Disclaimer: I own nothing, except the plotline. Even Gildor Inglorion isn't mine--Tolkien had him first.

Warnings: None except that it's slash. A faithful reviewer, Melanie, asked so nicely for this that I couldn't refuse. For anyone familiar with my previous work, this has a very different tone. Melanie wanted a tender, romantic little fic that discussed Gildor's and Haldir's relationship, so that's what this is.

Archiving: OLAS and anyone else who wants it, just let me know.

A/N: This is a continuation of my previous Unspoken story arc (Unspoken/Revelations/Changes.)

One Last Time

Part 1

By Rune Dancer


Third Age, year 180: Imladris

Haldir's rooms were reached with much laughter and some shortness of breath, as they had run all the way from the stables through the main hall and up the stairs. The chamber was cool, with no fire in the grate and with a rain scented breeze blowing in from the balcony, but neither cared as they tumbled onto the large bed. Gildor lay back against the pillows and watched as Haldir hurried about, gathering things. His soon-to-be lover seemed intent on rather lengthy preparations, a fact that amused and yet charmed Gildor. Haldir was obviously intent on taking his time, but then, he had always been thorough at everything.


Second Age, 3121: Lothlorien

Gildor sat on his russet mare and stared in awe at his first sight of fabled Lorien. He knew his companions were probably laughing at him, but then, they had done so the whole trip; it was something to which he was becoming accustomed. Barely passed his majority, at only 64, Gildor could get away with staring unashamedly, and he took advantage of that fact as the party rode further into the Golden Wood. In his opinion, Lorien deserved an openmouthed stare.

It was not just the beauty of the mallyrn, which increased the further into Lorien they went, but rather the melodious song that seemed always just out of hearing, that delighted Gildor. He could catch an echo of it, a tantalising trill here and there, but strain as he might, the whole continued to elude him. The song stopped after they had ridden a short way into the wood, and the forest suddenly seemed eerily quiet as a result. Gildor could tell that the trees were saying something, but he could not understand them. Looking at his companions, all of whom were far older, he saw that it was not his lack of years that was responsible; they looked no more enlightened. He would have liked to tease Tuor, the leader of their group, about it, as he had been relentless in his mockery of Gildor since they set out from Imladris several days before. However, considering the elf's famous temper, he refrained.

As he was still contemplating what he would have said, if he had been unwise enough to do so, three elves suddenly appeared and blocked their path forward. Their arrival seemed almost magical, for Gildor had heard and seen nothing of their approach. Having undergone special training to learn how to move as silently as the fog, and to listen and observe even the smallest indication of life, he was truly impressed.

The leader of the group stepped forward, while the others kept back. The bows of all three were drawn but, for the moment, remained lowered. Gildor observed the extremely fine weapon in the hands of the leader with appreciation. It was a beautiful thing, carved of some light coloured wood he had not seen before, but assumed might be that of the mallyrn as it had the same silvery sheen to it. There were runish designs climbing up the sides, carved by a master, and the whole seemed almost an extension of the hand that wielded it. A very attractive hand, Gildor noticed, long fingered and ivory fair, attached to an equally beautiful arm, all slender muscles under perfect skin, leading to a very pretty face. A face, he noticed now, with a slight smile curving its exquisite lips and an amused glint in its slightly slanted, sapphire eyes. Gildor blushed and looked away, ashamed to have been caught staring yet again. He was supposed, after all his training, to be able to observe everything at a glance, and to see without seeming to do so. He could manage the trick when he was concentrating, but otherwise had found it hard to pretend a fashionable indifference to the many new sights of their journey.

The object of Gildor's admiration seemed to also be the leader of the Lorien elves, for so their grey attire and blond, Silvan beauty proclaimed them. He spoke to Tuor in slightly accented Sindarin as Gildor resumed gazing at him--after all, he now had an excuse. "What would four elves, from Imladris by their clothing, be doing wandering so loudly through the Golden Wood?"

Tuor narrowed his grey eyes but kept his temper in check, Gildor saw with relief. "I am Tuor, of Imladris as you say. These with me are Valandil and Aikanaro, and the young one is called Gildor. We come at the command of Lord Elrond, to speak with the Lord and Lady of these woods. If you will be so good as to lead us to them, brother, we will cease to wander about, loudly or otherwise."

Gildor winced slightly at the haughtiness in Tuor's tone, but the Lorien elf merely arched a brow in what looked like amusement. "If you speak truly, and it is in peace you come, then you will not mind leaving your weapons behind?" At Tuor's outraged look, the elf merely smiled broader. "They will, of course, be cared for and brought along presently."

