Disclaimer: Lord of the Rings and all characters belong to Tolkien.
Author's Note: This is the sequel to 'Inside the Darkness'. The drawing was made by Nellas
Part 8 - Peace
Legolas woke when a low, hungry moan reached his ear. Stretching like a cat, he looked into Lurtz's dark eyes. Recalling his father's visit last night, he looked about and frowned at finding Thranduil gone. "Where did Ada go?"
"He needed to rest, bathe and change into clean clothes. I am certain we will meet him for dinner. How do you fare, Legolas? Did your father's words put your mind at ease?" Lurtz fingered a lock of blond hair, holding his love close.
"He did," replied Legolas. He moved onto his back and stared at Lurtz's face hovering above him. The dark mane was a complete mess and his fingers combed through the black mass. "He surprised me though," admitted Legolas softly. "I did not expect him to accept us that easily."
Lurtz raised an eyebrow. "He seemed reasonable enough." Lurtz paused briefly, gathering his thoughts on the matter. "I hoped he would accept this relationship, but I never thought that it would actually happen. Your father is a kind and compassionate man. No wonder you turned out so well." Lurtz smiled teasingly and placed a light kiss on Legolas' lips.
Legolas raised a hand and rested it on the back of Lurtz's broad neck. "My happiness is complete now that we have my father's blessing."
Lurtz nodded once, but then the expression in his eyes darkened. "Whilst you were asleep Elladan informed me that Elrond wants to talk to us after dinner."
"Did he tell you what about?" Seeing the seriousness in Lurtz's eyes, Legolas sat upright, momentarily dismissing his passionate feelings; this seemed important.
Lurtz inclined his head, trying to recall Elladan's exact words. "Elrond is concerned about the power and influence Saruman and Sauron are gaining, and he wants to aid Rohan, which now is at the heart of the attack. Elladan mentioned something about sending reinforcements to Rohan." Frowning, he tried to deduce why this included Legolas and he. "Maybe we are part of those reinforcements?"
Legolas sighed regretfully. "I wish I could spend more time with my father now that he is at Imladris, but we have been idle much too long. We are warriors; we live for those moments on the battlefield. If Elrond has need for us somewhere else, we shall go." He probed Lurtz's eyes. "Or would you rather stay here?"
Lurtz shook his head. "The healers have nearly finished with my teeth. We could leave the moment Elrond gives the order. I will always be at your side."
Legolas smiled blissfully. "Then we will fight side by side, covering each other's back."
Lurtz looked deeply into Legolas' eyes. "You are a fierce warrior, Legolas. I love to see the fire in your eyes when you go in for the kill."
Legolas laughed warmly. "You are quite a sight yourself, Lurtz." He found he was looking forward to leaving Imladris and to return to the road once more. Maybe he could find out Aragorn's whereabouts and aid the Fellowship on their way to Mount Doom.
The sensation of being watched woke Glorfindel. He immediately reached for Elrond, but was startled to find the bed empty. Sitting upright, he scanned the room and his eyes widened, seeing Elrond behind his desk, working his way through a pile of papers. "What do you think you are doing? You should be resting!" Glorfindel left the bed and marched over to the desk, standing in front of it.
Elrond's soft giggle took him by surprise. Looking down, he realized he was completely naked whilst Elrond had somehow managed to dress in his ceremonial robes. Not bothered by his current state, he frowned at Elrond. "You cannot have dressed yourself."
"Elladan visited earlier and helped me into my robes and this chair. I am grateful that Erestor thought of it. Now I can get on with my work." Elrond's brow became knitted. "I have to increase the number of patrols and we must improve our warning system. When Elladan was attacked..." Elrond didn't get a chance to finish his sentence because Glorfindel had moved to his side and his lover's fingertips traced his lips, effectively stopping him from speaking.
"Let me worry about the patrols and the warning system. You should be in bed and resting, not exhausting yourself." Glorfindel placed a hand on either side of Elrond's head and held the half-Elf's gaze. "Will you let me take you back to our bed so you can rest? Moving about whilst your feet are still healing cannot be wise."
