Heart In Chains
Haldir easily recognized the uncomfortable expression in Erestor’s eyes now that the dark-haired Elf was removing his robes. A blush appeared on Erestor’s features and the Elf placed both arms in front of his belly. “I have seen you naked before, you know.”
Erestor’s blush deepened, “But not when eight months pregnant,” mumbled Erestor shyly.
Haldir had filled the pool with warm water and now added scented bath oils. Walking toward Erestor, he offered the other Elf his hand, which Erestor took, allowing himself to be led to the pool. He made sure he had a tight hold on Erestor’s waist before helping his charge into the pool. He would never forgive himself if Erestor slipped and lost his baby. Once Erestor was comfortably settled in the pool, Haldir reached for a rose scented bar of soap and began to wash the raven hair.
“I can do that myself,” said Erestor in a tiny voice, but secretly he enjoyed being fussed over by Haldir.
“I enjoy doing this for you.” Haldir took hold of a cup that stood on the windowsill and rinsed the black hair. “There are tangles in it.”
“My arm cramped up when I tried to brush my hair this morning,” said Erestor gingerly. Enjoying Haldir’s gentle touch, he began to relax and his tense muscles loosened.
“I will let you soak for a moment,” announced Haldir, “whilst I check on my husband’s activities; I have to make sure he is behaving and not getting himself into trouble.” He waited for a reaction and got one.
“Husband?” A grin surfaced on Erestor’s face. Looking into Haldir’s eyes, he found them sparkling with mirth. “The two of you… did the deed?”
“Aye, we consummated our marriage,” said Haldir with a sly grin. “He is now officially my husband.”
“Congratulations are in order, then,” whispered Erestor, “I hope the two of you will always be happy.”
“He is a bit of a rascal at times and it is fortunate that I like him that way,” said Haldir teasingly. “I will be right back.”
The smile remained on Erestor’s face after Haldir had left. /I am glad you found your beloved, Haldir. I always told you that I was not the one for you and Glorfindel is an excellent choice indeed. A true warrior, worthy of you./ But then depression set in when he realized Haldir would now have even less time for him. Saddened, and feeling alone, he was jolted from his musings when the baby kicked him – hard. “Are you telling me to stop feeling sorry for myself?” Erestor smiled sorrowfully. “It seems you have inherited some of Elrond’s character traits.”
“Erestor? I am back.”
Looking at Haldir, Erestor wondered about the displeased expression in the hazel eyes. “Is something wrong?”
“He took off. He is not in the bedroom any longer.” Haldir shrugged his shoulders once. “I have no idea what he is up to this time.” Gathering a large and fluffy towel, he unfolded it, and draped it over his shoulder. “Let us get you out of there before you turn into a prune, lirimaer.”
“Should you still be calling me that?” Erestor wanted to warn Haldir that he would get water all over himself when the march warden leaned in closer, but remained silent, knowing Haldir would tease his remark away.
After rolling up his sleeves, Haldir pushed his hands into the water and then around Erestor’s waist. “Try to push yourself upright, I will do the rest. And do not worry, I have a tight hold on you.”
Leaving the pool was the scariest part for Erestor. If he slipped, the fall might cause a miscarriage. Curling his fingers around Haldir’s arms, he put his trust in the guardian and began to rise from the pool. He was almost back on his feet, when he lost his footing. His left foot slipped and he released an alarmed yell.
“I have got you,” said Haldir firmly, seeing the panic and fear on Erestor’s face. Steadying the dark-haired Elf, he made sure he still had a firm hold on his charge. He quickly folded the towel around Erestor’s shoulders. The dark, chocolate eyes told him how losing his footing had scared him and Haldir continued to hold him tight for a few more moments. “No more baths when you are alone, do you hear me?” Erestor nodded against his chest and Haldir sighed relieved. “Now where is that husband of mine when I need him?”
“Did you call for me?” Glorfindel, grinning broadly, stepped into the bathroom. “I hope you were not referring to a husband you have secretly tucked away without telling me. I would highly regret accepting your proposal if you had…” After a moment’s pause to breathe, Glorfindel began to talk again.
Haldir listened in amazement to this waterfall of words. Since when was Glorfindel this talkative? But when he saw a brief expression of concern aimed at Erestor in Glorfindel’s eyes, he knew why the Elda was chatting away. /He knows Erestor nearly slipped and is trying to distract him./ He loved Glorfindel even more for doing that.
