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By Rune Dancer


Celeborn, Lord of the Golden Wood, lore-master, poet, warrior, and one of the most revered elves of his or any other age, had discovered the problem with immortality--it was boring. There simply came a point when you had read all the books, heard all the music, and composed all the poetry you ever cared to do. Even sex became dull after several thousand years bonded to the same person, especially one who, although as beautiful as the stars themselves, was decidedly not of an adventurous state of mind. But the worst was undoubtedly these endless council sessions in which the same subjects debated 500 years ago were still being brought up, and having the same arguments made for and against them. Celeborn sometimes thought he could have a stuffed doll made of himself which would suffice as well, as long as it could nod and occasionally throw out some placating comment when things became a bit heated. In truth, he was amazed that any of his advisors could still manage to get worked up about such over-discussed concepts, although recently, Celeborn envied anyone capable of feeling anything at all, as it almost seemed as if his own emotions had been reduced to one--this constant and ever-present boredom.

He shifted on his high throne and tried to look as interested as possible in the current debate, about whether or not an additional drainage ditch was needed near the high road, but his attention kept wandering off on other paths. He wondered how Elrond's youngest was doing, and when, exactly, the elder Peredhil planned to return Haldir to him. Celeborn had a strong suspicion that Elrond's request for someone to help Elrohir through his little fit of adolescent angst might actually have been a blind for what he really wanted--some new plaything for his free hours. Now there was someone who never seemed to grow bored. Perhaps it was his human blood, but Elrond had a seemingly endless zeal for life and for new persons with whom to enjoy it that never ceased to amaze his father-in-law. Having sent him an attractive young Galadrim, and one with a reputation for a certain amount of inventiveness himself, Celeborn supposed he shouldn't be surprised that said elf had not immediately returned when his original assignment had proven unnecessary. Still, it irritated him for some reason he couldn't quite name. It was not that he had any designs on Haldir himself. He was fair, of that there was no doubt, but Celeborn had had his fill of attractive young elves in his day, and somehow, making yet another conquest was not what he craved.

Strange, how that word had come up, almost as if there was something else, lurking around the corners of his mind, that he did, indeed, crave. Yet, like so many other things, Celeborn had felt no sense of covetousness, no longing, for at least an age, perhaps more. Even when he had been able to still feel much at all, he did not crave things, for what was there that was not his for the asking? He was lord of these woods, all was his to summon, his to command . . .

But how long had it been since someone had commanded him?

Now, where did that thought come from? Celeborn glanced casually around his council chamber, almost with the idea that someone had spoken the words aloud, so strongly did they echo in his mind. Yet his councillors were still debating the enthralling topic of environmental impact of additional drainage, and paying him no more mind than if he had not even been there. He, for one, fervently wished he wasn't. For a moment, he fiercely envied Haldir, free to roam to other lands, see new sights, have new experiences . . .

Elbereth! He had felt that! For someone long used to pale emotions, if any at all, the sheer passion of that sudden bolt of envy was enough to profoundly shock Celeborn, who managed to keep his seat only by a conscious exertion of will. What, exactly, was happening to him today? This was not at all normal, although, in truth, it was not unwelcome. At this point in his life, anything new was good, and this was certainly new. What had he been thinking about to prompt so deep a hidden emotion to the surface? Haldir? No, he still did not believe that he harboured any deep-seated lust for the pale youth. Then what, something the Galadrim had? But what did a mere woodsman possess that he did not? The ability to travel? No, for he could always leave his lands in his wife's capable hands and journey abroad, although he had not chosen to do so for many years. The last time had been shortly after the birth of his first grandchild, Elladan, when he and Galadriel had both gone to Imladris to see him . . .

Something about that thought rang true. Did he envy Haldir his journey to the fair city to the east? But why, when he could go there himself whenever he chose? Yet, the beauty of Elrond's valley did sound quite tempting, for a reason Celeborn could still not quite grasp. He somehow did not think that all he needed was a change of scenery. So, what did Haldir have in Imladris that he did not have in the Golden Wood, and that Celeborn so badly wanted?

When the answer finally came, it took him so by surprise that he stood abruptly, thereby accidentally signalling the end of the audience and cutting the meeting far short of its usual time. He fled the confused gaggle of courtiers, not willing to listen to any of their inane babbling at the moment. Reaching his private chambers in record time, he splashed cold water from a basin onto his suddenly flushed countenance, and stared at his own silver eyes, seeming suddenly alien to him somehow, reflected in the glass above the wash stand. He must undoubtedly have lost his mind. Perhaps that was what happened to the Eldar when they reached a certain age. Perhaps that is why so many went west, to escape incipient insanity . . .

Sitting heavily on the edge of his bed, Celeborn slowly faced the terrible truth. He wanted his son-in-law, something strange enough in itself, not to mention dangerous if anyone ever found out--Galadriel was fairly understanding about such things, but he had no doubts that this would push her tolerance too far. But there was more. For he had no doubt at all that Haldir was not the one in control of whatever games Elrond was playing with him in Imladris, and it was that image, he thought, that finally answered his afternoon's search. What did he crave? Could it really be, after so long . . . submission? He had certainly never experienced it before, but then, he had never before wished to do so. Why he did now was not hard to realise, however.

So many people envied him, thought he had the perfect life. They could not possibly understand just how tiring it was to always be the one with the last word. Galadriel wielded the ring of power, and she had abilities far more showy than any he could boast, but on a day to day level it was he who governed Lothlorien. Every decision, from large to petty, came before him to say yeah or nay, and no one, not even his fair wife, gainsaid his decisions. After several thousand years, this sort of thing did become a bit of a trial. He could not help but think how sweet, how refreshing, it would be to give all control over to someone else for a change. Let someone else make the decisions, let them have the power, let them rule . . . Of course, when it came to his realm, he had responsibilities he could not shirk. Ultimately, the safety and happiness of his people was his concern, and so it should be. But how nice, at least in his private life, to have a little less control for a time . . .

Celeborn sighed, and fell back against the soft contours of his bed. He tried to put these very wicked thoughts out of his mind, but they seemed to have taken control. He could, they told him, easily make an excuse to visit Imladris. He had not seen his youngest grandson in some time, and it had been a while since even Elladan had visited the Golden Wood. Wasn't young Elrohir's coming of age celebration in a few days? A swift horse could get you there, his traitorous brain whispered, and once you see Elrond, perhaps this longing will fade. Perhaps you'll find you are mistaken . . . but you'll never know unless you go.

A few moments later, two rather idle servants were surprised to see Lord Celeborn come striding through the stables, dressed quite unusually in a plain tunic and leggings, and carrying a small leather satchel. "Saddle Mithril," he told them, speaking of his beautiful grey stallion. "I ride for Imladris tonight."


Haldir watched as two elves rolled around the hillside beyond his window, apparently unaware, or unconcerned, that they were perfectly visible from the upper stories of the house. It was possible, he supposed, that they thought themselves hidden in their own private glade, as a thick ring of trees concealed, at least from the ground, the small meadow that stood beyond the cultivated part of Imladris' gardens. Apparently Lord Elrond liked some areas left a bit wild, and this was one that remained mostly untended. It was an attractive spot, bordering a small stream, with long, lush grasses interspersed with wildflowers. Many of the latter had become entangled in the unbound hair of the two frolicking elves, neither of whom seemed to care.

