Elrond stared at his reflection in shock. “Elros?” It couldn’t be, yet every fiber of his being was telling him he was standing opposite his twin. “Elros?” Swallowing hard, he felt frozen. Unable to move, he studied the other Elf.
Elros was dressed in gray robes, lined with the darkest blue and specks of silver. His long, raven mane was braided into a single plait and the large, gray eyes hid nothing from him. This was Elros, he was sure of that, but… “I don’t understand.” Afraid to believe that his dearest wish had come true, he remained at a respectful distance. Elros would surely disappear once he tried to reach for him!
Elros was going through a similar process, seeing his twin after so long a time. Elrond had always possessed a sense of authority he had lacked and yet, at the same time, his twin also radiated compassion. “I assure you it is I, gwenneth.” He felt unable to take that first step, lacking the courage to cross the distance between them – much like Elrond did.
Standing opposite each other, their eyes searched the others’. In the end, it was Elrond who gathered his courage first. “I know it is you. I can sense it, but…” Taking a step closer to his twin, he cautiously raised a hand and let it hover against Elros’ face, not yet touching. “Are you real?”
“I am real.” Now that his brother was reaching out, Elros felt encouraged and caught his twin’s wavering hand in his. Upon contact, both trembled, realizing this was really happening. Elros stared in amazement at his brother’s hand, which now rested inside his. Elrond felt warm and real, and acting instinctively, he tugged at the arm, pulling Elrond close against him. His arms came up behind his twin’s back and he hugged him close, never wanting to let go again. “Aiya, I missed you so much!”
Shocked that Elros hadn’t disappeared, and that there was a warm and solid body against his, Elrond finally completed the embrace, brining his arms up behind his twin’s. “Am I dreaming? Hallucinating? What sweet madness is this?”
Elros smiled warmly, burying his face in his twin’s hair. “No dream. No hallucination. No madness.” Elros preferred action over words and settled for holding his younger brother tightly. “I missed you so much!”
Elrond, trying to wrap his mind around the fact that he was actually holding his twin in his arms, gasped for breath and then his silent sobs started. Trembling fiercely, he pressed closer against his twin. “This cannot be!”
Realizing Elrond was crying, Elros pulled back to establish eye contact with his twin. “’Tis really happening.”
“But how? When? Why? Who?” Elrond desperately buried his fingers in his twin’s mane. Now that he had a tight hold on Elros, he refused to let go again. Tears flowed down his face, dripped from his chin and onto Elros’ clothes. “I saw you die!” He had been there during his brother’s last moments and had seen him release his last breath.
“I will tell you, gwenneth, but we should probably sit down first before you faint in my arms.” Elrond had never acted this emotional before, but then again, one didn’t find a dead brother standing alive and well in one’s study every day. It was a lot to take in for Elrond. “Sit with me.” Guiding Elrond closer to the fireplace, he sat down, pulling his twin with him.
Elrond reacted automatically, settling down in his brother’s arms. Oh, how he had missed this: this feeling, this intimacy. “It must be a dream.”
“No, ‘tis not,” repeated Elros, slightly amused. Stroking the dark hair, he maintained a tight hold on his younger brother. He had missed this as much as Elrond had. “Rest against me and be assured that I won’t vanish on you whilst I tell you what happened to me these last few days.”
Elrond rested his head on his twin’s shoulder, listening to the soothing and slightly entrancing tone of his brother’s voice. “I am listening.”
Elros smiled, wondering how his twin would react to his tidings. “The Valar sent me back, gwenneth.” They hadn’t told him why. They had just hinted that it had something to do with Elrond. “And I am here to stay…That is, if you want me.” Seeing the happy expression in his twin’s gray eyes when Elrond raised his head to look at him, he already knew the answer.
“You have a home here with me.” Elrond gingerly raised a hand and placed it against his brother’s face. He knew Elros had much more to tell him, but that could wait. First, he wanted to bask in his brother’s presence and love. Snuggling up to his older twin, he relished the silence and listened to Elros’ steady breathing.
An hour later, Elrond gingerly freed himself from his brother’s embrace. “I am completely forgetting about my duties as your host. You must be tired, even hungry maybe?”
