Breaking Point by Crista

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Story notes: Silent/mental communication is --rendered like this-- If songs within fics annoy you, my apologies, but they help me keep the feel of the writing. For the purposes of this story, Elves can be bound by blood as well as by marriage, but these are different, the former being more powerful.
Warnings: ANGST. This means: self-mutilation, depression, suicide attempt, drinking, ect. If you can't deal with that kind of thing, don't read this fic. Also sexual violence (not rape) and some incest. (For those of you who have read the Thirty Minutes series, this is more graphic.)
Follows Abandon.
"Glorfindel, we can't stop here."

"Just leave me alone, Erestor." Glorfindel said, and the dark-haired Elf at his side placed one hand gently on his friend's shoulder. "He's...he's gone, 'Fin. You'll die if you stay here, we have to-"

"I don't care!" Glorfindel snapped, pushing Erestor roughly away. "I don't care anymore!" Erestor swallowed hard. "We need you, 'Fin. Especially without him...we are terribly short on good captains at the moment. Aiya, 'Fin, if not for yourself, for the others." Glorfindel took a deep breath, and his emerald eyes fixed themselves on the waters of the Fountain. "Ecthelion..." he whispered, and a single tear spilled from the corner of his eye. Erestor's throat felt tight as he followed his friend's gaze, and he looked down. Never, in all these years...never had he seen Glorfindel cry.

"Lord Glorfindel!" Erestor looked up and saw it was one of the remaining Elves of the Golden Flower who called to his captain, and Glorfindel sighed, wiping away the silvery trail the tear had left on his cheek. He visibly attempted to compose himself, trying with all his remaining will to be Lord Glorfindel, captain of the host of the Golden Flower, instead of just Glorfindel, mourning his lost lover.

"I am coming."

Erestor stood silently at the door, watching his golden-haired friend. Glorfindel was curled up on the window seat, watching it rain. Insult to injury. Erestor thought to himself. It's bad enough that he's going to be thinking about Ecthelion for the next few weeks, but it has to be raining, too. Rain always reminded Glorfindel of Ecthelion, Erestor knew. The Fountain had been an apt house for Ecthelion, who was fond of water in all forms. Erestor sometimes wondered if his death had been some sort of sick joke on the Valar's part; though he scolded himself mentally whenever such thoughts surfaced, he couldn't help but feel that they weren't far from the truth.

"How long are you going to stand there?" Glorfindel asked dully, and Erestor sighed. He should have known Glorfindel would be aware of his presence.

"I would ask you if you're alright, but I know better." Erestor said quietly, going to stand behind the blonde.

"I hate this time of year." Glorfindel murmured, and he paused. "But I love it, too. Just as I hate and love the rain and the river..."

"I know." Erestor replied, and his hands began to knead the tense muscles of Glorfindel's shoulders. Glorfindel hissed in pain, and Erestor frowned. "You are tense, mellon-nin. Hush." Glorfindel did not respond, and Erestor continued, but the tight knots of muscle simply would not loosen. Eventually, Erestor gave up, though his hands still rested on his friend's shoulders. "It's getting late, 'Fin, and you haven't eaten."

"I'm fine." Glorfindel muttered, and Erestor shook his head slightly, but he knew better than to waste his energy arguing with Glorfindel when he was in this mood.

"Then get some rest, at least." Erestor said. "I know it's hard, meldir, but you'll feel better."

"That seems unlikely." Glorfindel retorted, and Erestor sighed. "You have to sleep, 'Fin."

"I will." Glorfindel said, sounding distinctly unhappy about the idea. "And do you know what will happen then?" Erestor was silent, and Glorfindel looked down. "I'll have to see it all over again in my dreams." he said quietly. Erestor sighed and wrapped his arms tightly around his friend's shoulders. "You'll be alright, mellon-nin. You have lived through this before."

"One would think," the blonde muttered wryly, "that after so many years, I would begin to become accustomed to it."

"It stands to reason that you would need more time than most, 'Fin. I know..." Erestor broke off briefly, finding his throat momentarily too tight for speech. "You loved him very much. I had never seen you cry before that day..."

"I can assure you I had." Glorfindel replied absently. "You just weren't around to witness it." Erestor shrugged. "My point is, it was a deeply affecting thing, and it should have been. He was your lover."

"He was more than that." Glorfindel whispered. "So much more."

"How is he?" Elrond asked, and Erestor raised an eyebrow. "How do you think?" "I take your point." Elrond paused. "This rain can't be helping. Bad enough that it's almost Tarin Austa..."

"I wish I could do something." Erestor said unhappily. "I care for him very much." "You can be honest with me, Erestor." Elrond chided. "I know your feelings go much deeper than that."

"It doesn't matter. He is in no state to even consider another, and I would not ask that of him. He is first and foremost my friend right now."

"Tis not my place to say so, of course, but I think you will be good for him one day." Elrond said, though there was strange note in his voice which Erestor couldn't place. A small, rare smile crossed the advisor's face briefly. "I like to think so."

Elrohir closed his eyes, trying to ignore the arms around him. "Ell, we can't." "Why not?" Elladan purred, and rubbed up against Elrohir, his desire evident. "I want to..." he paused, one hand slipping underneath his brother's leggings, "and you want to.

"Some one will see." Elrohir protested weakly. "The garden is hardly a good place for this." "Stop worrying." Elladan replied. His twin rather halfheartedly tried to move away, but Elladan tightened his hold and hooked one leg around both of Elrohir's for good measure. "And stop trying to get away, meleth-nin."

Elrohir opened his mouth to protest again, but Elladan didn't give him a chance, and soon both were far too wrapped up in each other to even notice the dark Elf nearby slip silently away.

Glorfindel had known Erestor since their days in Gondolin. The dark-haired Elf was unobtrusive to the point of completely melting into the surrounding scenery when he wished. It was a useful quality, Glorfindel knew; even then, Erestor had acted in the capacity of an advisor, for he always seemed to know exactly what was happening. He had a remarkable gift for discerning the hearts of others as well, the likes of which Glorfindel had only encountered in one other Elf-Thranduil. It was not the only similarity between them; both were very sly and cunning at getting what they wanted. Yet Erestor, for all his guile, was kind-hearted and good-natured, albeit reserved. Still, it was infinitely preferable that Erestor counted you a friend rather than an enemy; those who slighted the quiet Elf generally found themselves faced with tenfold retribution. Glorfindel remembered well what had happened to one Elf, whose name he could not longer recall, had offended the reserved advisor. Never had Glorfindel seen such an effective scandal so quickly arranged, and Erestor's hand would have been undetectable in the Elf's rapid fall from favor if Glorfindel had not known better. He had found Erestor not long after it happened, draped gracefully on a divan, a smug expression on his face. It was then that Glorfindel made a mental note to never, ever upset Erestor.

Despite that, Erestor still upset Glorfindel both often and deliberately. It was never very serious; deliberate, carefully planned, and annoying, yes, but never serious. More often than not, all it took were a few well-chosen words for Erestor to achieve the desired result, to Glorfindel's infinite displeasure.

So, despite their friendship, it still always surprised Glorfindel when Erestor went out of his way to keep an eye on him around Tarin Austa, for Erestor was often considered distant even by his friends. Around this time, when Erestor was closer than usual and Glorfindel thought of Ecthelion, he would occasionally fall to wondering why it was Erestor did not take a lover of his own, not even a casual fling. He was good-looking enough, certainly, with his dark hair and eyes. Every time he thought on it, the only conclusion Glorfindel ended up drawing was that Erestor simply had no wish to, for one reason or another. And perhaps it is no so foolish a choice as it might seem on the surface. If you do not have one to love, you cannot be hurt so easily. Elbereth knows I have been.

"Glorfindel?" Elrond's voice called through the door. "May I request your presence in the study, please?"

"Of course." Glorfindel called back, and crossed the room in a few quick steps, then opened the door. Elrond's face bore the carefully impassive expression which Glorfindel knew meant something was amiss, but that the Lord of Imladris didn't want the rest of the household to know about it just yet. Elrond scrutinized his seneschal carefully, and Glorfindel felt, as he always did, that the storm-grey eyes saw deeper than Glorfindel would have liked. At length, Elrond broke their gaze and they began walking toward his study. "I hate to bother you, Glorfindel, but I am afraid I need your opinion on an extremely sensitive matter that I could not entrust to the knowledge of just any of my advisors. Come now, Erestor is already waiting for us."

Glorfindel was somewhat surprised to find Erestor pacing restlessly when they entered Elrond's study; it must be a difficult situation indeed if it had agitated the generally collected Chief Advisor this much. He looked up at them and nodded by way of greeting, but his restless motion did not cease.

"Erestor, please, have a seat." Elrond said firmly, and Erestor obeyed without argument. Elrond motioned for Glorfindel to do likewise as he sat down himself, and Elrond looked at Erestor expectantly. "Well, go on then. You said you had a sensitive matter to bring to our attention regarding the twins, so let us hear it." Glorfindel sighed. "The twins? I might have known."

"I doubt anyone else knows of what I saw." Erestor said in calm, even tones that seemed completely out of place against his uncharacteristic fidgeting. "Lord Elrond, you have always encouraged the twins to choose freely when it came to their lovers, not to let status or gender affect their choice, but I do believe they have gone too far." he paused, and Elrond regarded him calmly, waiting for him to continue. Glorfindel abruptly realized that Elrond did not have the faintest idea what it was Erestor knew; he was worried merely because Erestor was upset and it involved his sons.

"Too far?" Glorfindel echoed. No, he couldn't possibly mean that...they would never...

"I saw them together in the gardens." Erestor said quietly. "They were in no state to notice me."

"What?" Elrond asked, and Glorfindel knew his Lord was beginning to catch on. "They are sleeping together." Glorfindel murmured, earning shocked looks from both Elrond and Erestor.

"You cannot be serious." Elrond snapped, and Erestor frowned. "Did you know?"

"About this? Of course not." "You are out of your mind." Elrond said flatly, and Erestor shook his head. "No. He isn't, but they certainly are. Both of you know perfectly well that such things are not permitted, and they are likewise aware of it, come to that."

"Then what do we do?" Glorfindel said, and Erestor hesitated. "Nothing yet." Elrond replied. "I need some time..."

"Of course." Erestor said. "Don't say anything about it to them." Glorfindel said. "Not until we know what to do."

"We might be wrong." Elrond said, a note of desperation in his voice. "Perhaps they were upset, and they just needed someone, anyone..." Elrond trailed off, and Glorfindel raised an eyebrow. "Cold comfort? A possibility we can't rule out, I suppose." he said, and swallowed hard.

"No." Erestor said quietly. "Elladan called his brother 'meleth-nin'...that is not a phrase to be used lightly."

"Nay, it isn't." Glorfindel said softly, and Erestor paused. "Glorfindel?" the blonde didn't reply, and Erestor gently shook him. "Glorfindel? 'Fin? Are you alright?"

"Fine." Glorfindel said quietly, and Erestor looked down and bit his lip, fighting tears.

"You both are dismissed." Elrond said. "Glorfindel, get some rest, you look exhausted." Glorfindel nodded mutely and stood, Erestor at his side. Elrond watched them go silently, concerned only in a vague sort of way. Glorfindel was a close friend, but his mind was still too busy trying to digest what Erestor had just told them. Glorfindel would be fine; he always was. The blonde Elda had been his family's protector for a long time now: he had kept Idril and Earendel from harm at the price of his own life when Gondolin fell, he had watched over Elrond after returning from the Halls of Waiting, and his sharp eyes had ever looked after the children. Glorfindel was always there, his support usually silent, but always present; he was the one who kept things running smoothly, kept everything together...Glorfindel would be fine.

"Sit down, meldir." Erestor said softly. Glorfindel sighed heavily and fell back onto the bed, and Erestor perched on the edge, the slightest twinkle of amusement in his dark brown eyes. "You have an interesting concept of what the word 'sit' means."

"Very funny." Glorfindel snapped, and Erestor sighed. "My apologies, 'Fin." "No, I shouldn't have raised my voice."

"You're upset." Erestor said quietly, taking Glorfindel's hand in his own. Glorfindel merely nodded, and Erestor absently folded his other hand around both of theirs. "Are you alright, 'Fin? Perhaps you shouldn't be alone tonight."

"Is that an offer, Erestor?" Glorfindel asked suddenly, and Erestor hesitated for a very long moment.

"If you wish it to be." Erestor said at last. Glorfindel made no verbal reply, just pulled the dark-haired Elf down on top of him and met his lips in a bruising, passionate kiss. Erestor responded with equal force, giving as good as he got. So he likes it rough, hm? I can play that game... Erestor broke the kiss, breathing hard, and quickly peeled away Glorfindel's robes as the blonde did the same to him. Glorfindel shifted as if to reverse their positions, but Erestor was having none of it and pinned Glorfindel to the bed. Erestor wasted no time, not bothering to be slow and gentle; this was not about love or affection, and they both knew it. He explored Glorfindel's thin form with tongue and fingers, then took his friend's hard need deep in his mouth. Glorfindel bucked violently, and Erestor used one hand to force his hips down. The blonde moaned loudly and tangled his fingers in Erestor's raven tresses. "Harder!" he cried, and Erestor obliged. When he felt Glorfindel stiffen, Erestor almost pulled away, but then thought better of it and let Glorfindel come. Erestor was hurt but hardly surprised when the name Glorfindel cried out was Ecthelion's instead of his. Of course he was screaming Ecthelion's name, that's what this is about. It was never about me. Erestor thought to himself.

But I wanted it to be. some part of his brain added. Erestor released Glorfindel, who had now stopped trembling, and favored him with another kiss before moving away slightly and rolling onto his back. Erestor paused briefly to catch his breath before daring to look over at Glorfindel.

He was crying.

It was a sight that never failed to unnerve Erestor, who had only seen the blonde break down twice before. It took a lot to upset him to the point where he would cry in front of anyone.

"Fin?" he asked softly. Glorfindel just shook his head, his voice clearly too choked for words. Silently, Erestor pulled Glorfindel into his arms and simply let him cry.

Glorfindel woke to the first rays of Arien creeping in through the window and wondered when his exhaustion had gotten the better of him. He must have cried himself to sleep, he decided, and glanced around the room to find Erestor gone. Hardly a surprise. Elbereth, I wish he hadn't seen that...what is wrong with me? First I just let him dominate me, then I start crying...aiya, I am loosing control of myself!

You cannot loose control. said another, nagging voice in Glorfindel's mind. They need you. Elrond and Arwen and the twins need you. You're the one who keeps things running, you're the one who's always calm and steady. You have to be in control of yourself. Glorfindel squeezed his eyes shut and rolled over. His hands slid under the pillows, and one met with the hilt of the dagger he kept there, just in case. Glorfindel drew it out and tested the edge against his palm, hissing softly when the blade drew a line of red across his hand. Good. he thought bitterly, and allowed it to sink deeper. On some level, he knew vaguely that he shouldn't be doing this, shouldn't be drawing this perverse pleasure from watching himself bleed, but he couldn't stop. Glorfindel drew the blade down his wrist and then past it, just missing the vein as he allowed the scarlet line to drip from palm to elbow. He felt strangely lightheaded; even blood loss from deeper battle wounds had never had this effect.

"Deeper..." he whispered, his jade green eyes fixing on the blade as he squeezed his other hand around it, watching the flow of crimson trickle down the length. "More..."

"Have you seen Glorfindel today?" Elrond asked, and Erestor sighed and shook his head. "Not since last night."

"Is he alright?"

"He was asleep when I left him."

"You did not answer my question, Erestor." "No. I don't think he is." Erestor said quietly. "He cried himself to sleep in my arms after we-" Erestor abruptly broke off, and he shifted uncomfortably under Elrond's storm-grey regard. "After you what?" Elrond asked, and Erestor sighed. "After we shared his bed." Elrond sighed heavily and pushed his dark hair out of his eyes. "You are going to get yourself hurt, Erestor."

