“No! Let him be!” Elrond stared numbly as the door closed behind the Uruk-Hai, who had taken Erestor. His heart told him that Erestor wouldn’t survive more torture and he banged his fists against the door. Maybe if he managed to draw the Uruk-Hai’s attention the creature would leave Erestor alone!
/If only I had used my healing powers as I wanted. Why did he stop me? Erestor would be stronger now./ But he had barely had the chance to heal Erestor. The Uruk-Hai had appeared too quickly for him to heal the damage done to Erestor. Sliding down the wall, he hit the cold floor and sat cross-legged, staring dazedly in front of him.
Erestor’s blood clung to his hands and he shuddered, recalling the state his friend was in. Growing back those fingernails would take six weeks at least and -- /Why did he never tell me he loved me?/ Elrond still hadn’t come to terms with that admission. /He loves me. Erestor has loved me for millennia and never told me! Erestor, why did you keep silent for so many years? Why suffer in silence?/ His heart twisted in his chest and Elrond wrung his hands as despair came over him.
/What if he dies? Elbereth, do not let him die, not now when I finally found out about his feelings. Fate cannot be that cruel./ Forgotten was Gil-galad; forgotten was Celebrian. Erestor had loved him all this time and had respected the lovers he had taken, never uttering a word of disapproval. Erestor had always been loyal to him and now he fully understood why.
Long moments passed by and Elrond stared listlessly at the floor. He hated being this helpless. /Why did I convince him to come along? He liked the peace and quiet and I had to --/ Unable to finish that thought, he buried his head in his hands.
He jumped to his feet, suddenly alert at hearing a marching sound in the corridor. Once more feet dragged over the floor. “Erestor, be alive!”
When the door opened, Erestor was once more thrown into the cell and Elrond caught him. Looking at Erestor he forgot to breathe momentarily; the Elf’s face had been cut with a knife and the slashes were still bleeding. “No,” he whispered in misery, lowering the Elf onto the floor. Feeling eyes on him, he glared at the Uruk-Hai who was leaning against the doorway with a smug grin on his face. /You will pay for this,/ vowed Elrond privately.
Studying them, the Uruk-Hai finally realized what would make his prisoner talk. Next time, he would threaten the Elf’s companion; that might loosen his tongue! The time that it was taking to break the Ruler of Imladris annoyed him. He had thought the Elf to be weak and fragile, but the opposite was the case. However, he wasn’t giving up.
The Uruk-Hai closed the door behind him and now that their tormentor had left, Elrond gently rocked Erestor in his arms. The raven haired Elf’s injuries were countless and Elrond could feel Erestor slipping away from him.
He felt grateful that Erestor was unconscious, for now the pain didn’t register. “I won’t listen to you any longer. I refuse to let you slip away.” Only a day ago he had pulled Rumil back from the brink and using his healing powers again this shortly would surely exhaust him. But he didn’t have a choice; he couldn’t let Erestor die.
Placing his hands on either side of Erestor’s head, he drew in a deep breath, trying to concentrate, but a sudden noise attracted his attention. His eyes widened at hearing the voices. /Is that Elrohir? And Celeborn?/
Staring at the door, he waited, hoping help had finally arrived.
Elrohir saw red when two Orcs raised their swords, wanting to attack him. Shooting an arrow, he took out the first and then buried his sword in the other’s throat. Both dropped dead to the ground.
“Leave some for me, brother,” hissed Elladan. He jumped from his horse and charged at the Orc that was defending the doorway.
“Do not worry, Elladan,” sneered Elrohir, “There are enough of them left.”
Celeborn shivered, seeing the hate in the twins’ eyes as they took out another Orc. Suddenly a larger pack appeared from behind the house. There were about twenty-five of them and he signaled for his escort to dismount and take care of the threat. He chose to follow the twins into the house, trusting them to lead him to Elrond.