The pleading tone and expression made Elrond give in with a sigh. "A'maelamin," whispered Elrond in a warm tone. "If I would let you, you would fuss over my every step..."
Glorfindel leaned in closer and smiled tenderly. "Can you blame me for being protective of you? It is something you must learn to live with." His thumb lightly brushed Elrond's lips and he dotingly gazed into his lover's eyes. "Return to our bed, mela en' coiamin, and let me hold you until the sun has reached her highest point. Only then will I release you and allow you to see to your work."
Elrond raised a hand and rested its palm against the blond's cheek. "I can never deny you, melamin." Slowly, he pushed the chair away from his desk and allowed Glorfindel to lift him in his arms. He rested his head against the blond's shoulder, relishing Glorfindel's concern. His lover lowered him onto the bed and Elrond pushed several pillows behind his back so he could sit upright. "Join me in bed?" His gaze revealed warmth and approval as it traveled down his lover's body. "My, you are beautiful, lirimaer."
Pleased at hearing those words, Glorfindel crept closer on all fours, smiling cockily at his lover. The time for words had faded and he leaned in closer, kissing Elrond passionately.
Elrond surrendered to his lover's sweet kiss and allowed himself to forget about the dark forces that were marching for Helm's Deep, momentarily indulging himself and relishing Glorfindel's touch.
Erestor woke slowly, and he wondered about this lazy, pleasant sensation coursing through him. It had been years since he had woken feeling this comfortable. The nightmares had left him alone, enabling a healing sleep.
As his eyes focused again he realized why he had slept undisturbed. During their nap, Elrohir had sneaked into his bed and had curled his arms around the elder Elf. Erestor marveled at the peaceful expression on the half-Elf's face and he smiled, saddened, almost certain that Elrohir had found out about his past. /What else would explain his behavior? He somehow found out and hurried here to soothe me, but how did he find out? Only Elrond and Glorfindel know; why would they tell Elrohir?/
As if aware of his troubled thoughts, Elrohir pulled him closer, resting his head on his shoulder. Surprisingly strong arms wrapped themselves around his waist and Erestor couldn't bring himself to wake the young half-Elf, so he patiently endured the embrace.
When Elladan and Elrohir had been children, they had occasionally slept with closed eyes. Glorfindel and Erestor had been startled when finding them like that for the very first time. However, over the years they had grown accustomed to seeing the twins sleep with their eyes closed.
Erestor tentatively touched a strand of Elrohir's hair, and the silk like texture flowed through his fingertips. Slowly, he returned the embrace. He had been afraid that Elrohir holding him like this would bring back dark memories, but the half-Elf's hug only brought warmth and contentment. /When was the last time I held someone in my arms? It has been so long.../ His tormented soul longed for a mate, a lover, but his body had been unable to accept that fact for so long, always remembering the pain and humiliation he had suffered at the Orcs' hands.
"I should take you to your room, pen-neth." Erestor boldly placed a chaste kiss on the top of Elrohir's head, inhaling the half-Elf's musky scent. A warmth was born in his groin and his eyes widened with surprise, finding himself growing erect for the first time in decades. /This is folly. I cannot give into my feelings, even though my body is waking up. I must take him back to his room before he realizes I desire him./
Erestor's gaze lingered on Elrohir's face, staring adoringly at the full, red lips. "One day you will make someone very happy, pen-neth..." Suddenly Elrohir's eyelids fluttered, and the large brown eyes opened to stare at him. He couldn't stop the blush from forming on his face and he immediately tried to squirm out of the embrace, but Elrohir didn't let him.
"What did you say? I will make someone very happy?" Elrohir frowned, wondering what had made Erestor say that.
"I was thinking aloud; please forgive me." Erestor forced himself to return Elrohir's gaze calmly. "Why did you stay when I was asleep? You should have gone to your room to seek out your bed." He tried to rise again, but Elrohir's arms tightened around his shoulders. Sighing dejectedly, he gave up.