Elros gave his brother a grateful smile. “I am, actually. It takes time, getting used to being alive again.”
Now that piqued Elrond’s curiosity. “May I ask… Are you mortal or…?” In what form had the Valar sent Elros back?
“I honestly don’t know,” replied Elros, “And I am not very eager to test my mortality or immortality. I have the feeling we will find out in time.” Brushing a strand of knotted hair away from his twin’s face, he smiled warmly. “I missed having you close.” There was so much more that he wanted to tell Elrond, but he didn’t have the strength or courage to address those matters now. He needed to eat and rest, and maybe then he would feel confident enough to bring them up.
“Come with me to my rooms. You will be comfortable there.” Elrond refused to give up their physical contact and held onto his twin’s hand, whilst pulling his older brother to his feet. Standing close, they studied each other. Elrond still had a hard time believing he was actually looking into his twin’s eyes. “Don’t ever leave me again, gweniaur. When you died—“
Quick to silence his brother, Elros placed a finger across Elrond’s lips. “Not here, not now. Later.” He also knew they had to address this, but not when they both felt this emotional at being reunited. Folding an arm around his twin’s waist, Elros allowed himself to be led into the corridor. “I scared Glorfindel, didn’t I?”
“I am afraid you did. When he entered my rooms he looked like he had seen a ghost. And when he told me about you I seriously considered taking him to the Healing House, but he refused and dragged me over here instead. I am glad he did.” Elrond gave his twin a sparkling smile. He maintained his hold on Elros’ hand, still worried his twin might disappear unexpectedly.
Fortunately, they encountered no one in the corridors, and when Elrond closed the door to his quarters behind him, he was struck by the feeling of how right it felt to have his twin in here. “Please seat yourself. I will tell one of the servants to fetch something to eat.” He disliked letting Elros out of his sight for even the shortest moment, but he needed to instruct Lindir.
Elros, sensing his twin’s insecurity and need, advanced on his brother’s bed, sat down and stretched his limbs when he had lain down. He couldn’t remember the last time he had slept in a bed! Snuggling deeper into the comfort of the fabric, he sighed and closed his eyes. He was more tired than he had thought and slowly drifted off to into sleep.
By the time Elrond returned, he found his twin fast asleep on his bed. Curled up, Elros was hugging one of his pillows. Sitting down on the side of the bed, Elrond reveled in the fact that his brother’s face was young again, unmarred by the passing of time. When he had seen Elros last, his hair had been gray, his face wrinkled and his twin’s eyesight had diminished considerably. To see him restored to his former glory made his heart thunder madly.
Reaching out gently, he brushed a few wayward strands of hair behind his twin’s ear. He had forgotten how much he loved his older brother. When Elros had told him about his decision to become mortal, he had cried bitter tears, beseeching his twin to change his mind. But Elros had been determined to follow through, saying his destiny lay elsewhere.
He had been so incredibly lonely after Elros had left and he had tried hard to deal with the loss, but the truth was that his heart still carried the scars his twin’s choice had left behind. /And now he has returned to me. But for how long? And what are the Valar’s motives? Why sent him back? And does Elros have the answers to my questions?/
“My Lord? I brought the refreshments you requested.” Lindir, standing in the doorway, frowned at finding a dark-haired Elf in his Lord’s bed. The fact that Elrond was caressing the stranger’s hair puzzled him, but it was not his place to question his Lord. Placing the tray on the side table, he tried to catch a glimpse of the stranger’s face, but as the other’s back was turned toward him, he failed.
“You may leave now, Lindir, and please see to it that we are not disturbed.”
Lindir cleared his throat. “Lord Glorfindel is waiting in the corridor and seems rather determined to talk to you.”
Elrond sighed and then nodded his head. “He may enter.” There was no use in sending Glorfindel away. The blond knew about Elros and would remain close because he was worried.
Lindir left and Glorfindel hesitantly entered. Seeing the two dark-haired half-Elves on the bed, his heart expanded with relief. He made his way over to them and carefully rested a hand on Elrond’s shoulder. “How are you dealing with this?”
