Heart In Chains
Erestor felt like crumbling inside. His heart was madly pumping blood through his veins and he felt disoriented; but just when he thought he would lose his sanity, Elrond’s arms folded around him, pulling him close. Unable to push the half-Elf away in his moment of need, he collapsed against him. It was only due to Elrond’s tight hold on him that he remained on his feet. “I…I…” He panted and sobbed as tears flowed into his mouth and a salty taste exploded on his tongue. “I… d-did not w-want them-m to… d-die… Did n-not… Pl-please… b’lieveme…” Erestor clawed at Elrond’s robes, needing him close, needing… “Please… for…gi-give… me!”
Elrond never expected such an emotional outburst and felt at a loss. What was he supposed to do? “Hush now, Erestor. I am sure you did not want to lose your children. It was an accident. You mourned for them for them long enough.” And then he realized that Erestor had mourned indeed, but had never dealt with the loss.
“Forgive… me… Pl-pleassse…” Sobbing brokenly, he breathed the words against Elrond’s chest, which felt warm and comforting. The half-Elf’s hold tightened around him and he cried harder, letting go of the hurt he had carried with him for so long. “Please for…giveme… please… I ne…ver w-wanted… pleassssee…!” Erestor raised his eyes and looked pleadingly at his children’s father. For one moment, he pretended Elrond knew the truth and didn’t blame him for their sons’ deaths. “Forgive…me…”
Elrond, quite shaken now that he was witnessing Erestor’s emotional breakdown, realized the hurting Elf needed forgiveness for having lost his babies, as Erestor blamed himself for the miscarriage. /It does not matter who gives him that forgiveness, as long as he receives it./
“Erestor? Look at me. Hear me.” He waited until Erestor’s sobs had calmed down slightly and then cupped one cheek in the palm of his hand, lovingly staring into those dark eyes. His own reaction puzzled him, but he knew he had to do this -- now. “I forgive you.” Hopefully, that was what Erestor needed to hear. “You are not to blame. You did not cause this miscarriage and you were so shattered when it happened that you withdrew into yourself. Don’t you think it is time to move on? I am sure everyone who loves you would want that. I know I certainly want that. Stop living in the past.”
Erestor had stopped sobbing and now listened to Elrond as if entranced. He had wanted to hear those words for so long and now he had finally been given absolution for his cowardice. “I should have stopped when I knew Telu would live, but…” He bit down on his bottom lip – hard – realizing he couldn’t reveal more to Elrond. “Do you really forgive me? Really?”
Elrond smiled reassuringly, briefly wondering why *his * forgiveness was this important, but then reminded himself that anyone’s forgiveness would do as long as Erestor got it. “Aye, I do.” For some reason he couldn’t explain, he never wanted to let go of this Elf in his arms. “I promise you that I will do my best to make certain your baby survives the birth.”
“If it comes down to… saving me or the baby… I want you to choose the baby.” It was important to him that this baby lived. “I’d rather die myself.”
“Do not say such things! It will never happen!” Elrond was suddenly overcome by a dark, ominous sense of foreboding that something like this would come to pass one day. /Nay, Mandos cannot have them. I won’t let him!/ He maintained his hold on Erestor until the sobbing had stopped altogether. “You have been keeping that inside for much too long, my friend.”
“I could not tell anyone before, but I can tell you.” Erestor blinked once, trying to clear the remaining tears from his eyelashes. “But I feel tired now.”
“Aye, we should return to the house.” Elrond had planned to have dinner with Erestor in the Hall of Fire, but that seemed a bad idea now. Maybe… “Would you prefer having a private dinner with me instead of dining in the hall?”
“I do not feel like eating,” whispered Erestor brokenly, averting his eyes and staring at a tree behind Elrond.
“Nay, I won’t let you retreat into yourself again – or even into your rooms, for that matter. You will only lock yourself up and you need to be amongst friends now.”
“Friends? Do you consider me your friend, then? You have only known me for two days.”
