“Rumil, my child, we have finally reached Imladris,” said Celeborn, relieved. The roads were dangerous and he had been worried, especially now that Rumil was with him. The young Elf was in no condition to defend himself in the case of an attack. “I hope that Elrond received my letter, and that he has prepared rooms for you. You look so very tired, ion-nîn.” The back of Rumil’s head rested against his shoulder, and when he cocked his head, Celeborn saw a look of utter resignation in Rumil’s eyes.
“Lord Celeborn!” Erestor appeared at the doorway, ready to welcome their guests, but he halted in his tracks upon seeing the frozen expression in Rumil’s eyes.
Celeborn dismounted and Erestor quickly offered his help. Together, Celeborn and he lifted Rumil from the back of the horse and each wrapped an arm around the blond Elf’s waist. Erestor’s barely hidden shock told Celeborn how bad Rumil looked to the advisor. “He needs to lie down.”
“I arranged for rooms close to Lord Elrond and Glorfindel’s. Glorfindel is a light sleeper and will wake in case Rumil starts to sleepwalk.”
“He does not walk in his sleep,” said Celeborn, sighing contently as they stepped into the shade of the corridor. The rays of the sun had become hot during the day and he now welcomed the soothing shadows.
Erestor led them to their assigned quarters. Arriving at the right corridor, Erestor spotted Elladan and signaled for him to approach.
Elladan felt joy at seeing his grandfather after such a long time, but the smile froze on his face, seeing the blond Elf in their arms. /That must be Rumil. Grandfather did not exaggerate in his letter./ The slight rising and falling of Rumil’s chest was the only indication that the ‘Lorien Elf was still alive.
“Ata’da, how can I help?”
Celeborn nodded approvingly and took Elladan’s arm, folding it around Rumil’s waist. “Help Erestor whilst I talk to Elrond. I will be back to check on Rumil later.”
Celeborn’s concern was hard to miss, and Elladan tightened his hold on Rumil. “He is in good hands.”
A smile stole across Celeborn’s features. “I know he is.” Then he turned and headed for Elrond’s study. They needed to talk.
Erestor pushed the door open and told Elladan to head for the bed. “Lower him gently.”
Elladan carefully laid Rumil down on the bed, stepped back and looked in surprise at the expression on Erestor’s normally emotionless face. Deep lines had appeared on the elder Elf’s brow and Erestor was muttering softly, assuring Rumil that it was safe to rest.
Erestor had forgotten Elladan was there as well, concerned as he was for Rumil, and when he looked up, he noticed Elladan’s raised eyebrow. Carefully schooling his emotions, the mask slipped back in place. “You should join your father and grandfather in the study.”
Elladan was still trying to understand what he had just witnessed. Concern and maybe even affection had shone from Erestor’s eyes, and now every indication that he had felt concerned was gone. Erestor’s stern look didn’t feel right, and Elladan was slowly beginning to understand why. Erestor was hiding his feelings. “And should you not join us as well?” asked Elladan. Elrond wanted all of them present.
“I will join you shortly. I merely want to make sure Rumil is resting comfortably.”
Elladan walked over to the doorway and quickly cast one final look over his shoulder. There! The concern and affection were back on Erestor’s face now that the elder Elf believed he was alone with Rumil.
Puzzled, Elladan walked down the corridor. When growing up, Elrohir and he had often joked about their mentor’s inability to show any emotions. But now he wondered if they had been wrong. /Why does Erestor feel he needs to hide his emotions from us? What is he scared of?/ Did not everything come down to two emotions in the end? Was it love or fear that caused Erestor to hide behind a mask?
Elrond rose from behind his desk to welcome Celeborn. He instantly noticed the other’s worried expression and the pallor that clung to Celeborn’s skin. “How emotionally hurt is he?” Rumil had to be in a bad way for Celeborn to be this concerned.
“I am afraid his soul may already have reached Mandos. The last time I looked at him I thought I saw a corpse.” Celeborn collapsed on a chair, exhausted.
“Maybe I should check on him now.” Celeborn’s words worried Elrond. “We can inform the rest later, after I have looked at Rumil.”
Celeborn nodded, fatigued, and was about to get to his feet when Elrond suddenly appeared next to him, resting a hand on his shoulder and telling him to remain seated.
“You look tired, old friend. Rest whilst I look after Rumil.”