Haldir half-smiled as he idly watched them from his comfortable balcony. He was not usually a voyeur, but if they were going to do that in full view of anyone who glanced out a window . . . He thought Elrohir's technique needed a little work, but Glorfindel certainly seemed on top of things. As Haldir noted the loving care with which Glorfindel treated his young partner, he felt his smile slip slightly. He should be pleased for them; he was pleased for them. So why did watching them make him so . . . uneasy?

He tilted his seat back against the aged wood of the outer wall of the house and frowned. Something had been nagging at him for days, and avoiding the problem was not going to make it go away. Of course, in this case, facing up to it might not help, either, as what he was slowly coming to realise was completely impossible.

Glorfindel collapsed onto his lover, unbalancing Elrohir and causing the two to roll downhill towards the tiny stream, laughing uproariously. They managed to avoid a quick dunk in the water only because the bank on their side was slightly elevated, allowing them to regain purchase on the ground at the last minute. Haldir observed the expression on Glorfindel's face as he began picking wildflowers out of his partner's long, dark hair, and finally acknowledged what he wanted. He shook his head in disgust at his own folly. You wait a thousand years, he thought, go thorough hundreds of lovers, and finally fall for one of the only elves you can never hope to have. Elrond would never look at him the way Glorfindel did Elrohir. Not if he had all the ages of the world in which to try to convince him, instead of whatever little time he could steal in Imladris.

Haldir watched as the two lovers walked back up the hill to collect their discarded and now seriously rumpled clothing. He couldn't understand what was wrong with him--why did it have to be Elrond? Yes, he was beautiful, and more so than most, Haldir had to admit, but surely he wasn't that shallow? Besides, he had known other stunning elves--why, Glorfindel was almost as attractive as his lord, yet Haldir was able to view him with his usual detachment. Elrohir, whom he had originally been meant to seduce, was much like his father in appearance, if lacking some subtle, sensual quality that Elrond exuded even when doing something as mundane as official paperwork, but the elfling interested him not at all.

Love had always been sport to Haldir. He collected and discarded lovers as some did the fallen leaves in Lorien, using them for a moment's amusement, and then passing on to some new pleasure. It had been a game, a hobby for all those long, dull days on border patrol. After all, orcs didn't invade every day, and Haldir had always had more trouble than most passing time simply by communing with nature. Trees could be interesting--he'd had some long and amusing conversations with some of the mallorn, especially the older ones--but there was a limit to what a stationary thing like a tree (well, most trees anyway) could tell you.

Haldir had always had a restlessness about him alien to most of his kind. He was the first to volunteer when messages had to be sent abroad or when scouts were needed. He had travelled to Mirkwood several times and marvelled at the differences between its dark woods and Lorien's. He had found learning the common speech to be interesting, and even liked observing the villages of men when his road happened to pass close to one. He found them as dirty and unattractive as most elves did, but they fascinated him all the same. Anything new and different was interesting to Haldir, which was, perhaps, his problem-- Elrond was always different. Most elves had a calmness and a sameness about them, with only the youngest of elflings still mercurial in nature. Elrond was no elfling, and in no other way reminded Haldir of one, but it was undeniable that he was always a surprise. And just when you thought you had nothing left to learn . . .

Haldir sighed as the two lovers, now respectably dressed, moved into the trees and left his field of vision. They had been a useful distraction, and now he was left with only his thoughts as company, and truly depressing companions they were. Elrond Half Elven, warrior of the First Age, master of Imladris, wielder of Vilya, and as far beyond Haldir's grasp as the stars themselves, had managed to invade his heart and mind in a way no one else ever had. And he had no idea what to do about it.


That evening, Elrond sat at table calmly discussing the variations between the architecture of Mirkwood and Imladris, and seeming completely at ease as always, but in reality he was keeping a close eye on his father-in-law. Celeborn was seated at his left--he would normally have been on his right due to his station, but Elrohir, as guest of honour at his coming of age celebration, occupied that position. Still, his proximity had given Elrond the chance to quietly observe Lorien's lord throughout dinner, and it was abundantly clear that his initial impression had been correct--something was seriously wrong with Celeborn.

Elrond had been surprised to be informed early that afternoon that his father-in-law had suddenly appeared at the borders of Imladris, sans outriders, baggage train, or, even more strangely, any forewarning of his arrival. Celeborn could have sent a letter, if his visit had been planned; but, even had he simply decided on a spur-of-the-moment trip, he was perfectly capable of farspeaking Elrond whenever he chose. Yet he arrived unannounced.

Elrond assumed that his father-in-law would explain the reason for his surprise visit in his own time, and had quickly replaced his casual leggings and tunic for formal robes and hurried to be in place when Celeborn, flanked by a party of Imladris' border guards, arrived before the palace. It was then that he received his second indication that something strange was going on. For a moment he worried that some tragedy had befallen Lothlorien, to bring its king here dressed as a common woodsman and looking tired from what, judging by the state of his horse, must have been a hurried ride. Yet, there was no grief written on Celeborn's fair features, just weariness and something else that Elrond could not define. As his father-in-law had always been a mystery, he did not waste time trying to guess his thought processes. Instead, he gave orders for the care of the beautiful horse, and guided him inside where suitable rooms had been quickly prepared.

Elrond had showed Celeborn to his suite himself, and lingered for a few moments to give the Lord of Lorien the opportunity to discuss the reason for his sudden appearance, if he chose to do so. Instead, however, Celeborn seemed distracted--indeed, if he had been observing any other elf with the same mannerisms, Elrond would have said that he was nervous, although in this case that was patently absurd. Finally, he had excused himself to go take care of some last minute arrangements for the festivities, and left his father-in-law to rest after his long journey.

He had almost managed to convince himself that perhaps Celeborn had merely made a last minute decision to personally wish Elrohir well on his coming of age, but then came his actions at dinner. Elrond had thought Celeborn looked particularly well that evening, in a fine silver robe that set off his regal beauty to perfection. He had just complimented him on the fineness of the weave of his under tunic--only Lorien weavers could do such gossamer work--when it happened the first time. Celeborn felt him up.

For a moment, Elrond had not realised what was happening, as a strong but gentle hand clasped his leg beneath the tabletop, then slid upwards, caressing his inner thigh through the thin silk of his robe. He had, luckily, not been speaking at the time, as he would almost certainly have given the game away. As it was, he choked on a mouthful of wine in his astonishment, which turned out to be a lucky happenstance as it allowed him to avoid shocking the table by loudly demanding what his father-in-law thought he was doing. Celeborn removed the hand, which had worked its way perilously close to its goal, when Elrond's choking fit seized him. By the time Elrohir had finished patting him on the back and Elrond had apologised to all--"that vintage is too good to be gulped"--he had regained control and almost convinced himself that he had imagined it.

Then Celeborn did it again.

Fortunately for Elrond's sanity, the meal was almost over, allowing him to escape the wandering hand of his honoured guest. He quickly put the length of the ballroom between him and the disturbing silver-haired figure who was now laughing with Elladan about something. Elrond was not normally one to flee from problems, having found from millennia of experience that facing them head on was usually best, but in this case he didn't even consider it. This needed some thought.

Excusing himself momentarily--he had fortunately spilt some wine on a small section of his sleeve, and therefore had an excuse to disappear briefly--he used one of the hidden staircases to quickly return to his chambers. After changing into another robe, Elrond sat on the window seat and looked out over the seductive view of moonlight reflecting off Imladris' waterfalls as he considered this extremely unexpected turn of events.

