Glorfindel woke from his sleep, filled with pleasant dreams, and only then realized he had fallen asleep in the first place. /How can I sleep when Erestor is so badly hurt? Why did I let them go in the first place? How could I take my duty to protect them so lightly?/ Swimming in an ocean of guilt, he sighed, distressed, and suddenly stared into alert grayish green eyes. Rumil was awake and that encouraging fact momentarily drove away his guilty feelings.
“Glorfindel,” whispered Rumil softly. “You are still here?” He was surprised to find the blond still at his side. Glorfindel surely had better things to do than look after him, but at the same time he was grateful to find him this close. It was good to feel Glorfindel’s body heat and to listen to the Elf’s breathing now that he could no longer enjoy his brothers’ company. He had never thought that death could ever touch his life in that way, but now that Haldir and Orophin were dead, he felt lost. It had become very clear to him that Elves were mortal after all. A sword, arrow, or knife could kill them very well.
Glorfindel wondered about the odd expression in Rumil’s eyes and suddenly realized how tight entangled they were; Rumil’s lips were so close. Close enough to kiss… Nay! What madness was taking hold of him? He shouldn’t even be thinking about kissing Rumil when the younger Elf was hurting!
Rumil felt mesmerized, looking at Glorfindel. Somehow he had pictured the fabled Balrog slayer differently, not this… approachable. In some ways Glorfindel reminded him of Haldir. He stifled a gasp, as the loss washed through him again. He didn’t want to ask this question, but Glorfindel was the only one who knew. “What is Mandos like?”
Glorfindel tensed slightly; he had hoped Rumil wouldn’t ask him that question. “What do you remember?”
“Not much. I do not think I ever really entered. I only remember the cold.”
Rumil’s hopeful eyes made Glorfindel uncomfortable. He knew Rumil wanted to hear the truth, but he doubted the younger Elf was ready, not yet, not now. “It is peaceful there,” he said eventually, lying.
“Do you still remember the ones you loved in life?”
Glorfindel barely kept from flinching, remembering his own haunted existence there. “Aye, you do. You keep your memories.”
“Good, they will offer a lot of comfort then.”
Glorfindel nearly averted his eyes, but forced himself to maintain eye contact. /Aiya, Rumil, you have no idea how much it hurts to remember the ones you love and to be so far apart from them. It is torture, and offers no comfort./
“Glorfindel?” Rumil moistened his lips, wondering about the look in those entrancing blue eyes.
“I was remembering,” said Glorfindel softly.
“You spent many years there.”
“Centuries.” Glorfindel hoped Rumil didn’t hear the bitter tone to his voice. /And I do not ever want to go back there. Maybe it is different for Haldir and Orophin because they have each other./ He had felt utterly lonely at Mandos.
“I never witnessed an Elf’s death before – not until Helm’s Deep,” whispered Rumil, staring at Glorfindel’s lips. He really wanted to kiss them! What was wrong with him? He had never been interested in a male before! Suddenly Glorfindel moistened his lips, and that simple movement sent a jolt of desire through his body, pooling at his groin. The sensation took him completely by surprise. What was he doing? Thinking? He had just lost his brothers and now he was developing feelings for Glorfindel? He should be mourning their deaths instead!
Glorfindel suddenly recalled Rumil’s admission and added his own, trying to distract them from the attraction forming between them. “I saw many of them die during my long years, and mainly during the great wars. Most Elves think themselves immortal, but it only takes a well aimed blow to end a life.”
Rumil’s arousal faded, and he buried his head against Glorfindel’s chest. “I never realized that before.”
“You are still so young.” Glorfindel stroked the long hair that was slowly returning to silver.
“I am not –that- young,” said Rumil, slightly annoyed.
Glorfindel managed a smile. “I apologize,” he whispered teasingly. A spicy, sweaty scent invaded his nostrils. “Maybe you would like to take a bath?”
Rumil nodded once. “I would love to.” When was the last time he had taken a bath? Glorfindel tried to rise from the bed, but the motion startled Rumil, who instantly tightened his hold.
“I have to prepare your bath,” said Glorfindel with mild amusement in his voice.
Rumil sighed dejectedly, letting Glorfindel leave the bed. He watched as the blond stretched, agile like a cat, and his gaze followed Glorfindel when he disappeared into the bathroom.
Glorfindel returned to the room, walked to the bed and gently lifted Rumil in his arms.
“I can walk!” protested Rumil.
“You can walk later. I am not taking any risks.” Glorfindel carried his charge into the bathroom, sat Rumil down on a chair and began to remove his tunic and leggings. Looking at the younger Elf, he found Rumil’s face growing flustered. Glorfindel kept his touches light and superficial, and when Rumil was finally naked, he led the younger Elf to the pool.
