Heart In Chains
“El… r-rond?” Stuttering, Erestor’s first reaction was to pull away from the half-Elf, but he quickly realized that Elrond had a tight hold on him. There was no way to get away from the Peredhel. Big-eyed, he stared at Elrond in obvious fear.
Finding fear in Erestor’s doe-like eyes startled Elrond. What had he done to put it there? “Erestor? Please calm yourself, I mean you no harm. I can sense your fear, but I have no idea why you feel you need to fear me.”
Erestor closed his eyes, unable to look at the half-Elf now that he had failed him again. “I am-m sorry…”
“What for?” Elrond felt frustrated, feeling the tremors return to Erestor’s body. “There is nothing you need to be sorry for!”
“Our-r d-dau… daughter-r…” Erestor pinched his eyes tightly shut, as he didn’t want to see the disgust on Elrond’s face. “My f-fault-t she… d-d-died.”
Elrond couldn’t help it; he released a relieved sigh. “Our daughter is alive and well! She did not die!” He placed his hands on Erestor’s shoulders, shaking the other Elf weakly. “Indlîrien is in the best hands with Arwen and Lindir. I would have brought her here, but she is too young to travel.”
Erestor stared at Elrond in sheer disbelief. “A… ali…ve?” He couldn’t believe that! “But-t…”
“You lost consciousness when you healed Elladan, but Camfael and I delivered the baby within the hour. Even Elrohir helped.” Feeling proud of Erestor, he kissed the other’s clammy brow. “Haldir was the most upset, as he was afraid history would repeat itself, and pulled you away from Elladan.”
“She… is-s… alive? She… did… n-not-t die?” How was that possible? Suddenly he became aware of Elrond’s hands, which soothingly rubbed his back and stroked his hair. And what had Elrond called her? “Indlîrien?”
“I wanted you to name her, but as you were unconscious I had to choose a name instead. If you do not like it, we can still change—“
“No, I like it!” said Erestor quickly, daring to believe Elrond. “You are being honest with me? She is alive?”
“I would never lie to you,” said Elrond firmly. “I know you assumed she had died, finding no cradle in your room and no baby in your arms, but she was so small, so tiny… we had to warm her up and…”
“I…” Lost for words, Erestor stared at the half-Elf.
Elrond realized he would have to do most of the talking. “I know about the twins, love.” Elrond wasn’t prepared for the keening wail Erestor released when he addressed the subject of their sons. “I am furious with Galadriel and Celeborn for not telling me! I deserved to know that you were pregnant with my heirs!”
“I did n-ot-t want-t to lose them-m… Please… be…lieve m-me… But Te… Telu… I did not… have a choice…” Erestor was shaking like a leaf in Elrond’s arms. “For…gi-forgive me…”
“Oh, Erestor!” Elrond sighed, distressed because Erestor was distressed. “That was not your fault. Haldir told me what happened. They did not give you a choice, as you just said yourself. Believe me, there is nothing to forgive.” Erestor’s big eyes stared at him in disbelief. “I am sincere, my love. I am sad – mostly furious though – that they did not survive, but I would never blame it on you!”
“I even made plans… to have them smuggled… to Imladris… I thought that maybe Camfael… would do it, but then they… d-died-d.” Elrond’s fingers suddenly entwined with his and squeezed gently, obviously in an effort to reassure him. “I… wanted to tell you… I really did, but I was afraid of what… Galadriel… would do.”
“You will never have to live in fear of her ever again.” Elrond gently claimed Erestor’s lips, desperate to confirm this bond between them, which reminded him… “Uh, Erestor? Do you remember what happened after the surgery?”
Erestor blinked once, twice, and then shook his head. “I do not.”
“I bound myself to you,” said Elrond, smiling brilliantly. “I finally took that step.”
Erestor involuntarily sucked in his breath. “You did what?” Focusing inwardly, he found Elrond’s words true. A new dimension had been added to their connection and he could feel the half-Elf strengthening him. “Why?” Why would Elrond do that?
