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.) Special thanks to Ithilessar (whose reviews are far funnier than anything I write)--hope this answers some of your questions.

One Last Time

Part 4

By Rune Dancer


Second Age, 3121: King Thranduil's Court, Mirkwood

Thranduil's private chambers were deep below ground, putting Glorfindel slightly on edge. He couldn't understand elves who actually didn't mind being underground, even to the point of sleeping there. His own quarters at Imladris were inner rooms, without window or balcony, a fact that had made Erestor look at him strangely when he'd requested them. His choice had been a practical one, however, as they were much more spacious than any of the available outer chambers. They also, he thought as he stepped into the king's rooms, did not have the feeling of much heavy stone about to drop on one's head. Thranduil certainly could have selected any chambers he liked, however, so Glorfindel had to assume he preferred these. It made him wonder in how many other aspects they differed.

The quarters were comfortable, Glorfindel had to admit, the stone walls softened with tapestries woven cleverly with woodland scenes, the granite bones of the floor cushioned with old carpets in pleasingly muted shades, and a great carved fireplace provided a pleasing warmth. Skillfully wrought weapons--a sword, a twin pair of knives, and a broken spear--were arranged artistically over the mantle. Studying them, Glorfindel reflected that it was too often forgotten in Imladris that Thranduil had also fought bravely in the Last Alliance. Several doors branched off into other rooms, but they were securely closed. No servants were in evidence; apparently, Thranduil preferred this to be a private meeting.

The king handed Glorfindel a glass of ruby coloured wine before settling down in a chair across from him, comfortably arranged before the blaze. As was the case with Elrond and a few other elves of Glorfindel's acquaintance, a feeling of repressed energy hummed off Thranduil, so much so that, even sitting calmly, he was impossible to ignore. Although the room was large and the chairs spaced well apart, Glorfindel felt an intimacy wrapping itself around him like a cozy blanket, as if there was nothing beyond the circle of the firelight, no other beings at all in the large palace complex except for he and the king. The feeling was probably due to a spell, he knew, but it was a good one, effective but subtle enough to go unnoticed by most. Sampling his wine, Glorfindel noted in amusement that it was a much better vintage than any habitually exported to Imladris. Thranduil obviously wanted something; Glorfindel only hoped he knew what that was.

"So," the king smiled at him, and it was a particularly charming smile that lit up not only his strong, fair features, but also his eyes. "You promised to tell me that tale after dinner."

Glorfindel sipped the rich liquor in his glass and admired the way the firelight danced off the gold threads woven through Thranduil's amber coloured sash and gilded his long lashes. The eyes underneath them were, in this light, almost black, with only an occasional flash of green. "My liege?"

"Come now, I want all the details, leave nothing out!" Thranduil settled himself back in his chair and looked expectant, like a small elfling ready for a treat. It was a peculiarly charming expression that, despite his centuries, did not seem incongruous. Glorfindel remembered the way his host's musical laughter had rung out repeatedly over the dining table that night, and how he had seemed to genuinely enjoy the myriad conversations taking place there; for most of the meal, he had been simultaneously involved in three or four of them. His dialogue had shown him to be both intelligent and passionate about his opinions, as well as alternately cunning and charming in persuading others to concede his points. Glorfindel had looked forward to matching wits with him, but at the moment, felt a little confused.

"I will, of course, be delighted to oblige your majesty. What tale exactly is it you wish to hear?"

"About your epic encounter with the Balrog, of course. Although I am certain," Thranduil allowed his eyes to travel from Glorfindel's burnished hair to the tips of his maroon velvet slippers, a small smile quirking at the corner of his mouth, "that you have had many other interesting experiences through the years. However, that is the one I wish to hear about tonight."