Rumil slowly descended into the pool and sat down. The water was warm and drove away what remained of Mandos’ cold.
“I will fetch food and water from the kitchen,” said Glorfindel, feeling like a voyeur for staring at Rumil like that. It was time to remove himself from the situation and to allow Rumil some privacy. After seeing the younger Elf nod his approval, he quickly fled from the room.
Celeborn was on his way to the kitchen when he ran into Glorfindel, who looked flushed and slightly nervous. He reached out, grabbed a shoulder and forced Glorfindel to stop in his tracks. The blond looked at him like he only noticed him now. “Is something amiss with Rumil?”
Glorfindel shook his head. “Nay, he is fine. He is taking a bath and I wanted to get him something to eat.”
A smile crossed Celeborn’s features. “That is good news indeed. Rumil’s pace of recovery pleases me. Must be your company.” Interestingly enough, Glorfindel’s blush deepened. Celeborn frowned, trying to recall a time when Glorfindel had also blushed, but failed. He had never seen the blond in this state.
Glorfindel kept his mouth firmly closed; he was at a loss for words.
Celeborn decided against questioning Glorfindel any farther. “Would you like me to look after matters until Rumil no longer demands your complete attention?”
Glorfindel knew it was the smart thing to do, but still he hesitated. “Keep me informed of all urgent matters?” he said eventually.
Celeborn nodded once. “I will.”
They had arrived at the kitchen and each filled a tray with food items. Celeborn told Glorfindel what Rumil liked best, and the blond added apples, oranges and cherries to the tray at Celeborn’s advice. “Thank you.”
“Take good care of him,” said Celeborn before heading in the opposite direction to check on Erestor again. Hopefully now Elrond would find a moment to update him. The healer hadn’t left his rooms since they had arrived and Elladan, who had been sent to fetch water and bandages, had been unable to give him any useful information. He was about to turn around the corner when Glorfindel’s voice reached him.
“Celeborn, is there any news on Erestor?”
Celeborn looked over his shoulder and shook his head. “Not yet.”
“He looked seriously injured.”
Celeborn nodded once. “I am going to Elrond’s quarters now. Should I find out more, I will tell you.”
“Thank you,” said Glorfindel again, before turning around and heading back to Rumil’s rooms.
Rumil had nearly dozed off in the warm water, but hearing the door open caught his attention. He hoped it was Glorfindel. His reactions to the blond Elda confused him, but he couldn’t deny that Glorfindel was aiding his recovery by staying this close to him.
“You will turn into a prune,” said Glorfindel jokingly, walking over to the pool. “Are you ready to get out? I brought some brown leggings and a shirt; I have the feeling you might be more comfortable in them than robes.”
“You are right.” Rumil pushed himself back to his feet and left the pool. “Robes are too formal. I prefer a tunic and leggings.” He blushed slightly when Glorfindel wrapped him up in warm towels, rubbing lightly to dry his skin. /Don’t grow aroused. Don’t grow aroused. Don’t.../ After growing erect earlier his greatest fear was that that it would happen again. He didn’t know how Glorfindel would react and he had no desire to find out.
“Lean on me.” Glorfindel waited for Rumil to place his hands on his shoulders and then helped the younger Elf into the leggings. Looking up, he caught the sleepy expression in the grey eyes. “Would you like to lie down?”
Rumil’s gaze sought out the window, and found that Arien still warmed the sky. “Can I sit on the balcony for a short while?” He hated being confined to the bed.
“Of course you can.” Glorfindel helped Rumil into his shirt and then wrapped one arm around the other’s waist. “I brought something to eat, but we can do that whilst sitting in the sun.” He noticed the thankful expression in Rumil’s eyes and led him onto the balcony, where he spread a blanket onto the floor. With his help, Rumil sat down and bathed in the golden sunlight.
Glorfindel quickly fetched the tray and placed the food and tea in between them. “Eat, you are much too skinny.”
“I am –not-,” said Rumil indignantly. “I only missed a few meals.”
Glorfindel raised an eyebrow, and handed him some cherries. Rumil munched contently, and briefly Glorfindel managed to forget the doom that had hung over the other’s head only a few days ago. “You seem to be getting better.”
“I feel better,” admitted Rumil softly, “but I still miss them. I do not dare to think of them.” Tears formed in his eyes. “I still want them back!”
Moving quickly, Glorfindel covered the distance between them and enfolded Rumil in a warm hug. Rocking him slowly, he waited for Rumil’s tremors to stop. “You will always miss them, but the pain will lessen in time.” Rumil pulled back slightly so they could lock gazes.
