Heart In Chains
Elrond knew there would be trouble the moment his sons realized he was rubbing Erestor’s back, but he refused to give in and stop touching the pregnant Elf in order to humor them. “Elladan, Elrohir, welcome home.”
Elrohir’s gray eyes flared with hatred when they settled on the hand that was comforting the Elf who was sitting on his mother’s chair. “Adar, she only left eight months ago and you already replaced her with *this*?”
Erestor flinched next to him and Elrond rose from his chair, reaching his full, majestic height as he glowered at them. He had expected a violent reaction from them, but this surprised even him. He knew that they blamed him for letting Celebrian leave for Valinor. He had tried explaining to them why Celebrian had reached that decision, but they hadn’t listened, consumed with anger and self-loathing. And seeing Erestor at his side, where Celebrian used to sit, had triggered this response in them. “Erestor is our honored guest, Elrohir, and not to be addressed by you in such a manner.” Elrond realized too late that his remark would fuel their anger, but it was too late to change tactics now. “Your seats are still free, next to Arwen and Glorfindel, where you always sit.”
Elladan’s eyes had narrowed, realizing something about the Elf at their father’s side. “He is pregnant?”
Erestor cringed at the tone. He wanted to leave the Hall and curl up in his bed, pull the sheet over him and hide from the world. Fingers suddenly curled around his and he was surprised to find Arwen rubbing his knuckles. He gave her a thankful look and then sought out Haldir’s eyes, silently begging him for support.
Haldir glared at the twins and it was only Glorfindel’s hold on him that kept him back. His husband had wrapped an arm around his waist to keep him in place, but he was considering freeing himself of the hold to come to Erestor’s defense. Unexpectedly, Glorfindel whispered into his ear.
“Do not intervene, Haldir. This is something Elrond must do.” Glorfindel didn’t like the predatory look in the twins’ eyes either, but had learned a long time ago to let Elrond handle them.
“You replaced Nana with *that*?” Elladan glared at his father. “Eight months, Adar. She left only eight months ago.”
Erestor let his long hair fall in front of his face, grateful that Glorfindel hadn’t braided it tonight. He had hoped his first encounter with the twins would have gone differently. He had only looked at them for a few seconds, but instinctively knew that his own sons would have born a great resemblance to them. That knowledge made the spiteful words even more hurtful. “I want to leave,” he whispered to Arwen.
She shook her head and rose from the chair, but she never let go of his hand when she addressed her brothers. “You are embarrassing us and doing our hospitality discredit. If you cannot behave properly, I suggest you leave.”
“Arwen!” Elrohir stared at his sister in disbelief. “How can you accept this?”
“Erestor is a guest. Our grandfather entrusted him to father’s care and you are being disrespectful in this ancient Hall.”
“Our grandfather?” The twins exchanged a look.
“Aye, our grandfather!” Arwen glared at them. “Is it so hard for you to understand that your thoughtless words are hurting Erestor? He is eight months pregnant and does not deserve them.”
“Either behave or leave,” growled Elrond dangerously.
“We will leave,” said Elrohir in a bitter tone. “We came here to be reunited with our family, but now we find a stranger on Nana’s chair and at your side. We do not condone this.”
“It is not your place to ‘condone’ this,” hissed Elrond. “I do not know why you are acting in this way, but I strongly suggest you leave!” He was trembling with rage. He knew that his sons had inherited their bad temper from him, but he demanded their respect nonetheless.
“Eight months you say…” Elladan’s voice took on an alarmingly nasty tone. “Did you not visit Lothlorien eight months ago, Adar? Are you keeping secrets from us?”
Three Elves froze. Haldir and Glorfindel exchanged alarmed looks, and Erestor tried to push himself deeper into the comfort of his chair, wishing the floor would open and swallow him. If only Elladan knew how right he was!
Elrond was enraged by their insolence. “How do you dare speak to me in that way?” He shook with anger and his eyes burned with a dark fire. “You will leave now.” Those last words were said in a venomous tone. He would deal with them later, once Erestor was no longer present. He knew it was pain that was making them lash out in this way, but he couldn’t allow it. Not when their actions were hurting Erestor.
