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 9

By Rune Dancer


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

Thranduil set the tone without saying a word. When Glorfindel reached his rooms, the king was wearing a rich velvet robe in a deep green that perfectly matched his eyes. It was loosely belted and, from the expanse of golden skin the open neck exposed, it seemed likely that he wore nothing else.

"You wished to see me, your majesty?"

Thranduil examined the rosy liquor in his glass and smiled appreciatively at it. "A special vintage just arrived. I thought you might care to sample it with me."

Glorfindel obligingly took the glass held out to him. He appreciated the fact that the king was giving him the option to drink it and go--he felt no spell weaving insidiously about him like last time, and the door was still slightly open. There was also no talk of calling in debts as he had half expected; rather, Thranduil was quiet and pensive.

"So, you have decided to release Lord Erestor when all this is done?"

The king laughed, "Oh, I assure you, seneschal, should you slay a balrog for me, there is very little I would deny you. Of course," he reflected, "that would be true in any case."

Well. Glorfindel drank some wine and wondered why he was hesitating. He'd been attracted to Thranduil since his arrival and, as his plans for the morning were already made, there was no real reason not to indulge himself. Possibly, he decided, he just resented being another check mark on Thranduil's tally sheet. The king had been toying with him from the first, so certain he would give in--as Glorfindel was sure everyone else always did. It galled him to think of giving Thranduil yet another conquest, even if by doing so he would achieve what he also desired. He wondered if there was anything Thranduil had ever wanted that his beauty, charm or fortune couldn't acquire for him. It was late, and perhaps time for some of the king's bluntness; he had, after all, said that he preferred plain speech. "Do you always get what you want, o king?"

"No." Thranduil leaned against the fireplace, his eyes somber as they met Glorfindel's. "No, despite what you may think, I most assuredly do not. Sometimes I think that, on the contrary, the things I crave above all others are those denied me. I could not keep my father from dying, nor my wife. I obviously cannot keep my borders free of evil, or I would not have had to trick you here. And it has been a very long time since I have had anyone who belonged to me, and only to me."

"Which I cannot." This new, contemplative Thranduil was oddly disturbing, and more compelling than his usual casual charisma. Surely, though, he couldn't really think he could persuade Glorfindel to betray Elrond? To change allegiance after so many centuries?

"I could give you . . . well, whatever you wish, Lord Glorfindel, should you be willing to stay with me. Position you already have, true, but power? Wealth?" The king smiled at his slightly surprised expression. "I told you we would discuss this subject again." Glorfindel was reasonably sure he was not under a spell, but was nonetheless having trouble concentrating. Most of his attention was on that delicious throat and tantalising glimpse of chest revealed by Thranduil's robe. "No," the king was continuing, "I do not think such things would tempt you. So what would do it?" He stepped close and looked urgently into Glorfindel's slightly bemused blue eyes. "Tell me!"

This close, Thranduil radiated a heat that seemed even warmer than the fire. Even more disquieting was the fact that he was absolutely sincere--either that, or he was the best actor Glorfindel had ever seen. "Nothing could convince me to betray my vow, to serve Elrond's family for all time," he replied, wondering that he should even have to say such a thing, but the disappointment in Thranduil's eyes showed that the king had truly meant his offer. For an instant, Glorfindel saw him as he really was, behind all the bluster and conviviality--and recognised a loneliness that matched his own. It was just a bit too much temptation to resist. "But then, I am not in Imladris now . . . "

"And?" Thranduil's expression was, for once, unguarded, and the brief hope that flickered in his eyes was enough to decide the issue for Glorfindel.

"I cannot give you my loyalty--that is already bespoken--but tonight is mine to do with as I wish."

Thranduil smiled that beautiful smile. "Indeed. So, tell me then, seneschal, how do I tempt you to my bed?"

