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 11

By Rune Dancer


Third Age: 3018, The Road to Woodhall

O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!
We still remember, we who dwell
In this land far beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western Seas.

Gildor felt the presence of the small group of hobbits before he saw them, but intended to merely travel on with his party, leaving them to their business, until he noticed the last in line. Bilbo had asked him to keep an eye on his nephew whenever Gildor's business took him near the Shire, and he had become rather fond of the small creature over time, seeing in him a rare innocence. "Hail Frodo!," he cried. "You are abroad late. Or are you perhaps lost?" Then he called to the others and his company gathered around the travelers.

"This is indeed wonderful!," they said. "Three hobbits in a wood at night! We have not seen such a thing since Bilbo went away. What is the meaning of it?"

"The meaning of it, fair people," Frodo replied, "is simply that we seem to be going the same way as you are. I like walking under the stars. But I would welcome your company."

Gildor thought that, if Frodo planned to make a career of deception, he would soon starve; a more transparent evasion he had never heard. He let his companions answer, therefore, while he watched the tiny creature carefully.

"But we have no need of other company, and hobbits are so dull," they replied, laughing. "And how do you know that we go the same way as you, for you do not know wither we are going?"

"And how do you know my name?," asked Frodo, and Gildor almost smiled. That was more like it. Any relative of Bilbo's should be able to take charge of a conversation--the Valar knew the old hobbit had almost talked Gildor's ears off at Imladris, more than once.

Gildor felt more than saw his companions' questioning glances at him, asking, in effect, how much they should reveal. He made no reply, so, in the manner of elves, they prevaricated. "We know many things. We have seen you often before with Bilbo, though you may not have seen us."

"Who are you, and who is your lord?", Frodo demanded, and Gildor answered while wondering how to draw the little creature out. He had no idea why Frodo, who he had last seen living a peaceful, if rather dull, existence in the Shire, should be walking abroad in the middle of the night, with a group of friends who jumped at every sound. "I am Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod. We are Exiles, and most of our kindred have long ago departed and we too are now only tarrying here a while, ere we return over the Great Sea. But some of our kinsfolk dwell still in peace in Rivendell. Come now Frodo, tell us what you are doing? For we see that there is some shadow of fear upon you."

"O Wise People!," one of Frodo's companions interrupted as if he could contain himself no longer. "Tell us about the Black Riders!"

Gildor felt as if an icy hand had clasped around his heart. Surely they could not mean the Nazgul? He and his companions had standing orders from Elrond to report any rumours of the Nine they heard, but surely, these hobbits must be referring to some other group. They had no reason to even have heard of Sauron's creatures. "Black Riders? Why do you ask about Black Riders?"

The same hobbit answered, "Because two Black Riders have overtaken us today, or one has done so twice. Only a little while ago he slipped away as you drew near."

Gildor gestured to his companions, who drew away from the sharp Hobbit ears, and spoke softly. "All of you know what Lord Elrond has always said about the Nazgul--that we are to report to him anything we might chance to hear about them. I would question these Hobbits further about that which they have seen."

"And you really think it was one of the Nazgul which followed them?," Von asked skeptically. One of the older elves in the company, Von seemed to believe it to always be his responsibility to question every decision Gildor made, despite the fact that Elrond had named him leader. It would be annoying, except that Gildor had long passed the age where other's comments galled him. Except for one, he thought fondly, who was always able to get under his skin. Gildor reminded himself of his father's advice to always think every important concern through three times before making a decision, and he smiled at Von, a habit which never failed to madden the other elf. Von couldn't know it, but Gildor actually liked having him around; it certainly insured that he always remembered his father's words, rather than have a member of his company make him look the fool.

"I do not know; from their description it could be almost anything, or anyone. But we will never know unless we investigate. Besides, I was also charged with observing this hobbit, and asked by Bilbo to keep him safe. Both goals are served by taking them with us for a time." The others agreed, and Gildor turned back to find the hobbits looking at them nervously. All except for one, a rather stout fellow with dark blond hair and huge hazel eyes, who was regarding Gildor as if he were some type of demi-god. Gildor found this somewhat unnerving--he was not accustomed to being an object of fascination--but chose to ignore it. "We will not speak of this here," he told the hobbits. "We think you had best come now with us. It is not our custom, but for this time we will take you on our road, and you shall lodge with us tonight, if you will."