Elladan and Elrohir turned their backs to their father and marched out of the Hall of Fire, which had grown absolutely quiet.
Arwen seated herself again, still maintaining her hold on Erestor’s hand. “They were out of line, Erestor.”
But her words offered Erestor no comfort. Instead, he looked to Haldir. “Would you please take me away from here?” He wanted to hide.
Arwen cleared her throat. “Uhm, there might be a problem with that. Their rooms are next to yours.”
Erestor yelped softly, tears building in his eyes. He just couldn’t deal with this right now and his emotions darkened. “I want to lie down…” Again, he looked at Haldir for help, not Elrond. He couldn’t help it; he felt safe with Haldir.
Elrond, still raging inwardly, noticed Erestor’s distress. “We will find suitable quarters for you tonight.” His first reaction had been to offer Erestor to stay with him, but knew that would only make things worse if his sons learned that Erestor would be spending the night in his rooms.
Haldir briefly broke eye contact with Erestor to look at Glorfindel. “He can stay with us. Your bed is big enough for the three of us.” He knew from personal experience that Erestor needed someone close whom he trusted unconditionally.
Glorfindel nodded. “We will manage.”
“Can we leave now?” asked Erestor in a tiny voice. “I am not hungry any more and I do not think I can hold anything down.” He couldn’t sit at Elrond’s side any longer, not after the things Elladan had said. He struggled to his feet, eager to leave. He tried hard to ignore the multitude of eyes he felt on him. It was still deathly silent in the Hall. Everyone seemed to be holding their breath.
Elrond forced himself to appear calm and controlled. “Aye, that might be the best solution. Take good care of him for me,” he said, addressing Glorfindel, putting his trust in his Captain. “And I will deal with my sons!”
“Do not be too hard on them,” said Glorfindel, who was rising from his chair to join Haldir, who had wrapped an arm around Erestor to steady him. “We know why they are acting in this way. Their anger is not aimed at Erestor.”
Elrond sighed, nodding his head. “They feel guilty for what happened to Celebrian. I will try to get through to them and make them understand what it is they are feeling.”
“I wish you good luck and much patience,” said Glorfindel, following Erestor and Haldir, who were heading for the corridor. Even from this distance, he saw that the dark-haired Elf’s shoulders were shaking with sobs. The twins’ words had been hurtful, and the fact that Erestor was already emotional due to his pregnancy only made things worse.
Erestor leaned heavily against Haldir, needing him close. “Why are they so cruel?”
“They are hurting, lirimaer, they lost their mother.” Haldir rubbed soothing circles on Erestor’s back. “Do not take their words to heart. Once they realize how inappropriately they acted they will regret saying those things.”
They walked in silence and when they reached Glorfindel’s quarters, the Elda opened the door for them. “Take him to the bed,” whispered the blond.
Haldir assisted Erestor in sitting down on the bed and began to remove the outer robes. He left the undershirt in place and then removed Erestor’s shoes. Once Erestor was clad in only his undershirt, Haldir eased Erestor down onto his back. After all, the pregnant Elf had said he wanted to lie down. “Comfortable?”
“W-would… would you h-hold me?” Erestor looked at Haldir hopefully.
The silver-haired Elf looked at Glorfindel. It was still early in the evening, much too early to go to sleep, but if Erestor needed this… He arched an eyebrow, seeing Glorfindel remove his clothes. He thanked the Valar, finding the blond was leaving his leggings on. He doubted Erestor would react well to finding a naked Balrog Slayer snuggling up to him.
“We will join you,” announced Glorfindel, lying down opposite Erestor so they were face to face. Seeing tears flow down Erestor’s face, he wished he had known beforehand that the twins would act in a hateful and volatile manner; then he could have taken counter measures. Experimentally, he rested a hand on Erestor’s hip.
Erestor’s eyes widened at that touch, but he didn’t move away from it. The fact that Glorfindel was this concerned amazed him.
Haldir moved into place behind Erestor and pulled him to his chest. “Comfortable?”
“Do you have a small pillow? To…” Erestor didn’t have to finish his sentence, as Glorfindel pushed a small pillow beneath his abdomen to support the weight. “Aye, I am comfortable.” But he was still haunted by the violent expression in the twins’ eyes and their hurtful words still echoed in his ears.
