Erestor stared at Elrond, who had somehow fallen asleep sitting on the edge of the bed, his back resting against the headboard. During the beatings he had firmly believed he would never see Elrond again, but he had miraculously survived and Elrond was still at his side. /He probably feels guilty for being unable to convince them I was not him./
His entire body hurt. He shifted slightly, but froze in pain. His hand and back hurt the worst. And so did his chest. Breathing was tiresome and painful. Erestor closed his eyes momentarily; what was the last thing he remembered? He had considered telling Elrond that he loved him, but then the Uruk-Hai had returned, stopping him from unburdening his soul.
He released a relieved sigh; Elrond still didn’t know about his feelings for him. Good. He had to keep it that way.
Erestor was startled, hearing Elrond’s voice. When had the half-Elf woken up? Lying on his side, he cocked his head, but the terrible pain slicing through his jaw made him whimper miserably. He had forgotten about his broken jaw!
“Move as little as possible, Erestor. You took several severe beatings. Your jaw is broken and so is one of your ribs. Your back… By Elbereth, they whipped you! I—“ The words eluded Elrond and he simply stared at his friend.
Erestor wanted to console Elrond, but the pain stopped him from speaking. He returned Elrond’s gaze, hoping it would calm the half-Elf down. His eyes widened slightly when Elrond’s hand settled on his hair, stroking it. He was struck by the intimacy of the gesture and he wondered about the loving expression in Elrond’s eyes.
“They pulled out your fingernails, mellon-nîn. How did you bear the pain?” Elrond’s eyes filled with tears. “Why did you take my place? Seeing you hurt breaks my heart!”
Erestor hadn’t thought he could hurt more than he already did, but Elrond’s words caused an ache in his heart. Acting instinctively, Erestor reached for Elrond with his good hand, and, when he found it, he squeezed gently.
The tears which Elrond had been holding back finally flowed down his face, showing his anguish. “I was terrified that they would kill you, Erestor. Every time that they came for you I thought I would never see you again. It was pure agony!”
Erestor attempted to speak, but it was impossible to form a coherent sentence; his jaw and vocal cords wouldn’t cooperate. Instead, he squeezed Elrond’s hand again.
Elrond leaned in closer, wishing he could wrap his arms around Erestor and hold him close. “And when you told me you…” Elrond’s voice faltered, recalling the moment of Erestor’s admission. “I could not believe it.” Erestor’s eyes had darkened and Elrond cocked his head, seeing the confusion in them. /By Elbereth, you forgot you told me!/
Erestor desperately tried to remember what he had told Elrond that the half-Elf couldn’t believe. He hadn’t spoken of his love, had he?
Seeing the sudden distress on Erestor’s battered face, Elrond immediately soothed him. “Do not worry about it, mellon-nîn. Do you want to go back to sleep?” Elrond did his best to hide his own distress. /You forgot you told me you loved me!/ He hadn’t counted on that. What should he do now?
/Court him. Seduce him. Show him you love him,/ said a little voice in the back of his head and he smiled warmly as he nodded absentmindedly. /Aye, I will court him. I will make him mine./
Erestor wondered about the pleased expression in Elrond’s eyes, but was unable to enquire about it. He managed to maintain eye contact with Elrond, but the pain was slowly drawing him under again. Unexpectedly, warmth moved through him and he realized Elrond was using his healing powers to strengthen him. He wanted to object, but couldn’t. Instead, he allowed Elrond’s energy to flow through him.
“Do not fight me, Erestor. I only want to help you. You must be in a great amount of pain and I want to lessen it. Let me help.” His hands remained on Erestor’s head, gently caressing the bruised skin. “You can let go now.”
Erestor slowly lost consciousness again, drifting into a deep, healing sleep.
Elrond sighed tiredly, and continued to stroke the long tresses.
“Ada? Is there anything we can do?” Elladan had appeared at the bedside and looked from Erestor to his father. Elrond and Erestor had been so focused that neither of them had heard him approach
“Foremost, he needs rest.” Elrond smiled warmly at his oldest son. “But he also needs to drink or he will grow even weaker. Will you fetch some tea for me?”
Elladan nodded once. “And Ata’da is waiting outside. He wants to know how Erestor is doing.”
“Send him in.” Elrond waited for Elladan to leave the room and then signaled for Celeborn to approach the bed. The silver-haired Elf looked deeply troubled and Elrond couldn’t blame him. Erestor looked terrible. “He will heal, eventually.”
Celeborn drew in a deep breath. “It was a brave thing he did, yet very stupid at the same time.”
“He did not feel like he had a choice,” elaborated Elrond, testing the waters. How would Celeborn react when finding out his former son in law desired to take a new lover? “You see, he did not want me to get hurt, for he deeply cares about me.”
“He loves you,” stated Celeborn in a matter-of-fact tone.