The hobbits seemed pleased, and Frodo even managed a passable elvish greeting that amused Gildor immensely. "Be careful friends! Speak no secrets! Here is a scholar in the ancient tongue," he smiled at Frodo in pleasure. "Bilbo was a good master. Hail, Elf-Friend!" Then he shepherded them towards Woodhall, where the elves had already planned to stop for the night under the ancient trees.

The evening passed quickly, with the meal that followed the long walk highlighted by much laughter and song. Gildor managed to arrange a private conversation with Frodo after the repast when the hobbit's companions had fallen into much deserved rest, and satisfied himself that the riders pursuing them were almost certainly Nazgul. Gildor did not usually give advice, especially not to other than elf-kind, but in this case he made an exception. "Flee them!," he told Frodo earnestly. "Speak no words to them! They are deadly." He also advised Frodo in the strongest terms to proceed at once to Rivendell where he would be under Lord Elrond's protection. Gildor wished that he could accompany him on the way, but he and his companions were already charged with an important mission by Imladris' master, and could not wait.

After their conversation, Gildor led Frodo to a bower alongside those of his friends where he could sleep safely, and returned to the fire, his thoughts troubled. He seated himself, watching as a pale, luminous moth circled the flames, dancing just beyond their reaching fingers, darting in and out of the flickering shadows on the grass. It was strangely metaphoric of the type of life he had long lived himself, and he could only hope Frodo would have as much success avoiding danger.

After several moments, a movement caught Gildor's eye and he looked up, to discover that the sandy haired hobbit was awake, his eyes reflecting the firelight as they watched Gildor with a combination of awe and wonder. "I thought you slept, friend," Gildor commented in surprise, for this one had curled up at Frodo's feet early in the evening and not stirred again.

"That I did, sir, for awhile anyways, but then I woke up again, I guess." The hobbit looked tired, so Gildor offered to lead him to a bower, but he declined. "If it's all the same to you, sir, I'll just stay here a while. I can see Mr. Frodo, and that's good enough for me."

"You care for your friend," Gildor smiled. Such devotion was rare these days.

"That I do, sir." The hobbit stared into the flames and sighed. The longing that briefly passed over his features might have gone unnoticed by another, even another elf, but Gildor had spent too many years in a similar state not to recognise it. The hobbit looked up, caught his eye, and blushed. Gildor managed to keep his expression neutral, and the creature was soon reassured. "Beggin' your pardon, sir, but . . . I was just wondering . . . did you mean what you said, about Mr. Frodo being in danger from those riders?"

Gildor started to give a glib answer, but the depth of feeling in the hobbit's earnest hazel eyes stopped him. He had no doubts that this one would go wherever Frodo did, and he would therefore share the danger. Better that he knew the truth. "What is your name, master hobbit? For I dislike having a conversation with one to whom I have not been introduced." This last was said with a smile that calmed the apprehension that had flared in the hobbit's eyes at the thought that he might have offended his host.

"Sam, sir, that is, Samwise Gamgee is my name, but everybody just calls me Sam."

"You are a good friend to Frodo, Sam, I can see it when you look at him. You'll be going with him, then, wherever his road may lead?"

"That I will, sir. I promised Gandalf not to leave him, and I won't! You can count on that."

Gildor nodded. Unless he badly misread the signs, Sam meant exactly what he said. Gildor could only pray that Elbereth would watch over them both, but he could not shake the feeling that many difficulties lay in their path. "Then guard him well, and flee all signs of the riders, Sam. They are evil, and will harm him, and you, if they can. Stay off the main roads whenever you can, and be especially careful in darkness, for that is when their power is greatest." Gildor forced himself to say no more, for he had not spoken to Gandalf and, if the wizard was indeed meeting them as Frodo had said, he would no doubt resent interference in his business. Besides, where the Nine were concerned, what else was there to say? Knowing what they were would only terrify the hobbits and not improve their chances of eluding them.

Sam nodded, looking thoughtful until his expression was overtaken by a massive yawn. Gildor laughed to see it, and pulled him away from the fire, leading him to a bower alongside Frodo and the others. Sam curled up at Frodo's side like a faithful puppy, looking at his friend adoringly before falling into sleep. Gildor regarded them with amused fondness before returning to his place by the fire. He was not tired, and preferred to watch himself this night, if there were indeed Nazgul about.