Glorfindel gave his husband a questioning look when Haldir started to sing a soothing lullaby. Maybe it was something Haldir had found that comforted Erestor? And aye, the dark eyes already began to fill with reverie.
Haldir continued his song for a few more minutes and then stopped in order to address Glorfindel. “We need to stay close tonight.”
“We will,” vowed Glorfindel.
“He has never said anything, but… I know he must have wondered what his sons would have looked like, had they reached adulthood. They would have been as dark-haired as their fathers and either brown or gray eyed.”
“You just described Elladan and Elrohir,” whispered Glorfindel in understanding. “Hearing *them* say those things must have hurt him deeply.”
“And they were right,” said Haldir calmly. “Elrond did father this child eight months ago. Let us pray to the Valar they do not believe the accusation they uttered.”
“And Elrond has no idea he is going to be a father again.”
“We cannot force Erestor to tell Elrond,” said Haldir thoughtfully. “All we can do is aid Elrond in gaining Erestor’s trust, for the half-Elf already has Erestor’s love.”
Glorfindel’s hand moved upwards until he was stroking the raven mane. “Let us hope Elrond realizes that. Love is a powerful emotion. Many things can happen once they reveal their love for each other.”
“That will be our task,” said Haldir determinedly. “We will guide their actions and hopefully they will open up to each other.” In the meantime, they would guard Erestor’s sleep.
“Your words were utterly unforgivable,” raved Elrond, as he paced back and forth before his sons, who were standing in a tense and aggressive posture. He had ordered them to his study and was now staring at them. The wrath in their eyes took even him aback. “Why did you do that?”
Elrohir glowered at his father. “Nana only left eight months ago and you have already replaced her.”
“Is it because I allowed him to sit at my side?” Elrond shook his head in disbelief. “Your grandfather asked me to make sure Erestor fared well and… and why am I explaining my actions to you?” Gathering his robes close to him, he headed for his desk and sat down behind it. “You need to apologize to him.”
“We will - NOT - do that,” said Elladan firmly. Elrohir nodded his approval. “We won’t.”
Elrond sighed deeply. “Elladan, Elrohir, Erestor has nothing to do with what happened to your mother.”
Elrohir’s eyes darkened with anger. “It is easy for you to say that, as you have already forgotten about her!”
“I will never forget her!” Elrond jumped to his feet, knocking his chair over backwards in the process and placed his hands on the desk, leaning in closer to his sons. “I nearly faded when she left!”
“But you didn’t, did you?” Elladan’s fingernails clawed into his own palms as he clenched his fists tighter. “When did you bed him? When you were in Lothlorien?”
Elrond’s jaw nearly hit the floor. “I never bedded Erestor! I never saw him until the day he arrived!”
The twins exchanged a look. “Are you saying the child isn’t yours?”
“Do you really think I would take a lover so soon after losing my wife?” But shivers traveled down his spine, knowing he was lying to them. His mysterious savior had come to him on two occasions and he had bedded him. But he couldn’t really tell his sons, could he? “You do not have to accept him, but you do have to respect him. He is a guest in this house.”
“We won’t stay,” said Elladan unexpectedly, locking gazes with his twin. “Too much has changed here. Even our sister came to his defense.”
“Because she allowed herself to get to know him,” explained Elrond, finally getting a hold on his temper. “And in your hearts you know that this has nothing to do with Erestor. You are cross with me for being unable to convince your mother to stay and on an even deeper level you are angry with yourselves for—“
“We do not have to listen to this,” hissed Elladan, his posture becoming even more stiff and hostile. Elrohir followed suit, a similar distraught expression on his face as Elladan’s. They weren’t ready yet to face their real feelings and it was easier to blame others. “We will be gone in the morning. Do not expect us to return for the next few years.”
