Title: Blind

Author: Zhie

Rating: NC17 (eventual)

Pairing: Glorfindel/Erestor; Elrond/Legolas & Elrond/Celebrian implied

Summary: [as requested by Cally] Erestor is being threatened and in order to get the mean elves off his back he announces that Glorfindel is his lover, figuring that he'll be out of Imladris by the time that Glorfindel comes back from patrol. Unfortunately for him such is not the case and Glorfindel comes back early. Erestor has to plead with Glorfindel to pretend to be his lover cuz he knows those elves would just go after him all the more.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Just play with them, and put them back when I finish. Also, veggie subs are delicious, and cows make for nice shade in small spaces.




Prologue:

(Last Year of the Second Age)

"When we reach him, we just charge in at him." Gil-galad coughed on the smoke that surrounded them, hanging heavy in the air. "Do not retreat- this may be our only chance to defeat him."

"Once he is gone," said Isildur, "the rest will be in chaos. We will easily overcome these vile creatures."

Elrond cautioned them. "That ring he wears is vital! Let no one else take possession of it- not his minions, not one of us. The ring must be destroyed."

Gil-galad opened his mouth to object to this; instead he pulled on Elrond's arm to get his attention. 'Perhaps I should have done this long ago. Here.' Something was taken from his finger, dark grey as the soot covered it as Gil-galad continued to speak within his herald's mind. 'You seem to understand it better than I. Take up the rear; if the rest of us fail it will aid you.'

The exchange went unnoticed by all of the men in this little council situated behind a mound of ruins to keep them concealed. All, but the one other elf present. He said nothing of this, simply asking, "What are my orders, my king?"

"Erestor, I want you at my back. Between the two of us, we should be able to cut a path right to him."

Elendil placed his hand upon Gil-galad's shoulder. "The rest of us shall follow you. Let us send this foul creature to the pits, once and for all."

There was no hesitation. Gil-galad gave a nod to Erestor, and the two warlords leapt over the barrier that had kept them hidden. With lightning speed, they tore through the soldiers of evil who opposed them. Close behind, the battle cry of the men rose up and followed, charging through the path that was being made. "I may not succeed, but I want a chance at him first," growled Gil-galad to Erestor as they closed in on Annatar. "I want him to taste my spear."

Having no objection, Erestor fought harder, looking for a chance to break through. When he saw it, he took it- apparently, one of the other elven armies had some similar idea to theirs. The crest upon the banners held aloft was too hard to make out, gold and green perhaps. But no, realized Erestor, they were not fighting for a chance to take down the dark lord; they were trying to distract him from those few who were making this noble effort.

Erestor caught the grey eyes of their leader for a moment. It was easy to see that he was their captain, for he wore no helm so to be easily distinguished by his troops, but the fact he had not been included in any of the meetings between the generals and lords spoke his rank. Despite the dirt and muck of the battle that covered them all and smudged their fair skin, this elf remained radiant. His golden hair waved in the foul wind that came through the battlefield as he called up the charge and rallied his troops. This golden one kept a keen eye, jumping into the fray with his soldiers. Such a pity that one so beautiful would likely be slaughtered, thought Erestor, unable to keep from stealing glances as he continued to fight alongside Gil-galad. So many had fallen, and nearly none who had made it so close to Annatar lived to tell of it.

With one final enemy to kill, both Aiglos and Raugamarth were plunged into the charging orc. Pulling Aiglos from the corpse as it fell, Gil-galad kissed the handle of his spear, then with one final look to Erestor, charged forward with a roar of anger, a look of fierce determination in his eyes. Erestor meant to follow, but his eyes betrayed him, straying back to the other side of the field.

There was the captain, fighting without mercy. He grabbed the banner from one of the fallen, waving it round and gaining the attention yet again of the dark lord. Erestor barely made out the shouts of this golden warrior as he continued to fight, but there was obviously some personal reason he had for being there. How sad, thought Erestor again. How sad they would never meet; not only would he have been a great companion in battle with the grace he posessed, but again Erestor thought of how breathtakingly beautiful the warrior was, even in the heat of this battle, how magnificent. Erestor did not delude himself; with the way the battles had been going, they were all going to die. At least in these last few minutes of his life, he had been given the chance to see something of beauty again.

"Erestor!"

Brought back to his senses, Greenwood's General looked back to where he had heard his king call to him. All he saw was a brilliant, blinding light. Unable to look away, he tried in vain to focus. Everything seemed to crush in on him, press down upon him.

"Erestor!"

This was not Gil-galad. Lowering his sword, Erestor turned away from the light, only to find it still surrounded him. Actually, it was fading now, fading to darkness. Someone was helping him to the ground, leaning him against something. "Erestor, are you hurt?" It was Elrond; the healer always asked these words first.

"What happened? Why is it so dark? Did Gil-galad make it? Did he defeat Annatar?"

Elrond's answer was not immediate. He helped Erestor to sit better against the remains of a tree trunk. Placing a hand upon Erestor's shoulder, he said, "My friend, no. Gil-Galad did not succeed. He is dead." Elrond choked on the word, then continued, "Annatar is no more. Elendil fell, but Isildur took our enemy down. The darkness has lifted, my friend."

Indeed, Erestor could hear the sounds of the armies rejoicing around him. Trumpets sounded the dawning of a new reign, one not of fear and darkness, but of goodness and light. Rubbing his eyes, Erestor fought in vain to see what Elrond described to him. "How... how did he die, Elrond? How did Gil-galad fall?" It was terrible to ask such a thing of Elrond, knowing how close he was to their King, but he found himself asking anyhow.

"He was... destroyed," was the best Elrond could answer. "He drew back his spear, but as he did, some spell overthrew him. A light, so bright it was blinding."

"Did you see it?" questioned Erestor. When Elrond did not answer, he gripped the herald's collar and pulled him closer. "Elrond, did you see it? Did you see the light?"

Elrond shook his head. "No," he answered, somewhat in shook as Erestor slowly loosened his hold and let go. "I turned away. We all did."

In that moment, Erestor knew. He realized without a doubt what he was.

Blind.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Chapter 1

Summer brought a warmth to the valley that comforted and enlivened all those living there. The Last Homely House was bustling with activity, from the visitors that passed through to those who lived there all the way to the Lord himself as he joyfully spent time playing in the gardens with his young sons.

Even those who normally spent their time indoors were lured out into the sunshine. Sitting beneath a towering oak and leaning against the trunk was a solitary soul, an elf who quietly turned the pages of the book that was open upon his lap. A gentle breeze waved through his dark hair, wafting the scent of freshly baked treats from the windows of the kitchens nearby. Not too far from where he sat, pairs of young soldiers played a sort of game, where one fought with one arm behind his back and the other blindfolded. Others watched them in a broken circle, cheering on brothers or those in their company, or perhaps now and again encouraging a lover to do better against whomever he was fighting.

One pair in particular began to fight fiercely, causing others to turn in distraction or remove their blindfolds. The elf beneath the tree tilted his head in the direction of the shouting, smirking as the sounds of the battle increased in speed.

"Get him! Get him! You nearly had him!"

"You can't let Lhun Company down! Duck! Duck!"

"Watch your step, now!"

"Nice hit!"

The elf beneath the tree sighed as the noise grew, the group moving slowly closer to his shaded spot. Bowing his head, he resumed turning the pages of his book.

"Daro!" The one who had been holding his arm behind his back placed his hand upon the blindfolded elf's chest. "We are about to intrude upon his lordship's lands."

Removing the cloth from his eyes, the other elf laughed loudly. "On such a bright and sunny day, you sit and flip through your books," teased the second one, and he reached down to pick up a second book which had remained closed beside the dark elf. His hand was sharply swatted by the solitary one's walking stick. "Damn you, Erestor! That smarts," he complained, sucking on the mark that was developing on the back of his hand before shaking it and then cradling it with his other hand.

"Don't touch. Not yours."

"As if you have use for them when you can't even read them," taunted one of the others of the crowd that was forming.

"Oh, but he loves his books," snickered another. "He should marry his books."

Erestor sighed and shook his head, meaning to ignore them.

"Can you imagine," said the one who had stopped their game, poking his sword at the edge of Erestor's robes, "that this one was once a warrior?"

"However did he manage?" queried another. "With those robes, what did he do? Ride sidesaddle as he shot orcs?"

Laughter erupted again to shouts of "Sidesaddle, like a lady!" and "Looks like a girl, rides like a girl". Moments later, the leader of the group found himself sitting hard on the ground after the walking stick had knocked him off-balance.

"I have half a mind to tell Glorfindel what you lot are up to," said Erestor as he pulled the book that was on the ground protectively into his lap, leaving his walking stick at his side.

"Why would we care about that?" Seeing his opportunity, the other elf grabbed the stick just before Erestor could realize his mistake in letting go of it. Standing up, the elf twirled the cane around at his side. "He'll have a good laugh of it, and at your expense. What would he care about you for? It isn't as if he cares about you or anything."

Erestor did not answer the question. "May I have my walking stick back?"

Continuing to twirl it, the soldier quirked a brow. "Listen to that," he said, nudging one of his companions. "Walking stick he calls it. It's a cane. A crutch. You want it back?" Erestor nodded. "Ask me nicely for it. Just a little pleading will do," he added to the snickers and snorts behind him.

Another sigh escaped Erestor's lips. "Why should I have to ask you for what is rightfully mine? No, I won't ask you again. As I said, I shall simply tell your captain what is going on when he is away."

"As if he has the time for you!" shouted the leader, tossing the stick between his hands while Erestor felt his way up the tree trunk with one hand, his books firmly held to his chest as he stood. "He probably doesn't even know who you are."

"Indeed, he does have time, and indeed, he does know who I am." Erestor spat the words back partially clenched teeth. "Eru help you all when I speak with him next."

As Erestor kept his hand out in front of him to guide his way, one of the guards yelled, "What, is he your lover or something?"

Not bothering to turn back to them, Erestor shouted, "And what if he is?"

The group near the tree silenced immediately. Erestor reached the house, grasping for the handle of the door. Once he entered and the door closed behind him, the leader paled as he looked at the walking stick in his hands. "Oh, shit."

Inside the house, Erestor leaned his back against the door, hunting with his free hand through his pockets for a handkerchief. After wiping the sweat from his brow, he stopped and went over in his mind what he had said. "Oh, shit."

Chapter 2

"L-lord Glorfindel, what an unexpected surprise! You've arrived home e-early. I-I-I-"

Glorfindel looked curiously down at the dark-haired elf from atop his horse. "You what? Spit it out, I haven't all day."

"I... I do hope there isn't anything terribly amiss," replied the elf.

Shaking his head, Glorfindel clicked his tongue, pulling the reigns in the direction of the stables. "You'll find out at this afternoon's briefing, sergeant." As he rode away, he looked once over his shoulder to see the normally confident guard turn his back and wring his hands. Wondering if something had gone wrong on the training fields while he had been away, he made a note to speak with the sergeant about his behavior later. His first order of business, after taking his mount back to the stables for a well-deserved rest, was to speak with Elrond about the events above the valley where he had been patrolling.

As he apologetically dropped the reigns of his filthy, tired horse into the hands of the stable master, he heard someone cry his name. Glancing in the direction of the gardens, he smiled as Lindir ran over to him, his lyre under one arm. "Good day to you, penneth, what news of the valley?"

"It is good to see you again, Lord Glorfindel." Lindir haphazardly gave the captain a friendly hug, and the blond elf stopped and ruffled the lad's hair. Though he was beyond his majority, Lindir's tragic past had seemed to buy him extra years of innocence when he had been brought to the valley. Letting go of the elf who had saved him and his family years ago, Lindir walked beside Glorfindel with a bit of a skip in his step. "I have heard a rumor," he began, and was tsked at by Glorfindel.

"What have to told you about spreading the idle talk of the kitchen maids?" Lindir shuffled his feet as Glorfindel continued, "Most of it is most personal, not things ever meant to have been made public."

Lindir nodded his head in agreement. "I know! I have ignored most of it, as you have told me to, but in the last week everyone has been talking about you."

Glorfindel abruptly stopped mid-step as Lindir continued on. "Me?" he finally asked when the young elf had made it many steps ahead. Lindir practically bounced back over to him, and hurriedly told his tale with very few pauses between words.

"Yes, the soldiers in the courtyard, they have been talking about you, and how it is that you would take as your lover an old fool who cannot use a sword nor fire an arrow. I didn't know who they spoke of at first, but then when I was in the halls practicing my flute, they came in and they stayed far from the corner where Erestor likes to sit with his books. I heard them talk amongst themselves and point to him a lot, and they were a little upset with what you would do to them when you came back. Then one of them went to him and asked him if he was really your lover, and all he did was smirk at them, and then they all left. So I asked him if it was really true, because I have not ever seen the two of you together, but he sighed and said it wasn't and-" Lindir gasped for air as Glorfindel put a hand upon his shoulder to calm him.

"Lindir, I've only understood half of what you've said. Let us go back for a moment." He led the lad to a bench in an open area, far enough from the house so no one inside might hear, and easy enough to watch for others who might approach. "What you are telling me is that Erestor lied to the house guards and told them he and I are lovers." Lindir nodded. "Slowly now, why did he tell you he did that?"

Lindir took a breath and then said, "Because the guards were teasing him. They took away his walking stick."

Glorfindel blinked, and then, snorted. "They took his walking stick, and made fun of him, so he said he was my lover."

Lindir nodded.

"You are sure? That is what he said?"

Lindir nodded again.

"Mmm." Glorfindel himself nodded, and then said, "I have one more question, if you would not mind."

Lindir nodded in earnest.

"Who is Erestor?"

Chapter 3

"I am Erestor."

Glorfindel turned with a start. He had been quite sure no one had been in the vicinity, but now an elf stood not very far away behind the bench he and Lindir were on, one hand resting upon a post that was staked into the ground, while the other held a pair of books to his chest. "My apologies for startling you," he said, remaining where he stood.

"You. You're Erestor?" Glorfindel looked over the slight figure dressed in dark robes with hair to match. Somehow, he had expected a much younger elf, imagining that his guards had been teasing some youth. "Obviously, then, you see that you've put both of us in an odd position." Lindir tugged a little on Glorfindel's sleeve, but he stilled the elf's hand. "I have need to speak with Lord Elrond or I would address the situation now. Perhaps you might see me later in my office, I shall-"

"Captain." Erestor cut him off curtly, reaching for the walking stick that had been propped up against the post. "I do apologize for my offense. I will be leaving at the week's end. I had planned to return to Mirkwood before you arrived back from your patrol," he explained, walking toward the house as he poked the stick in front of him as he went. "I would very much appreciate it if you were to give me a day or two; I shall leave as soon as I am able and then you may tell your unmannered troops whatever you wish. I shall even have a letter written to them with my apology, if you like. I have things I must now do," he added, having continued past the bench and down a path. "Good day," he called out as he disappeared.

Sitting with his mouth still open from being interrupted, Glorfindel closed his eyes, shut his mouth, and then looked to Lindir. "Is he... I mean, is he slightly off?"

Lindir bit his lip. "Well, he does keep to himself for the most part. I think it has to do with his being blind, but he-"

"What? Hold, Lindir, go back." Glorfindel touched the tips of his fingers to his forehead, feeling a headache approaching. "He's blind."

"That's why he has the ca--uh, the walking stick. And the mask."

"Yes, that did look a little odd," admitted Glorfindel. "I was going to ask about that, but he just started talking and left me no room to interject."

"He used to be a general. I think he is used to talking and having people listen to him talk," surmised Lindir.

Taking one final look down the path, Glorfindel stood up. "Walk with me, Lindir, and tell me what you know of this elf."

"Well," he began as they approached the house, "my Naneth told me that he was at that last war, the one against the dark lord. He was one of the Mirkwood elves. When King Oropher made the decision to attack first, the general told his troops to wait. They hesitated but when things went bad they charged in to help. Except General Erestor. He refused to go against King Gil-Galad's orders."

"But if he was from Mirkwood, what would it matter what Gil-Galad wanted? Although it was a bad tactic, Oropher's command should have been heeded," reasoned Glorfindel.

"My Naneth said it was because he is part Noldorin," explained Lindir, who had obviously had the same thought as Glorfindel at one time. "When what was left of those from Mirkwood were rallied, Prince Thranduil was upset with General Erestor. He told him please not to come with them on the next attack." To this, Glorfindel smirked, sure that those could not have been the exact words used. "So General Erestor went to King Gil-Galad, and fought with his troops. When King Gil-Galad was killed, he was right there. The light and the fire blinded him."

"But he should have healed," argued Glorfindel. Lindir shrugged as they walked up the main staircase.

Turning down the hallway with Glorfindel, Lindir said, "My Naneth says that, too. She has been helping Elrond to try to find a way to cure him. Nothing works. Sometimes she says it makes it worse. When that happens I know, because she comes home and cries."

Glorfindel swallowed hard. "So, he was banished from Mirkwood?"

"Nay, he came here after the war. He did go home first. King Thranduil has not banned him. Funny things are said between friends during war, my Adar says." Lindir stopped when Glorfindel did, outside Elrond's study. "King Thranduil had healers that tried everything. When Prince Legolas made a visit here, he asked Lord Elrond to see if he could do something for Erestor. So he came here. That was a long time ago. I think he still hopes though or he would have gone back home. He talks to me about Mirkwood sometimes when I am practicing in the halls in the afternoon when no one else is there. I like him," decided Lindir.

Giving the youth a pat on the back, Glorfindel nodded. "Thank you, Lindir. Off you go, then," he said, nodding in the direction of a group Lindir's age whom the lad was friends with. Lindir nodded with a smile and jogged down the hall to catch up with his peers. Glorfindel knocked twice and entered the room.

"Glorfindel. Back so soon?" Elrond stood up from behind his desk, motioning to the couch that he knew his friend and captain favored. "What is the matter?"

"An attack near to our borders."

"Orcs?"

"Men," sighed Glorfindel. "They meant to come into the realm and take what they wished. We were able to reason with them, more or less. I have a list of what they are requesting. It seems extravagant." Glorfindel handed a folded sheet to Elrond as he sat down beside him. "I told them I would see what I could do, but that they asked for much."

Elrond read through the list a second time. "Times have been hard for some of our neighbors. What they ask for isn't terribly much. I think we can managed."

Nodding, Glorfindel knew somehow that Elrond was going to agree to the terms. For obvious reasons, the peredhel had a soft spot for those of the race of men. "With your permission, I will return to the borders once more in the morning." He began to stand, but was waved back down.

"Hold, Glorfindel. You need not hurry back so fast. I will send a messenger to deliver word to those who are waiting for your answer. Linger here awhile; Erestor has been melancholy as of late. Had I known he was your lover, I would never have assigned you to such extensive tours of duty on the borders."

Glorfindel managed to make a face of disbelief without Elrond seeing it as the half-elf stood and took the list to his desk. "I was somewhat surprised to have heard of it, but my wife swore to me it was not idle gossip. It isn't, is it?" Elrond looked over his shoulder momentarily, and Glorfindel smiled best he could. Elrond chuckled and took a clean sheet of parchment, writing a few notes upon it. "It is so good to know he is cared for by someone, considering all thing. He talks so little to me when I see him, but he always joked about no one wanting to be with him because of his disability. I never thought his words to be jokes, but rather, pleas for companionship. He is beautiful to look at, is he not?" Once more, Elrond caught a glimpse of a smile, missing the sad look that had been upon Glorfindel's face. "If I didn't have my own hands full..." Elrond chuckled. "Take some time here, Glorfindel. You have earned it. Erestor needs it, I can tell. Spend some time with him- ah! When I stop in the kitchens to have them gather provisions for the men in the forest, I shall ask for dinner to be sent to your rooms with a good bottle of wine. Whose room will you be in?" he questioned.

"Ahm... ah..."

"His, of course," Elrond decided for himself. "With all your clutter, he'll walk into something and trip. Worry not, go to him now," Elrond instructed, practically pushing Glorfindel from his study. "Speak with me in the morning; we shall come up with a better work schedule for you then. Good afternoon, Lord Glorfindel."

"Good... afternoon," Glorfindel managed to the closed door. In a daze, he walked to the stairs, looking at the door until it was out of sight. He took himself out of the house, back to the bench, where he sat down, still in shock. It wasn't until he spied a group of soldiers a little ways off, who saw him and rushed away in the opposite direction that he dropped his head in his hands. "Oh, shit."

Chapter 4

Erestor was in bed with a cat curled around his arm when he heard the knock on his door. Sleepily, he called out, "It's unlocked."

Taking this as invitation to enter, Glorfindel turned the knob and let himself in. For early evening, the room was dark, with curtains drawn and no candles lit. What little light came in from the hallway showed him that there were very neat and wide paths around everything in the first room, which had a simple table and chairs, and a couch for lounging with pillows bunched at one side. At the far end of the room was a large bed, upon which Erestor seemed to have been napping.

"Good evening, I-"

"You're not Elrond!" Erestor sat up suddenly, upsetting the cat greatly. The feline growled his discontent before slinking under the bed. Fumbling with the mask that had been on the small table beside the bed, Erestor asked, "What in Manwe's name are you doing in here?" He hastily tied the leather thongs behind his head as he awaited Glorfindel's answer.

Quickly, Glorfindel shut the door and stepped a little further into the room. "I wanted to apologize for what I said to you earlier. It was rather rude of me. Having just come in from a very trying week, I did not mean to be so harsh."

Erestor seemed to either be giving Glorfindel time to finish, or else he himself was thinking rather hard about what to say. "That is," Erestor said finally, "you didn't mean to be so harsh to one so impaired as I."

Glorfindel set his jaw. "No," he said forcefully, "I truly did not mean to be so harsh. I came from a difficult situation which at the time had yet to be resolved. Perhaps my choice of words would have been different, but I still would have snapped at you even if I had known you to be blind."

Having not left the bed yet, Erestor simply turned his head away. "Oh."

"Yes, oh. And now I come here to make apology, with my words and with a nice dinner and conversation, and you insult me." Glorfindel crossed his arms over his chest and gave a little huff.

"Then, accept my sincerest apology, and let us be done with the matter," offered Erestor. "I did not understand your intentions. So, we have had forgiveness and conversation - where is dinner?"

"It is coming," promised Glorfindel, and a knock sounded upon the door. "Ah, there it is. I had them send something from the kitchens."

"What did you have them bring?" asked Erestor as Glorfindel headed to the door.

"I asked them to make it a surprise," Glorfindel said, opening the door to find a pair of maids from the kitchen. "Thank you, ladies, let me just take that, and-"

"Oh, you do not have enough hands for what Lord Elrond has had us bring for you, but here, hold the wine, please!" A cheerful elleth with dark curled hair placed a cool bottle in Glorfindel's hands and then helped her counterpart carry the platter she had been balancing. "Save the tarts for last, they've only just been baked!"

"Lord Elrond has said you should meet with him late in the afternoon, and not to feel bad if you must miss your meeting. Breakfast will be brought up tomorrow when you will it. When will you will it my lords?"

"Uh..." Glorfindel turned his head as he felt a breath of air ghost across the back of his neck. Nearly dropping the wine with a start when he realized how close Erestor was to him, he recovered quickly and narrowed his eyes at the smirk he was being given.

With a grin, Erestor answered, "I take my breakfast early, just as the sun rises."

Glorfindel made a gesture as if to say to the pair, 'Well, there is your answer'. The maids gave each other slightly odd looks, but cheerfully nodded to them and set things up about the table before leaving the room. As soon as the door was closed, Glorfindel turned around, and this time did drop the bottle of wine when he came unexpectedly face to face with Erestor once again.

Grasping the neck of the bottle just before it hit the floor, Erestor said, "Lord Elrond?"

"He, uh, he wanted to help in making sure we didn't have hard feelings about-" Glorfindel threw his hands up in the air as Erestor turned away from him, his shoulders shaking in laughter. "Fine, fine. He believes the rumor you started."

"So does everyone else it would seem," mused Erestor.

"What was that supposed to mean?" asked Glorfindel.

"Nothing, perhaps. Well, come then, dinner is getting cold."

Glorfindel slowly followed after the dark elf, who was dressed now in a light robe he had not remembered him being in earlier. In fact, if his memory served him, it looked quite possibly as if Erestor had been sleeping in the nude. "You mean to have dinner with me then?"

"I do not plan to shun Lord Elrond's hospitality." Erestor set the bottle on the table. "You will need to see to this," he said, patting the bottle as he grabbed for one of the chairs. Finding one close to him he sat down and said, "I have such terrible luck with haphazard corks flying about and breaking things. Or hitting the cats."

On cue, a puffy calico leaned up against Glorfindel's right leg and let out a soft and pretty purr. "How many cats do you have?" he asked as he reached for the bottle and picked up the corkscrew.

"Two that I know of, but I think sometimes they bring home strays." Erestor leaned his face closer to the table and breathed in deeply. "Is there a dish over on this side with chicken in it?" he asked, waving his right hand above the table.

"Left a little. Up, just a hair- there, your hand is over the cover," said Glorfindel, who could see the contents through the glass covers.

"Thank you." Erestor lifted the cover from the dish and experimentally poked a finger at what was inside- chunks of chicken, simmered in ginger and other spices, and served over brown rice. "Pounce is the troublemaker who pretends she is cute. Charisma is the fat one." He fished out a piece of chicken, shook off the rice and popped it into his mouth.

"The... oh, the cats," nodded Glorfindel. He managed to remove the cork without injuring anyone or anything, and poured a glass of wine first for Erestor, and then one for himself. "Would you like for me to fix you a plate?" Glorfindel offered, but Erestor shook his head.

"I eat very little. I also promise my hands are clean." He licked off the two fingers he had been using to procure chicken and held up his hand. "See?"

There was no way for Glorfindel to keep from laughing. "What is that, some trick you learned from your cats? Lick you fingers clean?"

Erestor shrugged and walked his fingers across the tabletop until he came upon his glass of wine. "I thought it was funny." He sipped from his goblet and said, "I would eat 'civilly', but quite often it seems the food runs around my plate hiding from me, and it becomes ever so frustrating."

"Honestly, I don't mind it," Glorfindel said as he sat down, and then realized- no utensils had been brought. "Well, if you can do it, so can I." He took the cover off of a bowl of steaming vegetables, all of them cut in fairly large chunks. "Obviously, Elrond is used to your eating habits."

