Dinîf en Qualen
Glorfindel opened the door and peeked inside. Elrohir was sitting next to the bed, holding Erestor’s hand, who was still asleep. He wished he didn’t have to disturb the peaceful scene, but Erestor needed to know that Eridhren would arrive tomorrow, accompanying Thranduil. Elrond and he had discussed how to break the news to Erestor, and they had decided Glorfindel would handle matters. Should the blond fail, or need Elrond’s assistance after all, he would take Erestor to the half-Elf’s study where the three of them would talk.
“Elrohir?” Glorfindel entered, closed the door behind him, and tiptoed over to the young half-Elf who was rising to his feet to meet him. Elrohir looked drained, which worried him. “How does Erestor fare?” His gaze shifted to the sleeping Elf, relieved to find the handsome features relaxed.
“He admitted that someone has hurt him in the past, but he refused to give me a name,” said Elrohir, tiredly rubbing his temples. He needed some time to take a bath, sleep and recharge.
Glorfindel’s expression darkened at hearing one of his worst fears confirmed. Forcing himself to focus on Elrohir, he said, "You look tired.”
“I feel tired,” confirmed Elrohir. “I am glad I stayed with him, but making him talk is draining me.”
“Why don’t you return to your rooms and rest? I am sure Elladan misses your company.”
“I cannot do that.” Elrohir looked worriedly at Erestor. “I cannot leave him alone right now.”
“I will stay with him,” said Glorfindel reassuringly. “I will watch him closely and make sure no harm comes to him. I need to talk to him anyway. Erestor still does not know his father will arrive tomorrow.”
Elrohir moistened his lips, feeling nervous. “That news might upset Erestor. I have the feeling that his father did not treat him kindly.” Elrohir yawned, and he quickly covered his mouth with his hand.
“You need rest. Go now and know that Erestor is in the best hands.” Glorfindel wrapped an arm around Elrohir’s shoulder and guided him toward the doorway. “Take your time to rest. I will stay with Erestor, so do not worry about him.”
Elrohir nodded, giving Glorfindel a thankful look. “I will check on him later.”
Glorfindel opened the door and stepped aside to let Elrohir pass. “Elladan is probably already eagerly awaiting your return to your rooms.”
Elrohir, fatigued, nodded again and headed for his rooms. After Glorfindel closed the door behind the twin, he headed back to the bed and sat down on the chair that Elrohir had just vacated. He took a moment to study the dark-haired Elf. Traces of tears still lingered on Erestor’s face, and a fiercely protective feeling blossomed in his heart. /I will keep you safe, mellon-nîn./
Elrohir opened the door to the rooms, which he shared with his brother, and immediately headed for his bed. Collapsing tiredly, he dropped face forward onto it.
“It looks like Erestor gave you a hard time.”
Elrohir lifted his head and looked at Elladan, who lay comfortably on his bed. “Brother, you have no idea…” His voice faded as he buried his face in the mattress.
Elladan left his bed and sat down next to his brother. “You are tired. You should sleep.”
“Believe me, I am planning to sleep.” Elrohir suddenly felt his brother’s hands on him, removing his outer robes. He allowed Elladan to manhandle him until the robes were gone, and then sighed contently as his twin covered him with warm blankets. At times like these he was glad he had a brother who cared this greatly about him. “Thank you, Elladan,” he whispered, voice slightly slurred due to impending sleep.
Elladan smiled, tucked him in, and placed a brotherly kiss on Elrohir’s hair. “Sleep, then.” Elrohir’s contented moan made him smile and Elladan returned to his own bed. He settled down with a book, occasionally looking at Elrohir to make sure his twin was peacefully asleep. His thoughts drifted away from Elrohir and to Erestor. He hoped he would get the chance to befriend the elder Elf as well.
Glorfindel felt content watching Erestor, studying all lines that were etched onto the Elf’s brow, which now showed in sleep. He felt worried; how was he going to tell Erestor that Eridhren was about to arrive?
Erestor’s eyes regained their sparkle and slowly focused on him. Glorfindel smiled, leaned in closer, and said, “I hope you slept well.”
Erestor blinked a few times and then pushed himself onto his elbows, staring at Glorfindel. “Where is Elrohir? Why are you here?” His eyes searched his rooms, but failed to locate the younger twin. In the end, his gaze settled questioningly on Glorfindel.
“I sent Elrohir to his rooms to sleep.” A stunning smile flashed across his features, directed at Erestor. “You must be going mad, being confined to your rooms.”