“But where will you go?” Elrond, worried, looked pleadingly at them. “The roads are dangerous and one day you will run into a pack of Orcs too strong for you to take out and—“
“No Orc will ever take us out, Adar,” Elrohir sneered angrily. “We will take out as many of them as possible, whilst you hide here in Imladris, entertaining yourself with preg—“
“That is enough!” Elrond roared. He had tried to hold onto his temper, but he couldn’t tolerate this kind of behavior. Calming himself as much as he could, he continued, “You are obviously not yet ready to discuss this.” This conversation was bound to be fruitless. “My heart aches, knowing you choose to run away from your feelings instead of facing them, but I cannot help you as long as you keep fighting me.” Elrond saw their disgust in the burning eyes and realized they needed more time to come to terms with their mother’s departure. /They feel deserted, abandoned. Their real anger lies with themselves, and with Celebrian for making the decision she did. But they cannot yet admit that to themselves./
Elladan and Elrohir had spun on their heels and were already moving toward the doorway. Their posture had not changed and their movements were stiff and jerky, further revealing the anger that was consuming them.
Elrond let them go, hoping the time would come that they were willing to examine their feelings and find the courage to move on.
Glorfindel and Haldir woke simultaneously at hearing approaching footfalls. The door opened and both warriors readied themselves to defend Erestor, should that be necessary. They both relaxed however, seeing Elrond enter. The half-Elf looked emotionally drained and the irises of his eyes had darkened to black.
“I gather your talk with the twins did not go well?” Glorfindel whispered in order not to wake Erestor, who was sound asleep in between them.
“You are correct,” whispered Elrond. His dark mood began to lift, seeing Erestor this relaxed and at peace. “I hope sleeping like that is comfortable for you.”
Glorfindel smiled. “More than comfortable. You should try it sometime.” He wriggled an eyebrow suggestively. “Erestor makes a great pillow.”
Elrond found the idea surprisingly tempting and smiled at his friend. “How does he fare? How upset was he?”
“He was rather distressed,” replied Haldir in a soft tone. “Their remarks hurt him.”
Elrond nodded. “I should apologize in their place.”
“They refused to offer Erestor their apologies?” said Glorfindel knowingly. The twins had always been too stubborn for their own good.
“Aye.” Elrond looked at Erestor, wishing it were he holding the dark-haired Elf and not Haldir. “They will leave in the morning, so it would be best if you kept Erestor here until then. In the morning, escort him to his new rooms so he can change his robes and freshen up. I will look after him for the rest of the day.”
“It will be done,” said Glorfindel, gently stroking the long, dark hair. His fingers suddenly met Haldir’s and they entwined. “I just pray the twins will realize they are aiming their anger at the wrong person.”
“It will take much time,” said Elrond thoughtfully. “They are wrestling with survivor’s guilt.”
Haldir rubbed Glorfindel’s fingers, hoping the twins would quickly come to their senses and stop hurting Erestor with words, for they had no idea what impact those spiteful remarks had on the pregnant Elf.
Elrond inclined his head in goodbye and then left reluctantly, wishing he could have kept Erestor company throughout the night, but Haldir and Glorfindel were already guarding his sleep. /Maybe I will find other ways to make this up to Erestor./
“Hum, you are soft…”
Erestor blinked, hearing those words. Where they meant for him or…? Once he had regained full awareness, he realized they had been meant for Glorfindel. He blushed fiercely, finding the two warriors were kissing passionately just above his face. “Uhm?” Erestor cleared his throat, drawing their attention so they knew he was awake. But that didn’t cause them to break off the kiss. Instead, Glorfindel took his time to give his husband a good morning kiss.
Haldir’s eyes sparkled with mirth, hearing Erestor’s soft whimper. The moment Glorfindel released his lips, he said, “You promised to behave, Glorfindel.”
Glorfindel pretended ignorance. “Is kissing my husband misbehaving?”
”It is with me in between the two of you,” mumbled Erestor, hoping they didn’t mind being made fun off. “And there is an unborn baby present as well.”
Glorfindel groaned. “I want to kiss my husband!” But his eyes revealed his pleasure at finding Erestor felt comfortable enough to join in their bantering.
“We can kiss later. We are supposed to escort Erestor to his rooms so he can freshen up, help him change into clean robes and make sure he eats his breakfast,” said Haldir.
Erestor’s stomach growled as if it had heard those words and left him with a blush on his face. He sighed, knowing what would follow next, and his daughter didn’t disappoint him, kicking him hard.
Glorfindel saw the odd expression in Erestor’s eyes and asked, “What is amiss?”