"He puts up with it. Stopped inviting me to formal dinners long ago. At least he lets me eat up here instead of behind the stables these days." When Erestor heard Glorfindel stop eating, he added, "That was a joke."

"Why do you keep insulting yourself?" questioned Glorfindel.

Steadying his glass with both hands, Erestor drank from it and then answered, "It usually puts others more at ease about me."

"I don't like it," admitted Glorfindel. This brought about an uncomfortable silence in the room until Charisma broke through by letting out a meow of discontent that he had not been invited to dinner. The large cat swaggered to the table and flopped down nearby on the floor.

"I assume you met with Lord Elrond earlier?" Erestor's voice was humorless, and he concentrated now on drinking his wine rather than eating.

Glorfindel wiped his fingers on his napkin and tossed it onto the table. "Yes, we met. I needed to tell him about what happened in the forest; we came across some men who wanted to come into the valley and gather what provisions they needed. They are having trouble with crops and with hunting game. Elrond said to give them what they asked for."

"I assume my name came up in conversation?"

Sighing, Glorfindel leaned back in his chair. "Erestor, I do not know what exactly transpired between you and my men, but whatever it was, why could you not come to me about it rather than concoct some fanciful story?"

"I didn't. Whatever tales are being told have been passed along between the soldier and the smiths, the ladies and lords, the fishers, stablehands, and housewives. All I said was 'And what if we are' or something like that. I only meant to tease your soldiers as they had done to me. Never to harm or make a fool of you. I'm sorry." Erestor toyed with the stem of his glass. "They insulted my dignity, what little of it I have left. I was like them once: Young, brave, strong, and able to fight, trained to defend. They mocked that. I ignored them best that I could, but perhaps you understand when I say, there is a point when one goes too far, and they did just that."

Carefully, Glorfindel considered Erestor's words. "How would you like to continue this charade?"

"To what end?" questioned Erestor.

"To whatever end it comes to; to teach a lesson to those brats. If these are the ones I think they are, the soldiers of the city, they have long had such a thing coming. They only seem to fear me, but perhaps if they think us lovers, they might fear you as well. Think of the power you would have over them." Glorfindel smiled to himself. "Of course, I'll have the biggest laugh- watching them trip over each other to keep in your good graces. What say you, Erestor? Are you up for the game?"

Raising his glass, Erestor concurred. "To whatever end it comes to, aye." And they drank to those words.

Chapter 5

Glorfindel stretched his arms up over his head and yawned. "I suppose I should take my leave," he said, tilting the wine bottle back and forth to find they had emptied it.

"We still have the issue of breakfast," Erestor reminded him. "If you leave now, someone is bound to see you in the halls and that would ruin our little plan. Now, you could crawl out through the window, scale up the side of the building, wedge your window open, climb in, wake early, toss a rope up here for me to catch, climb back up-"

"I'll just stay here on the couch," suggested Glorfindel.

A smirk played upon Erestor's lips. "Alright," he said finally, and stood up and took hold of his walking stick. Leaving Glorfindel at the table, Erestor made his way to the bed where he leaned his walking stick against the wall. "There should be a quilt in the chest at the end of the bed if you like."

Carrying the only candle Glorfindel had found with him, he investigated as Erestor felt the blankets on the bed, shoving them back. From the corner of his eye, he caught the dark robe slip from Erestor's shoulders. Lingering on the sight of the pale elf as he reached behind his ears and untied the mask, stretching his muscles beautifully in the soft glow of the candlelight.

"Ai!" Glorfindel nearly dropped the candle as wax spilled down the back of his hand. Hastily switching to the other hand, he blew on the other.

"Something the matter?"

Erestor was in bed now, and Glorfindel silently cursed to himself for having looked away. "No, I'm quite fine. Just a little burn, worry not. Ah, here is the quilt." Closing the chest, Glorfindel minded the candle as he set out for the couch. Blowing it out and setting it on the table, Glorfindel undressed, tossing his clothing on the floor, and leaving only his long undershirt on before flopping down on the couch and spreading the quilt over himself.

"Comfy?"

"Are you being sarcastic?"

Erestor chuckled. "Just a little," he admitted. "Well. Good night."

"Good night."

As Glorfindel began to drift off to sleep, he was pounced, very aptly, by Pounce. She padded back and forth across his back as if looking for the best place to sit. Tiptoeing down his leg, she found his uncovered feet and began to lick his big toe.

Lap

Lap

Lap

BITE

"Yie!" Yanking his feet closer and knocking Pounce from her perch, Glorfindel reached under the quilt to poke at his injury while Erestor laughed, muffled, probably into his pillow. "Oh, funny, is it?"

"You're the one who decided to sleep on her couch."

"Her couch, is it?" Pounce jumped back up onto Glorfindel, digging her claws in with each step and causing him to wince. "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow... no, you can't... no, bad kitty, bad- eghhh." Glorfindel wriggled his nose as Pounce stretched out over his chest, rolling onto her back and batting at his face. "Does this go on all night?"

Erestor made a kissy noise, and Pounce sat up, alert. "Pounceable, come here, naughty thing." The calico launched herself off of Glorfindel, earning another wince, and moments later was being praised by Erestor for being a 'good girl'.

"And parents wonder these days why their children are so spoiled," grumbled Glorfindel as he tucked himself under the quilt and fell asleep.

- - -

"Don't even think it."

The guard abruptly slid back the foot that he had planned to trip Erestor with. "I don't know what you're talking about." He said, making a face at Erestor. The other guards around him chuckled.

Leaning on his walking stick, Erestor asked, "Do I need to go and speak with Glorfindel about this?"

"Do you?" the guard flippantly questioned. "I don't believe any of this talk that the two of you are 'together'. I think it's just a big game." For the past three weeks, the guards had been very careful around Erestor, and avoided Glorfindel whenever they could. The morning after his dinner with Erestor, Glorfindel had summoned the house guards and spent the better part of the morning 'ripping them a new one' as he later described it to Erestor. As time wore on, however, the pair did little to enforce the rumors, sometimes seemingly avoiding one another.

"Do you?" Erestor stood up straight and shrugged. "Think what you must, but it doesn't excuse your behavior."

"My behavior? At least I have a lover and don't have to pretend I have one." The guards began to laugh at Erestor. He turned around, afraid the unseen tears that welled up in his eyes would seep through his mask. The laughter mounted, and he took a shaky step forward.

"Darling. Erestor. Stay." Glorfindel's voice grew commanding. "Attention!"

The group suddenly stood still, booth arms at their sides, feet together, eyes forward.

"You are all disgusting. I have, against my better judgment, heeded the advice of the house guard commander to keep you all here. This is it. I'm through. All of you are reassigned to the border guard for the next year. Five years," he amended when one of them snorted. "You want to make it ten?" he challenged them.

"No, sir!"

"Then get your asses out of my sight."

The guards effectively scattered, heading either to the house or to the barracks to brood. "Well. That takes care of that," Glorfindel sighed. "I suppose I might have done that earlier and saved us both a lot of trouble," he said as he approached Erestor.

"I suppose," agreed Erestor.

Glorfindel squeezed his shoulder. "Well, it's been a nice time. Perhaps we can get together again some time. Have dinner, laugh about all of this."

"What?"

Stepping a little closer, Glorfindel whispered, "Since I just sent them all away. No need to keep up this act."

"Oh." Erestor swallowed hard. "Oh. I guess not." Bowing his head, he bit his lip as it quivered. "I'll... I'll miss our dinners together," he said and turned his back to Glorfindel.

"Erestor." Glorfindel placed his hands upon Erestor's shoulders. "Erestor, do you want to... do you think we should continue with this? For a little longer, perhaps?"

"Well... well, I fear that if we stop, they will be harsher on me. They will be back every few weeks on leave; I'll not be left alone. I can only imagine the torment they will put me through. I have enjoyed these few weeks of freedom. I never used to leave my rooms so often. I never- I never had someone to talk to." Turning around quickly so that he was practically in Glorfindel's arms, Erestor pleaded with as much dignity as he could, "Glorfindel, just a little longer. Until I've the time to speak with Lord Elrond, and Prince Legolas is coming in a month. Just a month. What is a month? And you like the couch; you've admitted to that," he added.

"Alright, I'll do it-"

"Thank you-"

"-for a price."

Erestor nodded. "For what?"

Glorfindel tilted his head to the side slightly and closed his eyes. Erestor had no warning as lips pressed against his. A few moments later, Glorfindel moved away. "A month," he said, and pecked Erestor on the cheek before heading to the house, with a skip in his step that Erestor did not see when the walking stick dropped from his grasp as he reached up to touch his cheek and lips in surprise.

Chapter 6

A soft knock sounded on Lord Elrond's study door. He finished reading the paragraph of the scroll on his desk as he slid his chair back, steadying Elladan on his lap. Elrohir was fast asleep on the couch as Elrond walked by, his elder son in his arms playing with a toy horse whose head bobbed up and down as they went to the door.

Only one person knocked so quietly, as if afraid of imposition. Standing on the other side of the door, Erestor leaned on his walking stick with both hands. "General, good afternoon."

"And to you, Lord Elrond. Little Lord Elladan," added Erestor, and the young boy beamed at having been correctly identified. "I did not mean to interrupt you."

"No, enter, please." Elrond moved to the side as Erestor stepped forward, sweeping the cane slowly back and forth as he came into the room. "To what do I owe your visit?"

Turning back around so that he faced in the direction of Elrond's voice, Erestor waited until he heard the door close to speak. "I wished to tell you, I thank you for allowing... my... lover," he said, nearly stumbling on the words, "to stay for extra time here at the house. I know that it must be a hardship not to have Glorfindel on the borders."

"Well, I was able to rework the schedule without too much difficulty," said Elrond. Elladan squirmed in his arms, and he set the child down.

"But it did cause problems," Erestor stated bluntly.

Pausing uneasily, Elrond finally admitted, "I will not lie. It is hard to have him here when he would be of more use elsewhere. We will manage."

"I do not wish to be a burden. I do not want you doing this simply for my sake."

Elrond folded his arms over his chest. "I am not sure I understand what you came to tell me."

"I think you should assign Glorfindel back to the borders. He needs to be there." Erestor bowed his head down to the left, where Elladan had fisted his hand in the dark elf's robes and was tugging on them. "Yes, Lord Elladan?"

"Look! I have a new horsie!"

Erestor bit his bottom lip a moment, and then said, "He's a beautiful horse, m'lord."

Elladan let go of the heavy fabric and scampered off to play with his toy in the 'cave' beneath his father's desk.

"If you are certain, Erestor," said Elrond as he watched his son crawl around his chair.

"I am."

"Then I will take it under consideration." Elrond opened the door as Erestor stepped toward it.

"If you don't mind," said Erestor, "I would prefer you not tell Glorfindel that I came to see you. It may make things..."

"I understand," agreed Elrond. In a low voice he added, "Sometimes we keep things from those we love when we need to."

Erestor nodded his thanks as he left the room, still contemplating in the back of his mind the kisses he had received just an hour earlier.

- - -

"You have to do this for me. Please. I've gone along with your scheme." Glorfindel nervously fidgeted with the edge of the tablecloth as Lord Elrond made his nightly announcements before dinner, unseen by those sitting around him.

Although they had been eating privately in Erestor's rooms, Glorfindel had easily convinced the other elf to attend the evening meal in the hall with the majority of the household. Glorfindel had a place at the main table, and there were always extra seats for visiting dignitaries and honored guests.

Only minutes before the meal was to begin, Elrond had casually told Glorfindel as he helped Erestor to find his seat that he would be returning to the borders.

Tomorrow.

Leaning close again to Erestor as Elrond spoke, Glorfindel put on a show, lovingly brushing back the dark hair with one hand so that he could whisper for Erestor only to hear. It was not exactly words of love that he spoke. "Erestor, please help me. I will admit, I have become spoiled at not having to sleep on the forest floor and ride in the searing sun or pouring rain. Just... just pout a little at dinner, make Elrond think you will miss me too dearly for now. Just for a little longer - for the month, just as we said. A month. Please, Eres-"

"Wine, m'lords?" asked the server, standing behind the pair. Glorfindel pulled away from Erestor and held first his own and then Erestor's empty goblet aloft to be filled.

As Glorfindel began to lower the filled cup down to the table, Erestor's hand wrapped around his. Elrond was just sitting down at the head of the small head table when Erestor said, "Must you return to the borders so soon?"

"I... I'm afraid so," confirmed Glorfindel. He cast his eyes down sadly as he set the wine on the table, but Erestor did not let go of his hand. "But... I shall write to you every chance I have."

"Every day?"

Glorfindel had to suppress a smirk. Erestor was GOOD. "Every chance I have, my darling." He removed his hand from the goblet and lifted Erestor's to his lips. "Every moment, I will be thinking of seeing you again." The kiss he placed on the back of Erestor's hand caught the eye of more than one elf in the room, which buzzed with the nightly talk and hissed with the whispers of what was going on at the front of the hall.

"I shall miss you." Erestor swallowed hard and shakily found his goblet, downing half of the wine in a few gulps. Setting the goblet back as the first course came around, he sniffled as Glorfindel offered to butter his bread for him.

"Is anything the matter, General Erestor?" asked the Lady Celebrian as she kept one eye on each of her sons.

"No... only just that..." Erestor let out hickuped sob and reached for the napkin in his lap, wiping at imaginary tears that seeped out from under his mask. "It has been so long since I have felt part of something. With no one here for me, I shall be once more hidden away and- Glorfindel, I am sorry, I must retire. Join me soon, beloved?" he asked, his lip quivering before he blew his nose on the fine linen.

Glorfindel was up in a flash. "I would rather we spend our night together, alone in y- our room. M'lord, if you will excuse us, please." Helping Erestor up, Glorfindel tucked him close as the pair walked through the hall, all eyes on them as Glorfindel swiftly led the tearful Erestor from the room.

At the head table, a miffed Elrond stared until he was kicked under the table by his wife. "How could you do that to them?" she demanded, looking a little teary-eyed herself. "Poor, poor Erestor! If I were you..."

Chapter 7

"You," said Glorfindel as he shut and locked the door of Erestor's quarters, "were magnificent. You nearly had me convinced, that's how well you performed." He turned to see Erestor gliding over to the desk, which was bare except for the pair of books he sometimes carried around the house with him. "Erestor?" Glorfindel slowly walked to him as the slighter elf sat down and pulled one of the books closer.

The only sound as Glorfindel stopped behind Erestor was the turning of the book's heavy pages. "Erestor, please. Talk to me. You've said nothing since we left the hall. What have I done wrong?" He pulled back the loose hair that hung over Erestor's shoulders and tucked it over his ears. "If I've offended you," he said, "please, tell me what I've done so I may make amends." He leaned down and kissed Erestor's cheek, and the turning of the pages stopped.

"Please don't do that."

"I- I'm sorry." Glorfindel stood back up and took a step away. "Is that what is bothering you?" Bowing his head, Glorfindel said in a somber voice, "I suppose it was silly to think that perhaps, perhaps there was a real attraction between us. You really don't like me much, do you?"

"What? No. That's silly." Erestor sighed. "It is I who should apologize. I should never have involved you in my problems."

"Oh, but I am happy that you did," admitted Glorfindel, stepping closer again. "Very happy you did," he said, intent upon kissing the mysterious elf whom he had become enamored with. "Can't you understand, I'm falling in love with you," he revealed, nuzzling Erestor after whispering his secret into the other's ear.

"No, Glorfindel." Erestor gently pushed him away. "Please, don't." Glorfindel's forlorn look went unseen by Erestor, who continued with, "You can't fall in love with me."

"Why not?"

"Because I am blind!" Erestor buried his face in his arms upon the desk. "Because- because, Glorfindel! Because!"

"But, Erestor-"

"Glorfindel-"

A knock came upon the door. Swallowing hard and fighting back his tears, Glorfindel went to the door, composed himself best he could, and opened it. Elrond stood on the other side, arms crossed and quite contemptuous. "Lady Celebrian and I have agreed it best, for the mental health of all parties involved, that you stay here in the city for the next year or so. It will give you time to catch up on any overdue paperwork you need to get to me. Also, while you are here, I would suggest you send your training commander out to take over your field duties and see to his here in the city." In a more concerned and lower voice, Elrond asked as he peered over Glorfindel's shoulder into the room, "Is he going to be all right?"

"Fine, yes, he'll be fine, and your plan, it works just fine as well." Glorfindel bowed slightly. "Thank you, I should go to him, tell him now. I am sure that he will... well, I shall come to speak with you tomorrow," promised Glorfindel, and he closed the door after bidding his lord a good afternoon.

Erestor was still at his desk, head bowed. Glorfindel ran one hand over Erestor's hair until he raised his head. "May I ask you a question?" Hesitantly, Erestor nodded. "Why do you have only these two books?"

There was a pause, for this seemed not to be the sort of question Erestor had been prepared for. "I used to love to read. When I left Mirkwood, I brought these volumes with me. One is from the library; I had not the chance to finish it before I left. King Thranduil was kind enough to allow me to keep it. The other is a book Prince Legolas gave to me, one I had given to him long ago." Erestor took hold of the book and lifted it up until Glorfindel took hold of it.

" 'Nursery Tales: Stories and Poems for Elflings'." Glorfindel smiled. "That was very sweet of him."

"There was a reason for it." Erestor took the book back and turned the pages quickly, until he reached a thin sheet which he drew back to reveal a painted illustration. "I may not be able to read the words, but I can 'read' the pictures." His fingers ran over the brushstrokes. "This one is 'The Old Grey Inn'; I can tell right away from the cow." Erestor's fingers traced a brown and white heifer that was leaping over a great silver moon in the sky. "Here is the inn... the dish and spoon... the cat and his fiddle." Erestor's fingers found each item on the page, a smile slowly forming on his face. "I like to sit outside with them and pretend I can read the words, but at least I can read the pictures."

All the while, Glorfindel had been crying silently. Tears dripped down his cheeks and were swallowed up by his collar. "Has no one offered to read the rest of your book to you?" Erestor did not answer. "Would you allow me to?"

"I do not think it a good idea," he said, and he protectively drew the other volume closer.

This began an uncomfortable silence which Glorfindel broke with the question, "Do you like horses?"

Erestor's answer was immediate. "Do I ever. I used to have the most beautiful grey stallion. His mane and tail were black as coal. Curious thing, he would follow me into the forest when we went on foot to look for orcs. One moment, it would be myself and the troops. The next, there he is, creeping along with the rest of us just behind me. Crazy horse."

"What was his name?"

Here was when Erestor nearly smiled. "Jackass. Maybe, I never truly named him, but I used that enough to call him. Poor beast, fell at the last battle. At least he went quickly."

"Would you care to go riding with me?" Glorfindel tried not to sound too hopeful, but being shut into these rooms so oft over the last week had brought about the extreme desire to be outside.

"I can't, Glorfindel, I won't be able to see where I'm going."

"I was supposing we might share a horse. Do you have riding clothes?" he questioned, not planning to allow Erestor to object.

The dark elf shook his head. "All I have are robes- robes, robes, and more robes," he sighed.

"You seem unhappy about that. Why not have the tailor make you other things?" Glorfindel asked.

"I used to. But the Lady Celebrian was finally kind enough to explain to me that my appearance was dreadful. My clothing was always wrinkled or sometimes if I managed to start the buttons in the wrong hole, my shirt would hang lopsided. People laughed, but I did not hear it. I am grateful she said something, though I sometimes think I may have been better off not knowing what a fool I looked." Erestor scratched behind his ear and said, "So I switched to robes, which are less easily mangled and never wrinkle. I do not think I have anything suitable for riding."

"Perhaps I can fix that," offered Glorfindel. "I believe you have a very similar height and build to Lindir, the young musician. I am certain he would lend something. Wait here, I shall return."

- - -

"I would gladly let him use whatever he needs," answered Lindir when Glorfindel caught up to him in the hall outside of the home he lived in with his parents.

"Thank you, Lindir."

"We may have a slight problem," added the youth as he opened the door and led Glorfindel to his room. Pulling back the door of the closet, Lindir motioned to the various bright and pastel colored clothing. "He is always so somber- will he not mind wearing something so colorful?"

"Well..." Glorfindel reached out and took hold of a white shirt and a pair of pale blue leggings, followed by a tunic which was blue and gold. "I shall simply take this black shirt, these black pants, and this completely, totally, all black tunic," he said to Lindir's laughter, "and hope they earn Erestor's approval."

- - -

"Nearly dressed?"

"Almost. I forgot how much more involved these things are," called Erestor from the bathroom. He had insisted upon dressing himself, making Glorfindel wonder whether he was simply that independent, or hoping to stall the inevitable. While continuing to wait, Glorfindel spied the smaller of the two books on the desk. Creeping sneakily over to the desk, he looked cautiously around the room, as if Erestor might have spies somewhere, and then hastily took hold of it and had barely managed to squeeze it into the pocket hidden in his cape as Erestor came around the corner. "Did I put my feet through the arms of the tunic or something?" he asked when Glorfindel did not speak.

"Only on the one side," he joked back as Erestor came to the desk and sat down and reached to where the smaller book had been. "Here, let me get those for you," offered Glorfindel hastily, pretending to have pulled the first book away, and then closing the second one and taking hold of that. "Are they coming with us?"

"No, I just wanted to put them away so that the cats don't play with them."

"Ah. Excellent." Glorfindel opened one of the desk drawers, found it empty, and placed the larger book inside. "Shall we, then?"

- - -

Lindir had taken the time to ready Glorfindel's mount for the pair, so the horse was awaiting them at the entrance of the house when they walked out into the early evening sun. "Just a short ride," promised Glorfindel as he hopped down the stairs and brought his horse right up to the bottom of the steps so that Erestor could mount by simply sliding onto him from the top stair, but Erestor was gone. "Erestor?"

A moment later, the elf mounted smoothly from the opposite side. "Are you coming?"

"Cheeky elf," mumbled Glorfindel to the horse, who snorted in agreement with his master. "Erestor, this is Tinnim, the most deservingly spoiled horse in the valley. Tinnim, this is Erestor." Tinnim turned his head and nodded his welcome with an accompanying whinny before facing forward again to await his orders.

"Very nice to meet you, too, Tinnim," replied Erestor as Glorfindel swung himself up on the horse behind Erestor.

"To the river, Tinnim," directed Glorfindel. "Gently," he added as Tinnim raised up on his hind legs a little before turning himself around.

"Gently? Well, what good is that? Surely if we had walked, we would have-"

With a scowl, Glorfindel reached his hand behind him and slapped Tinnim sharply on the rear. The force of Tinnim suddenly breaking into a gallop pushed Erestor back into Glorfindel, whose hands were firmly around the other elf's waist. His legs kept a grip on the horse so they did not tumble off.

"I'm sorry," apologized Glorfindel as Erestor relaxed a little. "Should I slow us down?"

"Slow us down? Can we not go faster?"

With a grin, Glorfindel shouted for Tinnim to fly like the wind.

- - -

"I really enjoy this spot." Glorfindel explained as the pair dismounted. He offered Erestor his arm, for the walking stick had been left at the house, and took him to the edge of the river. A number of large rocks suitable for two or three elves to sit upon or one to lounge across were situated beneath a grove of willow trees. Glorfindel led Erestor to the one closest to the water's edge. "After patrols I come here to think. Sometimes when I just want to be alone. This used to be a popular spot for young lovers to come and swim or groups of elflings to come and play, but the snakes have kept many away."

"I can see how that would ruin a romantic evening," said Erestor.

Glorfindel chuckled. "We won't stay long," he promised.

Erestor nodded. "Wish I had my books with me," he said wistfully. "This would be such a lovely place to sit with them."

Fidgeting for a moment, Glorfindel said, "Well, actually-"

"Ha! I knew it! You thief!" Erestor jabbed Glorfindel in the side, causing him to double over in laughter. "I thought you took my-" Erestor paused and then experimentally poked Glorfindel in the ribs again. Glorfindel promptly scuttled off of the rock and onto the grass. "You're ticklish!"

"Shhh!" Glorfindel chuckled and scooted away from Erestor, still on the grass. "Not so loud!"

"How ticklish are you?" Erestor slid down from the rock and leaped at Glorfindel, who was caught by the legs. "Hmm?" Erestor's hand found Glorfindel's stomach and he wriggled his fingers.

"Very! Very ticklish! Stop it! Stop!" Glorfindel squirmed and tried to yank himself away, uprooting fistfuls of grass. "Stop!" Grabbing for Erestor to restrain his wrists, the pair rolled back and forth until Glorfindel's hand reached blindly and took hold of the mask Erestor wore. Very quickly, he found himself flat on his back, gasping for air.

"Don't touch that again." Erestor, disoriented, sat himself on the ground and reached around to adjust the velvet that covered his eyes. "Sorry. I didn't mean to-"

"My fault," apologized Glorfindel as he settled down next to Erestor after catching his breath. "Whew. You hit hard," he said, rubbing his shoulder.

Erestor straightened himself up. "I was a soldier once, you know."

"Yes. I keep being reminded of that." Glorfindel pulled his cloak down from the rock he had placed it on and retrieved Erestor's book. "Here. I'm sorry I took it. I thought you might want me to read it to you out here."

Folding his hands in his lap, Erestor said, "I don't think you'll want to read it."

"On the contrary, I would very much enjoy reading to you," said Glorfindel. "Where did you leave off?" he asked, opening the book randomly.

"Page two forty-four," whispered Erestor, biting his lip. "Halfway down or thereabouts."

"I'll start at the top of the page to refresh your memory," offered Glorfindel. He turned the pages until he found two-hundred and forty-four. His eyes skimmed over the words and his voice caught in his throat.

"Bad idea," mumbled Erestor as he groped for the book and pulled it out of Glorfindel's grasp. Hugging it to his chest, he said, "I shouldn't have let you see that."

"Now I am for certain," spoke Glorfindel finally, "that this was fated for us."

"Nay, 'tis only a coincidence," mumbled Erestor, but he himself sounded unconvinced. His hands caressed the spine of the book until Glorfindel removed it from his grasp and set it aside.

"A coincidence that you last read of me?" Glorfindel asked as he drew Erestor closer with one arm. "A coincidence that here we are, perhaps not accidentally together?" He tilted Erestor's chin towards him. "Erestor?"

Erestor reached over Glorfindel, feeling the ground for his book. As soon as he had hold of it, he pulled it into his lap and said, "We should be heading back to the house."