Erestor, still leaning heavily against Haldir, allowed them to take charge of the situation. During his near slip, his heart had pounded madly and it was still trying to return to its original rhythm. If he had taken that fall and lost his child, he would never have recovered, knowing it was his fault she had died. In order to convince himself that she was all right, he rubbed his abdomen, promptly receiving a kick. His daughter was fine. Forcing himself to pay attention to what Glorfindel was saying, he looked at the Balrog Slayer, suddenly realizing the blond was staring at him. He yelped, finding that Haldir had removed the towel, leaving him naked again. “Haldir!”
Glorfindel, seeing Erestor’s embarrassment, quickly draped a morning robe across the dark-haired Elf’s shoulders. “You must excuse my husband. Sometimes he has the manners of an Orc – none at all.” He berated himself for staring at Erestor, but he had never seen a pregnant male before and the distended stomach had taken him aback.
“My manners are better than yours,” growled Haldir, hoping the bantering would reassure Erestor. With a quick look and cocking his head, he asked Glorfindel without words to leave the bathroom and his husband complied.
Erestor released a relieved sigh now that Glorfindel had left. “Why is he fussing over me?”
“He likes you,” said Haldir honestly. “Whilst I was away I retrieved your clothing for tonight and this.” Haldir presented a beautifully crafted phial filled with oil. “Your skin is extremely brittle. I have never seen anything like it before. It must be due to your pregnancy and you should pamper yourself. Rub this onto your skin – that is, the parts you can reach, I will do the rest.”
Erestor removed the stopper and began to rub the rose scented oil onto his skin. Haldir was always attentive and he smiled gratefully at the guardian. “My skin has been itching lately.”
“Then apply it generously,” advised Haldir, who busied himself sorting out the underwear, shoes, shirt and robes.
“I cannot reach my back and it also itches,” said Erestor softly.
Haldir took hold of the phial, let some oil drip onto Erestor’s back and massaged the rich substance into the skin. “You will smell of roses tonight.”
The blush returned, and Erestor smiled shyly at Haldir. “Do you think Elrond likes the scent of roses?”
“I am sure he does. Who does not like their rich fragrance?” Haldir finished doing Erestor’s back, put the oil away and retrieved another towel to dry Erestor’s hair. Once he was satisfied that it wouldn’t drip onto the clothes, he helped Erestor into the underwear and shirt. “I will help you into the robes after Glorfindel braids your hair.”
“I do not wear braids,” said Erestor gingerly. “I am not a warrior.”
“You are a warrior,” said Haldir, helping Erestor back to his feet. “A warrior of the heart.” He smiled, wondering about the crimson blush on his friend’s face and attributed it to the mood swings. Whilst carrying the robes over one arm, he locked the other around Erestor’s waist and guided him into the bedroom where Glorfindel was waiting for them, armed with combs and brushes.
Erestor groaned. “What did I agree to?”
Haldir cocked his head, wondering the same thing. “Glorfindel, he is all yours.”
The beaming smile on the blond’s face made Erestor expect the worst, but he complied and sat down on the bed. Glorfindel knelt behind him on the mattress and gently ran the brush through the dark mane, which reached his hips.
“You have tangles and knots in your hair,” said Glorfindel softly, concentrating on the task at hand. He hoped that Erestor would relax and grow comfortable whilst he worked on the plaits. He had a special design in mind and the mithril hair clip would hold the braids in place. It depicted a golden flower, set in a heart of mithril leaves.
Erestor ignored Glorfindel and asked Haldir, “Have you ever met the lady Arwen?”
“Once, I think,” said Haldir thoughtfully, sitting down on the windowsill. “She is really beautiful.” Hearing Glorfindel’s snort, he added, “If one fancies females.”
“But you do not,” said Glorfindel, returning the teasing. “If I catch you looking at her in a certain way—“
Haldir interrupted him, unable to resist the bantering. “Then what?”
Glorfindel chuckled softly. “You do not stand a chance anyway. She prefers her Elves golden-haired.”
Haldir raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“When she was an Elfling she had a crush on me,” revealed Glorfindel, amused.
Erestor decided to step in before their bantering got out of hand. “What is Arwen like?” He glanced at Glorfindel over his shoulder and the blond cursed softly when the braid he was working on slipped from his fingers. Normally, Erestor would have flinched, but the Elda no longer struck him as someone who would grow cross with him.