The fire cracked and sparked as he added a bit more wood and settled once more before it, his mind largely on the puzzle of the hobbits and what could have brought them into opposition to the Nine. As time passed, however, he kept returning to the image of Sam and Frodo, curled up together as if two parts of one person. Gildor suddenly hoped very much that, whatever their errand might be, they would find their way safely through the dangers that almost certainly awaited them. They did so remind him of two other lovers . . . he prayed that their path to happiness would be easier and swifter.


Third Age, 180: Imladris

Gildor jerked back, naked fear on his face as Haldir's question sunk in. If he had not been so consumed with dread, he could have evaded or made up a plausible sounding answer, but his reaction made it obvious that the comment had not been an idle one. Haldir's sharp blue eyes missed little, and they were as determined as Gildor had ever seen them as he asked again, "What forest, gwador?"

Gildor tried to rise, flight the only thing on his mind, but strong arms held him captive. With no escape possible, he buried his face against Haldir's shoulder and prayed that he would let the question pass. He felt soft lips on his hair and gentle touches on his back, but he was not allowed to move away, and Gildor knew he would have to make some type of response. He tried to concentrate, to invent a believable explanation, but his actions had already betrayed him. So, over the next few minutes, he slowly poured out the story of what had happened all those years before. He explained it as dispassionately as possible, keeping his voice level and choosing his words as carefully as he could. Still, he told the truth, knowing that Haldir would wrench it from him eventually. He could not bring himself to look Haldir in the eyes, but felt him jerk spasmodically several times during the narrative. At last, it was done, and Gildor felt some better with the telling, a fact that surprised him. A few moments before, he would have given almost anything to avoid it, but now that it was over, he felt both relief and a strange sense of closure. Perhaps, he thought with mounting joy, they could put all this behind them . . . then he saw Haldir's expression, and all the fears of those lonely centuries came crashing back.

Haldir looked appalled, and Gildor suddenly realised that, however difficult it had been for him to relive it all, it had taken equal courage for Haldir to listen. Just how much the effort had cost him was obvious. Like most mature elves, Haldir never showed any emotions except those he wished--his pride demanded perfect control. However, his normal calm was now completely shattered. The face Gildor loved more than any in Arda shone with tears, which Haldir must have shed silently as Gildor spoke, for he had heard nothing. His face was dead white, pain showed in his eyes and one hand clutched his stomach as if someone had just kicked him. The arm encircling Gildor's waist had gone limp, freeing him if he wished to go, but he did not move away. It was strange, that the memory of his own grief was far less painful to him than the sight of Haldir's evident distress. Gildor caught him in a strong embrace, wishing more than anything for the words to bring him peace.


Third Age, 180: Imladris

Haldir felt Gildor's arms go around him, but did not respond. He was completely stunned, unable to think, much less to react. He vaguely wondered how Gildor could stand even to touch him, but even that thought could not break through the horror that numbed his mind. Elbereth! He was . . . he was unclean . . . like one of the orcs who fell on each other at every opportunity! The First Born simply did not act thus. He would be an outcast among his people--no one would speak to him or own kinship with him. Nor should they; what he had done was simply unthinkable. It was vile, something even most men would scorn to do . . . Haldir would desperately have liked to deny the whole thing to himself, but there was no doubt of the sincerity in Gildor's words. And he had not wanted to tell him, had, Haldir suddenly understood, never intended to tell him.

Haldir suddenly noticed that his head hurt, a vivid furious pain behind his temples. He lifted a shaking hand to his eyes and realised that he was crying, really sobbing, like some tiny elfling. Angrily, he ran his tunic sleeve across his face and fought to bring himself under some type of control, but it was useless. He was overcome with shame, deep and bitter and smothering, to the point that it was a struggle just to breathe. He could not accept that he had done . . . that . . . to one of the most gentle spirits he had ever known.

Soft sounds came to his ears then, but in his current state it took Haldir a few minutes to understand that it was Gildor. He was not, as he had every right to be, cursing Haldir's name or muttering threats. Instead, and Haldir found this almost impossible to believe, he was murmuring soothing words of comfort and love, and his eyes were glistening. "Gildor," Haldir regarded him disbelievingly, "you cry for me?" It was impossible, yet there was no mistaking the expression in those deep brown eyes. Gildor was upset, but there was no rancor when he looked at Haldir, only distress over his companion's anguish. "Why?"