"I know. It's worth it." "Is it?"

"Glorfindel needed it, Elrond. I would do it again in an instant if he wished it. My own pain is not the issue right now; his is a thousandfold greater than mine."

"Is it really that bad?" Elrond asked quietly, and Erestor nodded. "I think so. He cried, Elrond, truly cried."

"That is never a good sign." Elrond murmured. "Take care of him." "I could not in good conscience do anything else. He is in good hands, meldir, don't worry too much about him. Besides, he has always been fine before. He only needs time."

"You are probably right as usual. And I do not doubt your ability or your willingness to look after him; I know how deep your feelings for him are. I just hope you do not damage yourself in the process."

"If I do, at least I know he is worth it."

"Fin? A word?" "Of course, Elrond." he replied. Elrond glanced around to make sure no one was in easy earshot before asking, "What do you think should be done about the twins?"

"Are you going to talk to them?" "I cannot put it off forever."

"I think you should wait until you have spoken to them before deciding anything." Glorfindel replied. "You can't make any judgments until you have heard what they have to say."

"I suppose you're right." "Didn't Erestor, the resident voice of reason, say the same thing?"

"I haven't asked him yet." "Why come to me first? I have a reputation for rashness, you know that."

"Aye, but you also know the twins better than Erestor. Besides, you have looked after my family since before I was even born. I trust you." Glorfindel smiled slightly. "Thank you for that."

"You have never given any of us reason to do otherwise, meldir." "No, of course not." Glorfindel replied, one hand absently rubbing his left forearm. "I keep your confidences, I take care of things; that is what I do. Which reminds me, the arrangements for Tarin Austa are all taken care of."

"Isn't that Erestor's job?" "He has been busy, and so have you, so I took care of it." Glorfindel replied with a shrug. Elrond looked at him searchingly, and the blonde met his gaze. Unlike Erestor, he took it gracefully, his green eyes betraying nothing but a patient sort of mild exasperation.

"If you want to know something, you could just ask." Glorfindel said, voicing what his eyes already said, and Elrond gave him a mild look. "You take that much more calmly than Erestor."

"He dislikes such probing." Glorfindel replied with another shrug. "Was there something you wanted to know, or did you just feel the need to admire my eyes?" Elrond snorted. "Don't flatter yourself, 'Fin. I just wanted to make sure you're doing alright...with Tarin Austa so near, and now this trouble with the twins..."

"I'm fine, meldir, but thank you for asking. Don't worry about me, or about anything, for that matter. It's all under control."

"I am fortunate that my seneschal is so capable." "Ta naa sesamin, mellon-nin." Glorfindel replied with a smile. That reassured Elrond more than anything; it seemed last night's breakdown had done Glorfindel some good, for the blonde's relaxed, open personality had apparently returned.

"I had best go have that talk with the twins." "You will be fine." Glorfindel said reassuringly, and gave Elrond a quick embrace. The raven-haired Lord smiled, but the smile faded quickly when he noticed a a smear of red on top of one of Glorfindel's hands. "Fin, give me your hand."

"Your pardon, my Lord?" Glorfindel asked. "You've got blood on top of it." Glorfindel looked down and saw Elrond was right; where he had locked his hands together, one of the cuts had left a telltale smudge of crimson. "Oh, that? 'Tis nothing, meldir, I just nicked myself on my knife-edge when I was practicing today. Don't worry about it, it's only a scratch. Go on and talk to the twins."

"Glorfindel." Elrond said sternly, recognizing his seneschal's chattering and offhandedness for what they were; nervousness and concealment, respectively. "Give. Me. Your. Hand."

"Elrond, I'm fine." "In that case, let me see it."

"Elrond-" "Would you refuse a direct order from your Lord?" Elrond snapped. "If it really is nothing, then it cannot hurt you to show me." Glorfindel reluctantly gave Elrond his hand, and Elrond frowned. "That's no small scratch, 'Fin." he said, and suddenly he remembered...

"You have never given any of us reason to do otherwise, meldir." "No, of course not." Glorfindel replied, and one hand rubbed his left forearm.

"Your other hand, please. No arguments." Glorfindel sighed and did as he was told, and Elrond pushed up Glorfindel's tunic sleeve to reveal a long gash along his forearm. "Glorfindel," Elrond said sternly, "what really happened?"

"I do not think that is any business of yours." "Oh, I am afraid I must disagree. When one of my advisors is hurt, I worry. When one of my friends is hurt, it becomes personal. What happened?"

"Just leave me alone, Elrond!" Glorfindel snapped, shaking Elrond off. The Lord of Imladris glared. Much as he hated to pull rank...

"Glorfindel, as your Lord, I order you to tell me what happened!" "It is not a Lord's business unless it directly affects his advisor's duties, which it does not. As such, I have every right to withhold this from you."

"Fin is right, I'm afraid." Erestor said, finally intervening. Both Elrond and Glorfindel jumped, having been unaware of his presence. "But you ought to at least bandage those, meldir."

"I'm fine, Erestor." Glorfindel replied, and Erestor shrugged. "It is, of course, your choice. Forgive me for interrupting, but I need a word with Glorfindel about the Tarin Austa arrangements."

"Of course." Glorfindel agreed, glad for the opportunity to flee. Elrond sighed and dismissed them with an absent wave of one hand, knowing he would not win this particular argument. Talking Glorfindel into doing something he didn't want to do was nearly impossible unless one knew him very well, but trying to talk Erestor into anything was nothing more than a waste of time. Elrond sighed again and headed for the twins' room.

"Thank you for that, Erestor." "You're always welcome." he replied. "May I see those wounds just for a moment, please?" Glorfindel sighed but didn't argue, and Erestor quickly but carefully inspected them. "They're clean, no infection. That's all I wanted to know."

"You worry about me too much." Glorfindel said with a tolerant smile. Erestor sighed and slipped an arm around Glorfindel's shoulders. "Perhaps, but someone needs to keep an eye on you. You're always so busy looking after everyone else, sometimes you forget to take care of yourself."

"I know." Glorfindel admitted, returning Erestor's loose, friendly embrace. "About last didn't have to do that."

"You needed the distraction, however brief." Erestor replied with a slight shrug. "I would do it again in an instant."

"Why?" "Because you don't have anyone else, because you're my friend, because I do worry about you."

"So it's not my good looks?" Glorfindel quipped, and Erestor laughed softly. "They don't hurt."

"Flattery." "Conceit." Erestor retorted.

"An impasse." Glorfindel said. "Anyway, you said you wanted to speak to me about Tarin Austa?"

"I mostly just thought I had best get you out of there before you said something unforgivable. But I did want to ask you, why did you take care of it? You didn't have to do that."

"You were busy. I wasn't. Don't worry about it...unless I did something wrong?" "No, the arrangements look fine to me. I'll have Elrond check them over, of course, but everything seems well-planned to me, and I like to think I can spot troublesome arrangements when and if I encounter them."

"You're famed for it." Glorfindel said dryly, for Erestor had done just that on many occasions, wrecking several extremely carefully-laid plans in order to improve them.

"Take care of yourself, 'Fin. I'll see you at luncheon, and if you need to speak to me before then, I'll be in my study."

"Where else?" Glorfindel said. "Go on then, I shall see you later."

Elrond knocked on the door to the rooms the twins shared and waited for a few moments before Elrohir's voice called, "Enter." Elrond stepped inside and shut the door behind him, following the sound of the younger twin's voice to the bedroom. He raised his eyebrows, taking in the rather rumpled appearance of both twins and of Elladan's bed. "I hope I am not interrupting anything? Nothing that would...displease me?"

"What are you talking about, Ada?" Elladan said offhandedly, and Elrond turned his probing gaze on Elrohir, who seemed to shrink under it. Identifying the weaker target, Elrond fixed his youngest son with the sternest gaze he could. "Elrohir? You two weren't busy at all? Perhaps in Elladan's bed?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Adar." Elladan interjected, but there was an edge of nervousness to his voice now.

"Oh? Then why are you two so rumpled?" "It was just-" Elladan began, but Elrond cut him off. "Elrohir?"

"It was just...Elladan and I got into a bit of a fight, you know, just a little one, and we were was nothing."

"You two are awfully old for such things." "Come now, surely you do childish things upon occasion?"

"Not in recent memory." Elrond said. He sighed, irritated. "If you will not simply tell me outright what I already suspect, shall I tell you what Erestor claims to have seen in the gardens yesterday? You know as well as I do that Erestor is seldom wrong, and almost never fails to find things whatever means necessary." Elrohir swallowed hard; there was an edge to his father's tone, and Elrohir knew what Erestor did when he needed information, if he had run out of other options...

"Ada, we aren't-" Elladan began, but Elrohir cut him off. "We may as well be honest, it's plain he knows something."

"El!" "It's true." Elrohir said quietly, though whether in answer to Elladan or Elrond, it was difficult to say.

"Adar," Elladan said, "you always told us to be free in our choosing-" "I had assumed, wrongly it appears, that it was understood that I meant within the confines of our law." Elrond replied. He regarded them both for a long moment, until at last even Elladan quailed under the scrutiny. "You two are fortunate that it is nearly Tarin Austa; I do not have enough rooms to accommodate anyone else, so I will not separate you- yet. But rest assured that it will happen!" Elrond added, seeing the relief on Elladan's face, which quickly sobered. "In the meantime, since I know I cannot prevent you from doing what you wish, I would ask that you are at least discreet about it." Elrond didn't give the twins a chance to argue, and as he turned to leave, he heard Elrohir say quietly, "I told you we shouldn't have stayed in the gardens."

"Thank you"

A delicate red line traced along a rib.

"You forget to take care of yourself."

Scarlet oozing from another slice, pooling in a navel.

"You didn't have to do that."

A crescent-shaped tear just above one nipple, ragged, dripping precious drops of crimson.

"You don't have anyone else."

A deep, viscous gash along the breastbone, revealing an edge of white nearly hidden by the blood and torn muscles.

"I do worry about you."

A long slice reaching halfway down the creamy skin of the back, only just missing the spine.

"Take care of yourself."

Another gash along the defined line of a pectoral.

Glorfindel bowed his head, allowing his tears to fall into the open wounds, barely even feeling the sting. His golden mane fell forward, trailing through the blood, staining the ends a rusty red color. I'm loosing control...

"Fin? Are you alright? You're not eating." "I'm fine" Glorfindel snapped irritably, and Erestor subsided. The dark-haired counselor spared a quick glance at Elrond and the twins, none of whom looked happy. Elrond was sitting between his sons, watching them as he ate, and effectively preventing them from saying anything to each other that he didn't hear. Elladan's gaze, when it chanced on either his father or Erestor, turned dark and rebellious; Elrohir just seemed morose.

"Excuse me, please." Glorfindel said, and was gone with a swish of scarlet silk. Erestor frowned to himself. I could swear his hair had changed colors for a moment there.

"Is he alright?" Elrohir asked abruptly, and Erestor shrugged. "Better, I think. Obviously, still not quite back to his usual self, but he is doing better."

--Perhaps you were right. Maybe he did need last night more than he'd care to admit.-- Elrond remarked silently.

--I told you. 'Fin needs somebody to keep any eye on him, someone who can either give him space or be close when he needs it.--

--And knows which is appropriate when.-- Elrond agreed. --Just be careful, Erestor. I do not think I could deal with two heartbroken friends right now.--

--If I can truly help him, there is no risk of that.--

--Promise me that you won't do anything foolish, Erestor.--

--I suspect I already have. There is no going back now.--

Glorfindel paused, hearing the sound of raised voices from the twin's room, Elladan's almost overpowering his twin's.

"What do you mean, we should end this?!? I thought you wanted this, El, I thought you loved me!"

"I do! Elladan, saes, listen to me-" "No! You want me gone, fine! I am going!" the door was flung open, and Elladan almost ran headlong into his former tutor. "My apologies, Glorfindel."

"Don't be angry with him, pen-neth." Glorfindel said quietly, catching Elladan's wrist. "He doesn't really want to leave you."

"What business is it of yours?!?" Elladan spat. "You shouldn't have even heard that!"

"I knew anyway; your father and Erestor spoke to me. And it is my business, Elladan, when you are rash enough to tread on more hearts than you have to. Elbereth, there is enough stress around here, don't make it worse."

"He's making this so hard, everyone is! I don't want-" Elladan broke off abruptly and looked away, shifting awkwardly.

"What, Elladan? Finish what you started." "I don't want to end up you." Elladan said flatly. "Every Tarin Austa, moping around feeling sorry for yourself! Oh, poor little Glorfindel, can't get over his old silly crush-" Elladan hit the wall before he knew it, pinned there mercilessly by a suddenly livid Glorfindel. "I know you are hurting, Elladan, and it makes you reckless. And you may insult me to your heart's content, the Valar know I have heard it all before, but never, ever insult my feelings for Ecthelion that way." Glorfindel hissed; his rage was nearly palpable, though his voice was almost calm. "What we shared ran deeper than you could even hope to comprehend. Say whatever you like, but do not dishonor him or our love. Am I clear?"

"Yes." Elladan spat, and Glorfindel relaxed his grip, though he still held one wrist tightly, preventing escape. Elladan glared, and he did not need to speak for Glorfindel to know his thoughts. The blonde finally lost his temper and hit Elladan hard across the face. "I warned you once, Elladan. Apologize now, or I shall be forced to be...more persuasive." Elladan swallowed hard, more than a little frightened by the Elda's sudden loss of composure. To think Glorfindel had always been the calm one!

"I am sorry, Glorfindel. Please forgive me." he whispered, and Glorfindel nodded. "I accept your apology, though what you have will take time for me to forgive that." the blonde sighed. "Elladan, do not be so hard on your brother. This is taking a toll on him as well...he is frightened, desperately frightened, of loosing you. I think the reason he wants to end it is partly that he doesn't want to deal with Elrond's wrath, but also because he hopes it will be easier if he does it now. He's looking for a way out. You get angry, you try to bend others to your will by force no matter how impossible; Elrohir can recognize a hopeless situation, and he tries to get out of it however he can, to cut his losses and run from the problem. And chances are he isn't thinking rationally right now, either." Glorfindel fell silent, and Elladan sighed, glancing down at the hand that still held his wrist. "Glorfindel? Could you let go? I won't run." Glorfindel nodded and released Elladan's hand. The younger Elf caught sight of the cuts and opened his mouth to ask a question, but fell silent at a warning look from Glorfindel. At length, he said quietly, "Thank you, Glorfindel."

"What ever for, pen-neth?" Glorfindel murmured bitterly, his fingers brushing the bruise that was already forming along Elladan's high cheekbone. Elladan sighed. "Just...thank you."

"You're welcome, I suppose." Glorfindel said. He sighed and met the Peredhel's grey eyes. "Elladan? Do you truly love him? With all your heart?" Elladan swallowed hard and nodded. "I do." he whispered, and Glorfindel nodded slightly. "And he you?"

"I know he does." Elladan said, and Glorfindel pulled Elladan into his arms. The younger Elf sighed, allowing the Elda to hold him and comfort him as he had when Elladan was but an Elfling, with the familiar strong embrace and soft snatches of song. Elladan sighed and relaxed slightly, allowing the words to wash over him like water, cleansing away the fear, the doubt, the anger.

"When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears

When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears

And I've held your hand for all of these years

But you still have all of me..." Glorfindel's voice trailed off into silence, though the last note echoed softly, a shadow of the honeyed tenor it had been sung in. The blonde sighed and let go of Elladan, who caught his hand and frowned. "Glorfindel-"

"Don't even ask me about it." Glorfindel interrupted, and Elladan, remembering the previous outburst and deciding he had tried the Elda's temper enough, merely nodded. "Very well. If anyone asks, I will be out riding. I need some time to think."

"I imagine they would guess as much, but I will inform anyone who asks me. Go on, I would like a word with your brother."

