Dinîf en Qualen
So many things happened in that one moment when Elladan asked his question. Thranduil’s gaze locked with Elrond’s, wondering what to say. Did Elrond want him to lie or…?
Elrond answered that gaze and hoped Thranduil wouldn’t blurt out the truth. He needed a moment to think this through!
At the same time, Glorfindel’s suspicions that Elrond and Thranduil had had a lover’s quarrel, and that the argument had been resolved, were confirmed. The Elda smiled wickedly at Elrond and then gave him a wink.
Elrond’s eyes widened, seeing Glorfindel’s reaction. It seemed the Elda had figured everything out, and what was even more surprising, the blond didn’t seem to mind.
Absentmindedly, Glorfindel gently squeezed Erestor’s hand and the dark-haired counselor followed the Elda’s gaze, realizing Glorfindel thought Elrond had left that passion mark on Thranduil. But could that really be? Well, why not? Thranduil’s wife had long sailed to Valinor and so had Elrond’s. It shouldn’t be a surprise that they would seek comfort in each other’s arms. A smile settled on his face, approving as well. He wanted Thranduil and Elrond to be happy.
Elrond was beginning to panic now that Erestor and Glorfindel were smiling giddily at him. It was obvious they had been found out, and at hearing Thranduil’s sharp intake of breath, his gaze shifted back to his lover.
Thranduil stared pleading at Elrond. What was he supposed to say?
“Elladan, you asked a rather indiscrete question,” said Erestor, coming to the rescue. “I do think you owe Thranduil an apology.” He immediately noticed Thranduil’s thankful smile and inclined his head, hoping the warm expression in his eyes told his former protector that he approved of his relationship with Elrond.
Elladan raised an eyebrow at hearing Erestor’s words. He knew he was treading on thin ice, asking such a question, but Thranduil’s and his father’s reaction surprised him. The look that passed between spoke of concern, panic and… intimacy. /Nay, that cannot be it. I must have reached the wrong conclusion!/ Seeking out his brother’s gaze, he wondered what Elrohir thought of the situation.
Elrohir had reached the same conclusion as Elladan. The tension that had hung heavy between the two Elves had changed into something else. Something intimate, he realized. He wasn’t sure what to think of this revelation and returned his twin’s gaze. Could it be that their father had chosen a new lover? Where did that leave Celebrian?
Elladan sensed an echo of his twin’s thoughts and realized that the same thing troubled him as well. Their mother had left, telling them she hoped they would be reunited one day, but neither he nor Elrohir had ever considered sailing to Valinor. It would be several more centuries, maybe even millennia before they would make that decision. Was it fair to expect their father to remain chaste for such a long time?
Elrohir nodded once, telling Elladan they would discuss this in private later.
“I apologize for being so forward, sire,” said Elladan, but his tone made it very clear that he didn’t feel sorry at all. His wicked streak, which he had doubtlessly inherited from his father, showed when he said, “And if I searched really hard, would I find a passion mark on you too, dearest Ada?”
Rendered speechless, Elrond stared at his oldest son in disbelief. He hadn’t expected Elladan to address this! “I do think you are out of line, Elladan!” He wasn’t ready to announce his new relationship to his sons! Thranduil and he were still testing the waters! Why couldn’t Elladan just keep quiet?
Glorfindel now intervened as well. “Elladan, you cannot address your father like that. What he does in the privacy of his bedroom is…” He stopped, realizing he was only making things worse, confirming Elladan’s suspicions, but he finished anyway, “is his business, not yours.”
Elrond bowed his head, shook it and sighed, distressed. He couldn’t confirm Elladan’s suspicions. Thranduil would never agree to admit the truth… or would he? His gaze locked with his lover’s, realizing there really wasn’t a way out of this, except if he lied to his sons. He had always been honest with them and didn’t want to destroy the trust between the three of them, but would the twins accept this? Why should they? He expected them to be cross with him.
Thranduil’s eyes widened with the realization that Elrond was inclined to tell the twins about their newly-found relationship. Mutely, he stared at the half-Elf, begging him to reconsider.