“Because I love you!” Elrond’s frustration was mounting. “Why won’t you understand? I love you! I love our daughter and I want this bond to be complete. You have strengthened me for so many millennia! I want you to feel whole again.” He smiled. “Not to mention the fact that we are now married, Erestor. You are my official mate.”
“How can you… forgive me for losing your heirs? For manipulating you all these years?”
“Because I know they forced you into binding yourself to me,” started Elrond, “But I also know it became more throughout the years. Do you have any idea how many nights I dreamt of my mysterious savior and wished he would return to me? That last time you came to me in Lothlorien, I did not drink the sleeping potion Galadriel was feeding me, and I saw you, really saw you for the first time.”
Erestor clung to Elrond’s every word, his hopes suddenly coming true. But he was still too afraid to believe Elrond really loved him.
“I ordered Glorfindel to find out your identity and to bring you to me, but you proved elusive. When I left Lothlorien my heart was heavy and I placed my spies there, intent on finding you. I was so blind when you arrived in Imladris. I should have realized it was you when an unexpected touch of mine triggered a small energy transfer.” Elrond’s mouth was going dry, but he couldn’t stop now. “When Haldir told me everything about you, my heart bled, realizing how many dreadful things had happened to you, beginning with Orophin drawing the wrong conclusion that day.” He unexpectedly grinned at Erestor. “You helped my mother to look after me.”
“Aye, I did,” mumbled Erestor, blushing shyly. “You were a really lovely child. It was Elros who always got you into trouble.”
“Tell me more.”
Erestor swallowed hard, trying to please Elrond. “You once threw mud into my face… and you always needed your dolphin close. It was the only animal that could defeat Elros’ octopus.”
“Hence the request for the nursery to resemble the Havens of Sirion,” said Elrond in understanding, running his thumb along Erestor’s jaw line.
“Aye, and one night… one night you climbed into bed with me. Your father found us that way and told me Elros had snuggled up to his wife. He also told me that, if I did not think you trouble, I should let you sleep in my arms that night.”
Memories were triggered and Elrond began to remember more vividly. “He gave me a seashell…”
“And you fell asleep listening to it.” Erestor nervously licked his lips. “The day of the attack was one of the worst in my life. Your mother had sent me to the haven to buy some fish and the attack happened when I was on my way back. I found Rhoss bleeding to death and knew I had to keep the knife in place until I could work my healing powers on him. That was when Orophin came upon us.”
Elrond studied Erestor’s swimming eyes. “Galadriel and Celeborn sentenced you to lifelong imprisonment for something you did not do.”
“I tried to tell them,” whispered Erestor, lost in memories, “but they refused to listen. After binding myself to you, Celeborn realized he had erred and tried to help me, but Galadriel, she hurt me the most. The things she said…” His voice trailed off, not wanting to relive those horrid moments.
Elrond knew what Erestor was hinting at and his anger returned. “She called our sons bastards.” He hated the way Erestor flinched in his arms and wished he hadn’t said that. “I will confront her with that fact.”
“You had better not do that,” said Erestor pleadingly, “She hates me and the last thing she wants is for you to be with me.”
“Well, she will have to accept this -- us -- as we are bound to one another!”
Erestor, whose throat felt awfully dry, asked, “Can I have some water?”
Looking about in search for a drink, Elrond found a glass filled with water on the floor and helped Erestor to empty it.
“What will happen now?” asked Erestor, settling against the half-Elf’s body again.
“I will take you home to meet our daughter and I will pamper you for the rest of your life!”
Erestor chuckled lightly at hearing that. “You will grow tired of me.”
“I won’t!” Elrond was delighted, realizing Erestor was teasing him mildly. “I love you too much to grow tired of you!”
“And… Elladan and Elrohir? Will they accept this?” Erestor looked up from where his head rested on Elrond’s chest. “They hate me.”
“They do not hate you. Their hate was aimed at themselves and they finally realized that. When Elrohir was rocking Indlîrien, I saw the beginning of brotherly love in his eyes.” Elrond traced Erestor’s right eyebrow with his thumb. “Let me take you home, melamin, and allow me to make you – and our daughter – happy.”
“I always wanted to hear you say that,” said Erestor, blushing fiercely.