"Should I...?" Glorfindel shook his head. "Not yet, Ell. Talk to him later, when you've both had a little time."

"Elrohir? May I come in?" "It's open." Elrohir called, and Glorfindel interpreted this as assent. The younger twin looked up when his former tutor entered the room, then dropped his gaze once more. "I heard some of what you said."

"The argument? It seems only fair; I heard some of yours." Glorfindel shrugged and sat down on the edge of the bed next to Elrohir.

"He shouldn't have said what he did about you." Elrohir said quietly. "I don't think he understands."

"I know he doesn't." Glorfindel replied. "Are you really going to leave him, El?" "Do I have a choice? If I do not do it, Adar will make me...and I would prefer that it not come to that."

"You don't know that he will." "I have to assume the worst at this point." Elrohir replied. "That way I cannot be disappointed."

"You are practical to a fault, Elrohir." "So I've heard." Elrohir replied rather bitterly, and he sighed. "Elladan isn't making this any better."

"He deals with things differently." Glorfindel said. "Elladan gets angry and tries to bend the world to his will; you keep everything inside until you simply can't take anymore, and...." Glorfindel trailed off, and Elrohir sighed again. "And I get...hurt."

"Does anyone else know?" Glorfindel asked, and Elrohir shook his head. "No. At least, I do not think so." Glorfindel took Elrohir's hand in his own and turned it over as he pushed back Elrohir's sleeve, revealing a long scar that went across his wrist and partway up his arm. "That was when Celebrian left." Glorfindel murmured. Elrohir nodded slightly and looked down. "One of them." he paused. "Does it bother you?"

"I can't say I'm any stranger to pain." Glorfindel replied, and Elrohir frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Nothing, pen-neth. Forget I said anything." "You've done it as well?" Elrohir pressed, and Glorfindel looked down. "Don't speak of it to anyone, El. Not even your brother."

"Of course not." Elrohir said. Glorfindel bit his lip and turned his left hand palm up and pushed back the sleeve of his tunic. Elrohir gently ran the tip of his finger along the line of dried blood until it ended, and then took his former tutor's other hand and did the same, reading the mark like a book. "You had the blade in your hand."

"Yes." Glorfindel said quietly. Elrohir wrapped his arms around the blonde and buried his face in his shoulder. "Thank you for understanding."

"The most important thing I do," Glorfindel responded, "is take care of you and the rest of your family. I try to keep things together, though the Valar know it is not always easy."

"We owe you much for that." Elrohir murmured. Glorfindel bent his head and pressed a brief, affectionate kiss to Elrohir's dark crown. "Stop keeping this inside you, Elrohir." Glorfindel whispered, and that was all it took for the Peredhel's defensive walls to come tumbling down.

He wept. He wept for a long time: for himself, for his brother, for his lover, for the fear of loosing all that he held dear. The sobs wracked his slender frame violently, and Glorfindel simply held him close as he grieved.

"It's going to be fine, pen-neth." the Elda murmured, as Elrohir's sobs began to subside. The raven-haired Elf looked up at him with bloodshot grey eyes and asked softly, "Would you sing to me? I heard you singing to Elladan..."

"What should I sing?" "Whatever you like." Elrohir said. Glorfindel nodded and began to sing as he gently rocked Elrohir in his arms.

"The outside unknown feels so cold

All you can think of is closing your eyes

Hoping it's gone when they open

But the feeling is still there..." Glorfindel stopped, blinking back tears of his own, and Elrohir sighed. "That one is so sad...when was the last time you sang of joy?" he asked, and Glorfindel shook his head. "A very, very long time ago."

"Glorfindel? What on Arda is taking so long?" "Just a moment, 'Lion!" Glorfindel called, and he hurriedly finished his last braid then went to the door. Ecthelion was silent, the usually eloquent Lord for once unable to articulate his thoughts. His azure gaze swept slowly up and down Glorfindel's figure, taking in every detail, until at last he finally said, "It was worth the extra time."

"You don't look bad yourself, meleth-nin." Glorfindel teased. Ecthelion was wearing robes of deep blue velvet trimmed in silver embroidery that brought out his startlingly azure eyes, and his dark hair was pulled back from his face with a silver filigree clasp. However, the Fountain Lord waved away the praise with a flick of one wrist and brushed Glorfindel's cheek with one hand. "I do not look half as lovely as you do." he replied. Glorfindel's robes were of a deep crimson edged with gold brocade that lent his fair skin a warm glow and made his blonde hair appear a darker gold, as well as contrasting with his brilliant emerald eyes. He wore only two slim braids in his hair that night, wound around his head and joined with a clasp wrought in the shape of the golden flower and set with a single ruby in the center. The rest of his hair was permitted to tumble freely about his face and shoulders in a golden river of silken strands. The only word to describe him was, Ecthelion finally decided,

"Radiant." he murmured, twining his fingers in Glorfindel's. The blonde Elda smiled and squeezed his lover's hand, then brought it to his face and kissed it. Ecthelion blushed slightly and looked down, his normally calm demeanor briefly shattered by the simple sweetness of the gesture. "Aiya, Glorfindel, sometimes I wonder what I ever did to deserve such a wonderful, beautiful lover." he said quietly. It was Glorfindel's turn to blush now, and he lightly smacked Ecthelion's shoulder with his free hand. "You flatter me, a'melamin. I'm nothing special."

"Nothing special? Don't be ridiculous!" Ecthelion admonished. "There must be something unusual about you. You're Lord of the Golden Flower, chased after by three-quarters of the Elves in Gondolin, and well-liked by everyone in the city. I daresay you are at least a little bit special, lirimaer." Ecthelion said. Glorfindel's blush deepened enough to rival the shade of his robes, and Ecthelion couldn't resist the urge to kiss him deeply. Glorfindel moaned softly into the kiss and melted into Ecthelion's arms, content to let his lover tenderly explore his mouth.

--Much as I would like to continue this...--

--They are expecting us at the feast.--

--I don't want to let go of you.--

--We can finish this tonight, meleth-nin.--

--Is that a promise?--

--Aye, 'Lion, it is. My room?--

--That's fine.--

The pair parted, both breathing heavily. Glorfindel smiled warmly at his lover, fondly smoothing Ecthelion's dark hair. "Are you going to sing tonight?" he asked, and Ecthelion smiled. Flute music was the delight of the house of the Fountain, and it was a given that he would play a piece after the meal. However, he only sang sometimes, though he had a lovely high tenor voice, smooth and rich.

"I will sing if you will." Ecthelion replied. It was difficult to coax the Flower Lord into singing in front of a group of people, but he possessed an equally pleasant, slightly lower range. Glorfindel just smiled brightly. "We have an accord, then..."

"All of my life
I have been waiting
Wondering what I will do
All I can feel
Is my heart beating
Time and time again for you

And I'm weightless, falling in love
I am weightless
And I don't know why but I know
It's all right"

"I meant at the feast." Ecthelion said, and Glorfindel smirked. "You did not specify."

"Fin, quit being difficult." "What would you have me do, Ecthelion? You know my repertoire; most of it is hardly suitable for a feast. Unless you would have me sing a love song with everyone watching, and listening?"

"Might be interesting." Ecthelion replied with a smile. Glorfindel rolled his eyes and linked his arm with Ecthelion's. "You would think so, wouldn't you? Come, let us go, a'melamin, and then afterwards..."

"You'll make me sing?" Ecthelion teased, his words dripping with innuendo. Glorfindel just laughed. "You know, it seems only fair."

"Elrond, may I have a word?" "Of course, Glorfindel. Have a seat." The Elda did as he was bid, and Elrond regarded him evenly. "This is about the twins."

"Your powers of perception never cease to amaze." Glorfindel replied dryly. "I spoke with both of them separately."

"How are they taking it?" "What do you think?" Glorfindel retorted. "They quarreled, though I suspect that it's only a passing disagreement. Elladan is angry, picking fights if he can; Elrohir is upset, almost at the breaking point from the pressure. You know how it goes." Glorfindel sighed. "I need to know what you plan to do."

"They must be parted." "How so? Exile them?"

"Not yet. They are my sons, 'Fin, and I do love them both, no matter what. I am not ready to take such a step yet. No, they will each spend their summer away: one in Mirkwood, one in Lorien. Mayhap the time apart will clear their heads."

"You are a fool." Glorfindel said sharply. "To think distance can quell the fire of love. Death cannot do that; I should know. Send them away if you wish, but do not look to me for answers when it does not work."

"Then what would you have me do?!?" Elrond replied, exasperated. "Nothing." Glorfindel said evenly.

"I cannot do that." 'Why not?"

"They have broken the law, Glorfindel!" "No one has to know. Leave them to their own devices, and spare everyone the pain. Look at yourself, Elrond, you're just as upset as they. Make this easier for everyone."

"The easier course is not always the right one." "Then is it right to try to sever them? First from each other and their own hearts, then from their family and home and friends? What good will come of that? You know as well as I do what happens when a heart is tried so."

"You survived." "I had no choice." Glorfindel spat. "The Valar gave me no choice, or I would not be here now! I wish that I was given that option, but I was not. You have a chance to save everyone here a great deal of suffering, but you are so very stubborn, you do not see it." Elrond's eyes flashed dangerously at that. "You are out of line, seneschal. You may go."

"Elrond-" "I said, you may go."

"Fine." Glorfindel spat. "But there is nothing you can do."

Erestor watched Glorfindel silently from the doorway, unobtrusive as ever. He had heard of the discussion the seneschal and Lord Elrond had had earlier from Elrond himself, and Erestor suspected that it was part of the trouble. Truth be told, Erestor was inclined to agree with Glorfindel; after all, the blonde would certainly know firsthand the most probable results of such intervention. When Erestor had gently broached this view, Elrond had dismissed it rather angrily, accusing Erestor of only siding with Glorfindel because of his affection for the blonde. Erestor had denied that calmly and let the subject to drop, but the look in Elrond's eyes told Erestor far more than Elrond himself had. Elrond was upset, more so than might be expected, and his heated response to Erestor's own views had led the advisor to surmise that they had argued. Erestor was many things, but he was neither a fool nor blind; quite the contrary. He saw Elrond's poorly masked agitation easily, just as he saw Glorfindel's merely from the Elda's posture. His annoyance was better hidden than Elrond's had been, drowned as it was in Glorfindel's private oceans of sorrow and worry, but it was there.

But the most surefire sign of the seneschal's unhappiness was the glass in his hand. Glorfindel only drank one glass of wine at supper and miruvoir to restore him on long journeys; the glass in his hand, half-full of amber liquid, and the nearly empty bottle on the table spoke volumes.

"Do you want to talk?" Erestor asked softly. Glorfindel didn't even bother looking up, and Erestor knew that the blonde had been aware of his presence for longer than he had let on. "Not particularly," he replied at length, absently swirling the liquid in his glass, "but you may join me if you wish." Erestor nodded and stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. Glorfindel shifted to make room for him on the small couch he occupied; comfortable for one, or for two if they didn't object to being close. There was a larger divan across the room, long enough for someone to stretch out upon, wide enough for two people, but they ignored it. Erestor knew precisely why it was there; he had a long couch in his own study for the same purpose. Both advisors had a private study and sitting room in their chambers, and both occasionally worked late enough into the night that moving to bed was simply too much trouble; hence the presence of the larger divan, draped with a soft throw and cushioned with two spare pillows. Still, the two preferred the smaller couch for such nights as these, when one or both felt the need of physical as well as emotional closeness. Glorfindel sighed and downed the rest of his drink- Gondorian whiskey, by the smell- and pushed his hair back from his face.

"I don't know how you can drink that stuff." Erestor muttered, wrinkling his nose in distaste. Glorfindel just laughed hollowly and poured the rest into his glass. "If you felt like I do, Erestor, you would be able to drink anything and not care a bit." he paused briefly. "And I am including hemlock in that estimation." he added darkly. Erestor sighed and gave Glorfindel a quick, chaste kiss on the cheek, something he had done a hundred times before. Glorfindel managed the faintest hint of a strained smile at the gesture, but said nothing. The blonde took a sip of his drink, and Erestor wondered vaguely why it was he barely seemed affected by the powerful liquor; the slight flush of his cheeks was the only thing to give him away.

Glorfindel sighed softly and leaned against Erestor, resting his head on his friend's shoulder. Erestor's expression was unreadable as usual, though Glorfindel thought he caught a trace of...what? Longing? Regret? For what? The Elda decided to let the matter slide, for the flicker of emotion was gone as soon as it had come, and Erestor gently looped one arm around Glorfindel's shoulders. "What happened today, meldir?" Erestor asked softly.

"I spoke to the twins." Glorfindel said, after a moment. "And then with Elrond." "You two fought." Erestor said. "He told me about it, though he left some things out."

"And you, being you, know exactly what you didn't hear." "Of course." Erestor replied. "I myself am rather inclined to agree with you, but Elrond wouldn't hear of it when I informed him so." he shifted in irritation. "One would think that when his two most trusted advisors say the same thing, he would at least consider their view."

"This is weighing on him; you know that." "Of course, how could it not? They are his sons." Erestor paused a moment. "Elrond always did possess more principles than good sense." Glorfindel snorted wryly. "If I have learned one thing in my two lifetimes, it is that principles must sometimes be compromised."

"I have lived only once, but I have drawn the same conclusion." Erestor agreed. "The great tragedy of idealists is in the honor of their inevitable fall."

"The only reason Elrond does as well as he does is that he surrounds himself with rather cynical advisors. 'Tis a well-known fact that most rulers who put their principles first aren't very successful."

"Too true." Erestor murmured. "How are the twins taking this?" "As well as can be expected, I suppose."

"Elrohir upset, Elladan raging?" "Aye. I confess, Elladan managed to pick a fight with me."

"He probably needed it. What did he say?" "He...he insulted my love for Ecthelion." Glorfindel said quietly, and took another swig of his drink.

"Sweet Elbereth, will he never learn the difference between being a nuisance and causing pain? I may deliberately annoy you, but there are lines that simply should never be crossed."

"Many of them...but that does not stop people from doing so. I have crossed lines, done things I should not have."

"I know." Erestor murmured, gently taking Glorfindel's hand and running his fingers along the edges of the cuts. The Elda frowned and looked up at his friend. "You know."

"I do not miss much; you know that." Erestor frowned. "I did not see fit for Elrond to be privy to this, though, so I made that excuse. He would have only made this more difficult for you by trying to help. He is a friend, but he does not truly understand what you are going through."

"And you do?" "More so than he, and you need someone to help you through this." Erestor replied. "I know why you do the things you do, and I am aware of your actions, just as I am aware that Elrohir bears a rather...unusual sort of battle scar on is wrist and forearm. I do not hold it against you...the wounds, the temper, the restlessness, the lack of appetite, even the drink...though that stuff does taste vile."

"I know it does." Glorfindel said. "Thank you." "Don't feel guilty for what you did to Elladan." Erestor added abruptly, and Glorfindel looked up in surprise. "How do you-"

"Come now, I can read you easily as a book. The look in your eyes a moment ago told me all I needed to know. He will not hold it against you; he will not even tell anyone, probably not even his brother. Elladan is grown, and he knows you would never truly hurt him. Don't be so hard on yourself, have enough worries on your golden head." Glorfindel sighed heavily and allowed himself to lean against Erestor. It's nice to have him here, close, just being with me and understanding...

"Erestor?" "Aye, 'Fin?"

"The other night..." "Don't make an issue of it, 'Fin." Erestor interjected. "You are dear to me as none other, my closest friend, almost as close as kin. I care for you, to the point of being willing to do almost anything for you. Isn't that enough?" Glorfindel merely nodded and finished off his drink, then set the glass aside. He sighed and looked down, letting his hair fall in front of his face, hiding his eyes from Erestor. What was I going to say to him, anyway? Let him think I was going to question him again; how could I possibly tell, it is better this way. I am being foolish; he said himself that I am his friend. I don't need any more from him than what he is already giving...