Erestor frowned. He had expected more questions, but Glorfindel’s mood seemed chipper and pleasant, which suited him. He was getting weary of all questions being thrown at him. “That is why I wanted to return to my duties.”
Glorfindel grinned, bemused. “We could disobey Elrond’s orders and just leave.”
Erestor, totally baffled at hearing Glorfindel’s suggestion, stared wide-eyed at the blond. “You want to defy him?” He vividly remembered Elrond raising his voice earlier. “I was under the distinct impression that you wanted me to stay in my rooms as well.”
“Maybe I changed my mind?” Before coming to Erestor’s rooms he had decided on a more relaxed approach, wanting to reassure Erestor he was safe with him. If Erestor felt cornered, the Noldorin Elf would never confide in him.
Glorfindel raised his hand and hoped Erestor would take it. “We could go for a walk in the gardens. The night is dark, and without a moon to light its surface. Elrond won’t notice our presence in the gardens.”
Erestor stared at the offered limb. Glorfindel had offered him a truce before— maybe it was Elrohir’s influence on him, but he found himself reaching out and curling his fingers around the blond’s. Glorfindel’s smile was dazzling, and Erestor smiled weakly, surprised that he had the power to put that smile on Glorfindel’s face.
He truly appreciated the fact that Glorfindel wasn’t firing more questions at him and letting him set the pace. As the blond rose from his chair, Erestor got to his feet as well, blushing slightly because Glorfindel was still holding his hand. A strange feeling coursed through him, making him light-headed. Elrohir’s company and reassurance had taken away some of his fears and he felt like trusting the blond. Glorfindel was an honorable warrior and was now making a serious effort to be a friend. He could almost hear Elrohir’s voice in the back of his head; /Why would you not trust him? Give yourself a chance to build this friendship./
Glorfindel, seeing the distant expression in Erestor’s dark eyes, waited patiently for the dark-haired counselor to move. What was Erestor thinking?
Erestor shook himself from his musings and hesitantly made eye contact with Glorfindel. He had no idea why the blond wanted to be his friend, but for the first time since his arrival at Imladris as an Elfling, he felt like trusting someone. “Do you really want to go to the gardens?” The thought of sneaking out of his rooms appealed to him.
“Let us go.” Glorfindel curled his fingers tightly around Erestor’s and pulled him with him when he headed for the doorway. “But we should move silently.”
Erestor shook his head. Glorfindel was acting like an Elfling, sneaking out on his parents -- and the blond’s playful mood was catching!
Glorfindel’s breath caught, seeing one of Erestor’s rare smiles surface on the other Elf’s face. /He looks younger when he smiles. It chases away the lines of worry etched on his brow./ “Come with me, mellon-nîn. It is a beautiful night and it would be a waste to stay inside.”
Erestor gathered his robes around him and allowed Glorfindel to pull him along. The blond mystified him. Only a few weeks ago Glorfindel had avoided his company! /And I did my best to keep him at a distance. When did my walls tumble down?/ Elrohir had a lot to do with that; the younger half-Elf had shown him he was still capable of showing his emotions.
They finally stepped outside, under a dark, but star-speckled sky. Erestor drew in a deep breath, feeling free now that he was in the open. Glorfindel continued to pull him along, and the blond guided him to one of Celebrian’s gardens. The she-Elf had planted a sea of flowers here during her stay in Imladris, and they still blossomed each year, filling the air with heavy, sweet fragrances. Did Glorfindel know he came here in the past? Was that why the blond had taken him here?
Glorfindel suddenly stopped walking, sat down, and then lay flat on his back, watching the stars. Erestor nervously looked about, wondering what he was supposed to do now.
“Mellon-nîn, join me and watch the stars tonight.” Glorfindel looked at the dark-haired Elf with obvious hope in his eyes. He patted the earth next to him and hoped Erestor would lie down as well.
Erestor wavered momentarily, but then slowly lay down, joining Glorfindel in the reverie of the stars. He had to admit it was a stunning sight. The stars sparkled brightly and made him smile in appreciation.
“It is a beautiful night,” whispered Glorfindel, now cocking his head to look at Erestor. He saw an admiring expression in the other Elf’s eyes and smiled. “When was the last time you took the time to look at the stars?”
Erestor suddenly felt nervous. “I never did.”
Glorfindel gave him a look filled with disbelief. “Never?”
“Never.” Erestor grew aware of the earth and grass beneath him. Trees whispered an ancient melody and even the stars seemed to sing their own song. Tears gathered in his eyes; had he ever felt this peaceful before?
“Erestor? Are you crying?” Glorfindel rolled onto his side and propped himself up on one elbow to look at Erestor.
