair, stroking soothingly. “You know you can trust me.”
Erestor closed his eyes, enjoying the touch, but he was unable to admit it to Elrohir. “I will go back to sleep now.”
“Good.” Elrohir smiled warmly, and waited for Erestor to open his eyes again. When they did, he searched those dark eyes and encountered a fearful apprehension in them.
Erestor was doing his best to trust Elrohir, but some of his memories were stronger than his desire to trust and warned him to not take this step. He was setting himself up for more hurt and he should know better than that. “Why won’t you leave me alone, caun-nîn?”
Hearing that term brought back memories and Elrohir swallowed past the lump that had formed in his throat. “You called me that when I was little and upset, crying, because Elladan had gone off without me. I missed hearing it.”
Erestor sighed, distressed, realizing he had accomplished the opposite of what he had intended. Now Elrohir was even more determined to stay. He shouldn’t have said a thing!
“Why don’t you go to sleep? You had an exhausting day.” The trip from the Healing House to his rooms must have drained Erestor. He kept up the soothing caress to Erestor’s hair, always aware of the scars the long tresses were hiding. “I will stay close so when you wake up you won’t be alone.”
Erestor was at a loss for words. Elrohir’s determination was obvious and he gave in, knowing he wouldn’t be able to change the half-Elf’s mind.
Elrohir smiled, saddened, seeing the apprehensive expression in Erestor’s eyes. “Go to sleep, and rest.” Erestor’s eyes became vacant and Elrohir sighed, relieved that the elder Elf was asleep again. His breath caught when a sleeping Erestor involuntarily leaned into the caress, rubbing his head against the palm of his hand. Tears formed in Elrohir’s eyes, but he forced them back.
He was slowly beginning to understand how Erestor’s mind worked. /You really never knew any love, did you? What was your father like when you were growing up? Did he show you any affection at all?/ It fed his determination to prove to Erestor that he was different; that he wanted to share his feelings with the elder Elf. /Getting through to you will take time, but we have plenty of it./
A soft knock on the door drew Elrohir’s attention and he was about to answer when the door opened, revealing Elrond. “Ada!” He was glad to see his father and hurried toward him.
Elrond sensed his son’s emotional turmoil and opened his arms, hugging Elrohir close. “What is wrong?”
“Erestor is.” Elrohir pulled back, realizing he needed to explain. “He finally fell asleep, but he cried in my arms. He even called me "caun-nîn", which he has not done for years.”
“You are doing very well, Elrohir. You found a way to reach him, but this must be emotionally taxing on you.” Elrond worriedly looked at his son. “I can sit with Erestor if you would like me to.” To his delight, Elrohir shook his head.
“No, I want to stay close. I would worry about him otherwise.” Elrohir guided his father to the chair near the fireplace, where they sat down. He told Elrond everything that had happened and waited for his father to address him.
“Continue with what you are doing, for it is working. Erestor is finally realizing he cannot push you away that easily, and now he will try even harder, believe me. If we are right and Erestor never had a loving parent, your behavior will puzzle him. He does not know what if feels like to be fussed over.” Elrond’s gaze became soft, looking at his counselor. “I should not have let this continue for so long, but I never knew what to do.”
Elrohir leaned in closer and placed his hand on Elrond’s knee. “Ada, you did what you thought was right. And Erestor did not want you to contact his father; there was little you could do.”
“I worked on strengthening his self esteem. He was afraid to say a single word when he arrived in Imladris.” Elrond smiled in spite of their problems. “He has come a long way since.”
Elrohir returned his father’s smile. “He is your chief counselor now, no easy feat.”
“He has gained countless skills since he sought refuge here. Erestor is smart, cunning and devious when he needs to deal with an opponent, but he never allowed his feelings to show. I wish I could help him.” Elrond looked at Elrohir, hope blossoming in his heart. “He always had a soft spot for you.”
“Glorfindel is also trying hard to reach Erestor.”