Celeborn briefly closed his eyes. Elrond’s words were true; he was so very tired. “Let me know how he fares.” What he feared most was Elrond telling him that Rumil’s condition was beyond hope.
Elrond read that very fear on Celeborn’s face and gently squeezed the other’s shoulder. “I will do my best.”
Celeborn listened to Elrond’s soft footfalls as the Lord of Imladris left his study. He had never before felt this distressed, discouraged and alone; Galadriel would sail for Valinor shortly and Haldir and Orophin were gone as well. All he had left was Rumil, and he didn’t want to lose the young Elf.
“You look so sad, Ata’da.”
Celeborn jumped at hearing Elrohir’s voice this close to him. When had the youngster entered? Elrohir was kneeling on the floor, watching him closely. “I did not hear you enter.”
“You looked so thoughtful that I did not want to disturb your musings.” Elrohir frowned at seeing tears simmer in Celeborn’s eyes. “What has upset you?”
Celeborn drew in a deep breath. “I am worried about Rumil.”
Elrohir nodded. “Is that all there is? I have the feeling there is more.”
Celeborn suddenly realized how wrong he had been to assume that Rumil was all he had left. He had a family here in Imladris as well. It was a pity that he couldn’t spend more time here with his grandchildren. “You are right. Something else is on my mind. My wife is leaving for Valinor and I face losing the last of my sons. I feel old and lonely.”
“But you have Elladan and me! And Ada! Even Glorfindel and Erestor count as family.” His grandfather’s admission had slightly shocked Elrohir. “You are not alone! You could stay here most of the time and visit ‘Lorien when something urgent comes up. Elladan and I would love for you to stay!”
“I would love to stay,” said Celeborn, smiling. Leaning forward, he folded his arms around his grandson.
Elrond was not surprised to find Erestor sitting on the edge of Rumil’s bed. Although the other Elf always put on a carefully constructed mask, passion, concern and affection was hidden behind it, and appeared at times like these. After inclining his head and seeing Erestor nod, Elrond concentrated on the young Elf on the bed. A terrible cold emanated from Rumil’s body. He had also felt it when Glorfindel had returned from Mandos. When the blond had rested in his arms, his newborn body had been icy cold. “His soul has already entered Mandos.”
“I thought so,” mumbled Erestor and he released a distressed sigh. “Can you reclaim him?”
“Maybe.” Elrond sat next to Erestor, who immediately rose to his feet to give Elrond space to work. “But I cannot wait until after discussing this with Celeborn. I must act now. Celeborn should be present; will you fetch him, Erestor?”
A concerned look appeared in Erestor’s eyes. “Are you going to use your healing powers?” Elrond raised an eyebrow inquisitively. “Because if you are I am not leaving you alone,” said Erestor in a determined tone. “Using your healing powers leaves you weak and I will not take the risk of you getting injured as well.”
Elrond gracefully gave in, knowing when he was beaten. “I will attempt to pull him back.” Elrond rested his hands on Rumil’s face, after brushing back some grey looks. “They were silver once.”
“Grief can do terrible things to an Elf,” remarked Erestor thoughtfully.
Elrond wondered why Erestor’s comment worried him, but he couldn’t explain it. Instead, he focused his energy and closed his eyes. Rumil felt cold and distant, and the Elf’s life force was weakening with every passing moment. Reaching out mentally, Elrond called Rumil’s name. Drawing from his own energy, he poured a large amount into the Elf’s soul, hoping to warm Rumil’s mind. “You cannot leave yet,” he mumbled, knowing Rumil’s soul was listening as well. “You are still needed here. Your brothers want you to live and so does Celeborn. Do not leave, Rumil. Your time has not come yet.”
Erestor watched Elrond carefully and saw the other’s head and shoulders slump forward. Moving quickly, he sat down and pulled Elrond close to him, encouraging the half-Elf to lean against him and draw from his strength. Rumil moved slightly and his eyelids fluttered, telling Erestor that the Lord of Imladris had been successful. The dark Halls of Mandos no longer called to Rumil. “You did well,” said Erestor softly. “He is no longer slipping away from us.”
“Erestor? What is happening here?” Glorfindel had appeared in the doorway and now quickly advanced on the three Elves. “Will Elrond recover, Erestor?”