“I cannot lie to them, nîn glaur.” Elrond drew in a deep breath and then faced his sons, who were staring at him with a mixture of shock and curiosity.
Thranduil leaned back into the comfort of his chair and wished the floor would open and swallow him. He had never expected anyone to find out this quickly. Frustrated he glared at Elrond. This was the half-Elf’s fault; why had he bitten him in the heat of passion?
Elrond cleared his throat and cringed beneath Elladan’s gaze. He quickly looked at Elrohir, hoping both would understand. Maybe it was best to tell them everything. “Thranduil and I were lovers for a short time at the Battle of the Last Alliance, long before I ever met your mother.”
Elladan’s eyes widened, realizing Elrond had decided to tell them. He quickly exchanged a look with Elrohir and they silently agreed to hear their father out.
Elrond decided to leave out his involvement with Gil-galad. There was no need to distress his sons further. His gaze briefly swept over to Erestor and Glorfindel and he took heart, seeing their encouraging looks. “During the Battle we broke up. We had an argument and took separate paths. When I met Celebrian, I fell in love with her and she gave me the greatest gift of all; three bright and beautiful children. When she sailed for Valinor it broke my heart and I never considered being with someone again, but then…” His voice faded, as he locked gazes with Thranduil. “Something unexpected happened.”
Thranduil shifted on his chair, growing increasingly nervous. Elrohir was staring at him with big eyes, and Elladan… He failed to label Elladan’s expression, which worried him even more. Listening to Elrond, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Thranduil and I…” Elrond paused, searching for the words, “We never talked things through, and stayed cross with each other for millennia. Things… progressed into something more when we finally did talk.”
Elrohir had long stared at his father, trying to decide how he felt about Elrond and Thranduil being lovers. He had expected to feel betrayed, because his father was no longer faithful to Celebrian, but instead he found he was happy that Elrond had found someone to love. Even Celebrian would be happy for him. She had loved him dearly and would never want him to suffer because of her.
Elladan was having similar thoughts. He couldn’t blame his father for wanting a lover when his wife had left centuries ago. Elrond deserved to be happy as well. “But why Thranduil? You always told us how arrogant and self-centered he was!”
Thranduil now glared at Elrond. “Arrogant? Self-centered?”
Elrond flinched. “Nîn glaur, I was upset with you for many centuries.”
Thranduil shook his head. “You were upset with me? You were the one who left! If anyone…” Suddenly he grew aware of the four pairs of eyes that were staring at him. “We will discuss this later. In private.”
“In private,” snickered Elladan softly. It was actually quite amusing to see Thranduil bite his lip and blush. “I wonder what else they will do in private.”
“I do not want to think about it,” said Elrohir, pretending to shiver. “I really do not need to know.”
Elrond couldn’t believe his luck. Were his sons actually willing to accept this? He hadn’t expected them to be this accepting, and certainly not this quickly. They hardly knew Thranduil! And what he had told them in the past about the blond wasn’t flattering either. First he searched Elrohir’s eyes, and then Elladan’s. But both were non-judgmental, even amused. This was unexpected.
Thranduil wasn’t sure how to react either. Looking to Elrond for help, he saw the half-Elf smile, relieved, and took that as a sign that everything had been settled for now. He was relieved as well that the twins seemed to accept this unexpected development. He addressed Elladan in a hesitant tone, “My offer to spar with you still stands… if you still want to.” He would understand if Elladan was no longer interested.
Elladan read insecurity in Thranduil’s eyes and suddenly wondered about the elder Elf. Thranduil had been friendly toward him from the start and was now obviously worried that their beginning friendship had been ruined. But he loved his father and if Thranduil meant this much to Elrond, there had to be something very special to the blond. “We will spar,” he said, smiling reassuringly.
Elrond heard his lover’s relieved sigh and understood completely. The fact that his sons accepted this meant a lot to both of them. They would still have to talk about this in depth later, but for now they had reached a satisfying understanding.
The smile that appeared on Thranduil’s face told Elladan that the elder Elf felt slightly more secure now. “Maybe tomorrow?”