“You are correct,” said Erestor in an emotional tone, “the night is beautiful.”
/And you are beautiful, in your sorrow and pain— but I want them gone from your soul. You should be happy and at peace instead./ Glorfindel’s mood darkened, recalling why he had brought Erestor here. /I cannot tell him Eridhren will arrive tomorrow. This is not the right time./ He would take Elrond up on his offer and they would inform Erestor together. “It is amazing,” started Glorfindel tentatively, “we lived here for centuries and I cannot remember us having a serious and polite conversation before.”
“I apologize for my sharp tongue,” said Erestor ruefully. “It was directed at you too often for no apparent reason.”
Glorfindel decided against asking more questions. It would be best if Erestor turned to him willingly instead of being forced to answer questions which he dreaded. “Elrohir is rather worried about you.”
“I never thought he would be that concerned.” Erestor’s fingers moved through the grass, enjoying the sensation. “I never expected it.”
Glorfindel chose his next words carefully. “All four of us care for you, Erestor.”
“I did not make things easy on you.” Erestor was surprised at the mellow tone of their conversation. He actually liked talking to Glorfindel! “I will try to be more… approachable.”
Glorfindel realized how much courage it had taken for Erestor to make that particular step, and looked into the dark eyes, which seemed a little less haunted. “Maybe Elrond will get his wish anyway, and we will become good friends. I would really like that.”
Erestor blushed slightly. He couldn’t believe that he was about to make this admission. “I never had a friend.”
Glorfindel’s heart contracted with sorrow; he had almost expected Erestor to say something like that, but actually hearing it hurt him even deeper. /He has been in Imladris for so long and I never realized how lonely he was./ He was determined to make up for his past mistakes. “Elrond asked me to pay him a visit tonight. Would you like to come as well?”
Erestor averted his eyes and stared at the stars. Why would Glorfindel invite him to come along? He knew that the two Elves like to spend the evening in each other’s company, and he had never been invited before. “Are you sure you want me there? That Elrond wants me there?”
The tone of Erestor’s voice almost moved Glorfindel to tears, hearing the loneliness and disbelief in it. He wished that there were no ulterior reason to ask Erestor to join them. It was a shame that Erestor’s sharp tongue had kept them from becoming friends. If only he had seen beneath Erestor’s mask!
Glorfindel got to his feet, stretched, and extended his hand to Erestor, encouraging him to rise as well. “I am sure Elrond has saved a good wine for tonight. It would be a shame to let him drink it alone.”
Tentatively, Erestor began to push himself to his feet, careful to not put any pressure on his abdomen, which still felt tender. He recalled the last time Glorfindel had reached out to him, offering his hand for support. Back then, he had flinched away from it, but now he felt confident enough to lightly put his hand in Glorfindel’s.
Stunned, but extremely pleased that Erestor was reaching out as well, Glorfindel slowly pulled Erestor to his feet. He reluctantly let go of the offered limb, smiling warmly.
Erestor, feeling uncertain, returned the smile. Glorfindel’s smile confused him.
Slowly, still enjoying the peace and quiet of the gardens at midnight, they made their way back into the house and headed for Elrond’s study, where a number of scented candles created a warm and comfortable atmosphere. Glorfindel greeted Elrond and entered, but Erestor remained standing in the doorway, not certain Elrond really wanted his company -- not after the half-Elf had raised his voice at him earlier.
Elrond looked up from the book he was reading and placed his glass, filled with sweet wine, on his desk. Although Glorfindel had offered to tell Erestor about the upcoming visit, he had suspected that the blond wouldn’t be able to follow through and would seek him out instead. “Glorfindel, Erestor.” Elrond raised a hand and signaled for them to sit down in the chairs opposite his desk. After getting to his feet, he gathered two more glasses and poured his guests wine as well. “Drink; it is one of the best wines Arda has to offer.”
Erestor wasn’t sure why he was growing alarmed. Elrond and Glorfindel’s gazes met and he thought he saw some silent communication take place. Glorfindel had brought him here for a reason. He refrained from taking another sip of the potent wine, preferring to stay clear-headed.
Elrond saw the insecure expression in Erestor’s eyes and sighed, feeling the need to apologize again. “I never meant to raise my voice earlier, Erestor. I was merely worried.”
Erestor swallowed hard, not expecting another apology. “Do not worry about it.” Elrond’s gaze seemed concerned and Erestor averted his eyes, staring at his wine instead. Why had Glorfindel brought him here? Elrond’s gaze told him that the half-Elf had some unwelcome news for him. What was it?