Glorfindel allowed himself, for once, to return the smile, as he removed the glass from Thranduil's hand and set it on the mantle. "But, your majesty, you've been doing that since I arrived." It felt wonderful, Glorfindel thought hazily, when he finally allowed himself to do what he'd been aching for since that first glimpse of the contradictory, beautiful, exasperating creature who was King of Mirkwood, and captured his lips in a soft kiss. It did not stay soft long, for Thranduil reacted like a man dying of thirst when presented with a drink. His hands came up, one grabbing Glorfindel's shoulder, the other curling around the back of his neck, threading its way through his hair and pulling him close. The kiss went on, passionate and sweet, fiery and perfect. He tasted like spices, Glorfindel thought vaguely, cloves and cinnamon.

At last they broke apart, Thranduil looking as flushed as he probably did himself. The king's eyes were glittering, gold and green, and without words he pressed Glorfindel back against the chaise behind them. Glorfindel was about to suggest a change of venue, when the king shrugged the robe from his shoulders and he forgot everything but running his hands down the broad chest in front of him. Thranduil pushed him down against the deep plush of the chaise, and Glorfindel arched up against his weight, relishing the heaviness, and the sheer, wonderful solidity of his body.

And oh, he was so tight and so hot, and it had been so very, very long . . .

Well, Elrond, he thought dazedly, some time later when Thranduil collapsed into his arms, how's that for improving relations?


Third Age, 180: Imladris

Haldir stood under the willow and regarded Gildor's hunched form beside the beech tree some distance away. The elf had his legs drawn up to his chest and his cheek was against one knee. He was the picture of dejection and desolation, and Haldir had absolutely no idea why. After Rumil and Orophin left, Gildor had mumbled something and excused himself, Haldir assumed to visit the lavatory. When he didn't return, Haldir went looking for him, only to determine after a lengthy search that he was no longer in the house. He had been standing on the front porch, trying to think to where, and more importantly why, Gildor had run off, when the trees informed him of a sick elf in a glade a few minutes' walk from the house. He had investigated, and there was Gildor. His first question answered, it still remained to be determined what was wrong with his . . . whatever Gildor had become to him. Haldir wasn't sure about the answer to that himself, and decided to opt for "friend" at the moment.

Haldir hesitated, not sure what would be the right approach to use. His usual calm competence had deserted him, and indeed, he was not at all sure he knew how to deal with this situation. He had, of course, had problems with lovers before, but most of the time he had at least known why: someone became jealous or possessive, someone else didn't like a comment he'd made . . . the usual. In this case, however, he had absolutely no idea why Gildor looked like his best friend had just died. Thinking back, Haldir realised that Gildor had had an air of sadness about him even during their love making, despite the fact that it had obviously pleased him.

The willow interrupted his thoughts to explain something about Gildor being ill, but Haldir assured her it wasn't so. Whatever was bothering Gildor was obviously more emotional than physical, and standing under this annoyingly talkative tree all day wasn't going to discover what it was. Haldir almost went to him then, but paused when silent tears began to course down Gildor's cheeks. He was uncharacteristically shy of disturbing what was obviously meant to be a private moment, but could not stand to see Gildor so upset.

The amount of concern he felt over the other's well-being brought him up short. He had, it seemed, known Gildor for a short time many years before, and they had shared a strange, but overall pleasant, last few days together, but why he felt so . . . involved . . . with the elf's welfare was inexplicable. It was also worrisome. Haldir hesitated as Gildor continued his passionate grief, his face contorted in an effort to staunch his tears. They were practically strangers, and it therefore made no sense that Haldir should feel as if his heart was being squeezed by a rough hand every time Gildor sobbed. First Elrond, now Gildor. What was happening to him in these last few days? He had spent centuries happily flitting from talan to talan, lover to lover, and never had his heart become ensnared. Sex was fun, it was a distraction for boring days, it was lighthearted . . . it was not supposed to result in feelings like this. In the past few weeks, Haldir had encountered more trouble because of his personal life than in all the centuries before, and it scared him. Was he just tiring of the chase? Was he ready--and he shuddered at the very thought--to "settle down" with one person forever? He had been ready to do as much for Elrond, had the elf wanted him, and now he was feeling quite involved in Gildor's melancholy, almost as if it were his own. This was not normal.

