Heart In Chains
Elrond faced a dilemma, looking at Erestor and Indlîrien, who were soundly asleep in his bed. He didn’t want to leave them, but knew a load of work was waiting for him, and the longer he postponed dealing with it, the more it would continue to pile up on his desk. But he didn’t want to leave Erestor alone either. His lover might act more confidently lately, but part of it was pretense, trying to keep everyone around him pleased. Elrond would prefer for someone to sit with his lover.
When the knock on the door came, he realized his problem had been solved. “Enter.” The door opened and his sons entered. He would have preferred for Haldir or Glorfindel to stay with Erestor, as his lover felt more comfortable around the two warriors, but Erestor and the twins needed to build a relationship as well. Maybe this was a good opportunity for them to make a start.
“We were wondering if there is anything we can do to help,” asked Elladan softly, realizing Erestor and the baby were asleep. Maybe they could assist their father in dealing with his correspondence?
“Actually, there is something the two of you can do for me.” Elrond slipped into his outer, formal robes and walked over to the doorway, catching the twins’ puzzled expressions. “Look after Erestor and your sister during my absence. There are certain matters I have to take care of, but I do not want to leave them alone. Erestor might be disorientated when he wakes up. He has been through a lot, and although he seems to have recovered nicely, we cannot rule out that a setback will follow.”
“Adar, ‘tis not that we do not want to do this,” began Elrohir, shuffling his feet, “but wouldn’t Lindir or Arwen be a better choice?”
Elrond smiled knowingly. “Erestor and the two of you need to build a bond of trust. You cannot postpone that.” Elrond, opening the door, looked over his shoulder and chuckled, “And you took excellent care of Arwen when she was a baby. Indlîrien is in the best hands with you.” Quietly, he closed the door behind him.
Elladan and Elrohir stared at each other, realizing they were ‘stuck’ baby-sitting Erestor and Indlîrien. It wasn’t that they minded, but they were apprehensive of Erestor’s reaction at finding them here.
“He looks like he needs to eat more,” said Elladan thoughtfully, looking at Erestor, who was only wearing his nightshirt. “Why don’t you fetch something from the kitchens? And check if it is time for Indlîrien to be fed.”
“And maybe Erestor would like to take a bath? He still wears the dirt and grime of the road.” Elladan and he had already cleaned up.
“I will prepare his bath and you will see to the food. We will wake Erestor when you return.” Elladan felt a bit more confident now that they had a plan. He only hoped Erestor would cooperate.
Stirring, Erestor frowned in his sleep. Why were they talking so loudly? And who were ‘they’? Waking up, he became aware of the tiny, warm body pressed against his chest and his heart thundered with joy, realizing he was holding his daughter in his arms. Looking into her big eyes, he found that she was awake, giving him a curious look. “You are alive…”
Someone clearing his throat reminded Erestor that he wasn’t alone. He already knew it wasn’t Elrond, as he would have sensed the half-Elf’s presence, and he tensed slightly at finding the younger Peredhil staring back at him when he looked up. What were they doing here? Aye, they had proclaimed they accepted him as part of this family, but he still remained a tad unconvinced.
“We checked with Arwen and she told us that Indlîrien needs to be fed.” Elrohir picked up the bottled milk and slowly approached the bed. “I thought that you might want to do that.” Extending his hand, he offered Erestor the bottle.
Erestor, forcing himself to remain calm, accepted, and moved his daughter against him until she was in a comfortable position to drink her milk. To his amazement – and pleasure – she quickly emptied it. Recalling that a baby should be burped, he placed her against his shoulder and rubbed her back. A huge smile blossomed on his face when she complied.
“You should eat something as well,” said Elladan, who just like Elrohir, had seen the raging emotions on Erestor’s face. The fact that Indlîrien had survived and was now in his arms, was quickly overwhelming Erestor.
Erestor had heard Elladan speak, but had paid the words no heed, as he was totally focused on his daughter, who was now reaching for him. The tiny fingers managed to curl around a braid and pulled at his hair. Erestor was enjoying holding her and hardly felt the tug, but when a shadow suddenly fell over them, he startled and looked up at the twins, both of whom stood next to his bed. “Is something amiss?”