“But I fear his mission is doomed to fail. Erestor does not trust him, but he does trust you.” Elrond paused momentarily. “I hope Erestor and Glorfindel can become friends, maybe become as close as brothers. Erestor desperately needs friends.” Elrond rose to his feet again. “Are you sure you do not want me to stay?”
“I can manage,” said Elrohir, “And you need to make arrangements for Thranduil and Eridhren’s stay. Unexpectedly, his eyes darkened. “If his father really did hurt Erestor…” He didn’t have to finish his sentence, knowing his father understood.
“We will be careful.” Elrond walked toward the doorway and looked over his shoulder at Erestor before stepping into the corridor. The counselor was sound asleep and had curled up on his left side, tightly hugging the blanket. /I really hope Glorfindel and you will get through to him./
Elrond closed the door behind him and Elrohir sat down on the edge of Erestor’s bed, caressing the elder Elf’s hair. “Sleep tight, Erestor. I hope Elbereth will grant you pleasant dreams. She knows you deserve them.”
He moved back to the chairs, sat down, and rested his feet on the seat of the other chair, stretching comfortably. From his position he had a perfect view of Erestor’s face and he could reach the dark-haired Elf within a heartbeat, if necessary. Dealing with Erestor’s hurt had drained him and he dozed off into sleep.
Erestor tiptoed through his chambers, determined to not wake Elrohir, who was still fast asleep. His sleep had been undisturbed, something that didn’t happen very often. Usually he needed to drink some herbal tea before being able to fall asleep. Waking up, he had quickly located Elrohir, and wondered if the twin’s presence had ensured his peaceful sleep.
Moving soundlessly, he had changed into clean robes, had combed his hair, making sure the tresses covered up the scars, and now headed for the doorway. He felt guilty for taking up so much of Elrohir’s time. The half-Elf should be asleep in his bed, not in an uncomfortable chair!
His head slumped in defeat, recalling his emotional outburst last night. He had desperately clung to Elrohir, sobbing when his pain had gotten the better of him. /I never wanted him to see me like that!/ Elrohir probably thought he was weak, vulnerable. He could never cave in like that again.
Closing the door behind him, he left Elrohir to his dreams and started down the corridor. Involuntarily he pressed his hand against his abdomen, still worried that the wound might reopen, although Elrond had assured him that it had closed and wouldn’t open again; it was a subconscious reflex.
He was panting hard when he finally reached Elrond’s study. Pausing momentarily, he leaned against the wall to gather his strength before venturing inside. There was probably a pile of paperwork waiting for him. After regulating his breathing, he opened the door and stepped inside.
Elrond and Glorfindel looked up, when the door unexpectedly opened. They expected to see Elladan, but certainly not Erestor. Glorfindel was the first to react, seeing the cold sweat that had formed on Erestor’s brow.
“What are you doing here, Erestor?” Glorfindel got to his feet and walked toward the counselor.
Erestor absentmindedly noticed that although Glorfindel limped, he no longer needed a crutch to support him.
“Erestor, you should be resting!” Elrond now joined them as well, reaching out and placing one hand on Erestor’s shoulder. He grew saddened at feeling tremors course through Erestor’s body, but didn’t remove his hand. “I told you to stay in bed and rest!”
“I am doing much better. I can return to my work.” Erestor met Glorfindel’s gaze. It was impossible not to; the blond was standing right in front of him with a concerned look in his eyes.
Glorfindel was about to announce that he was going to escort Erestor back to his rooms when the door suddenly opened again.
Elrohir stormed inside, wide-eyed and panicking. “Erestor, is he…” His voice faded, seeing Erestor standing in front of Elrond’s desk. “You sneaked out on me!”
Erestor cringed, seeing the disappointment in Elrohir’s eyes. “I did not want to wake you. You were finally asleep and—“
“You are coming with me, now,” said Elrohir, cutting Erestor short. ”Ada?” He looked to his father for help.
“Elrohir is right; you still need to rest. Remember, it was the one condition on which I allowed you to leave the Healing House. You won’t return to work for at least four more days. Now go.”
Erestor stared at Elrond in disbelief. “I am no longer wounded! Glorfindel has returned to his duties as well!”