What was wrong with Celeborn? Elrond ruled out the obvious almost immediately. He had known his father-in-law for several thousand years. If Celeborn had any interest in him, he had had plenty of time to express it before now. Elrond vividly remembered a trip to the hot baths in Lorien that they had taken together shortly after he had become engaged to Celebrian, and his embarrassment at his immediate reaction when the beauty of Celeborn's body was revealed. He had worried that the marriage might be called off if Celeborn learned of his prospective son-in-law's true preferences, and through a considerable effort of will had managed to get himself under control. He couldn't help but notice, however, before shifting his gaze away from his alluring companion, that the attraction was completely one sided. Celeborn had lounged on the dark grey rocks in the shallow end of the baths, his body more out of the water than in it, and the whiffs of steam that made the grotto such a popular bathing place for Lorien elves had done nothing to hide his fair form. It had gleamed silver bright in the dimness of the cave, with, and Elrond still remembered his chagrin at this, absolutely no sign of arousal. Being a practical sort of elf, who knew that sanity depended largely on wanting those things you had at least a small chance of getting, Elrond had sighed and turned his attention elsewhere. Now, however, the memory told him that, whatever Celeborn was doing, it had nothing to do with real attraction.

Elrond bit his lip in uncharacteristic uncertainty. He couldn't imagine what nefarious plans lay hidden behind those gleaming mithril-hued eyes. Unlike most people, who, after his millenia of practise in observation, were as transparent to Elrond as glass, Celeborn had always been an enigma. Occasionally, Elrohir reminded him of his grandfather, when his obsidian eyes proved opaque to Elrond's searching gaze. Celeborn's eyes were silver bright, but acted much the same--like two mirrors which reflected only the observer's own thoughts back to him.

Perhaps his father-in-law wondered why Celebrian was always in Lorien, and believed that Elrond was at fault for the distance in their marriage. Mayhap this was some form of test, to see if his son-in-law would respond to him and thus prove his suspicions correct. It was barely possible that Celeborn had noticed something that evening so long ago, and had refrained from mentioning it because the alliance his daughter's marriage would seal was so important. Elrond had always assumed that, as Celebrian's lover lived in Lorien and the relationship predated her marriage, her father must certainly know about it. True, they had never actually discussed the issue with her parents--it was not the stuff of polite, after dinner conversation--but Elrond had been certain they already knew. Now he was faced with the possibility that Celeborn, at least, did not, and if that was true, naturally he would place the blame for any perceived sadness in his much loved daughter at Elrond's feet. Perhaps, too, keeping Haldir from returning immediately had been a mistake. The young one was a pleasant diversion, but his lingering at Imladris might have been the final clue Celeborn had needed to arouse his suspicions.

Obviously, he decided, he needed to talk to Celebrian; if something had happened in Lorien to upset her father, she was likely to know. They also needed to decide what, exactly, to tell her parents, and to coordinate their stories in case a slight embroidery on the facts was deemed advisable. Unfortunately, Celebrian had not inherited her parent's ability at farspeaking, meaning that any message would have to be sent the slow way. Elrond moved to his study and quickly scribbled off a missive to his wife. He could not delay returning to the festivities much longer, as his presence would certainly be missed. Besides, this was Elrohir's night to shine, and he wanted to be with him.

Tucking the letter in the loose sleeve of his soft blue robe, Elrond prepared to leave his chambers. He would see to it that a courier set off to Lorien immediately, and he might receive Celebrian's reply by the end of the week. In the meantime, he would simply give Celeborn no reason whatever to suspect that anything of any interest was happening at Imladris. Erestor could keep Haldir away, or perhaps it would be better just to send the handsome elf back to Lorien and remove the temptation. In any case, until Celebrian responded and this situation was dealt with, there could be no dallying with anyone. And if Celeborn thought he was going to use his undoubted attractions to cause Elrond to betray himself, he had better think again.

Grasping the handle of the door leading to the corridor beyond his rooms, Elrond found that it opened on its own. Of course, he thought in resignation, as into his rooms stepped the very person he needed most to avoid. It had been that sort of month. Celeborn, he noticed, was carrying two glasses by their delicate stems in one hand, and the other held a large bottle of very potent wine.

"Ah, here you are. I thought so. I tired of the festivities myself, and made our excuses." He shut the door behind him and crossed the room, disappearing through the door leading to Elrond's bedchamber with the same certainty as if he had previously visited his son-in-law's rooms, which he had not. Elrond had occupied different chambers when he and Celebrian were first married and Celeborn had last visited Imladris. A murmur floated back from his bedroom, seeming to Elrond like the voice of doom. "Well, I suppose now it's just the two of us."


Haldir shifted position again, leaning against one of the ballroom's long, linen draped tables that offered refreshments to overheated partygoers. He paid no attention to the beauty of the scene before him; the brightly dressed guests laughing and dancing under heavy ropes of flowers and cascades of silk bunting were not what gripped his attention. The ballroom had been lavishly decorated for Elrohir's coming of age, and the shining wood, sparkling crystal and magnificent towers of sweet smelling tapers would normally have brought an expression of appreciation to a lover of beauty like Haldir, but not tonight. Even the prospect of knowing that his emotions were showing in his skittish actions did not help him maintain his usual calm. Where had Celeborn gone? It was the question that plagued him and would not go away.

He had seen Elrond excuse himself earlier, but had not tried to follow, assuming that he was merely going to change and would soon rejoin the party. Not, he had thought at the time, that Elrohir was likely to notice one way or the other; everyone in the room could have vanished, and his eyes, which never left the shining elf at his side, would probably not have registered the fact. Haldir had rarely seen two Eldar so completely besotted, and so open about announcing that fact to the gathered throng. Elves happily laughed and sang, danced and joked with each other, but a certain . . . dignity . . . was retained nonetheless, especially among the upper classes. Although Haldir had once, before his unsettling visit to Imladris, thought that nothing could still shock him, he had to admit to being somewhat scandalized at seeing Elrohir so blatantly fawning over his lover. At the moment, they were draped all over each other on an alcove seat under a flower arch, and although they were virtually surrounded by groups of well-wishers, the two had eyes only for each other. They were dressed so alike--in almost identical dark red robes--and were so entertwined that it was difficult to say where one began and the other left off. Haldir had spared a moment to wish that Elrond would say something, either to his son or to his wayward seneschal, about observing the proprieties in public. It was then that he had realised that Elrond had not returned.

At almost the same moment, he had heard Celeborn ask Elladan to make his and Elrond's excuses to his younger brother, should he ask after them. "We old ones need more rest than you elflings. I am afraid that my days of dancing until dawn are over." Yet Celeborn did not look at all tired, Haldir noted, having apparently rested up from his journey. Even more worrisome was the fact that, before he exited the ballroom, he stopped at the refreshment table near Haldir to pick up two wine glasses. Haldir stood rooted to the spot as his king requested a particularly fine vintage from one of the servants, and waited with a satisfied smirk on his face as the elf hurried off to fill his order. Haldir regarded him through narrowed eyes. He had rarely seen Celeborn so animated--the elf was actually humming to himself, and was almost bouncing on his feet. The size of the bottle the servant handed him a moment later worried Haldir even more, as no elf would be likely to drink such a draught by himself, nor would he, of course, need two glasses if he planned to do so. Celeborn was meeting someone.