Thranduil nodded once and then forced himself to address another matter that also worried him. Looking at Erestor, he was pleased to find a warm smile on the Elf’s face and he hated being the one to remind him of Eridhren. “It is my sad duty to remind you that your father’s pyre will be lit tonight. Do you wish to attend the ceremony?”
Erestor’s smile instantly died and he noticed the disapproving glance that Glorfindel gave Thranduil. “He is only reminding me,” said he, addressing the Elda. He didn’t want Glorfindel to be cross with Thranduil.
“You should not be bothered with something like that,” said Glorfindel protectively, but slowly the realization sank in that he couldn’t keep reality out of their lives.
“He was my father,” said Erestor in a nervous tone. He locked eyes with Elrohir and moistened his lips. “I am sorry he attacked you. He had—“
Elrohir quickly interrupted his friend. “You are not responsible for his deeds. There is no reason to take the blame and apologize to me.”
Erestor shrugged apologetically. “I wished he had never come here.”
But Thranduil’s opinion differed greatly. Leaning in closer, he whispered into Elrond’s ear, “Now that he is dead we no longer have to worry that he will hurt someone.”
Elrond had to agree. “Erestor will recover more quickly now.” Suddenly realizing how close Thranduil was, Elrond fought down the urge to claim those luscious lips. Just being close to the blond was becoming pure torment!
Recognizing the needy expression in the half-Elf’s dilated pupils, Thranduil leaned back into the chair. Did he really have such an impact on Elrond? When had that happened? Or had he been determined to not notice the change? Focusing on Erestor, he asked, “I would accompany you if you want to attend the ceremony.”
“I will be at his side if he desires to attend,” said Glorfindel with a hint of overprotectiveness in his tone. In his heart he knew Thranduil meant well, but Erestor was –his- lover, and –he- would attend to his needs and no one else!
Thranduil smiled. “Oh, I am sure you will be there, Glorfindel. I was merely offering Erestor my support as well.” Baiting the Elda was too easy. Maybe it was unfair that he was testing Glorfindel, but he had to be sure the Elda wouldn’t desert his former protégé.
Glorfindel realized the true intent behind Thranduil’s words and wasn’t sure if he should be cross with the other Elf, or pleased that Thranduil was trying to protect Erestor.
Erestor decided it was time to take control of the situation. “I suppose I should attend. He was my father, and I…” He bit his lip, uncertain if he should admit this to them. “And I want to convince myself he is really dead and that he cannot return to hurt me again.” Glorfindel unexpectedly wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled his chair close. Erestor just stared at the Elda, wondering what would happen next.
“I promise that no one will ever again hurt you. Do you understand, nîn amdir? You are safe now. You do not have to look over your shoulder any longer.”
“That has not fully registered yet,” admitted Erestor, lowering his eyes. “I have lived in fear for so long.”
“And we never noticed.” Elrohir felt guilty for never finding out what was wrong. “We always suspected something troubled you, but—“
“But I let the situation continue,” finished Elrond for his son. “This was my fault as well.”
“We should look toward the future,” said Thranduil, disliking the tone of this conversation. If anyone was to blame, it was him. /But,/ he thought, sighing, /it is time to let go of the past./
“I have no idea what the future will bring.” Erestor glanced shyly at Glorfindel. “I have never…” he paused, uncertain if he should continue, “I never had friends before.”
“And in me you have found more than just a friend,” said Glorfindel passionately. He wanted all of Arda to know how much he loved Erestor. “I will be there for you every step of the way.”
Erestor actually blushed, feeling extremely shy, being the center of their attention. “I know you will.” And he was really beginning to believe that. Looking back at these last few weeks, he could hardly understand the changes that had taken place in his life.
Thranduil cleared his throat, realizing Erestor needed a moment to compose himself. “Elrond, we should look into the possibility of joining forces when it comes down to guarding our borders.”
Erestor immediately looked at the half-Elf, wondering if his presence was required. Did Elrond still want him to act as his chief counselor, or…? He didn’t dare finish that thought.
Elrond easily read the expression in Erestor’s dark eyes. “I would appreciate it if Glorfindel and you joined us.”