Elrond raised an eyebrow, impressed. “You knew?” Had everyone suspected something except for him? But no, his sons hadn’t known either.
“It was the things he did not say. The way he did not look at you when he was in your company. He tried very hard to convince everyone he did not care that much about you.” Celeborn searched the battered features. “I have known Erestor for a long time, and I greatly value and respect him. He would make a good mate.”
Elrond’s eyebrow was raised even higher. Celeborn approved? Celeborn was full of surprises!
“Glorfindel enquired about Erestor’s health. I think he feels guilty for allowing you to join the patrol.”
“It was not his fault we were caught by those Orcs.” Remorsefully, he recalled saying that he wouldn’t mind running into them. How he regretted those words! “It was mine. I should never have encouraged Erestor to join me on that patrol. He was happy to stay in my study and see to the paperwork. I had to drag him with me and he paid the price, which was much too high! Look at him!” Again, despair came over him.
“He will heal,” said Celeborn in an effort to comfort Elrond.
“I know that, but… It is my fault he is in this state in the first place!” Elrond sighed, distressed. “If only I could turn back time.”
“But you can not. No one can.” Celeborn rested his right hand on Elrond’s shoulder. “You are a healer - so heal him. You want to be his lover, so love him. Make sure he recovers, and be happy.”
Elrond was about to thank Celeborn for his understanding when Erestor released a strangled moan. His good hand twitched in his and Elrond leaned in closer, whispering softly. “All is well, melamin. All is well. Sleep.”
When he looked up, he found that Celeborn had left the room, granting them some privacy. Elrond stared at Erestor’s bruised face and bit back his tears. Erestor needed him strong. He couldn’t give in to despair again. Brushing back one stray lock, his lips gently touched Erestor’s brow, selecting a spot where the skin was still intact, and he pressed a kiss onto the Elf’s forehead. “I will watch over you. Sleep peacefully. I am here.”
At his words, some of the tension left Erestor’s body and the raven haired Elf relaxed somewhat. “Aye, you are doing well, Erestor. Trust in me.”
Looking at Erestor, Elrond felt an overwhelming need to hold the other Elf close, but how could he do that without inflicting more pain? Elrond slowly laid down at the edge of the bed, not yet touching Erestor, simply looking at him. Moving extremely careful, he shifted closer, and froze when Erestor moved toward him. Suddenly his friend’s head rested against his shoulder, and Erestor’s good hand clawed at the fabric of his shirt. Elrond cautiously raised a hand and rested it on Erestor’s hip, not placing any pressure on the Elf’s injuries.
A soft moan left Erestor’s lips and the injured Elf relaxed farther, enjoying the warmth that had settled close him. He no longer felt alone and the cold slowly receded. “El… r…ron…d…”
Elrond smiled saddened. Just saying his name must have hurt because of Erestor’s broken jaw. “Shush, do not speak. I know you love me.” Elrond’s fingertips ghosted over Erestor’s face, too scared to touch the injured areas. “I am here and I will never leave you again.”
A sigh of contentment escaped Erestor and his sleep became peaceful, lured into a sense of safety due to Elrond’s presence.
Elrond was touched, realizing how much trust Erestor placed in him. “I will keep you safe.”
“Ada? We brought the tea you asked for.” Elladan entered his father’s rooms and looked about, searching for Elrond when he didn’t see him.
Elrohir, who was walking behind him, nearly collided with his twin. “Look out!” The tray with the tea on it tilted. Elrohir quickly placed the tray on the table and his eyes searched the room. He elbowed his brother in the stomach and pointed at the bed. “Look at them!” A dreamy smile surfaced on his face and a pleased light shone from his eyes. “I was not sure how I would react, seeing them together for the first time, but I am fine with it.”
Elladan nodded; they had been used to seeing Elrond with Celebrian, and now seeing their father with Erestor was odd, but also comforting. “They will be good for each other.”
Their voices woke Elrond, who sleepily looked at his sons. “What are you doing here?” Erestor was still nestled against him, and he was careful to not move abruptly, knowing his movement would add to Erestor’s discomfort.
“You asked for tea, remember, Ada?” Elrohir gave Elrond a look full of understanding. “We put the tray on the table. Elladan, it is time for us to leave and let them have some privacy.” He was delighted at seeing the faint blush on his father’s face. Elrond almost looked like a teenager in love!
Elrond wasn’t sure what to do; chide Elrohir for implying what he did, or smile because they approved of his choice. In the end, Erestor made the decision for him by waking up.
The large, dark eyes flashed with fear momentarily, waking up disorientated. But then he caught sight of Elrond and his sons standing near the table. He was back in Imladris; everything was fine again. He would recover and return to his duties and things would go on like nothing had ever happened. Except for the fact that he wouldn’t dare to venture out of Imladris for some time.