Normally, Haldir would have found the idea of his king managing to arrange a rendezvous so quickly after arriving at Imladris--and weary from a hard ride at that--considerably amusing. He did not find it so at present. He fidgeted by the refreshment table and drank another glass of something he did not bother to taste. He told himself he was being absurd. What he suspected was simply not possible. There were thousands of elves at the festivities, which spilled out of the ballroom and had taken over a large part of the grounds, causing servants to have to scurry to light more burning tapers. Even if Celeborn was meeting someone, then, it didn't have to be Elrond. The fact that Imladris' lord had not come back to the ballroom could have been due to any number of things. There could have be a medical emergency, or possibly a raid along the borders . . . anything could have needed the attention of the master of the house. Or perhaps, Haldir thought in desperation, he had just been tired.

But Elrond had not looked tired at dinner. No, he had been his normal witty and entertaining self, and had amused Haldir greatly by some of the stories he told--borderline scandalous as some of them were--of revered First Age figures. Elrond loved history, but had a unique talent for not taking it too seriously--a byproduct, Haldir assumed, of having lived through much of it. He had seemed a bit strange toward the end of the meal, however, now that Haldir thought about it. Elrond was usually never clumsy; indeed, his unstudied grace was one of the things Haldir found so tempting about him, as he genuinely had no idea of the sensuality in his every motion. Haldir had had to stop watching him earlier that night, as he turned the simple action of peeling a pear into almost a sexual act. Haldir closed his eyes and saw again those skillful fingers gently probing several of the large, rounded fruits in the basket presented to him, until he finally selected a particularly fat one of a perfect fleshy hue. Taking up a small gold knife, Elrond had paused to answer a question of Elrohir's, and absentmindedly caressed the tender skin of the peach as he did so. Finally turning his attention back to it, he slowly inserted the knife tip and edged around the center, pausing to lick a trickle of juice from his hand with a comment about the ripeness of the fruit. That had been about the time Haldir had decided to drag his eyes away and think, very hard, about something else. Elrohir must have noticed something, however, for he had grinned impudently and, with an amused glint in his dark eyes, proffered him the fruit bowl. Haldir had declined.

He remembered, however, that, only a few minutes later, Elrond had given a small yelp and choked on his glass of wine, going so far as to actually spill some of it on the maroon velvet of his robes. It had been most out of character, and Elrond had not seemed to regain his usual bonhomie thereafter. He had dropped his knife with an audible clatter just a few seconds later, and had seemed tense for the rest of the meal. He had all but fled the ballroom as soon as dinner was over, and Celeborn, after a few minutes, had followed, begging Erestor to make his and Elrond's excuses to the guest of honour. His and Elrond's. Haldir took another glass from the table and drained it, ignoring the worried look the servant gave him as he did so.

"It is sad to experience such a rare occasion, and be unable to remember it on the morrow."

Haldir glanced in surprise at the servant, who had been giving him steadily more concerned looks as the number of his wine glasses piled up, but the elf was currently several feet away serving other partygoers.

"I think you have had enough, pretty one," Haldir watched in amazement as his latest wine glass, now mostly empty anyway, was removed from his fingers and sat on the table. "Come, gwador, and walk in the gardens with me. I am sure we can find other ways of distracting you from whatever sorrow it is you bear."

Haldir focused, a little blearily, on the smiling elf beside him who, despite the familiarity of his address, was a complete stranger. "Who are you, to speak to me in such a fashion?"

The elf laughed prettily, with dimples suddenly appearing on his almost round face. "Well done," he said approvingly, "it is good to see you can still talk, at least. Can you walk, too, gwador, or shall I carry you?"

Haldir blinked at the annoying creature and tried to concentrate. He wished the elf, who still hadn't bothered to volunteer his name, would go away and amuse himself with someone else. Haldir had every intention of getting very, very drunk that night, and wanted to do it in peace. He did not realise he had said the last aloud, until his companion chuckled, and placed a strong arm about his waste. "I think you have already reached that goal, mellon." Haldir found himself being steered out of the ballroom and into the fragrant darkness of the gardens. "To answer your query, my beautiful brother, I am Gildor, often of Imladris, but just as frequently of everywhere else. I have been away for awhile on a scouting mission for my Lord Elrond, but am now returned to wish dear Elrohir well on his finally coming of age." He glanced in amusement back over his shoulder at the picture made by the guest of honour and Glorfindel. "In more ways than one," he murmured, apparently delighted with what he saw.

"Do you laugh at everything?" Haldir asked him in annoyance, as he was unceremoniously dumped onto a bench, which he almost immediately fell off of and onto the grass beyond.

"No, gwador," Gildor gasped, wiping away tears of amusement as he hauled Haldir's largely inert form back onto the bench. "Although I must admit, I have rarely found Imladris so entertaining as this night."

"I am glad I could add to your evening's fun," Haldir told him, slightly disconcerted to find himself wrapped securely in Gildor's strong arms. "Now release me and rejoin your friends, if you have any."

Another chuckle greeted this attempt at dignity. "Oh, I have them, meldir, but I do not find them half as interesting as you. Besides, if I let you go, you'll just fall off the bench again, and a sorry sight that would be, the great Haldir of Lorien, most respected among the Galadrim, to be hauled off to bed by the servants tomorrow morning. Is that what you want, gwador, to be picked up with the party trash and stowed away, like some common man who cannot hold his wine?"

"A man would never have been able to drink as much as I have tonight," Haldir replied, stung, "not and lived, at any rate. And how is it you know my name, Gildor of everywhere? I have never heard of yours."

Gildor did not seem to take offense at the sneer in Haldir's last comment. Indeed, nothing seemed to crack his irritating cheerfulness. "Oh, but you are not supposed to have heard of me, Haldir o' Lorien. That is how I serve my master best, by being unnoticed and passing unseen. I go where I wish and see and hear all, but no one sees me, unless I wish it." He smiled down into the face of the inebriated elf who was now practically lying in his lap. "It is a useful ability, gwador, but it is not something you could duplicate. Such beauty," he mused, running a hand through Haldir's somewhat tangled locks. "No one would ever forget if they had seen you, meldir. You would make a very bad spy."

"It is easy to see that you would make a very good one," Haldir replied, as nastily as he could manage. In truth, the elf who was laughing at his distress was not ill-favoured, but he was plain by elvish standards. He had a good natured, round face that would never be anything more than pleasant, a strong but too solid body that lacked grace, and slightly calloused hands that would never be elegant. His dress robes were a plain dark grey, with no ornamentation at all, and the braids in his dull brown hair looked rather like a nearsighted elfling just out of the cradle had done them for him. Haldir could not help contrasting him with the dark beauty that haunted his dreams of late, and to his horror, he felt tears begin to well up in his eyes. Oh, why could this stupid, ugly elf not leave him in his distress? The shame of being seen so obviously upset by someone he did not even know was a nightmare for Haldir, but he was in no condition to do anything about it.

"I quite agree, and I thank the Valar every night for giving me such a highly forgettable face. I must also remember to thank them for not cursing me with whatever sorrow plagues your heart, gwador, for it truly seems that beauty is not enough to bring happiness."

Haldir could stand no more of this conversation. His heart felt as if it would break, his head was spinning from too much wine, and his mind was tortured with thoughts of what Elrond must be doing. It was all too much. If his tormentor would not leave him, then he would leave his tormentor, however difficult that might be. Staggering to his feet, Haldir, tried to straighten his rumpled robes, but found the job too difficult to manage at the moment. Indeed, he realised as the last Homely House swayed alarmingly before him, that there was a very good chance his evening would end with him sticking inelegantly out of a clump of bushes, rather than safely back in his bed. Not that he cared that much, for it would be a lonely bed, and his thoughts would torture him ceaselessly unless he managed to quiet them with still more wine.