Noticing Erestor’s relieved sigh, Glorfindel nodded reluctantly. He had hoped to persuade the dark-haired Elf to take things easy today and rest, but it looked like Erestor wanted to return to his duties as quickly as possible. “We will be there.”
Erestor shot the Elda a thankful glance. The blond was quickly becoming his world, his support and his hope.
Elrond was pleased with the outcome of their meeting. Thranduil had agreed to intensify communication between their guards, making sure both rulers knew when Orcs approached their borders. They also agreed to exchange several of their guards so Mirkwood and Imladris would grow accustomed to each other’s presence. In the end, they would try sending out mixed patrols, hoping one party could benefit from the experience of the other.
“It is agreed then,” said Erestor, writing down the terms of the agreement. Looking at Elrond, a frown appeared on his brow.
“What is it?” asked Elrond; he knew that frown. It appeared when Erestor had thought of something they had missed.
“This alliance would become even more powerful if Lothlorien joined in as well. Would Celeborn be interested in taking part of this?” Erestor shrugged his shoulders. “It was just something that came to mind.”
Thranduil nodded once, locked gazes with Elrond and said, “That seems like an excellent idea to me.”
Elrond had to agree. “Glorfindel, write Celeborn a letter, stating this request, and then dispatch a messenger.”
“I will take care of it,” said Glorfindel, pleased that Erestor had found a way to strengthen this alliance even further.
The half-Elf looked out of the window to find that Arien had already started her descent and that Ithil was rising. Had they really spend all day locked up in his study?
“We should end this now,” said Thranduil. “We still need to prepare for Eridhren’s funeral.”
Erestor nearly dropped the quill, but Glorfindel’s hand settled on his shoulder and squeezed gently. Taking heart, he sighed and finished the document, which he then handed to Elrond. “If you no longer require my services I would like to spend a moment in private.” Hearing Glorfindel sigh disappointed, he immediately locked eyes with the Elda. “Not alone… I want a moment with you,” he quickly clarified, hoping he hadn’t hurt the Elda’s feelings.
Glorfindel smiled warmly. “Then let us return to my rooms.” Erestor had told him earlier that he had no desire to return to his own rooms, where Eridhren had died, and they had agreed that Erestor would share his quarters. That arrangement made Glorfindel happy, for it meant he could spend even more time with his new lover.
Elrond nodded his permission and watched them leave. Then he turned around and faced Thranduil. This was their first moment alone since breakfast. Thranduil’s suspicious look urged him to quickly cover the distance between them and he wrapped one arm around the blond’s waist. “I never expected Elladan to mention the bite mark. I counted on him being discreet.”
“It was our fault,” admitted Thranduil. He’d had an ample amount of time to think everything through. “We were careless. You should not have bitten me above the collar and I should have made an attempt to conceal it, but I never realized it showed that clearly.”
Elrond cocked his head and studied the angry mark. “I should not have bitten you at all.”
“You always do,” said Thranduil whilst shrugging his shoulders. “And I do not mind.”
Elrond released Thranduil, noticed the blond’s frown, and explained, “I want to apply some salve to the bite. I am not satisfied with its healing rate.”
Thranduil watched Elrond move to his desk, open a drawer and take out a crystal vial. The half-elf opened it, allowed for some drops to settle on his fingertips and then returned to him.
Elrond swept away Thranduil’s hair, probing the mark. “I bit too deeply.” Applying the balm, he studied the blond, who looked strangely shy. But when they had made love in the morning, Thranduil had taken the lead. What would it take for the blond to do that again? A soft whimper fled from Thranduil’s lips and Elrond smiled, knowing his touch was welcome and would speed the skin’s recovery. “The ceremony will start within the hour.”
Thranduil nodded. They could finally close this chapter and start a new one. One without fear.
“Can I meet you in your rooms in thirty minutes?” They needed to change into formal robes and had to return to their quarters, but he wanted Thranduil to know he needed him at his side.
Thranduil nodded once more. “Do you think Erestor will need us tonight?”