“How do you fare, Erestor?” Elrohir took one step closer to the bed and smiled warmly at his former mentor. “We brought tea. Do you want some?”
There was no denying that he was thirsty and he nodded slowly, trying hard to ignore the pain that shot through his jaw. He wasn’t even sure he could swallow!
“Let me do this,” said Elrond, helping Erestor settle more comfortably on his side. “Elrohir, bring me the tea.”
Elrohir handed him the cup. “Just let it flow down your throat.”
Erestor wished he could sit up, but the mere thought of resting his back against the pillows made him grow tense with anticipated pain. Elrond lifted his head a little, and the tea, which had cooled somewhat, now flowed down this throat.
Elrond smiled proudly at his charge when the cup was emptied. “Would you like some more?”
“La… ter,” managed Erestor. He felt dreadfully weak and tired, but he couldn’t stop staring at Elrond. He appreciated it that his friend had remained this close and took care of him, but it would only be temporary. Once he had recovered he would move back to his own quarters, and the pampering would stop.
“Erestor?” Elladan managed to catch the elder Elf’s gaze. “Elrohir and I want to help, so if there is anything we can do just let us know.”
Erestor tried to smile, but feared it turned out to be just another grimace. “Thank… you.”
“You should not speak,” said Elladan in a concerned tone. “Maybe you can use your good hand to write messages? That way you can rest your jaw.”
“That is a very good idea,” Elrond complimented his son. He placed the empty cup on the nightstand and sat upright, regretfully letting go of Erestor. “I will get a quill and parchment.”
“We will do that,” offered Elrohir quickly. “Ada, you should stay with Erestor.” Pulling Elladan along, he disappeared into the corridor. “They need some time alone. Did you see the way Ada was watching Erestor?”
Elladan nodded once. “He is falling in love. I remember that expression from when he looked at Nana.” His expression saddened. “Why is it that Orcs destroy everything we love and care about? First they hurt Nana and now they—“
Elrohir quickly rested a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “We lost Nana, but we do not have to lose Erestor as well. Ada won’t let him go and Erestor is willing to fight. Nana had long given up. She no longer wanted to stay.”
“Not even –we- could make her stay.” Elladan still missed her.
“No one could make her stay. We should be happy that Ada found someone he cares that deeply about.” Elrohir entered his father’s study, gathered ink, a quill and parchment, and signaled for his twin to follow him back to Elrond’s rooms. “I think they need some time alone. Erestor needs Ada close.”
“Knowing Erestor has loved Ada for millennia makes me feel…” Elladan shrugged, unable to find the right words. “It is sad, really.”
“It is, but we should stop talking about it now.” They had reached Elrond’s rooms and entered. Elrond was still seated on the edge of the bed, holding Erestor’s hand and the advisor dreamily returned Elrond’s gaze. It was obvious that they were in love, and Elladan blinked at Elrohir. “We will put it on the nightstand.” After placing the writing necessities near Erestor, they stepped back. “Just call us if you need us, Ada.”
Elrond nodded, pleased that his sons accepted his new relationship with Erestor. “Please visit again in a few hours.”
“We will,” Elrohir whispered softly, seeing Erestor’s gaze turn vacant. “Let us go.” He pulled Elladan along, leaving Elrond and Erestor alone. “Erestor needs time.”
Elladan knew his twin was right, but he still felt sorry for Erestor, wishing he could help the advisor heal. But that was his father’s task now.
Erestor’s last thought before dozing off was a confusing one. Why were the twins this worried about him? He had never gotten the impression that they cared much about him. He was just a nagging mentor, harassing them with assignments. Although he had stopped being their mentor when they had reached majority, he had always thought they continued to view him like that.
“Erestor? Why are you fighting sleep? There is no need to stay awake.” Elrond’s voice was gentle and soft, soothing to his mind. His last glance before falling asleep was for Elrond, loving the fact that the half-Elf was staying this close to him.
Erestor’s gaze became completely vacant and Elrond sighed, relieved. Erestor had been coherent and responsive. His greatest fear had been losing Erestor to those dreadful memories. “Never leave me, melamin. I refuse to lose you now that I learned you love me.”
Elrond pulled up the blanket and tucked it around Erestor’s form. “I will watch over you.” His fingers gently stroked the long, dark tresses and tears returned to his eyes as his fingertips encountered occasional bald spots. “Your hair will grow again, but will the scars on your soul ever heal?” Was he, the healer, capable of healing the hurt inside Erestor’s soul?
Glorfindel was strangely touched by the fact that Rumil continued to clutch his hand whilst venturing outside. They were heading for the gardens and the bright sunlight made the silver strands glimmer. The pallor that Rumil’s face had possessed upon his arrival in Imladris was also fading; Rumil was slowly growing stronger.