"We are kin, not . . . not dwarves . . . to be so ill treated!"

"You are strangers here and heavily armed." The Galadrim widened his eyes in a parody of innocence. "I would be remiss to allow you to proceed further unless you comply. Though, since you are kin, I will let you to leave unmolested if you refuse."

Before Tuor could reply, Valandil took off his bow and quiver and handed them to the elf beside him. Jumping lightly to the ground, he walked forward, pulling out his twin daggers which he offered, handles first, to the Galadrim leader, who took them with an slight smile and tucked them in his belt. Valendil then held out his arms in a posture to allow a search, should it be required. The elf seemed to find something amusing in Valandil's actions, but he did not decline the right to search him, as Gildor had half expected. He made quick work of it, however, and Valandil then remounted his horse and looked expectantly at Tuor.

Their mission leader still seemed inclined to argue, but Aikanaro quickly followed his father's lead and Valandil made a slight motion of his head in Gildor's direction to indicate that he should do likewise. Before Aikanaro had even finished remounting, then, Gildor slid from his horse and stepped forward, presenting his weapons to the elf nearest him as he did so. He smiled to see the appraising glance given his knives by the Silvan--they had been his father's and seen combat in the Last Alliance, a long ago gift from Gil-Galad himself. They were Gildor's most prized possession, and he sincerely hoped no harm would come to them.

Stepping forward, he presented himself to be searched, and did his best to conceal the nervousness he felt when those elegant hands slid over his body. It was over in a few seconds, and all eyes turned to Tuor as Gildor remounted. With a disgusted sound, Tuor all but threw his weapons at one of the watching elves, then marched up to the leader with a challenging look on his face. Gildor felt uneasy, as it reminded him a little of the way Tuor looked when he was about to teach him yet another uncomfortable lesson. He had worn that expression the previous night, when he challenged Gildor to a wrestling match, then attacked before he had time to ready himself. "You must always be alert in combat," Gildor had been told, as his face was ground soundly into the dirt, "an enemy will not wait for permission to attack you!" He had known it was true, but had also been aware that Tuor enjoyed teaching that lesson more than he should have done. He hoped he wasn't planning to try to offer the Lorien elf any similar instruction, as besting one of the Galadrim might not be diplomatically wise.

The elf quickly patted Tuor down, seeming to take no more time with him than with the others, and then, apparently satisfied, addressed the company. "The Lady foresaw your coming, and bids you welcome. I am Haldir and these are Feanaro and Amros. Come this way." Gildor saw, too late to do anything about it, the look of rage that flooded Tuor's face with the knowledge that they had been subjected to such indignity, even thought their coming was expected. Before Gildor could even cry out a warning, Tuor had reached into the specially made lining of his boot and extracted a tiny dagger; Valandil launched himself off his horse at the two elves, just as Tuor lunged for the Galadrim's leader. In a blur of motion too fast for Gildor to follow, the Lorien elf had somehow pinned Tuor to the ground with his boot on his neck, and plucked the little knife from his hand. Gildor had the strange impression that the Galadrim had known about the hidden stiletto all the time, but left it to see what Tuor would do. It seemed a foolhardy action, but there was no other way to explain the rapidity of his response except that he had expected the attack.

Seeing that Tuor was in no immediate danger, Valandil stopped short, and held up a hand as if to warn his two companions to be still. Gildor needed no such caution, as he was still frozen in place, staring in shock at the great Tuor, one of the best warriors in Imladris, laying sprawled on the ground like an raw elfling. Haldir added to the insult by standing almost casually, as though it required little effort to keep his victim pinned. However, Gildor could see from Tuor's expression that a good deal of force must have been being applied.

"It's a good blade," the elf commented, looking over the little dagger with apparent appreciation. "Mithril inlay, too--you should be more careful with such a prize, else someday you may lose it." He tucked it into the sash at his waist along with Valandil's weapons, then allowed Tuor to rise. "Never fear, I shall return it to you once you have seen the Lord and Lady. No one but the Galadrim take weapons into their presence." He then turned and, with no more concern than he had shown before the attempted attack, proceeded to lead them in the direction of Caras Galadhon.

Gildor followed behind the Galadrim, trying to force his attention to what Tuor and Valandil were saying in low tones to each other, both out of curiosity and because he might later be quizzed about it. The oldest of them all, Valandil was usually also the kindest, but he was very insistent on improving Gildor's skills, having acted as his tutor in espionage since he joined Lord Elrond's agents just after his coming of age. Valandil constantly told him that he had skill, but lacked concentration. He was certainly proving the latter assertion true at the moment, for he could not focus on his companion's words with the golden elf in front of him as a distraction.