“There is something about you that touches my heart, Erestor. I cannot quite explain it yet, but hopefully I will one day.” Elrond’s heart missed a beat, seeing the hopeful expression in Erestor’s dark orbs. /Aiya, if anyone ever needed friends and affection it is you./ Elrond slowly brushed some strands behind Erestor’s ears. “Will you have dinner with me tonight? I can invite Haldir, but then we will have to deal with Glorfindel too, for he will want to join us. Can you deal with that?”
“Haldir… I want Haldir close.” Haldir understood his pain, understood why Elrond’s forgiveness was so important to him. Although he knew that Elrond had no clue what he had forgiven him for, he cherished the words and kept replaying them in his mind. /I forgive you./
“Come with me. We should get you to sit down and rest.” Still keeping one arm around Erestor’s waist, he guided his guest back to the Last Homely House, hoping he had set a healing process in motion.
The unexpected knock on his door puzzled Glorfindel. Opening the door, he found Lindir smiling at him. “How can I help you?”
“Master Elrond asked me to deliver a message to you. He invites you and Haldir to dine with him and Erestor in his private rooms instead of in the Hall of Fire. It seems Erestor is too tired to deal with such a crowded room.”
Glorfindel nodded. “Tell Elrond we will join him.”
Lindir left to deliver the message and Glorfindel turned around to look at Haldir, who seemed extremely worried. /About Erestor, doubtlessly./ And again jealousy tried to get a hold on him. They had retired to his rooms after they had finished training and had started another game of chess.
Haldir sensed Glorfindel’s displeasure and followed him back to the chairs where they had been sitting. He had a fairly good idea what was going through Glorfindel’s head. “Trust me, you have no reason to be jealous of Erestor.” Glorfindel’s narrowed eyes searched his and Haldir grew alert.
“Erestor and you were lovers once,” stated Glorfindel, convinced.
“If one can call it that,” mumbled Haldir. “As I told you before, my relationship with Erestor is complicated, but you know that his heart – and his
fëa – belong to someone else.”
Glorfindel realized that information had to do for now. “Will you ask his permission to tell me?”
Haldir knew exactly what Glorfindel was talking about. “I will, but I won’t force him into anything.”
Glorfindel nodded, hoping Erestor would understand how important it was to do away with these secrets. They had the power to ruin their budding relationship if they remained unaddressed.
Erestor allowed Elrond to sit him down in a comfortable chair, which the half-Elf had moved closer to the fireplace. Although this was his first visit to the Peredhel’s rooms, he couldn’t be bothered to be curious. He felt melancholy, a bit lethargic, and his gaze absentmindedly followed Elrond, when the half-Elf talked to Lindir.
He had come so close to caving in and telling Elrond the truth. Just what was wrong with him? He had managed to control his emotions until now! But Camfael *had* warned him about the mood swings and the possibility of emotional instability. Maybe he could blame his outburst on that? Would Elrond let him?
Elrond returned to his guest’s side and pulled up a chair. Sitting down, he eyed Erestor worriedly. “Do you feel any better now?”
“I honestly do not know. I am seldom this emotional. It must be due to the pregnancy.” Erestor glanced at Elrond to see if the half-Elf believed him, and then quickly looked away again.
“I doubt that. I think these emotions have wanted a way out for a long time.” And his presence had triggered them. /Does that mean he is growing to trust me?/ Elrond hoped so. “Why don’t you rest until Haldir and Glorfindel join us? You can sleep if you want to. I will wake you when dinner arrives. You must feel drained.” He could tell because Erestor’s eyes darkened with sleep at times, but the Elf always forced himself awake again.
“Thank you…” whispered Erestor, fatigued.
Elrond rose from his chair, picked up a blanket from his bed and covered Erestor with it. He expected to dine with his friends in less than an hour and decided against moving Erestor to his bed. Waking up there might make Erestor feel uncomfortable.
Walking into the bathroom, he decided to take a quick bath and change into his evening robes, whilst regularly checking on his charge. It had been an exhausting day and Elrond suspected more emotional outbursts would follow now that Erestor was beginning to feel secure here in Imladris.