"No, my pretty Galadrim, I do not think so." Gildor had risen to his feet and again looped an arm around the protesting Haldir. "If you want to go to your bed, I will help you, but no more wine! You have had too much already, and will regret it in the morning as it is."

Haldir grimaced, thinking that he regretted even setting foot out of the Golden Wood, but was careful not to voice his thoughts. He had the uncomfortable feeling that he had said too much already to one who understood more than most. Leaning reluctantly on Gildor, Haldir staggered up the steps towards his rooms with a heavy heart. Why was it that fate always denies us what we want, and forces on us what we do not?

Gildor laughed next to him, and his arm tightened as they slowly negotiated the stairs. "Ah, but sometimes, gwador, it gives us what we need."


"Stay with me." Haldir did not find the dark elf who had helped him back to his rooms particularly attractive, but he desperately did not want to be alone that night. His dreams were unlikely to be pleasant ones, and a diversion, any diversion, was preferable.

"No, meldir. Not tonight." Gildor guided him onto his bed and let him fall back against its smooth softness before kneeling to pull off Haldir's embroidered suede boots. He seemed to find something about them amusing, for he examining them with incredulity on his face before tucking them under the bed. Haldir couldn't imagine what he found so strange--they had been specially dyed to match his dress robes and embroidered with a pattern of leaves and flowers by one of Lorien's best seamstresses.

"I said, stay with me," he repeated, for obviously Gildor had not heard him the first time. He clutched at the elf who was now tugging his lush robe from his shoulders. He let him finish then pulled him back onto the bed and into his arms. "You are beautiful," he told him, not up to his usual smooth seduction routine, but nonetheless making an effort.

Gildor just laughed at him, and extricated himself with ease from Haldir's grasp. "Now I know you are drunk, meldir!," he commented, and drew up the heavy quilt around Haldir's tunic clad form. "Sleep well, pretty Galadrim. And, if you still feel the same tomorrow, well, we shall see."

Haldir watched through confused eyes as Gildor left his bedside and crossed the room, evidently really intending to leave. "No one refuses me," he said, more in bewilderment than anger. And it was true. Never, in all his long years, had any prospective lover failed to respond to Haldir's advances. Most practically fell over themselves in eagerness to oblige him. He had only to make the slightest sign of interest, and they were his--even Elrond himself had not said no!

Gildor paused in the doorway, and for the first time his smile was not in evidence. "Well, perhaps that is part of your problem, gwador," he commented mildly, before slipping through the door and shutting it softly behind him.

He was gone. Haldir continued to stare at the door in utter confusion. The elf was clearly deranged, he comforted himself, pulling the coverlet more securely about his chin. Tomorrow, when he felt more himself, when the world had stopped spinning and he could think clearly, then he would deal with this presumptuous elf. "We'll see who refuses Haldir of Lorien," he mumbled, but only a silent room heard him.


Elrond was becoming seriously worried. Celeborn had proved far more devious even than he had expected. A frontal assault he could have dealt with--indeed, as he walked back to his bedchamber, he had already been formulating kind but clear-cut refusals to any propositions his father-in-law might make. What had floored him was Celeborn's refusal to make such an advance. Gone was his brash manner from dinner; instead, he had proceeded on a more subtle attack that Elrond was finding much harder to counter. He was attempting seduction. And it was working.

Elrond had prudently kept a good deal of space between them, leaning in what he hoped was a casual manner against the large fireplace on the wall opposite the balcony, where Celeborn had seated himself at the very window seat Elrond had vacated a few moments earlier. It was not helping, much, however, and he was beginning to feel a little foolish, having to raise his voice to be heard across the width of the room. Not that there had been much conversation. Mostly Celeborn had spent the last few minutes making himself comfortable on the padded bench, arranging his long limbs in what seemed to Elrond a deliberately seductive pose. The delicate silk of his gauzy robes hugged his perfectly shaped form and a slight breeze from the open window ruffled his silver fair hair; when he ran a graceful hand over the top few clasps of his tunic, undoing enough to reveal part of a well muscled chest, Elrond had to almost physically restrain himself from crossing the room and wrestling him to the ground. Which is just what he wants, he reminded himself as harshly as he could manage--then he'll throw you off, laugh at you, or show his disgust at having his suspicions confirmed in the most profound way possible.

Maybe it was the fire behind him, but Elrond was beginning to find the room uncomfortably warm. Taking off any clothing was not, however, an option. Apparently unaware of the tempting picture he made, Celeborn was guilelessly commenting on how happy Elrohir and Glorfindel had looked together as he slowly coaxed the cork out of the large wine bottle he had brought. "A drink, Elrond? This comes from Mirkwood, and I was pleased to find it in your cellar. I am glad the tense relations between you and Thranduil have not kept you from importing some of the finer aspects of his realm." When Celeborn held out the glass, Elrond had little choice but to cross the room to take it, and a moment later he somehow found himself seated on the narrow edge of the bench not already occupied by Celeborn's legs. Long, silk wrapped, perfectly shaped legs that Elrond could think of much better uses for than lying on a bench . . . he hastily drank some wine, then almost choked a second time in one night on its potency. Celeborn had warned him it was the Mirkwood vintage, but he had been distracted at the time. He was still distracted, he realised in mounting dismay, and wished he had put on a thinker, more concealing robe earlier. Elbereth, it was warm in this room!

Celeborn was regarding him over his wine glass with those odd but beautiful silver eyes. Yet he made no move toward him, and Elrond wished fervently that he had some idea how to get out of this predicament. Standing and walking away was no longer an option, as those sharp eyes would almost certainly note his current unfortunate state. None of the many ways Elrond had developed through the years for dealing with inappropriate reactions were working at the moment, while Celeborn continued to look perfectly composed. He was now praising the decorations for the party, but Elrond found it impossible to focus on anything those perfect lips were actually saying--he was too busy thinking of things he would like to have them doing.

Elrond finished his wine, thankful for its bite, but it proved a momentary distraction only, and Celeborn immediately refilled his glass. Elrond cursed himself for stupidity and tried his best to focus on something other than the way the firelight turned his companion's hair to burnished silver--Ai, how Celeborn deserved his name!--and the low, perfectly modulated tones of his voice. For a moment he almost wished that he, like so many other elves, had lost interest in matters of the flesh after his children were born. Perhaps it was his human blood, but he had never experienced any lessening of desire--a fact that was all too much in evidence at the moment. He shifted, trying to find a slightly less uncomfortable position, but it was no use. There was only one thing that was going to alleviate his discomfort, and it was completely unavailable to him at the moment. Drawing on centuries of practice gleaned from diplomatic gatherings that seemed to go on forever, Elrond distanced his mind from his surroundings and proceeded to trade meaningless banter with his revered guest. He might not be able to actually be indifferent, but he could at least project a show of it.


Celeborn was becoming seriously confused. He continued to make small talk with a tiny portion of his mind, but most of his attention was focused on the graceful form of his son-in-law perched at the end of the bench. Elrond looked particularly well, he thought, appreciating the way the fine blue material of his robe clung to his body and darkened further his already almost black hair. It was a much better look for him than the stiffer, more elaborate robes he had worn at dinner, and Celeborn had initially taken it as a good sign when he arrived at Elrond's rooms. Now he was beginning to wonder. Although perfectly pleasant and seemingly glad to continue their inane discussion indefinitely, Elrond was showing no signs of making any advances, or even of understanding that he was expected to do so.

