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Title: This Hope
Author: Enismirdal
E-mail: enismirdal@lycos.co.uk
Pairings: Glorfindel/Erestor
Rating: PG
Series/sequel: Sequel to *This Silence*, by Ezra’s Persian Kitty, which
I loved and I can’t stop reading. I wanted to know what happened after
that, and she very kindly said I could write…
*hugs Ezra’s Persian
Kitty lots and lots*
*This Silence* can be found at
http://www.libraryofmoria.com/glorfindelerestor/thissilence.txt

Summary: It has been two years since Caranband, and little has changed.
But then Glorfindel starts to experience nightmares and flashbacks from
his distant past, and it’s Erestor’s turn to be the strong one.
Genre: Angst, fluff, romance
Warnings: none
Disclaimers: The characters aren’t mine, they’re Tolkien’s. I’ll return
them in one piece when I’ve finished, honestly! No insult is intended,
no profit is being made :)

Thanks to brilliant betas Katy and Aleks

A/N: Sorry, was listening to Ronan’s take on *When You Say Nothing At
All* (originally by Keith Whitely, 1988) and it was just perfect for
this fic, so I borrowed it a bit. Yeah, it’s corny. So bite me.

Dedication: A double dedication, firstly to Ezra’s Persian Kitty, for writing
many of the most beautiful fics
I’ve ever read, and giving me inspiration. Also to Girly, for everything you've
done to make me happy :)

*** = break in scene
##### = start/end of flashback

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Part 1

#It’s amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word, you can light up the dark
But try as I may, I can never explain
What I hear when you don’t say a thing…#

***

Erestor stood by the window, expression thoughtful, hands clasped
loosely behind his back, and watched. It was a habit from he obtained a
comforting sense of peace and, indeed, something which he did often. He was
not looking at anything in particular; there were trees, birds and
clouds; the mountains and the silvery waterfalls. He merely watched,
letting it all wash over him, as Bruinen washed over its grey rocks. He often
felt like a rock; cool, unremarkable, overlooked and apart from all the
life which rose and fell in Rivendell, so the simile felt surprisingly
apt.

Strong, slender arms circled his waist and warm breath rippled his
hair. A golden lock fell over his shoulder and he allowed the slightest of
smiles to touch his lips. A face nuzzled him affectionately. Erestor
curled closer into the embrace, but did not return the caresses. That was
all right; Glorfindel had learned not to expect the raven-haired elf to
respond in such a way.

Eventually Erestor extricated one hand from the embrace and, very
lightly and slowly, stroked the backs of Glorfindel’s fine, long fingers. He
glanced down at his hands; these days he could barely make out the
faint white crosshatch of scars which tracked across the back of his hand
and down his forearm. A name took shape in his mind, the name of the
place where those scars had been sustained - those, and others.
*Caranband*.

Glorfindel, sensing the hesitation in the rhythm of the stroking
fingers, and the unease which lay behind it, held his lover closer. Erestor
turned in the embrace and shook his head, smiling, the slightest upward
movement of his lips, in reassurance. Glorfindel need not concern
himself; it was nothing new, merely the usual troubles of past and present,
which had caused Erestor to pause.

Glorfindel drew back; he was wearing a smile of open invitation. That
was the elf’s nature, to express his emotions and, most particularly,
his happiness, openly. It was one of the reasons why so many found him
easy to trust and befriend. He held out his hand for Erestor to take it
and follow; the golden warrior's eyebrows were raised in query.

Erestor laid his hand in his lover’s and walked with him out of the
spacious, light-bathed parlour.

***

As the couple entered the warm, welcoming hall, Glorfindel’s arm was
wrapped protectively round Erestor’s shoulders. Catching a glimpse of
their reflection in one of the great mirrors which lent a feeling of space
to the room, the golden-haired elf noted how comfortable they looked
together, and how striking, light and dark side by side.

He walked over to one of the great fires, memories flitting in his mind
of his return to the Great Lands. He himself had been seated before a
very similar fire when he had arrived, exhausted and drenched to the
skin, in the vast hall at Lindon, where King Gil-galad had held his court
in those days. He knew how welcoming such a warm hearth could be.