“No, everything is fine,” said Elrohir reassuringly, “but Indlîrien needs to nap and you have to take a bath and eat.”
Erestor gave himself an experimental sniff. Elrohir was right; he did need to clean up. But that meant leaving Indlîrien alone and he wasn’t inclined to do that.
Elladan read reluctance on the elder Elf’s face and knew he had to say the right thing for Erestor to comply. “Elrohir and I will take good care of Indlîrien whilst you are in the bathroom. See? Her eyes are filling with sleep. Trust me, they sleep a lot when they are this little, at least that is what my father told me. Arwen was quite the opposite. We will put Indlîrien in her cradle and nothing will happen to her.” He opened his arms, hoping Erestor trusted him to look after the baby.
Erestor knew the moment of truth had come for him. Did he trust the twins and was he willing to take this leap of faith? Reminding himself that they had tried hard to redeem themselves, he nodded his consent and carefully placed his daughter in Elladan’s arms. Watching the elder twin’s every move, his gaze followed Elladan to the cradle, where the half-Elf gently laid the baby down.
“And now it is time for your bath,” announced Elrohir, “We already prepared the pool for you.” Expectantly, he looked at the elder Elf.
Erestor sighed, pushed back the covers, and slowly rose from the bed. He still felt a bit weak and dizzy at times. When they had been on the road he had pushed himself, wanting to be near his daughter, and his body really hadn’t had all the time it needed to recuperate. But even in this state, he felt stronger than he ever had now that Elrond’s life energy was helping him heal.
Elrohir kept a watchful eye on his charge when Erestor made his way into the bathroom. After Erestor had closed the door behind him, Elrohir walked over to the closet to find a suitable robe for Erestor to wear after his bath.
Elladan realized Elrohir was facing a problem and returning to his brother’s side, exchanged a look with him. “These robes were made for him to wear during his pregnancy. They are much too big for him now.”
Elrohir smiled and headed for his father’s closet, at the other side of the now joined rooms. “These will do,” he said pleased. The rich fabric would keep Erestor warm and comfortable, and the deep brown color would compliment the elder Elf’s eyes.
“We should check with him regularly,” said Elladan thoughtfully, “We do not want him to fall asleep in the pool.”
Elrohir nodded. “Father entrusted Erestor to use for a reason and we had better not let him down.”
Erestor tightly wrapped a large towel around his form, cursing the lack of decent clothing. He didn’t want to slip back into his dirty shirt after his bath, but he had forgotten to bring a clean set of clothes with him. As he couldn’t stay in the bathroom for the rest of the day, he gingerly opened the door and stepped outside, hoping the twins wouldn’t make fun of him in his current state. Two pairs of gray eyes met his and he blushed, tightly clutching the towel. His wet mane fell in front of his face, providing a curtain to hide behind.
“Here,” said Elladan, picking up the clothes they had selected and handing them to him. “These should keep you warm.” The towel left little to the imagination and he was shocked to see just how skinny Erestor really was. He vowed to make sure Erestor ate regular meals.
“Thank you.” Erestor accepted the clothes and quickly disappeared into the bathroom again. He had seen the expression in the elder twin’s eyes and knew Elladan hadn’t been pleased to find how much weight he had lost after the birth. Dropping the towel onto the floor, he studied his reflection in the mirror.
They were right of course, Rumil, Elladan, Elrond… He was too skinny. And then there were the two scars, disfiguring him. Thankfully Elrond didn’t seem repulsed by them, as the half-Elf’s touch was always light and gentle when examining that area. How was it possible that Elrond still found him desirable?
Picking up the comb, he began to remove the snarls from his long hair. He should try to look his best, but doubted it would make much of a difference.
Stepping into the bedroom, Erestor felt a bit more confident now that he was wearing clothes. However, he was still puzzled why the twins had given him Elrond’s robes to wear. His first glance was aimed at the cradle and he found that his daughter was sound asleep. Reassured that she was comfortable and resting, he made his way over to the table, seeing the twins had gone to great lengths when it came to his lunch.
