Heart In Chains
‘Tell me, Haldir, do you enjoy sleeping in the open?” Glorfindel had much to think about after the visit they had paid Erestor and he needed to see the moon and stars above him tonight.
Haldir arched an elegantly curved eyebrow. “I do, though I try to keep my nights in the open limited when I have access to a comfortable bed.”
“Would you sleep under the stars with me tonight?” Glorfindel smiled sweetly.
“If you desire so,” said Haldir, a bit surprised, but willing to give in to his new lover. He allowed Glorfindel to guide him to the Bruinen, where the Elda showed him a comfortable spot in the soft, thick grass. Lying down, he found he had an excellent view of the river and the stars twinkled brightly above them.
Glorfindel moved about until he was also comfortable and then wrapped his arms around his lover’s waist, spooning behind him. He was slightly surprised when Haldir pushed back against him, obviously enjoying the position they were in. “You can sleep peacefully here. No need to remain on guard. I make sure Imladris’ borders are patrolled and no Orc will ever find a way inside.”
Haldir frowned at the tone. “You say that as if you have a personal grudge against them.”
“I have. After what they did to the Lady Celebrian and her escort, I feel like slaying all of them; rather painfully, I should add.”
“I saw Celeborn grieve for his daughter, aye. He was sorry to have her sail for Aman.”
Now it was Glorfindel’s turn to be puzzled. “Celeborn only? What about Galadriel?”
Haldir turned in the embrace until they were face to face, wondering how much longer he would be able to keep Erestor’s secrets now that Glorfindel was getting so close to him. He couldn’t lie to his new mate; his sense of honor wouldn’t allow it and it would be a very bad way to start their new relationship by keeping secrets. But he couldn’t betray Erestor’s trust either. “I must admit I find it hard to read her emotions.” He watched Glorfindel’s frown deepen. “I have my reasons for disliking her.”
“Would you share them with me?” Glorfindel disliked the fact that Haldir was keeping things from him. Having secrets when building a new relationship was not a good omen for their future.
“I would gladly share them with you, if they would not endanger someone’s life. I vowed to protect this person from harm and by telling you I would be revealing secrets that could have grave consequences.”
“Are you saying that you do not trust me to keep your secrets?” Glorfindel felt hurt now that Haldir didn’t trust him completely. Had he made a mistake in judgment? “I am an honorable warrior, and I would never betray the trust you place in me.”
Haldir sighed deeply. “I cannot tell you without obtaining his permission first.” He tenderly caressed the blond’s face. “I want to tell you, but it is not my life and happiness that are at stake here. Please understand.”
Glorfindel saw the concern in Haldir’s hazel orbs and realized his lover did want to tell him, but couldn’t. Hazarding an educated guess, he asked, “Is this Elf you vowed to protect by any chance Erestor?”
“Am I that transparent?”
“I am just thinking logically, love.” Glorfindel added the endearment on purpose to show Haldir that he wasn’t cross with him for keeping his secrets. “Would you obtain permission from him to tell me so we can do away with any secrets between us?”
“I will ask him,” said Haldir reluctantly, “But I cannot guarantee that he will allow it.”
“I understand.” Glorfindel pressed a kiss on Haldir’s lips and reestablished his hold on the march warden, guiding the silver-haired head to his chest. Cuddled up thusly, they spend the night peacefully beneath the starlit heavens.
The next morning both headed back to their quarters for a quick bath and breakfast, but they agreed they would meet again for today’s training. Glorfindel hoped Haldir could point out eventual flaws in his men’s training and suggest improvements. But before heading out to meet up with his new lover and soon to be husband, Glorfindel visited with Elrond, who was enjoying breakfast in the privacy of his rooms. “Good morning, my friend,” said Glorfindel in greeting. Seeing how rumpled Elrond looked in the morning was something that would never cease to amuse him. The hair was a tangled mess, the eyes half-mast and the half-Elf’s movement still a bit sluggish. Once he had eaten his breakfast, Elrond would quickly become his charming and alert self, but the Peredhel had become a bit grumpy in the morning throughout the years.
“Good morning, Glorfindel,” mumbled Elrond absentmindedly, as his thoughts still lingered with Erestor’s odd behavior.