“Elrohir!” Celeborn called out a warning, seeing the Uruk-Hai appear from the shadows. The creature was wielding two long knives, and lurched for Elrohir.
Elrohir stepped back, raised his sword and blocked the attack. “He is mine,” growled Elrohir angrily. He had already noticed the blood clinging to the Uruk-Hai’s hands and armor, and mentally prepared for the worst possible scenario. /If that is Ada’s blood on his hands I will kill him very slowly…/
Driven by anger, he managed to disarm the Uruk-Hai who was now backed up against the wall. Although he was at Elrohir’s mercy, defiance and loathing shone from the creature’s eyes.
“Where are the Elves?” Celeborn stopped Elrohir from striking a lethal blow, locking eyes with the creature. “Where are they?”
The Uruk-Hai laughed. “I’m not telling you.”
“We will find Ada without his help,” said Elladan in a disgusted tone.
Elrohir nodded once, raised his sword and with one swift stroke decapitated the Uruk-Hai. The head dropped first onto the floor, quickly followed by the body whilst spasms coursed through the now headless corpse.
Celeborn sighed, distressed. “He could have told us where to find Elrond.”
“We do not need him,” said Elladan in a firm tone. He closed his eyes, cocked his head, and listened to that special connection that had formed between them at birth. “Follow me.” Elrond had often teased them with the fact that they always managed to find them, even when he was trying to have an undisturbed moment, but Elladan now thanked Elbereth that he was able to do this.
Elrohir followed his twin downstairs, sensing his father’s presence as well.
Celeborn watched them come to a stop, glaring at the oak door that kept them from reaching Elrond. “We need an axe.”
Elladan nodded, climbed the stairs again and returned with an axe. “Stand back.” Swinging the axe, he let it crash near the lock, which shattered into tiny pieces. Finally the last obstacle had been removed.
Elrond held Erestor tightly, ignoring his friend’s injuries as the need to feel him close overwhelmed the half-Elf. Then he heard metal clashing and the roar of outraged Orcs. “Help is on the way, mellon-nîn. Hold on a little longer!” His heart thundered, hearing an axe impact on the lock. A moment later, the door opened and Elladan stormed inside.
Elladan’s first reaction was to smile at his father, but that smile froze on his face seeing the state Erestor was in. “By Elbereth…” His voice trailed off and the axe fell from his hand, dropping hard onto the floor. The metallic noise sent shivers through Erestor’s body and the Elf’s eyes suddenly widened with pain when he regained consciousness.
Erestor’s bruised lips opened to release a scream, but no sound emerged. His eyes blinked when blood dripped into them and his body tensed, expecting another beating.
Elrond soothed him at once, whispering softly, “You are safe now, mellon-nîn. I am going to take you to Imladris where you will make a full recovery. I will look after you.” Elrond was so focused on Erestor that he never realized tears were gliding down his face.
Erestor’s eyes closed, and his body went limp as he lost consciousness again.
Celeborn and Elrohir now entered as well, both cringing at the condition Erestor was in.
“Why did they do this to him?” Elrohir dropped to his knees and gently brushed bloodied locks away from Erestor’s bruised face. “Ada?” Looking to Elrond for answers, he was shocked to see tears running down his father’s cheeks.
“They wanted to know about Imladris’ defenses. I wish he had told them.” Elrond looked up and made eye contact with Celeborn. “I know that there are packs of raiding Orcs and Uruk-Hai about, but we would have found a way to deal with those!”
“But why question Erestor?” Elladan’s voice trembled, addressing his father. Turning away, he addressed a member of their escort and asked him to construct a litter; Erestor was in no condition to ride a horse.
“Erestor told them he was me. They thought they were questioning Elrond Half-Elven.” Elrond shook his head. “I tried to tell them, but they did not believe me.” His fingers clawed at the dirtied fabric of Erestor’s robes, still holding on tight. “Why are we wasting time talking? I want him safe at home, not lying here on the cold floor!”