“Are you feeling better now? Is your wound still troubling you?” Elrond wanted to reassure Erestor before delivering the bad news.
“I hardly notice it any longer.”
Erestor’s clipped tone alarmed Glorfindel and Elrond. Apparently Erestor had figured out why he was here.
“I have news for you,” said Elrond, tentatively, uncertain how Erestor would react. “Thranduil is visiting Imladris and will arrive tomorrow.”
Gooseflesh formed on Erestor’s skin. “Thranduil?” He hoped Thranduil was traveling without his advisors, but the odds seemed small. “You could have told me earlier. Now I have to hurry to make all of the arrangements.”
“Everything has been taken care of,” said Elrond in a concerned tone.
/Have I truly become useless and redundant then?/ The thought saddened Erestor. He had worked hard to become Elrond’s right hand man, and now someone else was carrying out his duties!
Elrond sipped his wine, waited for Erestor to look at him, and then said, “Thranduil won’t be traveling alone. Your father, Eridhren, is accompanying him.” Elrond’s eyes widened slightly at the pallor that spread across Erestor’s face in mere seconds. The Noldorin Elf’s fingers tightly clasped the armrest, and it almost seemed like Erestor’s breathing had stopped momentarily. Exchanging a look with Glorfindel, he saw concern reflected in the sapphire eyes.
Erestor stared at the wall, trying to deal with this new information. His father was coming to Imladris. His worst nightmare had finally come true. He had been fortunate that Eridhren had stayed away for so long. “I will be there to welcome my father, then.”
Glorfindel cringed. The sparkle that had shone in Erestor’s eyes when they had lain beneath the starlit sky was gone now. The eyes were dead and their expression dark. If he’d had any doubts about Eridhren being the one who had hurt Erestor in the past, they ceased to exist right now. He raised his hand, and went to rest it on Erestor’s arm in an attempt to reassure him, but Erestor pulled back.
Elrond, growing increasingly worried at Erestor’s panic, leaned in closer and tried to catch the Elf’s gaze. “Erestor? Is something wrong?” He wanted to reach out like Glorfindel had, but Erestor quickly rose to his feet and headed for the doorway.
“I feel tired and will retire now. I am sure you will spend your evening more pleasantly without me.” Erestor inclined his head in goodbye and then dashed into the corridor, not giving them a chance to react.
“That went well,” stated Elrond sarcastically. “Maybe I could have handled it better.”
“You tried,” said Glorfindel, sighing. He was still staring at the door, trying to make up his mind. “Should I go after him?”
Elrond shook his head. “Give Erestor time to realize that his father will arrive tomorrow. Finding out was a shock to him and he would only push you away right now. He needs to calm down first.” Elrond made eye contact with the blond. “I feel certain that Eridhren is the one who hurt Erestor in the past. It makes perfect sense. He came here to escape his father and that is why I was never allowed to contact him. By Elbereth, why did I send Eridhren that letter? I should have stayed quiet instead!”
“Do not blame yourself, mellon-nîn,” said Glorfindel reassuringly. “You did what you thought was best. We should concentrate on the upcoming visit instead.”
“I will deal with Thranduil,” said Elrond in a thoughtful tone. “I am counting on you and the twins to constantly keep an eye on Erestor. Never leave him alone with Eridhren. I want someone present at all times.”
Glorfindel nodded. “I feel the same way.” He briefly closed his eyes. “The mask slipped into place again once he learned his father was about to arrive. Only a few moments earlier he was smiling and trying to trust me for the first time in his life. He actually let me touch him.”
“Do not give up now.” Elrond sipped his wine again and gazed at the Elda. “Elrohir and you are finally getting through to him, and Eridhren’s visit is most unsettling. Erestor will never admit it, but he needs you most now.”
Glorfindel’s expression became very determined. “I will check on him before going to bed. I need to know he is coping with this situation.”
Elrond nodded once. “Try your best. Maybe he will allow you to comfort him. I will talk to Elrohir and Elladan in the meantime. They should know what we are facing.”
Glorfindel placed his still-full glass on Elrond’s desk and rose to his feet. “I will give Erestor a few more minutes and then I will check on him.”
“You are worried for a good reason, and so am I,” said Elrond. “Do not hesitate to call me should Erestor experience another emotional breakdown.” Elrond was determined to keep Eridhren as far away as possible from Erestor, but he also planned to question the Elf in detail.
“Thank you, Elrond.” Glorfindel drew in a deep breath and left Elrond’s study. He headed for Erestor’s rooms, hoping the hurt Elf would allow him to comfort him.
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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