Glorfindel started all over again. “Now sit still or this will take throughout dinner.” Recalling Erestor’s question, he added, “All three children take after Elrond in their appearance and character wise. Arwen is a gentle soul, much like her father. There is strength in her and loyalty. The male who wins her heart will be very fortunate indeed.”
“And she… she spent a lot of time with Galadriel?” Erestor heard the hiss Haldir released and looked at his protector.
Glorfindel had also heard that hiss, and was reminded that neither Erestor, nor Haldir liked Galadriel. “Aye, she adores her grandparents.”
Erestor, still worried about meeting Arwen, told himself to calm down. There was nothing he could do right now and worrying would only upset him. Resting a hand on his abdomen, he rubbed the skin gently. “I think she is eager to be born.”
“You really should decide on a name,” said Haldir, watching Glorfindel braid Erestor’s hair, liking what the blond was doing with the raven hair. The blush on Erestor’s face added to his friend’s beauty and Haldir expected Erestor to look ravishing once the braids were finished and the robes in place. /Elrond might lose his heart to you tonight./
Elrond felt proud and at peace, escorting his daughter to the main table. Arwen looked truly beautiful tonight, dressed in a gown of blue silk and with silver flowers woven into her long hair. He had missed her and was glad she was back and tonight they would celebrate her return to them. A feast was to be held and everyone was relaxed, sipping miruvor and eating the special treats the cooks had prepared.
Arwen smiled happily at the Elves who welcomed her back and sat down at her father’s left side. Delighted, she found Haldir and Glorfindel already present and the two warriors quickly rose to their feet to welcome her. Now that she was seated, they took their places again. “Glorfindel,” Arwen started sweetly, “I must confess I always hoped you would give me your heart in turn.” She loved to tease him with her childhood crush as he had always been kind and understanding of her feelings. “And I promise not to sneak into your bed any longer.”
Glorfindel chuckled, and at seeing Haldir’s arched brow, he quickly explained, “She was an Elfling, only sixteen years old, when she found her way into my bed. I told you, she was in love with me.”
Haldir held onto his dignity and inclined his head to Arwen. “I compliment you for enduring his presence. He can be a nuisance at times.”
Delighted that they were playing along, Arwen smiled brilliantly at them. “And Glorfindel, I hope you will misbehave tonight.”
Glorfindel laughed warmly, but grew silent when a murmur swept through the hall, demanding his attention. He quickly located the reason for the whispers and smiled, seeing Elrond rise from his chair. Erestor had appeared in the doorway and although his pregnancy showed clearly, it also gave him an ethereal beauty, which was enhanced by the delicate robes and intricate braiding.
Erestor’s stomach felt tense, realizing everyone was staring at him. What was he to do now? He decided to head for Elrond’s table, needing to know which table he was assigned to, for he did need to sit down. Advancing on the main table, his eyes locked with Arwen’s. Glorfindel had mentioned that all three children had taken after their father and he was grateful to see that she hadn’t inherited Celebrian’s features, reminding him of Galadriel. Coming to a stand still in front of the table, he quietly addressed Elrond. “Where am I supposed to sit tonight?”
Elrond felt entranced seeing Erestor and blinked twice, trying to clear his head of the divine vision in front of him. The robes fit perfectly and even slightly concealed his distended abdomen. Erestor suddenly looked at Haldir and Glorfindel, turning his head away from him and Elrond saw the hair clip that held the braids in place. One eyebrow arched, he looked at Glorfindel. He had seen the Elda wear this mithril hair clip on several occasions and he knew it was a family heirloom. /Glorfindel seems to have taken Erestor under his wing./
“Lord Elrond?” Erestor was growing nervous now that Elrond wasn’t answering him and he began to search for a free seat. There was an empty chair next to Elrond, but he doubted it was meant for him.
“Here, at my side of course,” managed Elrond eventually, drawing in a deep, steadying breath.
Surprised, Erestor walked toward Elrond, who helped him sit down. Feeling Arwen’s eyes on him, he fumbled with the napkin, wishing she would look away.
Elrond, sensing Erestor’s tension, cleared his throat. “Erestor? May I introduce you to my daughter? This is Arwen.”