“Eat.” Elladan had already piled up several food items on Erestor’s plate. “You need more flesh on your ribs, my friend.”
It was that last word, which made Erestor look up in surprise. Quickly averting his eyes, he began to eat, feeling their eyes on him. They were certainly making sure he ate!
“Our father asked us to look after you and Indlîrien whilst he works in his study,” explained Elladan, “And we welcome the opportunity to spend time with you.”
Erestor nodded once. “I…” His gaze shifted to the cradle. “I do not have much experience when it comes to looking after a baby.”
“We can help,” offered Elrohir, “We helped raise Arwen.”
“I… would like that,” said Erestor shyly, realizing they meant well. All they needed was time to get to know each other.
Orophin felt a bit lost. The last time he had visited the Last Homely House, Rumil and he had only stayed for the night, and he was lost when it came to finding his way about.
“Maybe I can help?” Celeborn, leaning against the wall, watched Orophin spin around. “Feeling a bit lost?”
Orophin gasped; the transformation Celeborn was undergoing had surely improved his looks and the former Lord of the Golden Wood had never before looked more attractive to him. The somewhat sullen Lord Celeborn had disappeared and a very alert, handsome Elf had emerged instead. The mere sight of him made Orophin’s groin stir.
Celeborn was no fool and saw the effect he was having on Orophin; part of him felt thrilled at having his suspicions confirmed. Orophin was attracted to him also. He could even see the growing bulge in the other’s leggings. A sensual hunger assailed him, surprising him, and he fought it down, unwilling to act rashly. “Where are you headed?”
”I… I was looking… for you,” stuttered Orophin, wishing his arousal would fade, but now that Celeborn was advancing on him, the elder Elf’s heavy musky scent was making him sway and break out in a sweat. How was he going to act controlled with this temptation standing in front of him? All he could think about was begging Celeborn to take him and end his misery!
“You have found me.” Celeborn circled Orophin, his senses picking up on the other’s needs. “Would you go for a walk in the gardens with me until it is time to join the others for dinner?”
Orophin found himself nodding frantically.
Celeborn’s smile turned into a smirk and he placed one hand at the small of Orophin’s back, needing the contact to ground him. Sparks erupted at the touch and both Elves stared at each other, taken aback.
“What is happening?” Orophin swallowed hard; needing to know what was causing them to react like this. “I feel like I am rapidly losing control… your scent is in my lungs and…” Celeborn suddenly pulled him close and Orophin released a soft whimper, being crushed to a chest that was definitely more muscular than he remembered.
Celeborn looked deeply into Orophin’s hazel eyes, pupils dilated and the irises darker than he recalled. “I can still stop this… this attraction, if you want it. But I cannot lie to you or pretend I do not feel what I feel. I desire you greatly and I sense the same need in you. So I am offering you this choice. What do you want? Do you want me to distance myself from you and go back to pretending I do not want you? Or do you want me to take this step and make you mine?”
Orophin panted hard, hearing Celeborn address this matter so directly. “Do you really want me?” If Celeborn did, his decision was easily made. “What about Galadriel?”
“I am no longer bound to her and I would never consent to being bound to her ever again. I have missed feeling this strong, this… young. My body is waking up, remembering needs that were never fully met.” Celeborn studied Orophin’s eyes. “I have desired you for a long time and I think you feel the same way about me. I would not ask you to bind yourself to me, but I do not take lovers lightly. I would expect us to be exclusive, Orophin.”
Celeborn felt it was better to address this before they made a decision. “I am very loyal, Orophin, and I would do my best to live up to your expectations, but only if you want to be with me.”
Orophin swallowed hard, raised his right hand and let his fingers comb through Celeborn’s mithril mane. “You are so different now. Stronger, handsome… you radiate strength… and sex.”
Celeborn allowed himself a relieved smile. “You like what you see then?”
“Very much.” Orophin moistened his lips nervously. “About forming a bond…”
“Not now… not yet,” replied Celeborn firmly. “I do not know what effect it will have on you. I need to learn to control my powers first.”