"Erestor, Elladan and I sneaked into your rooms when we were children, do you not remember?"
"I remember retrieving you from Glorfindel's rooms," chuckled Erestor, thinking back to happier days.
"But Glorfindel and Ada were not close the entire time," said Elrohir softly. Erestor was still trying to pull away, but Elrohir pretended to not notice. "Rain made the earth shift and travelers got themselves into trouble. Ada and Glorfindel left to help the unfortunate ones. The rain continued and was joined by lightning and thunder. You must remember!"
Erestor smiled fondly, finally able to recall the incident. "Elladan was hiding beneath my bed and you had wrapped yourself up in my ceremonial robes. I recall finding you rocking on my bed, ordering a frightened Elladan to join you. I had forgotten about that night." It had taken him some time to coax Elladan from beneath his bed, but in the end the twins had snuggled up to him, their tiny hands clutching his. "It is true, then; you have sought out my bed before."
Elrohir smiled smugly. "Why should I bother to return to my bed when I am perfectly comfortable here?"
Erestor inclined his head in surrender. "You are comfortable here?"
Elrohir nodded once. "Erestor? Can I ask you something personal?" Erestor grew tense in his arms and the elder Elf's expression darkened. Eyes, which had sparkled with mirth seconds ago, now turned gloomy and brooding. He cringed, seeing the change in those dark orbs. Should he go ahead and ask his questions? But he didn't want to embarrass Erestor... Suddenly Erestor tried to move away from him, but Elrohir instinctively tightened his hold and gasped in surprise as Erestor's erection brushed against his leg.
Elrohir's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. /He is hard? But.../ Confused, he tried to make sense of everything he had learned. /Erestor seems uncomfortable when I am near. He blushes a lot, avoids being around me, and when we built Ada's wheel chair he nearly bolted from the room when I took hold of his wrist./ Elrohir sucked in a deep breath as the answer to his question presented itself. /He cannot be in love with me! But what if he is? Can it be he loves me? But when did it start and... Aiya, it is the only explanation that makes sense. Why else would he be aroused? It is because I am close! By Elbereth, what do I do?/
"Elrohir? Maybe you should let me go now. I have neglected my duties for far too long, and Elrond and Elladan are probably wondering where you have disappeared to." Erestor hoped he sounded calm and controlled, whilst he desperately willed his arousal to fade. /Tua'min Elbereth, I do not know what to do, and I do not want to scare him./
When Elrohir sought out Erestor's eyes, the elder Elf averted his. /When I look into his eyes now, I see the love he feels for me. That is why he tries so hard to avoid eye contact./ Elrohir kept Erestor in place, never letting go of his hold, but at the same time he closely studied Erestor's reaction to him. Erestor didn't seem to panic, as Elrohir had been afraid of. Many years had past since the Orcs had ravaged the elder Elf and Elrohir grew hopeful that Erestor would be able to love again.
/And how do I feel about Erestor? He helped Ada raise me. Erestor was my tutor and I trust him completely. I... I do love him. But in what way? Is there a future for us? Do I want to take this step?/
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Erestor's blush deepened.
Elrohir gently brushed a long stray lock away from the elder Elf's face and wished Erestor would look him in the eyes. "Erestor?" That did the trick and he was finally able to look into swimming, slightly unfocused orbs. "You are a trusted friend, Erestor." /And one day you may even be more./
Erestor swallowed hard at hearing those words. He knew what reply Elrohir expected; the one he had given since holding the twins in his arms for the very first time. "Amin mela lle, pen-neth." But those words sounded different now. He would always adore the dark haired twins; they had stolen his heart when Celebrian and Elrond had shown their offspring to him. Elrohir had grabbed his thumb back then, pulled at it, and the gesture had made Erestor smile fondly.