Yet, he couldn't deny what he was feeling, and he couldn't stand there and just watch as Gildor sobbed his heart out. Haldir decided that he could come to terms with his own emotions later. The issue at hand was more important. Gathering up his courage, therefore, he approached the elf under the beech tree and settled alongside. It was almost as if Gildor didn't register his presence. Haldir could see that the muscles of Gildor's back were clenched tight, and tears trembled on the ends of his ridiculously long lashes. He was struck, suddenly, at the pure, uncomplicated beauty of him, so different than his usual conquests. There was no guile in him, Haldir knew; whatever questions he asked, Gildor would answer truthfully or not at all. Suddenly, the difficulty of approaching him seemed to evaporate, and Haldir enfolded him in his arms. Gildor made a small gesture of protest, but it was halfhearted at best, and Haldir was not one to be dissuaded so easily. He had come to talk, and talk they would, however long it might take.


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

Erestor was deciding that there were worse things than being bored--much worse. In fact, he could definitely do with a little boredom right about now, he thought in considerable panic, as the huge dragon slowly approached the main palace entrance. It was big--much more so than he had expected--iridescent green and ugly, with a long snout from which protruded a frightening array of fangs. More upsetting than its appearance, however, was the spark of intelligence in those terrible yellow eyes, and Erestor couldn't help but recall all the stories he'd heard, which he had thought mere fiction at the time, about the cunning of dragons. Iluvatar, but he hoped this one was dumber than it looked!

Almost everyone at court had been sent for safety to carefully disguised shelters in the forest, so cleverly made as to deceive even a dragon's sly intellect. Glorfindel and Thranduil had selected the few elves remaining in the area to be those least likely to panic. So what, Erestor wondered numbly, am I doing here? He was a lover, not a fighter, he thought desperately, as sweat slicked his hands and ran into his eyes. He kept tight hold of the main release for the gate anyway, but thought again how unnecessary it was. If Thranduil's magic was as great as the overbearing snob was always boasting, then surely it alone could guard the gate? Assuming the cagey creature ever made up its mind to actually pass through it, that was.

Erestor tried to find Glorfindel's blond head, which had disappeared into the shadows of the courtyard a few minutes before, but it was quite impossible. The only thing visible from the tiny alcove into which he had been, pretty much forcibly, stuffed a very long half hour before, was a narrow strip of greensward bordered by a few trees. Oh, and a few thousand pounds of very suspicious looking dragon that was slowly creeping closer to his hiding spot.

Curse it, he should not have been put into this position in the first place. He had supposed Glorfindel to have some type of plan in mind for dealing with the creature, but assumed that it would have to do with daring, heroic combat somewhere in the dim recesses of the forest, after which Glorfindel would come back, triumphantly bearing the thing's head on a pike. Or something like that. When he had ventured to mention as much the previous night, however, Glorfindel had merely looked at him in that so annoying way of his, one blond brow lifted over an amused blue eye, and offered to hold his weapons if Erestor wished to cover himself in glory, but remarked that he preferred to live through this particular combat.

And so, here they all were. Or, at least, here Erestor was, waiting for Smaug, or whatever Glorfindel had said its name was, to make up its mind to accept Thranduil's dare to pit its magic against his. The king had farspoken the creature, offering it the opportunity to take all his treasure for itself--if it could get past the castle's defenses. Most of the elves would leave, and the castle doors would be left wide open; all Smaug had to do was help himself. Of course, the thing must know it was a trap--even an elfling not yet out of the creche would have discerned that--but the premise was that his greed and pride in his abilities would overcome good sense. Once inside the castle, he would be trapped with a combination of magic and more concrete means, and dealt with. Erestor had a very bad feeling about this. If dragons were that stupid, he thought grumpily, they would have been hunted to extinction centuries ago. He only hoped Glorfindel had a backup plan.