"You're thinking too much." Erestor said. "What's more, I don't think it's about what you would have me believe. You know you can tell me anything without judgment, 'Fin, so tell me what is on your mind." Glorfindel paused, searching for a plausible untruth while attempting not to outwardly appear to be doing so. At length, he said, "I'm just confused, I suppose. What is there here worth saving?" he asked, indicating himself. It was not entirely a lie, for Glorfindel had often wondered about that. Erestor sighed and smoothed back Glorfindel's blonde hair absently. "Perhaps it is only memories," he said at length, "but I remember a time when you were filled with naught but joy and light, and certainly that is worth the effort of saving. I believe that you still have that in you somewhere, 'Fin. And you are clever, and kind, and happen to have a lovely voice. You take care of everyone, your loyalty is unwavering, you are strong and skilled in battle, you keep things safe both from the outside world and from what lurks within." Glorfindel looked down. "I didn't know you thought so highly of me."

"Even were I not your friend, I would still be another of your admirers." Erestor said. "Your only shortcoming is your unwillingness to show what you see as weakness."

"My other one is having weakness to begin with." Glorfindel said bitterly. Erestor shook his head. "No. We all have weakness, 'Fin, be it real or imagined. You fear that showing your feelings would make you weak, but it is keeping them inside that tears you apart."

"Not so very far inside anymore." Glorfindel murmured. He looked up at the dark-haired Elf on whom he leaned, daring to meet Erestor's sharp eyes. "You cannot speak of this to Elrond."

"I would never betray your trust." Erestor said. Glorfindel nodded slightly and sat up, pulling away from his friend with a twinge of regret. Nervously, a bit hesitantly, he unlaced his tunic and let the crimson fabric fall away from his skin, revealing the wounds that had hidden beneath it.

"Aiya." Erestor whispered, but said no more at first. His pale hands ran gently over the undamaged skin, tracing only the outlines of the wounds, until he finally stopped, looking at the deepest cut along Glorfindel's sternum. "I doubt you disinfected these." he finally said. "Would you mind terribly if I did? I would feel better if I knew that at least none of these will get infected."

"I'll get no peace otherwise." Glorfindel said. "You know where I keep everything."

"Aye. Go lie down on the divan, 'Fin, this will be easier for me to do if you're lying flat." Glorfindel nodded and did as Erestor bade him while said Elf disappeared briefly into Glorfindel's bedroom, returning with a small leather kit. He pulled a piece of cloth and a small bottle filled with clear liquid from the case and poured a bit of the disinfectant onto the cloth, then began running it gently over the cuts. Glorfindel hissed in pain at the sting of the disinfectant, and Erestor raised one dark eyebrow. "You do this to yourself, and you can't even handle a little disinfectant?" he chided.

"I just don't like the sting; I never have." "I know. Mighty Glorfindel the Balrog-Slayer, Captain of Gondolin, leader of the guards at Imladris, and you cannot even take the sting of disinfectant calmly." Erestor rolled his eyes. Glorfindel resisted the impulse to slap Erestor, for he knew precisely why his friend was being difficult.

"This bothers you." Glorfindel murmured. Erestor looked up and swallowed hard. "You're getting better at that. Reading me. Next thing I know, my infamously inscrutable thoughts will be clear to you."

"Don't change the subject." "What do you want me to say, 'Fin? Yes, it bothers me. You're hurting so much-" Erestor broke off and turned away, looking down and allowing his dark hair to fall around his face, obscuring it from the blonde's view. "Erestor?"

"I'm sorry." Erestor whispered, and his voice was choked. "This is isn't what you need." he took a deep breath and tilted his head back, closing his eyes and biting his lower lip. Glorfindel saw the silvery wet tracks of tears down Erestor's pale cheeks and felt a twinge of remorse for ever laying this burden on his friend's shoulders. After a moment, Erestor sighed and shook his head before finishing up with the disinfectant.

"That is all of them, isn't it?" "There's one more." Glorfindel replied quietly, and rolled over. Erestor drew in a sharp breath but made no comment, and Glorfindel felt the familiar sting and fizz of disinfectant in the cut. It faded after a moment, and Glorfindel heard a rustle of fabric and felt rather than saw Erestor lean forward and rest his cheek against his side. The Elda twisted his head and saw Erestor was crying openly now; soft, nearly silent sobs that shook his entire slim frame. "Aiya, Erestor." Glorfindel murmured, and rolled over onto his side so he was facing his friend. "I am alright."

"Do you have any idea how deep that was, 'Fin? How close it was to your spine? You couldn't see what you were doing, and just a finger's width more to the right and you would have been paralyzed or worse." Erestor swallowed hard, fighting for composure. "I could have lost you." he whispered. Glorfindel made room beside him on the divan and pulled Erestor onto it, cradling his friend against his body. "Hush, Erestor, I am here."

"How do I know you won't be gone tomorrow, 'Fin?" Erestor said through his tears. "Or the day after that? How long until I wake up and you're just...gone?" Glorfindel bit his lip and pulled Erestor closer, peppering his face with gentle kisses. "Sssh," he soothed, "Erestor, you're not going to loose me..."

"I can't trust your word in this. How many more times before your heart overrides your mind, and it's no longer just a close call? How much more time do I have before one of those accidents destroys you?" Glorfindel hesitated, and at last looked away. "You are right, 'Tor. Even if I could give you my word, you could not trust it right now. Forgive me."

"Always." Erestor murmured, and he smiled slightly through his tears at the use of the nickname. None save Glorfindel ever used it anymore, but any affection from the blonde had been rarer and rarer of late.

"Tor?" "Aye?"

"Would you stay with me?" "I would do whatever you asked of me. You know that." Erestor settled himself more comfortably against Glorfindel and removed the metal clip from his hair, letting his braids fall forward, unrestrained. Glorfindel absently undid the slim plaits, his hands lingering in the soft, dark locks perhaps a bit longer than necessary. If Erestor noticed, however, he made no comment.

"Are you going to sleep in those robes?" Glorfindel asked. Erestor shrugged. "I don't mind."

"You don't have to." "I don't feel like getting up for a sleeping robe." Erestor murmured. Glorfindel snorted. "Tor, it isn't as if I haven't already seen it all."

"If you're certain you don't mind..." "I don't."

"Good. This isn't terribly comfortable, I must admit." Glorfindel just rolled his eyes, and Erestor slid out of his heavy formal robes. He tossed them unceremoniously onto the floor and pulled the blanket over himself. Glorfindel claimed half of it for his own, taking no chances. He didn't know if Erestor was a blanket-stealer or not, after all. Erestor just sighed softly and spooned up behind Glorfindel, who made a soft, contented noise and settled against his friend's warm body. "Good night, 'Tor."

"Sleep well, 'Fin." Erestor murmured drowsily, and both were soon asleep.

Erestor woke slowly to the sound of Glorfindel's voice. He sounded distinctly agitated; the usual Gondolin lilt of his voice was lacking. Erestor wasn't quite awake enough to focus on the words, but he heard Elrond's tones as well, equally irate. Ah. Interfering again.

"I am telling you, Glorfindel, you can't use him thus, no matter how you feel-" "I am not using him!" Glorfindel protested. He tensed and glanced over at Erestor. "We're going to wake him."

"Too late." Erestor murmured sleepily. "Leave 'Fin alone, Elrond. He did nothing wrong, and this isn't what it looks like." Erestor yawned and stretched, blinking sleep from his eyes. "Did you need something?"

"You two missed breakfast, I was just checking on you." Erestor made a face. "We missed breakfast?"

"Afraid so, 'Tor." Glorfindel said. He must have been calming down, Erestor thought, for the usual accent had returned to his voice. Elrond sighed, defeated, and let the matter drop. "I'm certain you two can find something to eat in the kitchens. Erestor, a word when you have time?"

"Of course." Erestor replied, stifling another yawn. Elrond nodded at them and left.

"I'm sorry I woke you, meldir." Glorfindel said, and Erestor shrugged. "No apology is necessary, 'Fin." he replied absently, twirling a strand of the Elda's blonde hair around one finger.

"Why does Elrond always jump to conclusions?" Glorfindel muttered, half to himself. Erestor raised an eyebrow. "It does look rather bad, 'Fin. I wouldn't worry about it."

"Easy for you to say, nothing worries you." "I try." Erestor replied, somewhat darkly. Glorfindel let the matter drop and sat up, allowing the blanket to fall away from his bare chest. "Good thing Elrond didn't see these."

"A very good thing." Erestor replied, his voice a bit crisper than usual. He frowned and shook his head, then sat up as well. "What time is it?" he asked. Glorfindel glanced out the window, as the clock wasn't visible from the divan, and replied, "Probably a bit past ten."

"Aiya, that late? I'd best be going, 'Fin, I have a lot to do today. I don't suppose I'll see you at mealtimes, since you haven't been eating."

"You probably won't." Glorfindel said, figuring there was no need to lie to or argue with Erestor, since he knew what was going on anyway. "Have a good day, 'Tor."

"You as well, inasmuch as you can." Erestor replied, pulling on his robes. Glorfindel watched him go quietly, and the familiar feeling of sorrow returned once more.

"Erestor, with all due respect, you are a fool." "Thank you." Erestor snapped peevishly. "Do you have anything important to speak to me about, or did you just want to scold me for lying with 'Fin, which I have only done once?"

"Stop being difficult." "You're the one being difficult. This is between me and him."

"I don't want you hurt, Erestor! You are my friend, and you are needed here. I don't want you risking your heart."

"I did that years ago." Erestor retorted caustically. "When I fell for him, I did that. It is too late for any to spare me pain, Elrond, but I shall spare him some at least. I can help him, even if I can't help myself."

"How very noble." "Why do you have such a problem with this?" Erestor snapped peevishly. Elrond hesitated a moment, looking almost trapped for just an instant before replying, "I don't like seeing you wasting your time on a love that can never be anything." Erestor frowned, his dark eyes searching Elrond's grey ones, which were shuttered, to no avail.

"This isn't about him." Erestor said suddenly. "It's about you." "It's not-" Elrond began, but Erestor cut him off. "It is. That's why you don't want me to do this, that's why you don't even want me to care for him. Don't you see, Elrond, that even if I could love you that way we wouldn't be happy? Your jealousy in such matters is rather legendary, and I could never give up my friendship with him. We were friends before you were even born. Don't you speak of wasting time to me, Elrond, it would be sickeningly hypocritical. Do I make myself clear?"

"As glass." Elrond snapped. "You are the fool, Erestor, not I. Should you come to your senses and decided to let this fruitless love of yours go, I will still be here. You may go."

"Then I shall." Erestor retorted, and swept out of the room.

Glorfindel lacked Erestor's perception, but he did have one unusual skill. Of all Imladris, he was the first to know when Erestor was upset; Glorfindel alone was capable of discerning the staid counsellor's moods with relatively little trouble. It was, the Elda thought, something in the gleam of those dark eyes, and a subtle shift in the already unusual tones of Erestor's mixed accent. Yes, that was it. Erestor's Gondolin lilt had faded almost beyond recognition, save a few unusual stresses and speech patterns not found in the crisper Rivendell accent. When Erestor was upset, Glorfindel caught more of the familiar lilt, so much like his own. And the gleam in Erestor's eyes conveyed much as well, though it barely changed. Still, when he was angry, it seemed to sharpen slightly; when distressed, it was perhaps just a bit more muted.

"Good afternoon, meldir." "Afternoon."

"Tor? What's wrong?" "Nothing, 'Fin." Erestor replied, his accent becoming still more marked with that phrase. Glorfindel raised his eyebrows. "I do not believe that. You can fool the rest of this household, but not me."

"I..." Erestor hesitated. "I can't talk about it, 'Fin. Not even to you." Especially not to you. I know what you would say, what you would tell me...your heart is ever the property of Ecthelion by your own choice. Even if you could give it to me, you would not. I once liked Ecthelion a great deal...but now I find myself cursing his name...

"Erestor? Might I have a word?" "Need you even ask?" Erestor replied, and gestured to a nearby chair. "Please." Ecthelion nodded and sat down in front of Erestor, twisting one dark braid in his fingers as he so often did. "I need to talk to you," he said seriously, "about Glorfindel."

"What about him?" Erestor asked, sitting up a bit straighter. "Is he alright?" "He is fine, Erestor. As you have doubtless noticed."

"Pardon me?" Erestor replied, confused. Ecthelion regarded Erestor coolly through eyes of the deepest cerulean, the only gaze Erestor had ever found unsettling. After a moment, Ecthelion had mercy enough to blink, and Erestor relaxed slightly.

"Surely," Ecthelion finally said, "it has not escaped your attention that Glorfindel is wondrous fair?"

"It has escaped the attention of none in the whole of the city." Erestor said with a shrug.

"Cleverly avoiding my question, I see. A noted gift of yours." "I am afraid, Lord Ecthelion, that your meaning escapes my famed perception."

"Does it now? Quite an accomplishment." Ecthelion paused, frowning slightly, his gaze becoming a bit more severe. "Erestor, the feast last night..."

"What about it?" "Don't even try to lie to me, Erestor. I saw you watching him."

"Perhaps I did." Erestor shrugged. "What of it?" "Watching him is all very well for the Elves who don't know better, who think him unattached. You know he is mine, Erestor, so take care not to forget yourself. I saw the way you were looking at him."

"I do not 'forget myself,' Ecthelion. And as for watching 'Fin, well, he did look unusually stunning last night, as you are doubtless well aware."

"Of course I am." Ecthelion replied smoothly. "The trouble is that you seem to be taking entirely too much notice of my lover."

"Ecthelion," Erestor said in exasperation, "peace. He and I are dear friends, nothing more."

"See to it that it remains thus. I want your word, Erestor." Ecthelion said, and Erestor looked up at him, scrutinizing the dark-haired Lord. "Never have I known you to be jealous, meldir. It does not suit you any better than mistrust. Still," Erestor continued, before Ecthelion could reply, "you may have my word, if you would feel better for it. You know me near as well as Glorfindel himself, know I do not make, take, or break promises lightly." with that, Erestor pulled a small knife from his belt and slit across his palm. "I swear to you, Ecthelion, that never will I try to take Glorfindel from you." Ecthelion frowned. "You swear me a blood oath so willingly?"

"I may as well be honest with you, Ecthelion, as you plainly see at least some of my sentiments on the matter...there was little need for me to swear it to you, as I made my own personal oath of a similar nature already. But if you will rest more secure in his arms for this, then I do it gladly. 'Fin shall always be a dear friend, and I want him to be happy; that is what matters to me right now." Ecthelion swallowed hard. "You love him." There was no question in the quiet lilt of his voice, only a sort of bitter understanding.

"Aye." Erestor murmured, looking down. "Even to the point of letting go." "Such is the regard he inspires." Ecthelion smiled faintly. "I blame you not, Erestor; indeed, I rather commend you upon your good taste and even better discretion. 'Fin... well, it is difficult not to fall in love with him. Forgive me if I was harsh to you; I spoke in the darkness of my worry. 'Fin is terribly fair, and I live ever with the fear of his loss, the fear that he will simply...stop wanting me."

"I do not think that day will ever come." Erestor replied pensively. "The way he looks at you, talks about walk in the grace of the Valar, Ecthelion, to be granted so rare a treasure so freely. I could not in good conscience come between you." Erestor paused. "If that is all, Ecthelion, there are some matters I must attend to..."

"Of course." Ecthelion watched Erestor as he walked away, regarding the slim, dark-haired Elf with newfound respect. Never had he thought the generally standoffish advisor possessed the ability to feel anything so keenly as to inspire devotion such as this. Indeed, had their roles been reversed, Ecthelion knew in his heart he would never have been able to let go of that sliver of a chance. Perhaps it was that complete devotion that Ecthelion feared; indeed, feared so much as to approach Erestor. Never had he felt the need to defend his claim to any but Erestor, the one other Elf who Ecthelion knew Glorfindel would trust with his life. Yet the quiet advisor had remained cool and matter-of-fact as ever, even when he swore a blood oath denying himself what he so desperately wanted.