"You seem awfully distant, mellonamin." Erestor was a trusted friend, but could the elder Elf become more to him? Elrohir stared into Erestor's eyes, reading unconditional love in them. /I already love you,/ mused Elrohir, /Maybe I can learn to love you in a different way as well./
Erestor felt paralyzed as the half-Elf's eyes probed his gaze and he tried to hide the love he felt for Elrohir. /He can never find out. He is like a son to me, nothing more!/
Elrohir sensed some of Erestor's inner turmoil and finally took pity on the elder Elf, releasing Erestor from his embrace. "You will stay in this warm bed, Erestor. You still look exhausted. I will wake you in time for dinner."
"Dinner?" Erestor felt disappointed and relieved at the same time. Now that Elrohir was getting to his feet, the embrace no longer held him prisoner, but he was startled, realizing he already missed Elrohir's body heat and closeness. "Do not trouble yourself. One of the servants will bring me some lembas and wine and he always leaves it at the doorstep for me to fetch it when I get hungry. There is no need to wake me." Suddenly Elrohir's hand rested atop of his, and he quickly grew quiet, surprised at how intimate that touch felt.
"You will have dinner with the rest of us. You spend too much time on your own. Some company will do you good." His eyes twinkled, adding the next bit, "My brother will be staring at Thranduil all evening and neglect me. Ada and Glorfindel will probably forget about me as well, and I do not even want to mention Lurtz's obsession with Legolas. They all are in love and just interested in speaking with their loved one. Please, join us for dinner? At least that way I will have someone to talk to." Would Erestor agree?
Erestor sighed compassionately, understanding very well how one felt left out when everyone else was in love. "I will join you."
Elrohir smiled smugly, happy with his scheming. "I will tell Ada that you are joining us. He will be delighted."
Elrohir said quickly, "Ada worries about you for some reason. I asked Ada what was wrong, but he refused to tell me." Hopefully his white lie would remain uncovered. "Seeing you at the dining table will probably ease his worries."
Erestor averted his eyes. /Elrond is worried... So he knows my dark moods have returned. Why else would he be delighted to hear I accepted Elrohir's invitation?/
It pained Elrohir to see Erestor trying to hide his distress. Instinctively he squeezed Erestor's hand gently. "I will see you at dinner then?"
Erestor nodded slowly. "I will be there." He stared at Elrohir's hand, holding his. Normally he panicked when someone touched him, but it was different with Elrohir. /My true love... The one that can touch me without causing the memories to torment me... Why must he be one of my Lord's sons? One I can never have?/ Saddened, he watched as Elrohir pulled back and walked over to the doorway. The warm smile on Elrohir's face made him even more desirable to Erestor, but he fought the attraction. /He will never be mine./
Elrohir noticed Erestor's darkening mood and almost returned to the bed to comfort the elder Elf, but he didn't want Erestor to become suspicious because of all the attention he was getting. He had to wait until dinner to reassure Erestor. /Take tiny steps. Go slow or you will scare him away./ Elrohir smiled warmly. "I will see you at dinner in two hours?"
Erestor nodded and watched listlessly as Elrohir closed the door behind him. /Alone again./
Glorfindel entered the guest house, but passed by Legolas' and Lurtz's chambers and came to a halt in front of Thranduil's. The noise emanating from the room told him that the ruler of Mirkwood was in and he knocked once, waiting for a reply.
"Enter..." Thranduil quickly finished dressing and smoothed the fabric of his brown leggings and tunic. Dinner was in one hour and he had hoped to get some rest, but apparently someone wanted to talk to him. The door opened and he raised an eyebrow inquisitively, seeing Glorfindel enter. He had hoped to see his son standing there.
Glorfindel felt slightly nervous. After all, he was doing this behind Elrond's back; his lover would never agree if he knew about these plans. "Thranduil, I require your help."
The eyebrow remained raised as Thranduil took in Glorfindel's appearance, immediately noticing the seneschal's nervousness as Glorfindel continued to shuffle his feet. "In what way can I be of assistance?" He owed Imladris for helping Legolas when his son had been wounded.