"You should not . . . it was so long ago," Gildor seemed to be trying to find words that would make the pain go away, and having some difficulty. Haldir could not imagine why he was even trying.

"How can you bear to . . . talk to me, to touch me?," Haldir asked in genuine bewilderment. "After what I did?"

"But you did not know!," Gildor hugged him fiercely. "You were raving, almost unconscious from the poison. It wasn't you, not really--I always knew that."

Haldir shook his head. The words were kind and, oh, how he would have liked to believe them, but there was no excuse for what had happened. None that he could offer Gildor, and none to give himself. The worst of all, Haldir thought grimly, was that his offensiveness had robbed him of any chance of having a real relationship for the first time in his life. He looked at Gildor now, making a great effort to disguise the naked longing that he knew probably shone from his eyes. He knew, now that it was too late, that he would never find another with a soul like Gildor's, with such a capacity to love, and to pardon.

Haldir saw the forgiveness in his companion's gaze, and could only wonder at it. Would he have been able to do as much, were the pain his own? He honestly did not know. He gazed in amazement at the beauty that shone through Gildor's expression. Elbereth! How had he never seen it before? He must have been blind! How ironic, that now, when he finally knew to the marrow of his bones what he wanted, he also knew that he didn't deserve it. He shut his eyes to block out that fair face, and the searing pain that accompanied it.

It was with complete surprise, then, that Haldir felt a soft touch on his lips. He kept his eyes closed, convinced that he must be losing his mind; perhaps grief of this magnitude triggered some type of defense mechanism; allowing you to believe, for an instant, that you had a chance at what you wanted most in all the world. But in this case, it was the one thing he could never hope to have, and he knew it. When a velvety tongue pressed against him, Haldir opened for it automatically, savouring the sensations for however long they lasted. It was not until he felt warm hands slowly undressing him that he opened his eyes and discovered that the illusion was real.

Dawning wonder in his eyes, he saw Gildor toss his shirt aside to join his tunic in the grass. "What . . .Gildor, what are you doing?" Haldir sincerely had no idea.

That beautiful blush Haldir had always loved stained Gildor's cheeks. "I thought . . . well, perhaps we could do it properly this time." He pressed something into Haldir's palm, and the blond elf looked down to see that it was his salve from the bedroom. "I think this would help," he commented, and the cheeky elf actually grinned at him. Haldir could think of absolutely nothing to say.

"Unless you don't want to," Gildor looked suddenly afraid, and his blush increased. "I'm sorry," he said as Haldir continued to sit there, staring at him in dumbfounded wonder, "I suppose it was a stupid idea." His hands dropped from his own shirt, which he had been in the process of undoing, to clench together in his lap. The look of misery on his face was more than Haldir could bear.

"No, no Gildor!" Haldir grabbed his hands and brought them to his lips, unclenching each one and pressing a kiss to the palms. He still could not put into words what he felt. All the glib phrases of his long career suddenly seemed trite, overused, and not nearly good enough for Gildor. Later, when his head was clear, he promised himself to compose a song--a whole scroll of songs--describing his love, and his disbelief that Gildor could still want him after everything that had happened between them. But, for the moment, words completely failed him. Action, however, he thought he could manage. If Gildor really wanted a new memory to wipe away the old, then he would have one--and one to remember. "Come here," and Haldir drew him close, kissing him gently, but with all the love he could not put into words.

Gildor melted into his embrace, feeling so perfect against him that it was all Haldir could manage not to start weeping again. How could he not have known, as soon as he saw him, touched him? Marveling at his own blindness, Haldir saw a succession of images flit across his mind--Gildor at the archery contest, all childish angles and hot, determined eyes; Gildor in his talan, feeling so right in his arms; Gildor in the forest, never wavering as he faced a hoard of beasts frightening enough to make an experienced warrior blanch; Gildor on that long road back to Imladris, so quiet, so careful not to draw attention to himself, and yet, how often had Haldir's glance lingered on him? Since they met for a second time here, at Imladris, how easily he had captured Haldir once more! A few hours in his company and Haldir had been enchanted all over again. Perhaps, he thought now, he had not been quite so blind after all.