Glorfindel was beginning to become uneasy. He had always discounted reports of Thranduil's oddities as mere rumour mongering, but he was now beginning to wish he'd paid a bit more attention to them. He did not like the idea of being trapped in an underground chamber with a lunatic, however attractive of one. However, if that was, indeed, the case, he supposed he'd better humour him. "I believe I gave an account of that combat at dinner, my liege, but, if you wish to hear it again . . . "

"Bah," Thranduil waved an impatient hand, its large ruby ring throwing out reflections of light that danced along the walls and ceiling. "You tell a good story, seneschal, and I enjoy a well told tale as much as the next elf, but you can forgo all those fancy embellishments now. They make for good entertainment, but I need the truth!"

Glorfindel did not at all like the direction this conversation was taking. If this was a seduction scene, it was the oddest one he'd ever encountered which, considering a few events from his past, was saying something. But if it wasn't . . . well, that begged the question of exactly what Thranduil really wanted with him, and he somehow didn't think it was to dredge up First Age history. "The truth?"

"Yes, yes! How you did it! You killed a Balrog--only elf in Middle Earth ever that brave . . . or that brainless, as some have said. Not that I was among them," he hurried to add, "but it does give you rather more . . . experience . .. in dealing with dangerous creatures than most can boast."

"I suppose," Glorfindel really did not like the way Thranduil's eyes were sparkling and the anticipatory gleam in his eye. The glow of the fire bathed his face in flickering vermilion shadows, making him look suddenly more than a little dangerous himself. "It has been quite awhile since I actually recounted the . . . unembellished version, as you say," he commented, while wondering just what it was they were actually discussing.

"Quite all right," the king assured him, "take your time. Just don't leave anything out. I intend to discover all your secrets, seneschal!" The last was said in a velvet purr, just another of the startling range of tones Thranduil had at his command. The king's smile was infectious, tiny laugh lines crinkling around his eyes, his full mouth revealing even white teeth.

Glorfindel repressed a desire to do or say something to wipe that so smug look off his face. Thranduil was clearly used to getting his way, certain of his beauty, his allure . . . He remembered one long ago conversation he'd overheard about the king. One of the ambassadors Elrond had sent in the hopes of improving relations had commented that Thranduil could 'charm you out of your last coin if you don't keep an eye on him. I used to sit back and watch people try to wriggle out of whatever it was he wanted and bet with myself on how long they'd last. None ever did for any time.' Well, Glorfindel thought now, observing the jovial face before him with annoyance, we'll see. You won't find me so easy to manipulate, Thranduil of Mirkwood.


Third Age, 180: Imladris

Haldir could not recall the last time he had been left speechless, but he had no words for the feelings swamping him as Gildor continued his attentions. Elbereth! And he had thought the elf unskilled! Somehow, Gildor knew just how to touch him, and did everything he liked, stroking his hips as he sucked him hard and then tenderly, winding his tongue around him and even very lightly nibbling along his rigid flesh before taking him in all the way. Gildor's tongue was hot and the perfect combination of forceful and gentle. It left him weak to the bones, and set flames of pleasure licking along his flesh, turning his body into a paradise of pleasure and sensation.

Haldir pulled him up and kissed him with all the skill he'd acquired over the millennia, only to find Gildor kissing him back, really kissing him, with an intensity that left Haldir aware--when he could think--that the elf had definitely been holding himself back until now. Agile fingertips brushed all of the sensitive spots along his ribs and across his chest while the kisses became longer and deeper. Gildor pressed against him, almost burying him in the thick feather mattress beneath them, while those burning, bruising kisses continued, tongues dueling, thighs intertwined, until Haldir was breathless. It was rare for him to find a partner who fully matched his frankly sensual nature, yet it seemed Gildor was such a one. It took all Haldir's control not to flip him over and pleasure him until he passed out due to sheer exhaustion. When Haldir could stand the exquisite torture no more, he came in a rush of sound and light and intensity of feeling he had not experienced in a very long time.


Second Age, 3121: On the Road Through Mirkwood

Lord Celeborn addressed the group as a whole, "And so I have decided that Haldir, my Marchwarden, will lead you into Mirkwood, then take your party, if need be, through the hidden passes in the mountains, so that you may return in safety to Imladris."