This time, though, the chair before the fire was occupied by another.
His face was hidden in amongst folds of ash-grey cloak, but Glorfindel
had known who he was straight away. It brought back vivid memories of
the first time this individual had come to Imladris, arriving at midnight
in the middle of winter, under a clear sky of obsidian set with a
thousand thousand jewelled stars

#####

He’d seen the grey-clad figure being greeted by one of Elrond’s
attendants as he’d come down the stairs to investigate the talk that there
was a visitor to the Last Homely House. He had seen only the cloak and
the shadow, framed in wavering candlelight - but that had been enough.
He had galloped down the remaining stairs, his feet barely touching the
floor.

The figure silhouetted in the doorway to Elrond’s study had turned, and
Glorfindel had seen, before anything else, piercing blue eyes looking
out of the cloak. He remembered gasping, and running to embrace one of
his oldest and dearest friends. “Olórin? Is that really you?” He’d
clutched at handfuls of cloak and buried his face in it, trying to reassure
himself that it was *real*. “It’s been so many long years…” The visitor
had responded by gently pushing him away and casting back the cloak’s
hood so that Glorfindel could see his face.

Then, the Elda had been speechless. Olórin had said he’d take the form
of one of Ilúvatar’s children when he came in person to the Great
Lands, but the Elda had assumed this would mean a fair-faced elflord, tall
and majestic. Instead, he saw that Olórin had come as one of the
Istari, a hale but elderly Man, grey-bearded and bushy-eyebrowed. He began to
shake, but at the same time a slow understanding was creeping through
him. “You are…” his voice cracked. “…an Istar. Does that therefore
mean…Cúrunir, and the Brown Wanderer, too - they are your kindred, aren’t
they? Others of the Maiar.”

“Quiet,” Olórin had said curtly, not answering the question. “What we
were then is forgotten. Now we are as we appear, and no more.”

#####

Glorfindel now began to shower greetings and heartfelt sentiments upon
Olórin - or Mithrandir, as the Elves all called him. The Istar had come
to Imladris several times since then, and Glorfindel felt renewed
pleasure with each visit. But the last visit had been long years ago, before
Caranband. Before he and Erestor had found…whatever it was they now
had. “Olórin! I’m so glad to see you! I missed you so much; almost as much
as I did in those early years, even though you came whenever I called.”
A wave of passionate, painful recollection threatened to choke him.
“Not being able to turn to you for guidance - it was hard, Olórin. I still
miss the Undying Lands…”

“Glorfindel, enough. You know full well you should no longer be calling
me by that name. In this age, I take whatever names are given to me by
the people I meet. The past is *over*, and your companion has already
heard more than is wise.”

Glorfindel remembered Erestor, with a pang of guilt. He had not
hesitated to fetch the dark elf when the servant had told him the Istar was
here. He would share everything with Erestor - everything he owned, every
happiness he enjoyed - if his lover would accept. Now he turned slowly
towards Erestor, who was standing with one hand resting on one of the
hall’s great pillars. The expression on his delicate face mingled
confusion and suspicion. “Do not worry about Erestor,” Glorfindel said
softly, almost sorrowfully to Olórin. Silently, he reflected, *By Elbereth, I
do that enough for both of us!* He stretched out a hand towards the
silent elf and beckoned him over.

There were questions in Erestor’s brown eyes: *Why had Mithrandir come
now? And why Glorfindel's overfamiliar greetings?* There was wariness,
and more than a little wonder; Glorfindel had never thought to explain
his acquaintance with the Istar. Glorfindel said nothing, but continued
to beckon, and Erestor came haltingly to his side. The golden-haired
warrior stood and met his lover’s gaze, smiling softly as he beheld
Erestor’s ethereal beauty. Oh, the time he’d put into winning the dark
elf’s trust - but it was worth it.