Haldir finished undressing the precious creature before him, promising himself to swathe Gildor in the finest of everything as soon as possible. His father's fortune might actually prove useful for something, for a change, instead of just making he and his brothers look foolish among the Galadrim. What a time he would have, dressing this one as he deserved! Although, he thought wickedly as his companion was bared once more to his gaze, he really much preferred him this way.

Taking his time, Haldir let his lips explore every part of the beautiful one who, for some inexplicable reason, had decided to give him a second chance. Determined not to disappoint, he drew on every piece of information, every skill obtained in a lifetime of giving and receiving pleasure, to delight his companion. It seemed to be working, for within a few minutes, Gildor was moaning softly and pleading for more. A warm, rich glow suffused his entire body, and, when Haldir nipped tenderly at one elegantly pointed ear, the sound he made sent a bolt of pleasure arching through them both.

Haldir tried to turn Gildor over, but his companion stopped him. "No, I want to see you." Haldir nodded his understanding, suddenly unable to speak, and positioned Gildor as comfortably as possible. Taking much more time than usual, he very carefully inserted one finger, gently turning and stretching until he was absolutely sure Gildor was ready to accept a second. His own passion, held in check by the amount of concentration he had been focusing on his companion, was now threatening to overwhelm, but Haldir forced himself to wait. Spreading his lover's legs a little further, he finished opening him thoroughly, adding a third finger along with more lubricant. He wanted to be certain Gildor would be as much at ease as feasible given his lack of experience. He tried to ignore how the flesh felt around his fingers--tight and moist and slowly yielding--or the way Gildor moved under him, his passion building with Haldir's prolonged attentions.

"Please, Haldir!," Gildor finally gasped out, "please . . . "

Haldir had never been more grateful to hear anything in his life. He felt like he must explode at any moment, and only long practise had allowed him to complete the preparations properly. He tried to focus on something other than Gildor, all rosy pink and writhing beneath him, to stay calm enough not to rush things. He tried to concentrate on what the tree beside them was saying--was all the vegetation at Imladris so talkative?--but it did not help much and he finally gave up. He nonetheless slowly slid just inside his lover, taking the utmost care not to hurt him. Gildor made a moan, which Haldir assumed was of pain, and he somehow managed enough control to withdraw, only to have his companion glare at him. "Haldir! Now!"

Haldir almost laughed with relief, love and the unaccustomed tone of command in Gildor's voice. Entering him again, he nonetheless took his time, although it was one of his greatest challenges; it had been a long time since he'd had a lover this tight, and he had almost forgotten how intense the sensation could be. He had never felt this way about any of his former companions, however, and he wanted to give Gildor as much pleasure as he could. The wait was worth it, for soon they were moving together in a rhythm so natural that it felt like they had done this a thousand times.

Although Haldir drew the experience out as long as he could, he finished before he would have liked--clutching Gildor in his ardor as if he would never let him go. And I won't, he silently promised them both. A few seconds later, and Gildor finished as well, their passions mingling as their hearts had already done. Haldir was about to compliment his lover, assuming any words could possibly suffice, when an icy blast of water suddenly drenched them both. Haldir flipped over, too stunned and sated for immediate anger, only to find Elrohir glaring at him, an empty bucket in his hands.

"Well, the beech assured us you needed watering," Elrohir commented, before turning and stalked off back to the house.

Glorfindel gave the two of them an amused glance, quirking an eyebrow in that annoying way of his. "Do try not to upset the trees further," he requested politely, before hurrying off to catch his lover.

"I think we should continue this conversation indoors," Haldir commented, wiping water out of his eyes and wondering if anything about Imladris would ever make sense.

Gildor agreed, laughing, but stopped for a moment as they started to leave the glade. He ran back and put his hands on the beech for a few seconds before rejoining Haldir.

"What was that all about?", Haldir asked, scooping up their clothes so they didn't have to streak through the corridors of Imladris.

Gildor wrapped an arm about his lover's waist and the force of his smile made Haldir dizzy. "Just thanking a friend. Come on, race you to the baths!"

Haldir watched him run off up the hill for a second, then gave a mental shrug. Oh well, he was certain they wouldn't be the first to ever race through the stately halls of Imladris sans clothing. In fact, after everything he'd learned about Elrond's house in the last few weeks, he wouldn't be surprised if it was an every day event. "Wait for me," he called to Gildor, laughing. "You aren't getting away that easily!"

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