"I..." Glorfindel turned around, made sure the door was closed and began pacing the room. Occasionally he looked at Thranduil, only to lower his gaze again.
"If I can somehow help, I will," said Thranduil reassuringly. He had seldom seen Glorfindel nervous; what was wrong? He walked up to the other Elf and came to a halt in front of Glorfindel, who was now forced to come to a standstill as well. "Does this have anything to do with Elrond?"
Glorfindel swallowed hard. "It does..." Could he really go through with this? But Elrond needed the rest, some peace and quiet. "He is not healing as quickly as he should. The Orcs present a constant danger, and he nearly lost Elladan to them. At times his burden is too heavy, and I want to help him carry it. He needs some time away from these problems, but he cannot leave Imladris. He is needed here."
Thranduil nodded. "Continue." He wasn't sure where Glorfindel was taking this, but he had certain suspicions
"Elladan, Elrohir and Erestor do their best to keep Imladris safe, but they lack proper direction now that Elrond is recovering. They need someone experienced, someone who is willing to accept responsibility."
"And then you thought of me," whispered Thranduil in a surprised tone. "Are you asking me to replace Elrond as the ruler of this realm until he has recovered?" He shook his head in disbelief. "Elrond will never agree to this. You probably did not even tell him about your plans. Your concern for Elrond is commendable, but you need to find another way to ease his burden."
"But... would you do it?" Glorfindel searched Thranduil's eyes. "It would be the perfect opportunity for the two of you to bury the past and begin anew.. if that is what you want."
Thranduil turned away from Glorfindel and stared at the gardens. A smile surfaced on his face, seeing Elladan place his hands on an old oak, obviously trying to reach out and obtain some kind of contact with nature. "I would do it," said Thranduil eventually. "But Elrond will never agree to it."
Glorfindel smiled behind Thranduil's back. /Maybe I can convince Elrond to agree to my plan./ The smile faded, recalling just how exhausted Elrond was these days. "There is something else I would discuss with you." He really dreaded Thranduil's reaction to his next comment, but Elrond wanted this discussed and now that the half-Elf was recovering, Glorfindel had taken it upon himself to talk to Thranduil.
Thranduil turned to face Glorfindel and whispered, "Elladan."
Glorfindel nodded slowly. "Elladan is falling in love with you." Thranduil remained calm, which surprised Glorfindel. He had expected Thranduil to burst out laughing. After all, compared to Thranduil, Elladan was just an Elfling! The fact that Thranduil's expression was serious and concerned changed Glorfindel's opinion of Thranduil for the better; maybe the Woodland Elf had changed in more ways than one. Thranduil seemed to have let go of his former anger, directed at Elrond, and was remarkably mellow. "You do not seem surprised."
Thranduil inclined his head. "I suspected as much. The youngster has not yet learned to carefully cloak his emotions. I must admit Elladan surprised me. But maybe it is because I saved his life. His infatuation will grow less in time."
Glorfindel released a relieved sigh. "You will let him down gently? He has never been in love before, and if you hurt him..."
Thranduil interrupted Glorfindel. "I have no intention of hurting him." A smirk briefly appeared on his face. "I should be flattered that someone as young and handsome as Elladan is interested in me. I am so old... I hardly remember what it feels like to be in love."
Glorfindel frowned. "You cannot be serious, Thranduil. When was the last time you looked into a mirror?" Thranduil looked as young as an Elfling; he always had. The Woodland Elf possessed an unearthly beauty, enhanced by the bewitching eyes and long blond hair that reached his waist. How could Thranduil not think himself attractive?
"When was the last time I looked into a mirror?" Thranduil repeated Glorfindel's question in a puzzled tone. "I stopped paying attention to my appearance when Legolas and Valthoron's mother left. Why look attractive when there is none to notice?"