Gildor wasn't looking at Celeborn nor, for a change, was his attention on Haldir, who stood slightly to one side of his king looking reserved. Instead, he was focused on Tuor, who seemed strangely calm about the selection. So calm, in fact, that it might be assumed that he had already known. If that was the case, Gildor had to wonder why he had not tried to stop the appointment. Of course, he may have done--as Gildor had been present at none of the consultations, he could not know one way or the other--but Tuor was poor at concealing his displeasure when something vexed him, and he did not looked displeased at the moment. Gildor said nothing, of course, for what could he do? Tuor had done nothing but accept with equanimity the guide Lord Celeborn had selected; nonetheless, he vowed to keep a close watch on his mission leader.

That wish, plus his desire not to talk to Haldir until he sorted a few things out, caused Gildor to stay at the very back of the little cavalcade as it left Lorien, his small mare clip clopping along in the wake of the magnificent horses used by his companions. Gildor had taken a good deal of teasing about his choice of mount, but he liked the smaller horse, which, with her gentle nature, was far easier for him to control than one of the more spirited horses ridden by the group's better riders. He resolutely avoided looking at their guide, instead watching the scenery pass mile after quiet mile. Before midday, however, he caught himself staring dreamily at that blonde hair which looked like it would be as cool as water through his fingers, at the long, graceful legs, the perfect posture, the elegant fingers that held the reigns so negligently . . . He shook his head and went back to admiring safer scenery.

The alien emotions did not go away, however; day by day, they became more insistent and harder to ignore. He found himself staring at the way the firelight from their evening camp washed over Haldir's form, turning him into a golden statue that nonetheless laughed and talked and told naughty little stories for which Gildor was heartily thankful, as they gave him an excuse for his flushed face. Haldir rarely spoke to him directly, but also did not seem uneasy around him; it was almost as if, to the Galadrim, nothing particularly unusual had happened between them. And perhaps, Gildor reflected, it hadn't, at least not for him. Perhaps he so regularly flirted with visitors to the Golden Wood who happened to catch his eye, that the actions had little meaning. But they had meant something to Gildor, who watched Haldir's every movement, drinking in the sight of him like Arda's fields did the first spring rain. He was perfection, beauty given form.

He found himself wanting to kiss Haldir until he cried out and couldn't breathe; he wanted to run his hands along those fine, pale arms and slide over that beautiful chest; he wanted . . . he wasn't sure what, but not this easy camaraderie, this almost indifference. He felt horribly tangled up inside, and by the time they finally reached the road through Mirkwood, was no longer sure what he felt for Haldir--gratitude, shame, fear, desire, or a muddle of them all. One thing was certain, however, it was not the mild hero worship of those few days in Lorien. It was something stronger, more possessive, as made all too clear when Haldir had laughed a little too long with Aikanaro one day, causing a biting flash of jealousy to flare through Gildor. It both surprised and dismayed him. What was happening to him? He wasn't sure he wanted to know.

Gildor managed to stay quiet and watchful, a barely noticed presence, until their first night in Mirkwood. He would not have believed it possible that he would ever dislike a forest. Like all of his people, he loved green, growing things, and places where one was surrounded by the concentrated enchantment of Arda were usually heaven indeed. Even Lothlorien, where the trees had not spoken to him, viewing him as an outsider instead of one of their own, had been a pleasant place. Since they entered Mirkwood, however, he had felt . . . uneasy, almost oppressed, for instead of giving him energy and renewing his life force, as forests always had, this one seemed to almost drain something from him. If he could have associated such a word with any place rampant with so much life, he would have called it ghostly. That unnerving sensation, plus Tuor's easy good humour during the trip, so out of character as to be almost frightening, had been enough to put Gildor extremely on edge.

It was almost with a sense of inevitability, then, that he watched as Aikanaro's horse, a young chestnut stallion, reared as something small and pale scurried out from the forest's edge and ran under its hooves. It bucked, neighing fiercely, and suddenly plunged into the gloom beyond the path. Haldir cursed and immediately followed, calling out for Aikanaro to reign in his animal. "Do not leave the path!," he warned the company, before the shadows swallowed him. It had all happened so fast, that Gildor barely realised what was taking place before it was all over, and the silent gloom of the woods closed in about their reduced party.