“They are building a litter,” said Elladan reassuringly. He placed a hand on his father’s shoulder and squeezed gently. He was worried that more injuries were hidden beneath the robes.
Elrohir cleared his throat, trying to do away with the lump that had formed. “Erestor is always in control, and seeing him like this is…” Lost for words, he made eye contact with his father. “He looks so vulnerable.”
Elrond cradled Erestor against his chest. Lifting his charge, he slowly rose from the floor. When Celeborn offered to help him carry Erestor, he refused. From this moment on, Erestor’s recovery was his responsibility.
Elladan and Elrohir followed and fell into step at their father’s side when they stepped into the open.
Elrond’s face was emotionless, encountering the slaughtered Orcs. “What about the Uruk-Hai?”
“He is dead,” said Elladan firmly. “Was it he who did this to Erestor?”
Elrond nodded once. “I wanted to kill the beast personally.” But the Uruk-Hai was dead and now he had to concentrate on helping Erestor heal. He walked over to the litter, and gently placed Erestor’s battered form on it. Cradling Erestor’s good hand in his, he said, “Give me your cloaks.”
Elladan removed his cloak and Elrond covered Erestor with it, tucking it around the other’s form. He repeated the procedure when Celeborn handed him his cloak as well. It was not the cold of the air he worried about, but the chill of Mandos. Was Erestor’s healing ability strong enough to keep him from slipping away?
“He would not have survived another beating,” whispered Elrond, walking next to the litter. He refused to mount his horse, unwilling to leave Erestor’s side. Two Elves carried the litter while he gently rubbed Erestor’s knuckles.
Elladan and Elrohir didn’t mount either and walked on the other side of the litter, keeping close to their father and Erestor; their instincts told them that Elrond needed their support.
Celeborn rode at the head of the escort, making sure they didn’t run into additional trouble. Looking over his shoulder, his gaze became sad, seeing Erestor’s blue lips and closed eyes. /How do I tell Glorfindel what happened? He will blame himself, but this was not his fault. I should have taken over when Rumil kept him from performing his duties./
Elrond briefly met Celeborn’s gaze, but then concentrated on Erestor again. “Only a little longer, mellon-nîn and then we will be home again.” He would take Erestor to his private rooms where he could supervise his friend’s recovery.
Channeling a small amount of his healing power, he sent the energy through his fingers and into Erestor’s hand. It was just enough to drive away the blue hue from Erestor’s lips. “Do not give up, mellon-nîn. Stay with me.”
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged a look at hearing their father’s words. Elrond was expressing their feelings as well. “I never realized how much I care about Erestor,” said Elladan thoughtfully. “He was always there for us. A bit distant, but always ready to help.”
Elrond nodded, saddened. /And now I know why he was this distant. He was hiding his feelings from us, but not any more. I will confront him with those feelings once he is recovering. I won’t let him get away with this./
“He is a part of this family,” added Elrohir, “but we never said it aloud.”
“Maybe it is time we did,” said Elladan, “Especially since he was hurt trying to protect you, Ada.” He was still baffled that Erestor had pretended to be Elrond; the advisor must have known what the Orcs would do to him! /I never realized just how loyal he is!/
They grew silent and Elrond continued to rub the back of Erestor’s hand, sending tiny amounts of his energy into the battered body. Looking up, he saw the last Homely House appear to his right. “We are home, mellon-nîn.” But Erestor, still unconscious, didn’t respond.
Glorfindel heard the party return. The horses’ hooves announced their arrival and he finally managed to free himself of Rumil’s vice-like grip. He still blamed himself for not realizing anything was amiss; hopefully nothing had happened to Elrond and Erestor!
Rumil groaned pitifully, squirming in the bed, searching for Glorfindel’s warm body.
Glorfindel was tempted to return to the bed, but first he had to make sure Elrond and Erestor were well. He tiptoed over to the window, making as little noise as possible, wanting Rumil to remain asleep, and looked down at the courtyard.