“Glorfindel broke a leg; you almost bled to death. There is a distinct difference between the two of them.” Elrond’s voice grew louder, revealing his frustration and the half-Elf was shocked to see the effect it had on Erestor, who seemed to shrink into himself and was backing away from him, stumbling toward the doorway.
Erestor accidentally bumped into Glorfindel, who had moved behind him and released a strangled whimper. What was wrong with him? He had never been this emotional before. Somehow he had to reestablish control over his raging emotions!
Elrond regretted raising his voice and sighed dejectedly. “Erestor, I apologize. I had no reason to address you in that manner.” Searching Erestor’s eyes, he found that the fear was still there. “But I find it frustrating that you are not cooperating. I am confining you to bed for your own good.”
Erestor fought the panic that was building in him; Elrond had never before raised his voice at him! “I will return to my rooms then,” said he in a shaky tone. Unexpectedly, an arm folded itself around his waist, and he instantly moved away.
“Erestor?” Elrohir cringed, seeing Erestor move away. “It is me. You can trust me, remember?”
Erestor hated himself for showing his emotions like that. Why couldn’t he put them back into those dark corners of his mind and go back to wearing his mask of indifference?
“Come with me, Erestor.” Elrohir kept his arm around Erestor’s waist, refusing to give in to the elder Elf’s fear.
Erestor allowed himself to be led into the corridor, and, feeling bewildered, he realized that Elrond and Glorfindel were right behind him, following him back to his rooms. His hands began to shake and his teeth chattered, wondering why they were tagging along.
Elrohir guided Erestor to the bed and told him to sit down. Erestor’s eyes were distant and Elrohir took hold of his former mentor’s feet, lifting them.
Erestor lay down and stared at the ceiling, trying hard to pretend he was alone. Listening to their concerned voices, he wondered why they were this concerned about him. If only they left him alone! Then he would be able to rebuild his old walls and hide behind them.
“I will stay with him,” said Elrohir firmly, “He won’t succeed in getting past me unnoticed again!”
Elrond and Glorfindel exchanged a look. They had to be more careful in future; when Erestor had entered, they had been discussing Thranduil and Eridhren’s upcoming visit.
Erestor tiredly closed his eyes. Why couldn’t they just leave him alone? They had never bothered to find out more about him before! Why start now? Listening to their footsteps, he realized that Elrond and Glorfindel had finally left.
“Erestor? Why did you leave? Ada told you to rest. Are you so determined to wreck your health?” Erestor knelt next to Erestor’s bed and resumed stroking the long, loose hair. “Don’t you want to make a complete recovery?”
“I am no longer injured. I have healed.”
Elrohir’s features contorted, hearing Erestor’s soft, pleading tone. He only recognized it too well; he himself had used that tone when trying to wind his father around his little finger. “Believe my father when he says that you need rest. He is a very accomplished healer. Trust in his judgment.” Erestor’s eyes swam with unshed tears and Elrohir involuntarily held his breath when the elder Elf spoke again.
“But I do not want to be alone with my thoughts, or my memories.” Erestor wished he could take those words back. What had possessed him to speak them aloud? But he wanted to trust in Elrohir so badly. All those centuries of loneliness and hurt were taking their toll on him. He didn’t want to be alone any longer.
“What thoughts? What memories?” probed Elrohir in a soft tone. “You can entrust them to me. Maybe if you talk about them they will lose their hold on you.”
“No, I cannot speak them aloud.” Erestor frantically shook his head. “I cannot share them with anyone.”
Erestor’s mouth went dry, seeing the pleading expression Elrohir’s eyes. What was it about the half-Elf that made him want to trust him so badly? Maybe it was because of the way Elrohir had looked at him, when the twin had been a baby. Utter trust had shone from those large eyes and they had instantly won him over. “Do not ask me to tell you.”
Elrohir moistened his lips, realizing he could scare Erestor away with his next question. So before asking it, he made sure he still had eye contact with the elder Elf and continued to caress the dark strands of hair. “Does it have to do with something that happened in your youth? The time before you came to Imladris? Where did you live? With whom?” Erestor tensed under his touch and he stopped, giving the other Elf time to react.