“Can we sit down there?” Rumil pointed at an old and mighty oak that would allow some beams of sunlight through, but would also shelter them from the day’s heat.
Glorfindel nodded and they headed for the tree, sitting down and resting their backs against the mighty trunk.
“It is peaceful here,” sighed Rumil, contently. “Imladris is even more beautiful than I remembered.”
Glorfindel wasn’t sure what do to next. Rumil had closed his eyes and was simply enjoying the peace and quiet. The younger Elf’s hand still rested in his and occasionally twitched. A core of sorrow and grief would always remain with Rumil, but Glorfindel was under the impression that the ‘Lorien Elf had found the strength to move on with his life. “Will you stay here for some time?”
Rumil’s eyes opened and fastened on his. “Aye, I would love to stay.”
Glorfindel blushed weakly. The expression in Rumil’s eyes spoke of a beginning and already deepening love. “Celeborn might be staying as well. Now that Galadriel and her people sail for Valinor, Celeborn would be quite alone in ‘Lorien.”
“And by staying here he could spend time with his family,” said Rumil, smiling.
Glorfindel was no longer able to hold Rumil’s stare and averted his eyes. There was too much expression in those grayish-green eyes. He didn’t dare think it, but it almost looked like love was staring back at him from the depths of those enchanting eyes. “I would like you to stay,” he admitted softly, uncertain how much of his own feelings to reveal to Rumil. He still felt it was highly inappropriate to bring up his feelings when Rumil was still mourning.
Rumil’s eyes widened and lit with hope. He wanted to search Glorfindel’s eyes, and was disappointed when he found that the blond had averted them. Growing bold, he cupped Glorfindel’s chin in the palm of his hand. “Glorfindel?”
Glorfindel reluctantly made eye contact, sighing worriedly. “I should remain quiet.”
“About my feelings for you.” Glorfindel found he couldn’t pull away; Rumil’s gaze kept him prisoner. “It has been centuries since I last felt like this.”
“Felt like what?” Rumil felt slightly frustrated now that he had to coax each and every word out of Glorfindel. “Or do you want me to go first?” Involuntarily he held his breath. The look in Glorfindel’s eyes said more than words. His feelings were being returned!
“You are still mourning your brothers’ deaths,” said Glorfindel in a miserable tone. “It is hardly appropriate for me to…”
“What? To fall in love with me?” Rumil’s heart missed a beat, speaking those words. Was he right, or had he made a fatal mistake?
“Rumil, do not do this, please.” Glorfindel desperately wanted to enfold Rumil in his arms and hold him, but still felt hesitant to make a move.
Rumil shook his head. “Glorfindel, I lost Haldir and Orophin, and it has made me realize how short and valuable life is. I have had crushes before, but this feels like it is something more, something deeper, and I refuse to pretend it never happened. You have feelings for me and I…” Rumil paused nervously. “I have feelings for you too.”
Glorfindel lowered his gaze. “Rumil…” his voice faded away, sounding uncertain.
“Nay, listen to me! Elrond might have given me the energy to continue on, but your support has been far more important to me. Without you, I would have given up! During my entire life I trusted in Haldir and Orophin, and now I find myself trusting in you. You even remind me of Haldir in certain ways.”
Glorfindel cleared his throat. “Are you really sure about this, Rumil? We do not have to decide this now.” He felt oddly nervous, hearing Rumil laugh softly. He had never heard the ‘Lorien Elf laugh before and loved the sound. “We will take this slow, take all the time we need. Now that you are staying we can get to know each other and see if our feelings are strong enough.”
Rumil was strangely touched by Glorfindel’s shy, hesitant behavior. “You are scared to hurt me.”
“You are still vulnerable, having suffered such a great loss recently. I do not want to rush into anything. You need time and I do not want you to feel pressured.”
Rumil gave Glorfindel a warm smile. “My heart will always continue to grieve for them, but I finally understand that Haldir and Orophin would want me to move on. Life is too precious to waste.”
“Love is too precious to waste,” replied Glorfindel in a melancholy tone, remembering his own lost loves throughout millennia.
Rumil smiled warmly, staring into Glorfindel’s eyes, which revealed his every feeling. “Would you hold me?” He wasn’t sure if they were ready for any kissing yet, as they had only just revealed their attraction. Like Glorfindel, he didn’t want to rush anything.
“But of course!” Glorfindel wrapped his arms around Rumil and pulled the younger Elf onto his lap.
Rumil reacted by wrapping his legs around Glorfindel’s waist, holding on tight. Resting his head on Glorfindel’s shoulder, he deeply inhaled the other’s scent. “Thank you for staying when I needed you. I know I clung to you -- I still do, but I need you.”
/I need you too, Rumil, but you do not know that yet and I plan on keeping it that way. I need to be there for you and I will support you unconditionally. I never thought I would ever fall in love again… but I did./
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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