Either Erestor was an exceptional, amazing Elf, or he had long since lost all hope.

Glorfindel looked up, instinctively sensing a presence in the doorway. Erestor stood there, and the Elda could tell he was a bit calmer than he had been previously.

"Don't just lurk at the door." Glorfindel said, and Erestor came in, shutting said door behind him. He settled himself on the small couch, and Glorfindel sat down beside him, placing one hand on Erestor's shoulder. "Feeling better?"

"Aye." Erestor said, waving off the inquiry with a casual flick of one wrist. "And you?" he said seriously. "I know how hard for you tonight is...the night before Tarin Austa..." Glorfindel almost flinched as Erestor spoke those last two words, and his friend sympathetically took the hand that had rested on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "It will be over soon, 'Fin."

"It's never over." Glorfindel replied dully, resignedly, and he sighed. Erestor leaned over and brushed a chaste kiss across Glorfindel's lips, but was caught off-guard when Glorfindel pulled him closer and deepened the contact, suddenly demanding. Erestor did not pull back, however, but rather melted into the kiss, allowing Glorfindel access when his tongue insistently demanded entry. It was less than Erestor had wished for, had imagined countless times, but was not less than could be expected. It came as no surprise that there was little or no affection in this kiss, much less love. It was not a surprise, but it was nonetheless a disappointment. Still, Erestor did not shy away; anything was better than nothing, so desperately did he want this gorgeous blonde Elf.

They broke the kiss, breathing hard, and Glorfindel looked down. "Forgive me, 'Tor-"

"Don't apologize. If you want this, 'Fin, it is yours." Erestor murmured, swatting a wayward lock of dark hair from his eyes. Glorfindel hesitated briefly, then took Erestor's wrist and pulled the dark-haired Elf with him to the bedroom. Clasps were ripped open, ties pulled apart, clothing flung aside, the rustle of fabric replaced by the near-silent whisper of skin on skin and the considerably louder sounds of hard breathing, gasps and moans of pleasure. Erestor succumbed without protest to Glorfindel's forcefulness, handing over control without a second thought. His dark eyes caught sight of the deep gash down his friend's sternum, and Glorfindel noticed his gaze. His movements became rougher, and Erestor gasped sharply as Glorfindel's teeth broke the skin, drawing droplets of blood. But Glorfindel didn't stop, just sank his teeth in deeper before bending his head lower and doing it again...then again...and again...

"Fin-" Erestor gasped, breaking off at the sudden feeling of nails digging into his arm. If Glorfindel heard his words, he gave no sign, and Erestor knew he was bruising under the force of Glorfindel's fingers as the blonde held him down. Erestor swallowed hard, suddenly scared, unable to see even a trace of the Glorfindel he knew. Aiya, sweet Elbereth, what was I thinking? Erestor bit back a cry of pain as Glorfindel's nails raked a long gash down his chest. "Fin, saes..." Erestor managed, and Glorfindel slid a hand under the pillows, pulling out a phial of oil. His motions were rushed, careless, and Erestor was nowhere near properly prepared when Glorfindel sheathed himself with one hard thrust. A scream ripped out of Erestor's throat as he felt the flesh tear, but Glorfindel was too far gone to notice, too wrapped up in his mind to control himself. His motions were hard and merciless, and Erestor breathed a relieved sigh when Glorfindel at last spent himself and collapsed bonelessly on top of Erestor, who waited until he saw Glorfindel's eyes take on the unfocused glaze of sleep to slip silently out of the bed, wincing as he did so. Erestor left his clothes lying on the floor; they were too far gone to wear. He rustled through Glorfindel's wardrobe and pulled out a simple robe of dark blue, which he pulled over his head before heading to the door. Erestor hesitated, catching the faint scent of Glorfindel on the robe, a mingled smell of old leather, sage, and rain. He glanced back at the blonde, fast asleep on the bed, his blonde hair tousled and spilling across the pillow every which way. There was a stain of red on his parted lips, and Erestor swallowed convulsively, but nonetheless walked back to bed, hissing softly in pain as he did so. He ran one slim, pale finger along the length of the lone gash down Glorfindel's back, then gently pulled the covers over his body, noting in the process how thin he had become. With a soft sigh, Erestor brushed back the blonde locks from Glorfindel's face, smoothing them and combing out the tangles with his fingers, then folded Glorfindel's clothes and set them aside. Erestor retreated from the room and returned moments later bearing a small pitcher of water, a glass, and a cloth. He filled the glass and set it aside on the nightstand, then used the rest of the water to gently wash the sheen of sweat from Glorfindel's face. Erestor sighed again and pressed a gentle kiss to Glorfindel's forehead before at last leaving the room and shutting the door carefully behind him.

Erestor woke late the next morning to the insistent sound of a knock on the door. "Who's there?"

"It's me, Erestor." Elrond called. Erestor sighed. "What is it?" "Can I come in?"

"Just a moment." Erestor slid out of bed, biting back a sharp exclamation of pain. He pulled a robe over his head and sat down, shifting slightly in discomfort. "Alright." Elrond entered and shut the door beside him, then sat down beside Erestor, who winced slightly. "Erestor, are you alright? You never sleep this late."

"Long night." Erestor replied evasively. Elrond sighed. "Erestor-no, never mind. I'm not even going to discuss it. Look, Erestor...I'm sorry about yesterday...I should have kept my peace."

"Yes, you should have." Erestor replied flatly. Elrond looked down. "I never meant to make things hard for you, Erestor. I just...." he sighed. "I don't know."

"Everything's complicated." Erestor said darkly. "Come, Erestor, let's get something to eat." Elrond started to pull Erestor to his feet, but stopped when Erestor hissed sharply in pain and pulled away. "I'll eat later."

"Erestor." Elrond said sharply. "What. Happened." "It's nothing."

"Did he-" "It doesn't matter!"

"Erestor..." Elrond said softly. "How bad is it?" "It''s bad." Erestor looked away. "I know what you think of me for this, Elrond. That I'm just taking any scrap he throws me...and I suppose I am, but..." Erestor trailed off, and Elrond sighed. "I spoke out of jealousy, Erestor; I cannot blame you for this. Do you want me to look at it?"

"I'll be alright, Elrond." Erestor replied quietly. "No dancing for me tonight, but I don't mind."

"Get some rest, Erestor, you aren't needed until this afternoon." "Very well, but do me a favor and don't mention this to 'Fin?"

"I won't. Actually, I ought to check on him, he isn't up yet either." "He needed the sleep, but he does have things to do today." Erestor agreed. "Go on, I'll see you this afternoon." Elrond nodded, a somewhat preoccupied air about him, and he left.

Glorfindel groaned and rolled over at the sound of a knock on the door. "I'm up." "Not for long, if I know you." Elrond's said. Glorfindel sighed and burrowed further under the covers, then abruptly registered their presence over him instead of folded at the foot of the bed. Confused, he looked up and saw a glass of water had been left on the nightstand, and that his clothes had been neatly folded. Erestor. Glorfindel thought guiltily, remembering all too vividly what had happened the previous night. "Have you seen Erestor today, Elrond?"

"Still asleep." Elrond replied. "Now get up, there are things to get done today." "I'll be up in a moment." Glorfindel replied, and waited until the sound of Elrond's footsteps faded to sit up and let the covers fall to his waist, revealing the half-healed gashes on his chest. Absently, Glorfindel's fingers traced the lines of the wounds, and he wondered how badly he had hurt Erestor. After last night, it would come as no surprise if he didn't even want to come near Glorfindel, but the Elda hoped that perhaps whatever rift he had caused could be healed. He wanted Erestor there, needed him there...

"Sweet Elbereth, what have I done?" Glorfindel muttered. There was no answer, as he had half-hoped there would be, and with a soft sigh he rose and dressed. Glorfindel briefly considered going to talk to Erestor, but decided against it, at least for the moment. If Erestor really was still asleep, it was probably best to leave him alone. Glorfindel was about to go to his study when there was a soft knock at the door. "Glorfindel? Can to you?" Glorfindel frowned, hearing all too well the note of distress in Elrohir's voice. "Come in, pen-neth." he said, and Elrohir poked his head in. "You're certain?"

"Aye, El, come in." Glorfindel said. Elrohir opened the door only wide enough to slip into the room, then shut it behind him. "I...I just spoke to Ada."

"Ah. And will it be Mirkwood or Lorien for you?" Glorfindel asked dryly. Elrohir looked up at him in mild surprise. "You know."

"Of course. I am involved in this now, so I make it my business to know. Even if Elrond himself had not told me, Erestor doubtless would have been aware of it." Elrohir sighed. "Sometimes I forget how fast such things travel around here."

"I know." "It's Lorien."

"At least you'll have family there." "Frankly, I think I'd prefer Thranduil."

"I suppose I see your point." Glorfindel frowned slightly. "I know it's early yet, Elrohir, but...would you care for a drink?"

"Please." he said, and Glorfindel nodded. "What do you want?" "If I could have some of your secret stash of that Mirkwood brew..."

"You are upset." Glorfindel observed, but left the room, reappearing shortly bearing a small bottle and two glasses. He filled one almost to the brim with the pungent amber liquid, and the other only a third of the way. Elrohir took his glass and sniffed the stuff cautiously, making a slight face. "This is the strong stuff."

"I don't believe in going halfway." Glorfindel agreed. "Drink up." "" Elrohir said rather disdainfully, and downed half the glass in one go. Glorfindel raised one eyebrow and lifted his glass slightly. " Lord." he said, and took a drink. Elrohir managed a wry smile. "You disagree with his choice, I take it?"

"Besides being cruel, it won't make a difference." Glorfindel said waspishly. "He is wasting his time. I counseled him against it, but he wouldn't listen to me. I'm afraid I can't help you this time, El. Nor can Erestor, even his fabled negotiation skills left Elrond unmoved."

"Sorry to hear it." Elrohir said, taking another long drink. "It just isn't fair, that I have to go away, and Ell gets to stay-"

"Whatever gave you the idea he is staying? No, he's going to be spending some quality time in Mirkwood." Glorfindel paused, then continued, "I would have thought that Elrond would have waited to break this to you until after Tarin Austa."

"There are always a few Galadhrim here for the celebration, and Prince Legolas is gracing us with his company this year as well. We leave the day after the feast."

"I see." Glorfindel replied, and he frowned. "Did he say how long this will last?" "He said, 'until you and your brother cease this foolishness."

"In other words, indefinitely." "Aye."

"Enjoy Lothlorien, then." Glorfindel said, and Elrohir sighed. "At least I'll have Arwen."

"How has she taken this?" "Well enough. She isn't upset with us except for being caught."

"I always knew your sister had sense." "She must have inherited it from Naneth."

"Well, it certainly isn't from her father." Glorfindel took another sip of his drink, then regarded Elrohir thoughtfully. "Mind, what I am about to say should not be repeated to anyone."

"And the rest of this conversation should be?" "A valid point." Glorfindel agreed. "First and foremost, feel free to make this as difficult for your father as you can. If it does not dissuade him of the idea, it will at least be rather satisfying. Secondly, I take it he has forbidden correspondence between you two?" at Elrohir's nod, Glorfindel continued, "You know I often act as a diplomat and therefore travel, as does Erestor, and you can entrust either of us to be discreet with your messages. I haven't spoken to Erestor, but I know he would do it. I also know a few couriers who owe me rather large favors if it comes to that, and I suspect Lindir is also trustworthy. Any letters, of course, must never be seen. Read them, burn them if you can bear it, otherwise hide them very well indeed. I will help you, but Elrond's wrath is never pleasant."

"Thank you, Glorfindel." "I could do no less for you, pen-neth." Glorfindel replied. Elrohir wrapped his former tutor in a tight embrace, and Glorfindel felt him shiver slightly. "Are you alright?"

"Just upset." Elrohir whispered, his voice choked. Glorfindel wrapped his arms around Elrohir's shoulders and smoothed back his dark hair. "Go on, El." Glorfindel murmured. Elrohir shuddered, and Glorfindel saw the tears begin to fall, though the younger twin made no sound. He said nothing, just held Elrohir close as he cried in a desperate attempt to purge the grief from his heart.

The flow of tears eventually ceased, and Elrohir looked up. "Glorfindel, please..."

"You know I can't-" "You're not one to talk." Elrohir snapped, and Glorfindel sighed in resignation. "Under the pillow." he said quietly, and Elrohir slid the dagger from its hiding place. Glorfindel looked away when Elrohir drew it down his forearm, suddenly profoundly disturbed by the action despite what he had done to himself. At last, Elrohir wiped the blade on the edge of his tunic and returned the dagger to its usual hiding place. Glorfindel looked up as Elrohir was tugging his sleeve back down over the vermilion lines on his arm, and he sighed softly. "Your father must never know of this."

"Never." Elrohir agreed quietly. He downed the rest of his drink and nodded at his former tutor. "Thank you, Glorfindel." he murmured softly, and left without another word.

Glorfindel had only just sat down at his desk when there was a knock at the door. "Enter." he called, and Elladan walked into the room. "I just spoke with Adar." he said, in tones of barely-suppressed rage.

"I can't imagine that was a enjoyable conversation." "Has he told you of this?"

"Aye, as has your brother." "Do you agree with him?!?" Elladan burst out. "Is that why you make no move to stop this?!?"

"Do not take your anger out on me, pen-neth, I tried to talk Elrond out of it already. I, personally, think your father is being unusually foolish for one so wise. This will not change anything; it can only make matters worse. He should know that. But he would not listen to me, or even to Erestor, come to that." Glorfindel replied calmly, and Elladan abruptly deflated. "I had hoped you would speak to Erestor, I thought Adar would listen to him, if nothing else because I think he rather fancies Erestor."

"That sounds like an exercise in futility." "Aye, since the two of you are lovers." Elladan said offhandedly. Glorfindel looked at him in surprise, and Elladan shrugged. "I heard you last night."

"Oh." Glorfindel said quietly. "Do endeavor to be discreet, Ell. Besides, we aren't lovers in the true sense of the word. We're close friends who have slept together a few times...twice, actually. Nothing more."

"Is that all? Too bad, I think you would make a fine pair." Elladan fell silent, then said at length, "I leave tomorrow."

"I know. Mirkwood for you, am I right?" "Aye. I am traveling with Prince Legolas and Princess Lisgiel."

"They're both going to be here? Elrohir only mentioned the Prince. Mirkwood's festival shall be hard-pressed for lightheartedness without either of them."

"They are ever the life of the feast." Elladan agreed. He found the Mirkwood royal family agreeable, but the youngest prince and eldest princess were the most lively and interesting of them, though Thranduil's Lady Melamra was also an excellent conversationalist when she was coaxed into speaking. Her name was apt, as she had spent many years wandering Middle Earth and was as skilled with bow and sword as any in her realm; thus, she had innumerable stories worth telling. Thranduil had once admitted he was first attracted to her because she was the only maid in the realm who wasn't impressed by his status and could match him blow for blow. Melamra had laughed and said that he needed someone to put him in his place. In other circumstances, Elladan would have welcomed some time in Mirkwood; he was not often there, and had several friends among the archers.

"Have you spoken to Elrohir?" Glorfindel asked at length, and Elladan shook his head. "Not yet. I couldn't bring myself to tell him..."

"He already knows, pen-neth. Your brother will be in Lorien, did Elrond mention that?"

"He didn't." "I suppose that shouldn't surprise me." Glorfindel said dryly. "I know that he has forbidden communication between you, but if you ever have need of a discreet if slow message..." Elladan smiled slightly. "Thank you."

"I will have to do it on my diplomatic missions, of course, so it will take time. I daresay that Erestor will help me, though, and he is more often in Lorien than I am."