Olórin smiled indulgently at the sight of the two of them together, as
if they had somehow been *his* idea. Erestor’s hand slipped up to
Glorfindel’s throat to straighten the mithril chain he was wearing; the
dark-haired elf was obsessively tidy, and hated anything to be out of
place. That was one of the reasons why Elrond considered him to be so
essential to the proper running of Imladris; the Peredhel himself had a
tendency to drown amongst his work and end up with papers everywhere in no
particular order. But leave Erestor in the Lord’s study for an hour or
two, and you’d come back to find everything neatly filed and ordered,
with related documents grouped together and often as not, helpful
suggestions written on notepaper and left lying between the relevant sheets.

Olórin yawned and stretched like a hunting hound preparing to leave his
place before the hearth in order to go and eat his dinner. With a
single smooth movement, he threw off the robes and stood up. There was a
surprising strength about one who, by all rights, should have been frail
and bent. His cheeks had the colour of health to them, and his bright
eyes suggested a keen intelligence. Glorfindel embraced his old friend,
smelling, along with rain and dust and dry leaves, a rich, heady
spiciness which was characteristic of Olórin. “It’s good to see you again,”
the elf said.

“And you too,” the visitor answered. “I seem to see less and less of
you as the ages go by.” It was true; before the Istar had come to Middle
Earth, it had been many years since Glorfindel had reached out for the
familiar presence and touched it. He’d had other things to think about;
first; Sauron, the War of the Ring, then there’d been Elrond’s
children. He’d played a part in educating them. And then there was Erestor.
Erestor had occupied his thoughts for so long now, almost every waking
hour. “But that’s a good sign,” Olórin said softly with a smile, picking
up on the elf’s thoughts. “It means you can stand alone, and it shows
you are no longer preoccupied with the past.”

Glorfindel gave Erestor a tender push towards Olórin, and the two
examined one another. The Istar had seen them enter together; his knowing
smile upon greeting them showed that he had immediately deduced what had
transpired between the two of them since his last visit. Erestor met
the vividly blue gaze with narrowed, calculating eyes; the shrewd
appraisement which the golden elf guessed was going on in his lover’s mind
reminded him more of the Erestor he knew before Caranband. It was an
encouraging hint that healing was beginning. Olórin nodded once,
approvingly, and looked over at Glorfindel. “So, you finally came to your
senses?
It took long enough.”

*You have no idea just how much it did take…* thought Glorfindel. But
aloud, he asked, “Have you spoken with Lord Elrond yet?”

“I haven’t, but I have been informed he would like to see me - ‘as soon
as he can make the time’. To think that *time* is now a concern to the
elves! What is the world coming to?” The golden Elda shook his head and
laughed at the sentiment, and Erestor regarded him a little oddly.

“I’ll go and speak to him now if he’s not up to his neck in work,”
Glorfindel promised. “Then I’d better make sure someone’s prepared a room
for you. I can arrange you the best guest suite…”

“No.”

“No? Olórin, you’re our honoured guest here…”

“Don’t argue, pen-neth. I’m no King to be waited on hand and foot, just
an old man who will be quite content with a small, cosy room and a soft
bed for the night.” Glorfindel looked at him in disbelief. “Orders, you
know. I’m sure I had a copy of them.” He fished around inside his
cloak, but in vain. “No matter. I never could read Manwë’s handwriting.”

Glorfindel couldn’t work out whether his ancient friend was joking or
not, when suddenly the lined, careworn face cracked into a grin and he
began to laugh. Glorfindel joined in; but he saw Erestor slink off to
the edge of the room, to dwell in a shadowed corner. His laughter died,
and instead he sighed. “Oló…Mithrandir…?”

“Go, be with your friend. I doubt I shall be going anywhere anytime
soon.”

***

Glorfindel was not overmuch surprised when Elrond called a council the
following day. All the most prominent elves of Imladris diligently
attended, and found themselves faced with Mithrandir’s dark tales from the
other side of Hithaeglir. Fire-drakes and Nazgûl, the stirrings of an
impatient Dark Lord, spiders in Mirkwood... Glorfindel was of the
generation where the stories of Ungoliant and the destruction of the Two
Trees had been a memory to some elves and not just a tale from the annals
of history, and the thought of her children infesting a forest which had
once been so beautiful made him shudder. He felt a warm touch on his
knee, and looked across to see Erestor beside him frowning in concern.
For one who often seemed so detached, the counsellor was uncannily
sensitive to other people’s emotions.