Elrond looked into his friend’s sea-blue eyes. “I am afraid he will leave me again.”
Glorfindel noticed the way Elrond’s fingers were curled around his twin’s – possessively. ”I understand that you feel that way, but… Are you sure this really is Elros?” He hated saying that, but he didn’t want Elrond to delude himself.
“Oh, this is my twin all right,” said Elrond thoughtfully. “We always shared a very strong connection and I can sense him in my mind.”
“Do you know how he—“
Elrond cut him short. “He said the Valar sent him back, but that he doesn’t know why.”
“And you believe him?”
“I have no reason to doubt his words.” Elrond stared into Glorfindel’s eyes. “I don’t know why he is here, or if he is mortal or not, but he is here and I am content with that. I want to savor the moments given to us. Yes, I have questions, but those can wait until he is rested and fed.”
Glorfindel nodded. “I do hope the Valar mean well with the two of you.” His last doubts that this wasn’t Elros vanished. Elrond was convinced that this was his twin, so he accepted that as the truth. “Take good care of him, my friend.”
“I will.” Elrond determinedly nodded his head. “I will never let him go again!”
Glorfindel smiled and headed back to the doorway, realizing the two of them would like some privacy. /And I still have to check on our cranky advisor./
Once Glorfindel had left, Elrond slid into place behind his twin. Now that he was lying comfortably, he pulled his older twin closer to him, wrapping arms and legs around him. He would make sure Elros didn’t vanish overnight!
Glorfindel soundlessly sneaked into Erestor’s rooms, which were still warmly lit by several oil lamps. Apparently the advisor hadn’t bothered to get up to extinguish them… or was Erestor still unable to move about much? After casting a look at Erestor to make sure that the dark-haired Elf was soundly asleep, Glorfindel began to explore the room.
First, he studied the tapestries, realizing they depicted Gondolin. Why hadn’t he noticed that the first time around? Stepping closer, his fingertips moved along the fabric. He could actually recognize parts of the city on this tapestry. How had Erestor gotten a hold of them? And why had he never shared them with him? Erestor knew how much he missed looking upon Gondolin’s glory, he had told the advisor.
Continuing his exploration, he gave the scrolls and books a critical look. Books on Gondolin – no surprise there – books on tactical warfare – now why would Erestor need those? – and books on lore. The scrolls he didn’t touch, for fear that the sound of paper being unfolded would wake the advisor. But he did pick up one of the carvings to study it closer. Surprised, he noticed it resembled him. Had Erestor made it? But no, Erestor surely didn’t possess the necessary skills to create it. There was a warm expression on the carving’s face and he doubted someone as cold and distant as Erestor could put it there.
These rooms breathed a caring and pleasant atmosphere, which confused him, considering their inhabitant. Turning around, he looked closely at Erestor. The dark-haired Elf looked young, even small in the big four-poster bed. The bed itself stunned him, having expected a cot instead. He moved over to it and knelt on the floor, not wanting to wake Erestor by sitting down on the side of the bed. Erestor was fast asleep, but there was also a pained expression on his face, and Glorfindel felt a twinge of guilt. /Maybe I should ask one of the healers to check on him?/
Uncertain what to do next, he figured it would be best to let Erestor sleep. He was about to get to his feet again, when the dark eyes unexpectedly filled with awareness. At the same time, a pained whimper fled Erestor’s lips. Panic appeared in the dark eyes and Glorfindel acted at once, kneeling down again. “What is amiss?”
Erestor, stunned to find Glorfindel in his rooms once more, tried to glare at the blond, but was utterly unable to pull it off. The pain made it impossible. “Cannot move…”
Glorfindel frowned, concerned. “What do you mean *exactly*?”
“I cannot move…” Erestor hated admitting his weakness to Glorfindel. “Cannot move my legs…”
“How about your arms?” Glorfindel was growing increasingly alarmed.
“I can move my fingers… but my arms are too heavy to move.” Erestor was trying hard to keep his mounting panic from his voice. “What did you do to me?”