“Will you stay with me until that happens? I need someone close. I need you close.” Rumil was startled at hearing those words leave his lips and he quickly covered his mouth with a hand, wishing he could take them back. “I am sorry. I cannot ask that of you. It would take years for—“
Glorfindel cut him short. “I will stay with you. I cannot say for how long, but you won’t be alone, I promise.” His heart leapt joyfully in his chest when Rumil completed the embrace once more. Contently, he held Rumil close.
A keening wail tore the air apart and Elrond’s eyes immediately fastened on Erestor, who now sat upright in bed. Erestor’s hands were raised defensively in front of his face and pain showed in the dark eyes when his injured hand sent ripples of agony through his arm. The dark eyes were large with terror and Erestor’s breath came in short gasps.
Elrond rose from the chair he had been sleeping in and headed for the bed, but Elrohir, who had fallen asleep on the floor next to the bed, beat him to it.
“Erestor? You are safe now. You are back in Imladris.” Elrohir’s eyes widened in worry when Erestor reacted with another terrified scream. He didn’t dare touch the injured Elf and looked to his father for help.
Elrond had now reached the bed and sat down on the side. “Erestor? Listen to my voice. You are in my private rooms and your tormentor is dead. Please come back to me.” Elrond found he was holding his breath, hoping Erestor had heard him. Slowly, he stroked the long, dark locks and was stunned when the other Elf flinched away from his touch. “Erestor? Mellon-nîn?
Elladan, who now joined them as well, stood motionless as if afraid he might startle Erestor and drive his former mentor deeper into the shadows of his memories.
“Erestor,” said Elrohir when Elrond’s words didn’t seem to register, “Lie down, you are injured.” Erestor’s lips were moving, but no sound left them. “Do not attempt speech. You have suffered a broken jaw.” Exchanging a worried glance with his father, Elrohir wondered if they should force Erestor to lie down.
Elrond tried reaching Erestor again and this time he cradled his friend’s good hand in his. “Celeborn and the twins came to our rescue. You are no longer at their mercy.” Carefully watching Erestor, he noticed how awareness returned to the dark eyes. Erestor blinked, panted softly and then emitted small noises of pain. “Elrohir is right, you should lie down.”
Erestor only now recognized Elrond’s voice and stared at the Lord of Imladris with stunned disbelief in his eyes. His entire body hurt.
Elrond’s handsome features briefly contorted at seeing the hurt expression in his friend’s eyes. “Everything will be well in the end,” he promised passionately. “I will see to that, but now you must lie down. Let me help.” He slipped one hand behind Erestor’s back and helped his friend lie down again. Seeing the hurt and afraid look in Erestor’s eyes pained him. “I won’t hurt you, mellon-nîn, you know me better than that. It is normal for you to be confused after what you have been through.” A few hours had completely changed their lives.
Elrohir pulled up the blanket and covered Erestor’s shivering body with it. Ugly memories caused Erestor to tremble violently, and, like his father, Elrohir wished he knew of a way to take away the pain and fear. Elladan’s gaze caught his and their thoughts ran along similar lines; never before had they seen Erestor this weak, this vulnerable, and the twins were surprised at their eagerness to protect him. Their former mentor meant more to them than they had ever realized.
Elrond concentrated on Erestor and bestowed gentle caresses to his friend’s face where the skin had been spared. “Will you look at me?” He had to know how much emotional damage the Uruk-Hai had done.
Erestor closed his eyes instead. A part of him insisted he was hallucinating. There was no way that he was back in Imladris and in Elrond’s bed. The Uruk-Hai’s potion must be responsible for this vivid dream.
“This is real,” said Elrond, who had a fairly good idea what was going on in his friend’s head. “We are home again.”
But Erestor didn’t dare believe this sweet dream. In a moment the Uruk-Hai would appear, shatter this dream and then the pain would start all over again. His body was as tense as a bowstring, expecting another beating to hit him shortly. It wasn’t prepared for the soft caresses bestowed to his face and he jerked violently.
Elrond’s eyes were swimming with tears. “By Elbereth, please look at me, Erestor. The torture has ended.”
Erestor whimpered softly as the tender caresses continued. Why hadn’t the next beating started yet? Despite his fears, he opened his eyes and his gaze settled on Elrond, who seemed awfully real to him. He wanted to raise his hand, but pain slashed through his arm and he remained motionless instead. Could it really be Elrond? A groan filled with anguish fled from his lips and his gaze pleadingly locked with Elrond’s.
“Aye, it is over,” said Elrond soothingly, seeing understanding dawn in Erestor’s dark eyes. “’Tis really me, and Elrohir and Elladan are here as well.” He motioned for his sons to move into Erestor’s view.
Erestor was no longer sure this was just a hallucination, seeing the twins alongside their father. But then their shocked expressions registered. /’Tis a dream after all./ He had never seen their worry aimed at him before.