Erestor nodded once. “Using his healing powers usually exhausts him. I will take him to his rooms to rest and then inform the others that the meeting has been postponed. I want him to rest first.”
Glorfindel gave Erestor a look full of understanding. Erestor might never admit he loved Elrond, but the half-Elf always came first and Erestor would sit with him until Elrond felt stronger.
“One more moment,” whispered Elrond in a tired tone, running his fingertips over Rumil’s brow. “The cold of Mandos is receding, but it is still there. After I have rested I can try to heal more of him.”
“I will stay with Rumil,” offered Glorfindel. “I have been to Mandos and still remember the cold that dwells in those great halls. I will look after him.”
“Thank you,” whispered Erestor in Elrond’s place. The half-Elf’s eyes were closing and he needed to take Elrond to his rooms before he was fully asleep. Rising to his feet, he wrapped an arm around Elrond’s waist and guided him to the doorway. He had done this countless times before; whenever Elrond had exhausted himself by tending to the wounded, he had been there to look after the half-Elf. There had been one time when Elrond had teasingly called him ‘his shadow’ - and wasn’t that exactly what he was?
Glorfindel saw the raw emotion in Erestor’s eyes, but knew better than to address it in Elrond’s presence. So he sat next to Rumil instead, resting a hand on the grey hair. The cold was fading away, but Rumil was far from healed. He should probably inform Celeborn, but he felt hesitant to leave the room; Rumil needed constant supervision. Chills coursed through the lithe body and Glorfindel reached for the covers, tucking them around Rumil’s form. Although Elves didn’t feel the cold, this chill was different. Mandos’ cold had the power to kill. As the shivers continued, Glorfindel’s worries increased. Suddenly a whimper left Rumil’s lips and Glorfindel leaned in closer to catch the words.
“Hal…dir… O…ro…phin…” Rumil’s face briefly contorted and then the Elf released a keening wail.
“Shush, young one. You no longer dwell in the cold Halls of Mandos.” Acting instinctively, Glorfindel lay down next to the shivering Elf and wrapped his arms around him. Rumil immediately moved closer, yelping softly as he buried his head beneath Glorfindel’s chin.
Glorfindel allowed a smile to break through on his face when Rumil’s fingers clawed at the fabric of his shirt. “You are safe now.” Unexpectedly, Rumil reached behind him, as if searching for someone. “Aiya ,you think I am one of your brothers, and now you are searching for the other.” He had known Haldir well and knew how close the three of them had been. It would take Rumil years to fully recover from this trauma.
“Glorfindel? Is that you?” Celeborn had been puzzled at finding the door ajar, and had entered. Finding Glorfindel holding an obviously distressed Rumil was the last thing he had expected, but he felt relieved that Rumil was once more reacting.
“Elrond managed to bring him back from Mandos,” said Glorfindel, “but we have still got a long way ahead of us.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Celeborn approached the bed and watched Rumil closely. Tears were flowing down the Elf’s cheeks; Rumil was finally giving in to his pain and grief.
“He misses having his brothers close,” explained Glorfindel as Rumil awkwardly reached behind him.
Celeborn nodded and acted at once, spooning behind Rumil who instantly calmed down, feeling a body behind him. Stroking the once silver hair, Celeborn softly sang a lullaby, hoping the familiar words and voice would comfort Rumil.
Glorfindel smiled warmly, listening to the lullaby as well. Rumil breathed firmly and steadily, the shallow breaths gone. Celeborn pulled Rumil closer. Glorfindel did the same and soon they were a tangled mess of limbs.
Raising his head slightly, Celeborn was able to make eye contact with Glorfindel. “This is how the three of them used to sleep.”
Glorfindel nodded once. “I have the feeling we will be sleeping like this for many nights to come.” He chuckled softly. “Not that I mind.” He really didn’t. Holding Rumil, and feeling the rise and fall of the other’s chest, soothed him as well. He didn’t want to even think about it, but he could grow used to this feeling.
“Lie down, mellon-nîn.” Erestor eased Elrond gently onto the bed, looking for signs that the half-Elf had finally succumbed to exhaustion, but the blue eyes opened and locked with his. Elrond staring him like that made Erestor nervous, and the mask involuntarily moved back into place.
“Erestor?” Elrond raised a shaky hand, trying to touch Erestor’s brow now that the Noldorin Elf was leaning over him, but his friend quickly pulled away. “Thank you for taking care of me.”