“And a good morning it is!” Cheerfully, Glorfindel obtained several berries from Elrond’s breakfast bowl and began to munch on them. He knew he had piqued Elrond’s curiosity when the half-Elf regarded him wearily.
“What causes you to grin like that this morning?”
“I received a marriage proposal last night.” He had no intention of hiding his gorgeous new lover.
Elrond spat out the strawberries he was eating before he could choke on them and wiped his chin with a napkin. Staring at Glorfindel in shock, he whispered, “What?” He must have misheard, or was this the newest prank Glorfindel had in store for him? But when he looked at the Elda, he found that Glorfindel was practically beaming with pride and bliss. “Who would -- willingly -- marry you? You are trouble, especially in the morning when you cause me to either spit out my breakfast or choke on it!” But he spoke in a gentle and caring tone to express his honest interest.
“Haldir does not mind me being trouble,” hinted Glorfindel naughtily, now acquiring Elrond’s cup of herbal tea.
“Haldir?” This news caused both of Elrond’s eyebrows to rise. “Haldir of ‘Lorien? That slightly arrogant, but beautiful, march warden?” The conversation they’d had about Haldir returned to him. Glorfindel had looked at him as if he had been a potential threat when it came to gaining the guardian’s favor. “And did you accept?”
“We negotiated the terms of our marriage,” said Glorfindel wickedly, “And I found them acceptable.”
Elrond shook his head, barely believing the calm with which Glorfindel was talking about this matter. “You accepted?”
“I did, but we still have to… consummate… the marriage,” Glorfindel added impishly, wriggling an eyebrow suggestively.
“You amaze me,” admitted Elrond softly. “I always thought you would be one for a long courtship and now you rush into this. Did you carefully consider everything?”
“We did.” Glorfindel grabbed a buttered slice of freshly baked bread and took a bite out of it.
“Tell me, why is it that you always have to eat my breakfast when there is enough food in the kitchens?” Elrond playfully swatted away Glorfindel’s hand when it reached for a piece of sweet cake. “Go eat your future husband’s cake!”
“I might. Maybe he will taste sweet.” The wriggling eyebrows were back.
Elrond released a mock sigh and shook his head. “I hope Haldir will teach you some manners.”
“I promised to behave around Erestor,” said Glorfindel, carefully steering their conversation to the pregnant Elf.
“You did?” Now Elrond’s interest truly awoke. Reacquiring his tea from Glorfindel, he sipped it and studied him carefully. “Why?”
“Haldir made me. He was afraid I might accidentally scare Erestor.”
“He might be right about that. I spent most of last evening in his company and he is very timid indeed. When I told him I had enjoyed his company, he stared at me in disbelief. I wonder about his life’s history. What happened to him to make him this… fearful?”
“Haldir hinted that Galadriel disliked Erestor and he even told me he had vowed to protect Erestor – from her, I think.” Glorfindel gave Elrond a meaningful look. “Learning that reminded me of a conversation we had about eight months ago, when we discussed your mysterious savior.”
Elrond’s hand suddenly paused in mid-air. He had been about to sip again, when the hair at the back of his neck grew rigid. “My mysterious savior… if I remember correctly, we concluded that he might have been forced into his actions, maybe prompted by Galadriel. Do you think Erestor knows my savior?” He felt as if he was on the brink of an earth-shaking revelation, but he failed to make any connections and frowned, frustrated.
Glorfindel nodded slowly. “You might be right. We should try to find out more about Erestor. Maybe your spies in Lothlorien can supply us with more information?”
“I will tell them to make inquiries about Erestor,” said Elrond thoughtfully. “In the meantime, I want you to see if Haldir is willing to volunteer some useful information whilst I focus on our guest.”
Glorfindel rose from his chair, quickly snatching an apple from Elrond’s breakfast tray. “I will do my best, but I do not want to pressure him.”
Elrond understood; Glorfindel didn’t want Haldir to think that he had a hidden agenda. “I wish your husband much patience and control, when having to deal with you,” he teased gently.
“Hum, he likes me just the way I am!” Glorfindel grinned from ear to ear, leaving the room.
“Lindir? Do you happen to know where I can find Erestor? He is not in his rooms.” Haldir was concerned now that Erestor proved elusive.