“Do you accept my offer?” Elrond gave his mate a brilliant smile.
Erestor knew it was the sensible thing to do and he did want this. “I accept,” whispered he shyly. “I hope I can make you happy in turn.”
“You have already done that by giving me such a beautiful daughter.” Elrond brushed his lips against Erestor’s. “She has your lips and nose, love.”
Erestor’s blush deepened. “I cannot believe that this is really happening. I dreamt of your love for so long.”
“And now you have it.”
Celeborn and the twins joined Glorfindel, who still stood guard near the stairs to the talan. “Have you heard anything yet?” Celeborn was worried for Erestor’s well-being. He did believe Elrond meant well, but he also knew Erestor tended to misunderstand good intentions.
“Nothing yet,” said Glorfindel, feeling miserable. But his mood brightened, seeing Haldir and his brothers approach. Briefly, he wondered if Rumil and Orophin knew of his marriage to Haldir. It certainly wasn’t his place to tell them. Haldir should do that. Haldir then surprised him by possessively claiming his lips and wrapping his tongue around his. Glorfindel moaned in surprise and caught the cheerful laughter that erupted from the two brothers. /I can safely assume they know,/ he thought dryly.
“Glorfindel,” said Haldir, pulling back. “I do not think you were ever properly introduced to your brothers in law. This is Orophin, the youngest of the three of us.”
“You have no idea how many times I had to hear that,” said Orophin, groaning.
“And this is Rumil.” Haldir smiled at his brothers. “I greatly missed you two during my time in Imladris.”
”We are glad to be reunited with you,” replied Rumil, “Even if it is only for such a short time.”
Celeborn smiled at the three of them, wondering how they had ever survived being apart. “All three of them are Erestor’s ‘protectors’,” he said proudly, looking at Glorfindel and then his grandsons. “And Elbereth knows that he needed them.”
“When we found Erestor near the tomb, we assumed the worst,” said Orophin, his eyes still carrying a hint of tears. “We thought that he had suffered another miscarriage and had come here to die.”
“That *is* what Erestor thought,” confirmed Haldir.
“But when we heard that Indlîrien was alive and faring well, we were overjoyed.” Orophin smiled happily.
“Maybe we should take some food to them?” suggested Celeborn. “It seems quite useless to stand here all day long. Let me arrange for guest quarters close to this talan. Orophin? I think you and your bothers will need to stay elsewhere for the time being. I doubt Elrond will want to share Erestor with the three of you.”
The three brothers nodded; they didn’t care about losing their talan to Elrond and Erestor. They were much too happy that Erestor’s daughter was alive.
Elladan and Elrohir demanded that they should take the tray of food to their father and Erestor. At first, Haldir had wanted to do this, but they had pleaded with the guardian to give them a chance to talk to Erestor. They still felt guilty for the way they had treated the pregnant Elf and needed to talk things through with him. In the end, Haldir had relented.
Elladan knocked, whilst Elrohir carefully balanced the tray. They briefly exchanged looks, hoping the upcoming conversation would go well and ease the minds of all parties involved.
Recognizing their father’s voice, Elladan opened the door and then stepped aside to let his twin enter. As he was looking at Elrond and Erestor, who were cuddled up to one another in the bed, he immediately noticed the alarmed look in Erestor’s eyes. “Peace, we bring you dinner.”
Erestor, realizing Elladan had addressed him specifically, looked questioningly at Elrond, and then began to pull away, trying to distance himself, as he didn’t want the twins to grow irritated with finding them in this way.
Elladan finally fully understood the hurt his brother and he had inflicted and sat down on the floor, next to Erestor’s bedside. Elrohir placed the tray on the bed and then occupied the only chair in the small bedroom. The twins spoke up simultaneously, as if with one voice. “We owe you an apology, Erestor.”
Elrond smiled, pleased, hearing his sons say that. He had hoped they would put their hatred behind them and look toward the future instead.
Erestor blinked in surprise. “An apology?” That was the last thing he had expected to hear!
“For a lot of things,” said Elrohir, taking the lead as he often did, “But foremost for addressing you in such an unbecoming manner the first time we met. We had no right to address you like that.”