Elrohir finally realized that Erestor wasn’t sure what to believe and he cautiously placed his hand on the long, dark locks, staying clear of bruises that had formed on the elder Elf’s scalp. “You scared us, Erestor. What possessed you to take Ada’s place?”
Elladan, who had been quiet until now, moved slightly closer and waited for Erestor’s gaze to fasten on him. “We understand that you wanted to protect Ada, and I am thankful you did, but you got hurt in the process, which saddens me.”
Erestor had a hard time understanding what they were saying. His jaw throbbed painfully and an overwhelming desire to return to the sweet bliss of sleep overwhelmed him. He lost the struggle to stay awake and slipped under again.
“Sleep, mellon-nîn. Sleep will aid your recovery.” Elrond sighed distressed and massaged his temples. “He is worse than I thought.”
“I wish I had not given that Uruk-Hai such a swift death,” said Elrohir in a hate filled tone. “I would have made him suffer the same pain as did Erestor.”
“We cannot go back and change the past,” said Elrond in a heavy tone. “We must concentrate on his recovery instead.”
Elrohir shifted on the bed and nervously met his father’s eyes. “Ada? There is something Elladan and I want to talk to you about.”
Elrond nodded encouragingly.
“Why do you think Erestor took your place? Was it just loyalty or…”
“Was it more?” finished Elladan for his brother.
Elrond wasn’t sure how he felt about his sons realizing Erestor’s true feelings for him. He had hoped to keep it a secret for some time, but now he didn’t have a choice. “I know it is more.”
Elladan and Elrohir stared at their father. “Ada?” said Elladan, wondering what to make of Elrond’s words.
“In between the beatings he admitted to having feelings for me,” said Elrond thoughtfully. “It explained so much.”
“It does,” said Elladan in a tone similar to his father’s.
Elrond shrugged once, suddenly feeling tired. “For millennia.”
“And he never said anything?” Elladan’s voice was colored with disbelief.
Elrond looked at his sons. “I told myself to act on these feelings, should we survive our imprisonment, and now that we did—“ Elrond paused, carefully choosing his words, “now I am not sure what to do. I know you love your mother and the thought of me choosing a new lover might –“
Elrohir interrupted their father. “We already discussed this and you have our blessing. We want you to be happy, both of you.”
Elrond smiled dotingly at them. “You make me proud.” They had raised the twins well. “I will sit with Erestor for the next few hours. Why don’t you use that time to freshen up and eat? I won’t be able to sit with him constantly, as I need sleep as well, but maybe one of you will take over?”
“Of course we will!” said Elrohir, rising from the bed. “Would you like us to get you something? Tea? Wine? Anything?”
“I would love some tea,” admitted Elrond, turning his attention back to Erestor, who was whimpering softly in his sleep. “And bring another blanket. That accursed Uruk-Hai used a potion on him which will cause a fever. We need to keep him warm.”
Elrohir nodded, fetched the blanket and helped Elrond tuck it around Erestor’s form. Then the twins left for the kitchen, promising to return with hot tea later.
Elrond still cradled Erestor’s good hand in his and gently caressed the skin. “Your sacrifice will not go unnoticed, mellon-nîn. I care deeply for you and had I known you loved me I would have allowed my feelings for you to flourish instead of smothering them.”
Erestor moved restlessly in his sleep and Elrond’s heart nearly broke when the injured Elf released a pain filled moan. “Hush now. No one can hurt you. You are safe.” His words had effect; Erestor calmed somewhat. Elrond carefully pressed a chaste kiss on Erestor’s good hand. “Your heart won’t suffer in silence much longer, I promise.”
“Elrohir, Elladan!” Celeborn had spotted the twins when they had entered the kitchen and now walked up to them. “How fares Erestor?”
“Ata’da,” started Elrohir in a pained tone, “Erestor’s mind is still clouded by the torment he suffered. It took him some time to recognize us and he is still in pain. Ada is looking after him.”
“Will Erestor fully recover?”
“We did not ask Ada,” replied Elladan, “but I think he will, physically at least. I do not know about the mental damage, though.”
Celeborn understood and nodded. “It will take time.”
“And how fares Rumil?” asked Elrohir whilst preparing his father’s favorite tea.
“Better. He is actually talking and moving about again.”
“Shouldn’t you be with him, ata’da?”
“Glorfindel is looking after him, Elrohir.” Celeborn smiled, pleased. “I have the feeling those two will become good friends.”
Elladan nodded once. “Rumil needs friends right now. Elrohir and I will visit with him after taking this tea to Ada.”
Celeborn watched them leave and sighed contently. Things were looking up again.
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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