"Why is he hesitating?" The voice at Erestor's side so startled him that he almost let go of the release mechanism. He managed to keep hold of it, but only barely, and turned to see who had been insane enough to sneak up on him. Legolas' bright head and worried blue eyes met his gaze.

"Because he isn't stupid." Oh honestly, this was all he needed right now. "Legolas, perhaps you'd be, er, more comfortable elsewhere." He had almost said safer, but fortunately realised how that was likely to be taken by an elf of his age.

"Actually, I wanted to talk to you. Something's been bothering me, and . . . "

"Legolas, this really isn't the time." Erestor didn't think he could cope with any more protestations of undying affection, especially not with Smaug sizing up the castle entrance with that particular look in his eye.

"But, Erestor . . . "

"Later, Legolas, please!" Erestor could almost feel the dragon's fetid breath and see the little pinpoints of light, hot as flame, in its eyes. Elbereth! WHY had he ever left Imladris?"

"All right, Erestor," Legolas executed one of those peculiarly balletic movements of his and was gone. Erestor had no time to feel relieved, however, for it was at that moment that Smaug finally made up his mind and attacked.


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

Glorfindel watched as the dragon moved slowly towards the entrance gate, knowing that as many eyes were on him as on the beast itself. He had felt their puzzlement, and of course knew the cause. He could hardly fail to do so, for their whispers floated to him on the breeze. "How can he be relieved to face a dragon? Doesn't he know what they can do?" It had taken a good deal of self-control not to reply, yes, but I also know what they cannot.

**A different terrain, craggy and mountainous instead of bright and green; a chill wind whipping through the passes, sounding like a banshee as it screams past, screaming a warning, a warning of what is coming . . . **

"I suppose he thinks it's better than the alternative."

"I can't see how."

**A horrible yet oddly beautiful mask, all molten gold and ruby fire, showing nothing of the decayed, perverted thing within. No, the form it takes is flagrant splendor, its glowing, amber eyes hypnotic, its voice a hiss, low and menacing, but with a liquid undercurrent that washes over him, almost a caress, telling him to step aside, to let it pass, to let it kill.**

"You've heard the stories of what happens to those who fight dragons? How they face cunning and stealth, hide as tough as the strongest mithril armour, and centuries of dirty tricks as well? And how only the greatest warriors have come back to tell of the combat?"

"Yes, of course, that's what I'm saying--it is dangerous!"

"So, tell me, what happens to someone who fights a balrog?"


**The force of its fury breaks like a storm, violent, savage, as unconquerable as nature and as pitiless. Blood, pounding in ears; heart beating far too quickly; throat filled with ashes; pain, searing, awful, unending; yet, all around, snow falls thickly, covering the landscape in an icy veil, and behind, the sound of the family, his family, grows ever fainter as they escape, and then is lost completely in the swirling, lacy snow. And he knows, even as he falls, that he has won.**

"They die."


Third Age, 180: Imladris

Gildor gave no outward sign of it, but he knew when Haldir appeared underneath the willow, just at the edge of his vision. He had always had some type of extra sense that told him when the elf was near--there was a frisson in the air and the day seemed to brighten. Even now, as depressed as he was, even though Haldir was partially the cause of that depression, it held true. He felt his heart begin to race with adrenaline as Haldir just stood there, watching him.

He took a deep breath and then another, but they did not make him feel any better; by the time Haldir finally sat down beside him, Gildor had abandoned hope of bracing himself. It wouldn't work anyway; Haldir seemed to have a talent for getting past any defenses he tried to raise. Especially now, when everything they'd done was still fresh in his mind--every touch, every sigh--and he knew he'd relive it all a thousand times. What he would probably never be able to understand was how something so perfect could have meant so little?

"You have become bored with me already, gwador?," Haldir asked, in that teasing way of his, but with a serious undertone. Gildor could almost have laughed at the choice of words, so well did they reflect his own thoughts.