Erestor shrugged his shoulders once. “Everything you said was true. Your father did bed me and sire my child.” Unable to meet their gray eyes any longer, he averted his. “You have every reason to dislike me.”
“Maybe,” said Elrohir thoughtfully, “But we did not have the right to judge you.” He cleared his throat, uncertain if he should address this matter. “We visited the tomb with our grandfather, and while we were standing there we began to realize how much you had lost.”
Tears swam in Erestor’s eyes, and as they were closed, they erupted from beneath the closed eyelids. “I imagined they would have looked like the two of you.” His voice took on a distant tone. “The first time I saw the two of you, I knew my sons would have looked like you and I wanted to get to know you to...” Unable to finish, he sobbed softly, embarrassed to show his hurt so openly.
Elladan rose from the floor and sat down on the side of the bed. “Erestor?” Elrohir followed his brother’s lead and came to stand behind Elladan, resting his hands on his twin’s shoulders. “Erestor, look at us?”
Erestor reluctantly opened his swimming eyes. Looking at them only worsened his pain.
“All this is rather unexpected,” started Elladan in a soft voice, “And we did not realize how ‘special’ we are to you until we stood near that tomb.” His twin squeezed his shoulder, telling him to continue. “We wanted to tell you that we will never willingly hurt you again and if… if you would like to do so, you can fuss over us.”
“What my dear brother is trying to say,” said Elrohir, taking over, “is that we accept you into this family.”
Elrond had never felt more proud of his sons and gave them a grateful smile. “You have no idea how much this means to me – us.”
Looking into Erestor’s chocolate brown eyes, Elladan said, “I think we do, Adar.” Erestor’s pain had become real when they had stood near that tomb, realizing the sacrifices Erestor had made so their father could live. Slowly, making sure Erestor saw what he was doing, he placed his hand on the skeleton like fingers. “And now eat. You are too skinny.”
“That is Rumil’s line,” said Erestor, breathlessly. It would take him time to accept that the twins wanted him to be part of their family, but he would do his best to never let them down.
Rumil had climbed the branches of the neighboring tree in order to check on Elrond and Erestor, ignoring the mallorn’s protests at being exploited in such a way. It was the dead of night, and yet Elrond and Erestor remained locked away in their talan. That had piqued Rumil’s curiosity. “Stop making such noise! You will give us away!”
Orophin mumbled softly. “This was your idea, dear brother! Haldir told us they were fine and we should take his word on that!”
“I need to see for myself. When we found Erestor he was dying. I need to know he is improving.”
“With his bonded mate at his side, he should recover quickly!” Orophin cursed his brother when part of a branch snapped loose. “Look out! You have the grace of an Orc!”
Rumil had finally reached the right spot to peek inside. A smile spread over his face, finding that Elrond was holding Erestor close, both peacefully asleep. “Erestor is fine.”
“Would the two of you now come down and stop upsetting the trees and animals?” Celeborn looked up into the tree, smiling at them. At times, they reminded him of mischievous Elflings.
Rumil, being the quickest to react, climbed down and let himself drop onto the ground. “We had to make sure—“
“I know, but leave them be now. Off with you.” Celeborn watched Rumil walk away with a happy smile on his face. “Same goes for you, Orophin.”
Orophin had doubtlessly become very dear to him. There was something about the younger Elf that touched his heart. /And I locked these emotions away when I started to feel them for the first time./ It was a road he couldn’t walk, even if he wanted to. He was bound to Galadriel. Unexpectedly, the branch, which Orophin was standing on, snapped and the sentry’s breath was knocked out of him as he began to fall toward the ground.
Celeborn reacted instinctively, moved closer and managed to break Orophin’s fall. Both Elves lay panting on the ground, but Celeborn was the first to catch his breath again. “You always were trouble, Orophin.” He recalled a time when Orophin had been an Elfling, crawling behind Haldir and falling into a large pool of mud. He had resembled an Orc after that and his brothers had teased him mercilessly. The poor Elfling hadn’t understood what he had done wrong and had come running to him for comfort, which he had of course given. Over the next few millennia, he had continued to grow fonder of Orophin and he had locked that attraction away even deeper.