"Erestor's style is all well and good for my grandparent's court, but Thranduil is not so easily swayed by simple logic or by Erestor's other method, sheer force of personality." Glorfindel laughed softly. "Aye, it takes a honeyed tongue to convince Thranduil of anything."

"You could charm a dragon into handing over its hoard and then slaying itself, I've seen you at it." Glorfindel raised an eyebrow. "To each their own." he replied mildly. "It has always worked for me."

"Clearly." Elladan said with a shrug. He sighed. "I am worried." "What about?"

"That this will part us." "Don't be foolish, Elladan. Elrohir feels as deeply for you as you do for him."

"I don't know that." "I do. The way he cried when you fought, when he came to me this morning..." Glorfindel trailed off, and Elladan frowned. "How bad was it?"

"It was...bad..." "Did he hurt himself?" Elladan asked softly, though in truth he didn't really want to know the answer to that question.

"Yes." Glorfindel murmured. Elladan sighed and raked one hand distractedly through his dark hair. "I should speak with him ere we are parted."

"Aye, you should." Glorfindel agreed. "Come here a moment, Elladan." vaguely curious, Elladan did as he was told. He was not used to disobeying Glorfindel, who could be as strict a teacher as Erestor, but the Elda usually explained himself. When Elladan reached his former tutor's side, Glorfindel rose and embraced Elladan tightly. The elder twin was a bit surprised, for such spontaneous affection from the blonde was a rare treat that Elladan had ever sought in his childhood. He smiled slightly and wrapped his arms around the Elda's shoulders and buried his face in the mass of golden hair. For as long as he could remember, Glorfindel had been the stable, comforting presence of the family, always there when needed or wanted; Elrond had often been too busy to spend much time with his children, and their mother, dearly as they had loved her, had always been rather distant. Erestor had always been rather too serious for the twins when they were young, which left Glorfindel to play with them and comfort them. It had been thus as long as Elladan could remember; so many times, he and his brother had climbed onto the Elda's lap, fighting for space. Those childhood woes seemed remote, frivolous, so far removed were they from Elladan's current consciousness, and he felt himself seized by a sudden desire for such simple problems. Problems that could be solved by Glorfindel's familiar embrace and soft words, rarely given, but better than any other cure for discontent and sadness. If only...

"Have no regrets, Elladan." Glorfindel murmured softly. Elladan looked up at that, but the expression in Glorfindel's jade eyes was difficult to read. "How can I?"

"You have done no wrong, pen-neth." Glorfindel replied seriously, smoothing Elladan's hair. "Against the pull of love such as yours there can be no resistance, nor should there be. He is the other half of your fea."

"How do you see so clearly what I feel?" "I am no stranger to love, though often I have wished it." Glorfindel replied. He dropped a quick kiss on the tip of Elladan's nose as he had done when the elder twin had been a mere Elfling. Elladan could not help but smile at the gesture as they broke their embrace. "I am an Elfling no longer."

"I know." Glorfindel replied. "You and your brother are long past your majority, but you still seem young to my eyes. Allow an old Elf his foolishness." Elladan laughed. "I have never known you to be foolish."

"You do not know me very well, then, pen-neth. Go on now, spend a bit of time with your Elrohir and leave me to my work." Elladan's smile warmed a bit at the ease in Glorfindel's tone at the words "your Elrohir," and found himself abruptly overcome by affection for the blonde. Elladan once more embraced his former tutor tightly, then returned the old childhood gesture of a kiss on the nose. Glorfindel actually smiled a sweet sort of half-smile at the motion, and the smile remained on his lips even for a little while after Elladan left.

"What do you think, Ell?" Elrohir asked his twin, holding up a robe of dark green. "I think you look lovely in whatever you wear, melme, so you are asking the wrong person." Elrohir smiled tolerantly and ruffled his older brother's hair. "While you are sweet, my dear one, you are less than helpful."

"I told you what I think; do with that what you will." Elladan replied. He was stretched out on the bed, watching lazily as his brother fussed over the collection of robes laid out on his own bed, which he rarely used anymore. Elladan, for his part, did not mind that Elrohir was taking his time agonizing over what to wear; as far as he was concerned, it was more time to admire that perfect body. Elladan smiled to himself and licked his lips, memories of what they had just done surfacing in his mind. Elrohir glanced at him and rolled his eyes. "I know what you're really thinking."

"It was good." Elladan replied, stifling a yawn. Elrohir smiled tolerantly as he examined another robe. "Better than last time?"

"Mmm, every time is always better than the last." Elladan responded, rolling over onto his back. Elrohir laughed softly but could not, in truth, disagree. He looked over his shoulder, and his breath caught in his throat briefly at the sight Elladan presented. Elrohir's mirror image was sprawled on the bed, watching him with half-open grey eyes, his rosy lips slightly parted. The blankets had slipped when Elladan had rolled over, revealing a pale, muscled chest, flawless save for a bright red mark just below the collarbone. Elrohir smirked slightly and sat down on the edge of the bed, unable to resist temptation and unwilling to try very hard to do so. Elladan sighed softly and closed his eyes and Elrohir's pale fingers gently traced the contours of his body, lingering briefly on the red mark he had already left. Elrohir smiled slightly when Elladan squirmed a bit under his fingers as they skimmed over the taut abdomen; the elder twin had always been ticklish there. Elrohir leaned over and licked at the passion mark that stood out sharply against Elladan's fair skin, and Elladan arched toward Elrohir slightly as he did so. Elrohir, however, did not linger, and Elladan was forced to content himself with a deep, passionate kiss, as Elrohir rose once more after it finished. Elladan made a noise of protest, but Elrohir just shook his head. "Not yet, you have to wait until tonight."

"Why?" Elladan asked plaintively. Elrohir laughed. "Because I said so." "Tease."

"Don't lie, meleth-nin, you enjoy it." "Not like this." Elladan protested.

"I will make it worth your while." "I sense mischief, little brother."

"Hm, perhaps." Elrohir allowed, as he finally selected a robe of a light silver cloth, embellished with black embroidery. Elladan nodded approvingly at his twin once the robe was on and sat up. "Excellent choice."

"Thank you." "Except one thing..."

"What?" "I think I'd prefer it on the floor around your feet."

"Wait a few hours, Ell." Elrohir murmured in a tone that made Elladan shiver in anticipation. "In a few hours, I shall give you something to remember."

"You are in rare form today, El. Almost never are you so aggressive." "And you are not often so readily at my mercy." Elrohir replied, winding his fingers in Elladan's raven hair. "So responsive to my every every word..."

"I want you..." Elladan murmured, pulling his brother closer. Elrohir allowed it and leaned into his brother's strong frame as they kissed deeply, allowing himself to be caught up in the whirlwind force that was his elder brother. Elladan was ever the more passionate of the pair, the more aggressive, but tonight Elrohir retained control of himself far more than usual, enough the gently shove Elladan away when his hands went for the fastenings of Elrohir's silver robes. "Bad Elladan." he scolded teasingly, and Elladan smirked. "You like it when I'm bad."

"Get dressed, melme." Elrohir said, and his twin scowled but nonetheless selected a robe of blue-grey silk much the same shade as his eyes, embroidered at the edges with white thread. He put it on and then sat down on the edge of the bed, raking his fingers distractedly through his hair.

"You really should stop doing that, Ell. It makes a mess of your hair." "I don't care." Elladan replied with a shrug. Elrohir sighed softly but did not reply, and Elladan smiled slightly when his twin knelt behind him on the bed and began combing out the tousled locks. Elrohir made short work of the tangles, and Elladan's hair soon fell neatly down his back. Elrohir then began the task of braiding it, though he deliberately left the top alone- Elladan would just muss it with his absentminded motions. Elrohir smiled to himself as his fingers slid through the silky raven locks, feeling Elladan relax against him at the familiar motion. Elrohir made short work of the three slim side braids, which he brought around to meet at the back in one thicker braid down the center. It was a style Elladan favored, though Elrohir personally had never much cared for it. It did hold his silver circlet nicely, thought, as it caught in the braids.

"All done." Elrohir said. Elladan's hands immediately went to his hair and ran over it lightly, checking his brother's work. With a slight nod, Elladan climbed onto the bed and let Elrohir sit on the edge in the spot he had vacated, still warm from his presence. Elladan had braided his brother's raven hair so many times, the motions were automatic, as he quickly plaited the elaborate net of slim braids over the top of Elrohir's head. Elladan himself never wore his hair that way; he always ended up pulling it when he forgot himself and tried to run his fingers through his hair. Still, Elrohir liked it, and it did look nice on him. Elladan finished and put a small silver clip in the dark locks to restrain them, then slid Elrohir's circlet, identical to his own, into the silken tresses. "Finished."

"Thank you, Ell." "You could give me a bit of a reward for my service."

"Hm, I suppose so." Elrohir agreed. He kissed his older brother passionately, but it was over far too quickly for Elladan's taste. Elrohir just laughed softly and rose, pulling his brother to his feet alongside him. "Come, Ell, let us go, we are going to be late."

In spite of himself, Glorfindel's breath caught in his throat at the sight of Erestor when he entered the dining hall. The dark-haired Counsellor usually dressed in unpretentious, dark clothing and wore sensible, simple braids despite his status. Tonight, however, he was stunning. Erestor's robes tonight were of brilliant blue-green silk and draped gracefully about his lithe form. His hair was loose save for what little restraint his circlet of office provided, and fell shimmering nearly to his waist in a stunning contrast against the bright silk of his robes. The robes themselves, Glorfindel noted, were in Gondolin style, fitting a bit closer to the body, and were fastened at the neck with a brooch of silver. Erestor turned several heads when he walked in the room, but seemed completely unconcerned by the attention he was receiving, though it was not often he got this much of it. Glorfindel shook himself mentally and smoothed his own robes, deep crimson silk edged in gold. He had chosen them partly for their fit, which disguised how much weight he had recently lost, and their color, which gave his pale skin more life. Erestor spotted him, and Glorfindel swallowed hard, fearing what his friend might have to say to him, after the previous night. Erestor looked a bit strained, and Glorfindel caught the familiar hint of his former lilting accent when Erestor greeted Glorfindel with a cordial, "Good evening, meldir."

"Good evening, 'Tor. How are you?" "I'm fine, the hard part is over now. The organizing is all done, this part requires little work."

"No, 'Tor, I are you?" "Ah." Erestor paused a moment, then finally replied softly, "Sore, to be honest. It's much better than it was this morning, but sitting is still rather less than comfortable. I'm healing nicely, though, far quicker than you have been lately."

"Feeling like this wreaks havoc on my healing abilities." "I know." Erestor replied. "Look, the twins." Glorfindel followed Erestor's gaze and saw them across the room, Elrohir in silver and Elladan in blue-grey. "They look nice tonight." Erestor commented.

"Aye, they do." Glorfindel agreed quietly. Erestor caught the note of distress in his friend's voice and subtly slipped his hand in Glorfindel's. "It will be alright." Erestor murmured quietly. "It will."

Elrohir's gaze was caught by the Lorien guests: Haldir and his brothers. Strange that it was always the youngest brother who was spoken of. Orophin, the eldest, had angular, sculpted, features and deep golden hair; he was exceedingly quiet and hardly ever laughed. Despite that, he was the only of the three who was wed, though Rumil was considering it. The middle brother had rounded, soft features that gave him a look of eternal Elflingness. His hair was such a pale blonde that it was nearly pure white and fell to his waist. He was currently embracing a smiling Lindir, and both began talking animatedly. Rumil was by nature more outgoing than Orophin but still rather softspoken; only his dark-haired lover seemed to draw him out of his shell. Haldir was the youngest of the three, though the highest-ranking captain of the guard. He was famed for his prowess both on the battlefield and in the bedroom; the latter doubtless resulted from his constant practice. It was understandable that he would have no lack of partners; he was easily the fairest of the three. Haldir's features were somewhere between those of his brothers: finely sculpted like Orophin's, but bearing softer lines more reminiscent of Rumil's. His eyes were unusual, a shade of pale silver rather than the normal blue of the other two. He wore his hair shorter than Rumil, allowing the silvery-blonde strands to fall to just below his shoulder blades. Haldir was the most open and outgoing of the three, and always pleasant company. At least the journey with him would be agreeable.

"You're watching that promiscuous Marchwarden rather closely." Elladan observed, and Elrohir raised his eyebrows. "Jealous?"

"Should I be?" "Don't be ridiculous." Elrohir retorted, and he added quietly. "You know I am yours."

"I do, but sometimes I wonder why you would have me, when you might have someone like Haldir."

"He is fair, but not really my taste." Elrohir said with a shrug. "Besides, any liaison with Haldir would have no real meaning in the long run, I know that."

"The point still holds." "Do I need a reason? I do, that's all that matters." Elrohir paused a moment, as if about to say something when two blonde Elves, their hair in Mirkwood-style braids, appeared.

"Elladan, Elrohir, mae govannen." "Legolas, Lisgiel!" Elladan exclaimed warmly. He held no quarrel with either of them; the current situation was no fault of theirs.

"Tis good to see you, my friends." Lisgiel said with a smile. "Elladan, I'm told you're going to be staying with us for a while."

"Aye." Elladan said, and some of his cheer faded. "Any idea how long? We see precious little of you at home." Legolas inquired. Elladan shrugged. "I'm not sure. A while, I should think."

"Well, any amount of time spent in the company of so lovely a young Lord..." Lisgiel said with a coy smile.

"Lisgiel!" Elladan exclaimed, glancing at Elrohir, who raised an eyebrow.

--She's begging for it.-- he said, and Elladan swallowed hard, abruptly aware of just how attractive the eldest Mirkwood princess was.

"Now, Lis, you know Elladan's tastes don't lie in your direction." "Oh, I know he prefers males, but I keep hoping he'll change his mind. All the best Elves don't favor maidens."

"Maiden? If you follow through on any of your flirting, your virtue is long gone." Elrohir teased. Lisgiel blushed, and Legolas just laughed. "She'd never admit it," the Prince said, "but-" he was cut off by a sharp slap from his older sister. "This is not the place for such things."

"Quite right." Elrohir agreed, his eyes twinkling. "Care to slip away with us after dinner, Legolas?"

"Perhaps." he replied serenely, his face neutral save for the twinkle in his bright blue eyes. Legolas, actually, was just as attractive as his sister: both shared the same delicate features and high cheekbones. Legolas' eyes were a darker shade of blue and his hair a deeper gold, and he was slightly taller, but they held a remarkable family resemblance.

--They don't make 'em like that in Imladris.-- Elladan remarked to Elrohir. --With the exception of yourself, lirimaer.-- the younger twin rejoined.

--Don't mistake me, if I liked maids...----Hm, fine taste. Clever, lovely, a bit of a flirt, good family...--

--Legolas isn't bad, either.----He's good in bed.--

--You've slept with him?!?----Relax, melme, it was long before our affair. Besides, it was only once or twice.--

--I trust you.----Actually, it was closer to a dozen times.--

--El!----He's really good. But it was never serious between us.--

--You were always more for casual flings than I was. Who else have you slept with that I don't know about?--

--You probably don't want to know.----I'm curious now.--

--Well...I have bedded Haldir a few times...----Everyone's bedded Haldir a few times, myself included..--

--Aha, the secret's out.--

"Come now, either let us in on your conversation or stop it." Legolas said. "I know that look." Elrohir smiled tolerantly. "Forgive us, it's a habit."

"Oh, I know." Legolas said with a negligent shrug. "Elrohir, mellon-nin, do you have any plans this eve?"

"I'm afraid so, Legolas." Elrohir replied breezily. "Sorry to disappoint." "Quite alright. Anything serious?"

"We'll see." Elrohir replied noncommittally. "Why don't you try Haldir?" "Haldir," Legolas replied, "is a last resort."

"Any why might that be?" the Marchwarden asked, abruptly appearing from the crowd.

"You're not much of a challenge." Legolas said dryly. Haldir just laughed. "You speak as if I have no standards."