- - -

The ride home was at a slow trot. Neither elf said anything until they had left Tinnim at the stables. "Thank you for the ride today," said Erestor as they walked down the main hallway to the living quarters.

"You're welcome," Glorfindel answered simply. As they rounded the corner, they nearly collided into Elrond. Glorfindel protectively pulled Erestor closer to him, and was thankful he was not pushed away. "Lord Elrond, good evening to you."

"Good eve, Captain. General, I am glad to see you are looking well," Elrond took a good look at Erestor and then with a smile said, "That blue suits you well." Glorfindel cringed

inwardly. "I shall not keep the two of you. Good night." Elrond disappeared around the corner.

Biting his lip, Glorfindel took them to Erestor's room and reached for the handle of the door. A hand gripped his and kept him from opening it. "Blue? You told me these were black."

"Uh..." Glorfindel managed to open the door and pulled them into the room and shut the door. " Oh, oh my... well, in THIS light, it is a very, very dark blue, very close to black, and-"

Erestor managed to find and light the candle on the main table.

"Well! With the light... it... it does make it a lighter blue, and-" Glorfindel stepped back from the advancing Erestor, hitting the door. He suspected that beneath his mask, he was narrowing his eyes. Swallowing hard, and deciding to come clean, he said, "Well, I couldn't very well have you wear a black tunic and pants with a while shirt. You'd look like the kitchen staff."

"Yesterday," Erestor said smugly, "you might have gotten away with this."

"B-but, today?"

"Today," grinned Erestor, "I know you're ticklish."

Chapter 8

"Prince Legolas should arrive tomorrow, if he has not already this evening." Erestor was sitting on the edge of his bed brushing his hair. His mask, rarely off, had been discarded in his lap. Glorfindel was already on the couch, with not one but both cats lounging on top of him.

An entire month had passed by in barely a wink. Lazy days spent riding as far as Tinnim could take them before growing tired and nights together, with wine and shared stories and laughter. After a week, Glorfindel had picked up the book nonchalantly one morning and began from where Erestor had left off, reading to him from the doorway as he bathed. By that evening, they had reached 'The End', and Glorfindel found himself in the library the next day to choose a new book to be read.

Little by little, he felt he was growing closer, breaking down all of the walls Erestor had built up around himself. Some took great persistence; others came down unexpectedly.

"Would you like to come to bed?"

"I have come to bed," answered Glorfindel. "All tucked in," he added.

"I meant, I think the bed is big enough for both of us. My bed."

-THUD-

"Glorfindel?"

"I'm fine!" Glorfindel detangled his legs from the quilt. "Darned cats, shoved me right off the couch. Crafty little buggers and all."

"Are you going to stay on the floor, or did you want to join me?"

Glorfindel practically bounced onto the bed. Charisma and Pounce followed suit.

"I suppose that answers my question." Erestor stood up and came around the side, placing his mask on the night table. Shoving down the blanket, he slid the robe he wore off his shoulders and dumped it on the floor, then laid down and wrapped himself up in a cocoon of bed covers. "Good night," he said, his back to the side that Glorfindel was on.

"Yes, yes it is. A good night, most certainly," Glorfindel said to Pounce as she padded back and forth over his legs to find a comfortable spot. "Good night, Erestor."

Nothing had been said since the initial mention of it some weeks ago of what might happen when Prince Legolas visited. Erestor had spoken of going back to Mirkwood, but Glorfindel hoped that his constant persistence was winning out, and that Erestor would realize that there was something worth staying in Rivendell for. A lot of little somethings, and one big important something. The big something, with the giddy smile who was sharing his bed.

"I don't much like strawberry muffins."

"What was that?" Glorfindel sat up, having not been even close to falling asleep and surveyed the room.

"Autumn is my favorite time of year, but I like spring as well."

"Erestor?" Glorfindel leaned closer and looked down at the other elf in what little light came through the windows. He slept, his eyes were even closed. Deep in reverie he was, but talking.

"Yes, I'm Erestor, don't listen to what my brother says."

"Yes!" Glorfindel covered his mouth with both hands and let out a wicked snort as Erestor rattled off something about the cost of eggs. For weeks, all Erestor had to do to get his way was waggle a finger in the direction of Glorfindel's ribcage. This, however, was quite a fair exchange as far as Glorfindel was concerned. Trying hard not to snigger, Glorfindel settled his head against his hand as he leaned over Erestor and asked, "Why do you like autumn?"

"I can hear and smell everything better then."

Glorfindel shrugged and tried another question with a grin. "What's your favorite color?"

"Blue. Sky blue. And white like clouds," came the mumbled, sleepy reply.

"Why won't you take off your mask?"

Instead of an answer, Erestor grumbled to himself, his brow furrowing. He made several disgruntled noises and his leg twitched. Hastily, Glorfindel asked, "Do you like it when I kiss you?"

Erestor calmed down, and sighed. Happily sighed. Glorfindel smiled and bowed his head, kissing Erestor's soft, slightly parted lips. For the first time, Erestor kissed back.

"I think I love you," whispered Glorfindel after kissing Erestor twice more.

"Love you, too," came the reply from the slumbering elf.

Glorfindel felt a tingling sensation rush through his body, and he wanted to embrace Erestor right there, to pull him into his arms and keep kissing him. But then, Erestor would wake up, and his mask would be on again. Allowing himself one final kiss, Glorfindel snuggled under the blankets on his side of the bed, scooting as close as he dared to Erestor. The morning would come soon enough, and yet, it seemed to come too soon.

Chapter 9

"Are you sure it's not some sort of ruse?" questioned Legolas as he stared up at the sky, lazily looking for shapes in the clouds. His head rested upon Elrond's knee, hands folded over his own chest. Elrond glanced to his wife to hear her response as she bit into a strawberry and then offered the remainder to the resting prince.

"They look so much in love when I see them," she said, and giggled when the juice of the strawberry was teased off of her fingers.

Legolas flicked his tongue at her fingers once more but missed. "Really. Well. Are you sure they aren't stringing the two of you along?" He craned his neck a little to look up at Elrond. "What are your thoughts, love?"

"I wondered at first," admitted Elrond, "but I think perhaps I was wrong. Still, I wonder."

"I would wager they are both as deeply in love as two old soldiers can be, and I shall be blissfully happy at the thought of it," sighed Celebrian. Nearby, her twin sons crept through the grass, hunting magic four-leafed clovers Legolas had promised them existed if only they searched close enough to find them.

"And I," spoke Legolas as he sat up and perused the picnic basket, "would wager they have quite neatly pulled the wool over both of your eyes." Finding a bunch of plump grapes, Legolas settled back down and began to pluck them off one by one, sometimes raising his hand up to offer one to Elrond or Celebrian.

"Shall we ask them to join us?" suggested Elrond. "Then you might observe them yourself and draw your conclusion from that."

Again Legolas sat up, and now he spied the pair that had been the topic of conversation coming around the corner of the garden. "Ah. Yes, that would seem suitable to my curiosity." Popping another grape into his mouth, he handed the now sparse bunch to Elrond. "I shall go and ask them."

"Thank you ever so, pen-neth," teased Elrond as he dumped the grapes back into the basket. With a smile, Legolas, who had begun to stand up, sat back down and leaned forward to give Elrond a lingering kiss. Beckoning Celebrian forward, Legolas kissed her as well while Elrond's eyes stayed upon them.

When at last the prince stood and walked in the direction of the pair who strolled down the path Celebrian asked, "Do you want me to leave the two of you alone this evening?"

"What? Why?" Elrond took his wife's hand in both of his and kissed from her fingertips up her arm as he spoke to her. "You don't wish to join us? Have we bored you already? Wait, don't tell me - you've a date with your boyfriend," he joked as she giggled and shook her head.

"Sweetheart, I only thought since you've not seen him in so long... well, and I am a bit sore from this morning," she said in a lowered voice.

"You can always watch," suggested Elrond. "I'll have your favorite wine sent up... comfortable chair... we'll put on a good show... we always do." This he was whispering into her ear, having worked his way up her arm. The twins were some ways off, having found frogs in the grass that they were now following.

"I suppose, I could force myself," she said with a sigh, her smile betraying her. "For your sake," she said with a wink.

"Oh, I do thank you, my lady," he whispered back, nipping her ear before pulling away.

- - -

"Erestor, Legolas is approaching."

A snort was the reply.

"Oh, sorry. You heard him, didn't you?"

"I heard him and everything they were saying," said Erestor quietly as he stopped, leaning upon his walking stick. "Prince Legolas, it is as always a pleasure," said Erestor in a clear voice.

"Erestor, I have missed your songs in the great hall of my father," answered Legolas. "You have long been a stranger to Mirkwood. I do hope you shall at least visit soon. And Lord Glorfindel." Legolas extended his hand to the elf, who had been looking amusedly at Erestor since the mention of the word 'songs'. "I want to personally thank you for alleviating my dear friend's grief."

"Prince Legolas, it is good to see you well," answered Glorfindel. He bowed his head slightly, hoping to cover the blush that rose up across his cheeks. The smirk from the prince was answer that this was not the case. "Please, do not let us keep you from your midday meal," said Glorfindel. "In fact, we were just about to turn back for the house to have lunch ourselves."

"That is why I am here. It would please us all if you were to join our picnicking," Legolas said, making a motion toward the cloth spread over the ground. Celebrian caught sight of them and gave a wave in their direction.

Waving back, Glorfindel placed a hand on Erestor's shoulder and squeezed it. "Do you wish to join them? It is-"

"The lord and lady, and their sons," answered Erestor with slight annoyance. "Yes, thank you." Slipping away from Glorfindel, Erestor fell in stride with Legolas and walked with him to the picnic. The two spoke of Mirkwood while Glorfindel hung back, hands shoved into his pockets as he followed them.

Once they had settled themselves on the picnic blanket again- Legolas leaning on Elrond as before- the picnic basket was passed to Glorfindel and Erestor. A variety of cheeses and fruits had been packed, and wine was offered to them as well. Discussion turned to more serious matters as the twins chased butterflies.

"They returned a few nights ago," said Elrond of the men whom had come to ask for provisions. "This time they ask for nearly twice what they did the first time. I hesitate to give it to them if this is to become a habit." Legolas and Glorfindel both nodded in agreement.

"Then do not," said Erestor. All eyes turned to him. "Tell them they can have half of what they asked for the first time. Find out where they live, what they do, and then teach them to do something else. Fish, hunt, make pottery, whatever- obviously, they have no useful trade. It sounds as if they need more assistance than simply a donation of food and supplies."

"Hmm. Glorfindel?"

"I shall assign someone to the task this afternoon, Elrond," offered Glorfindel, and the approval of this was nodded.

"I think I shall take my leave for my study," said Elrond. "I need to make reply to the borders on this matter."

Celebrian brushed stray crumbs from her dress. "The boys need a nap. I should return them to the nursery."

"Shall I accompany you?" offered Legolas, and Celebrian nodded. "Oh, Erestor," he said suddenly, "When last my father spoke with the men of the lake, they told him of a treatment that might restore your sight. I've given the instructions to Elrond.

Erestor's solemn demeanor suddenly changed. "When can we try it?" he asked excitedly.

"Tomorrow if you like," said Elrond.

"Tomorrow? Why not now?" blurted out Glorfindel, rising to his feet. When he took note that the rest were still sitting, he lowered himself back down again. "The men on the borders can wait; we should try this new treatment Legolas has brought."

"Glorfindel, please," Erestor said quietly, and Glorfindel pursed his lips. "Lord Elrond knows what he is doing. He cannot neglect the running of the valley for my sake. Tomorrow it shall be. What time tomorrow?"

Elrond took a moment to think as Celebrian walked to the boys and called them to her. "I should have time in the afternoon. Will you both be available?"

"Of course!" Glorfindel helped Celebrian to pack the items from their picnic. "This is wonderful, Legolas. A new possibility - a new hope. Worry not, Elrond, we shall be in the healing rooms at noonday tomorrow."

"After lunch, please," smiled Elrond as he stood. "Though, I'm happy to see you enthusiastic about it." He glanced at Legolas, giving him a confident look about something, but the prince simply shrugged.

Uneasily, Erestor patted Glorfindel on the knee and said, "You need not be present, Glorfindel. I am sure it will be more of a fuss with you there."

"Actually," said Elrond as he grabbed hold of Elladan, who had made an attempt not to be rounded up by his mother, "it would be a big help to have you there, Glorfindel." Motioning for Glorfindel to come to where he was standing, Elrond added in a whisper to him, "I hate having to restrain him. If you're there, perhaps you can hold him and help calm him down. Ow! Elladan!" Elrond yanked his hand away and stared down at his son. "How would you like it if I bit you back?"

Elladan pouted and ground his teeth as Celebrian came around to take charge of him. "Come along, you little monster. You're getting a time out after your nap." Elrohir was already asleep, being carried to the house by Legolas.

"I think he gets the biting from her side of the family," Elrond mumbled as he picked up the basket and followed his wife.

"Glorfindel?"

Sitting back down in the grass beside Erestor, Glorfindel waited for Erestor to speak again.

"Glorfindel, I apologize for speaking harshly to you, but you must understand that I do not wish to be coddled."

"I didn't think I was coddling you," Glorfindel said abruptly. "Excuse my stupidity."

"Ai, and it begins." Erestor crossed his arms over his chest. "Do you even know what I mean? Can you understand? I was fine before you. I was doing quite alright on my own."

"Were you? I seem to recall something about a false lover and some rather nasty soldiers," snapped Glorfindel. Erestor grew silent and bowed his head. "Oh, shit. Erestor, I'm sorry. Damn, that was mean of me- why did I say that?" he said to the sky, and then slowly put his arms around Erestor. "I will try not to make you feel coddled if you will try not to say things that make me feel like a moron."

"I know you mean well," Erestor finally said. "I know you- well, we should go to the house."

"Yes- big day tomorrow!" Glorfindel was grinning ear to ear and helped Erestor up from the ground, handing him his walking stick. "I do hope Legolas has found something to cure you," Glorfindel said honestly.

Erestor nodded. "So do I."

Chapter 10

As promised, Glorfindel and Erestor were at the door to the third healing room on the left side of the hall, just as Elrond had instructed them, immediately after lunch. After lunch was a figurative term, for Erestor had been without an appetite, and Glorfindel refused to eat without him. They had spent their afternoon on a stroll in the gardens before coming back to the house.

When Elrond opened the door, he ushered them both quickly inside and shut the door. The room was fairly small, and Glorfindel felt somewhat nervous as he looked around at the bare walls and the lack of windows. It was very bright, with lamps overhead lit and burning over something that looked like a very high legged table. Eyeing the leather restraints on it, Glorfindel shot Elrond a questioning look, but the peredhel shook his head. He didn't want to restrain him, he had said, but Glorfindel did not realize Elrond had literally been strapping the slender elf who shivered as he stood beside him.

"Erestor." There was a fourth occupant in the room, and Glorfindel recognized it was Lindir's mother. "You should remove that heavy robe. Would you like help with it?"

"I can help him," said Glorfindel immediately. "But thank you, Veduiel."

"Veduiel and I have a few things left to discuss before we begin. We shall step into the hallway for a moment." Elrond opened the door, closing it behind himself and his apprentice, affording Glorfindel and Erestor a few minutes of privacy.

"Are you nervous or excited?" asked Glorfindel as he unfastened the clasps on Erestor's robe. Erestor's hands had been shaking so violently he had been unable to do so himself.

Erestor let out a long held breath. "Both. I try not to get my hopes up. The first few times I was too hopeful and the pain of the treatment being a failure was too great. So now I do not hope so much that the treatment will work, rather, that it isn't too painful."

Glorfindel paused short of removing Erestor's robe. "Erestor, what happens in here? What sort of treatment do you speak of that causes pain?"

"Glorfindel, it isn't so easy as that. Healing is a painful process."

"But have you healed at all? Has anything that has been done come close to it?" Glorfindel glanced at the door when he heard the knob being turned. "Erestor, you don't have to do this."

"Good, I see you're ready," spoke Elrond as he entered the room. Glorfindel looked back to see that Erestor had shrugged the robe from his shoulders and was now working on untying the mask that covered his eyes. "Glorfindel, if you wouldn't mind helping him onto the table?"

Erestor had removed the mask and was now only wearing a light pair of leggings. His feet had been bare and were stained grassy green from their walk, though Glorfindel had a feeling in the pit of his stomach that Erestor would never know about the grass stains that were seemingly ever-present on his feet or see the color green. While Erestor kept his eyes closed, Glorfindel guided him onto the table, which was covered with a soft, downy cushion. Elrond stood at the foot of it, assessing the situation. "I think," he finally said, "I will still need to use some of the restraints. Not all of them, just the legs and arms. Glorfindel, you should be able to manage his head so that he doesn't flinch," added Elrond as he moved one of Erestor's legs into position before fastening a leather cuff around his ankle, "but you can't do that and keep him from kicking me." Elrond smiled wryly, and apparently, this had happened before.

"So, you're a kicker," Glorfindel said in an attempt to make a bit of conversation and keep Erestor's mind off of the procedure.

"I have strong legs and unpredictable reflexes," Erestor offered in explanation. "I think I broke Lord Elrond's jaw the last time."

"So that was you who did that," laughed Glorfindel, and Erestor amusedly seemed somewhat proud of this.

Erestor gave a partial nod and said, "It's the sort of thing that tends to happen when one is being stabbed in the eye."

"There won't be any stabbing going on today," promised Veduiel as she handed Glorfindel a wide, flat stick of wood the length of his hand that was wrapped in leather. When he gave it a questioning look, Venuiel explained, "It's for Erestor to bite down on."

"Are we ready then?" asked Elrond as he checked to make sure the leather straps were all tight. "Erestor?"

"Yes." His shaking had stopped, but he was breathing faster now. Veduiel came to where Glorfindel stood and cooled Erestor's face with a damp cloth. "Thank you. Glorfindel?" He left his mouth open slightly and Glorfindel positioned the wooden stick between his teeth.

"Glorfindel, I'll need you to stand at the head of the table," instructed Elrond. "Place your hands at either side of his face to hold him still. Yes, just like that. I think this is a much better way of going about it, instead of binding him to the table- don't you agree, Erestor?" Erestor blinked once, and Elrond said, "Sorry, Glorfindel, you do not know the system we have. If he blinks one time, that is for yes, and twice for no. Three times is he is not sure or needs me to repeat myself."

"I see. I'll remember that. One for yes, two for no," repeated Glorfindel. As Elrond walked to a counter on the other side of the room, Glorfindel asked, "Are you doing alright?" Erestor blinked once, too fast for Glorfindel to really see. He thought he caught a glimpse of grey, but he wasn't sure. He tried to think of a question that would have a 'no' answer in order to have a longer chance to see Erestor's eyes, but he caught sight of the restraints that hung down from the head of the bed. There was one that looked as if it would have fit under his chin, another across his forehead, and a wide one that would have fit over his upper chest. Setting his jaw, Glorfindel glared at the offending objects, wishing Elrond would have simply allowed him to hold Erestor in the comfort of his arms rather than strap him to this cold and cruel looking table.

Elrond approached again with what looked like a tall glass that was filled with water. It was apparently the solution he was about to use for he handled it quite carefully and was stirring it with a glass tube. "Veduiel?" The elleth placed the cloth aside and moved to the opposite side of the table from Elrond. She leaned down a little and then gently used the tips of her fingers to hold one of Erestor's eyes open. Between the two healers, Glorfindel's view was obstructed, and so he simply concentrated on holding Erestor still and sending positive thoughts in his direction, unsure of anything else he could do.

When he felt the muscles in Erestor's face tense and strain against whatever was being done, Glorfindel carefully crouched down so that his head was level with Erestor's and he offered words of encouragement. "It's alright, it's nearly done. You're doing a wonderful job, just another few moments, Erestor." Elrond and Veduiel shifted a bit, and Glorfindel repeated himself, intermittedly kissing the crown of Erestor's head. As the pair of healers stepped away, Glorfindel craned his neck around.

"You can let go of him now, Glorfindel," said Elrond.

Glorfindel stood up, but only to move around to the side where he was able to take hold of one of Erestor's hands, which had been balled into a tight fist. Erestor's teeth were clamped down hard on the leather, and it looked as if the wood was straining a little. "Erestor?" Glorfindel tried to remove the stick of wood, but it wouldn't budge. "Erestor, is something wrong?" Glorfindel felt the grip on his hand tighten, as he watched tears stream down Erestor's face from either side of his closed eyes. "Elrond, something's wrong. It isn't working."

"It might be working, Glorfindel, you need to give it time," advised Elrond as he stirred the remaining liquid. "Give it another minute."

The seconds seemed to stretch on forever as Glorfindel helplessly watched Erestor's face contort in agony. "Elrond, how much longer?"

"Just a little bit. Glorfindel, please, you're making him anxious," Elrond said calmly. "Erestor, can you open your eyes? Can you see anything?"

Without warning, Erestor's eyes flew open. They were red, and Glorfindel couldn't guess their color, for the pupils were so dilated they looked black. They focused on nothing as they lazily drifted about, and Erestor, who finally shut them, let out a sob of frustration. Glorfindel bowed his head and sighed.

"Veduiel." The elleth came to the side Glorfindel was on and led him back to the head of the table.

"What, we're not going to put him through that again, are we?" questioned Glorfindel.

"He may simply need a larger dose of it," reasoned Elrond. "Much of it was expelled as you saw."

"I am not about to hold him down so you can do that again," growled Glorfindel.

Elrond closed his eyes and shook his head, and then asked, "Erestor, do you wish for us to try again." The answer was an unmistakable single blink. "I can use the restraints on the table if you prefer," said Elrond.

"No fucking way," mumbled Glorfindel as he grabbed the cloth from the counter. He wiped Erestor's face clean with gentle strokes, all the time apologizing and encouraging him once more. Taking up his duty once again, Glorfindel gave a nod to Elrond.

Again, the healers blocked Glorfindel's view, and he spoke louder, over Erestor's muffled whimpers. It wasn't until he felt Erestor truly struggle and attempt to thrash away from his hold that he stopped. "Elrond, I know he's saying yes, but I think you have to stop."

"Just hold on, Glorfindel," snapped Elrond. "We're trying a continuous stream of it and if we stop now I'll need to make another batch of it and that will take quite some time. Veduiel, keep his eyes open."

Whether Glorfindel was truly overpowered or whether he allowed himself to be, Erestor managed to wrench his head away, upsetting the work Elrond was doing. The jar fell to the ground and smashed, sending liquid and glass everywhere. Erestor had shut his eyes tight and had spit out the leather and wood and was now pleading for them to stop. "Get it out! Saes, it burns!"

"It may burn because it's working," Elrond said.

"Or, because it's not!" Glorfindel rushed to the counter and took the bowl of water that the cloth had been in. "Erestor, open your eyes. It's me, Glorfindel, I have water, let me flush that stuff out." Erestor blinked rapidly as the cool water ran across his face, spilling onto the floor. Elrond stood off to the side with his arms crossed, looking none too happy about the mess that was being created. "Elrond, I'm taking him out of here. Please, help me with these." Glorfindel set the bowl down on the floor and then began to work on the restraint that held Erestor's right wrist to the table. Elrond did not object, and soon Erestor was reaching for Glorfindel, sobbing and soaking wet. "I'm sorry about all this," Glorfindel apologized, but Elrond waved it off.

"At least he didn't break my jaw," Elrond reminded him.

- - -

Gathered up in his arms, Erestor clung to Glorfindel as he left the healing room and headed for the nearest exit from the house. Paths cleared for him as he marched outside and around to the back of the house, with no one daring to interrupt him. He brought Erestor to a brook that ran behind the house. It was where most of the drinking water came from, and it seemed to Glorfindel the best place to go. Upon telling Erestor where they were, the darker elf scrambled out of his arms and tumbled into the water, scooping up handfuls of water and splashing them into his face.

Glorfindel peeled off his own wet shirt and tossed it aside. He watched as Erestor stood up, dripping wet, and turned his face toward the sun. His eyes fluttered open and he stared. Glorfindel shaded his own eyes and tried to read Erestor's expression. He had some hope that perhaps had regained his vision again, but the longer Erestor stared the more his hope faded.

Slowly, Erestor reached out toward the sky with one hand, feeling his way blindly through the air. He bowed his head and slowly his arms drifted back down to his side as his eyes closed. Erestor dropped to his knees and wept. Disregarding the water, Glorfindel slid down and drew Erestor into his arms.

"I just want to see again! I just- I want blue skies, I want green grass. I want purple and orange and rainbows and- I want to know what Elrond's sons look like! I want to see the horses and the birds and I want to see you smile and I want to see light again! I want to be- like you!"

"Like me?"

"I want to be whole again. I just- what did I do? Why couldn't Namo take me and fix me and send me back like he did for you?"

"Oh, Erestor." Glorfindel held the other elf tight, smoothing back his wet hair. "Erestor, dear Erestor. You would not have liked Mandos. There is nothing but darkness there. Nothing to hear, nothing to smell. Nothing to taste, to touch. No one to hold you, nothing to hold."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Erestor choked, "I'm sorry, Glorfindel, I-"

"You've kept it inside, all dammed up for so long. Do not apologize. Let it out; I am here for you."

"I feel so... lost. Adrift at sea."

"Let me be your anchor."

"I feel like I'm drowning," Erestor said with a sniffle as he relaxed and wrapped his own arms around Glorfindel.

"I'll carry you to shore."

"I can't see the shore. It's too far away."

"I'll be your beacon in the night. You don't need to love me, but let me love you. Lean on me, Erestor. I won't lose you." He held tighter and said in a whisper, "I... can't lose you." Until now, Glorfindel hadn't realized that he, too, was crying. "I won't coddle you and I will try my hardest not to embarrass you."

Erestor turned his head and leaned his cheek against Glorfindel's shoulder. "I will be a burden. The blind elf always walking into trees or doors, making you late for things, keeping you from doing things I can't do with you."

"If I can't do it with you," Glorfindel said quickly, "what want would I have to do whatever it is alone? Erestor, I know this wasn't what you intended to have happen, but I love you."

"I-" Erestor fought to find words. "I think I should go back to Mirkwood."

"Alright. I've always wanted to go to Mirkwood," answered Glorfindel.

"I meant, I should go so you can get on with your life here," emphasized Erestor. "You need to stay here."

"Then you need to stay here, too." Glorfindel was forceful, but gentle with his command.

"Can we talk about this later?" asked Erestor.