Erestor nodded sharply, pulled up the covers, and then took several steps away from the bed. “You should rest now. I will tell the others that the meeting has been postponed.”
Elrond cringed at seeing the expression in Erestor’s eyes. Only a moment ago concern and affection had been reflected in them. Those two emotions were now replaced with a clinical stare, which was meant to keep him at a distance. “Erestor? Do not leave yet.” How many times had he asked Erestor to stay and watch over him when the healing sleep came over him? And every time Erestor had sat down, watching him from a distance. And yes, Erestor once more seated himself near the bed, watching him. Reassured that his friend would remain close, Elrond allowed the healing sleep to overwhelm him.
A choked sigh escaped Erestor’s lips once Elrond was asleep. The tears that he had kept back now swam in his eyes, but still he did his best to not cry. Every time Elrond used his healing powers, he worried. One day Elrond would reach his limits and what would happen then? Would it leave the half-Elf weak? Injured? It was his responsibility to make sure that never happened.
Folding his hands in his lap, he dotingly looked at Elrond, sound asleep now. “I will never stop loving you…”
Rumil stirred in his sleep when Celeborn removed his arms from the Elf’s waist. Glorfindel raised his head a little to make eye contact with Celeborn, and that was when he heard Celeborn’s growling stomach. “Go,” said Glorfindel softly. “Eat and freshen yourself up. Rumil will probably remain asleep for a few more hours.”
“I can send someone to take my place.” Celeborn privately sent a prayer to Elbereth, thankful that Rumil had returned to them. It would be a long time before Rumil was back on his feet, but he had faith that the day would come.
“I do not think that will be necessary,” said Glorfindel, slightly amused at the way Rumil had wrapped himself around him. “He is quite charming.”
“He is a rascal,” laughed Celeborn softly as not to disturb Rumil’s sleep. “He is the youngest, and got away with most of the tricks he played on us. Galadriel and I always had a soft spot for him.”
Glorfindel smiled when Rumil groaned softly, pulling him even closer now that the body behind him was gone. “I can barely breathe. His hold is awfully tight. I had not thought him that strong.”
“He looks young and naive, but he isn’t.” Celeborn rose from the bed and stretched. “Rumil loves deeply and is very loyal; that is exactly why he is in this state. He is mourning his brothers’ death.”
“Which is very understandable.” Glorfindel brushed back some locks that had fallen into Rumil’s face. “I hope his hair will regain its normal silver glow.”
“So do I.” Celeborn headed for the doorway. “I will check on you in an hour or two. I want to talk to Elrond, and it looks like Rumil feels content sleeping in your arms, so I can take my time.”
“Do not hurry,” said Glorfindel reassuringly. /I think Rumil is adorable./ But he couldn’t say that aloud.
Pleased that Glorfindel had taken a liking to Rumil, Celeborn left the room and stepped into the corridor. Elladan and Elrohir were just heading his way and they smiled upon seeing their grandfather. Celeborn returned that smile and grabbed each by a shoulder. “Did you have breakfast yet?”
Elladan shook his head. “We wanted to check on Rumil first.”
Celeborn’s smile warmed. It was good that the twins already cared for Rumil. He had the feeling that the three of them would get along perfectly. “Glorfindel is with Rumil.”
“Glorfindel?” Elrohir chuckled softly. “Now that is interesting.” Looking at Elladan, he said, “Shouldn’t Glorfindel lead this morn’s patrol?”
Elladan nodded. “I wonder if they can cope without him.” A sly grin surfaced on his face. “Maybe we should offer our assistance?”
Celeborn moaned softly. “Elrond wants you here, remember?” Seeing the disappointment in their eyes, he reconsidered. “We will talk to your father, aye?”
The twins nodded reluctantly. This would be decided at breakfast.
A soft, pleased, moan woke Erestor from his sleep. Alarmed, his eyes filled with awareness. He was in Elrond’s rooms and the half-Elf was watching him intently, propped up on his elbows. Moving carefully, Erestor stifled a whimper; his neck was cramped from falling asleep in the chair.
Elrond caught the pain-filled expression before Erestor carefully hid it. “You could have stretched out on bed instead of falling asleep in a chair.” To his surprise, utter astonishment showed in Erestor’s eyes, but a moment later it was gone. “The bed is big enough for both of us.”