“I doubt it. Glorfindel will want to take care of him. But maybe we can spend some time with Elladan and Elrohir?” Surprised, he felt Thranduil shiver. “What is wrong?”
“I do not feel comfortable facing your sons. Won’t they think I am trying to take the place of their mother?”
Elrond shook his head, determined. “Celebrian cannot be replaced and they know you won’t try to take her place. But they might be jealous at times.”
“Jealous?” Thranduil frowned.
“For the last few centuries they had my undivided attention. Now they will have to share me with you.”
“Is it not about time they took a mate themselves?” wondered Thranduil aloud.
“Aye, but they have not mentioned a love to me.” Elrond folded one arm around the blond and together they left the study and headed for their rooms. “Will you share my bed with me tonight? I do not wish to be alone.”
Thranduil swallowed hard. “I do not want to be alone either.”
Elrond leaned in closer and bestowed a gentle kiss onto his lover’s lips. “I love you, nîn glaur. How could I have been so blind to let you go?”
Thranduil remained quiet. He had asked himself that question countless times and hadn’t found an answer either.
Tears streamed down Erestor’s face, watching the pyre burn. The flames shot into the night, tried to reach the heavens, and then began to die after long and mentally exhausting moments. He was swaying on his feet and Glorfindel’s supportive arm wrapped around his waist was the only reason he was still standing.
Looking to his right, he found Elrond and Thranduil, standing incredibly close. Now that he looked closer, he found that the half-Elf had wrapped an arm around the blond’s waist. To his left were Elladan and Elrohir. On their faces lay a determined expression and he could only guess at their thoughts. For some reason they seemed frustrated, and he realized they were busy blaming themselves for not realizing something was wrong at an earlier time. He would have to talk to them about that. They hadn’t known because he had been careful to not arouse their suspicions.
“Are you still coping, nîn amdir? We can return to my rooms if you want to.” Glorfindel worried about his lover. The tears that dripped down the dark-haired Elf’s chin were growing fewer, but he easily sensed his lover’s sadness and pain. All he wanted was to hold him close and assure him everything would be well.
Erestor leaned into Glorfindel’s embrace and rested his head against the Elda’s shoulder. “I would not have been able to deal with this without you.”
“You do not have to deal with this alone, nîn amdir.” Glorfindel realized that it would take time for Erestor to full accept that he was no longer alone. But now that Eridhren was dead they had all the time they needed.
“I still cannot believe he is dead.” Erestor shook his head against the Elda’s shoulder. “I cannot believe he can no longer hurt me. I still expect to see him around every corner. Seeing him again brought everything back.”
“We will work through this together,” promised Glorfindel. “Let us go now.” The fire was dying and he wanted Erestor back in the safety of his rooms where the dark-haired Elf could break down, should his strength desert him.
Erestor allowed Glorfindel to lead him away from the pyre. After casting one more look at the dying flames, he sighed and put his trust in the Elda, who had promised to see him through this.
Elrond and Thranduil watched them depart and the half-Elf’s gaze was drawn to his sons, who stood closely together, offering each other comfort. “Elladan, Elrohir…”
The twins turned around and looked at him. “The ceremony has come to an end. Why don’t you go to your rooms and try to rest? These last few days were eventful and exhausting.”
Elladan and Elrohir drew in a deep breath, walked away from the pyre and entered the Last Homely House. Elladan spoke first. “As far as I am concerned, Eridhren got what he deserved for hurting Erestor like that.” Grim determination echoed in his voice.
Elrohir nodded firmly. “I agree. But Erestor is hurting and needs us to be supportive. Do not give in to this hate, brother.”
Elladan sighed, realizing his brother was right. “I am glad this nightmare is over.”
Suddenly a servant appeared. The Elf walked up to them, bowed and then addressed them. “Forgive me for disturbing you at such a delicate moment, but another guest has arrived.”
“A guest?” Puzzled, Elladan locked eyes with his brother. “We are not expecting anyone, are we?
Elrohir shook his head. “No one that I am aware of. Who is it?”
“It is Legolas, the youngest son of Thranduil.”
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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