"You brought it up," Glorfindel reminded him.

Erestor nodded against Glorfindel. "But I just realized I'm cold and wet and sitting in the middle of a puddle."

"You're also clinging to the Captain of the guard and nuzzling his shoulder, but you don't hear me complaining about it." Glorfindel smiled when he heard Erestor chuckle. "Let us go back inside. We can warm up, I will have dinner brought to us, and the cats can get fur all over our laps. It will be a splendid evening."

Allowing himself to be helped up and out of the water, Erestor hugged Glorfindel and unexpectedly kissed him. "Thank you for getting me out of there," he said sincerely.

"I love you," replied Glorfindel, in a state of slight shock.

"I know," smirked Erestor.

Chapter 11

"Here we are," announced Glorfindel as Erestor stepped out from the washroom, toweling off his hair. Glorfindel picked up a shirt from the couch and draped the garment over Erestor's shoulder.

"You aren't about to make me do this on my own, are you?" groaned Erestor as he felt around for the chair by the door and dropped the towel onto it. Pulling the shirt from his shoulder, he examined it with his hands and then smiled. "It's just like a nightshirt."

"That it is. Nothing to clasp, button, or otherwise 'mess up' as you put it," Glorfindel told him.

"I can always end up with it inside out," reasoned Erestor. He put the shirt on with little trouble. "It fits well. Where did you get it?"

Glorfindel grinned. "I just had the tailor use Lindir's measurements. It wasn't that difficult to have him make something plain. It is light blue and the pants you are wearing are black. I am making sure you don't run the risk of mismatching," Glorfindel assured him.

"That is very kind of you," Erestor replied. He picked up the mask from the side table and hesitated, running his fingers over the velvet before lifting it up and tying it in place.

"I think," said Glorfindel as he finished buttoning his shirt, "that I shall go to the kitchen and retrieve dinner considering the time. I hope they still have a bit of something left, and if not... well, I'm sure there must be something around."

"And, I shall wait for you," Erestor said, and shrugged. "Obviously."

"Come with me," offered Glorfindel.

Waving his hand, Erestor said, "Don't worry, I won't wander off anywhere. Promise."

"I shall be right back." Glorfindel gave Erestor a lingering look, then left for the kitchen.

- - -

Glorfindel entered the kitchen via the back entrance to avoid walking through the Great Hall. It appeared that the dessert course was already being served, for Elrond's hunting hounds were gnawing at the beef scraps in one corner far from the numerous cats who inhabited the house that sat opposite daintily lapping from bowls of extra cream and disposing of the leftover fish as quickly as it was tossed to them. Among the group, Glorfindel noted Charisma and Pounce, each of them appearing quite full and intent now on cleaning their coats.

Inquiring with the head cook as to what might still be left from the meal, he was presented with a covered tray and a wink. "Lord Elrond said you weren't likely to attend the meal," the cook explained. He waved over one of the servers and instructed him to fetch wine to be taken to Erestor's room, though his exact words were 'To the room of Lord Glorfindel and Master Erestor', which inexplicably caused Glorfindel to blush like a youth and mumble his thanks as the cook chuckled and waved him out of the room.

Halfway down the hall, he was intercepted by the prince of Greenwood. "Good evening, Captain. I trust you fair well this evening," said Legolas with the practiced tongue of royalty.

"I do indeed, your highness," Glorfindel said with a slight bow as he minded the tray he carried. "I hope your stay here thus far has been a pleasant one."

"Indeed. It has." The prince smirked slightly and then said, "There is one matter of which I meant to ask you about." The regal air slipped a bit and concern crept in. "Do you recall, some years ago, there was a small party of elves that my guards could not rescue on our way to the valley. My scouts and I went to cut off the orcs we had seen while the rest of our group was sent here and told to inform someone of those we had heard. Were they ever found?"

Glorfindel paused to think on this. "How long ago, would you wager this was?"

"The very last time I was here in the valley, when I was part of the escort that brought General Erestor here," said Legolas. He smiled at Glorfindel's blank expression. "You do not remember when that was, do you?"

"I... did not make Erestor's acquaintance until just recently," admitted Glorfindel.

"Ah. I had hoped perhaps you may have known," said Legolas. "Elrond does not seem to recall, either. I fear perhaps that help came too late." There was a pause, and Glorfindel was unsure whether Legolas was referencing to the party of elves, or to Erestor. "Let me not keep you longer, Glorfindel. Good evening to you."

"And to you, your highness." Glorfindel gave a nod of his head and then continued to his destination.

He entered the room to find it brighter than he had seen it before. "Someone came by with wine," spoke Erestor, who was lounging on the sofa. "He asked which we wanted, but since I can't read the labels," slurred Erestor, "I asked him to leave them both. I think I like this one," he said, holding up the bottle that was in his hand. Another bottle was uncorked and resting on the floor. Glorfindel discovered a third on the main table. It was on its side with a small puddle made from a few droplets nearby.

"It looks as if you liked this one most of all," said Glorfindel as he put the tray down.

"I did, but it ran out." Erestor took a drink straight from the bottle he held and said, "You may need to find some wine for yourself."

Glorfindel walked over and picked up the bottle on the floor before taking away the one Erestor held. "Save some for dinner, which by the way is getting cold." The bottles joined the empty one on the table, which Glorfindel righted. "Or would you rather eat where you are?"

"Come here a moment," commanded Erestor. Glorfindel walked back over and sat down on an empty edge of the couch. "I think I tied my mask too tight. Would you mind untying it for me?"

"No, because you're drunk, and later when you find out about it you will be very cross that I did." Glorfindel folded his hands, and did not budge as Erestor pulled on his arm. "Besides, I ended up sore and bruised last time I made an attempt to take it off, and that was merely an accident."

"But I'm drunk," Erestor said, pulling on Glorfindel's arm. "So I won't."

Glorfindel easily managed to take hold of Erestor's wrists with his hands. "Do you know what I just thought? I wonder- you're not really drunk, are you?"

The playful smile fell from the dark elf's face. "Am I that bad of an actor?" asked Erestor.

"No," answered Glorfindel. "But you can't fool me. Why do you want me to remove it?"

"Because..." Erestor's hands dropped into his lap as Glorfindel let go of them. "Because you've wanted to, and I thought I might finally let you." With his head bowed down, he felt Glorfindel's fingers gently untie the knotted cords. The mask fell from his face and he opened his eyes, trying to seek out Glorfindel by the sound of his voice.

"You have blue eyes," Glorfindel said softly. "They're beautiful."

"They don't do anything," said Erestor dryly.

"Oh, you don't think they do, but they do," corrected Glorfindel. "Now when I see them, I know that means you trust me. And that means quite a lot."

"Yes, I... I do trust you." Erestor swallowed hard. "You... you can put it back on if it bothers you. It bothers most, that's why I keep the mask on."

"It doesn't bother me. Not at all." Glorfindel stood up. "Shall we eat?"

Erestor nodded and stood up. His arm was guided to take hold of Glorfindel's and together they walked to the table.

- - -

"I think I shall retire early. Today has been... quite an adventure," Erestor decided upon as he made his way to the bed. He reached behind his head and then laughed. "Forgot I don't have the mask on," he muttered to himself as he pulled off his shirt.

Glorfindel stacked their dishes and leftovers on the tray, replaced the cover, and then carried it and the two empty wine bottles to the hallway. He placed them around the corner from the door where they would be retrieved by the kitchen staff later while Charisma and Pounce scooted in around his legs. The cats had once used the window as a means to enter and exit the room, but now roamed the hall as the rest of the house cats did as the door was more frequently opened and closed.

Entering the room again, Glorfindel went to the windows and drew the drapes but left them open for the breeze and so that the cats could get to the garden to see to their needs. The other half bottle of wine he took with him to the couch, settling down as he unbuttoned his shirt. He placed the wine bottle on the floor before taking off his boots and setting them beside the couch, then worked next on untying his pants. He had taken to sleeping in the nude- it didn't matter if he did, he had weeks ago decided. Erestor would never notice.

Charismas leaped onto the pile of discarded clothing, kneading it into a nest for himself as Glorfindel drew back the blanket on the sofa. Pounce joined him, taking up residence by his feet. Across the room, Erestor cleared his throat. "Something the matter?" asked Glorfindel.

"I... well, you had spent the last two nights in bed... I just... well, if you don't want to anymore," Erestor said in a rush, playing with the edge of the sheet.

"I was just about to come over. Just saying good night to the cats." Glorfindel bit his lip and stood up, looking down at his arousal. His hope had been to have a little wine before joining Erestor in the bed, perhaps even relieve the tension on his own if need be. Passing by the table, Glorfindel blew out three of the four candles and took the last with him to the bed, setting it upon the table on what was his side of the bed. Trying to think of things to clear his mind of the delightfully impure thoughts he was having, he settled himself on the bed without crawling under the covers. "All tucked in?" asked Glorfindel.

Erestor nodded, one arm under his pillow and the other over the blanket. "Good night, Glorfindel." He closed his eyes, and rolled over with his back to Glorfindel.

"Good night, love." Glorfindel slapped his hand over his mouth the moment it came out, and Erestor rolled back over to face him again, eyes open but narrowed slightly. "Oh, shit. I'm sorry."

"No, you're not," Erestor snickered. "You are a terrible actor."

"Gee, thanks."

"You're welcome."

"Well, what I lack in theatrical sincerity, I make up for in my charm and good looks." Groaning inwardly, Glorfindel realized again too late his mistake in words. Grimacing, he looked at Erestor, whose expression was wistful.

Erestor reached over and felt around until he found Glorfindel's hand. "I bet you have the most gorgeous blond hair this side of the sea," he said rather unexpectedly.

"It's just average," Glorfindel replied modestly. He said nothing else as Erestor's other hand reached toward the golden strands, missing them. Taking hold of Erestor's hand, he threaded the fingers through his hair.

"It's soft," commented Erestor. His hand nudged one of the intricate braids, which he fingered for a moment. "I remember..." He let out a pained sigh. "I remember when I used to have these," he said of the braids denoting Glorfindel's warrior status. Letting go, Erestor pulled his hand away, but it was easily caught by Glorfindel, who held it fast and took with his other hand the one Erestor had placed upon his.

"Erestor-"

"Please, no, I-"

"Do not tell me again that you can not be with anyone because of your lack of sight. In darkness," whispered Glorfindel, "we are both blind."

And he blew the last candle out.

Chapter 12

As the very last flicker of the candle's wick ceased to burn, Glorfindel entered Erestor's world. He could hear Charisma padding along the floor and flopping down in his favorite corner. The sheets rustled. The wind whispered under the curtain and gently caressed the back of his neck. Erestor swallowed and breathed deeply in and then out again. He smelled of something earthy, pine and fresh water. Glorfindel reached his hand forward in an attempt to touch Erestor's lips, and instead, brushed his fingers against the other elf's elbow.

Erestor laughed.

Glorfindel moved up along Erestor's arm, using it to guide his way. He traced his fingers along Erestor's neck and felt him shiver. His hand spread out, fingers touching his cheek and palm against his jaw. The laughter stopped. "Please, Glorfindel. You will regret this."

"My regret is not doing this sooner." Slowly he had leaned closer, and now as he touched his lips to Erestor's, he smiled. His hand slipped under the blanket that had been covering Erestor, feeling its way hastily down his chest as his kisses were returned. Erestor's hand easily found his shoulder, and he kept Glorfindel close. When Glorfindel found what he had been searching for, Erestor abruptly pulled away and sat up.

"Ai! Glorfindel!" Erestor panted as Glorfindel sat up beside him.

"What? Did I hurt you?"

"No... no, I..." Erestor's mouth was slightly open as he fought to catch his breath. "I... I didn't expect..."

"You want to be on top?" offered Glorfindel, and he felt relief when he heard Erestor laugh again.

"No. I just... just warn me before you do that next time."

"Next time," purred Glorfindel, coaxing Erestor back down to the bed as he slid beneath the covers. "I like the sound of that."

"Less talk, more- you've been naked this whole time?"

"What? So have you?" accused Glorfindel.

"Yes. Because I'm in my room, in my bed, where I sleep - naked."

"Well, 'tis a convenience then that I have already undressed myself," Glorfindel reasoned.

"I can't believe you've been naked all this time," gasped Erestor as if he had been scandalized by this. "Prancing around my room, and-"

"Now, now. I do NOT prance-"

"-sitting upon my furniture-"

"Only the bed, and you invited me here, so you can hardly-"

"-and not even telling me."

Glorfindel waited for more, but when nothing else came, he rubbed himself against Erestor's thigh, or what he hoped was Erestor's something. "Surprise! I've been aroused for a while, too." When he heard Erestor snort, but did not feel him pull away, he asked, "May I make mad, passionate love to you now? The kind that shall wake half the household and rattle various items from the walls?"

"Oh, by all means," came the reply. "Only if you follow it up by fucking me silly until I scream your name and cause many to glare murderously at us in the hall when we come to breakfast."

"Since you insist, it will be my pleasure." Glorfindel tossed the sheets off of the bed, fearing to get them in a tangled mess. "Mad passionate love with a side of fuck me silly coming right up."

He was beginning to get his bearings on things now, and Glorfindel found himself groping what he intended to more and more. Scooting back on his knees, his hands squirmed beneath Erestor's rear end and lifted it slightly. Sliding his tongue around, Glorfindel soon found what he was looking for and plunged into the tight entrance.

Erestor bent his knees and cried out as he reached down and grabbed hold of Glorfindel's golden locks. "Deeper than that, come on, Glorfindel, you can do better," insisted Erestor as he attempted to thrust against Glorfindel's assault.

Glorfindel roughly untangled the hand from his hair and shoved it away. A moment later he had sat back on his heels, sucking on two of his own fingers which he plunged into Erestor's body just as the first words of protest began to leave his mouth. "Glorfindel, you- oh, fuck, yes. Ugh. Oh… oh, right… ah, yes, yes, yes..."

With his other hand, Glorfindel was stroking his own erection. Though Erestor's words were causing him to come dangerously close to climax, he couldn't help it. Erestor's groans were peppered with needy phrases, and it was all Glorfindel could do to keep from plunging himself into Erestor's tight channel.

As Glorfindel removed his fingers, he felt Erestor clench around him. "You better put that back," panted Erestor needfully.

"And if I don't?" Glorfindel had lifted himself up and forward, touching his nose to Erestor's. Erestor inhaled and exhaled a few times to catch his breath and then easily caught Glorfindel off guard and flipped him onto his back.

Completely unprepared for such a thing, Glorfindel struggled against Erestor's strength and advantage in the dark. He felt his legs being nudged apart by one of Erestor's knees as his wrists were held down against the mattress. It was only when he felt the head of Erestor's erection poking at him that he managed to twist out of Erestor's grasp. "Oh, no you don't." Glorfindel reversed their positions, leaving Erestor on his back. "I've been aching to fuck your pretty ass for weeks."

"Then go on and fuck me, you tease." Erestor turned over onto his stomach, rising up on his hands and knees. "I'll even make it easy for you." He stuck his rear up, taunting Glorfindel's skin with it by rubbing up against him.

"Hold still, you little..." Glorfindel took hold of Erestor's hips and yanked him down, sliding his erection along Erestor's cleft. "I'll fuck you good and hard, believe me, you'll-"

"Just shut up and do it, Glorfindel," growled Erestor. "Don't make me issue it as an order, Captain."

"Yes, sir." Glorfindel guided himself to Erestor's entrance, pressing the tip of his erection into the moist, puckered opening. Erestor arched back as he was filled with what Glorfindel had to offer. His fingers clawed at his pillow as Glorfindel drew back and then sheathed him completely. Twice more Glorfindel took his time as he slid in and out of Erestor's body. "Feels so good," he murmured into Erestor's ear in answer to his lover's grunts and moans.

"Faster," was Erestor's only comment. The pace quickened and Glorfindel thrust harder into Erestor, indeed causing the frame of the bed to shudder and squeak while the top of the headboard hit the wall with every grunt of 'yes' that came from one or both of the pair.

"Tell me you want this," hissed Glorfindel as he slowed down to pace himself. Sloppily kissing Erestor's jaw, Glorfindel bent his head and sucked on his lover's throat.

Grunting and straining to push back against the blond, Erestor turned his head and snaked his tongue out to lick Glorfindel's lips. The pair kissed, nipping at swollen flesh. "I don't want it, Glorfindel. I need it."

"And you pretended you didn't want me," growled Glorfindel. "Silly elf."

"Now that we've settled that," Erestor groaned as he made another attempt to force Glorfindel deeper, "would you mind finishing what you've started?"

"Of course, darling." Glorfindel thrust deeper, releasing a gasp from Erestor. "Oh, I thought you were ready," apologized Glorfindel with a smirk as he held Erestor in place and slowly dragged his member out of the tight channel.

"You bastard, you just wait until I've got you under me." Erestor grunted as he was entered fast and hard.

"Promises, promises." Out, fast, and in, so very slowly, and a pause. "You're assuming I'll let you take me."

There was a deep chuckle before Erestor answered, "You're assuming I'll let you make that decision."

"You're assuming-"

"Glorfindel?" Erestor clenched his muscles a few times, making the blond elf groan and dig his fingers into Erestor's flesh. With a low, guttural noise, Glorfindel's energy was renewed and he took delight in thrusting into Erestor, snuggly enveloped by the lustful elf.

With one hand Glorfindel took hold of Erestor's erection and stroked it as he continued to build momentum. His other kept steady on Erestor's hip as the two worked in tandem, giving and taking. Their heated cries could be heard by passersby beneath the window as their mutual climax brought them crashing down upon each other into a tangled mess in the bed.

- - -

"Now you have to admit," Glorfindel said as he gently poured the bucket of water over Erestor's hair, washing the soap away, "that was a better way to spend the evening than sitting around talking about politics."

"Oh, if I had known you gave such wonderful backrubs, I would have let you have your way with me long- mmm..." Erestor leaned his head back as Glorfindel's hands pushed back Erestor's hair and massaged his shoulders, lingering on his muscles as he worked his way down Erestor's arms. "That's good," he said lazily, sinking down further in the tub.

Glorfindel readjusted himself, sitting down on the floor as he continued his work. "Glad you feel that way. I still owe you another one tonight." He grinned as he heard Erestor chuckle. "Thought I forgot, didn't you?"

"Hoped you hadn't." Erestor stretched his legs out and wiggled his toes before relaxing again. "At what point did you make up your mind to charm your way into my bed?"

"From the moment I found out you had cats."

Erestor let out a loud laugh and asked with amusement, "Why would that matter?"

"Elves with cats are more... sensual."

"Really?" asked Erestor.

"Mmmhmm." Glorfindel bent his head and nipped Erestor's right ear. "Something I've noticed," he said, flicking his tongue out and tracing from lobe to tip. "Elves pick up the behavior of the cats. 'Tis the only creature more sly, more beautiful, more sensual than us." Another nip. "Except for the ainur, of course, and Eru himself."

"So, Eru the One, Valar, Maiar, Feline," Erestor said, stressing this one, "and Eldar."

"Yes. Cats, then Elves."

"Glorfindel, I didn't realize you were such a romantic," drawled Erestor.

"Tis true, but hush, there's only the one of me and so many would want me if only they knew." To this, Erestor snorted, and Glorfindel bit him on the shoulder before joining him in the tub. "Right now, however, I think I've gone above and beyond the call of duty in romancing you. Turn around so I can see that pretty little ass of yours again."

"Why do I doubt you only want to see it?"

"Well, if you only want me to look..." Glorfindel was suddenly leaped upon, causing a great deal of water to splash out of the tub and across the floor. Erestor's hands sought out Glorfindel's face, pulling him into a deep kiss, while Glorfindel's hands took a firm grip of Erestor's backside, kneading the muscles as the pair fought each other for domination. Before long they were soaked, along with the floor, their discarded clothing, and the towels they would have used, but all was forgotten as their moans rose up over the splashing water, drowning out their thoughts of this and replacing them with pure lust.

- - -

Hours later, Glorfindel slipped into the bed, spooning up behind Erestor on the clean sheets as he pulled the quilt he had used on the couch over the past weeks over them. A content sigh escaped him as Erestor turned and nuzzled against him.

"You were beautiful tonight." Glorfindel kissed Erestor, smiling when the sleeping beauty kissed back.

"You've had lovers before," whispered Glorfindel. Erestor frowned in his sleep. "You have done this before, haven't you?" prodded Glorfindel.

"Mmmhh." Erestor rolled away from him.

"What was his name?" Glorfindel bent his head and calmed Erestor with his kisses. "I'll tell you about mine. His name was Ecthelion. When we were in Gondolin, we, well, we were close. Not that we were committed- we parted well before the fall. And the bal- the, fall."

Brushing back Erestor's hair from his face, Glorfindel asked, "So, who was it? Do I know him? Someone taught you to make love like that."

Erestor mumbled something and Glorfindel came closer. "Who was it, love? Tell me, please."

It was really Glorfindel's fault for pressing the matter, for his arms gave way and he fell onto Erestor when he heard the words that were mumbled to him.

Chapter 13

"What? What's wrong?" Erestor's left hand fumbled around in the darkness. "Glorfindel?" He was pinned beneath his lover, but not for long.

Glorfindel pulled himself up, staring at Erestor in bewilderment. "Nothing, nothing. It was just me."

"Something's wrong. I can tell from your voice." Erestor's hand grazed Glorfindel's cheek. "What is it?"

"You, uh..." Taking hold of Erestor's hand, Glorfindel held it to his chest. "You were asleep, and you... started to talk about your..." Glorfindel shifted uneasily. "You… you were talking about..."

Slipping his hand away, Erestor said in a very unsure voice, "I was talking in my sleep? I didn't know that I talked in my sleep. Have I done this... often?" Glorfindel said nothing. "About what did I speak, Glorfindel?" questioned Erestor.

"Not a 'what' so much as a 'who'."

"Well... you are going to tell me who, aren't you?" Erestor slid out of bed and felt his way around until he made it to the dresser. Pulling out a long nightshirt, he pulled it over his head and stumbled his way to the couch. "I suppose I could guess, if you're not going to tell me. It must be something, well, someone horrible from your reaction."

"Erestor, it's only that- it was unexpected." Glorfindel left the bed as well. Not bothering to dress himself, he retrieved the half-empty wine bottle from the table. "You were talking about your wife," he said after a long drink.

"Oh. Her." Erestor slowly scratched his arm with the opposite hand, and then stopped as something dawned on him. "Well, fuck me. That's how she knew about everything. I must have rambled on about everything to her. So, what did I do, call her terrible names and curse her?"

"Actually... no, not really," said Glorfindel before taking another drink.

"What did I say?" prodded Erestor. "What exactly did I say, Glorfindel?"

Setting the bottle down on the table and keeping himself a goodly distance from the other elf, Glorfindel replied quickly, "I... asked you about your former lover and then you-"

"WHAT?!" Erestor was on his feet, and angrily stalked in the direction of Glorfindel's voice. "You what?"

"I... I asked... you… Erestor, I didn't mean to, uh..."

"Didn't mean to what?" Backed up against the wall, Glorfindel was subject to a rather angry finger wagging near to where his face was. "You meant to find the answer to your question, didn't you? Meant to compromise our trust, then, and-"

"Oh... oh, shit," mumbled Glorfindel.

"Oh, shit about summarizes it." The finger came dangerously close to Glorfindel's nose as Erestor said, "You are just fucking lucky I love you despite your unfathomable behavior."

"It was because I love you," attempted Glorfindel, "that I wanted to find out."

"Bullshit."

"No, honestly. I just wanted to get to know you. When I found out you spoke in your sleep-"

"I'm about to find out you've done this before, aren't I?" questioned Erestor.

Glorfindel took hold of Erestor's hands before the waggling finger poked him. "Here and there, once or twice, perhaps a dozen times," he rushed. "I just wanted to get to know you better, Erestor."

"A dozen? Glorfindel, why did you not just ask me what you wanted to know? I would have told you without question. You know about my books, about the treatments I've been going through, my cats- good gracious, Glorfindel, you sleep in my bed! " The grip the blond had on his dark lover's wrists lessened. Pulling his hands away and moving his arms to encircle Glorfindel's waist, Erestor asked, "What do you want to know about me?"

"Can we start with the part about your wife?" Glorfindel asked, nuzzling Erestor's shoulder.

"Let's sit down." Erestor was led back to the couch. "Better." Erestor snuggled against Glorfindel, and the minute the pair was relaxed, Erestor let out a snort. "I can't believe you thought you could get away with not telling me about all of this."

"I just assumed you knew that you talked in your sleep," answered Glorfindel. He found himself sliding off of the couch moments later, grabbing at Eretor's hands while trying to keep his sides and stomach out of reach while he laughed himself to tears. "Stop, please! Stop it!"

Continuing to tickle Glorfindel, Erestor pinned one of Glorfindel's arms to the floor with his knee. "No more secrets!" he demanded.

"Yes, yes, I promise! Please!" Glorfindel jerked out Erestor's reach, splayed on the floor as Erestor settled himself back on the couch. "No more, promise," gasped Glorfindel, holding his side as he crawled back up onto the couch.

"Alright then." Erestor waited for Glorfindel relax beside him once more. "Then I shall tell you my 'secret', though let me assure you right now that you need not worry." To emphasize his meaning, Erestor leaned forward and kissed Glorfindel's lips lightly.

"Long years ago in Greenwood," began Erestor, sitting back on the couch, "there was a young lady of Oropher's court. I didn't know it at the time, but she was in love with my brother. He was young, though- forty-two, forty-four? Not that it much matters; the point is that he was too young and her parents were pushing her to marry. Their worry was less that she was happy and more that she wasn't an 'old maid'. I was convenient, and I was security. A strong soldier with a promising military career ahead of me."

"Our courtship was brief and our marriage a very lavish affair. What not many know is that on our wedding night, she locked herself in a closet, weeping until her mother was able to convince her to come out. I slept on the couch- you can see now why I was uneasy having you on the couch," said Erestor. Glorfindel nodded but remained silent as Erestor continued. "It was nearly a year before we finally consummated our bonding. If you can call it that."

Glorfindel snuggled closer as Erestor continued. "It was always very... planned. 'Good morning, darling.' I would say. 'Do you think... perhaps tonight...?'. And she would answer with 'I'll make dinner early for you then' as if lovemaking was another task that needed to be fit into her schedule. The act itself was... it wasn't love. It was sex. No matter how much I tried to please her."