Celeborn sighed inwardly. For one who could be so forceful on the battlefield, and who had a reputation of carrying that attitude over into the bedroom, Elrond was turning out disappointing. Celeborn could, of course, initiate things himself, and he briefly considered doing so as Elrond's conversation droned on and on. He could see himself slamming the beautiful elf onto the plush carpet below their feet, running his hands over that barely concealed form and through that dark waterfall of hair and crushing that beautiful mouth in a searing kiss . . . Elbereth--the elves these days had no idea how to manage a simple thing like a seduction! No wonder Celebrian was so often in Lorien! Of course, her lover probably had something to do with that, but if Elrond treated her with no more passion than he was currently evidencing, it was no wonder she preferred Galdriel's young handmaiden.

With difficulty, Celeborn managed to get himself under control. Taking was not the goal here, he reminded himself, although it was beginning to look better all the time. Regarding the beauty seated so temptingly only a few scant inches away, he began to think that perhaps his ennui was not as extreme as he had thought. However, he was not in the habit of having his wishes thwarted and he had come here to be taken, and taken he intended to be, if it took all night! Elrond could not have received his reputation for nothing; perhaps he was just not accustomed to regarding Celeborn in that light. Well, he thought smugly, that was where thousands of years of experience came in handy. Before his marriage, Celeborn had, himself, had something of a reputation, and although it had been awhile, he thought he might still remember a few tried and true techniques. He smiled somewhat ferally at Elrond, who faltered slightly in whatever inanity he had been spouting. By the Valar, he had not had this much fun in years!

Haldir had had hangovers before, although rarely as he considered himself too much of a connoisseur to overindulge. What was the point in continuing to drink once you could no longer discern subtle variations in flavour, or indeed, any flavour at all? Of course, last night had been different. For the first time in a long while, Haldir had not drunk for pleasure but for surcease of pain, which was highly ironic considering the agony he was currently suffering. Sitting on the edge of the bed, eyes squinted up against the first rays of the morning sun, he reflected on the fact that he truly hated Imladris. He would return to Lorien but he honestly doubted his ability to stand up, much less to ride, at present. He put his head between his legs and concentrated on not being sick. A horribly irritating bird was singing somewhere beyond his window, and it echoed painfully in his head. If he had had a bow, and had been able to see straight, he would have shot it.

"Good morning, mellon!" With a crash that sent a bolt of pain crashing through Haldir's already tortured brain, the door was flung open and a homely but broadly grinning elf came barreling through. Why did the creature look familiar? Oh yes, Haldir thought, eyes narrowing in anger as well as pain. G something . . . Gildor, that was it. It was that insane elf from the previous night, and he was smiling. Of course he was, Haldir thought in high dudgeon; when did he ever do anything else? And he probably did not have a headache.

If he had felt slightly better, and hadn't had evil plans in mind for Gildor, Haldir would have taken great pleasure in throwing him from the room, especially seeing the huge tray he was currently depositing on a nearby table. The smells of the gargantuan breakfast Gildor had brought drifted over and momentarily distracted Haldir from other thoughts, as his stomach threatened once again to revolt. "Take it away, I want nothing," he managed to get out, fighting a sudden wave of extreme nausea.

"But I do, mellon, and since I carried it all the way up here from the kitchens, I think I'll eat something before throwing it out." Without bothering to do anything so well bred as ask permission, Gildor seated himself at the small table near Haldir's bed and proceeded to wolf down enough food for three elves. "Are you sure you won't have anything?," he asked innocently, waving a roasted chicken leg in Haldir's direction, "it's all quite good, you know. One of the things I like best about my visits here--the food is superb. But then, Elrond has excellent taste in everything, I hear."

Haldir vaguely wondered if that was some sort of subtle compliment to himself, then decided that the blunt figure in front of him was probably incapable of such cleverness. Not that it mattered, of course. Elrond had found a new distraction, and Haldir, who had played the game often enough himself to know the rules, expected to be gently but firmly brushed aside. He couldn't even really blame him, although he still found the whole scenario somewhat difficult to believe. Celeborn had never, that Haldir had ever heard, taken a lover since his marriage. Admittedly, he and Galadriel had seemed to drift apart in recent years, but then, they had had a child, and many elves thereafter found their desire lessening. He had seen no signs that this bothered either of them in any way, but apparently Celeborn had been harbouring unexpressed desires. Well, unless Elrond had changed out of all recognition, they had probably been expressed numerous times last night, and Haldir would consequently soon find his unneeded self on the road back home. At least he would be able to say a goodbye to Imladris, which had done nothing but embarrass and confuse him since he arrived.

"You look pensive, gwador," Gildor said around a mouthful of food. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

Haldir smiled slightly, and, rising to his feet with difficulty, excused himself to go to the baths down the hall. He intended to come back soon and deal with Gildor before he left for Lorien. It would be small recompense for the indignities he had suffered on this trip, but at least he would have the pleasure of wiping that ever-present grin off the elf's face. Haldir quite looked forward to seeing his expression when, brought to the brink of passion, he was denied any release. Refuse Haldir of Lorien, would he? He would live to regret it, and to long, as Haldir himself was doomed to do, forever after something he could not have.

"I'll go with you," Gildor volunteered, jumping up from the table, having already managed to bolt his breakfast. Haldir smilingly agreed and, feeling much better simply at the thought of his planned revenge, allowed Gildor to solicitously lead him out of his rooms and down the hall, pausing only long enough to pick up a few needed bath items on the way. Looking at the open, trusting face next to him, Haldir stifled a wicked grin. Oh yes, this would be easy.


Elrond was tired, cross and in extreme discomfort. The only satisfaction he had was that, unless he seriously misread the signs, Celeborn was fairing little better. For hours now, they had dueled--Elrond could think of no other word for it considering that he had been in actual combat that was less painful--and yet there was no victor. But Elrond thought he saw signs that Celeborn was weakening.

The Lord of Lorien lay sprawled, almost nude, across Elrond's extensive bed. It looked smaller, somehow, he thought, with Celeborn in it. The beautiful silver robes lay scattered on the carpet, along with most of Elrond's own clothing. The former was due to Celeborn's repeated statements that Elrond's rooms were too warm, resulting in a slow strip tease over the course of several hours, as he found various excuses for ridding himself of parts of his attire. The explanation for the latter was that Elrond had, some time back, decided on a change of tactic when Celeborn stubbornly refused to admit defeat. In a desperate attempt to make his father-in-law make the first move--which would give Elrond the slight excuse, once he had finished pounding him through the carpet, that he had only acted out of courtesy to an honoured guest--he had decided to turn the tables and beat Celeborn at his own game. The result had not exactly been as intended.

Every time Celeborn found reason to remove another item of clothing, and reveal a bit more of that perfect body, Elrond had matched him. Their outer robes had gone first, followed by tunics, shirts and leggings. They both now wore only brief loin-cloths, which did little to hide raging erections. Elrond genuinely thought he was going to explode if he didn't do something to alleviate his condition soon. Never had he been this hard this long, and even his appreciation for the finer points of pain as an aphrodisiac was no longer sustaining him. He ached, he longed, and he urgently needed relief, but he was damned if Celeborn was going to beat him. The contest had long since stopped being about any need to hide his preferences from his father-in-law; this was now a personal battle against the greatest opponent he had ever faced. Celeborn WOULD give in first, although Elrond rather worried about what would happen when he did. He had passed the point at which he could be certain of controlling his actions once the tight hold he had over his emotions was released. Elbereth! Why was Celeborn so impossibly stubborn? Elrond only managed to contain himself by plotting particularly wicked things to do to the long, pale body that was trembling with need a few feet away, just as soon as Celeborn's famous calm finally cracked.