Haldir’s first glance was for Erestor, who was still asleep in the chair. “You exhausted him,” he said, addressing Elrond in a slightly disapproving tone.
“We went for a walk,” started Elrond, who had dressed in deep blue evening robes. After redoing his braids and knots, he had slipped the butterfly hairclip back into his mane. Now he faced Haldir, who was clearly upset with how tired Erestor looked. “He suffered an emotional breakdown. That is why he is this… exhausted.”
Haldir’s eyes flared with concern. “A breakdown? Why? What did you do to cause it?” He glared at Elrond, reconsidering his original plans to make sure Erestor spent as much time as possible with the half-Elf. Glorfindel’s hand suddenly settled at the small of his back and he fought the urge to shake it off now that he was facing Elrond. In the end, he allowed the touch, reminding himself Glorfindel loved him.
Elrond’s voice was soft and calming when he answered Haldir’s question. “He mourned losing his babies, but never really dealt with the loss. He begged me for forgiveness. For some reason he thinks it was his fault they died.” Elrond cast a look at Erestor, to make sure the Elf was still asleep. “Haldir, were you present when the miscarriage happened?”
Haldir swallowed hard, but then nodded. “It was not his fault that he had that miscarriage. He was trying to help one of our injured scouts and quickly grew exhausted. He was not to blame.”
Elrond’s eyes softened with understanding. “He said that he should have stopped when he knew Telu would live.”
Haldir’s eyes narrowed. Just how much had Erestor told Elrond? “They would not let him. There was a knife at his throat.”
Vexed and trying to make sense of this new information, Elrond asked, “In what way was Erestor helping this wounded Elf?”
Haldir knew he couldn’t answer that question. It might reveal secrets, which Erestor was desperately trying to keep. Thankfully, Erestor chose that moment to wake up. “We cannot discuss this now.” Haldir reacted quickly and after walking over to Erestor, he knelt on one knee. “Erestor?”
The chocolate eyes filled with alertness and he smiled, seeing Haldir this close. “You are here.”
“Of course I am!” Haldir forced himself to act cheerfully. “It is dinner time and you need to eat.”
Erestor groaned. “Not again.”
“Aye, again.” Elrond moved closer to Erestor, and noticed the surprise in the dark eyes when Erestor caught sight of him.
Glorfindel watched all three of them in turn, seeing the connection that ran between Haldir and Erestor. Why had he accepted Haldir’s marriage proposal so quickly? What if Haldir’s heart still belonged to Erestor? But then Haldir did something that puzzled him. The guardian got back to his feet again and came to stand beside him. Now it was Haldir who rested a hand at the small of his back – rather possessively.
Elrond, seeing the hurt expression in Erestor’s eyes at being deserted, quickly offered Erestor his assistance. “Let us move to the table.” He offered Erestor his hand, which the other Elf took, and then supported him as they made their way over to the table where dinner was all set. He helped Erestor sit down and then seated himself.
Looking at Glorfindel, Elrond saw the unease in the azure eyes. Glorfindel seemed distressed and he wondered what had transpired between the two lovers.
Lindir appeared, serving the first course and then left them to enjoy the fresh fruits.
Erestor stared at the food and his stomach did an amazingly nauseating somersault.
“Eat,” said Elrond, signaling for Erestor to empty his plate.
“I cannot. My stomach won’t allow it.”
“Would you prefer a light soup instead?” inquired Elrond in a concerned tone.
Erestor shook his head. “I need to wait until my stomach settles down, but please eat and do not wait for me.”
Haldir nodded and began to eat, not wanting Erestor to feel guilty. Glorfindel followed and eventually Elrond as well. The silence that hung over them was forced and the tension mounted. He desperately wished he knew how to do away with it.
Things changed when Lindir unexpectedly returned. “My Lord?” he said, addressing Elrond, “A messenger just arrived from Mirkwood and carries a letter from King Thranduil.”
Elrond groaned. “His timing is always… impeccable.” Slowly, he rose from his chair after giving Erestor an apologetic look. “I will try to return as quickly as possible, but as you might have found when sorting those letters, they are rather… lengthy.” And Thranduil would probably demand an immediate answer. This would take time.