Elrond was displeased with the news the Istar brought, and the
implication in his words was that Men should be taking more responsibility for
this - after all, were it not for their weakness, there would be no
Nazgûl. Glorfindel understood his friend’s cynicism; Elrond had
spent much of the Second Age watching the arrogant Númenoreans defile his
brother’s legacy for generation after generations, but nonetheless, he
suspected that the Peredhel was losing sight of Men’s naiveté.

The meeting ended with troubled looks and no definite plans. “I think
we must call the White Council together again - and soon. It seems that
the enemy encroaches upon us from all sides,” Mithrandir concluded.
“That was what I wanted to recommend, after telling you of the fire-drakes
and other rumours. I leave it for you to discuss.” He bowed his head
solemnly.

Elrond frowned, as he often did in these days now that his beloved wife
Celebrían had departed across the sea. “I think you may be right. I
shall be in touch with Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn.”

There were murmurs of assent, and the elves began to dismiss
themselves. Glorfindel could not rid himself of a sense of foreboding about the
future of Middle Earth, and was pleased to note that it was dinner time
and he could turn his thoughts to less weighty matters, such as what
sauce to have with his food.

***

The dying amber of the sun brought out the polished highlights of
Glorfindel’s golden hair in flawless splendour. The twins had once joked
that if it was all cut off, those tresses could be woven into a
cloth-of-gold mantle which even the Kings of Númenor would have coveted. So
soft
- and so very, very fair. ‘Blond’ was an inadequate description; it
implied simply that the locks were pale in colour and yellow-tinged.
Unremarkable. Glorfindel’s tresses were anything but unremarkable and
Erestor had spent the last half-hour alternately running his fingers and the
brush through the shimmering locks.

Glorfindel had barely stirred through all the time Erestor had been
brushing his hair; he sat gazing out of the balcony window towards the
mountains that towered far distant, sugar-topped cakes amongst
whipped-cream clouds. There was bliss written on his elegant features.

Erestor laid down the brush and took a slender lock between his
fingers, beginning to plait it in the fancy style Glorfindel preferred. But
the elflord lifted a hand and laid it over Erestor’s to halt the action,
then pulled the tiny bit of braiding loose again.

Glorfindel hooked his arm around his lover’s waist and pulled Erestor
on to his lap, laying a gentle, chaste kiss on the top of his head.
Erestor regarded the fair warrior, his beautiful face framed by a
shimmering mane of gold.

Glorfindel’s strong, delicate hand reached behind Erestor’s head and
began to undo the jewelled clips which held his raven hair in the
Sindarin-style braids he liked to wear. The golden elf finger-combed the hair
loose and an approving smile lit his bright blue eyes.

Their lips touched lightly; Glorfindel’s fingers trailing down Erestor’s
back. Then, abruptly, but delicately enough that he barely disturbed his
lover, the golden-haired Elda slid Erestor off him and moved away,
squeezing the dark-haired elf's hand apologetically as a draught of air
behind him indicated that the door to the chamber had opened; the
cobweb-light lace of the curtains fluttered briefly then settled.

Erestor stood and followed Glorfindel to the doorway, where the Istar
was standing. Erestor could not understand his lover’s fascination with
the individual. He was so old - in the human sense, an aged man,
grey-haired and grey-bearded with many fine lines on his kindly face. But his
eyes were sharp and bright and piercing, and Erestor sensed there was
more to the Istar than just the unexceptional exterior which he revealed
to everyone. There was great power there, and great wisdom - maybe that
was the key.

The Istar beckoned to Glorfindel, who nodded, then turned to his lover.
He placed one hand on Erestor’s shoulder and then leaned close to kiss
his cheek. Erestor brushed his hand over Glorfindel’s hair - which
still hung as loose as his own - smiling in amusement at the soft golden
halo, then nodded once, granting his permission.

And he was alone once more - for a time, anyway.