Celeborn was in agony. He was also very close to hating his son-in-law. The surge of unfamiliar emotions coursing through him had given him considerable pleasure throughout the night, allowing him to ignore for hours his building need; for a while, even that had been pleasurable, as he certainly had not felt desire of this magnitude in more than a millennia. In truth, he wasn't sure he had ever known anything quite like this, and he was no longer enjoying it. True, he had wanted something new, but this unfulfilled throbbing ache had not been exactly what he had had in mind.

It was small comfort to know that Elrond did, indeed, suffer the same. The half-elf's perfect skin was flushed and shone with a thin film of sweat. His pupils were dilated and he was close to panting in his desire, with each breath seemingly as painful as Celeborn's own. He sat, staring at Celeborn with wild eyes, on the padded bench by the window, a scant few footfalls away. Celeborn had moved himself to the bed some few hours before, not trusting himself to remain on the bench with Elrond, whose body kept "accidentally" brushing up against his own. And there they had stayed, hour after long, pain-filled hour, and none of Celeborn's heretofore dependable seduction tactics had been enough to break Elrond's resolve.

Celeborn just couldn't understand it. WHY was he acting this way? Pondering that question had provided some much needed distraction to his fevered mind for a few hours, and he had come up with a number of possible scenarios. They ranged from squeamishness because they were related by marriage--unlikely as, first, it wasn't much of a marriage and never had been and, second, Elrond was not known for squeamishness--to fear of Galadriel's retribution if she found out. Celeborn wanted to reassure him that his wife had never been able to read either of them, so unless they lost their minds and confessed, she need never know, but that would have been a kind of defeat. Elrond had steadfastly refused to admit what they were doing, and Celeborn wasn't going to be the first to bring it up.

Elrond was, he had finally decided, waiting for him to make the first move, possibly out of deference for his position, or out of a desire to blame it all on him if Galadriel did manage to discover their secret. Watching the obviously suffering elf opposite him, Celeborn read the resolve in those dark eyes. Drat the creature, he would sit there until one of them had a coronary before he gave in! Celeborn did not doubt that he was as strong willed as his son-in-law, but he was also fabled for his good sense, and logic said to Mandos with the original plan. He needed relief and he was going to take it whether Elrond liked it or not; Celeborn just hoped he didn't kill him in the process.

With the lightening fast reflexes of a seasoned warrior, Celeborn leaped up from the bed and reached for the tantalising, maddening and gorgeous elf that had tormented him unlike any he had ever known. The second his hands grabbed Elrond's quivering figure, however, he somehow ended up face down on the bed, his hands being bound securely behind him with his own loin-cloth, which had been ripped from his body in one swift motion.

"Thank the Valar!," Elrond gasped in his ear, pulling his hands over his head and securing them to a nearby bedpost with practised skill. Celeborn could not have agreed more.


An urgent hand shaking his shoulder and a panicked whisper in his ear awakened Glorfindel. "Get up. I need your help!"

Rolling away from the warm body tucked halfway beneath him, he focused an irritated eye and looked about for the source of the disturbance. Due to the party running into the wee hours of the morning, and to the length of their own private celebration thereafter, he and Elrohir had not been asleep for long. His young companion snuggled deeper into the feather mattress and did not awaken, but he was allowed no such luxury.

"NOW, Glorfindel!," came the voice again, urgent enough to finally penetrate his sleep fogged brain. Once the concern on Erestor's familiar face registered, Glorfindel threw on a robe and quickly followed his fellow councilor into the hallway. The house was silent, with most of its many occupants still soundly sleeping through the morning after the night before.

"What is it?"

As soon as he saw that Glorfindel was following him, Erestor all but ran to the seneschal's rooms and flung open the door. "You'll need to get some clothes on," he threw back over his shoulder. Glorfindel hurried along behind him, only to find Erestor rooting through his extensive wardrobe and frantically tossing colorful robes onto the bed. "Where are your more formal things?," he demanded, looking with distaste at a plum coloured robe decorated all over with tiny crystal beads. "WE need to look respectable, at least."

Glorfindel reached past him to the back of the cupboard and extracted a deep forest green ensemble of a decidedly respectable mien. "Will this do?"

"Yes, yes, that's fine. Now get dressed, we haven't much time."

Glorfindel obligingly threw off the light night robe he was wearing and proceeded to get properly attired, while Erestor paced about the room agitatedly. Glorfindel could scarce remember a time when he had seen his fellow councilor so visibly upset. "Are you going to tell me what is wrong? It is far too early and I am far too tired to play guessing games with you."

Erestor shot him a sharp glance, and began speaking in a far less organised manner than was his wont. "I need that famous charm of yours. Someone has to distract her while I deal with them, and I can't be two places at once, and anyway, I doubt I could hold her off long enough to do much good, but you can babble on about things for hours on end and . . . "

"I'm not the one babbling now," Glorfindel pointed out, while running a comb through his tangled hair in an effort to restore some order to it.

"It's Galadriel!," Erestor blurted out, all but wringing his hands in his distress. "The forward patrols sent word only a few minutes ago, and I went to inform Celeborn, but he wasn't in his rooms, so I went to tell Elrond and . . . "

"And what?" Glorfindel was getting more than a little worried at the direction this conversation was taking.

"And I found them . . . together . . ." Erestor looked pleadingly at Glorfindel. "Oh, PLEASE hurry up!"

Glorfindel's hands, which had been braiding his hair with his usual speed, faltered. "You're trying to tell me . . . "

"Galadriel is HERE! Haven't you been listening? And if she walks in on them," Erestor grabbed Glorfindel by his upper arms and shook him, "then the last war will look like a minor scuffle in comparison to what we're about to have here! So get out there and stall her, for Elbereth's sake--I need all the time you can give me!"


Elrond ran a tongue slowly over the tracery of fine welts he had just finished inflicting on his father-in-law's perfect back. The bright red against the otherwise perfect cream of his partner's skin was a tantalizing sight, and the taste was a divine mixture of copper and salt and some indefinable sweetness that was uniquely Celeborn. His companion moaned, but could make little other response through the gag Elrond had early on decided to fit him with. There was something about these Lorien elves--they wanted to talk all the time, when there were far better uses for tongues. Letting his own drop further, Elrond reflected that, had he time enough, he would enjoy marking every part of the perfect body beneath him, before claiming it as his own. His prolonged neglect of his own needs, however, was forcing him to a faster pace than he liked, but he consoled himself with the thought that there would be plenty of time for play afterwards. Celeborn was going to pay for the torment he'd put Elrond through this night--oh, yes, he would pay in full--but first things first.

Elrond groped around under the mattress for his vial and, when it proved elusive, briefly considered not bothering, but he didn't want to risk seriously injuring his partner. Plus, this particular concoction did add so much to the experience. Finally his hand closed on the tiny crystal flask and, he noted with approval as he removed the stopper, the herbal scented oil within it remained icy to the touch. He had had the flask made of an especially thick mineral for that very reason.