As the party climbed higher towards Caras Galadhon, Gildor ignored the increasing size and magnificence of the mallyrn and the lushness of the forest in favour of studying the most beautiful elf he had ever seen. The sunlight filtering through the leaves dappled the whole scene in gold, but with deep green shadows cast by the larger trees. Gildor couldn't decide if he preferred the elf when sunlight was glinting off his hair and gilding his fair skin, or the way shadow allowed his high cheekbones to stand out and lent a mysterious air to his graceful movements. This one walked like a prince, and had a haughty carriage that made his casual Galadrim attire seem like robes of state. He must be of good family, Gildor thought, and probably came of wealth, too. The mithril hair ornament clipped casually into his elaborately done braids would be worth many times what a simple border guard could possibly earn in a year, making Gildor wonder why he was one. Perhaps, he thought in some excitement, it had been a gift, and he was as poor otherwise as Gildor himself; if that was true, perhaps they could become friends, if their party tarried long enough in Lorien. Gildor, as the least experienced of the group, had not been privy to details of their instructions; all he knew was that they sought something in Thranduil's realm and had been sent to Lorien first to seek the advice of those who had long kept an eye on darkest Mirkwood. How long this consultation might take, he did not know, but found himself hoping that they would tarry in Lorien a very long time indeed.


Third Age, 180: Imladris

Haldir finally completed his preparations and, crawling across the bed to straddle Gildor, smiled wickedly at him while fingering the old fabric of his tunic. "I have half a mind to cut you out of this, for then I would have an excuse to replace it." He slid the cool edge of a knife along Gildor's sleeve as he spoke, stopping to toy with the leather ties at the front of his tunic. "This . . . . stuff," he used the tip of the knife to contemptuously flick a bit of the knobby fabric, "next to your skin offends me. You should be in a much finer weave, something worthy of such beauty." He ran the knife in a seemingly careless way down Gildor's chest, but, although the fabric parted easily, no mark was seen on the pale skin below. "Have you always worn such clothing?," he asked, cutting the tunic the rest of the way from his companion's form.

Gildor smiled up at him lovingly, "Oh, no. I remember one outfit of which I am positive you would approve."


Second Age, 3121: Lothlorien

The scene before Gildor was unlike any he had seen. The great market day at Calas Galadhon occurred only once a month, when elves from all over fair Lorien came to laugh and talk, trade and bargain. Gildor wandered among the seemingly endless stalls, happily munching a leaf wrapped meat pastry in one hand, while he took occasional sips from a flagon of watered wine that he held in the other. He did not think he would ever tire of perusing the intriguing wares on display. There were mounds of all types of vegetables and fruits, stalls selling smoked meats and cheeses, and others with barrels and bottles of fine wines. Jewelers displayed everything from trinkets to jewels of great price; wood carvers had pipes and flutes, bowls and tankards, engraved with alien designs; leather workers offered fine tooled scabbards, quivers and belts; and one stall had the funniest boots Gildor had ever seen--they were made of suede and soft, supple leather, but were every hue of the rainbow and embroidered, of all things, like a maiden's dress! He spent a few moments in fascinated disbelief, staring at a bright purple pair with niphrodil embroidered all over them and with gilded heels.

Lost in contemplation of some crystal sun catchers a short while later, Gildor accidentally spilled a bit of wine down his tunic front, which was already less than pristine, and a pretty maiden called to him, fluttering a bright cloth in the late morning breeze. She laughed at his predicament, but not unkindly. "Now you'll have to have a new one, cousin!," she told him, and began to pile heaps of gorgeous tunics, sashes and robes onto the table nearest him from overfilled baskets behind her.

Gildor smiled and approached her wares, but knew he had nothing to trade. His needs were met at Imladris, where Lord Elrond had agreed to train him out of respect for his father, who had fought at his side in the Last Alliance. Here, however, he would need gold or something of value to exchange for any goods, and Gildor had never had money of his own. If he succeeded on this assignment he might begin to get small tasks which would bring payment, although none were likely to come his way for many years that would fetch very much. At the moment, however, as he was considered to still be in training, he earned nothing, and his parents could not afford to send him anything. Certainly, it would be centuries before he could afford clothes as beautiful as these, for he could see that the tales he had heard of the skill of Lorien weavers had not been exaggerated.