“'Tis a good thing I am not mortal,” mused Orophin, pushing himself to his feet again. Offering Celeborn his hand, he wriggled an eyebrow. “May I help you back to your feet, my Lord?”
Celeborn snorted, but accepted the help. Orophin’s hand felt warm in his and he held it longer than was strictly necessary. “Join your bothers, you rascal, and make sure I do not catch you spying on Elrond and Erestor again.”
Orophin smiled, wondering why the Lord of the Golden Wood was still holding his hand. Was it just his imagination or was Celeborn gently rubbing his knuckles? /I did not fall on my head, now did I?/
Growing aware of the caress he was bestowing on the other’s hand, Celeborn released the limb as if bitten by a snake. “Off with you, then.”
“Are you sure you want to send me away?” Orophin had seen Celeborn’s loneliness grow stronger over the centuries. Although Galadriel and Celeborn were still bound, there was no longer any attraction or love between them. They even lived separately. “Maybe we could go for a walk?” They had done so before, but usually accompanied by Rumil.
Celeborn hesitated to accept, but in the end he gave in, craving the other’s company. “Aye, we will go for a nightly walk then.” Pushing his attraction aside, he hoped he wouldn’t give himself away now that he would be alone with Orophin.
Rumil was whistling softly when he closed the door behind him, finding Glorfindel and Haldir caught up in a game of chess. The two Elves sat wrapped up beneath a blanket, studying the board intensely.
Orophin and he had known that Haldir had proposed to Glorfindel and that the legendary Balrog Slayer had accepted because their elder brother had told him in one of his letters. They had regretted being unable to congratulate him in person and now that he saw them sitting that comfortably, he could easily tell they were happy.
“How do Elrond and Erestor fare?” asked Haldir, without looking up from the game. Ithil’s rays were weak tonight, but offered just enough light to play without straining their eyes.
“They were sound asleep in each other’s arms!” Rumil removed his boots, leggings and shirt and slipped into the bed.
“Uhm? Haldir? What is Rumil doing in our bed?” Glorfindel arched an eyebrow.
Haldir laughed softly. “’Tis a habit of ours,” explained Haldir, “to sleep in the same bed whenever we can.”
Glorfindel pouted. “I gather that means I have to behave tonight and won’t get to ravage you?”
“Ah, by the Valar, behave!” Rumil pulled the blanket over his head, enjoying teasing them immensely. “The bed is big enough for the four of us, if the two of you do not move about too much!”
“The four of us?” Glorfindel stared pleadingly at his husband.
“Orophin might join us later,” explained Haldir. “But judging by the way this game of chess is going they can have the bed to themselves.” It would take them a few more hours to decide this game.
Glorfindel sighed, wishing he was back in Imladris where he didn’t have to share his bed with Haldir’s brothers.
“Are you comfortable?” whispered Elrond, still half asleep, but Erestor had been moving about in his arms, and he had to make sure his lover was well.
“I want to hold my daughter in my arms,” admitted Erestor in a hoarse tone. “I think I dreamt of her.”
“You will hold her soon enough.” Elrond placed a kiss on his lover’s raven hair. “Maybe – provided you have recovered sufficiently – we can start our journey home tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow.”
“I would like that.” Erestor lifted his eyes and met Elrond’s gaze. “I already feel better.”
Elrond knew Erestor’s recovery had everything to do with the fact that he was sharing his life energy with his lover. “You do realize that everything will change once we are back in Imladris? No more hiding in the library or my study. I want you to take your rightful place at my side.”
“I will do my best,” promised Erestor, “but I do not know how to do that.”
That promise was more than enough for Elrond, who suspected Erestor would steal a few more hearts once the Elf came out of his shell. “You have so much to give, and now you can do it because you choose to do it, not because someone is forcing you into doing it. And you will receive so much in return. You already have my love and undying dedication.”
Erestor blushed fiercely, resting his head back onto Elrond’s chest. “I have never been this happy before.”
“And the best thing is that it will be like this for the rest of your life.” Elrond would see to that personally.
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