His eyes widened in shock and he grabbed the windowsill, needing to anchor himself at seeing Erestor’s battered face. What had happened to his friend? Glorfindel’s knuckles were white, and he released the breath he had involuntarily been holding. His next glance was at Elrond, and he was relieved to find the half-Elf unhurt.
Suddenly it was very important to him to check on Erestor for himself and he dashed out of the room, momentarily forgetting about Rumil.
Rumil’s eyes opened, as the need to feel Glorfindel close overwhelmed him. He was startled to find the bed empty and his eyes hungrily scanned the room. Distressed, he realized he was alone.
Alone. He had been alone since his brothers had died and no, he didn’t want to think of them. Glorfindel had kept the memories at bay, but now that the blond was gone, they were surfacing again. Curling up into a tight ball, he wrapped his arms around his knees. Why had Glorfindel left? Had the elder Elf finally tired of his childish behavior?
Rumil sat upright, swung his feet onto the floor and tentatively rose from the bed. He reached out to the wall for support and he halted in his movements, trying to deal with the fact that the room was spinning. A few moments later, the dizziness left and he cautiously took another step toward the doorway. Slowly, he made his way into the corridor. Hearing voices, he recognized Celeborn and Glorfindel’s, and followed them.
A full moon illuminated the dark midnight sky and his eyes narrowed, trying to take in the sight in front of him. A litter was being carried inside, followed by three dark-haired Elves. Celeborn and Glorfindel stood near the horses and both sounded distressed and worried.
Still unsteady on his feet, he leaned against the wall, watching them. Celeborn was the father he had never had, and Glorfindel — he wasn’t so sure what Glorfindel meant to him. He was so easily confused now that Haldir and Orophin were gone. He wasn’t used to dealing with everything on his own!
Drawing in his next breath became increasingly difficult and his eyes briefly closed as he tried to steady his breathing.
Glorfindel suddenly saw movement near the doorway and nearly cursed, seeing Rumil sway on his feet.
Celeborn’s gaze followed Glorfindel’s and he grew worried as well, seeing the pallor and cold sweat on the younger Elf’s face. “What are you doing out here?”
“You should be in bed!” Glorfindel folded one arm around Rumil and pulled him down the corridor, heading for Rumil’s guest rooms. “You are not yet strong enough to leave your room!”
Rumil managed a weak smile, but lacked the energy to voice his thoughts. They didn’t make sense anyway as they were running in circles, constantly focusing on his brothers’ deaths. It felt good to have Glorfindel close again and he leaned into the embrace, drawing strength and comfort from the elder Elf. “I am sorry I am being a bother,” he whispered eventually.
Glorfindel’s eyes lit up at hearing Rumil speak. The younger Elf had come a long way since his arrival at Imladris, and Glorfindel felt it was safe to say that Rumil would eventually recover. “You are not a bother, Rumil. You are hurting and I feel honored that you are letting me in. That cannot be easy on you.”
They had reached the guest quarters and Glorfindel guided Rumil back to the bed. “Lie down. You need rest.”
Rumil complied and enjoyed the fact that Glorfindel was fussing over him. He was reminded of Haldir, who had always watched over him whenever he had been injured. Usually those injuries stemmed from fighting or rough housing with Orophin, who most of the time also ended up battered.
“Thank you for staying with me.” It still amazed him that the famous Balrog slayer chose to spend time with him. Rumil raised his eyes in silent gratitude and met Celeborn’s gaze in the process. “I am sorry I scared you,” he said apologetically. “That was never my intention. I did not know how to handle this.”
Celeborn walked up to Rumil and sat down on the edge of the bed. “You could not possibly know how to handle this. Only very few Elves ever lost two relatives at the same time, and the three of you were so close. My heart mourns as well.”