"Breathing, walking on two legs, close to your height." "That's not fair, meldir, it's well-known I only bed the pretty ones."

"Like I said, not much of a challenge." Legolas retorted. "I'll give you a challenge." Haldir purred, tangling his fingers in Legolas' golden hair and pulling him closer, so they were only inches apart. Elrohir smirked, noticing how Legolas' breathing quickened and his pupils dilated as he met Haldir's intense silver stare. Elrohir felt the familiar brush of Elladan's mental touch, a tone of amusement to his thoughts. --Haldir never could resist one who didn't just fall into bed with him.--

--He enjoys a challenge. It's why he's such an excellent Marchwarden.----You're probably right.-- Elladan agreed. --Those two are just made for each other, aren't they?--

--They certainly seem...compatible.--Elrohir agreed, watching as Haldir let his hands fall to his sides. Legolas blinked and stepped back a pace, returning abruptly to his senses. Lisgiel laughed softly. "And you speak to me of virtue, little brother?" she chided. Legolas had the decency to look rather sheepish, and the others chuckled.

At that moment, all talk ceased as the Lord of Imladris made his entrance, accompanied by his daughter. Elrond was robed in deep blue and gold and looked predictably regal; Arwen wore a gown of periwinkle silk, and her dark hair fell loose halfway down her back. There was a brief flurry of movement as the guests took their seats, and the chatter resumed as the feast began. Legolas frowned slightly, half to himself, and the others followed his gaze across the table to where Glorfindel and Erestor sat at Elrond's side. The Elda seemed more subdued than usual, as if dwelling upon dark thoughts, and it was only when Erestor spoke that he truly seemed to listen, that a hint of his usual vitality returned.

"Are they...lovers?" Legolas asked quietly. "No." "In a way." the twins replied in unison. All eyes turned to Elladan. "What do you mean, in a way?" Elrohir asked of his brother. Elladan shrugged. "Tis not my place to speak of it."

"Ell..." Legolas pouted, and he fluttered his long eyelashes as a maiden might. Beside him, Haldir smiled slightly to himself, and Legolas inhaled sharply and swallowed hard. "Stop that." he managed, in none too even tones. Elrohir rolled his eyes, knowing exactly what Haldir was up to. "Haldir, save it for after dinner."

"You're no fun." "Really, Elladan, what were you talking about? I'm sure we can all be discreet." Legolas continued, swatting Haldir's arm away. Elladan sighed. "They aren't precisely lovers," he said in low tones, "but they have lain together."

"Ai, like you and me, then." Legolas remarked to Elrohir. "Not so very often." Elladan replied, causing Elrohir to blush a rather attractive shade of pink. Legolas merely smiled slightly. "Well, those were a fun few weeks."

"You have no shame." Lisgiel said, and Legolas shrugged. "Not much, no." "Hurry and finish eating, Legolas, I would like a dance." Haldir said. Legolas snorted but nonetheless ate faster. His sister smiled tolerantly and turned to the twins. "May I request the honor of your company in a dance each this eve, Elladan and Elrohir?"

"Of course." they replied in unison; it was well known that Lisgiel was one of the best dancers on Arda. She was sometimes likened to Luthien for her grace just as Arwen was for her appearance, a compliment that always made the slim blonde blush and giggle softly.

Several other guests seemed to have the same idea, and soon the dance floor began to fill. As Elladan and Elrohir waited for Lisgiel to finish her food, the elder twin caught a snatch of conversation from across the table and motioned his brother to listen.

"Erestor, may I have a dance?" Arwen asked, for always she danced with her family and close friends first. Erestor, however, shook his head. "Forgive me, my Lady, but I do not feel much like dancing this eve."

"Come now, Erestor, just one dance?" Arwen asked, favoring him with her most charming smile, one that very rarely failed to get her what she wanted.

"Not tonight, Arwen." "Don't pester him." Glorfindel added, and Arwen shrugged, a bit put off. "Very well, but you shall owe me two next feast."

"Agreed." Erestor replied, and Arwen, satisfied, turned to Glorfindel. "In that case, Glorfindel, would you dance with me?"

"Of course." Glorfindel agreed, and he rose and took Arwen's hand. Erestor smiled slightly and watched them, for both had arguably more than their fair share of gracefulness. At that moment, though, Elladan's attention was demanded by Lisgiel, and Elrohir accepted the offer of an old childhood friend, Sonvirin, to dance. The exchange between Erestor and Arwen was soon completely forgotten.

Glorfindel sat down heavily on the bed, and one hand slid under the pillow to withdraw with a dagger clutched in it. The rest of the household was already asleep in bed, he knew, after an evening of enjoying themselves, and on some level he envied them.

Why be jealous? Soon I will sleep deeper than any of them. Glorfindel thought bitterly, and the dagger traced a red line down one forearm...below his collarbone...down to his other wrist...with a deep breath, Glorfindel brought the dagger to his neck.

"Glorfindel!" "No, Erestor!" Galdor called. "We haven't the time! Don't waste what he is giving us!"

"Fin!" Erestor cried desperately."Go, 'Tor!" Glorfindel called, but Erestor stood rooted to the spot, watching as the only Elf he had ever loved fought against impossible odds. It was no heroism, it was desperation to follow his precious Ecthelion, yet there was an impossible beauty to the sacrifice and pain of the scene.

"He's done it!" Galdor cried, as Glorfindel thrust his blade into the Balrog's belly. Erestor's breath caught in his throat for a moment, and he was about to cry out, "Yes," except it became an anguished shout of "Glorfindel!" as the blonde lost his footing and fell from the ledge down to the river below, still struggling with the dying demon.

Erestor woke with a start, breathing hard. His entire slim frame was wound tight, and he relaxed only marginally when he realized he was in his own room, with Glorfindel only a few doors down the hall. Even so, the dark-haired advisor slipped silently from his bed and out of his room, down the hall, to Glorfindel's bedchamber. It was never locked, and the door swung silently open.

"Fin?" Erestor murmured, and went to the bed. It was too dark for Erestor to see clearly, but he could recognize Glorfindel's outline on the bed. With a soft sigh, Erestor brushed his fingers across Glorfindel's cheek and down, frowning when he felt liquid on his fingertips. Something felt wrong, Erestor realized. His skin was too cold...

"Fin?" Erestor asked, louder now, and he gasped sharply when his fingers went to Glorfindel's neck and found no pulse, only the torn line of flesh and slow ooze of blood. "Fin!" Erestor cried. Desperately, Erestor looked around and reached out his hand. It encountered Glorfindel's dagger, and Erestor hesitated for just a moment. Yes...I will bring him back... Erestor grabbed it and brought it across first his palm, then Glorfindel's, and pressed their hands together.

There was a sensation of incredible, penetrating cold, a feeling of wind and forces whipping around him that he didn't know or understand. "Glorfindel!" he cried again, and there was a soft, faint sense of, "Erestor? Don't..." but Erestor did not heed it, and within moments all he knew were the cold, the dark, the motion, and Glorfindel.

Elrond woke to the sound of Erestor's scream and sighed softly. Erestor always had this nightmare on Tarin Austa, or rather this particular memory. Elrond had rolled over and slipped out of bed to check on Erestor when he heard another cry and realized that it wasn't coming from Erestor's room. Elrond's pace quickened, and he hurried down the corridor to find Glorfindel and Erestor both lying on the bed. With a frown, Elrond lit a candle on the nightstand and gasped. His fingers automatically went to Glorfindel's neck and found only the faintest hint of a pulse beneath the skin. Elrond went next to Erestor and found the pulse far shallower than it should have been. Elrond glanced down and saw Erestor's hand clasped around Glorfindel's, and the Lord's grey eyes widened slightly. "Elladan! Elrohir!" he called. "Hurry!" there was a commotion from down the hall, and the twins rushed into the room, Elladan leading. He stopped dead just past the doorway, and Elrohir almost ran into him. "Ell?" he asked, and peered over his brother's shoulder. As one, the two each went to one of their former tutors and looked up at their father.

"Get them to the Healing rooms, and don't separate them." Elrond said tersely. They nodded mutely and moved as one, carefully picking them up and carrying them out the door as Elrond rushed off to his rooms for his personal healing supplies.

Elrond found his sons hovering anxiously off to one side of the room, and Elrond wasted no time in tending to Glorfindel. The cut across the neck was the first to be tended, then Elrond set about cleaning and bandaging the ones on his forearm, wrist, and below the collarbone. Elrohir swallowed. "There are more." he murmured. "On his chest."

"How do you know?" Elrond asked, as he began undoing the lacing of Glorfindel's tunic. Elrohir shrugged. "He's been wearing a lot of red lately. It's what you wear if you don't want it to show."

"We will discuss the implications of you knowledge later, ion-nin." Elrond said, and he suppressed another gasp as the material of the tunic fell away, revealing older wounds. "Not infected, at least."

"He might've let Erestor tend them." Elladan said. "After all, he would have seen them."

"How do you-" "Know? I heard them. I think they would be good for each other, but Glorfindel said it was nothing serious between them."

"It is now." Elrond said. "Erestor bound 'Fin to him. That's why it is inadvisable to separate them; 'Fin lives only by Erestor's grace, which is stretched rather thin at this point. How much do you know of bonds such as these?"

"Very little." Elladan admitted, and Elrond sighed. "It is Erestor's life force that will ensure Glorfindel's survival should they make it past the first few days, and that connection must be....reinforced." Elrond said delicately, though both twins understood perfectly what their father meant.

"And if Glorfindel is unwilling?" "He dies." Elrond murmured. "And so does Erestor. If 'Fin's actual death doesn't do it, grief would."

"Long has he loved Glorfindel." Elrohir murmured. His brother and father turned to look at him in surprise, and Elrohir shrugged. "It was always obvious to me. If I had to guess, I'd say probably he had loved him since Gondolin."

"Aye." Elrond said softly. "He never said anything?" Elladan asked, and Elrond shook his head. "He swore to Ecthelion he would keep his peace."

"Too late for that now." Elrohir said quietly. "Erestor will have to admit it sooner or later, now that he's done this."

"Aye." Elrond agreed. He checked Erestor's pulse, then Glorfindel's. "He's holding on yet, but this is an uphill battle. Erestor is fighting death and Glorfindel himself. This is not a normal battle wound Erestor is trying to save him from; this is the battle within Glorfindel himself, the only battle in which 'Fin has ever surrendered."

"Erestor loves him." Elrohir murmured softly. "Love is always enough." "El, not now." Elrond said, and Elrohir shrugged. "No, never now. Always later. Always delaying. You can't pretend this is nothing, Adar. Separate us, exile us, condemn us, but you will not break us. Glorfindel knew it, Erestor knew it, we know it. Love meant to be weathers all trials." with that soft, defiant monologue, Elrohir walked silently out of the room. --I'll be in bed, brother.--

--I'll be along in a bit. Love you, El.----Love you too, lirimaer.-- Elrohir replied. Elladan paused. "Do you think Erestor can do it?"

"I do not know." Elrond said quietly. "Elbereth, I hope so." "Better to have him here and Glorfindel's than gone and no one's?"

"We were friends long before I began having these feelings for him." "Much like them." Elladan said. Elrond hesitated. "I hadn't thought of it like that."

"Let him go, Ada." Elladan said quietly. "He was never yours to begin with." and with that, Elladan followed his lover from the room.

The twins woke to a soft knock on the door. "Who's there?" Elladan called. "It's not even dawn."

"You father sent me, Ell, he wants you both in the Healing rooms." Lindir's voice drifted through the door, and Elladan sat up. "We'll be right there, Lindir. Go back to bed and Rumil."

"I'm happy to." Lindir replied, and his retreating footsteps could be heard as both twins rolled out of bed and threw on dressing gowns.

Elrond looked up when his sons entered. "Gwyneth...I do not think they are going to make it. Erestor is weakening, Glorfindel is barely alive. They do not have much more time." there was a long pause, and Elrohir finally knelt at the side of the bed, head bowed. Elladan turned away, his hands balled into fists, shaking visibly. Elrond recognized well the suppressed rage seething just beneath the surface, but it all but disappeared from him at the soft sound of Elrohir's quiet sob. Elrond watched as the anger seemed to drain from his firstborn as he knelt at Elrohir's side and pulled his twin into his arms. "Sssh, a'melamin." Elladan murmured, gently stroking Elrohir's raven hair and crooning soft, soothing, unintelligible phrases. Elrohir didn't calm down, and with a slight sigh, Elladan pulled him closer and began, ever so softly, to sing.

"When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears

When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears

And I've held your hand for all of these years

But you still have all of me..." Elrohir swallowed hard as Elladan's voice trailed off. "Glorfindel sang that to you." Elrohir murmured, and Elladan nodded. "After...after Ada told us..." he whispered, and Elrohir wrapped his arms around his twin tightly, returning his brother's comfort. "I cannot imagine life here without them." Elladan continued. "Walking into the library and seeing Erestor scanning the shelves, going down to the practice fields and running into Glorfindel..."

"It will be so...empty." Elrohir murmured. "To be parted from you is bad enough..." Elladan murmured, his voice choked, "but to loose them as well..."

"Sssh, I'm here." Elrohir soothed, peppering his mirror image's face with soft kisses. "I'm here, meleth-nin."

"What is going to happen to us?" "I do not know, Elladan. No one does." Elrohir replied. After a moment, he pulled away slightly from his twin and laid his head on Glorfindel's chest, feeling the shallow rise and fall of it. Elrohir shut his eyes and clasped one hand over Glorfindel's and Erestor's. "Don't leave." he whispered. "Come back to us. We need you." everyone in the room held their breath for a moment in the absurd hope that perhaps Elrohir's words would make a difference. But, as Elrond had once said, "I have heard of miraculous recoveries, but never have I seen one."

"I will stay with them, if you do not want to be here..." Elrohir said at last, and Elrond nodded. "Thank you, ion-nin." he said quietly, and bent over the dark-haired figure on the other side of the bed. "Erestor, forgive me." Elrond whispered. "It should not have ended like this." and with that, Elrond pressed a soft kiss to Erestor's lips. "Namarie..." and here Elrond hesitated before finally finishing, "mellon-nin." and pulling away. A soft goodbye to Glorfindel, a wish for him to be happy again, and Elrond left the room. Elladan sat beside his brother, and was silent.

Elrohir looked up when Erestor inhaled sharply, and he laid his hand on Erestor's chest. A soft sigh escaped the dark-haired Elf, and for a long moment he did not inhale again. Elrohir tensed, and after what seemed like forever, Erestor drew another breath. Elrohir sighed softly in relief, then noticed the slightly fluttering of Erestor's eyelids. The younger twin watched, amazed, as Erestor opened his eyes. His gaze fell on Glorfindel, and a small, tired smile crossed his lips before the chocolate eyes lost focus as Erestor fell asleep. Elrohir reached over and found Erestor's pulse almost back to normal, his breathing steady. A quick check of Glorfindel's vitals confirmed Elrohir's suspicion that Erestor was winning this battle, and with a smile Elrohir gently shook Elladan, who had fallen asleep some time ago. "Ell? Ell, meleth, wake up."

"Hm?" Elladan replied sleepily, blinking and looking up at his brother. "Erestor woke for a moment. He's sleeping now, and they seem better."

"But Adar said-" "Adar clearly underestimated Erestor." Elrohir replied. "I think they will make it." Elladan smiled in relief. "That is good news." he said, and checked both of his former tutors for himself. He laughed softly and threw his arms around Elrohir, who returned his twin's embrace. "One of us should get Ada."

"I'll go." Elrohir replied. He gave Elladan a quick kiss, then extricated himself from his embrace and left the room.

Elladan looked up when his father and brother entered. Elrond moved first to press two fingers to the side of Erestor's neck, then lay his hand, palm down, on his chest. Elrond's usually stern features softened, his tense posture relaxed, and he smiled. "They'll be alright." he murmured. "Go get some rest, gwyneth, I will watch them for a while."