“She is kicking me.” Erestor sighed deeply. Glorfindel’s next question took him completely aback.
“May I… may I feel…?” Glorfindel gave the dark-haired Elf his most pleading look.
The request surprised him, but Erestor complied nonetheless. Taking Glorfindel’s right hand, he placed it on his abdomen, grateful he was still wearing a nightshirt. He didn’t want the Balrog Slayer to see how huge he was becoming and he did feel a bit embarrassed for being pregnant in the first place.
The baby kicked again, and Glorfindel’s eyes widened with pleasure. “Haldir, you have to feel this too!”
Erestor nodded at Haldir and the March Warden placed a hand on his abdomen as well. He laughed warmly, feeling another fierce kick. “Your daughter will make quite an excellent warrior, lirimaer.”
“She must have inherited that from Elrond,” said Erestor rather thoughtfully. “I am not a warrior…” A melancholy expression appeared in his eyes.
“But you are.” Haldir gave him a firm look. “You are still fighting your battles and don’t you dare ever give up.”
Erestor gave Haldir a grateful look. It was beyond him why the March Warden continued to have faith in him.
“And now it is time to leave our warm nest,” announced Glorfindel, who regretted breaking this up. “But I am sure you would like a bath, Erestor.”
“I do, but—“
“Not alone!” Haldir shook his head. “He is getting heavier and the last time he nearly slipped. I will assist him.”
Glorfindel sat up and watched the two of them. Haldir had a protective hold on Erestor and for the first time, he fully understood his husband’s feelings where the pregnant Elf was concerned, for he now shared them too.
Elrond sat behind his desk, his chin resting in the palm of his hand. He had watched his sons leave this morning. Their weapons and cloaks had still carried the stains of dark Orc blood. They hadn’t looked over their shoulders to wave him goodbye and had left with a grim determination that caused his heart to bleed. They could slay as many Orcs as they wanted to, but it wouldn’t ease the pain in their hearts; they just didn’t realize that yet.
He had sent his assistant away early, realizing he couldn’t concentrate on the pile of work in front of him. Maybe once Erestor joined him, he could… /Aiya, Erestor, their words really hurt you. How can I help heal the hurt they caused?/ A knock on his door forced him to concentrate on the present. “Enter.”
Erestor gingerly shuffled inside. He had changed into a simple, dark robe and his hair was loose again. Gone was the smile that had graced Erestor’s features these last two days and he seemed subdued and hesitant. Elrond cringed, realizing his sons had undone the little progress Erestor had made.
“My Lord? Should I finish writing down the recipes for the healing potions?”
Elrond cringed, being addressed with ‘My Lord’. Erestor hadn’t done that since the first time they had met. “Erestor, please, they did not know what they were saying!” Refusing to give in so easily, he left his seat, and came to a standstill in front of the pregnant Elf. Erestor was staring at the floor and his hair blocked Elrond’s view of his face. “Please, we were beginning to build a friendship. Do not throw that away because their pain made them lash out in that manner. They are angry with themselves, not you.” Elrond knew he was risking it all when he cupped Erestor’s cheek in the palm of his hands, forcing the other Elf to lift his head and look at him. The pain and misery that stared back at him made his heart grow heavy. “Please have faith in me, my dear friend.”
Erestor was inwardly torn. He wanted to trust Elrond, but… “I do not want to cause any problems within your family. It is obvious that they do not want me here and… I should not sit at your side any longer. I never realized—“
“Nay!” Elrond firmly shook his head. “You are my guest and you are becoming a good friend… even more than that. I refuse to sacrifice that because my sons won’t face their feelings.”
“But they are your sons. How can you possibly choose me over them?” Erestor wrung his hands and gave Elrond a pleading look. “We should abandon our friendship.” He had lost his twins whilst they had still been growing inside him and he didn’t want Elrond to lose his sons because of a disagreement. “Blood is thicker than water. Your family comes first.”
“Not in this case,” whispered Elrond softly. “They are always welcome here and I won’t ever turn them away, but I won’t sacrifice my personal happiness for them.” Slowly, testing the waters, Elrond leaned in closer and pressed his lips gently against Erestor’s.
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