The maiden, sensing a sale, was pressing a deep burnt orange tunic on him. Gildor had no hands left with which to fend her off, and could therefore not keep her from draping the cloth over the front of his own stained garment. "It will go well with your dark hair," she insisted, and held up a polished glass so that he might see. Gildor was wondering where he could put his pastry or drink that would not stain her wares, needing to free a hand to return her offering, when he glanced into the mirror she had now shoved within a foot of his face. He stopped, seeing in surprise that the Galadrim Haldir was standing behind him, his thoughtful expression reflected in the mirror's bright face.

"She's right, you know, and that colour compliments your complexion as well." Haldir relieved him of the food items he carried, which he then deftly passed to the maiden. Pulling off Gildor's old tunic in one swift motion, he tugged the other over his head before he could protest. The material was as strong as the rougher woolen he had been wearing, but was light as silk. The weave was so fine that it was almost invisible, and it was banded by some of the cleverest embroidery he had ever seen, with brown, gold and light orange leaves and flowers twining in intricate shapes along the neckline, hem and cuffs. As he gazed at it wonderingly, he saw that little animals were inserted haphazardly throughout the pattern--here a fox stuck its nose out from behind a flower petal, there a butterfly hovered lightly as if about to drink. It was by far the most beautiful garment he had ever seen, and was also, of course, completely out of the question.

"Yes," the border guard commented, standing back to look him up and down, "you look very well in that." He suddenly leaned forward and ran a hand along Gildor's rather messy braids. "But someone needs to teach you how to care for your hair, elfling!" He laughed and turned to the maiden, who was now looking smugly sure of a sale. "He'll take it," he told her, and she dimpled at him while fluttering long lashes.

"He does look well," she said, but her bright gaze stayed on the guard. Gildor didn't blame her, as he had difficulty remembering not to stare himself. He was even more handsome than Gildor remembered, wearing not his Galadrim clothes, but a fine garment of what looked like silk, in a blue to match his eyes.

Tearing his attention away from the Galadrim, Gildor turned to address the maid, who was busily tying up his old clothes into a small bundle, apparently assuming that he would wear the new tunic. "I . . . it is beautiful, truly," he told her, trying not to appear as embarrassed as he felt. "But I really can't . . . "

The guard picked up the package with Gildor's stained clothing in it and handed it to him. "You would refuse my gift then, brother? I had heard that Imladris elves were more polite."

"Gift? But I don't . . ."

"Is it not the habit of your people, to give strangers in their lands, especially kin, food and shelter, and then gifts on their departure?"

"Well, yes, but . . . that is, Lord Elrond does these things, but he is master of Imladris and . . . "

"Then he may do what my Lord Celeborn cannot?"

Gildor looked about, a little fearfully. Lord Celeborn? He had not been privileged to attend the meeting between the Lords of Lorien and Tuor the previous night, and so had yet to see their host, but from the way this guard talked, it sounded as if the Lord wished to honour him with a handsome present. Gildor did not see anyone in the crowd who looked as if they might be the famed Lord of Lorien, and could not imagine why he would take any interest in such an insignificant person as himself in the first place. "Lord Celeborn . . . wishes me to have this?"

The guard shrugged and handed over what seemed a large amount of silver to the maiden, without asking the price. "I was told to look after the honoured guests from Lorien, and to show them every consideration. But you would shame me before my Lord by refusing to accept the courtesy of the Golden Wood. How have I wronged you, that you would do me such a disservice?"

Gildor might have been worried about the guard's words except that his tone was light, and he was paying no attention to Gildor as he spoke, but was busy flirting with the maiden. Gildor stood there feeling ridiculous as Haldir reminded her of some assignation they had agreed upon for that evening. "If you sold twelve by noon you said, Idril," he laughed, taking her hand, which was still clutched about his silver, and raising it to his lips. "And look, the sun stands just before the peak. If I have counted correctly, this means you are mine this night!"

She giggled, and swatted at him with a sash. "I should have said, if I sell twelve to aught but Haldir o' Lorien!"

"Ah," he smiled devilishly, "but then, fair maiden, I would have scoured the whole of the woods for those in search of the finest of garments . . . and dragged them here by the scruff of their necks if need be!"

The two had apparently forgotten Gildor's existence, but he remained anyway, blushing despite himself at some of the comments Haldir made to the "maiden," who, if she was one in truth, would likely be so no more by the dawn. The conversation only ended when the savvy elf noted another customer looking with interest at a dark blue robe, and turned away to work her charms on him. Haldir walked off singing softly to himself, not even glancing in Gildor's direction, who watched him as he disappeared into the crowd, his hand running over the silky fabric of his tunic in wonder.

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