"Rest sounds nice." Elladan said. "I'm not certain I will be able to sleep." Elrohir said. His twin gave him a meaningful look, and Elrohir caught on. "But I ought to try. Perhaps I will find a way to relax myself." Elrond gave them both a disapproving look and said, "Do not wear yourselves out, you are still leaving today."

"Assuming Legolas and Haldir are fit to ride. Rumil as well, come to that, I know he was with Lindir last night. And I strongly suspect Legolas at least would be a bit...uncomfortable in the saddle." Elrohir replied, and Elladan clicked his tongue. "Haldir is always rather rough with his toys."

"Enough. Go." Elrond said, and the twins both laughed but nonetheless made good their escape.

Erestor awoke reluctantly and glanced over at the blonde beside him on the bed.

"Still sleeping." Elrond's voice informed him, and Erestor turned to see the raven-haired Lord sitting in a chair beside the bed. "He was conscious for a few seconds, then fell asleep almost immediately. Precisely what you did, from what the twins tell me."

"How long have I slept?" "Since about dawn. It's nearly midnight now. And, before you ask, I would imagine that Glorfindel will wake in roughly a half an hour at the very outside." Erestor smiled slightly. "Thank you."

"You had us very worried." Elrond murmured. "We thought you might not make it." "It was close." Erestor admitted, and his expression darkened. "I was fighting Glorfindel, not just death. He will probably not even want to be near me when he wakes."

"He has no choice." Elrond replied. "You bound yourself to him. He will have to be intimate with you to survive."

"But he does not want to survive, and therein lies one of many problems." Erestor sighed. "I should never have done this."

"You saved his life." "But I damned my own." Erestor murmured. "He is bound to me, and I to him, but he will never again like me, much less love me. Should he consent to live, he will take of me what is needed and it will end at that. Perhaps I would feel better if I knew he would still feel close to me as a friend, but I have lost that. And how long will it be until I slip, until he learns that I love him?"

"Apparently, not very." Glorfindel's voice startled both Elrond and Erestor, and the latter went pale and shifted away from the blonde. "Fin, please..." he whispered. Glorfindel just sighed. "I can't even think about it right now." he said. "I am tired, and confused enough as is, Erestor. Let us set the matter aside for now. What time is it?"

"About midnight." Elrond replied. "Are either of you hungry?" "Not very." Erestor said. Glorfindel nodded his agreement.

"That's fine, I didn't expect you to be, but I shall have something brought anyway. You may need it later. I am, however, making you both drink something. Can you sit?"

"One way to find out." Erestor remarked wryly, and managed to pull himself upright, then helped Glorfindel up, as the blonde was somewhat weaker. Glorfindel looked rather annoyed at needing to be helped upright, but made no comment. All three Elves were silent as the two in bed silently drank the water Elrond had given them, wondering if he had put anything in it that they didn't know about. It was Glorfindel who at last spoke, asking, "Have the twins left?"

"Aye, just after luncheon. I gave them my assurances you would both be fine, and they set off with their companions."

"It amazes me that Legolas would be able to ride." Glorfindel said waspishly. Erestor laughed, and Elrond looked at them both disapprovingly. "Elrohir said the same thing."

"Well, he would know." Erestor said, and Elrond sighed in exasperation. "I don't want to know these things about my son's past liaisons."

"It was centuries ago." Erestor said with a shrug. "Doubtless long before they ever became involved with each other."

"I would rather not discuss this now." Elrond said sharply, and Glorfindel rolled his eyes. "No, of course not. Now I know where Elrohir gets his tendency to run from conflict rather than face it."

"Fin." Erestor cautioned, marking Elrond's barely-contained anger. "Either stand beside me or be silent, Erestor." Glorfindel snapped. "Some mate you will make." at those words, Erestor clamped his lips shut over his half-formed protest and turned away, his face becoming even more pale. Glorfindel did not seem to notice as Erestor sank under the blankets and curled up into a tight ball. It was not until a soft, choking sob escaped Erestor that Glorfindel stopped glaring at Elrond and spared a glance at the dark-haired Elf beside him. "Just be silent, Erestor!" he snapped, and Erestor only curled up tighter in response and tried to muffle his sobs in the pillow. Elrond glared at his seneschal and began gently stroking Erestor's hair. "Sssh, meldir." he murmured.

--Apologize. Now.----If he is going to be my mate, Elrond, he must not interfere.--

--He must do nothing, now least of all. He is tired, upset, worried, and depressed. Erestor was endlessly forgiving of your faults under such circumstances, and you could at least return the favor.--

"You do realize I can hear every word you are saying?" Erestor interjected. "No once can force 'Fin to even like me, much less to love me. He may do as he pleases, and he will. Let us not forget this is Glorfindel we are speaking of."

"Erestor....I don't want you to be hurt." Elrond murmured. "It is far too late for that." Erestor replied derisively, then he sighed. "Get some sleep, Elrond, you must be tired. I can take care of myself."

"Sleep would be most welcome. Good night to you both, then, and do try to at least be civil to each other." Elrond left the two alone then, and both were silent; Erestor unwilling to risk another of Glorfindel's outbursts, and Glorfindel unwilling to admit he had been cruel. After some time, both tired of waiting for the other to speak, and they simply fell asleep.

Glorfindel was the first to wake the following day, and he guessed it was almost noon. A glance at Erestor told him his...friend? lover? mate?...was still sleeping. The Elda paused a moment, not just looking at Erestor, but seeing him. It was understandable that quite a few considered the quiet Chief Advisor beautiful, Glorfindel reflected. Strange that he had never really noticed. Erestor possessed an almost classical elegance: the straight nose, the proud chin, the slim, arching eyebrows. Yet there was something in his features that lent his face an exotic quality; perhaps it was those unusually dark brown eyes and lashes, the impossibly high cheekbones, the raven, glossy hair. Yes, Erestor was undoubtably gorgeous, and not just his face; everything about him was sleek and sculpted and lithe. Besides, Glorfindel reflected, Erestor was not a bad lover...perhaps he could become used to this...

"You're staring, 'Fin." Erestor murmured sleepily. Glorfindel started, surprised, then relaxed. "Forgive me."

"It's nothing." "No, 'Tor...forgive me. For last night."

"Ah." Erestor was silent for a long moment, then finally murmured, "That hurt, Glorfindel. More than I think you know."

"I can only offer my apologies." "Glorfindel...tell me now what I should expect of you. Let me know now if it is worth my while, of if I should simply allow us both to fade away."

" Saes, I spoke out of anger and the trouble of my heart. I do not want you hurt."

"You have hurt me a thousand times over and never even known it, why stop now? Intentional or unintentional, it matters not."

"Speak your mind, 'Tor. I do not want more things left unsaid. I am tired of it." "My mind? My mind is naught but a storehouse for thoughts and memories and useless lore. You know my mind, you have known it for years uncounted."

"Speak your heart, then." "Now, you begin to ask the right questions." Erestor said. He sighed. "My first romance, if you could call it that, was a trifling flirtation from which I learned I had no great preference for maids. After that, though my eye was sometimes caught, my heart never was. I was still as free as any innocent young Elf, carefree and assured. I never loved until I came to Gondolin, an Elf beautiful, clever, witty, and already utterly committed to another. I was drawn to his beauty at first sight, but his personality equaled it, and both were great. Much to my agony, I became friends with him, and with his lover as well. His lover, quite possibly my equal in perception, was the only one to ever see my love for that Elf, but I swore to him I would keep my distance and my silence. I swore it in blood, and I held my tongue for years, until my chance was lost. They both fell with Gondolin."

"Me?" Glorfindel asked softly, and Erestor nodded. "You. You and your Ecthelion, respectively. I loved Ecthelion as a brother, but hated him as a rival. A difficult balance of interests, but the former won my mind and therefore my actions. But this story, sadly, does not end there. For there was another, some years after your death, perhaps my greatest folly. He is one I rarely speak of, for I tired of facing the scorn of others for my choice. I had thought myself too lost to love again after your death, but I was wrong. I met another, and for eighty-four years, we were happy. Alas that such time is but a blink of an eye to our kindred, and the better part of a lifetime to a Man. I met him when he was eighteen, a child in the eyes of our people, but well grown by the standards of his own, and we fell in love. I was with him the rest of his life...I watched him grow and then grow old...and then I watched him die." Erestor looked away, and Glorfindel knew by the catch in his voice on the word "die" that he was fighting tears. With a soft sight, Glorfindel wrapped his arms around Erestor's shoulders and pulled him close. Erestor shivered in the embrace ad wiped away his tears. "I have to finish this." Erestor said quietly. "Do not get the wrong impression, 'Fin, about those eighty-four years. They were the happiest of my life, filled with love and joy and life...that was part of what drew me to him, actually. He was so vital. My only regret is that our time together was so brief. When he died...I pulled away from everything for a long time, not unlike you have been known to do, and it was not until I one day saw you walking through the gates that I realized how distant, how lifeless I had become. I remembered you, and Gondolin, and I knew my love would not have wanted to see me like this. I thought then you were only a dream, a vision, and it was not until you saw and embraced me that I knew it was you. But there was a shadow in your eyes I had never before seen there, and I held my peace still."

"Until yesterday." "Yes." Erestor said quietly. "I do love you, 'Fin. And whether you accept that or not, I cannot stop loving you any more than I can stop breathing. Ignore or embrace it, but you must somehow deal with it now."

"Erestor..." Glorfindel hesitated. "I do not know what I feel right now...but I do know that it needn't always be love at first sight. It is too late for that now, anyway. And I know also that I seek the same qualities in my friends as my lovers, and that you also happen to be one of the loveliest Elves I know."

"You would try to make this thing between us work, then?" "I would." Glorfindel agreed, and sealed his words with a deep, sweet kiss which Erestor melted into quite willingly. When they parted, they were silent for a time, until at last Glorfindel fixed Erestor with a rather fond gaze and murmured, "I had always rather wondered why you never took a lover in my memory. Surely you have had offers?"

"I have, and I have become quite gifted at gentle letdowns." Erestor said quietly, looking away.

"I wish I could make this up to you, 'Tor." "There is one thing you could do." Erestor said quietly.

"What?" "When next we lie together, for we must do so eventually, I would ask for my name on your lips, not his. I don't want to walk ever in his shadow, if we are to be bound, mates for life. I will only be me, Glorfindel, not your dreams of what was and what might have been."

"It is only fair," Glorfindel agreed slowly, "but you must understand that I may need time." "Of course I understand." Erestor replied. "I am not unreasonable, you know that."

"Aye, I do, lirimaer." Glorfindel paused. "Lirimaer. It does not feel so strange as I might have imagined.Would that content you?"

"Only if it does not bother you." "I think it is something which I will become accustomed to quickly enough." Glorfindel replied with a slight smile, the first Erestor had seen on Glorfindel's lips in a very long time. Erestor could not help but return the sentiment, and he settled himself comfortably against his new lover, resting his head against Glorfindel's shoulder. "You need to eat more, you've lost too much weight." Erestor observed. "You're bony; you didn't used to be."

"I know it." Glorfindel replied, and he gently smoothed back Erestor's hair, pushing a few stray locks from the advisor's face. Erestor sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, opening them when there was a knock on the door. "Enter."

Elrond was relieved to find Erestor resting in Glorfindel's arms when he entered the room. "You two seem better." he said. Erestor caught the second shade of meaning to that statement, and he nodded. "We are."

"Glad to hear it. Erestor, your hand, please." Elrond said, and Erestor recognized the pleasant professional tone his Lord took with patients. Elrond waited patiently while Erestor disengaged from Glorfindel enough to give Elrond one hand. Elrond took it and checked the pulse in Erestor's wrist, pleased to find it completely normal. The same was true of Glorfindel, and Elrond nodded, satisfied. "You two will be able to be up and about soon. But not until I say so." he added sternly, knowing perfectly well how unwilling both of his friends were to be trapped in bed. Then again, they were in bed with each other...

Elrond mentally shook himself, dropping that line of thought. Glorfindel caught the look in the dark-haired Lord's eyes and smirked. If I was looking from trouble, I would let my hand 'absentmindedly' wander up 'Tor's thigh.. Glorfindel thought, and Erestor met his eyes for a moment, smiling slightly. --Go ahead.--

--You heard me?----Mm-hm. A side effect of the bond, perhaps? Go on, I want to watch our ever-serene Lord squirm.-- Glorfindel chucked inwardly and allowed his hand to slip casually up Erestor's inner thigh, his fingers tracing idle, random patterns. Elrond swallowed hard and blushed. "Well, I had best be going."

"You're welcome to stay if you wish." Glorfindel replied, and Erestor suppressed a smile at his lover's voice, for there was the slightest hint of a seductive overtone to that invitation. Elrond shook his head and turned even redder. "I'm afraid I have work to do."

"Well, we won't keep you." Erestor said, and Elrond beat a hasty retreat. As soon as the door fell shut, Erestor and Glorfindel took one look at each other and burst out laughing. "I have not seen Elrond blush so deeply since he stumbled across Lindir and Rumil that one day in the gardens." Glorfindel commented, and Erestor chuckled. "That was a memorable moment."

"Mmm." Glorfindel agreed, and the soft purr of his voice called Erestor's attention to the fact that Glorfindel's hand still lingered on his leg. "I need you, 'Tor."

"I know." Erestor replied, and it was true; he knew beyond any doubt that Glorfindel needed him, his mate, at this moment. Erestor rolled over to face Glorfindel and was swept up in heated kiss, more passionate than anything Erestor had previously experienced.

"Ai..." Erestor whispered breathlessly when they paused for air, and Glorfindel regarded him with wide green eyes of a considerably darker shade than usual. "Did you feel that?" Glorfindel whispered, and Erestor nodded. "How could I not? It was-"

"Intense." Glorfindel finished, in a tone that made Erestor shiver. "Have me, 'Fin." Erestor murmured, pulling the blonde closer; Glorfindel was only too happy to comply.

Outside in the hallway, Elrond smiled slightly to himself and walked on.

Erestor woke slowly to the pleasant feeling of being held in Glorfindel's strong arms, pressed against the lean frame. The chiseled muscles were relaxed now; the Elda was probably still half-asleep, or else feeling unusually content. It was not for several moments after waking that Erestor realized that Glorfindel was, in fact, singing ever so softly, the words washing over Erestor's still-hazy consciousness like gentle waves.

"Gone is the breeze in the meadow
Away float the sailing ships
This is all I ever shall know
Lost are the whispers from your lips

Some flames are above fading
Every day a bright sun will dawn
However the world keeps changing

Every day you are still gone" Glorfindel fell silent for a moment, having finished, and sighed softly. "My dear Erestor, forgive me if I still think of him." Glorfindel murmured, unaware that his lover was awake. "I want to love you, ' deserve better than what I have been giving you, and you did this to save me. You should have a mate who loves you, after all you have been through. I want to love you, lirimaer, but grief is difficult."

"I know it is." Erestor murmured, and Glorfindel tensed beside him. "How long have you been awake?"

"Long enough." Erestor replied. He stretched and rolled over to face Glorfindel, who was regarding him with trepidation. Erestor shrugged. "What? Did you think I would expect you to forget Ecthelion in an instant, and to fall in love with me immediately thereafter? I am no fool, you know that. Love me if you will, someday, but right now I am content to be your friend."

"And do you sleep with all of your friends, Erestor?" Glorfindel asked mildly, and Erestor smiled. "Perhaps a bit more than a friend, in that case." he replied. Glorfindel smiled slightly as Erestor resettled himself more comfortably against the blonde's muscular frame with a soft sigh, and he felt a sudden burst of fierce affection for this beautiful, dark-haired creature beside him. Glorfindel tightened his hold on Erestor and pressed a heartfelt kiss to the parted lips. Erestor smiled slightly but remained quiet, and Glorfindel, loathe to break the silence, said nothing.

Time wore on.
Chapter end notes: TBC... Sequel, "Abandon"
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