Celeborn’s words brought tears to Rumil’s eyes and he sobbed softly, not minding that the two Elves witnessed his pain; they understood why he was hurting. “I want them back! Why did they leave me?”
Glorfindel and Celeborn exchanged a look. Celeborn nodded, indicating that the Elda should comfort Rumil.
Glorfindel folded both arms around the sobbing Elf’s shoulders and held him close, rocking him slowly. Words of comfort wouldn’t come to him, so he remained silent and settled for rubbing Rumil’s back in soothing circles.
The sobs slowly faded away and Glorfindel gently lowered Rumil onto the bed. Looking at Celeborn, he nodded once. “I will look after him. See if you can find out how Erestor fares.”
“And I will perform your duties while you are watching over Rumil. This cannot happen again.” Now that he knew Rumil was in good hands, Celeborn left the guest rooms to enquire about Erestor’s injuries.
Glorfindel deeply inhaled Rumil’s scent and pressed a chaste kiss on the hair that was slowly turning silver again. “Sleep. I will watch over you.”
“Take him to my private chambers,” instructed Elrond. “Elladan, fetch clean cloths and warm water. Elrohir, come with me.” Elrond marched into his rooms and quickly selected the herbs, healing plants and salves he needed to tend to Erestor’s injuries. Looking over his shoulder, he found that Erestor had been placed on his bed and that Elrohir was standing next to the wounded Elf, obviously at a loss for what to do.
“We must remove his robes and check on his injuries.” Elrond placed the herbs on the nightstand and signaled for Elrohir to assist him. Slowly, they maneuvered Erestor into an upright position, carefully peeling the robes from the battered body. Small pieces of fabric stuck to Erestor’s skin where the blood had dried.
Elladan returned with the cloths and water and placed them onto the table. His eyes widened at seeing the lashes on Erestor’s back. “By Elbereth, they really hurt him.”
Elrond nodded absentmindedly, concentrating on gently removing patches of fabric from Erestor’s body. “Elladan, soak the cloth in the water and hand it to me.”
Elladan complied and handed his father the wet cloth. Elrond drew in a deep breath, and first cleaned Erestor’s bruised face. The long gashes, caused by a dirty knife, had finally stopped bleeding and he applied salve made of healing herbs, hoping it would help close the wounds.
“What about his hair?” asked Elrohir softly. His fingers encountered dried blood and small bald spots. Luckily the long, dark tresses covered most of those.
“Wash his hair. Use these.” Elrond dropped several herbs and healing plants into the bowl, their essence mixing with the water.
Elrohir signaled for Elladan to move behind Erestor and the older twin sat down, pulling the elder Elf to his chest. Together, they managed to wash Erestor’s hair, removing the dried blood cloths from the long locks.
Elrond now moved to Erestor’s chest, carefully examining his friend’s ribcage. “One rib is broken and several are bruised.” He thoroughly bandaged Erestor’s ribcage, making sure the bandages offered sufficient support.
Elrohir refrained from braiding Erestor’s hair, wanting him to be as comfortable as possible.
“Remain in that position,” said Elrond, addressing Elladan. “Continue to support him - and Elrohir, sit down here.” He waited for his youngest son to seat himself in front of Erestor and then helped his friend lean against Elrohir. That way he could tend to Erestor’s back. “I hope you made that Uruk-Hai suffer.”
Elrohir moistened his lips. “His death was too swift.” He almost regretted killing the monster that quickly.
Elrond finished cleaning the gashes on Erestor’s back and applied the healing balm once more. “He will be in a considerable amount of pain for some time.”
Elrond, aided by Elrohir, removed Erestor’s leggings and he was relieved to find no unexpected injuries.
“What about his hand?” Elladan had noticed the missing fingernails.
“They will grow back, but the flesh will remain tender for some weeks.” Elrond stared at Erestor’s injured hand. “But I am more worried about his broken fingers.” After setting them the best way he could, he wrapped them tightly in long strips of cloth. “I need a sling.”