“He is in the library, reading,” supplied Lindir, eyeing Haldir closely. “I am heading there now to take him to Elrond’s study. Would you like to accompany me?”
“Elrond’s study?” Haldir frowned.
“Master Elrond invited Erestor to join him on his daily walk in the gardens. I think he believes the exercise will do Erestor good. He was a bit worried, realizing Erestor seemed to prefer to lock himself in his rooms.”
Haldir nodded. “Aye, he is a bit of a hermit at times.” He considered joining Lindir, but then decided against it. He wanted for Erestor to spend as much time as possible with Elrond and Erestor might change his plans if he joined him in the library. “I do not think I will accompany you, but would you deliver a message to Erestor from me?”
“Of course.” Lindir smiled warmly, awaiting the message.
“Please tell him that I will see him at dinner and that I hope he will have a pleasant walk in the gardens.”
That was an easy enough message to remember! Lindir nodded. “I will tell him. If you would please excuse me now, I am supposed to meet with Erestor in a few minutes.”
Haldir nodded and watched Lindir leave the room, relieved that Elrond was showing such an interest in Erestor. For the first time, he grew hopeful that things might work out for Erestor. The Valar knew Erestor deserved to be happy with his bonded mate.
“I thought you were taking me to Lord Elrond’s study,” mumbled Erestor, feeling suspicious now that they were heading for the kitchens, judging by the tempting scents that invaded his nostrils.
“But first you need to eat your noon meal. Master Elrond left me explicit instructions. I am only to take you to him *after* you have eaten.” Lindir smiled reassuringly, finally understanding that Erestor wasn’t used to strange Elves fussing over him.
Erestor sighed. “The only thing I do all day long is eat.”
“As you should. You are eating for two.”
Erestor blinked and a shy smile appeared on his face, recalling that Haldir had used that one on him when he had been pregnant with the twins. /You are eating for three,/ the guardian had said, coaxing him into eating.
Lindir had delivered Haldir’s message to Erestor, who felt strangely deserted at hearing that he wouldn’t see Haldir until dinner. But then again, Haldir probably wanted to spend time with Glorfindel and get to know him. He couldn’t blame the march warden for preferring Glorfindel’s company to his and he would see Haldir at dinner… hopefully.
They had reached the kitchens and Lindir guided Erestor to one of the tables, already set. “Please sit down and eat whatever you fancy. If you have certain cravings I am sure the cook would love to prepare those dishes for you.” The cook, a she-Elf with beaming green eyes, eagerly nodded her head and Lindir gestured for Erestor to begin his meal.
Erestor stared at the various food items and sighed. He didn’t dare tell Lindir that he wasn’t hungry, so he selected some biscuits, layered them with fruits and ate them. The cook placed a glass with freshly pressed fruit juice in front of him and waited expectantly. Erestor felt like he had no choice and slowly drank. He had to admit it tasted good and he smiled shyly at her. The cook, pleased with his reaction, returned the smile and then went back to her work.
Feeling so full that he thought he was about to explode, Erestor looked pleadingly at Lindir. “I am sorry, I cannot eat more.”
Lindir would have liked it better if Erestor had eaten more, but the pregnant Elf’s food intake was acceptable and he offered his hand, seeing Erestor had difficulty in getting to his feet. “I will take you to Lord Elrond’s study now.”
Erestor blushed, feeling tired and bloated. “Can we walk slowly?” He desperately hoped there was no stair climbing involved in reaching Elrond’s study.
“Of course we can.” Lindir felt pleased; Erestor seemed to be growing more comfortable when making requests. He hoped that it wouldn’t take long for the dark-haired Elf to truly feel at home here.
Elrond impatiently tapped his foot, wondering what was taking Lindir so long to bring Erestor to his study. He had intentionally created a mess on his desk and floor, and didn’t want Glorfindel to accidentally see it. His Captain would tease him for the next few decades. He had scattered most of Thranduil’s lengthy letters over the floor. Most of them were reports on Dol Guldur and Elrond hoped they would prove the perfect distraction for Erestor in sorting them out and archiving them. Once his guest had accomplished his task, Elrond planned to present him with a new one, which would preferably keep him in his study. Elrond had been truthful in telling Erestor that he had enjoyed the other’s company and he wanted to spend more time with the Elf to get to know him.