"Our relationship was further strained barely ten years later. My brother had come of age, and everywhere I saw him he was wooing maidens. He was handsome, and his words flowed eloquently. My wife was... enraged. Constantly I was compared to him. That I wasn't as graceful or as caring or as social." Erestor shook his head. "I tried, I really tried, to be what she wanted. But she didn't want me, Glorfindel. I should have seen that."

"I had the opportunity to either take an easy assignment in the realm or to complete a more dangerous one that required me to travel for some time. Three years didn't seem like an eternity, and for once my wife seemed happy about my work. Interested, even. I left with a sense of pride and I actually missed her while I was away."

"When I returned..." Erestor let out a deep sigh. "It wasn't expected that I would, but I did. When I did, I was presented my newborn son." Erestor's words were bitter and he turned his head away.

"I didn't know you-" began Glorfindel.

"I didn't." Erestor turned back. "I was gone for three years."

"OH." Glorfindel wrapped his arms around Erestor. "Oh, Erestor, I'm so sorry."

"Not as sorry as I was. She put on a good act. I still don't know if she thought I was that stupid, or that she was just that manipulative, or what. I didn't want to see her, I just couldn't say anything. I just stared. Then I went to Oropher." Erestor paused and began to stand, reaching toward the nearby table. Glorfindel touched Erestor's shoulder to settle him back down and then retrieved the glass of water for him and placed it into his hand. After finishing half the glass, Erestor said, "According to the laws of Greenwood, I had the right to kill her lover."

"Did you?" ventured Glorfindel.

A sad look came over Erestor's face. "I don't like killing. Or death. But that wasn't why I didn't do it. The reason I didn't do it was because he was my brother, Glorfindel. I held him in my own arms the day he came into the world." Tears came to the dark elf's unseeing eyes. "I would do whatever it took to bring him happiness."

"Even if it meant you sacrificed your own," whispered Glorfindel.

"I wasn't happy with her," said Erestor. "But things were tolerable. Oropher gave me his advice, the two options he foresaw. Either I could go along with the deception and accept the child as my son knowing full well he was not. Or, I could move to have the marriage dissolved on account of it never having been consummated."

"But you did sleep with her," Glorfindel said.

Erestor nodded. "But who really knows what happens behind closed doors? I chose my brother's happiness in exchange for my honor. The whispers behind my back. The searing looks from others across the dining hall. For once, my wife, who was mine no longer, actually spoke to me with respect, and dare I say, love. It was terrible that it had to be that way. She finally loved me only after I despised her. She brought my brother happiness, though, so I learned to hold my tongue."

"There was no chance for me to start over; no elleth would dare risk even dancing with me in public. There was no longer camaraderie with the other soldiers I had grown up with and trained with, only the cold looks from my peers. So I thrust myself into my work. Became the model soldier. Worked up the ranks. It's lonely at the top, but if anyone should have been lonely, better it be me and not someone else who had a chance."

"Oh, I'd love to give this lady a piece of my mind," growled Glorfindel.

"Can't do that," said Erestor.

"Why not?" asked Glorfindel.

"Because she's dead now." Erestor settled back on the couch. "She faded of course when my brother died at the last battle. Her son was killed in that war, too, which was terrible, because he was a respectable elf. He was a fine elf, my nephew."

"So you see, what you mistook for guided practice," said Erestor, "was really hundreds of years of pent-up frustration begging to be released."

"That is one of the most heartbreaking tales anyone has ever told me." Glorfindel held Erestor tight before whispering, "Can I ask another question?" Erestor nodded against him. "If your only other lover was an elleth, how was it that you were so keen to be taken like you were?" Erestor flushed and turned away.

Chapter 14

"You're still keeping something from me," insisted Glorfindel. "Come, Erestor, no more secrets," he said softly, turning Erestor to face him again. "I probably shouldn't have said it like that," apologized Glorfindel as he held Erestor tight.

Taking a deep breath, Erestor asked, "You won't tell anyone if I tell you, will you?"

"Not a soul," promised Glorfindel. "I love you," he reminded Erestor.

In a whisper, Erestor revealed, "After a time, I resigned myself to the fact I was never going to find an elleth who would accept the lie as a reality. That is, if I didn't tell the truth, they wouldn't want me, and if I did, they would want to have the truth known to the world. I began to wonder, if I didn't find an elleth, did stand a chance in finding another ellon?"

"I was... too unsure of it, though. I could never tell which males were interested in other males and which were not. My hope was that perhaps I would be approached instead. There were times when I thought I had found someone. Every time, something would happen- I would find out they were already with someone, or that they really didn't favor other male elves. Sometimes it came with embarrassing moments," Erestor sighed.

"I just held out hope that I would find... someone, anyone. In the meantime... I experimented. I... wanted to know if I would like it or not," he said, ending in a rush.

"That isn't so uncommon, Erestor," Glorfindel said. "Before Ecthelion, I tried a number of things. Some with uncomfortable side effects," he added as he recalled them.

Erestor carefully thought this over and then asked, "Ecthelion?"

"Oh... shit. I told you about him... while you were sleeping." Glorfindel cringed. "He was my lover in Gondolin. In the first age, his was the House of the Fountain-"

"Glorfindel, I know who he was. Historically, that is." Erestor bit his lip and then said, "I wish you would have told me about this sooner."

"About what?" asked Glorfindel worriedly.

Collecting his thoughts before he spoke, Erestor said, "Well, when he is reborn... won't you... I mean..."

"Oh. Right." Glorfindel shook his head. "No, he won't."

"No? You seem so sure."

"I am sure." Looking to the floor, Glorfindel said, "I was young, and I was desired by many. I was more a prize for him than a companion. And he was so wise, so well respected- I fell in love with the idea of being his lover, but I never fell in love with him. We parted well enough- he came to me and simply told me he had found someone else. I didn't fight it, because I had never honestly had more than friendly feelings for him. Besides," whispered Glorfindel, "he was terrible in bed." Erestor snickered. "Nothing like you." Nuzzling his lover, Glorfindel mumbled, "You're just… mmm, so sexy. Beautiful and sexy and... ah, oh, uh... pardon me," he chuckled as his growing erection pressed against Erestor. "Looks like someone doesn't think it's bedtime," he scolded playfully, and he smiled when Erestor laughed.

"So, Ecthelion left you," Erestor said seriously after they had gone back to the bed.

"Mmmhmm," confirmed Glorfindel as he kissed along Erestor's side while removing the nightshirt that stood between them.

"He was a fool..." Erestor grasped Glorfindel's face with both hands, pulling him into a deep passionate kiss, "...not to see what I can."

"I'm glad he was a fool," mumbled Glorfindel. Tumbling into each other's arms, Glorfindel nipped at Erestor's neck. "Dare I say, your wife was a fool as well?"

"My wife," Erestor stated dryly, "was a bitch. But, she made my brother happy… now, let's forget all about her, and Ecthelion, and anyone else either of us were ever involved with-"

"I used to fancy Elrond. He knows it, too," blurted out Glorfindel. "You might as well know it."

For a moment, Erestor said nothing. Then it began, first with a snort, then a snicker, and then laughter while Glorfindel buried his head under a pillow.

"Oh, I know! I know! He wasn't married at the time, but he was courting Celebrian... still, how could I help it? I know you've not seen him, but-"

"I've seen him," corrected Erestor. "I saw him at Dagorlad. Handsome, isn't he?"

"That he- wait." Glorfindel tossed the pillow aside and sat up, catching Erestor's grin in the moonlight. "Oh, ho! I get it now," he said. "But can anyone help it? He's just dripping with elegance."

"He has a nice ass, too. At least, he did when last I saw it," shrugged Erestor. "I suppose he isn't quite in battle form these days."

Glorfindel gave a low whistle. "He's still pleasing to the eye, trust me. I just try not to think that way, considering I work for him now. A bit different than in the old days when I could laugh about it with Ereinion in Lindon."

"So... did you want to take him, or be taken?" questioned Erestor.

"I always imagine being the one on top," Glorfindel said flippantly.

"I see." Erestor crawled closer to him and asked, "Does that mean, you never let Ecthelion take you?"

"Actually, yes. It does mean that," answered Glorfindel. "Why?"

"I still think he was a fool," Erestor said, "But... perhaps if you would have reciprocated, he wouldn't have left."

Rubbing the back of his neck with a frown, Glorfindel said, "He never asked if he could, well... oh, shit."

Wrapping his arms around Glorfindel, Erestor kissed his shoulder and said, "I still think he was a fool. He could have just asked if that was what he wanted." There was no reply, so Erestor rubbed against Glorfindel's shoulder with his cheek. "Glorfindel?"

Before Erestor could continue, Glorfindel's fingers were upon his lips. "You shouldn't have to ask," he said, and he rolled onto his back, pulling Erestor up on top of him. "Is this what you want?" Glorfindel asked huskily.

"No!" Scrambling off of Glorfindel, Erestor backed up against the headboard. He shivered briefly and shook his head vigorously. "Glorfindel, please, do not do that again."

"What? Why?" Sitting up, he drew Erestor into his arms. "My darling, what did I do? I simply assumed from our discussion... Please, I beg you; tell me, I shall correct my mistake."

"I just... I wish not to be in that position again. What you did earlier, the way you loved me and just let me feel you... the way you touched me, it felt so good, Glorfindel. It felt so good not to be in control. So good to be loved," he murmured, his cheek pressing to Glorfindel's shoulder again.

"But earlier, you did try-"

"A joke, poorly made in the heat of the moment." Erestor's arms tightened around Glorfindel. "I was burning inside, and you were taking too long. It wasn't what I wanted, and it isn't what I want now."

"Is this what you want?" Glorfindel asked, tracing his fingers over Erestor's thigh. He pulled him onto his lap so that he was elevated a little, and began fondling the heavy sacks before gently rubbing one finger around the tight entrance. "Tell me, Erestor," he demanded as the younger elf gasped for air, "is this what you want me to do?" The tip of his finger nudged past the muscles that clenched and tried futilely to grab hold of him.

Panting, Erestor leaned forward, his lips seeking out Glorfindel's. "Yes," he confirmed, patting his hand across the mattress until he reached the edge. Erestor ventured his hand a bit further and took hold of a box that was on top of the side table. Handing it toward Glorfindel, he said, "I should have a container with lotion in it in this box."

Placing it on the bed, Glorfindel lifted the lid. Erestor swallowed hard as he heard Glorfindel pick up not the jar, but the item that rested beside it. "So... you still use this?" he asked.

Licking his lips, Erestor gave a nod. "It had once been the handle from a dagger. I broke it in a skirmish one day, knocked the blade clear off. After the battle I came across it and thought to discard it, but..."

"But when you realized how... enjoyable it might be..."

"It would have been a waste of expert crafting to throw it away," laughed Erestor as Glorfindel lifted the top from the small pot of lotion. He reached into it with two fingers and swirled them around.

"I have an idea," spoke Glorfindel as his hand reached between Erestor's legs and rubbed the lotion over his entrance. "I think you're going to like it. Do you trust me?"

"I... mmm..." Erestor was gently eased onto his back while Glorfindel teased him. "I… uhhh..."

Plunging his fingers into Erestor, Glorfindel said, "I shall consider that a yes." His free hand took hold of the phallus as Erestor arched his back, curling his fingers into the fabric that covered the mattress. Removing his fingers, Glorfindel touched the metal to Erestor, a cool contrast to the warmth of his flesh, before slowly sliding it inside.

"Want you," hissed Erestor after he was kissed between thrusts. "Take me," he pleaded.

Glorfindel left the phallus within Erestor's passage, and then knelt over him. Dipping his fingers into the lotion, he coated their erections and then took both of them in hand and began to stroke. Erestor continued to beg for Glorfindel to enter him, from sweetened pleas to growled demands, and finally to wordless whimpers.

It was these Glorfindel wanted to hear and took delight in, removing the phallus and wasting no time in filling Erestor once more. Erestor screamed his appreciation into the night, with Glorfindel's name upon his lips.

- - -

"What is that stench?" asked Erestor as Glorfindel aided him in sitting down at the head table. Legolas, sitting beside Elrond, made a show of sniffing his arms as if he was the source of the offending odor.

"Put your arm down, penneth," Elrond scolded with a playful nudge. "The border guards rotated last night; those coming back didn't arrive until this morning. They were worn and hungry, so I asked them to breakfast in the hall before they took to the public baths. It takes all day to clean them after they get in there anyhow; best to let the rest of us get in before they muck them up."

"It's 'them', isn't it?" asked Erestor of Glorfindel. Indeed, when Glorfindel gazed over his shoulder, he saw the same rowdy group that had been the cause of the past two months.

"Worry not about them, Erestor," insisted Glorfindel. "Forget about them." Leaning closer, he whispered, "Kiss me," and Erestor did. "When the kitchen maid comes by, what would you like in your omelet? Cheese and mushrooms?"

"Yes, thank you. That sounds like a good combination," said Erestor.

"And how did you know he would want an omelet?" asked Legolas.

With a shy smile, Glorfindel took hold of Erestor's hand, lifting it from the dark elf's lap, and gave it a squeeze. "Lovers just know those sorts of things about each other." As one of the servers came around with water and juice in pitchers, another came around with a basket of muffins, randomly placing them before each elf, Glorfindel raised his free hand just as a muffin hovered about Erestor's plate and said, "Is that... strawberry? No, not that one... do you have something else?" Glorfindel apologetically smiled as the server rolled the muffins to the side of the basket he had, and pulling out a raspberry and peach one, set it onto Erestor's plate.

"He doesn't much like strawberry muffins," explained Glorfindel to the trio of elves who had been staring from the other side of the table. Beside him, Erestor squeezed his hand back. "I hope that was alright," said Glorfindel.

A smile eased itself slowly across Erestor's face. "I love you."

"I know," said Glorfindel as he returned the squeeze, and then waved over one of the kitchen maids to order their breakfast.

- - -

"Just look at them," growled the leader of the recently returned unit. "He sits up there with the family, ordering what he wants and being pampered as if he belongs with them."

"With all due respect, lieutenant," spoke one of the guardians who was not an officer, "if he's really Glorfindel's lover, he has every right to be up there. I dare say, they actually do look happy together."

"When I want your opinion, I'll tell you what it is," spat his commanding officer. "Did you even look at them? So planned," he growled.

At the end of the table, a few of the wardens whispered to each other, and the lieutenant slammed his fist on the table. "If you have something to say, you tell all of us," he snarled.

"Lieutenant, permission to be dismissed," requested one of the wardens.

"No. No!" His fist slammed the top of the table again. "I will not-" Everyone else at the table was suddenly on their feet. A moment later, the lieutenant scrambled to his, saluting like the rest.

"Did the table... do something?" asked Glorfindel as he encircled the group.

"Sir, no sir!"

Nodding, he came back around until he was in front of the lieutenant and got into his face. "Well then, what the fuck were you doing banging the piss out of it?"

"Sir, I don't know, sir!"

"You don't know. You... you just have no idea, just thought-" Glorfindel's fist slammed down on the tabletop. "-I'll just beat the bloody table! Makes for good conversation at breakfast!"

Walking around the table again, he asked, "Do any of the rest of you know why your unit leader was slamming his hand around on the tabletop?"

"Sir, no sir!"

"I wouldn't expect any of you to. He did it, and even he doesn't know. I sort of like that phrase, though," mused Glorfindel. " 'Captain Glorfindel, will we be able to come home for our next scheduled rotation?' 'Gee, I don't know.' 'Captain, will we be allowed back in the dining hall?' 'Oh, my... I don't know.'," Glorfindel said with a shrug of his shoulders. Shaking his head, he let out a disgusted sigh. "In two hours, I want the lot of you in the archery practice field. Each day until you return to the borders, you will practice for two hours or twenty rounds, whichever is the latter. You might be home, but you're no longer on leave. Dismissed," he said with a sneer as he walked away from them.

"Did they have an answer as for why they were trying to beat my table to death?" asked Elrond as he extracted a piece of sausage from within a pouting Elladan's sleeve.

Glorfindel smiled down at the pouting elfling, who had managed to mess his hair with strawberry jam while Elrohir sat perfectly clean, licking the marmalade from his toast. "No, none of them seem to have any idea. Not to worry, I've assigned them something to keep them busy." Those around the room, including the family seated at the head table, watched as the soldiers stormed out of the room, most of them looking over their shoulders with disgust at their lieutenant. "Seems a little dissension is budding," Glorfindel said sadly. "I hate it when this sort of thing happens." He sat down again, intent upon finishing the meal without another interruption.

Nearly at the end of their breakfast, Erestor knocked his water glass over as he struggled to stand up. Wildly grabbing for his walking stick, he was stopped by Glorfindel, who stood up to steady him. "Glorfindel, listen! Can't you hear that?"

"Hear what?" Glorfindel strained, but other than the noises in the room, he heard nothing. Elrond and Celebrian looked just as confused, but Legolas was intently concentrating on something far off. "Legolas, do you hear it?"

"Something, barely," he said. "From the courtyard."

"Screaming, Glorfindel! Someone in danger, or threatened, or-" Erestor was gently but firmly placed back in his seat. "Glorfindel, please!"

"I'm going. Stay here!" he shouted as he ran down the main aisle of the hall. Legolas and Elrond followed close behind, and as soon as Celebrian had called the nurse over to look after the twins, she handed Erestor his walking stick and guided him swiftly to the courtyard.

Chapter 15

Glorfindel let go the hilt of his sword, running faster to get to the main courtyard. A number of nearby elves had come to see the commotion, but the many soldiers were creating a barrier between the stable hands, pages, and washerellith, and the ruckus at the center.

There were no screams now, only sobs, as Lindir, held back by one of the soldiers, watched his precious harp be smashed against the ground by the lieutenant. A third soldier stood nearby, begging the lieutenant to cease, but when he approached he was shoved back.

"Attention!" bellowed Glorfindel, and the majority of the soldiers stood straight, including the two near the lieutenant. Lindir crumpled to the ground, his sobs renewed as he crawled toward the ruins of his beloved instrument. The lieutenant stomped his boot into the heap of wood and strings, causing Lindir to cry out in agony. "I said, attention!" The rest of the soldiers standing about reluctantly raised their heads, blank expressions replacing the ones that had been on their faces.

Still, the lieutenant defiantly looked at Glorfindel as he advanced. "You are out of order!" shouted the Captain, firmly planting his feet and resting his hands upon his hips. Behind him, Elrond and Legolas stepped up to flank him, and the lieutenant snorted. "How dare you attack a helpless, unarmed citizen!"

"I know what he is," sneered the lieutenant, looking down at the weeping elf at his feet. "It took me some time, but I finally figured it out." He was looking past Glorfindel now, and the blond turned his head in the direction of the house. Celebrian was leading Erestor into the courtyard. "Your little informant. I knew you weren't involved with... that," he spat as Erestor came to a stop alongside Elrond, creating with the five of them a united barrier that closed the circle of elves. Glorfindel bared his teeth and took a step forward, but Legolas took a firm grip on his elbow, for which Glorfindel would later thank him. "I knew someone had to have told you what transpired. When I saw him today sitting here, playing, I knew who it was. He's the only one who will talk to both of you. He's the only one that THING has a use for."

"Brother, please," hissed the soldier who had made the attempt to stop him, but the lieutenant gave him a glare that silenced him immediately. This interruption afforded Glorfindel the opportunity to step forward.

"Lieutenant, you have already crossed a line. Now, you are wearing my patience thin. I do not wish to have you restrained, but if I have to, I will," threatened Glorfindel.

"For what? Because of a lie?," snapped the soldier. "You have no love for that THING."

"Enough." Elrond stepped between the two warriors, knowing how close Glorfindel was to losing control. "You are a shameful example of a soldier, lieutenant. You two," he shouted, motioning to a pair of soldiers nearby, "take him to his room and guard the door. You," he said, motioning to another, "take that one," he said, pointing to the one who had restrained Lindir, "and do the same."

The lieutenant crossed his arms over his chest and stared defiantly past Elrond. His feet did not budge as one of the guards took hold of his arm and pulled. Elrond stepped closer. "Do not defy me, child. You are ruining what little you may have had left of a military career."

Lindir, who had been on the ground trying to gather the broken bits and pieces, glanced up. He spied the look in the lieutenant's eyes, and the soldier, knowing he was being watched, looked down. The corner of his mouth turned up in an evil smirk.

Before anyone really knew what was happening, Glorfindel was prying Lindir from the lieutenant, who howled and held his calf as he rolled on the ground. "He bit me!" screamed the lieutenant in disbelief.

"Imagine that," said Erestor, leaning on his walking stick.

"Don't speak to me," sneered the lieutenant as he was hoisted to his feet by the other guards.

Handing his walking stick abruptly to Celebrian, Erestor took four long strides forward, closing the gap. Grabbing hold of the other elf's shirt, Erestor yanked his face forward. With the other hand, he tugged on the strings of his mask, tossing it aside. "I used to think I had to cover myself to appease the likes of you," he growled. "No more. In fact, I wouldn't even give you the time of day, so worry not that I might talk to you. You... just aren't worth my time." Letting go, Erestor staggered back a step and Celebrian stepped forward and took hold of his arm to steady him at one side, while Elrond minded the other lest Erestor fall.

With a dismissive motion from Elrond, the guards carried out their orders. As some of the other soldiers began to follow, Glorfindel barked orders to them that they should go to the practice fields as he had instructed them earlier. The young soldier who had tried to talk some sense into the lieutenant began to plead with Glorfindel, but the captain turned his back upon him. Shoulders slumped, the young ellon followed his comrades to the field.

Glorfindel found himself the receiver of a scrutinizing look from Elrond. "My office," he said simply as the grounds finally cleared of all but himself, his wife and Legolas, Glorfindel and Erestor. "I want all of you there in ten minutes. I expect the two of you," he said, directing his comment to the pair before him, "to be prepared to tell me everything."

- - -

"If we were in Mirkwood, they would be in jail awaiting sentencing for their crimes. Lothlorien imposes penalties of civil service upon those who attack fellow citizens. In Mithlond they would have been publicly flogged!" Everything, meaning absolutely everything, had been explained to Elrond. He had been disappointed to hear that the pair had been 'pretending to be lovers', but only until it was explained that there was no longer any need for them to pretend. His fury had been consistent when hearing of the abuses the various soldiers had committed.

"Do not be too harsh on them, Elrond," said Celebrian. "They are young and life for them has been hard. I hear things you and Glorfindel do not. So many of your soldiers lost their families to the war. There are many troubled youths in need of guidance within the guard."

"I know that, dear. But do not forget that I, too, lost my parents at a young age. I have sympathy for many of them, and that is why I hesitate. That lieutenant, though..." Elrond shook his head. "Glorfindel, your suggestion?"

"Perhaps we should consider making an example of them. But I don't think using physical punishment is appropriate. It teaches nothing and will only bring forth hatred," Glorfindel said.

Erestor raised one finger in the air to gain attention. "What if we sent them away for a while?"

"Banishment?" questioned Elrond. "I do not like that idea."

"No other elvendom would be so lax, as you have pointed out," Erestor reminded him. "They will not know how good they have it until it is taken from them," he advised. "Trust me on that."

"I would offer to have those who are responsible moved to the guard in Mirkwood," spoke Legolas.

"That may not be a wise decision." Again Erestor gained the attention of the small council being held. "There is a reason why the lieutenant directs his anger in my direction. In the war, when I turned from my duty to King Oropher, there was only one soldier who followed me into battle. He did so blindly, speaking only of his loyalty to his general. I lived, he died. His sons blame me, and perhaps rightfully so. If he had stayed with the army then perhaps he might have stood better odds."

"Erestor, it was war. No one on our side can be blamed for the death of a fellow soldier." Legolas nodded. "I know now who they are. Their mother died in grief, and they came here to live with relatives."

Glorfindel spoke next. "They were all exemplary soldiers when I first recruited them."

"Then it is not they who must leave, but I who should go." Erestor addressed Legolas. "When are you preparing to make your way back to Greenwood?"

For a moment, Legolas was taken aback, but soon recovered. "I, well, I thought you would remain here for further treatments. I suppose I shall leave mid-autumn to avoid any early snows."

"There is no cure for my blindness." Dwelling on his own comment, Erestor said, "There are many here who would rather I would not be here. I do not wish to be a menace any longer."

Sliding his hand across the table to take hold of Erestor's, Glorfindel said, "You are no menace. As for a cure, how can you know there is none if you do not keep trying?"

"I have been here some eighty years, and nothing has changed. I would stay if you ask it of me, Glorfindel, but otherwise I have no reason to linger." But Erestor's voice betrayed him, and indeed all those at the table knew there was reason, even if Erestor did not say so.

"Then I will come with you," said Glorfindel. "I can not be happy knowing you are so unhappy to stay here within this house." Erestor bowed his head slightly but said nothing.

Elrond rubbed his eyes. Things were not exactly progressing as he had expected. "I thank you both for your counsel on this matter. Perhaps we might further speak tomorrow." After Glorfindel and Erestor had been dismissed and the door closed, Elrond sighed and looked back and forth between his wife and his consort. "Legolas, why is he so gloomy? Was he like that when he lived in your woods?"

"Nay. He used to be angst that could walk and talk. He's much improved, actually," mused Legolas.

- - -

Glorfindel led Erestor to a balcony overlooking the practice fields so that they could remain alone, but so that the captain could check on the progress of the soldiers. "It amazes me that you were able to hear Lindir from inside the hall. It is always said that Legolas has the keenest eyes and ears of any living elf."

"It's barely of help when the one who can hear so well cannot see a thing." Erestor settled himself against the brick of the house, keeping from the high railing that enclosed the porch. "It wasn't until I lost my sight. I think it must be a defense of some sort, to be able to hear danger well before seeing it."

"Must have come in handy quite a bit," said Glorfindel.

"Just this time, I think," Erestor said sadly. "When I first came here, we had nearly made it to Imladris when I heard some commotion off in the distance. Orcs, and I could tell exactly how many. They were assaulting a small party, but all I could hear was the screaming of a young boy. Legolas later told me that they managed to defeat the orcs, but nothing was ever said of the party they were attacking. So, I fear my warnings came too late."

Slowly, Glorfindel turned around. "That was some eighty years ago that you came to the valley, then." Erestor nodded to him. Leaning against the railing with his hands steadying himself at either side, Glorfindel said, "It was just about eighty-three years ago this coming spring that I was approached by a young soldier on horseback and told that help was needed outside of the valley. I raced my horse into the forest, led only by the direction in which the scout was pointing. Until now, I did not realize- he wasn't one of our soldiers."