Gingerly, Erestor looked at her. The big eyes revealed her every feeling and for one moment he hoped his fears had been in vain. Maybe she would like him. “My Lady, I am honored to meet you.”
Arwen wondered about Erestor’s subdued manner and frightened expression, and felt the need to reassure the pregnant Elf. “There is no need for titles here, Erestor. Please call me Arwen.” She gave him her most stunning smile.
Erestor returned the smile weakly, afraid to hope his fears had proved ungrounded. Lost for words, he hoped one of the other Elves would save him from obvious embarrassment. But Glorfindel’s hand had disappeared below the table and Haldir’s hazel eyes were big, doubtlessly due to some actions going on beneath the table. He couldn’t help but smile at them. In the end, it was Arwen who addressed him.
“My father tells me you are eight months pregnant? I must admit I never knew a male could get pregnant.”
“It seldom happens,” replied Erestor, hoping his voice sounded steady. “But it is possible.”
Elrond was beginning to feel redundant now that Arwen seemed so taken with Erestor, but as he wanted them to become friends, he remained quiet and listened instead, hoping to learn more about Erestor.
“I hope to have children one day,” said Arwen, moving closer toward Erestor. If Elrond hadn’t been sitting in between them, she would have moved even closer. “I love babies and I want to offer you my help, should you ever need someone to look after your baby. I would love to help.”
Flabbergasted, Erestor involuntarily nodded his head. What else could he do, except accept her offer? Arwen was nothing like Galadriel and much like Elrond, for which he felt grateful. /I panicked over nothing. Arwen is kind and seems to like me./
Smiling happily, Arwen turned to Glorfindel. “Please play the lyre for me tonight, and Ada, join him. I missed hearing your beautiful compositions.”
Glorfindel sighed, seemingly pouting, but agreed. “Haldir? Do you play any instrument?”
Haldir wriggled an eyebrow. “Oh, I know how to play your instrument, hervenn-nín.” Well, Arwen had told them to misbehave. He could do that.
Glorfindel groaned. “Aiya, what did I do to end up married to you?”
“You accepted my proposal,” teased Haldir.
Elrond cleared his throat. “Answer his question properly, Haldir. I see no reason why only Glorfindel and I need to suffer because my daughter desires to be entertained.”
“I play the flute, my Lord,” said Haldir impishly, his fingers mimicking playing the instrument. “It has the perfect shape, long, thick—“
“Haldir!” Elrond blushed. “There is a lady present at our table.”
“Oh, I do not mind, Ada. I think they are cute!” Arwen’s smile changed into a wicked grin. “Ada, please play for us!”
Elrond realized he wasn’t going to get out of it and signaled for Glorfindel, Haldir and Lindir to join him. They rose from their chairs and headed for the small stage set for the occasional concert the Imladris Elves were treated to. Several other Elves joined them and all sat down, rearranging their robes before tuning their musical instruments.
Elrond would play his beautifully crafted Elven harp and the half-Elf noticed the excited looks Erestor was giving him. Erestor was curious.
“Here, drink this. I asked my father if you could drink Miruvor and he approved, as long as you did not empty the whole carafe.” Arwen, unnoticed, had moved one seat closer to Erestor and after placing a crystal glass in front of him, she rested her left hand on his arm. “My father has a grand voice.”
Erestor felt startled at finding her so close and sipped the miruvor, hoping it would calm his nerves.
Haldir watched them and liked what he saw. Arwen apparently had ‘adopted’ Erestor and was now taking over looking after him in Elrond’s absence. And even more importantly, he had seen the look in Elrond’s eyes when Erestor had approached their table. That look had told him that the half-Elf was falling for Erestor. Grinning from ear to ear, he wondered how long it would take Elrond to make his first move.
But then the first tones of music urged him to concentrate on his part in this musical play and Haldir directed his gaze to Glorfindel, who was playing his lyre. He established eye contact with his husband and devoured him with his eyes. /I will teach him to behave… Asking me if I play an instrument. I might show him tonight./
Soft and enchanting music flowed through the Hall of Fire, warming Erestor from the inside. His gaze continued to shift from Elrond’s face to those agile and expert fingers plucking the strings. Erestor smiled dreamily at the half-Elf, never realizing Arwen had refilled his glass. Sipping contently, the warmth continued to course through his body and he even ate some delicacies the cooks had prepared just for him.