Glorfindel grinned. "You might want to find a mirror then. Maybe you will see what Elladan sees when he looks at you." What was he doing? He couldn't play matchmaker! Elladan and Thranduil were millennia and worlds apart! He shouldn't encourage Thranduil!
A smile ghosted on Thranduil's face as he studied Glorfindel. He almost addressed the other Elf, curious why Glorfindel was acting peculiarly, but in the end he decided against it. "I won't hurt Elladan's feelings."
Glorfindel nodded slowly. "I will reassure Elrond that his son's heart is safe with you." Glorfindel started to walk over to the doorway, but then halted. "And I will tell him you are willing to replace him for a short time so he may rest and recover."
Amused, Thranduil watched Glorfindel leave. The seneschal had surprised him, asking him to step in for Elrond. "We will see what happens," whispered Thranduil, picking up his cloak and stepping outside to seek out Elladan.
Elladan sighed longingly and leaned against the trunk of the tree that Thranduil had used to show him his link with nature. He wished Thranduil was here; maybe then his heart would stop aching painfully. With every step it contracted, reminding him of its existence. He had never before felt this empty, this hungry, and it scared him.
When he had woken this morning he had been erect and visions of Thranduil touching him had made him come almost instantly. Now he couldn't face anyone, afraid they knew about his dreams. Feeling ashamed for imagining Thranduil touching him that intimately, he turned around to rest his brow against the sturdy tree. After placing his hands on some branches, he tried to repeat the process Thranduil had shown him, but nothing happened. The warmth didn't engulf him.
"You need to let go completely."
Hearing Thranduil's voice shocked him, and he quickly took some steps away from the blond who had appeared next to the tree. "I cannot do it. I am not strong enough. Maybe it is because I am just half-Elven." Elladan cursed privately. /Reminding him of the fact that you are not even a full Elf is the stupidest thing you can do!/
Thranduil remained motionless, sensing Elladan's confusion. "I doubt it is because you are half-Elven. It is because you cannot fully concentrate; something distracts you." Would Elladan confide in him? Thranduil doubted it; it was still too early, but he was determined to try anyway. "What troubles you?"
Elladan quickly averted his eyes. /I cannot tell him! He will laugh at me and then our friendship will be strained; that is if he still wants to be friends./
"Elladan? Would you like to walk in the gardens for a while?" Thranduil caught Elladan's gaze and blinked dazedly at the emotions staring back at him. Elladan was falling for him hard.
Elladan shook his head. "Maybe we can go for that walk another time?" Thinking quickly he said, "Dinner is about to be served." He had hoped to spend time with Thranduil away from the others, but now he felt too shy to proceed. He would make a complete fool out of himself with Thranduil this close, and none present to save him when he said something stupid.
Thranduil nodded and smiled compassionately. "Maybe we can go for that walk after dinner?" He would talk in private with Elladan. The last thing he wanted was for Elladan to wrestle with his personal demons alone. Being young and in love for the first time could turn one's world upside down.
Elladan managed a weak smile. "Maybe later..." He trembled as Thranduil rested a hand at the small of his back. The touch electrified him and caused him to grow aroused. He had never felt more thankful for wearing robes that concealed his predicament.
Seeing the blush on Elladan's face, Thranduil guessed correctly what was wrong with the half-Elf. When his body had awakened, thousands of years ago, he had felt insecure and embarrassed as well. Maybe a father-son conversation was in order, but he doubted Elrond had the energy to talk Elladan through this. /I have two sons and had that conversation twice; I can do it again. I will talk to Elladan about his feelings and the way his body is reacting to it./
Elladan kept his gaze locked on the floor, hoping Thranduil hadn't noticed his arousal. /Why did this happen to me? Why did I fall in love with Thranduil? He will leave for Mirkwood in a few days and I will remain here. Elves can die of a broken heart, but what of half-Elves? Will the human part of my soul keep me alive and force me to endure this torment?/ He cast a look at Thranduil, whose magical eyes and ageless face made his heart ache with desire. /I must fight these feelings, but what if denying them will kill me?/
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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