“Why are you asking me those questions? What do you know?” Erestor panicked, struggled into an upright position and shook off Elrohir’s hand.
“Please calm down,” whispered Elrohir, who now claimed Erestor’s hand, rubbing the skin. “I am worried about you, and Ada told me how timid and insecure you were when you arrived here. It made me wonder.”
“Elrond should not have told you any of that!” Erestor stared at Elrohir’s hand holding onto his. “I do not want to discuss my past.”
Elrohir nodded once. “I will not question you any further if you answer me one more question.” He knew he was playing dirty, but all means were allowed whilst getting Erestor to confide in him. Erestor’s big eyes sought out his and he could feel the elder Elf’s hand tremble, cradled in his.
“What question?” Erestor’s voice shook violently. He couldn’t believe this was actually happening! How had Elrohir gotten him to answer his questions?
Elrohir tenderly rubbed the skin of Erestor’s hand. “Who hurt you so badly that you are unable to trust?”
Erestor released a choked whimper. He stared at Elrohir in disbelief. “Why ask me that?”
Realizing he had crossed a line, Elrohir said, “Let me rephrase my question. Did someone hurt you in the past? Taking away your ability to trust? All you have to say is yes or no. I do not need any names…” /Yet./” Holding Erestor’s gaze prisoner with his own, he looked pleadingly at the Noldorin Elf. “Just tell me.”
Erestor wasn’t sure if he could lie to Elrohir. The younger Elf seemed truly concerned and was still holding his hand. Elrohir’s eyes never strayed from his, giving him the strength he needed to face the horrible truth. “Yes,” he admitted in a pained tone. “But please do not ask me any more questions.”
Elrohir nodded in understanding. “Thank you for telling me. You confirmed something we already suspected.”
“We?” Erestor started, alarmed.
“Ada, Glorfindel and I. Even Elladan realizes something is wrong.” Elrohir frowned. “I am surprised he has not shown up here yet.” But he was grateful for that; he wasn’t sure if Erestor would welcome another guardian.
“Why are all of you so… worried?” Erestor actually had to search for the right word.
“Because we care about you.” Elrohir realized that concept might be alien to Erestor, if Eridhren had mistreated his son in the past and Erestor had grown up without a mother to support and love him. It was time to take away the pressure and change their subject. “Are you tired?”
Erestor nodded reluctantly. The trip to Elrond’s study had tired him.
“Then try to rest.” Elrohir wanted to get to his feet, but realized that Erestor had a tight hold on his hand, refusing to let go. “Everything will be fine in the end,” promised he softly, “Just put your trust in us.”
“In Elrond, Glorfindel, Elladan and you?” Erestor’s eyes radiated hope.
Elrohir smiled warmly. “Sounds like an interesting family to be part of, does it not?” Elrohir was unprepared for Erestor’s emotional reaction.
Tears flowed down Erestor’s face and he pushed himself into a sitting position, staring hopefully at Elrohir. “Did you mean that?”
“Aiya, Erestor, you never were part of a real family before?” Elrohir, realizing this was Erestor’s way of reaching out, buried the elder Elf in a hug. “Then it starts now.”
Erestor clung to Elrohir whilst weeping softly, allowing the younger Elf to soothe him. It was what he had always wanted; a caring family. Had he really achieved the impossible?
Elrohir mumbled softly, reassuring Erestor that they cared about him. His worry increased; it almost seemed like Erestor was becoming increasingly emotional. /But of course. I broke down his defenses and he feels helpless now. The mask of indifference is gone and out of his reach./
“Rest now, and sleep.” He lowered Erestor onto the bed, allowing the elder Elf to continue to hold his hand. After pulling up a chair, he settled down and whispered, “I will remain close.”
Erestor’s eyes spoke of eternal gratitude before turning vacant and once the counselor was asleep, Elrohir released his own tears, which he had been holding back.
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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