They had waited for what seemed like hours before Aikanaro reappeared, on foot, looking vaguely green. "I had to destroy Iavas," he told them, obviously upset. Gildor knew he'd helped to rear the animal from a colt. "One of those cursed huge spiders caught him . . . ," he obviously couldn't continue, but it was not necessary. Of all the dangerous denizens of Mirkwood, the spiders were probably the best known, and most feared. They were a main reason visitors dared not stray from the path.

"Where is Haldir?" Gildor spoke up when no one else asked the question.

"Haldir?" Aikanaro looked confused. "Is he not with you?"

"He went after you," Valandil replied, looking past his son's shoulder into the dark of the wood. It was useless--even Elvish eyes could see little in that gloom.

"We cannot venture in after him," Tuor said, seeing Gildor's expression. "We would possibly never find the path again, or become separated and fall into danger."

"But, is Haldir not in danger then?" Gildor rarely questioned his leader's words, but he had felt a pressure building in his chest since Haldir disappeared, and it now felt as if it was smothering him.

"He is of the Galadrim, and long accustomed to traveling these woods. I am certain he will catch up with us."

"Catch us up? Then you mean to go on?" Gildor could scarce believe it, but Tuor was acting as if it was the only sensible plan. Valandil looked uneasy, and his eyes still scanned the forest, but he offered no demure.

Tuor did not bother to acknowledge Gildor's outburst. "Your mare is sturdy enough to carry two," was his only comment, and Aikanaro immediately jumped up behind Gildor, as Tuor and Valandil resumed their progress down the path. Gildor held his reigns limply, however, remaining in place with a feeling of unreality settling on him. They could not be serious--even a Galadrim would surely be in peril alone in the Mirkwood night?

"You do not think you will miss his help, if something should befall him and we need to take the hidden mountain passes home?" Gildor knew that his tone, far less respectful than he usually used, and the fact that he had not immediately followed the unspoken command to continue, were playing with fire, but he suddenly did not care.

Tuor swung his horse's nose back to face him, his face unconcerned, but Gildor saw a strange light in his eyes. It almost looked like . . . triumph. "He was recommended by Celeborn himself, as being the finest of the guards of Lorien," the words were respectful, but the tone was not. "However, if you doubt his abilities, young one, feel free to wait here for him. Your absence will hardly be a loss to the mission."

Gildor, feeling almost as if he was watching someone else, slowly slid from his horse. Aikanaro sat staring at him. "Don't be a fool, Gildor," he hissed, and held out his arm to help his companion remount.

"I will wait." Gildor said, crossing his arms and glaring at Tuor.

"I told you bringing him was a mistake," was all Tuor said, and that to Valandil, before turning his horse about and galloping off.

Valandil motioned his son to follow, but he rode back to Gildor, looking down on him with a mixture of concern and exasperation. "It is as Tuor says, Gildor, your friend can surely take care of himself. You, however, are young and inexperienced. Staying here on your own is folly. Now come, you may ride with me."

"I'm staying," Gildor repeated.

"Do not think I will fail to report this, when we return home," Valandil warned him. "Your conduct on this mission has so far been exemplary; do not cause yourself unnecessary harm by exhibiting such stubbornness now. Come with me." Gildor merely regarded his tutor levelly, his posture and expression answer enough.

Valandil sighed. "You have your father's obstinacy, but not his good sense! Very well, if you are determined to do this thing, at least be wise enough to stay on the path. Wait here and Haldir will rejoin you eventually. Rendezvous with us as soon as you can; I will do what I can to allay Tuor's wrath. Fortunately for you, he has been in good spirits since we left Lorien."

Gildor watched him go, marveling at the folly of those others called wise. Then he regarded the blackness of the forest all around him, and with a shiver he could not repress, stepped carefully off the path. They had already waited a long time; if Haldir was able, he should have returned already.