“But what I am trying to tell you is that I want to be bound to you!”
Celeborn traced the outline of Orophin’s top lip with a fingertip. “I do not want you to act rashly. You think you know me, but do you? As I am now?”
“Then give me a chance to get to know you!” He was panting hard, tremors coursed through his body and he felt weak in Celeborn’s arms. Reacting instinctively, he leaned in closer and claimed Celeborn’s lips in a bruising kiss.
Elrond had left his study and walked to the Hall of Grief, where he found Rumil guarding the small wooden box that held the precious remains of his firstborn twins. The Galadhrim’s eyes were filled with understanding when Elrond placed a hand on the wooden box.
“I wish they had lived,” mumbled Elrond sorrowfully.
Those words nearly broke Rumil’s heart. “It was my fault,” he admitted in a strangled tone. “If I had not fetched Erestor to help…”
Elrond raised a hand and sighed deeply. “That was a most unfortunate chain of circumstances, but ‘tis Galadriel’s fault mostly. She decided against telling me of Erestor’s pregnancy.”
“What would you have done, had she told you?” Rumil relaxed his stance and took a step toward the half-Elf. Rumil still carried his own burden of guilt, and although Erestor had never blamed him for the loss, he blamed himself.
Elrond considered the question. “I would have been shocked to find out what Galadriel and Celeborn had done, but I would have demanded for them to send Erestor to Imladris where he could have given birth to them. I don’t know if I would have loved him as I love him now, but I would have treated him with the utmost respect.”
“But then Arwen and your twins might never have been born,” mumbled Rumil.
Elrond’s features darkened. “Rumil, you were not to blame. You meant well when you fetched him. Did Erestor ever blame you for his loss?”
Rumil sighed deeply, hearing Elrond’s calm tone. “I wish I could forgive myself, but I cannot.” He startled briefly, feeling the half-Elf’s hand on his shoulder. “I just want him to be happy.”
“So do I.” Elrond managed a reassuring smile. “Erestor has found a home here.”
“You will take good care of him and Indlîrien?”
“As long as I will live.” Elrond squeezed Rumil’s shoulder reassuringly. “We will all take care of him.”
Just before dinner, a large group of Elves gathered in the Hall of Grief. Celeborn still tasted Orophin’s lips against his and stood close to his new lover, making sure they weren’t separated. The fact that Orophin had taken the initiative had surprised and pleased him, as it made him look forward to their next sensual exchange.
Rumil, Haldir, Glorfindel, Arwen, the twins and Elrond were standing in front of the fire, their thoughts with Erestor’s unborn children, whom they would put to rest tomorrow. Imladris’ finest sculptors had worked hard to erect a new tomb that would hold their remains.
Elrond had asked them to gather here, whilst Lindir sat with Erestor and Indlîrien. Turning around, facing them, his gaze shifted from one to the other. He read regret, affection and trust in each pair of eyes. “I asked you to join me here because tomorrow will be a very emotional day for Erestor.” Elrond watched them nod and then continued, “In the next few days Erestor will greatly need your support. As the newest Lord of Imladris, he will need to find his place here – at my side – and he will need your help.”
“He can count on us to help him,” said Elladan in a firm tone.
“Thank you, my son,” replied Elrond, pleased. “I am sure the three of you will become good friends once Erestor does away with his distrust. It is not his fault, Elladan. Erestor learned that not many people are to be trusted.”
“We will be patient,” promised Elrohir.
Pleased that his sons had completely accepted Erestor as part of their family, Elrond’s gaze came to rest on Arwen. His family had expanded and he was grateful that his children accepted his new life mate and daughter.
Celeborn cleared his throat and Elrond was reminded of a different matter that he wanted to address. “I want to spend as much time as possible with Erestor and Indlîrien, and I wanted to ask you to take over some of my duties for the next few months.”
Celeborn nodded; he had been about to suggest the same thing. “I will look after Imladris for you.”
“And maybe Orophin can help?” suggested Haldir impishly. “My brother was always interested in learning diplomacy.”