For the first time in his life, Elladan felt thankful for his father’s lessons in first aid. Elrond had taught his sons how to care for the wounded and Elladan quickly constructed a sling. With his brother’s help, he fastened the sling and settled Erestor’s arm and hand in it so the limb was properly supported.
Elrond groaned softly, seeing specks of blood on Erestor’s lips. “He is bleeding internally.”
“What do we do?” Elladan wrapped his arms around Erestor’s waist. It was hard to believe that the battered Elf in his arms and his former, distant mentor were one and the same person. He had never seen Erestor weak or injured before. The regal Elf always seemed untouchable.
“-You- can do nothing,” said Elrond, after drawing in a deep breath, “but –I- can.” He placed his hands on Erestor’s belly and tenderly stroked the warm skin. Concentrating, he focused his energy and allowed it to flow into Erestor’s abdomen, hoping it would stop the bleeding. He had closed his eyes, and so did not see the awed expression in his son’s eyes.
Elrohir wondered if he would ever be able to do this as well. He would welcome having his father’s healing ability, but for now he had to settle for supporting Erestor.
Elrond’s eyes opened and his gaze came to rest on Erestor’s face. “He should rest now, but one of us must sit with him at all time. When he wakes up, he won’t know where he is or what happened.”
“We will take turns,” said Elladan determinedly. “Erestor was always there for us and now it is our turn to be there for him.”
Elrohir nodded his head once. “Ada, we will sit with Erestor as well.”
Elrond’s fingertips still tingled from the release of energy and a rush of dizziness swept over him. Elrohir was instantly at his side and he allowed his youngest son to guide him to a comfortable chair, where he sat down, feeling tired to the bone.
“You should rest as well,” said Elrohir, who knelt in front of his father. “Using your healing powers always tires you.”
“You are right,” sighed Elrond, tiredly. He was beginning to doze off, but fought sleep a little longer. “Wake me when he regains consciousness.”
“We will,” promised Elrohir. “Now rest.”
Elrond dozed off, but his last thought was for Erestor. /You won’t go through this alone. I will be there for you, and now that I know you love me, I will pursue you./
Elrohir and Elladan exchanged a glance. “We must watch both of them,” said Elladan thoughtfully.
“We should help Erestor attain a more comfortable position,” said Elrohir. He rose from the floor and helped Elladan to lower Erestor onto the bed. Elladan skillfully maneuvered away from behind the elder Elf and sat on the edge of the bed, covering Erestor with a blanket.
Elrohir looked over his shoulder, and after seeing that Elrond was sound asleep, his gaze shifted to Erestor’s face. “If Erestor had not told those Orcs he was Elrond Half-Elven we would be tending to Ada now.”
“I know. Erestor is far more loyal to Ada than I thought.” Elladan studied Erestor’s bruised face and suddenly his eyes narrowed. “Elrohir?”
Elrohir gave his brother a curious look.
“Do you think it possible that Erestor…” Elladan’s voice trailed off.
Elrohir quickly made eye contact with his twin. “What?”
“I would only sacrifice myself for someone I love, like Ada, Arwen or you.”
Elrohir nodded, realizing what Elladan was hinting at. “Maybe you are right. Maybe Erestor loves Ada in ways we never realized.”
Elladan swallowed hard. “Do you think Ada feels the same way? What about mother?”
“She left many years ago,” said Elrohir slowly. “And I do not want Ada to be alone for the rest of his life.”
Elladan nodded his head once. “What do we do now?”
“Encourage them,” said Elrohir and finally a smile broke through on his face. “Ada deserves to be happy.”
“Even with Erestor?” But Elladan had to admit his opinion of Erestor was changing.
Elrohir examined his feelings and then answered his brother. “Aye, if Erestor loves him back.”
“I have the feeling he does,” whispered Elladan, taken aback, fully realizing how deeply Erestor must care about Elrond. /Both of them deserve to be happy./
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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