Gildor had no idea how to even begin a search, especially in the gloom of a Mirkwood night. And it was early yet, meaning that the darkness would continue for hours. However, with all the dangers prowling the forest, he could not afford to wait until morning to begin, so he set off in the direction in which Haldir had disappeared. The trees, dense and feeling very old, closed in around him, cutting off almost immediately the faint glimmer of Ithil on the path. Plunging deeper into the wood, Gildor could only be thankful for his training at Imladris. He passed as silently as fog on the ground, his senses attuned to everything around him. There were only the usual night sounds at first--a tree frog somewhere nearby, the distant wail of a loon, and the scurry of a few insects startled by his passing. Within a few minutes, however, Gildor began to notice that a strange quiet seemed to have fallen over the wood; he paused, straining his ears and senses, but received nothing back. The trees were even silent or, if they spoke, he could not hear them.

Passing onwards even more carefully, Gildor ignored his apprehension, sliding into the battle trance he had been taught that concentrated the senses while it suppressed distractions--like a rapidly beating heart and a coppery tang in his mouth caused by fear over what might be happening to Haldir. He had walked for perhaps half an hour in the unnatural stillness before he came to a little clearing on which Ithil's light fell dimly. It looked as if some type of fire had been responsible for opening the forest at this point, for charred stumps of trees still ringed the small area, and no grass or other vegetation covered the blackened ground. Gildor wondered if a campfire could have run out of control, but it seemed absurd; elves were careful to allow no cinders to remain that could harm the local vegetation, and who else would be in these woods? Besides, there were strange patterns on the ground that did not make Gildor think of a normal fire.

The clearing itself did not hold his attention for long, for a slender figure reflected the moonlight back at him as it knelt in perusal of one of the larger scorch marks. On seeing it, Gildor felt such a flood of relief pass through him that it completely shattered his trance, and he was forced to stay still a moment until he had restored some type of control over his leaping emotions. "Haldir." He spoke softly, but the figure looked up immediately, eyes shining silver in Ithil's light, his bow in his hand in the time it took to blink. Then Gildor stepped further into the clearing, allowing the moonlight to illuminate him, and Haldir lowered his weapon.

"Gwador. What are you doing here?" Haldir looked past him briefly before returning those beautiful eyes to him. "Did Aikanaro not rejoin you? I saw him head back in your direction some time ago."

"He rejoined us. They went on." Gildor crossed the clearing, trying to look as nonchalant as possible.

Haldir regarded him momentarily, his expression unreadable. "You came back for me? Why?"

Gildor was not sure how to answer that question, so he ignored it, crouching down beside Haldir to look at a scorch mark. "These are strange markings, are they not? It does not look to me like a normal fire . . ."

"There was nothing normal about it," Haldir replied shortly. "You took quite a risk, gwador, following me on your own. I am sure they trained you well at Imladris, but no one passes through Mirkwood at night lightly. And where," he added after Gildor remained noncommittal, "is that little mare of yours?"

"Aikanaro took her."

"You came after me ON FOOT?" Disbelief and something that looked rather like horror warred with each other on Haldir's face.

"It was not a long walk . . .," seeing his companion's expression, Gildor swallowed and looked at the ground, waiting for the inevitable lecture. He'd had enough of them on this trip already, he thought tiredly, and was due for several more as soon as they caught up with Tuor and Valandil. Somehow, however, the idea of Haldir's displeasure was more difficult to take.

It was with some, surprise, then, that he felt a gentle hand lift his chin and looked up to see kindness and something else in Haldir's eyes. The next second, a soft kiss was pressed to his lips and a golden warmth seemed to spread throughout his body, banishing the slight chill of the night. "Thank you," Haldir said quietly.

Gildor could not put all that he felt into words--in fact, he found it impossible to speak at all--but his body seemed to know what to do. He reached for Haldir, pressing a passionate kiss on the other elf, trying to express all he felt at once--relief, yearning, gratitude, tenderness, adoration. Haldir lost his balance and sat back, but Gildor followed him, keeping contact and--finally--running his hands through that beautiful, Ithil kissed hair. He wasn't sure when Haldir began responding, but he somehow ended up on his back, a strong, warm body pressing him down, being kissed with a desire that matched his own.