“A healer needs to properly examine you,” said Glorfindel, feeling guilty for causing Erestor’s problems in the first place. “Let me fetch one.” The chilling look Erestor was giving him almost caused him to reconsider, but then he realized it was the dark-haired Elf’s way of hiding his pain and discomfort. Erestor probably hated being vulnerable and being dependent. “I cannot stand by and let this happen, knowing I caused it.”
Erestor gnashed his teeth in frustration. Rationally he knew Glorfindel was right, but… “Make sure it is either Elladan or Elrohir. I want no one else to examine me. And don’t you dare disturb Elrond over something this trivial.” Erestor wanted to point a warning finger at Glorfindel, but lacked the strength to do so.
Glorfindel considered telling Erestor about Elros’ arrival, but then decided this wasn’t the right time for it, not whilst the dark-haired Elf was in obvious pain. “I will be right back. Don’t go any—“
“And where would I go in my current condition?” sneered Erestor, upset now that the paralyses was spreading further. “I cannot even move properly! And that is *your* fault!”
“I already said I was sorry!” growled Glorfindel, his temper showing now that Erestor was uncooperative. They glared at each other, neither of them willing to lose this battle of wills.
In the end, it was Erestor who broke eye contact first, simply because he had to close his eyes against the pain. “Just leave me be,” he said in a resigned tone. “My healing ability will take care of it eventually. Just excuse me when Elrond asks for me.”
“Oh, no, I am going to get one of the twins to look you over.” Glorfindel marched out of the room; feeling frustrated and cross with Erestor. Getting the dark-haired Elf to agree to something was even harder than slaying a Balrog! He suddenly froze in his tracks, realizing something important. /By the Valar, he is *good* at keeping me at a distance and playing me! He probably anticipated my reaction and acted accordingly./ Erestor had succeeded in chasing him away from his rooms.
Tapping his foot on the floor, he took a moment to gather his wits. /Elrond must have had his reasons to make Erestor chief advisor… Scheming and manipulation are two qualities Erestor possesses in abundance. I wonder what other qualities he is hiding./ Grinning like a cat, he headed for the Healing House, deciding he would look upon Erestor as a challenge to be conquered.
Elrond couldn’t stop staring at his twin. He wanted to stay close to Elros for forever and never let him out of his sight again. But seeing Elros this close also triggered other memories. For long years they had slept in this way, holding each other tight and with arms and legs wrapped around each other. They had continued to sleep that way long after reaching majority. Spreading their wings, they took to traveling with Gil-galad’s army. At first, the other soldiers had been puzzled, seeing them sleep side by side, but their sleeping methods had become accepted once they had begun building a reputation as skilled fighters.
Then, one night, it had happened. Elros had kissed him on the lips with an unexpected expression of desire – lust even, clearly visible in his gray eyes. Elrond had been stunned, had pushed his twin away from him and had stared at Elros in shock. Mentally, he replayed their conversation that night.
“Why did you kiss me?” Staring at Elros in shock, he ran his fingertips along his lips, still feeling an echo of his twin’s lips against his. He was grateful that they had put their bedroll down away from the main camp, as Elros had expressed some need for privacy. At least now their comrades in arms hadn’t seen Elros kiss him.
Elros averted his eyes, looking depressed and disappointed. “I am sorry, gwenneth. I lost control. You looked so lovely and you were so close…”
Elrond shook his head, desperately hoping the conclusion he had reached was wrong. “Why? Tell me why you kissed me.” The sad expression in his brother’s dark gray eyes took him aback. There was so much love in them!
“I made a mistake. Can we please forget about it?” Elros seriously didn’t want to explain his actions to his twin, fearing the outcome if he did. He kept his eyes averted, hoping Elrond wouldn’t pressure him. In Elbereth’s name… What had possessed him to kiss his twin? He had controlled his emotions and desires so far, why had they now gotten the better of him?
“I cannot let this go,” said Elrond in a trembling tone. “You kissed me… on the lips!” Leaning in closer, he grabbed hold of his twin’s shoulders, shaking him. “And the look in your eyes tells me something I really don’t want to know!”
Elros closed his eyes, but knew it was too late, as the loving expression in them had given him away. “Do not do this. Please,” he said, shaking his head.