"Who was he?" asked Erestor.

"Someone from Greenwood's guard." Glorfindel smiled broadly. "Erestor, you didn't fail the first time. I found them- Legolas asked me just the other day if I knew what had happened, but I didn't add it all together because I had no idea when it was that you had arrived."

"You found the boy and saved him, then?" Erestor's spirit seemed uplifted by this belated news.

Looping his arm around Erestor's, Glorfindel took hold of the walking stick and held it while he showed Erestor back into the house from the balcony. "The boy, his sister, and his parents."

"Are they still here in the valley?"

"Oh, Erestor, you have no idea," Glorfindel said, happily leading him back through the house.

- - -

"If Erestor leaves," contemplated Elrond, "then the lieutenant will think he simply won, and that isn't much of a punishment. In fact, it's incentive to continue being a brat."

Legolas, who had been dozing off beside Elrond, said sleepily, "I do not think Erestor truly wishes to return to Mirkwood."

"Glorfindel would hate it there," spoke Celebrian. She was snuggled against her husband, for the trio had moved the conversation from the study to the bedroom, where they could give things more in-depth thought in a more comfortable atmosphere. "I like Erestor's idea of sending away the ones that are a problem. Sending them back to Mirkwood doesn't seem like a punishment either, though. However, I could speak with my parents. You know how tough the border guards have it in Lothlorien, especially in the winters."

"Erestor certainly has a lot of good ideas, doesn't he?" Elrond's question was more to himself than either of his bedmates, though Legolas nodded and pulled on the blanket, drawing it up to his chin. "I would also hate for Glorfindel to leave, but I think if Erestor does there is no question that he would follow. For some time I have been contemplating giving Glorfindel complete control of the military. I have less and less time to oversee things, and most other realms have an army general to oversee the captains."

"Glorfindel is more than capable of the task," agreed Celebrian. "But if Erestor has no reason to stay, there is no reason to force him to. He would feel compelled to stay with Glorfindel if he is promoted."

"Maybe not," said Elrond. "Erestor says he has no other reason to stay. What we need to do is give him a reason to remain here."

"What are you thinking of?" Celebrian asked, tugging on the blankets to gain more on her side.

Reaching down to draw up the large quilt before a blanket war started, Elrond said, "As much as I appreciate all of the advice I am given by the two of you, there are times when neither of you are available. It would benefit me to have an advisor by my side during meetings and negotiations, and other such things."

Celebrian smiled. "Erestor would be perfect." Snuggling closer, she asked, "Would you like me to speak with my mother about the guards we are having trouble with?"

"In the morning, perhaps you could contact her," Elrond said hastily. He tended to worry that Galadriel might pick up on straying thoughts if he or his wife contacted her... well, at inappropriate times.

"I shall do it after breakfast." Before slipping into reverie, she asked, "Which guards should I ask to have transferred, my love?"

Chapter 16

"Lieutenant Haldir, you are hereby sentenced to twenty years probation from your military duties, to be served in the city of Caras Galadhon." Elrond looked up from the scroll he was reading and added, "I have noted that you have requested a transfer to their guard."

"With all due respect," replied Haldir, his ankle bandaged where Lindir had bit him, "I wouldn't come back for all the mithril in Arda."

"So noted. I wish I could say that I shall miss your sarcasm, but what I do miss is the respect you once gave and the trust you once had." Moving on to the elf beside him, Elrond proclaimed, "Rumil, you have been tried and convicted of aiding in the disruptions of peace and the assault of citizens of the realm. Warden Rumil, you are hereby sentenced to ten years probation from your military duties to be served in the city of Caras Galadhon." Elrond waited for Rumil to look up at him. "Rumil, you have also requested a transfer."

"Where my brother goes I shall follow."

Elrond nodded curtly. There was a third elf standing nearby and he now stepped beside the pair who stood before the tall chair that Elrond sat in as he presided. To Elrond's right sat Celebrian as always, and now to his left was Erestor with a young page beside him in the case he needed to ask about what was happening. "Orophin, the time to speak was at the trial," said Elrond.

"M'lord, I have placed a request for transfer as well," Orophin explained.

"Yes, I know," Elrond finally said. "It is unnecessary," he told the guard, who had been the only one making any attempt to stop Haldir's rage in the courtyard, "but I will grant it if you so wish."

"I do," he said. "I have enjoyed my time serving here, but as my brother has said- where they go, I shall follow."

Giving another nod, Elrond said, "Let it be noted that Orophin has requested transfer from the Imladrim guard to the Galadhrim. Orophin, my best wishes to you."

Orophin smiled sadly and saluted when he did not hear any wishes, good or bad, given to his brothers. The trio bowed, and they all left the counsel chambers. At the door, they passed Glorfindel, standing at the center of the archway. Haldir and Rumil both passed him by without notice, but Orophin halted and saluted the captain, not knowing that hours before his old mentor had been confirmed before the ministers and high officers as the General of the Imladrim. "I am sorry that I disappointed you, sir," said Orophin.

"It was not you, Orophin," replied Glorfindel, but Orophin hung his head in shame. "It was not you who caused any of the trouble here."

"But they are my brothers. As the eldest, I should have watched them more carefully. I should have done something before it came to this," he added.

Having no answer for Orophin, Glorfindel patted him on the shoulder and nodded. "Good luck to you, soldier."

"Thank you, sir." Orophin gave a curt nod and then continued on his way out. With a sigh, Glorfindel looked down the hallway to where Elrond sat with his counsel, chin resting upon his hand.

"There are things I wish I did not have to do," he simply said, and then stood. "An adjournment, and then, supper perhaps?" Celebrian stood as well and smiled in agreement. "Glorfindel, Erestor? Would you have care to join us this evening?"

Erestor whispered a few words to the young elf assigned to take notes and such for him - a lad by the name of Melpomaen whom everyone had taken to calling 'Figgy' - and then dismissed his aide. "I believe I have a prior engagement," he answered as he was handed his walking stick before Figgy left. "Glorfindel, do we not have plans this evening to dine with Lindreth and his family?"

"Aye, we do," confirmed Glorfindel. He met Elrond and his counsel halfway, and without having to guide Erestor, the dark elf looped his arm through Glorfindel's. "Might we meet you for breakfast come the morning?"

"That would be splendid," spoke Celebrian as they group moved into the hallway. "Perhaps, a late breakfast," she added mischievously.

"Oh, I wouldn't dare suggest otherwise, m'lady," said Glorfindel.

- - -

"Erestor, you've taken your mask off!" exclaimed Veduiel.

Gripping the doorway and allowing his fingers to find the way around and into the room, he confirmed this with a nod. "If I can not be accepted as I am, then I pity those who have such narrow minds."

The ellon who had been standing beside Veduiel with the sleeves of his shirt hanging far longer than need be looked as if he had been hit by a cartload of bricks. This was Lindreth, Veduiel's husband, and he faltered slightly. The elleth placed her hand upon his arm to steady him. She began to whisper something to him, but he shook his head.

"Erestor, it is a pleasure to have you as our guest." Lindreth bowed at the waist, his arms still before him. "To have learned it was you we owe our lives to-"

"It was not I alone," Erestor interrupted. "Had Glorfindel not acted so quickly upon hearing the news of the scout who was with my party..." Erestor trailed off as Lindir tried to sneak over and tap him on the shoulder. "Yes, young master minstrel?"

Without warning, Erestor was squished in a bear hug delivered by Lindir. "Why did you never tell me?" asked the young ellon when he finally released the dark elf.

"Because I never knew," replied Erestor simply.

"Would you like to come and hear the harp in the sitting room?" Lindir asked suddenly, disregarding previous polite conversation. "It is too big for me to carry anywhere, so I must play it here. Thank the valar Lieutenant Haldir did not get hold of that one," he added.

"Hush, now, Lindir," scolded his father. "You know it isn't nice to speak of others behind their backs." Lindir closed his eyes and nodded. "Now, if Erestor would like to hear you play, I would be happy to lead him to the sitting room while you tune your harp."

"Your harp, Adar," Lindir said abruptly.

Lindreth nodded. "Yes, well, it needs tuning, please." Lindir smiled and hurried ahead to the room. Offering his arm, Lindreth said, "Well then, if you like."

Erestor's hand reached out blindly, touching the folds of Lindreth's sleeve. His hand paused when he touched the other elf's wrist. He did not pull away, as Lindreth seemed to think he might, but instead danced his fingers up the ellon's arm until he found his elbow. "Lead on, my cousin," he said, and the pair went to the sitting room, the lame leading the blind.

There were tears in Veduiel's eyes. "He's never done that. He hates for anyone to touch his- where his hands used to be," she said so quietly to Glorfindel. He reached over and squeezed her shoulder gently. "Thank you for bringing him hear tonight," she added. "I could never imagine that so few words would make him take such a huge step."

"Everyone heals in their own time," said Glorfindel. Veduiel wiped her eyes and sniffled. "Is there anything I can help you with, would you like to take a moment? I can... do whatever you need me to do to set things up in the dining room," offered the blond.

"Liriel is managing things," Veduiel said after a sniffle, "but go and see her, Glorfindel, she's grown since last we had you here for dinner.

Glorfindel smiled and watched the healer retreat into an unlit room along the side of the small hallway within these chambers before he took himself through the kitchen. Lifting off the lids of the various kettles, he sniffed the wonderful smells from within. Lindreth and Veduiel had many a time invited Glorfindel to their home for meals, and he was always happy to see their children. He had resigned himself to the fact that this was quite likely the closest he would get to children of his own, and played the part of doting adopted uncle to perfection. Lindreth and Veduiel had, ever since the day they had come to the valley, treated Glorfindel as a part of their family, even making him guardian to their youngest daughter when she was born.

Their young daughter Liriel was at the moment hopping around the table, placing a fork, two spoons, and a knife at each place before hopping to the next spot. Fork, two spoons, a knife, and hop. Fork, two spoons, a knife, and hop. Glorfindel smiled fondly at the girl as Veduiel approached him with a smile of her own. "She is such a delightful one," he complimented as the elfling, knowing she was being spoken about, smiled brightly at them before continuing her task.

There was no disagreement from Veduiel. "You should have seen what she did when Lindir came home the other day with the harp in pieces. Liriel, tell Uncle Glori what you did for Lindir."

Liriel stopped after a hop and then puffed out her cheeks. "I gave him half my orange this morning," said the little girl.

"No, no," said her mother. "What did you do for him when he came home sad?"

"You mean when he cried?"

"Yes, what did you do for him?"

Placing the rest of the silverware in a pile at the place setting she was at rather than spread them out as she had at the rest of the spots, Liriel swung her hands at her sides. "Mmmmm, don't remember," she said finally.

As Glorfindel chuckled, Veduiel said, "Liriel brought him her stuffed smoo-dog and said that since Lindir's harp was his favorite thing, he could share her favorite thing with her if it would make him happy again."

"I even said he could have it to sleep with if he wants some nights," said Liriel as she suddenly recalled the events from days earlier. "He said he did not want it, but I still ask him before I go to sleep." Leaning toward Glorfindel and whispering in a conspiratorial voice, she said, "If he does need to sleep with smoo-dog, then I would not be able to, unless I got to sleep between Nanners and Adada, so I hope he does want to because their bed is big and fluffier than mine."

Veduiel rolled her eyes as laughter moved from the far rooms, getting closer to them. Lindir happily came through the doorway, leaning over to kiss his mother on the cheek. "Smells wonderful, Nana," he said before picking up his little sister and hoisting her up into the air, swinging her around.

The young girl squealed in delight, but Veduiel scolded them. "Not in the dining room with my good plates on the table!" She went so far as to waggle a finger at the giggling siblings before going back through the door to the kitchen. Moments later, Lindreth and Erestor emerged into the dining room, laughing as they spoke to one another.

"There was one time, I did not know that Lord Elrond had left the room," Erestor was saying, "and I was just finishing my tea. He had closed the door so quietly, that I had not taken note of it. Not only did I keep speaking as if he was still there, but when he did not answer, I followed where I had heard his steps- walking myself right into the door! Broke my nose, blood everywhere I imagine."

Lindreth chuckled as he brought Erestor to the table and helped him to find a seat. "Ah, the trials we go through, cousin," he said. Lindir rushed to help his father pull the chair away from the table, but Lindreth hooked an arm around it and managed to sloppily yank it far enough away for Erestor to sit down. "At least we both have someone wonderful to help us with our hardships."

"It is indeed a blessed thing that we are loved. And, put up with," Erestor added, getting Lindreth to laugh again.

"I love my Adada," spoke Liriel. "I love him most of all, except for Nanners and Lindir and Lineth."

"Who is Lineth? Is she here?" Erestor asked.

"Lineth is our eldest; she married only a few years after we came here to the valley. She was unable to attend supper tonight with her husband, but she promised me that she wished to meet you before she leaves," explained Veduiel, bringing forth from the kitchen an assortment of bowls of food on a platter.

"I did not know that Lineth was leaving," said Glorfindel, but then he had to bite upon his tongue and turn away, pretending to look at something on the wall. He had attended Lineth's wedding; of course she would be leaving. Leaving-

"For Lothlorien. Her husband accepted a transfer of some sort, though, I thought he was quite happy here. She will not say much about it, only that it is all for the best. Perhaps it is," said Veduiel as she moved the dishes from the tray to the table.

Climbing up onto her father's lap, Liriel said, "Nanners, can I help Adada tonight?"

"Only if you make sure he eats all his vegetables," answered Veduiel.

"I think your mother can help me," said Lindreth, lowering his young daughter from his lap. "Besides, do you not wish to meet the elf who heard your brother when he was but your age and made it possible for us to be saved? Your mother has made room for you next to his place."

Liriel nodded, but it looked as if she really had wanted to help her father. Erestor did not seem to have to see the look. "If you would not mind helping me, young lady, I would be most honored."

"You have hands," she said rather simply. "Why do you need help?"

"Aye, I do have hands," Erestor said, "But I have no eyes."

"I see your eyes," answered Liriel as she climbed upon her chair.

Erestor's eyes wandered lazily around, unable to quite land upon Liriel. "I have them, but they do not work. I would appreciate it if you would help me to find things, and to not stick my fork into a candle or eat my napkin on accident."

Scooting over on her chair so that she was closer to Erestor, she exclaimed, "I would love to help you!"

"Thank you, m'lady," Erestor said.

"Ah ah, before we eat," Veduiel reminded Liriel as the young one reached for one of the little meat pies, "we need to say our prayers." Liriel's hands snapped back into her lap. "Lindir, would you mind giving the bleesing over the meal?"

Lindir cleared his throat, bowing his head as he clasped his hands together. All of the rest followed suit, with the exceptions of Lindreth, whose arms were lowered towards his lap. "Blessed Eru, we thank you for this day and for this meal we are sharing. We thank you for family and for friends, and for your graciousness. Lord, hear our prayers, and keep safe our loved ones, our friends and co-workers, our pets and especially please bless Haldir and Rumil, and heal them of their anger. In your name, we ask this."

"That was very well done," commended Lindreth. Lindir beamed, and then reached over and passed Liriel a meat pie that was too far out of her reach. Instead of placing it on her own plate, she put it onto the one beside her.

"Now, you have to eat this all up before you can have dessert. And, you need to eat all of your vegetables, too, Uncle Restor," Liriel said.

- - -

"I do apologize for that," Glorfindel said as they were walking down the hallway to Erestor's rooms. "I stop by at least once a week and both Lindir and Liriel have known a little of what has gone on with you in my life now. Liriel asked me some time ago what she should call you, and I said that if she asked you, then you would likely let her call you uncle as well. I did not expect her to simply do it."

"There is nothing wrong with what she did. In fact," Erestor smiled, "I rather liked feeling part of a family again."

"Aren't we a family? Nearly? Almost?" Glorfindel didn't mean to sound to hopeful, but his voice did not hide it. He was tugged toward Erestor, the two of them melting into each other's arms as passionate kisses answered the questions.

Completely forgotten, the walking stick Erestor had been holding clattered to the ground. It was another minute before it was picked up again, used to tap Erestor on the shoulder.

The pair broke free of each other, Glorfindel finding Celebrian standing behind them. "I believe you dropped something," she said, holding the walking stick out to them.

Erestor took hold of it, but as he frowned, he handed it to Glorfindel. "Do you mind holding that?" he asked as he stayed close, but looped one arm through Glorfindel's and rested his other hand in the crook of Glorfindel's arm.

"Well, good night," smiled Celebrian, leaving Glorfindel with a blissful look upon his face and Erestor to yawn and motion his farewells to her. The lovers managed to make it into Erestor's room and close the door before laughing at their predicament. As Glorfindel locked the door, Erestor what Glorfindel had begun to call 'kitty kissy noises' in an attempt to lure Charisma and Pounce from their hiding spots.

"Pou-ounce." Erestor patted his thigh. "Come out, girl, where are you? Pounceable! Pouncer!"

Pausing in his task of turning down the bed, Glorfindel lifted up the corner of the blanket and peered under the bed. He did see a lot of cat hair, but no actual cats. "Charisma? Where are you, naughty kitties? Here kitty kitty," he called out, searching for the cats as he continued to call them forth with Erestor.

"Come on, babies, sleepytime." Erestor's voice wavered a little. "Glorfindel, they are never out this late. Pounce! Charisma!" Erestor went to the window, stumbling on his way. "Charisma! Pounce!"

"Erestor, I don't think they're here," Glorfindel said as he completed his very thourough search of the rooms. He joined Erestor at the window. "Where else do they go besides the kitchen?"

"Just to the garden, that is all." Erestor turned around and clutched Glorfinde by the shoulders. "Glorfindel, where are they? They should be here," he panicked. "They are always here, always, always here."

"Shh, hush, darling, I will find them. You stay here," insisted Glorfindel as he took Erestor to the couch. "I know that is difficult for you to simply stay here, but trust me. I shall find them. Perhaps they are still in the kitchen- maybe they were bribed with extra treats from the cook." Glorfindel knew this was not likely the case, but it calmed Erestor a little, enough for him to sit the dark elf on the couch and leave the room. Once the door was closed behind him, Glorfindel ran down the hall. The kitchen was not his destination.

Chapter 17

"You son of a-"

"M'lord?" Orophin ran to the doorway, having been in another room when he heard the cry of surprise from his brother and the angry words of his commanding officer. In the doorway, Glorfindel had a hold of Haldir by the front of his shirt, and had elevated him off the ground. "General Glorfindel, please do not harm my brother," begged the soldier, trying to come between the two.

With an angry snort, Glorfindel set Haldir back on his feet, shaken but unharmed. "Where are they?" he sneered. "What did you do with them?"

"What? What are you talking about?" Haldir took a few steps back before speaking. "I do not know what it is you are referring to."

"You know damned well what it is that I am referring to. Erestor's cats. Where are they, and what did you do to them?"

"Erestor's cats? You think I would have something to do with his cats?"

"You've been nothing but trouble here, Haldir. Who else am I to suspect?" accused Glorfindel.

Looking completely unamused now, Haldir plopped down in an old chair that had rips and tears on the arms and back. "I had no idea he had any cats, and even if I had, I would have no reason to harm them. Maybe they just ran away because they were tired of being stepped on by a blind old elf."

Glorfindel stayed himself from lunging at the throat of the ellon who sat smugly across the room. "Mark my words, Haldir. If I find out it was you..." His fist was raised and clenched tightly, but then Glorfindel waved his hand at the elf. "Pah, you're not worth my time. You had just better be telling the truth."

"You can go now," said Haldir, and he made a dismissive gesture. Glorfindel clenched his fists at his sides and turned, leaving the quarters with angry steps. Orophin followed him out, shutting the door.

"Lord Glorfindel, my apologies for my brother," he said, and Glorfindel shook his head. "Please, hear me out. He has been having a tough time of things." Glancing to the door, he motioned for Glorfindel to follow him some ways from it. "M'lord, he has been harboring a secret, and I must ask you keep it as such."

"Go on, Orophin. I will not betray your trust," Glorfindel assured him.

"Near a year ago, when we were on a patrol, he was badly injured. Took a nasty blow to the head."

"I recall that," said Glorfindel.

"Well, he has been having problems since then. His hearing on the right side goes in and out, and he loses his balance from time to time. Lord Elrond keeps telling him that it is a matter of time, he needs to allow himself to heal. He suggested strongly for him to take a leave, but my brother is stubborn." Orophin sighed. "He looks at Erestor, and he thinks, that could be him. He fears he may go deaf or something, and he says he does not know what he would do if he could not be a soldier. 'Tis all he knows how to do. These last few weeks have been exceptionally bad- the morning of the incident outside, he came home to find his own pet cat mewling in pain. When Lord Elrond came to see her, he said there was nothing he could do. She had stopped taking food and water- Haldir was trying everything to save her. Rumil finally convinced him to ease her suffering, and after she died in Haldir's arms he buried her. He was just a wreck, and he was so angry. He saw you and Erestor, who had been the reason he had been on the borders again and away from Scribbles- ahm, that was the cat's name- for so long, he was blaming his not being there for the reason she died, the two of you look so happy together- Haldir just... I think this time off, this leave and his time away from his duties, I think this is a good thing for him."

Cursing himself mentally for not seeing a problem sooner, for not forcing Haldir to take leave at an earlier time and perhaps avoid what had happened, Glorfindel nodded in the direction of Haldir's quarters. "You should probably go back. I apologize for interrupting."

Orophin nodded. "I know Haldir did nothing to Erestor's cats and I do hope you find them. I do not think he ever meant to do anything to Erestor, either. Sometimes... you just take your anger out on the nearest elf. Sometimes, you say things you really do not mean to say, speaking before you think. That is what happened with Haldir."

Thinking back to a very recent incident where he had done something similar, putting his foot in his mouth the day he had met Erestor, Glorfindel nodded in agreement. "I wish things could have been different."

"So do I. Good night, General. And congratulations on your promotion."

"Thank you, but please, you've transferred now- 'tis just Glorfindel now. Good evening, Orophin." He began to walk away, but then turned and said, "And Orophin- please give my regards to your wife."

"Ah, Lineth mentioned something about dinner- are you and Erestor free tomorrow evening? If you, I wish to extend you an invitation to supper," added Orophin.

"I believe that we are," Glorfindel said. "And thank you, on behalf of Erestor and myself, we accept. And now, if you will excuse me, I need to find a pair of wayward cats."

- - -

"I thought I told you to stay in your room."

"I would have, except that I was called upon to find another wandering pair." Erestor was sitting in the kitchen with Elrohir on his lap. In Elrohir's lap was a small, butterscotch colored kitten. "By the way, the cats have been found."

"Isn't that a little small to be Charisma?" asked Glorfindel, pointing to the puffball of fur, its eyes closed and ears folded back against its head.

"Too small, and wrong gender," Celebrian announced. She was on the floor, with Elladan in her lap, another ball of fluff resting in his cupped hands. Nearby, Elrond smiled, hunched over something that was hidden in the corner, beside one of the large baking ovens. "Congratulations, Glorfindel, I do believe you're a grandparent."

Charisma stalked out from around Elrond, marched himself up to Glorfindel, and preened. "Rascal, and here you had me all worried." Glorfindel bent down and scratched the proud little papa behind his ears.

"Six kittens total," said Elrond, and he had one himself in his hand, petting its tiny head as it dozed off. "Three orange, two calico, and one... that's just something else entirely." Holding out his hand, it looked to Glorfindel as if Eru had spilled his paint box over this kitten. White fur had splotches of color here and again, some orange and some multicolored, and one foot was all black.

"He has finesse," joked Glorfindel, carefully taking the kitten from Elrond.

"Yes. She does," agreed Elrond.

"Oh, my apologies, my lady," replied Glorfindel, but the kitten remained fast asleep, snuggling against the warmth of his hand. Legolas stood in the kitchen as well, but far from the kittens. "Care to hold her for a moment?" Glorfindel asked.

Legolas shook his head with a smile. "Oh, no. I get far too attached to them. All I would need do is pick one up, and I would end up bringing it home with me."

"Can we bring one home, Ada?" asked Elladan. Elrohir, who had been nuzzling his kitten to his nose, stopped to listen to their father's answer.

"That is going to be Erestor's decision, ion." Elrond took the kitten back from Glorfindel and placed her back with her mother. "For now, it is bedtime- and my children, you must not wander off as you did! How were we to know where you had gone to? You might have been hurt, and we would not have known." Elrond moved the kittens his sons had been holding back to the hidden nest and then as Celebrian picked up Elrohir, he lifted Elladan up into his arms. "Say good night, boys."

After the twins had been taken to their rooms, Glorfindel and Erestor, along with Legolas, remained in the kitchen. The pair sat on the floor by the oven trying to decide whether to move the mother and her newborns back to Erestor's rooms or not while Legolas peered at the kittens from a safe distance.

"Legolas, come sit with us," said Glorfindel after he and Erestor had decided to spend the night in the kitchen.

Charisma was happily rubbing against anyone who would allow it, or anything for that matter as well. He was winding his way around the prince's legs as Legolas asked, "Are you going to keep them all?"

"Much as I would like to," replied Erestor, "this is not the first litter these two have had, and it will not likely be the last. I only wish they had gone into my closet as they have before," he said, playfully scolding his pets. "I think we should keep one." He nudged Glorfindel. "You should have a cat."

"Oh, I should, should I?" Glorfindel's eyes fell immediately upon the mismatched kitten that was snuggled under her mother's chin. "I want the odd duck, then. I think, unless Elrond or Celebrian object, we should offer each of the twins one of them."

"How is that, Legolas? We have half of them adopted already," Erestor said.

"Still not enough," laughed Legolas. "Tell me when you find homes for the other three. I must take my leave now and I bid you a good night."

Leaving only Glorfindel and Erestor in the kitchen, the two of them curled up together, with Erestor sitting between Glorfindel's legs and leaning back against his chest, and Glorfindel keeping his arms wrapped around his lover's waist. In the early hours they managed short bits of reverie now and again until the sunlight glazed the kitchen and kept them from drifting off. Nuzzling Erestor's neck, Glorfindel looked up and caught a glimpse of the new day, the rising sun peering over the mountains of the valley. "The sunrise is glorious this morning." His comment was one made unconsciously, and he let his head fall back against the wall with a groan as he realized what he had said.