Elrond arched an eyebrow, finding Orophin’s face a deep shade of crimson. He couldn’t remember ever having seen an Elf blush that fiercely before. Not even Erestor. /Does Orophin have some interest in Celeborn?/ Well, he couldn’t blame the younger Elf for being attracted to Celeborn, certainly not now that the elder Elf’s looks and charisma were so enchanting. Celeborn’s eyes met his. /Celeborn knows we will have to talk shortly./ Elrond was curious to find out what was truly happening to his former father in law.
“Lindir? Thank you for sitting with Erestor.” Elrond gave the white-haired Elf a thankful look and then opened his arms to receive Erestor into them. One look at the cradle told him that Indlîrien was awake, cooing happily.
“Someone should sit with her, whilst we eat dinner,” said Erestor, worried.
“Rumil has offered to stay with her. Will that do?” Elrond carefully monitored Erestor’s reaction and was relieved to see the smile. He hadn’t thought Erestor blamed Rumil for his sons’ deaths, but he had wanted to make sure.
“Rumil will do perfectly.” Erestor rested his head against Elrond’s chest, sighing blissfully.
“Hum, are you wearing my robes?” Elrond was surprised to see how well they looked on Erestor. “They suit you.”
Erestor blushed slightly. “I too wondered why Elladan had selected these for me, but when I went through my own robes, I realized I would drown in them. They are much too big now.”
“And mine fit you perfectly.” Elrond realized he liked seeing his lover in his robes; it made Erestor even more ‘his’. “You can wear mine until the tailor has time to see you.”
“You do not mind?”
“No, I greatly approve of seeing them on you.” Elrond was about to lean in closer to kiss Erestor when someone knocked on the door; Rumil probably. After calling out ‘enter’, Rumil entered.
“Off to dinner with you,” said Rumil impishly. “Erestor, you are still too—“
Elrond and Erestor finished for him. “Skinny.”
“Aye.” Rumil smiled brilliantly, catching sight of Indlîrien. “Hello there, little princess…” After walking over to the cradle, he gently lifted her into his arms. Cradling her against his chest, his eyes began to fill with unshed tears. “She is beautiful, Erestor.”
Erestor had a very good idea of what was *really* going on in Rumil’s mind. He had tried before to tell Rumil that the silver-haired Elf wasn’t to blame for the miscarriage he had suffered, but Rumil seldom listened. Entrusting Indlîrien to the sentry now, Erestor hoped Rumil finally understood how much he valued him as a friend. “Take good care of her for me, Rumil.”
Elrond, who was already guiding Erestor to the doorway, whispered, “She has already wrapped him around her little finger.”
Erestor laughed softly, hearing his daughter giggle. “She likes him.”
Rumil waited for the two Elves to close the door behind them and then sat down in the rocking chair. Now that he was holding her in his arms, he felt the first touches of forgiveness descend on him and he began to let go of his feelings of guilt, which had haunted him for so long.
Dinner proved to be nerve-wrecking for Erestor. Upon his arrival, all eyes had turned to him and he could still feel them now. Elrond had guided him to his seat, at the head of the table, next to the half-Elf. It was his usual place, but now it felt different.
Whilst Elrond introduced him as his new mate and the one who had given him a daughter, Erestor forced himself to stare at the wall, instead of hiding his face behind his hair. Arwen, who was seated at his other side, reached out for him, wrapping her fingers around his and he gave her a thankful smile. Her support meant a lot to him.
He almost expected to hear some protest when Elrond named him ‘Lord of Imladris’ and his official life partner, but no one raised any objections. Elrond now sat down next to him and his mate gave him a pleased smile. For one moment the half-Elf reminded him of a cat, purring its pleasure.
“That made it official,” announced Elrond proudly. Brushing a wayward lock behind Erestor’s pointed ear, he smiled at him. “You are my husband, lover, and bonded mate.” And soon, he hoped, Erestor would feel comfortable enough to explore their sensual relationship as well. “I love you, Erestor… until the end of Arda.”
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