When the knock on his door finally sounded, he released a frustrated yelp and let the reports he had been reading drop onto his desk with an audible ‘plop’, which would hopefully convince Erestor the letters had just fallen onto the floor. “Enter!”
The door opened and Erestor hesitantly shuffled inside. Elrond read apprehension on the Elf’s face – the sound of falling paper had probably warned Erestor that something was amiss.
“I can come back tomorrow if I am interrupting anything,” Erestor said shyly, instantly noticing the heap of scattered papers on the floor. He had wondered about that ‘plop’. Elrond had probably dropped those letters when he had knocked on the door.
“You are not interrupting anything,” said Elrond, bending down to gather some of the letters in his hands. “Please stay. I will sort out this mess and then we will go for our walk.” Elrond glanced at Erestor, hoping to spark the desired reaction in the other Elf when he dropped the letters again in frustration.
“Can I help?”
/Yes!/ thought Elrond triumphantly. Now he had Erestor where he wanted him! “Would you help me sort these out? That is, if you do not mind leaving for our walk a tad later?”
“I do not mind,” said Erestor shyly, “And I would like to help.” It was the least he could do to repay Elrond for giving him a new home here – and for the half-Elf’s care. Erestor pulled up a chair and tried to bend down to help, but his belly was in the way and he gave in, releasing a sigh of frustration.
“Here, you can sort these out and then put the oldest on the bottom.” Elrond dropped a pile of letters in Erestor’s lap. His heart had missed a beat, seeing Erestor lean in closer and he had been about to put a stop to it, when Erestor sat back himself.
“The oldest ones on the bottom?” asked Erestor, making sure he had correctly understood.
“Yes.” Elrond finished gathering the last letters and placed them on his desk. “Sorting them out might be easier if you put them all on the desk.”
Erestor shifted on the chair and began to lay the letters out on the table. He had seen Thranduil’s signature and was doing his best not to give in to his curiosity to read them. After sorting them out, he began to put the oldest ones on the bottom of his pile, just as Elrond has asked him to. Concentrating on his task, he even forgot Elrond was present.
Elrond smiled, seeing the concentration on Erestor’s face. Whilst the pregnant Elf sorted out his correspondence, he returned to reading his reports.
“I finished,” said Erestor, with a hint of pride in his voice. He had created a neat pile and carefully handed them to Elrond, who seemed impressed. The smile in the half-Elf’s eyes made him blush.
“Are you a secretary by any chance?” asked Elrond, wondering about his guest’s profession. He also wanted to know where Erestor’s interests lay.
“Nay, I am not,” said Erestor, blushing weakly.
Elrond then executed the next step of his plan. “I could use some help, you know. My assistant only works with me in the morning and now that Glorfindel has deserted me for Haldir…” he stopped, seeing the grin on Erestor’s face. The other Elf knew then and approved. “Now that Glorfindel has deserted me, I need help.”
Erestor swallowed hard, suddenly wondering if he had been set up, but he didn’t want to think Elrond would do such a thing to him. “I have no particular skills that make me a good assistant, but maybe I can be of some use?” He wrung his hands beneath the desk, wondering how Elrond would react to his offer. Part of him hoped Elrond would accept, for then he could be close to his bonded mate, but another part was terrified that he would let something slip and thus reveal himself. But he had made the offer now and couldn’t go back on it.
“Ah, you would do that for me?” Elrond smiled warmly. “I gladly accept your offer, and do not worry, I won’t exhaust you.” He gave Erestor a conspiratorial wink, hoping his guest would grow more relaxed and confident.
Erestor averted his eyes, and stared at the floor, hearing the growing affection in Elrond’s tone.
“And now we will leave for our walk! We are late already!” Elrond pushed back his chair, walked over to Erestor and extended his hand, hoping his guest would take it. His heart fluttered in joy, feeling clammy fingers wrap around his. The clamminess led him to believe that Erestor was still nervous, but also beginning to trust him. After helping Erestor to his feet slowly, Elrond guided him to the doorway. “Tell me when you get tired. We can always cut our walk short. The last thing I want is for you to exhaust yourself.”
Erestor nodded absentmindedly, his thoughts fixed on the fact that Elrond’s hand had traveled to the small of his back. That small gesture made him feel safe and protected, and he was definitely looking forward to the rest of the afternoon now that Elrond was at his side – and touching him.