But Erestor did not seem sad or angry. Instead, he snuggled closer and said, "Tell me about it. I've seen sunrises before; describe this one to me."

Glorfindel raised his head and looked out the window. "Anor is rising up over the mountains, casting a fiery glow upon them. Her rays are reaching across the sky, hitting the lingering evening clouds and giving them a touch of red. There is a haze of orange over the mountains, outlining them, and the last of the flocks of geese are flying southward past the sun."

"I can see it," said Erestor, a smile on his face. "I think it to be the most beautiful sunrise ever I have seen. Thank you, my love."

Glorfindel had no words, and he simply held Erestor close as they both, in their own way, watched the sun rise.

Chapter 18

"I have had a few thoughts this morning," said Glorfindel, one arm around Erestor and the other looped through the handle of a basket. Lady Celebrian had brought it to them while still in her nightrobes, lined with a blanket the twins no longer used, and arguing that no matter how cozy and warm the kitchen floor was, a comfy basket was much, much better.

"What about?" questioned Erestor with a yawn. He leaned against Glorfindel, his eyelids drooping.

Glorfindel kissed the top of Erestor's head and continued to lead them down the hall. Behind them, Charisma followed. "I thought I might go over them in your room and have you advise me a little before breakfast."

"Mmm, not sure about that. I get paid for my advice now," Erestor teased.

"So now I have to put you on my payroll?" Glorfindel laughed as they reached Erestor's room. He opened the door and said, "I just thought, since we've established now that I'm courting you-"

"You're courting me?"

"-that I... yes. I am." Glorfindel set the basket down and closed the door after Charisma entered the room. "Is that alright?"

Erestor slid very close to Glorfindel, nearly knocking him off-balance. "You've had your way with me seven or eight times now, dear. I think we've moved beyond courtship."

"But, it sounds so much sweeter," argued Glorfindel as he nipped at Erestor's ear, "to tell others that we are courting each other rather than casually fucking each other, especially since we are not betrothed or married."

Erestor jerked back. "Married?"

"A- aye," stuttered Glorfindel. "Yes. Well, perhaps. I mean." Glorfindel drew Erestor back towards him again. "Would you want to?"

Following a pause, Erestor let out a long-held breath. "I had such a terrible experience with the first, but... you are serious," he stated.

"Yes. Very. It just..." Glorfindel brushed his hand across Erestor's cheek and smiled. "We just seem so right. I cannot imagine waking without you beside me, or... holding anyone else like this, or kissing anyone else, or... I just..." Keeping a tight grip on Erestor's hands, he sank to one knee. "Erestor-"

"Yes."

"Yes?"

"Yes."

"Yes!"

- - -

"May I have your attention? Everyone, may I have your attention please?" Heads turned from every which way in the hall, everyone focusing on the main table. Erestor was standing up, with one hand holding the back of his chair for balance. "Thank you. Your General would like to make an announcement. General Glorfindel?"

Glorfindel stood up to stand beside Erestor, putting one arm around his beloved's waist while he raised his goblet with the opposite hand. "Friends, I wish to have you join me in recognizing an elf who has served our realm long and hard, one who has put your safety before his own on too many occasions to mention. Not since before the war has anyone moved through the ranks so quickly. For the last eight years, he has championed our annual archery competition. For his service to Rivendell, I thank him on behalf of the realm." Glorfindel paused for a moment, and then gave a little squeeze with the hand around Erestor's waist. "Personally, I thank him for... introducing me to my future spouse, Erestor. Please, if you would be so kind and raise your glasses to Lieutenant Haldir. Three cheers!"

There was a resounding 'Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah!' throughout the hall as those assembled for the morning meal stood and hailed the soldier, who sat at a nearly empty table by himself. That he was shocked was an understatement.

"I wish you the best of luck in Lothlorien, Lieutenant," shouted Glorfindel, for nothing had been formally announced about Haldir to the realm. As the murmur buzzed through the room, Glorfindel added, "Haldir, with his brothers Rumil and Orophin, have agreed to transfer to Lothlorien, where they are in need of expect sharpshooters. I am sure they will be received kindly there. We shall miss them here, and hope they will remember us and return to visit from time to time." Haldir, finally grasping what Glorfindel had done, gave a nod in the direction of the General. "Again, thank you, and I return you to your meals."

As Glorfindel aided Erestor in sitting again before taking his seat himself, Elrond gave the blond warrior a sly look. "Your soon to be spouse, did I hear, General?"

A grin spread across Glorfindel's face like wildfire. "Aye, m'lord."

"Since when?" questioned Legolas as he buttered his sweet roll.

"Since an hour ago," answered Erestor.

Celebrian made a partial squeak. "That's so wonderful! When are you going to tie the knot? You are going to do it here, are you not? I think a wedding in the winter would suit you both- we could do it this coming month! I know exactly who to have make the wedding cake- and the flowers! I can do the flowers!" Becoming serious for a moment, she reached across the table, holding Glorfindel's hand in one of hers and Erestor's in the other. "Would you like me to do the flowers for you?"

Erestor burst out laughing and Glorfindel kissed Erestor on the cheek, then squeezed Celebrian's hand. "It would be fabulous if you would do the flowers, my lady. In fact, we meant to ask if you would mind, if you have the time that is- neither of us would be all that good at planning an event such as-"

"Oh!" Celebrian squeed again. "Oh, oh, oh, you want me to plan your wedding!"

"If you wouldn't mind," said Erestor.

"Mind? Oh, Elrond!" Celebrian actually managed a full squeak as she let go of the hands of the recently engaged couple and clung to her husband's shoulder. This caused his forkful of eggs, which had been enroute to his mouth, to take a downward turn and crash back onto his plate. "They want me to plan their wedding!"

Elrond affectionately patted Celebrian on the head as Glorfindel said, "I know it would traditionally be asked of you to perform the binding ceremony, my lord, but we hoped we might appeal to you to have you speak the blessings instead."

"It would be an honor," answered Elrond.

Glorfindel's eyes fell upon Legolas, yet it was Erestor who spoke. "Your highness, I have a request to make of you. You and your father have been so very gracious as to allow me leave of your service so that I may stay here and aide Lord Elrond and his people. I wish another favor of you. Would you be willing to officiate the binding ceremony between myself and Glorfindel?"

"It would most certainly be an honor to, my friend." Legolas smiled then, almost wistfully. "It seems Celebrian has near planned everything already, so I doubt I even need delay my plans for leaving before the snows. My congratulations to you both."

"Capt- er, General?" Everyone at the table looked up (except Erestor, whose ears simply twitched so slightly). "My apologies for disrupting, but might I have a word with you?"

"Certainly, Haldir. If you will excuse me," said Glorfindel as he stood up. He and Haldir walked from the table to a secluded area near the door to the kitchens. "Yes, lieutenant? I hope I have not upset you with what was done earlier."

"What? No, I..." Haldir uncomfortably shifted to one side. "That was fine, thank you for... helping me save face," he said. "No, I... I wanted to apologize for the way I had been treating Erestor."

"Then you should apologize to him," Glorfindel said abruptly. When Haldir bowed his head, Glorfindel shook his. "Sorry. And I'm sorry- I am sorry that I accused you last night without cause. I should know better, it is just- being in love certainly changes the way one acts."

"Aye," agreed Haldir knowingly. "I really do not wish to leave grudges here in Rivendell when I go to Lothlorien. I want a... clean slate without everything hanging over me."

"So, you are sorry only because it upsets you, not because your words upset him."

"No, no, that is not- General, I have no idea what to say to him. I have no idea if I have gone beyond the point of being able to be forgiven for what I did." Haldir traced his finger idly along a crack on the wall as he asked, "If I go to him and say 'Erestor, I am sorry for the grief I caused you and for everything I did, will you forgive me?', is he liable to just beat me with his cane?"

"If you keep calling it a cane," spoke a voice that startled both Haldir and Glorfindel, "then, yes, I may just knock you about the head with it." Erestor sighed as he leaned on his walking stick. "Of course, I would need to know where your head is exactly- how tall are you?"

Glorfindel rolled his eyes in the direction of a bewildered Haldir as he slid Erestor against himself and took away the walking stick. "No head knocking," he muttered, absently kissing the top of Erestor's head.

"Lieutenant, I was just speaking with your elder brother," said Erestor in a more than civil manner as if they had never exchanged a single derogatory remark. "We were to dine with him and his wife, but since they are currently packing, it made more sense to have them over to dine with us instead. I thought, if you were free, you might care to join us this evening. No answer is necessary now- I must find Rumil and invite him as well. And now, if you please..." Erestor stealthily snuck a hand around Glorfindel's waist and retrieved his walking stick. "An hour before the sun sets, if you do decide to join us. Good day, Haldir. Glorfindel, I will meet you back at our table." As soon as he had appeared, he was gone again.

Both soldiers stared after the retreating elf. "What happened to him?" Haldir finally asked.

"He had kittens. He has been... like this ever since." Glorfindel ignored the odd look Haldir was giving him. "Well, I hope I shall, ahm, see you this evening at supper."

"It, well, uhm..." Haldir shrugged, and then Glorfindel did, and then Haldir shrugged again, nodded, and walked away.

- - -

"Oh, this is not going to work," mumbled Glorfindel when he and Erestor returned to Erestor's rooms. Pounce looked up, knowing she was the cause of his grief. "Your cat is sprawled along the couch, nursing her kittens. She has also apparently dragged all of the bedding from your bed over to the couch to nest in."

"I told you it was her couch," smirked Erestor. "I think Charisma does the rearranging, but watch out- she's the one who will bite if you try to move things back."

"Damn. This place is such a mess," groaned Glorfindel, which was not true, for it was merely disheveled from what the cats had done. "How are we to entertain here tonight?"

"Here? Oh, no, I told everyone we would be having dinner in your quarters," remarked Erestor casually as he walked in the general direction of the couch.

"What!?" Glorfindel took hold of Erestor's elbow and yanked him back. "Are you mad?"

"Apparently so. Having kittens tends to do that to an elf." He grinned despite the fact he was trying to bite his lip and keep from it.

Letting go, Glorfindel buried his face in one hand. When he looked up, Erestor was still directly in front of him, and still grinning. "Must you do that?"

"Must you say things about me behind my back? I can hear it all, even if I am across the room. Losing my mind because I 'had kittens', am I?" The grin was still on his face.

"You are never letting me live anything down, are you?"

"Not likely." Wider grin. "I have to take what I can get."

"Oh, really?" Glorfindel set his hand upon Erestor's that rested on his walking stick. "And do you... take everything you are given?"

"Oooo, very nice attempt at changing the topic. We are still using your place for our gathering." Erestor slid his hand out from between the handle and Glorfindel's hand so that Glorfindel was left leaning on the walking stick as he made his way across the room. "Besides, there is no way we can fit Orophin, his wife, his brothers, Lindir, his family, and you and I in this-"

"Whoa, whoa, hold on." Glorfindel glanced down at the walking stick, which he tossed out of the way onto the bed. "Erestor, you said nothing of Lindir and his parents."

"Lindir, his parents, and his sister," corrected Erestor. "They are related to Orophin by marriage, they ARE considered family."

"Ai, Elbereth! Are you mad? Wait, don't answer-" Glorfindel sighed as Erestor disappeared into the washroom, repeating his mantra regarding his having kittens. "Look, I am sorry about saying that YOU were the one who had the kittens. I did not even realize what it was I was saying at the time. Boy, am I ever sorry," he added quietly to himself.

"Here we are. I made a list." Erestor emerged from the washroom, triumphantly holding a sheet of parchment.

Glorfindel blinked. "You made a list?"

Erestor ignored his question. "This is what you must tell the cook to prepare, and I have seating arrangements on the opposite side and also how many places you need and things like that." Handing Glorfindel the sheet, he moved in the direction of the couch to check on his cats.

"How did you...?" Glorfindel looked down at the paper. The writing was broken and smudged, and it veered off the page in some places. On the back, there was a very crude seating chart, with names abbreviated with single characters in some cases. "This is amazing."

"Why, because I am blind? Blind, not stupid, Glorfindel. I still remember how to write."

"That isn't what I meant." Glorfindel scanned the seating. "Are you sure about this?"

"Yes."

Glorfindel sighed and walked to the door. "I will be... well, I have to go clean my room," he grumbled.

"You have to do what?"

"Clean my room," repeated Glorfindel with some annoyance.

"Where?"

Glorfindel stomped his foot, and turned around, about to tell off Erestor for this silly game, but when he saw the look he was being given, the big sorrowfully wide-eyed look, he stopped. And then it dawned on him. "I'm going to go clean... our room?"

Erestor blew him a kiss and added with a wink, "Make sure you put clean sheets on our bed, too. I want to be able to give the cats some privacy here tonight."

- - -

"General?"

Glorfindel looked at the door expectantly, and frowned to see one of the kitchen maids there. "Ah, we are... still waiting for someone. Two someones," he added. Music flowed behind him, for Lindir had brought the large harp down the hall to play while they awaited dinner, which was already going to be served late.

"Would you like for me to bring more wine?" she asked.

"More wine... ah..." Glorfindel looked to the rest of the occupants of his freshly cleaned and aired quarters. Entertaining guests was not one of his strong suits, and entertaining an entire room full of them was proving more difficult than he had imagined. The fact that Erestor had not arrived and that Haldir had not sent word one way or the other as to whether he was coming had not helped matters. "That would be... great. Ah, have you-" Glorfindel waited until the maid came back to the door, which was propped open to watch for signs of either absent elf. "Have you happened to see Erestor or Haldir in the hallway as you came?"

"No, I did not," replied the kitchen maid.

"If you do happen to see them, would you mind pointing them in the general direction of us?" queried Glorfindel.

"Ah... they seemed to be fairly busy when I took their wine to them," she said. "I can ask them if they have a free moment to-"

"Just a moment." Glorfindel heard the music stop, as everyone seemed to realize what had been said. "Where are they?"

- - -

"...so when I took down the fourth one, I started to wonder, where the hell is my horse?" The laughter that was being shared by Erestor and Haldir was interrupted as the door to Erestor's room was opened. "Well, 'tis about time you came," stated Erestor matter-of-factly.

"About time I came?" Glorfindel raised a hand with finger pointed, about to give his beloved a piece of his mind. His mouth remained gaping open as his hand fell back to his side. "What is that? Where did that come from?"

Leaning back into the stack of pillows that were propping him up, Erestor sipped his wine before answering. "My sword, and it came from Lindon--where all good swords come from." Across Erestor's lap was a long, sharply pointed blade, with a tang that was nearly half the length of the blade itself. The monstrous thing could only have been held with two hands, and Liriel, who had come with Glorfindel and her mother to lead Erestor and Haldir back to have dinner, was in awe of it.

"Can I hold it?" asked Liriel as she slid around her mother. Veduiel tried to stop her daughter, but the youngling knew just how to evade her parents. "Wow, it's so shiny!"

"Maybe if Haldir helps you, you can hold it," suggested Erestor. Haldir, who had been on the couch with three of the kittens snuggled in his lap, moved the fluffs of fur back to their mother before scratching a purring Pounce behind the ears and moving to the floor.

Glorfindel wandered to the couch and attempted to sit where Haldir had vacated, but when Pounce hissed at him, he perched on the arm of the sofa. "So, were the two of you planning to come to dinner?"

"It was the plan, however, you neglected to tell me where your rooms are," said Erestor.

"Wait, how is it that they were our rooms earlier, but now-" Glorfindel gave a defeated wave of his hand and Veduiel an apologetic look when he saw her kneading her hands as her young daughter lifted the sword in the air. "Where have you been keeping that thing and why have I not seen it before?"

"Under the bed and you never asked."

"Of course, under the bed." Glorfindel waited until Liriel had had her fill of excitement before taking the sword from Haldir's grasp. "You fought with this?"

Erestor nodded. "Right up until the last battle. I hate to ruin your fun, but would you mind putting it back? I do believe we are late for an engagement, are we not?"

Again Glorfindel tried to issue a response, but simply ended up taking the sword back to its hiding spot. When he returned, he found Liriel petting the kittens and Pounce purring once again. "Why does that cat hate me?" Glorfindel asked in exasperation as Liriel and her mother left the room, with the young girl pleading for a kitten.

"Well, she used to snuggle up to me in the evenings, and now, you steal her spots. I think she is jealous," reasoned Erestor.

Leaning down, Glorfindel said to the cat, "He has two sides, you know. I will share him with you."

"Mrrwll!"

"Fine, then, be that way!" Glorfindel snorted as he heard Erestor and Haldir laugh behind him. Pounce reached out and batted the blond with her paw in a 'you can get out of my face now' manner, making Haldir laugh harder.

Glorfindel stood back up. "Crazy cat. How can anyone not like me?"

"How, indeed," chuckled Erestor.

Glorfindel regarded his lover for a moment, and then held out his arm. "Shall we?" he asked, and his arm was sought out and clung to. "Haldir? Care for an arm?" he asked, offering his other side.

"What the hell." Haldir picked up a box that was tied with a ribbon and tucked it under one arm, looping his other through Glorfindel's. And so the three walked into Glorfindel's quarters to join those already there, laughing merrily to the disbelief of everyone in the room.

"That was very nice of Haldir to give Lindir that little harp," commented Erestor as he walked to where the door would be to the washroom. Finding a solid wall, he began to feel around for a handle. "What the-?"

Hands gently settled upon his shoulders and he was turned in the other direction and taken to the washroom of Glorfindel's room. "Here you are. Tell me what you need, else you will never find it."

"Chamber pot, and yes, that would be quite upsetting if I do not find it," decided Erestor. Once he had relieved himself, he said, "I have enjoyed adventuring through your rooms this evening. I am not accustomed to walls between them."

"Yes, I guessed as much. Sorry that I forgot to pick you up for dinner. I have no idea how it is that I thought you were going to find your way over here yourself." Glorfindel held out a dry towel for Erestor after he had washed his hands.

Backing out of the room as he continued to speak to Glorfindel, Erestor said, "Worry not- I shall allow you to make it up to me---eee!" Tumbling back, Erestor had been tripped by a footstool that sent him flailing to the ground. Unable to catch him in time, Glorfindel worriedly checked him over once he had dropped down to the floor beside him. "Just a bruise or two, I am fine," he admonished, but winced when Glorfindel touched his elbow.

"I should have been more careful with where things were placed," apologized Glorfindel as he picked up Erestor and carried him to the bed. "Oh, shit."

"Oh, shit, what, shit?"

"Well, I do hope you like to snuggle against me as much as you do," said Glorfindel as he set Erestor on the bed. "I forgot how small my bed is."

"This is small," remarked Erestor as he felt over to each side, not having to move as he did so. "You just might have to sleep on the couch," he said with a grin.

"Not a chance," growled Glorfindel, and he removed his shirt quickly. Tossing it on the floor, he rushed back to the washroom to clean his teeth and wash his hands and face, and then returned to find Erestor all tucked in. "Ready or not, here I come."

"Might as well wait to come until you have made it inside, at least."

Nudging Erestor to one side of the bed, Glorfindel slid under the blankets and drew his naked lover against his warm body. "Before I forget," whispered Glorfindel as his hands began to explore Erestor's exposed skin, "I thought it was very nice that you were able to convince Elrond to allow Haldir and his brothers a little more time here before they leave for Lothlorien."

"It wasn't me," replied Erestor, meshing his body with Glorfindel's. "Legolas convinced Elrond it was safer for the party going to Lothlorien to travel with his accompaniment as they head for Greenwood and Celebrian claimed to need at least a month to plan our wedding."

"Our wedding. Incredible." Glorfindel stilled his hands. "Six months ago, I did not even know who you were. Now, here we are."

"Six months ago I knew you as barely more than a name." Cuddling close, Erestor kissed Glorfindel and then nuzzled against his shoulder. "Love you, Giggles," he said, in reference to the pet name he had given the blond due to his ticklishness.

"Love you, my dreamtalker," Glorfindel answered. Much as he missed asking questions and getting answers from his dark lover as he slept, he much rather preferred being given the answers while he was awake.

"Good. Sex now?"

Glorfindel laughed. "But of course, oh, impatient one."

Chapter 19

Time passed in the blink of an eye. When Lady Celebrian found out the date that Glorfindel and Erestor had first met one another, she was convinced, despite Glorfindel's hesitation, that the wedding had to be postponed until the summer. It was all too easy to convince Legolas to stay his journey back to Greenwood, and in the coming months he spent much of his time either with the Lord and Lady of Imladris, or with their advisors.

- - -

"I already know that the rainbow kitten is Finesse," said Legolas. He was surrounded by a half-dozen mewing kittens, all of them crawling up and over his lap to tumble to the other side or rubbing their heads against him as they purred. "She's the one you are keeping, correct?"

Glorfindel nodded. He and Erestor were both on the floor with the prince, who was now brave enough to play with the kittens since he had been assured that all of them had homes. Pounce was resting on Erestor's lap, looking quite exhausted, while Charisma cleaned himself, one leg straight up in the air and in a position that only a cat could display with such dignity. An orange kitten, with a spot on its nose, was held up. "To whom does this one belong?"

"That was the one Haldir picked out. He has a collar for him and everything- what did he name him? He had a few he was pondering." Glorfindel looked over to Erestor, nudging him when he did not respond. "Erestor, do you recall what Haldir named his cat?"

"What? Oh, ah, that would be Chaos. He named him Scout first, but since the little terror keeps clawing up the sofa, the earlier name was subject to recall."

The other male kitten, another orange tabby, was picked up. This one had no distinguishing marks. "Where is this one going?"

"He will be living in Lindreth's house. With Lindir leaving to further his musical education in Lothlorien for a while, Veduiel thought it might be nice if Liriel had a friend in the house while he is away." Glorfindel smiled. "She already named him- Harper."

As Legolas set Harper down, he was suddenly subject to an attack, with the pair of calico kittens racing up his leg after they had spied a loose lacing on his jerkin. Each of them batted at it, faltering and falling over each time. "I assume these are the two the twins are getting. It is all they speak of these days."

"Roch, which Elrond insisted to them was a terrible name for a cat, which I believe only made them more convinced that it was a good name if their father did not like it, and Adu." Glorfindel sighed. "Do not ask me to tell them apart, for it is as easy as figuring out Elladan from Elrohir."

Erestor held out his hands. "Here, give me one of them, I can tell you which is which." Legolas picked up the nearer calico and placed her into Erestor's hands. He stroked his hand once down her back and then rubbed a finger beneath her chin. Receiving a 'mewp' and little rock back and forth on her front paws, he smiled. "This is Adu."

Legolas picked up Roch and placed her back into the scampering circle of kittens. The final sibling was another orange one, but she was almost a tawny golden color. "And who is going to have this special little kitten?" he asked, picking up the litter's runt and scratching behind her ears. She purred and rubbed her cheek to his hand with a little kitty smile. When he did not receive and answer, he looked up to see two elves grinning at him. For a moment, he looked back in bewilderment, until the realization hit him. "Oh, shit," he said, looking down into the wide green eyes that were staring up at him.

- - -

For some, there was nothing out of the ordinary to the time that passed. The very young did not notice it, as they often do not. Elladan, Elrohir, and Liriel were often found playing the drifts of snow with their mothers nearby, or paying a visit to Erestor's rooms to see their soon-to-be-theirs kittens. For the very old, time passed as it always had; unnoticed except for the change of the seasons. Comfortable patterns of work, play, and home life were followed. For the merely young who thought themselves old enough to be considered old and wise but young enough to be young and fair, the winter was the wait before the spring, when the valley blossomed, and new life sprang up across the valley.

Lindir's fingers paused upon his harp. He bit his lip as the elf sat down against a tree just a few feet from the one he had been leaning upon. Quietly, he began to stand up.

"Sorry, if I am disturbing you, I will go," offered the other elf.

"No, I thought I would disturb you if I kept playing. I shall leave," Lindir said.

"Please stay." The elf was looking up from the book he had opened. "I only came and sat here because I heard your music coming through the trees. It's a beautiful song."

"Well... it's a beautiful harp. Much too expensive to have replaced the other one," he added, and chewed on his lip. "I should go."

"No, no. I will leave, I am sorry." Haldir closed his book and started to stand, but Lindir gave an exasperated sigh and shook his head.

Sitting back down, Lindir motioned that Haldir should stay. "If I truly am not bothering you-"

"Not in the slightest." Haldir opened his book again, and then added, "I know that monetarily, it replaces what I broke, but emotionally, that is a scar I can never fix."

"Oh... I'm fine." Lindir strummed a few chords. "Really, no one seemed to have taken notice of me before then. If anything, it was an announcement of 'look, here is a bard, available for parties, begetting days and weddings!'." Lindir could not help but laugh at his own joke, which Haldir merely smiled about. "Did you hear, they are allowing me to play in the evenings in the Hall of Fire."

"I did indeed hear of that," said Haldir, saying nothing of the fact that he was spending many of his nights in the hall simply to hear Lindir play. "Someone told me also that you are to play at the wedding feast of Glorfindel and Erestor."

"They asked me themselves," Lindir said proudly. His hands idly played over the strings as he asked, "What are you reading?"

"Another book on Lothlorien. I had thought I had read them all, but this is one of Lady Celebrian's personal volumes. She thought I might like to see it, considering I have gone through all of the rest of the books on the subject already." He held up the book to show Lindir. "It has pictures in it."

"An illustrated book?" Lindir practically scampered over, and to Haldir's delight, the minstrel was seated right beside him in a matter of seconds, looking closely at the images. "Is that really how big their trees are?"

"Apparently so. They would need to be to live in them." Haldir turned the page, and then stealthfully raised his arm up and around Lindir's shoulder before pointing to something on the current illustration. "They call this thing a talan. A tree house. Marvelous, is it not?"

Lindir had taken note at their sudden close proximatey, but did not make to move away. Instead, he leaned a little closer and asked, "What do they call these trees?"

"Mellyrn, or just Mallorn if you only have one."

"It will be splendid to see them up close," Lindir said. "I cannot wait until this summer."

With a look of surprise, Haldir asked, "You will be coming to Lothlorien with us?"

"Aye. It is the wish of Lady Celebrian that I learn many of the old songs of the Noldor, which she has told me that her mother the Lady Galadriel knows well. It makes sense for me to go with the first party traveling there, which happens to be yours. I hope that is alright with you," Lindir said nonchalantly.

"Absolutely." Haldir smiled to himself. "Perfectly. It will be a pleasure to have you, Lindir. The travel party will delight in your music, that I am sure."