With a pleased sigh, Elrond parted the exquisite ivory mounds before him, ignoring Celeborn's slight wriggle of protest as he did so. He easily found his partner's tight pink entrance and let a few chilly drops carefully drip around it. Celeborn reacted as expected, shifting as much as his restricted position would permit in an effort to get away from the bitter cold of the oil. Elrond allowed him no such reprieve, but slid a knee between his thighs and forced them further apart. "If you continue to fight me, I'll bind your legs, too," he whispered lazily into Celeborn's beautifully shaped ear. "I'll spread you wide and tie each of those pretty ankles to a different bedpost. Your most private places will be fully exposed to anything I want to do . . . and you'll helpless to resist me." Elrond ran light fingertips along Celeborn's spine, barely touching him, but the frosty oil caused him to flinch nonetheless. "If you want to retain any freedom of movement, you'll remain still," he warned him, and Celeborn momentarily quieted under his touch. Elrond smiled, and it was probably best that his father-in-law could not see that particular expression.

Reaching again for the flask, Elrond let a generous amount drizzle over his hand; it was so cold that it caused pinpricks of pain to blossom all over his palm. It felt rather like little daggers were piercing him, and wherever they did so, the skin burned until it had time to bring the temperature of the oil to its own warmth. That was something Elrond had carefully designed the lubricant to resist, and so the tiny needles lasted a very long time. Reaching under the mattress again, he extracted one of his favourite toys. Watching the early morning sun glinting off the cold metal, he smiled, and with practised ease slid the little ring underneath his father-in-law's still form and onto the thick member that was pressing needfully into the mattress. Once at the top, he stopped and made a small adjustment, and Celeborn groaned loudly. Elrond chuckled--if that was how he responded to the preparation, what would the actual event do to him?

"That was nothing, my dear Celeborn. Just a way of insuring that your enthusiasm doesn't lag part way though these proceedings." Sliding his other arm around his companion's lightly shivering form--how amusing that Celeborn still thought he would be able to stay still!--Elrond paused for an instant in anticipation, then allowed his oil soaked hand to gently grasp Celeborn's rock hard length.

Oh, how beautifully he screamed, even with the gag in place! The soreness of long-neglected flesh combined with the divine agony caused by the oil to introduce Celeborn to new heights of pain and passion. Elrond rode out the bucking and writhing and whimpering that followed, intense pleasure coursing through him from his triumph at mastering the powerful warrior beneath him. Despite much practise, Elrond found controlling the well-muscled body trying so desperately to break free of its bonds to prove quite a challenge.

"I warned you," he purred, as the movement tapered off, and with a swift, cat-like action, gripped the strong legs tensed so nicely against him, and through sheer force slowly pulled them apart, lashing each ankle securely to one of the heavy wooden posts of his bed. To even out the scene, he then removed the restraining cloth, which was close to being ripped apart anyway, from Celeborn's wrists and, using all his strength, forced his companion's hands through padded steel manacles. Sitting heavily on his father-in-law's back to prevent his escape, he then clipped the shackled arms to the remaining two bedposts. Sweating from exertion, Elrond sat back to survey the faultless form spread open before him, wishing again that his body would allow him time to fully appreciate it. As it was, however, the struggle had just increased his arousal to the point where it would wait no longer.

Coating his fingers again in the frosty substance from the vial, Elrond carefully pushed one into Celeborn's now fully revealed opening and once more earned a violent reaction from his father-in-law, who was screaming something against the fullness of the gag. Honestly, you'd almost think from his reaction that he hadn't been practically begging for this all night! Adding another finger, Elrond worked the tight corridor open slowly but surely. It fought his intrusion, and especially the cold of the oil, but determined effort paid off. Elrond could tell, as he added still another finger, that the lubricant was starting to warm up in the heat of Celeborn's body, and its other feature would soon begin to show itself. It was designed to spread extreme pleasure when it reached body temperature, and, coming on top of the previous pain, was an intense enough feeling that Elrond had known elves to faint from it. He somehow thought Celeborn would manage to stay conscious, however.

When the sensation broke, Celeborn's body stiffened in surprise, and then relaxed into the pleasure to such an extent that Elrond was easily able to slide into the still narrow opening and finally ease the desire that had been building for hours. Thrusting deeper and harder that his usual practice on first entry, he was rewarded by a surprised gasp from the elf below him, who despite his previous flailing about, now arched back to meet him. The residue of the oil, which bathed Elrond in its warmth and aphrodisiac qualities, combined with the sudden eagerness of his partner and his own desperate need to bring him to completion much more quickly than usual. With barely a few strokes, he was on the edge of climax, and Celeborn's passionate reaction when Elrond drove against his prostate was enough to finish him off. In one last, massive thrust, Elrond shuddered to release and cried out his lover's name into the quiet of his chambers.

Collapsing onto the shuddering form beneath him, he vaguely realised that the room seemed to have acquired an echo. Glancing up, he met the wide-eyed gaze of Erestor, apparently frozen in place by the doorway. With a barely recognizable squeak, his long-time lover disappeared back into the outermost rooms of his chambers, a look of profound shock on his fair features. Elrond briefly wondered at the reaction, as neither of them had ever pretended to exclusiveness in their relationship and this was hardly the first time his friend had accidentally walked in on one of his diversions. Still, he was not left to ponder the problem long as Celeborn was still in serious need of attention.

Feeling far more kindly disposed towards his companion than he had for most of the night, Elrond released his bonds and flipped the almost limp form onto its back. Removing the restraining band from Celeborn's still raging erection, he lovingly swallowed him, allowing his father-in-law to find some measure of the relief Elrond had just experienced. A few moments were all it took to bring him to climax, so great was his need, and despite the length of their foreplay, he was rather surprised at the force of his companion's finish. Kissing the corner of the fair mouth afterwards, and lapping up a small trickle of blood caused by the tightness of the gag as he did so, Elrond then courteously crossed the room to fetch a wet towel with which to clean them both up.

He found Celeborn still laying in seeming exhaustion on the bed when he returned, and smiled at the perfection of that long, white torso. He had plans for the rest of his father-in-law's beautiful body, once they had both rested a bit. Celeborn removed the arm he had flung over his eyes as Elrond rejoined him on the bed. Watching his son-in-law slowly clean off the evidence of their recent activities, he smiled slightly. "You don't know, do you?"

Elrond looked up in surprise. Celeborn had removed the gag without permission, but he was feeling mellow enough to ignore that at the moment. "Know what?," he asked fondly, expecting to hear some form of praise--it had been a good performance, if an abbreviated one.

"You're the master of Imladris, your feelings should tell you, if you heed them."

Elrond wrinkled his forehead in confusion, but reached out with his thoughts anyway, and almost fell off the bed in shock at what he discovered. If he hadn't been so distracted, he would have known long before.

"I would have told you," Celeborn commented lazily, leaning back against the footboard of the bed in apparent calm, "but I found it difficult to speak for some reason." Elrond just looked at him, a feeling approaching abject terror spreading through him. Before he could even attempt to frame a reply, Erestor ran back into the room and threw an armful of garments onto the bed.

"Glorfindel is stalling for time, but we have to hurry. She's almost here!" When neither of the Eldar on the bed moved, the smaller elf began hopping from one foot to the other in extreme distress. "Come, my lords, I beg you, get up and dress. The Lady Galadriel approaches with a party of Galadrim from Lorien, and will soon be here. You must be fit to receive her!"

Elrond was watching Celeborn with mounting horror. He would not be this still, this quiet, if there was not more to the story than he had told. Celeborn saw his expression and smiled, a little ruefully. "She farspoke me half an hour ago," he said mildly. "I was too . . . preoccupied . . . at the time to block her from my mind. I am afraid," he said to the agitated Erestor, "that your attempts at deception are a waste of time." He turned back to Elrond, "My Lady has been with us for some time now, and greatly desires to speak to us both."

The End

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