Erestor smiled reassuringly and watched Lindir and Elrond leave. He wished Elrond could have stayed close, as he enjoyed the half-Elf’s company immensely.
Glorfindel had studied Erestor and had reached the conclusion that the dark-haired Elf seemed to prefer Elrond’s company over Haldir’s, which slightly reassured, as well as puzzled him. But he still needed to know what Haldir was hiding. Delivering a kick to Haldir’s shin beneath the table, he said, “Ask him!”
Haldir glared at him and pretended to be hurt, mockingly rubbing the abused limb.
“Ask me what?” Erestor knew something was amiss, seeing the uncomfortable expression in Haldir’s eyes. This was going to be unpleasant, he could tell.
Haldir drew in a deep breath. “I asked Glorfindel to marry me.” That was as good as a place to start as any.
Erestor smiled brilliantly, which confused Glorfindel. It seemed the dark-haired Elf was happy for Haldir and approved of that proposal. He hadn’t expected such a reaction. /What did I expect? Jealousy? A tantrum?/ Nothing of the kind was happening, though.
“I hope he accepted,” said Erestor teasingly.
“I did.” Glorfindel cringed, hearing how tense and tight his voice sounded.
“But you do not seem very happy about it,” remarked Erestor, growing apprehensive at Glorfindel’s probing look.
“That is because Haldir is keeping secrets from me,” said Glorfindel, suddenly wondering why this was so important to him.
“Secrets?” A fist seemed to tighten around Erestor’s heart, as he was afraid he knew what this was about.
“Secrets concerning you,” clarified Glorfindel, leaning in closer. “He has already told me that the two of you were lovers once.”
Erestor sucked in his breath. “Lovers…” His voice softened with remembrance. “He offered me comfort because he loved me. I told him from the beginning that I could never commit to him, as I am bound to someone else. I also warned him that he would get hurt by acting so selflessly, but he never listened.” Looking Glorfindel in the eyes – which required a lot of courage on his part – he added, “I want him to be happy and you seem to be the person who can accomplish that.”
“But there is more,” said Glorfindel, not giving up yet. “There are secrets that he is hiding because he vowed to protect you.”
Erestor paled visibly, realizing what Glorfindel was really asking. He sought out Haldir’s eyes and pleaded with him, “Do not ask me to tell him.”
“I will tell him if you allow it,” said Haldir in a strangled tone. “I would prefer for him to know why you are so important to me, as I do not want to lose him to jealousy or other negative emotions.”
“Are you that insecure about Haldir?” Erestor had never wanted to say that aloud, but it had slipped from his lips unwillingly, looking at Glorfindel.
“Not insecure,” corrected Glorfindel, “But this will be my first marriage and I need to know who my husband really is, and why he feels he needs to keep things from me.”
Erestor’s brow furrowed. “Haldir, do not ask this of me. You know I cannot… I do not want Glorfindel to know… He will tell Elrond and… I do not want to leave here or lose my daughter.” Stress, worry and terror were clearly visible on his face as he pleaded with his protector.
“I…” Haldir was at a loss for words, knowing Erestor felt betrayed by him.
“Would it help if I vowed not to tell Elrond?” offered Glorfindel. He didn’t particularly like the idea, but doubted these secrets were very important. Attributing Erestor’s extreme emotions to mood swings, he thought it was probably a big commotion over something trivial.
Erestor really didn’t want to do this, but the pleading expression in Haldir’s eyes told him to agree to Glorfindel’s proposal. “I still do not want him to know…”
Glorfindel rose from his chair, drew himself up to his full height and said solemnly, “I vow upon my honor never to tell Elrond, no matter what Haldir will reveal to me. I will keep these secrets.”
Haldir’s eyes met Erestor’s. “He is an Elf of honor, Erestor, and will keep his word.”