"Yes," replied Lindir, catching the hint of Haldir's smile. "I am sure of that as well."

- - -

As the spring fled from the valley, there was a swell of emotions from those who were there. The excitement and worry of those leaving for Lothlorien increased. The same was true for the pair of newfound lovers as they spent this day preparing for the ceremony that was to take place. The previous night was spent alone in thought, each of them in their own rooms pondering the events of the next day.

Alone was a relative word, for Erestor had seven others sprawled out atop the bed he found he could no longer sleep well in alone, and Glorfindel had one house guest of his own.

"What do you think, Finesse? Do I look as hansome as I keep telling myself I am?" Glorfindel smiled winningly into the mirror and then let his gaze drop down towards his feet.

Finesse had been lying on her back and twisted her head around to see what it was that the big cat with the yellow mane was so interested in. With one paw, she reached out to tap that other cat that looked like her that kept doing everything she did whenever she came by this window. A tap turned into a slapping until she did not see the big yellow cat anymore, and rolled onto her feet to find out where he had gone, for he was warm to sleep by and gave her many treats, and she was not about to lose track of him now that she had him trained so well.

She found him sitting on the bed, pulling the boots onto his feet. Why he insisted knotting up the lacings when they were so much more fun to leave loose and play with she would never know. One of his front paws came down and scooped her up, setting her beside him. She gave his paw a lick- he was always far too dirty as far as she was concerned. The only time he ever got a good bath was when the big cat with the long black mane gave him one, and usually they were wrestling at the same time. She knew from experience how difficult it was to give another cat a bath when they insisted on thrashing about and flipping you over, but the big cats were happy and that made Finesse happy.

Right now, though, there was only one big cat, and he did not seem so happy. She asked him what was wrong in her little kitten voice, nudging him with her head and nose to get his attention (and also to mark him as HER big cat, lest her siblings think to try to claim him). He answered her back in that rough grumbling that all of the big cats used, making her flop down in frustration. Why the big cats could not learn the little cat language when it was SO simple was far beyond her to comprehend. So instead, she simply licked his hand a little more and then sat up and put her front paws on his shoulder, kneading them as she meowed that whatever it was, the big black cat would fix it, because he always could.

In Erestor's chambers, Lady Celebrian was straightening out the final wrinkle of the old warrior's clothing. "I am so happy we were able to finish this before the wedding. Legolas says is looks exactly like what you wore in the second age."

"I am sure the prince detailed the garments accurately for you," said Erestor, who was dressed in the old uniform of the Greenwood guard. When he had been told by Glorfindel that the blond preferred to attend the wedding in his ceremonial officer's attire, Erestor inquired as to whether a replica of his old uniform could be made in time for the event. As Celebrian handed him his belt, he said, "There is something under the bed I think would be appropriate. At least, I was told by Lindir that Glorfindel would be wearing his sword."

"Yes, he had it polished yesterday so that it gleams like the sun." Pulling the sword out from under the mattress, Celebrian explained, "Gracious me! Someone could easily skew four orcs on this at once!"

"Five, but who keeps count?" Erestor smiled nervously as Celebrian helped him to attach the scabbard and slide the blade within. "Well? Am I ready?"

"You tell me. Are you?"

Erestor held his breath a long time and then let it out slowly. "I am getting married today," he said to no one in particular. "Again." He let out another slow breath. "Well," he then said quickly, "at least I am able to safely say that my spouse will not be running off and getting pregnant without my knowing of it."

"Good lord! I should hope not!" Celebrian burst into a fit of giggles. "I am sorry, dear Erestor, but the image it painted in my mind-"

"Please, m'lady, say no more of it." Erestor shuddered as he took hold of her arm and the two of them proceded down the hallway to the Hall of Fire. "Being without sight, I end up having to 'see' everything up here," he said, tapping the side of his head, "and I fear I have worse imagery than you have conjured!"

The pair laughed their way through the corridor until they reached the double doors, which were being left open as guests continued to enter. They stood out of sight of the hallway, where one could see Legolas standing at the front of the room in lavish robes that were shades of green, with a crown upon his head of holly leaves and berries, customary of the Greenwood royalty. Upon the raised platform with him was Glorfindel, trying his best not to look at all nervous. Elrond was outside the doors, on the side opposite Erestor and Celebrian, keeping an eye on the last trickle of guests until everyone was seated. "It's time," he said simply, and crossing past the door, he approached Erestor to give him his own personal blessings before entering the hall.

"What's going on out there?" questioned Glorfindel, trying to look without appearing to look. Legolas, who was facing the audience and therefore the doors, put a hand upon Glorfindel's shoulder to calm him.

"Peace, Glorfindel. They will be in here in a moment." A sparkle twinkled in Legolas' eyes. "Never has anyone been so impatient to lose their freedom, my friend."

"Ah, but for what I am gaining, 'tis worth it," he joked. He straightened up and turned towards the door as the sounds of Lindir's harp began to play the processional. Liriel came first, daintily tossing handfuls of rose petals down the walkway with each step she took. Once she reached the front of the room, she stepped over to the empty side near to where Erestor would be standing later.

Next, the twins walked down the aisle, matching each others' steps. Each of them carried a satin pillow, upon which was a ring. These were actually sewn on and for ceremony only- no one wished to put in jeopardy the possibility that one of the rings might roll off and under a chair or across the room, or simply slip and disappear.

It was the next one who came up the aisle who actually had the rings. Elrond followed his sons with a look of considerable pride on his face as he saw them take their spots on either side of Liriel. He was thankful neither of them waved to him as they had during the rehearsal, or asked to use the bathroom, and that Elladan refrained from pointing and shouting 'Ada's got a dress on' in regards to the long robes that trailed behind him. Elrond stepped beside Glorfindel, and gave him a pat on the shoulder, then turned to watch the entrance.

"Please rise." Legolas probably did not need to issue the command to the audience, but everything was done in accordance with custom. As soon as everyone was on their feet, Lindir segued into the next piece, and Celebrian and Erestor appeared at the doorway.

Walking as practiced with pauses at each aisle, Celebrian whispered, "This is the first time I have had the chance to do this the right way. When my father led me down the aisle, he just walked right straight down, dragging me with him as if we were going into battle. I was so upset for I had practiced hours the night before."

"I am happy that I could do you this favor so that your practice did not go to waste," Erestor told her. "You should have blindfolded him; then he would have had to have you lead instead."

"What are they saying? Are they talking about me?" Glorfindel wiped the sweat from his palms onto his leggings. Elrond hushed him with a squeeze to his shoulder as the pair approached.

Celebrian relinquished Erestor to Glorfindel once they reached the front of the room, but before taking her seat in the audience she warned Glorfindel, "Be good to him, or I will know and you will deal with my wrath. He is a precious and fragile soul though he will not admit it," she continued in a voice for only the three of them and Elrond to hear, "and I will not see harm come to him. Take care of him, Glorfindel."

"I... I will, I-" Glorfindel stuttered as Celebrian walked to her seat. He was brought back to matters at hand as Elrond cleared his throat. Glorfindel took note of the rings he held out to them, and placed the one for Erestor into Glorfindel's open palm. The blond clutched the ring of metal tight in his fist as Elrond gave the other to Erestor and then went to join his wife in the audience.

"What was all that about?" Elrond whispered to her after he had sat down, keeping an eye on the twins as they stood on the platform in the case one of them became fidgety and needed to be taken aside.

"Well I had to say something," she admonished. "Just as my father did to you when we were married. I am sure Erestor got an earful the first time; it was definitely Glorfindel's turn."

Not about to argue with his wife's logic, Elrond sat back to watch the rest of the ceremony.

Glorfindel had missed much of what Legolas was saying about love and binding and relationships and honor and whatever else it was he was saying, for Glorfindel was not paying attention. His eyes kept wandering sideways to glimpse at Erestor. The dark elf was beautiful- from his shining hair down to the toes of his boots. He was more than gorgeous, dressed in his old uniform, and Glorfindel hoped this would not be the only time he would see him this way. Something, however, kept nagging at him.

"Now I ask, is there any among you who has cause to doubt the love these two claim for one another?" Legolas left the question hanging in the air before asking again. "Will anyone speak against this pair and their love?" The question was asked another four times, as nearly everything was done six times in elven weddings. As Legolas gave the crowd one last chance to speak, a voice rose up.

"Wait."

Legolas blinked in surprise, for he had never been interrupted during a ceremony, except during Elrond and Celebrian's when Lord Celeborn mistakenly brought him the binding rope at the wrong time. Looking at Glorfindel with questioning eyes, he asked in a low voice covered by the buzz in the room, "Glorfindel, what is wrong?"

"Everything. Just a moment." Glorfindel stepped closer to Erestor. "Just a moment, everyone," he said loud enough for even Lindir on the balcony in the back to hear. Threading his fingers through a section of Erestor's hair, Glorfindel began to section it off.

"What are you doing?" whispered Erestor in confusion.

"Just give me a minute," pleaded Glorfindel as he began to weave the dark strands together. He tucked the first braid behind Erestor's ear and then walked around to the other side and set to work on the second one. Moving around to the back, Glorfindel completed the final of the three, and took his place once again beside his beloved.

Erestor reached up and touched the first braid Glorfindel had made. "Thank you," he said quietly, swallowing hard as he realized that Glorfindel had even braided his hair in the style of the Greenwood warriors and not the kind the elves of the Imladris guard wore.

Glorfindel reached over and squeezed Erestor's hand, not letting go of it. "Now we're ready," he said to Legolas.

Chapter 20

"You know this is your last chance to, well, to get out of it." Erestor was already in bed, having bathed separate from Glorfindel, as was proper tradition. The golden warrior was in the bathing chamber himself now, and chuckled at his dark mate's insecurity.

"Why would I wish to do that? I would think it is you who would want to escape from an eternity with me," called Glorfindel through the open doorway.

Fiddling with the blankets, Erestor called out, "I gave up."

"Hmm?" Glorfindel came around the corner, not concealing the jar of oil which he had been warming beneath a candle in the washroom. It was odorless, a gift secretly slipped to him by, surprisingly, Lady Celebrian. Without a sound, he set it down upon the table next to the bed. Erestor's large bed had been moved to Glorfindel's rooms, where they would now be living together. Erestor's rooms would serve as his office, with their trio of cats coming and going between the two places as they pleased.

"Another letter came from Greenwood with a possible treatment for my blindness, but I told Elrond I am done trying to regain my sight." Erestor's hands gripped the blanket, squeezing it severely. "I just- I hate to give up, but I am so weary of it all," he said, nearly choking on tears. Glorfindel sank down onto the bed and drew him into his arms.

"You think that would give me cause to leave you? Silly elf," murmured Glorfindel, kissing the top of Erestor's head. "I love you, no matter what. No matter what, Erestor. I took an oath today, same as you. But I needed no oath to love you, and I know you do not need one either." Holding Erestor tight, Glorfindel said, "I am your anchor. Your beacon, remember?" Erestor nodded and pulled away a little so that he was not clinging so much. "I love you."

"I love you, too. I hardly deserve you."

"Well, just wait until I start leaving piles of clutter about absently and not getting my dirty clothes quite to the laundry basket, and then we shall see how you feel about that." The couple shared a few moments of laughter before Glorfindel brought Erestor closer once again and claimed his lips. "Mmm, you smell heavenly," he mumbled, burying his nose into Erestor's dark hair. "You look absolutely gorgeous tonight," he said as he sat back again, one hand still playing with the dark locks.

"Let me..." Erestor reached forward with both hands and placed them upon Glorfindel's shoulders. Feeling his way up Glorfindel's neck, he continued until he reached his face. With tiny movements of his hands, he felt along the surface. Up across the high cheekbones, meeting at a nose with a rounded tip. Down over solemn lips and a solid, squared chin. Around to pointed ears and then to his forehead. When Erestor reached Glorfindel's eyebrow's the blond tried to suppress a laugh. "Tickish eyebrows?" Erestor said dryly, but then he, too, joined in the laughter. "Thank you," he said as the pads of his fingers came to rest upon Glorfindel's closed eyelids. "I only wish I could see you better."

When Erestor's hands lingered, Glorfindel began to say, "The color of my eyes is-"

Erestor's fingers slid down to Glorfindel's mouth. "Shhh, don't tell me. I will see them someday. I still have hope. Just because the healers have stopped does not mean I do not appeal every day to Iluvatar. If it is his will, I shall see again."

Glorfindel kissed the fingertips that stayed upon his mouth. He raised his hand up and took one of Erestor's, and began to kiss along his fingers, to his wrist, his forearm, elbow, shoulder, moving sensuously closer and closer, past his neck, up to lips that were parted slightly. Glorfindel kissed Erestor long and hard on the mouth while coaxing him to lie back upon the bed. Following him, Glorfindel hovered barely above Erestor, but he was pulled down against the dark elf. "Please, Glorfindel," begged Erestor. "Do not make me wait. I have been aching for you all day; love me, Glorfindel, and hard as I like it."

"I will make love to you hard and rough any other time you ask, but I want the sweetest night to be tonight." Glorfindel's preparation was achingly slow. His fingers caressed Erestor within as their tongues slid against one anothers. Erestor's hands moved freely, gripping Glorfindel's flesh hard whenever he did something particularly enjoyable.

"I need you... inside..."

"Hush, darling. In good time. Relax." Glorfindel settled back on his haunches removing Erestor's hands from his body with his now free one. "Just relax." Glorfindel's hand did not remain idle, for he began to glide his fingertips over Erestor's thighs and across his chest. The ghosting touches made the dark elf whimper.

Withdrawing his fingers from Erestor elicited a sigh, but a moan followed soon afterwards as the warm oil was used to coat his erection. A summer breeze came through the open windows as Glorfindel repositioned himself to enter Erestor, which he did as slow and sweetly as promised.

- - -

"Oh, bother." Lindir scratched his head as he looked at his poor horse in vain. "There is just no good way for me to do this," he decided. "I cannot ride and bring my instruments on the same horse. If only I had thought of it; I might have had the time to build a cart."

"No time for that now," remarked Legolas, who was observing the situation from atop his mount. "Can you not leave something behind?"

Haldir, who had been leaning against the gate, one hand holding the top of it, strolled over. On his shoulder, Chaos was precariously perched, but seemingly loving the little ride he was getting. "Your highness, asking a musician to leave an instrument is like asking a warrior to leave behind a weapon. How does one choose between a bow and a sword, m'lord?"

"Counselor," called out Legolas to the dark elf who was laughing with and saying his goodbyes to Orophin and Rumil. Erestor looked in the direction of the voice that had summoned him. "If you have a moment, we have a problem that needs solving."

Swishing his walking stick before his path very carefully so as not to spook the horses, Erestor assessed the situation with his aide and then said, "Lindir is there anything you can leave behind?"

Lindir's lip began to wibble as he looked over the array of instruments that were loaded onto his mount. Sheepishly, he pulled out a flute and then looked at Erestor apologetically.

"He has removed a flute from his beast's burden," said Figgy in a very low voice, as if perhaps only Erestor was to hear the comments being made by him. "There appears to be no visible change in the animal's load."

Supressing a smile, Erestor said, "Well, the solution is simple then." Walking back to where he was, he passed between Lindir and Haldir and said to the latter, "He will have to ride with someone else." Then, Erestor winked, and then, he was back where he had been.

Haldir looked from Lindir's horse, to his own, to the one that was draped in the colors of Greenwood. "Prince Legolas?" Legolas paused and looked down at Haldir. "Would you by chance happen to have room for another passenger?"

"Well, I suppose I might," he answered, rather perplexed. Lindir's shoulders were slumped and he was looking longingly at the saddle on Haldir's horse as he started to walk to the one Legolas was on. He froze as Haldir plucked Chaos from his shoulder and handed the cat up to Legolas.

"Be good, and do not pester your sister," warned Haldir. Having said this, the head of Princess Lastly, the smallest of the litter of cats, poked up from where she had been burrowed against her master's chest, snuggled into his cloak. Chaos decided that it looked to be a lovely place, and joined his sister before Legolas could object.

Grinning at the antics of the cats as he mounted, Haldir looked down at Lindir. "Well, are you coming or not?" he drawled slyly, and held his hand down towards the bard.

With a warm smile, Lindir took hold of Haldir's hand and was hoisted up onto the horse in front of Haldir. No one there could know that within a year's time, they would be very much in the same position as Glorfindel and Erestor had once been.

Before the riders departed, Elrond gave a little speech as he always did when dignitaries left (even when it was simply Legolas), and said a blessing for the journey as was customary. Family and friends said their final goodbyes and the party departed as the sun began to rise over the valley.

"Is anyone still left here in the courtyard?" asked Erestor when the crowd had dispersed. He had dismissed his aide, for there were no scheduled meetings or audiences with the council for the days when events such as this occurred.

"Just you and me, now." Glorfindel enveloped Erestor in his arms, pulling him back against his chest. "Guess what?" he whispered into his beloved's ear.

"What?" asked Erestor, readying himself to tickle Glorfindel if necessary.

Turning Erestor around so that they were facing each other, Glorfindel said, "I lied. There is a horse that is still here."

"Oh, is there?" Erestor heard the familiar sound of Tinnim as he lazily grazed his way in their direction.

"There is!" confirmed Glorfindel. "Oh, and what is this?" He shifted away from Erestor, who once again took to leaning on his walking stick, and opened the saddlebags. "How strange! Someone has picked a pacnic, er, packed a picnic... damn, I had this whole thing practiced," he scolded himself as Erestor stood behind him laughing. Turning around, he grinned sheepishly and then said, "Fancy a ride?"

"We've been married how long and you have to ask?" A cheeky grin, a quick kiss before they mounted, and two lovers rode out across the valley, both of them finally able to see that which was most important in life.

Epilogue

(First Year of the Fourth Age)

"Look, Orophin! The blessed lands!" Lineth squeezed her husband tightly as they continued to watch their progress to the shore, flanked on one side by Haldir and Lindir and on the other by Rumil and Liriel. All three couples collectively sighed at the beauty and wonder of the island they were fast approaching. Elves were scattered upon the shore, awaiting this ship as it sailed to the dock.

A little further away from the bow of the deck, Glorfindel stood with Elrond and Galadriel, all of them content with the peaceful silence they shared. The blond looked over his shoulder and smiled at the dark haired elf who was resting on a chair that had been brought on deck, with one of the boat cat's resting on Erestor's lap. "Still asleep," he said, more to himself than to the other two standing with him.

"It's Ada! I see Ada!"

This outcry caused the trio of elder elves to look to where the younger group was. Liriel was pointing and practically jumping up and down. Her siblings, husband, and brothes-in-law all looked as delighted as they noted Veduiel also on shore. All six raised a hand in greeting. Lindir was the first to notice, giving a scream of pure joy.

"He waved! Adar waved!" Blinking away his tears and clutching the railing with one hand, he grabbed hold of Haldir's hand with the other. "Oh, blessed Eru! Haldir, my love, look! Tell me what I see is true!"

"Adar!" Liriel stepped up on the bottom rung of the railing, waving madly. Rumil kept a firm hold on his wife's waist as she squeeled in delight and waved even more wildly as the gesture was returned. On the beach, Lindreth began to wave both hands back at his children, who, along with their spouses, were overcome with joy.

"Who in the name of all that is holy is making such a racket?" Erestor yawned as the cat leaped from his lap. Rubbing his eyes, he stood up and made his way to where he knew Glorfindel was standing. "Can no one get a- "

Turning around, Glorfindel found he was being stared at. Erestor's eyes were wide, his jaw slack. "What? What is wrong, darling?"

"Glor- Glorfin-" Erestor's hand shook as reached forward in disbelief and touched Glorfindel's cheek. His words came out in a jumble. "It has to be you, it sounds like you, it feels like you, but how could someone so beautiful be... oh, my." Fingers traveled over Glorfindel's face, but not so blindly as they always had before. "You... you... I'm married to you..."

"I certainly hope there was no expiration on our commitment," Glorfindel said with a wink. Which is when it hit him. "You... you can... Erestor?"

Erestor's eyes had already wandered to the sky. White gulls swooped past the white sails that billowed in the wind. A clear blue sky was the perfect backdrop to the canvas, and Erestor turned his head to look at the shore, tan sand giving way to lush green grass. Mountains brushed with purple could be seen in the distance. Tears were streaming down Erestor's cheeks, but he seemed not to pay mind to these as he drank in the sights surrounding him, finally looking back to the golden elf in whose arms he was being held, into the warm grey eyes that for so long he had wanted to look into. "I can see. I can see!" Firmly holding Glorfindel's face between his hands, Erestor kissed him soundly with both eyes wide open. "Pinch me; I must know this is no dream!"

Hesitating for only a moment, Glorfindel did as he was told. "You! Not there!" Erestor blushed red while those on deck laughed at his predicament. Swatting Glorfindel's hand away from his rear, Erestor turned around to see the group at the bow and then laughed with them. "You have to be Lindir," he declared, pointing to the silvery-haired ellon, who nodded. Erestor regarded both Liriel and Lineth, finally settling on the latter. "Lineth, I think. Only because, I know you are married to Orophin," he admitted, "and I remember you scolded him earlier today for wearing brown boots with black leggings. Why did I think you to be taller?"

"I must sound taller than I look," she grinned.

"That must be it. Then you are Liriel," he said, and Liriel stepped back down to the deck from her perch, giving Rumil cause for a sigh of relief. "It is so nice to have faces to go with the voices." There was a great jolt as the ship made landfall, and with shouts of glee Lindreth's son and daughters pulled their spouses to the ladders to make it to the shore. Galadriel and Elrond had already snuck away; within minutes they were greeting a warm and lively Celebrian on the beach.

Left forgotten on the deck of the ship, a pair of elves stood gazing lovingly into each other's eyes, holding one another tight. "I may need you to pinch me again; I still think I am dreaming."

"I assure you, this is no dream." Moving one arm down around Erestor's waist, he used his other hand to regard the shore. "Shall we?"

With slight reluctance, Erestor let go of his hold on his husband and allowed himself to be led to the stairway that led to the lower decks. They walked down together, hand in hand, reaching the door of the room they had shared during the voyage. Once inside, Glorfindel gathered together a few items which he tossed hastily into a sack. It was explained to them before the journey that the ship would be docked for many days for them to freely come and go upon until they had made living arrangements in one of the cities, and that the first reaction of most elves was to run to the shore and bask in the glory of the realm.

Glorfindel met Erestor back at the door, from which the dark elf had not moved since entering. Leaning against the panel of the door was an old wooden stick, a beautifully carved item that had been with Erestor for thousands of years. Picking up the walking stick, Glorfindel gave Erestor a questioning look. "Should I bring this, or leave it here?"

Erestor looked at it for the first time, smiling a little at the memories linking to the object. "Put it down for a moment, please," he said, taking the sack from Glorfindel's other hand. The bag was tossed onto the nearby table, sliding over to the edge. For a moment, Glorfindel looked at it with a frown as he placed the walking stick back where it had been resting.

"Is something wrong?" he meant to ask, but he had not the time to do so before he was practically pounced upon, pulled with great force to the bed as his lips were silenced and his clothing removed. No time was wasted, and he was very soon finding himself pushed back onto the mattress, wearing only his pants and a smile. "You know, we can probably find a bigger, better bed in Valinor," he panted as Erestor advanced, hastily removing his own attire.

"No. Here. Now." Stripped naked, Erestor's desire was obviously displayed. He rubbed his erection against Glorfindel's groin. "Take me."

Struggling to remove his leggings, Glorfindel laughed when Erestor tugged on the lacing and growled. "Patience, patience. You're going to knot them up."

Another growl of frustration was emitted. "When we have our own home here," announced Erestor as his fingers worked on the knot they had made, "I insist you be ready for this without any... impediments."

"You want me to simply be naked whenever we are at home?" smirked Glorfindel.

"I had not thought of that," admitted Erestor. "Just a robe would do. Fuck, this thing is impossible." Sitting back on his haunches, he frowned and looked around, presumably for a knife to cut the lacings. Looking back, he tilted his head to the side, closed his eyes, and felt the knot with his fingers. Glorfindel was nude within seconds. "Well, what are you waiting for?" he demanded before the pants had even hit the floor.

"Silly me." Glorfindel pulled himself up and opened the box that was sitting close to the bedside. Turning around to see Erestor still kneeling on the bed with his hands resting on his thighs, his eyes looked to the place on the middle of the bed he had just vacated. "Well, what are you waiting for?"

Erestor crawled behind Glorfindel, leaning into him. "What did I tell you to do?"

"You were not very specific in exactly how you wanted me to take you. I assumed you were going to help me out a bit." Glorfindel removed a vial of oil from the box and set it upon the nightstand.

"Should I spell it out for you?" Erestor nipped the ear he was speaking into, his hands flowing across the blond's warm flesh. "First, I want you to turn around, grab my hips, and shove me back onto the bed. Let me watch you, let me watch everything you do to me. Press your knee between my legs, spread them wide. Open the vial; cover your fingers in oil. Tease my body while you prepare me for your love; use your mouth and your hands." Along the curve of Glorfindel's ear moved Erestor's tongue, and the blond shuttered. "Enter my body with your finger as you torment my senses with your touch. Steal my breath with your kisses; stretch me as I moan your name."

"And then?" Glorfindel's voice was hoarse, his mouth dry. Swallowing and licking his lips he asked, "What then?"

"You know the rest." Erestor reached around and fisted his hand around Glorfindel's erection. His fingers squeezed gently, sending a pleasureable rhythm coursing through the blond's body. "Bend my knees, lift my legs, hold my hips, thrust inside, and fuck me. Hard and rough, the way I like it, until you spill yourself inside of me and undo me as only you can. And then," he whispered, leaving it to linger there.

"And then, what?" Glorfindel's legs shook as Erestor gave his length one final stroke.

There was a pause. "And then," Erestor finally finished, "you will most likely need to clean us up, and then we will probably take a nap. And then, before we go ashore, I will make you do it all again, just to be absolutely certain this is no dream."

Shoving Erestor back onto the bed, Glorfindel nudged his legs apart as he pulled the stopped from the vial of oil. "I love you," he said as he idly traced his oiled fingers around Erestor's entrance.

"You better," came the response as Erestor attempted to push in the right direction for Glorfindel's fingers to slip within. His eyes stayed wide open as Glorfindel leaned forward to capture his lips with his own. "I love you, too. And then some."

END



Please send feedback!
web host