The music faded, the musicians accepted the applause and returned to their seats. All Elves now gathered around the stage for the story telling that would take place, but Elrond was not interested in that. He was interested in returning to Erestor’s side. “Arwen?” He arched an eyebrow, finding his seat occupied. He was not giving it up to her.
Arwen pouted her lips, having realized her father’s interest in Erestor and moved back to her own chair. Seeing the spark in Elrond’s eyes whenever he looked at Erestor, she felt happy for him, which surprised her. She had always thought she would resent her father for growing interested in a possible mate again, but it was impossible to dislike Erestor and she was determined to befriend him.
Now that Elrond had reclaimed his seat, he accepted Erestor’s compliments for his excellent play. At the same time he noticed his guest was sipping miruvor, which probably explained the rather mellow mood the usually timid Elf was in. The miruvor wouldn’t do any harm, as long as Erestor didn’t overindulge himself and he approved of the effect it was having on Erestor. The large eyes were free of worries and fears, and Erestor was even leaning in closer, smiling at him.
It was exactly at that moment that he lost his heart to Erestor.
“I think… I should retire now…” Erestor had drunk three glasses of miruvor during the evening and was now feeling its effects. He felt giddy, warm and happy. The fact that Elrond was only talking to him made him even happier and he wanted the evening to never end. Eventually, however, his eyes began to grow vacant with fatigue and he needed to head back to his rooms. But he wasn’t sure he could still find the way and his feet seemed uncooperative.
“I will take you back to your rooms,” offered Elrond at once. Erestor had needed to relax, to let go of his worries for one evening and the miruvor had apparently done the trick. Elrond rose from his chair and helped Erestor to his feet. Although the pregnant Elf leaned heavily against him, Elrond dismissed Haldir’s offer to help. “I can manage.” He wanted some moments alone with Erestor. Guiding his charge out of the Hall of Fire, he felt probing eyes in his back, but decided to ignore them.
Haldir, Arwen, Glorfindel and even Lindir exchanged conspiring glances. “I saw that look,” said Arwen, revealing she knew about the attraction as well. “When did it start?”
“When Erestor entered the hall,” mumbled Glorfindel, indulging himself by drinking a sweet, white wine. “Our efforts paid off, hervenn-nín.”
Arwen questioningly arched an eyebrow. “Your efforts?”
“I braided his hair and loaned him my hair clip… Haldir helped him into his robes. Erestor looked stunning.” Glorfindel sipped again, beginning to feel its effects as well. He quickly put down the glass and asked for water instead.
Arwen sighed blissfully. “I like Erestor... And I want my father to be happy.”
Glorfindel chuckled. “Another match maker?”
“You are trying to get the two of them together?” Arwen smiled, glad she had returned to Imladris in time to witness her father falling in love again. She hoped everything would work out.
Elrond maintained a tight hold on Erestor’s waist, escorting him back to his rooms. Erestor’s head rested – no, lolled – against his shoulder and he smiled, sensing how relaxed Erestor was. His eyes widened, hearing Erestor purr. /Purr? Is he really purring?/ The sound was extremely erotic, and desire awoke in his heart. “We have reached your rooms, my friend.” Elrond opened the door and led Erestor inside.
“Stop-p…” whispered Erestor, still heavily under the influence of the potent miruvor. “S-stay…”
“I cannot, even if I wanted to,” whispered Elrond. “You drank too much miruvor and you do not really know what you are saying.” Oh, how he wanted to give in to this desire and hold Erestor through the night. But he couldn’t. Not with Erestor in this state.
But Erestor was desperate to keep Elrond close and looked him in the eyes, bringing his lips closer to the half-Elf’s. “P-please stay…”
It took every ounce of Elrond’s self-discipline not to instigate a kiss. “Erestor, it is the miruvor speaking. Let me put you to bed so you can sleep and we will talk about this in the mor--.” Unexpectedly, Erestor’s lips closed over his in an urgent kiss. Elrond closed his eyes and prayed to the Valar to give him the strength he needed to do the right thing. He allowed for the kiss to happen, but then laid Erestor down on the bed.
“You… t-taste… s-weet-t…” Erestor curled up on his side, smiled, and his eyes filled with reverie.
Covering Erestor with a light blanket, Elrond sat down on the side of the bed. His fingertips ghosted over his lips, still feeling Erestor’s pressed against them. It had felt good – right. And he wanted more.
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