Erestor sighed deeply, his hands shaking wildly beneath the table, hidden from view. It felt like his world was about to collapse around him. How could he deal with Glorfindel knowing Galadriel had used him – and his body – in such a dishonorable way? Would the Balrog Slayer think him a whore? How would he ever be able to face Glorfindel again? Nay, he didn’t want Haldir to sacrifice his happiness because of him. He would face and carry that burden, like he always did. He pushed his chair back and slowly got to his feet, shaking off Haldir’s hand when the march warden tried to help him upright. “I will retreat to my rooms now.” Looking at Haldir, he saw the hurt in his eyes, now that he had brushed off his hand. “If this is so important to the two of you, tell him.” Fighting his tears, he turned away from them and fled the room.
Encountering Lindir in the next chamber, he told the white-haired Elf to excuse him when the half-Elf returned. When he finally entered the corridor, he released his tears and blindly headed for his rooms, hoping Glorfindel would leave him alone now.
Glorfindel felt uncomfortable, seeing the reaction he had provoked in Erestor when the raven-haired Elf had left. His shoulders had been slumped and his head bowed in defeat. “Why did he react like that?”
Haldir knew Erestor well enough to know what was going on in that head. “He is afraid he will lose the friendships he is beginning to build and to be looked upon by you in loathing.”
“Is it that bad?” Glorfindel suddenly wondered if he had made a grave mistake.
“Let us return to your rooms,” said Haldir, “I do not want Elrond to walk in on us while I am telling you all of this.”
Lindir raised an eyebrow when Glorfindel and Haldir also told him to give Elrond their regards and to inform the half-Elf that urgent matters prevented them from staying. He assured them that he would tell him and then waited for Elrond to return.
When the half-Elf did so, almost an hour later, he stared at his empty rooms, wondering what had made them leave. Lindir couldn’t provide him with a real explanation either and he sat down, dismayed that Thranduil’s letter had stopped him from keeping them from leaving.
/But I will see Erestor again at midday./ Lindir was under instructions to look after Erestor in the morning and after Erestor had eaten the noon meal, the white-haired Elf would escort Erestor to his study. /I will ask Erestor what was wrong tomorrow./
But, being honest with himself, he had to admit he already missed the other Elf’s company.
“And that is why Erestor is terrified of your reaction,” finished Haldir after telling Glorfindel about Galadriel’s scheming, the identity of Erestor’s bonded mate, and the misery the raven-haired Elf had suffered throughout the millennia. Leaning back in his chair, he stared into his lover’s dilated pupils, seeing the utter shock in them.
Glorfindel swallowed hard, blinked, and then tried to find the right words to express the sorrow he felt. “I never expected to hear anything like this.” His head reeled with all that he had been told. “What was Galadriel thinking, ordering Erestor into Elrond’s bed and then… Aiya, by Elbereth, Elrond should know he fathered and lost two sons.” His eyes widened in shock. “Elrond should know he is about to become a father again!”
Haldir leaned in closer and claimed Glorfindel’s right hand. “Maybe I was not clear enough so I will say this again. Erestor is afraid Elrond will be furious with him and take his daughter away from him. Trust me, I know how Erestor thinks. He expects people to hurt and exploit him.”
Glorfindel’s head felt heavy and he rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Elrond would never do such a thing.”
“But Erestor does not know that.” Haldir rubbed Glorfindel’s knuckles. “He only knows Galadriel’s scheming and even now he is afraid she will find a way to hurt him.”
“I never knew she was that devious.” Accepting Galadriel’s role in this was hard, as he only knew her as kind and caring, but he didn’t doubt that Haldir was telling him the truth. He could tell the march warden was sincere and that telling him had caused him pain because he had relived parts of the past in doing so.
“This is so much information,” whispered Glorfindel, still stunned. He needed to sort these things out and therefore said aloud, “Let me make sense of this. Erestor bound himself to Elrond on the eve after the Battle of the Last Alliance.” He vividly recalled Haldir’s arrival, and the healer – Erestor – going into Elrond’s tent. “That explains the blood and Elrond’s statement that he was afraid he had forced himself on someone.”
Haldir arched an eyebrow. “Forced himself?”