“Elros?” Elrond pleadingly stared at his brother. “Tell me why.” But did he really want to find out why there was such desire in his brother’s eyes?
“I am in love with you,” Elros eventually said in a choked tone, looking back into his twin’s eyes. Blinking, he tried to maintain eye contact with his twin, but it was hard to face Elrond now that he was finally revealing his true feelings. “It started shortly after we entered adulthood. I always tried to keep this from you, but… I don’t know what happened just now. I know I shouldn’t have done it.”
Elrond tried hard to truly understand his twin’s admission. “You are in love with me? But…” His features contorted. “Such a love is a monstrosity. You must fight it!”
Elros gasped, hearing Elrond’s condemning words. /A monstrosity; that is how he sees my love for him. I wish I had never spoken of it to him. I wish I had not kissed him. And what if he is right and it is a monstrosity? We are brothers! I should not feel that way about him./ Hanging his head in defeat, he sighed deeply. “I am sorry. I will never speak of my feelings for you again. You are right; I should fight them and not give in to them.”
Taking heart now that Elros saw how wrong his feelings were, Elrond moved closer again. He had distanced himself when hearing his twin’s admission, but now he felt the need to reestablish close contact. Elros’ feelings of misery brushed against his mind and he couldn’t bear knowing his twin was in misery. “We will face this together, gweniaur. I am sure you are strong enough to best these feelings.”
But the problem was that he didn’t want to best them. He wanted to give in to them, feel Elrond pressed close against him and to reclaim those lips, bruising them with passionate kisses. But Elrond had said this was wrong and he wouldn’t pressure his twin into accepting it. However, it would make things easier for him when he had to make his choice. He would choose mortality, as he didn’t want to live an immortal life in such torment, knowing his twin close, and yet so far away from him.
“We should go to sleep now,” said Elrond softly, gathering his brother in his arms. But this time it felt different, knowing Elros desired him in such a carnal way. Hesitantly, he lay down, face to face with his twin. There was a sense of discomfort between them that had never been there before. An invisible wall had been erected. And that barrier consisted of forbidden love.
“What are you thinking of, gwenneth?” Elros had woken some moments ago and seeing the distant look on his twin’s face, he had realized Elrond was lost in thought.
Elrond briefly trembled against his twin, eternally regretting his reaction to Elros’ kiss. That kiss had been the reason why they had drifted apart. When Elros had made his choice, Elrond had cried, knowing they would not be together until the end of Arda. Elros had left him alone and he had often wondered if things would have developed differently if he had accepted his brother’s love for him. Had the Valar now given him a second chance to make up for his past mistakes? Whatever the reason was for the Valar to return Elros to him, he was going to make the best of it.
“Gwenneth? Did you hear me?” Elros was growing worried now that his twin wasn’t answering him. He rubbed Elrond’s back, hoping to reassure his twin by touch.
Realizing that he was worrying Elros, Elrond gave his brother an apologetic smile. “I was just remembering the past.”
“Those were not happy moments you were thinking of.” Elros didn’t want to remember their past; he had made one fatal mistake and was determined not to repeat it. He would keep silent about his feelings for his twin and never give Elrond a reason to look at him in such a way again. That expression still haunted him. It had been one of utter shock, disgust even, and he never wanted to see that expression again.
“Our past,” commented Elrond, relishing the fact that his twin was rubbing his back. He had missed this intimacy. “We shouldn’t dwell on the past.”
“We should look to the future instead.” Elros smiled and was utterly embarrassed when his stomach growled hungrily.
“I am remiss again,” said Elrond, grinning. “Lindir brought some refreshments, but you were already asleep by then.”
“I am awake now.” Elros regretted letting go of his twin, but the food was calling him closer.
Elrond rose from the bed, waited for his twin to join him, and then claimed his brother’s hand again. “I am not letting you get away again!”
Elros was pleased to hear those words. “I don’t plan on leaving you, gwenneth.”
Once they had seated themselves at the table and Elros had started eating the soup, Elrond asked, “How did you return to Arda? Did you talk to the Valar or…?”