"You will go back to Lorien soon," he said, a bit of a non-sequiteur, but Haldir seemed to understand.

"Eventually. Lord Celeborn may wish an escort when he returns, unless he and the Lady choose to travel together. I somehow do not think that will happen, however, so perhaps I shall accompany him. But what of you, gwador? Off on another mission, or will you stay here for a time? Imladris is beautiful, and I had thought you might have found amusement enough to persuade you to remain."

Gildor kept his anguished gaze on the horizon rather than meeting Haldir's eyes, a difficult trick as the older elf had him quite successfully trapped in a tight embrace. He didn't want to see indifference, amused affection, or whatever Haldir was feeling; he already knew how little he meant to him. Having it confirmed that he was nothing more than a way of passing time was more than he could stand at the moment. "I don't know," he replied shortly, wondering how Haldir had found him, and how to best get away. He would blame himself for it later, he knew; any time with Haldir should be treasured, but it was at present nothing but torment.

"Well, I had thought perhaps . . . ," Haldir seemed strangely hesitant, "that is, if you have just returned from a mission, as you say, surely you will be allowed some time for yourself before resuming your duties?" At Gildor's shrug, he continued. "So, if you like, you could always accompany me back to Lorien. It has been a long time since you saw the Golden Wood, and my brothers will be on rotation when they return, instead of constantly underfoot."

"Return with you?" Gildor was so surprised that he twisted about and finally made eye contact. What he saw there amazed him. Haldir, usually so confident, to the point of cockiness, looked almost shy. "Why?"

Haldir shrugged. "I don't know. For fun? For comradeship? Because we enjoy being together? I don't know what you want me to say."

"Perhaps that I am more to you than . . . than Idril," Gildor didn't know why, out of all Haldir's conquests, the girl from the market stall should suddenly come to mind, but she would do as well for an example as any other. He somehow doubted she had meant anything more to Haldir than he did.

"Idril?" Haldir looked genuinely puzzled for an instant, then he looked at Gildor as if he was out of his mind. "IDRIL? But she was . . . well, just a friend."

"As I am a friend?"

"No! I mean, of course you are my friend, at least, I hope you are," Haldir was regarding him a little doubtfully, "but you mean more to me than a . . . a casual fling."

"Oh?," Gildor regarded him levelly. "When did you decide that? I thought I was good enough to bed when lost in a dark forest somewhere, or when bored, or when upset over Elrond's rejection, but not for anything else." Gildor couldn't believe he was saying these things, but his mouth seemed to be acting independently of his brain. "I know you have no respect for me, but I thought you respected yourself more than that." He tried to struggle out of Haldir's grip. "Just let me go and we can forget that any of this ever happened."

"No." Haldir looked thunderstruck, but he wasn't letting go. Gildor could have forced the issue, but there was an expression dawning on his companion's face that he had never thought to see there. But when Haldir finally spoke, after what looked like quite an inner battle, it was not words of love, but rather the last thing Gildor had expected to hear. "What forest?"


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

Smaug paused just at the threshold of the gate, a whispered word floating to him from somewhere nearby. He had known it was too easy, that these wicked elves were plotting something. No king would give up centuries of accumulated treasure to buy peace, at least, not without a fight first. And now he knew. He'd been lured here, expecting to face opposition, to teach these prideful elves just what a dragon in its prime could do, but he had never anticipated this. It was a word that had the power to turn even his stony heart to ice, and he whipped about, all senses attuned to the one threat before which even he would flee . . .

He swirled, all wicked fangs and flashing eyes, yet with his wings half unfurled, ready to fly if a balrog was indeed in evidence. Then the portcullis above his head came crashing down, pinning him against the cold stone of the castle's forecourt, and an angry elf landed on his back and began to beat uselessly against his protective scales.

"Curse it, Glorfindel . . . you know . . . how I hate . . . violence!"

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