“There was blood! Elrond is no fool and knows he hurt Erestor!” Glorfindel frowned. “He was convinced Ereinion had returned to him, and only later did he realize he had bedded a stranger. But he had no idea he was alive because Erestor had bound himself to him.”
“Galadriel did not want to ‘burden’ Elrond by knowing a ‘kinslayer’ had bound himself to him,” said Haldir, disgustedly.
“But he never killed Elwing’s guard and Orophin merely reached the wrong conclusion.” Glorfindel sighed, hating the tangled web he had gotten himself maneuvered into. “Erestor returned to Lothlorien – pregnant – and suffered a miscarriage because someone forced him to revive this Telu?”
“That is correct. Rumil and I were unable to stop it from happening.”
“And still Galadriel did not tell Elrond? By the Grace of the Valar, those sons would have been Elrond’s heirs!”
“Erestor once mentioned something that really shocked me. That Galadriel had referred to them as ‘bastards’. He was depressed for days after that.”
Glorfindel growled. “I still think Elrond deserves to know, but first I want to really understand this. After losing his babies, Erestor fell into a state of lethargy which lasted nearly three millennia and when he returned he was…”
“Broken,” finished Haldir for him. “He was like a newborn and we had to teach him everything all over again.”
“And that is when the two of you became lovers?”
“For a short while, aye. He needed the comfort – the closeness.” Haldir hoped Glorfindel understood. “Erestor felt alone.”
“And just when he had recovered, Celebrian was attacked?”
“Aye, and after she sailed for Valinor, Elrond visited with Galadriel.”
“And she…” Words eluded Glorfindel. “Elrond told me his mysterious savior had reappeared and I even tried to find him.”
“You would not have succeeded. By that time, Celeborn had taken charge and was doing his best to hide and protect Erestor.”
Glorfindel nervously licked his lips. “Erestor found out he was pregnant and Celeborn sent him here. Why did Celeborn not tell Elrond the truth?”
“I think he wants Erestor to make that decision,” said Haldir eventually, “but I doubt he ever will.”
Glorfindel finally began to understand Erestor’s fears. “That is why he was so hesitant to allow you to tell me.”
“Aye, he is afraid you will tell Elrond and then the little happiness he has found here would disappear. Erestor fears being imprisoned again and keeping these things from Elrond makes him believe that the half-Elf’s reaction will not be pleasant. He is afraid, Glorfindel.”
“But he does not have to be!” Exasperated, Glorfindel jumped to his feet and paced his bedroom. “Assuredly, Elrond can throw a tantrum at times and he will be hurt when he finds out, but he would never punish Erestor in that way.”
“But Erestor does not believe that.” Haldir remained seated, allowing Glorfindel the time he needed to process this information. “He is also afraid of your judgment.”
“Judgment?” Glorfindel paused his pacing to look at Haldir questioningly.
“Deep down, Erestor feels used. He feels Galadriel abused his body by ordering him to submit to Elrond. He is afraid you will condemn him for everything he did.”
“In that case he does not know me at all.” Glorfindel felt hurt, hearing that Erestor feared him and his reaction.
“Which is true, he does not know you. Maybe you should take the first step and talk to him?” Haldir hoped Glorfindel would take the risk to talk to Erestor. “I really want the two of you to get along.”
The same thought – visiting with Erestor – had crossed Glorfindel’s mind. There were a number of things he needed to say to Erestor and it was important he did it now before he lacked the necessary courage to do so. What Erestor had done filled him with deep admiration and utter respect. “I will talk to him now, or do you think I should wait?”
“I doubt Erestor can sleep now that you finally know the truth. I would go to his rooms now.”
Glorfindel nodded absentmindedly. “I need to tell him not to worry. Keeping these secrets will be hard and I wish I could tell Elrond, but I will honor my promise.”
“Good, go then and reassure him. The Valar know he needs more friends.”
Glorfindel suddenly spun around, covered the distance between them and kissed Haldir almost desperately. “Thank you for telling me.”
Haldir nodded in understanding. “Go now and lay Erestor’s fears to rest.”
Glorfindel nodded; he would do just that.
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