“I saw Manwe,” said Elros thoughtfully. He had been overwhelmed when meeting the Vala and that sensation was quickly claiming him again. “Before he appeared I… I didn’t exist, I think. I remember releasing my last breath – and you were holding my hand, I still remember that – and the next moment… there was nothing.”
Shudders coursed through his twin’s body, urging Elrond to move closer. He released his brother’s hand so he could wrap an arm around Elros’ waist. “I cannot imagine what that must have been like.”
“I don’t want to dwell on it,” said Elros determinedly, biting off a chunk of bread and munching on it.
Elrond waited patiently for his twin to continue.
“When Manwe appeared I had no idea what was happening to me. It took time to get accustomed to being alive and conscious again. When I found my body had been restored to me, I grew even more confused.”
“What did Manwe say?” Elrond couldn’t help being curious; his brother had met the most powerful of the Valar!
“He was rather vague,” said Elros thoughtfully, now eagerly eying the omelet on the tray. It wasn’t long before he started eating it, together with more freshly baked bread and wine. After a moment, he continued, “I forgot how good food tasted!”
Elrond smiled dotingly. “You can have more later. Now tell me about Manwe.”
“As I said, he was rather vague.” Elros drank more of the wine, and now that he had finished the omelet, he started on the sausages. Seeing his brother’s amused look, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I am hungry! It has been millennia since I ate last.”
“I can only imagine what it must be like for you, being alive again…” Elrond rested his hand on Elros’, thusly limiting his twin to the use of only one hand to feed himself. But Elros didn’t seem to mind, as he curled his fingers around his twin’s in approval. “Please continue to eat.”
Elros happily obliged him, finishing his meal with a juicy pear. “Manwe said I had some unfinished business on Middle-Earth and that he was sending me back for a reason.” Elros’ eyes momentarily narrowed. “He said it had something to do with you. Maybe you are in some sort of danger.”
“Danger?” Elrond didn’t think so. Yes, these were dangerous times with Sauron trying to regain possession of the One Ring, but he didn’t consider himself a serious target. Not now that the Ring had left Imladris. “I am in no danger.”
“We will see about that.” Elros pushed his now empty plate away from him. “Remind me to compliment the cook later.”
“I will.” Elrond gently squeezed Elros’ hand. “I still cannot believe you are really here.”
Elros arched an elegantly formed eyebrow. “I am here to stay. Manwe did say I would spend the rest of my life here – but he didn’t tell me if I am mortal or not…”
“What do you think? How do you feel? You were immortal once, you should remember how that felt.”
“That was a lifetime ago, gwenneth. Only time will tell. For now, I feel pleasantly full.” Looking out of the window, he found it was the dead of night. “Maybe you can show me around tomorrow?”
“Of course! And you have to meet my children!” Enthusiastically, Elrond nodded his head. “You have to meet Arwen and my sons.”
“Sons?” Elros laughed goodheartedly. “Don’t tell me you have twins!”
“I do, actually,” said Elrond, smiling. “Their names are Elladan and Elrohir and they reached majority long ago. They are skilled warriors now.”
Elros didn’t want to ask, but his curiosity got the better of him. “And their mother?” He immediately regretted asking that question as his twin’s gaze darkened with pain.
“I lost her. She sailed for Valinor after she was attacked by Orcs.” His voice trembled, revealing distress and sadness, which still lingered in his heart after so many centuries. “I still miss her.”
“The Valar have not been kind to you,” whispered Elros, compassionately rubbing his brother’s knuckles. “First you lose me and then her.”
”I lost Gil-galad as well.” Elrond bit his bottom lip, realizing what he had given away to his twin.
“Gil-galad?” Elros frowned.
“We were lovers once, but Sauron took his life, leaving me alone again.”
Elros buried his twin in a warm and tight hug. “I am so sorry you had to go through so much heartbreak.” His twin’s suffering was palpable to him through their connection, which once more existed and bound them. “You have lost so many loved ones.”
“But at least you are back now.” Elrond looked at his twin through a curtain of dark hair and a mist of tears. “Don’t ever leave me again, do you hear me?”
“I hear you,” said Elros soothingly. “And I will try to stay with you for the rest of my life. You won’t lose me again.” He only hoped the Valar would cooperate and not separate them.
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