Erestor briefly closed his eyes. “I prefer the chair.” Opening his eyes again, he averted them, unable to meet Elrond’s gaze after hearing that offer. /The offer meant nothing. He just does not want me sleeping in the chair./
“I should check on Rumil,” said Elrond, pushing down the covers. Thanks to Erestor’s care he’d had a full night of sleep, and his healing powers had been replenished.
“Are you sure you have rested sufficiently?” Erestor left his chair to stand next to the bed, offering Elrond his support if necessary. Elrond had been shaky in the past when pushing himself to his limits. Erestor couldn’t help being worried.
Elrond would never stop wondering about his old friend. Erestor usually acted calm and regal, but at times his whole demeanor changed and a very concerned, very caring person surfaced. He had often wondered why Erestor felt the need to keep that caring persona hidden. For centuries he had wanted to address this, but the moment had never been right. “Erestor?” Elrond grabbed the adviser’s wrist and held it tight, preventing him from pulling away. “Your concern means a lot to me.”
Elrond couldn’t believe his eyes when Erestor blushed. A shy expression stole into his friend’s eyes.
“I cannot help being concerned.”
Elrond had the distinct impression that Erestor wanted to add something, but for some reason the Noldorin Elf didn’t. “You are a very good friend, Erestor. Without you, I would be lost.” To his surprise, Erestor’s blush deepened. Had Erestor ever blushed before? He couldn’t remember!
“Thank you,” whispered Erestor in a shaky tone. His eyes were fixed on Elrond’s fingers, which were still curled around his wrist.
Elrond wondered what he was missing. There was something in Erestor’s manner and expression, which puzzled him. “We will check on Rumil and then have breakfast.”
“Of course, my lord,” said Erestor, trying to emotionally distance himself again. He had to make sure Elrond never found out about his feelings!
Elrond sighed disappointedly; he had hoped Erestor would become more informal, but the mask was back in place. Slowly he rose from the bed, tested his footing and then nodded once. “Let us go. I need to see if Rumil has improved overnight.”
Erestor followed obediently. Like a shadow.
Glorfindel cocked his head to see who was entering when the door opened. Seeing Elrond and Erestor walk up to the bed, he smiled. “He is doing much better.”
Elrond nodded and rested a hand on Rumil’s brow, relieved to find that the cold was leaving the young Elf’s body. “But his recovery will take time.” He raised an eyebrow inquisitively, seeing the contentment on Glorfindel’s face at holding his charge close. “You like him. Good.”
Glorfindel’s smug smile disappeared and a deep frown appeared instead. “However, there is a problem, my lord. I should be leaving on patrol in an hour and –“
“Stay here,” said Elrond. “I can use some fresh air myself.” Looking over his shoulder, he intercepted a look filled with longing on Erestor’s face. It had been ages since they had ridden out together, always busy with diplomatic matters. “Erestor and I will lead today’s patrol.”
Glorfindel saw Erestor’s perplexed expression and laughed softly. “I hope you have not forgotten how to ride a horse, Erestor! It must have been a while since you joined a patrol!”
Erestor glared at Glorfindel, but the blond just laughed. “You were a warrior before you turned into a scholar,” teased Glorfindel.
“I am still a warrior!” Erestor realized he had been baited and quickly grew silent.
“My lord, you will be able to put Erestor to the test,” said Glorfindel, addressing Elrond. He felt pleased now that Elrond and Erestor would be spending some time away from the Last Homely House and all diplomatic matters. He didn’t expect them to encounter any enemies, and judged it safe for them to go on this patrol.
A grin surfaced on Elrond’s face. “Maybe I will do just that.” Seeing the stunned expression in Erestor’s eyes, Elrond laughed warmly. “Glorfindel is right; we were warriors once, but we have grown weak behind our desks. We will leave after breakfast.”
“And may I suggest a change of clothes?” said Glorfindel in a wicked tone. “Robes can be a real hindrance in battle.”
Erestor still glared at Glorfindel, knowing very well that the blond had set him up. “I will be there, my lord,” he said, as his gaze shifted from Glorfindel to Elrond. /Glorfindel, I will get you for putting me in this position./
Glorfindel smirked, averted his eyes and looked at Rumil, who was still asleep in his arms.
Beta read by Ilye, thank you!
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