During their walk, Elrond kept his tone light and stayed clear of any questions that might make Erestor feel uncomfortable. Instead, he talked about the Bruinen, the waterfalls and the various gardens he had designed these last few millennia. He finished with, “I hope you will be happy here, as long as you wish to stay.”
Erestor, who had been lured into a relaxed state by Elrond’s calm tone, forgot to be on his guard. “I like it better here than in Lothlorien. Imladris is beautiful and the Elves here are so very kind.” Once he realized what he had said, he blinked nervously.
Elrond tried to tread as carefully as possible when asking his next question. “I gather from your words that you were not happy in Lothlorien. I am surprised to hear that and wonder why.”
Erestor realized he had put his foot in his mouth and couldn’t brush Elrond off now. Moistening his lips, he said, “I had some … differences of opinion with the Lady Galadriel.” He hoped Elrond wouldn’t hold that against him, as Galadriel was his mother in law.
Relieved that Erestor was allowing their conversation to go in this direction, he said, “I always thought Galadriel to be a good friend, but lately I find myself wondering about her.” He heard the sigh Erestor released. Apparently his guest had been worried about his reaction. “Glorfindel told me that Haldir and you are good friends, though.”
Erestor disliked the fact that Glorfindel and Elrond had talked about him privately, but also knew he had no influence on their conversations. “Haldir saved my life when I lost my… sons.” His heart still ached with pain, remembering them and before he knew it, he found himself confiding in Elrond. “I mourned them for millennia. I hid within my mind and it was only Haldir’s constant pleading to join he and his brothers again that made me turn away from the Halls of Waiting.”
Elrond blinked in surprise. “You mourned them for that long?” Suddenly, he needed to know. “May I inquire how you lost them?” It might help him prevent another miscarriage, should complications or a medical condition have been the reason why Erestor had lost them.
Erestor halted in his tracks. He couldn’t believe Elrond had asked him that! Confused, he stared at the grass.
Elrond reached out instinctively, placing a hand on Erestor’s shoulder in an attempt to show him he cared. The flash of energy that tingled against his fingertips took him by surprise. /It happened again! It was not a singular incident!/ Puzzled, he looked at Erestor, but the dark-haired Elf was still staring at the grass, making him wonder if Erestor had felt the energy transfer at all. “Erestor?”
Erestor had felt the spark of energy that had flown into Elrond’s fingers. It was becoming harder to keep his secrets. Then, he recalled Elrond’s original question, which had triggered this situation. “I lost them because I exhausted myself. Their lights faded because I lacked the strength to keep them alive.” Old feelings of guilt, which had nearly been forgotten thanks to Haldir’s excellent care these last few years, returned with a frightening force. “I killed them because I was a coward.”
Elrond sucked in his breath. “Why do you say that?” He had known Erestor only a short time, but knew this couldn’t be true. “It must have been an accident.” He wasn’t prepared to look into swimming eyes when Erestor finally met his gaze. “Oh, my dear friend, please do not cry!”
The words reminded Erestor of Haldir, who had said them many times and he turned away from the half-Elf when his desire to bury himself in Elrond’s arms became too much. “You do not know what happened. You were not there.” If only Elrond had been there! Then it might never have happened!
“You are right. I was not there, but I am here now and…” Elrond briefly hesitated, but seeing the shaking shoulders and hearing the heartbreaking sobs, he continued in the end, “Would you allow me to comfort you?” He knew better than to force an embrace on Erestor, whose previous reactions had taught him that the other Elf didn’t trust easily. “Please?”
“I can… not… Please, do not ask again.” Erestor wasn’t sure he could reject Elrond a second time. He had to maintain this distance between them, as he was afraid to lose his heart to Elrond once and for all. Only pain and misery lay that way, for Elrond would never love him in return.
The ache in his heart took Elrond by surprise. He had always been a compassionate soul, but Erestor touched a special place in his heart, which he had thought forever closed after losing Celebrian. “I cannot help myself, Erestor. For some reason I cannot see you suffer. My heart tells me to do this.” Carefully, making sure Erestor could see what he was doing, he raised his arms and then folded them around the trembling Elf, pulling him into a warm and comforting embrace.
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