It ended all too soon, with Haldir suddenly breaking contact to look about them wildly. "Elbereth! I must be losing my mind." He looked at Gildor, and suddenly burst out laughing. "Oh, little one, if we weren't in Mirkwood in the middle of the night . . .," grabbing Gildor's hand, Haldir hauled him to his feet and, with an amused glint in his eyes, adjusted the other elf's rather disarrayed clothing. "But we are, and must, for the moment, be more cautious. Come, we need to catch up with the others." Gildor noticed Haldir's handsome black horse now, standing quietly at the edge of the clearing. Hopping up behind Haldir and holding securely to his waist, Gildor suddenly did not care that the others had been right and his help had not been needed; he was very glad he'd come, anyway. What was probably a very foolish looking grin spread over his features, but Gildor didn't care about that, either. For the first time since Lorien, he felt truly happy.


"We've been deceived!" Glorfindel slammed the heavy door of Erestor's cell behind him and looked about for something to throw, but the bareness of the room gave him few options.

Erestor looked up from the book he was perusing with an inquisitive expression. "You've found out something."

"I have always admired your talent for stating the extremely obvious, Erestor!"

"And I am overjoyed to have the intense happiness of a second visit from you in one day, but would appreciate your getting to the point. I was about to go to bed."

"I've already told you the point--this whole thing was a set up from the first. It seems Thranduil needed something from Imladris, something he assumed, given the current relations between our two realms, would not be sent if asked for. So he didn't bother to ask! Instead, he sent Prince Legolas to lure it away."

"Prince Legolas?"

"Yes, your latest infatuation and Thranduil's youngest are one and the same."

Erestor gave a snort of disbelief. "Ridiculous, the elfling was delivering wine. Has Thranduil become so poor that his son must work as a common labourer?"

"Would you pay attention? He was sent there on purpose, Thranduil admitted as much! Legolas was under orders to get something--or, more accurately, someone."

"And why in Arda would Thranduil need my assistance? I can assure you, he hasn't asked me about anything since I arrived; in truth, I've only seen him the one time, when he ordered me thrown in here. And, I might add, that was a VERY short conversation."

"It wasn't you he wanted."

"But you said Legolas . . ."

"Was sent to entice someone to follow him here to Mirkwood, yes, but that someone was me." At Erestor's look of disbelief, Glorfindel went on. "Yes, Erestor, I was to be the original object for seduction, but apparently, after asking about a bit and some careful observation, the cagey elfling determined that you were an easier target. And that I would probably be sent along to rescue you, therefore solving the problem."

"But . . . what . . . are you saying that Thranduil went to all this trouble, just to get you into his bed?" Erestor laughed in genuine amusement. "I think you rather overrate your charm, my dear Glorfindel."

"My charms are not the issue," Glorfindel said, a thread of suspicion weaving its way through his mind. Why did Erestor not look more outraged at the idea of Legolas deceiving him? And why did he seem in such a better mood this evening? Was it just because Glorfindel had arrived, or something else?

"Proven immune, has he?," Erestor murmured, clearly pleased, "Well, that must be a new experience for you." Glorfindel began thinking that perhaps throwing HIM against the wall was the solution to his need for release. Surely Elrond could find another advisor? And hopefully a less trying one.

"Thranduil," Glorfindel tried again, after taking a steadying breath, "believes he has a problem which only I can address." He recalled the king's coolly sardonic gaze and silken tones when issuing his ultimatum, something akin to a chess master announcing checkmate after a particularly satisfying match.

"Oh, and what could that possibly be?"

In his mind Glorfindel saw images he hadn't thought of--at least not like this, in full color and sound--in two ages. In a flash there it was, and despite all effort to sustain his usual comforting amnesia, he was back, trapped in a burgeoning hell of midnight flame and ruby luminescence--and baked alive. "He is convinced he has a Balrog running loose in Mirkwood. And the price, dear Erestor, for your release, is that I hunt it down and kill it for him."

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