***

“Marvellous hairstyle,” Mithrandir commented as they walked together,
heading into the quiet, secluded parts of the gardens where they could
talk undisturbed. Glorfindel refrained from remarking that the Istar’s
own hair was an unruly grey shock. “You know, it’s most fetching, the
way you two mirror each other. So different - and yet so similar.”

“Everyone says that,” Glorfindel said dismissively.

“Perhaps they say it because it is true.”

“I don’t argue with the truth of it. Elrond says we balance each other
out… Do you think so?”

Mithrandir frowned. “Are you asking me, or do you want me to agree with
Lord Elrond?”

“I don’t know,” Glorfindel admitted. “I love Erestor - there’s no
question about that - but I always have this feeling there’s something…out
of balance?” He shook his head, unable to find the right words.

“I can imagine there must be difficulties. How is he, these days,
anyway?”

Glorfindel frowned. “Everyone asks that. Always, ‘How is he?’ - and the
answer is always the same. Outwardly, he seems much the same; inwardly,
who knows? I take it Lord Elrond has told you the full story of what
happened in Caranband.”

“He has. And he told me of his frustration since; discovering that
seemingly, he can do nothing to help Erestor, nor coax him to speak again.”
The Istar laid a timeworn but strangely nimble-looking hand on
Glorfindel’s shoulder. “You understand we only ask about Erestor out of concern
- for *you*, as well as for him?”

It was the reassurance Glorfindel needed, that he was not being
forgotten as everyone asked after Erestor. “I’m grateful for your saying that.
Forgive me for sounding like a compulsive complainer, but as dear as
Erestor is to me, I feel as if we’ve fallen into a hole. We don’t seem to
be *getting* anywhere. I can’t think what to do; it’s so difficult to
get close to him. Whenever he thinks he might have to trust someone or
let them in, he withdraws and pushes them away.” He sighed deeply. “He’s
always been like that. And then there’s the other problem - since I’ve
been with Erestor, there’s been no-one else, and yet so far he has not
consented to allow me…” He blushed and dropped his head, letting his
gilded locks fall over his face to hide the expression written there. He
abruptly felt very foolish, and for an elf millennia old, very young.
Here he was, brooding on his sex life, to an individual who looked like
some Man’s grandfather!

But if Mithrandir was embarrassed or disapproving at Glorfindel’s
choice of conversation topic, he didn’t show it. “Glorfindel,” he rebuked,
“I thought you had grown beyond that, becoming preoccupied with not
getting what you want from whom you want. Arda doesn’t work like that, you
know. Sometimes, we don’t get what we want, and sometimes we have to
wait or work for it - and who are you to say that perhaps you won’t be
better off for the work or the wait?”

“Yes, but…”

“But the one you want is the only one you can’t have at your
convenience. You always were that way, Glorfindel.”

The Elda smiled sadly, but had to agree. “I never could make it easy,
could I? How much longer do you think it will take?”

“As long as it takes you to stop stifling him.”

The remark was spoken so evenly, but came out so sharply and suddenly,
that Glorfindel took several moments to digest it. He had known the
Maia Olórin for nigh eternity, yet he had changed dramatically since he
had come to the Great Lands and assumed physical form. The wise honesty
and quick perception were still there, but he had adopted an
occasionally sharp, impatient tongue as well, more fitting to his assumed
nature.
However, the enduring gentleness and generosity were as great as ever.
“You mock me!” But the blue eyes held a painful sincerity. “What do you
mean? ”

“You brought it up, pen-neth. ‘Out of balance.’ Don’t you feel it?
You’re smothering him.”

“Olórin…!” The Elda was frustrated, but a little spark of guilt began
to grow inside him. Not once had the Maia spoken anything but the truth
to him.

“And don’t call me that! Here in the Great Lands my old identity is
gone. I will become what people make of me - there is no need for me to
tell them what I truly am. Better that they don’t know. Instead, they
will choose their own names for me.”

“So you wish for me to call you Mithrandir, as everyone else does, as
if we had never met before you first set foot in Imladris?” The Istar’s
attitude struck at Glorfindel’s vulnerable streak.

“Hmmm.” The bushy eyebrows drew together. “I am sorry, pen-neth. I do
not wish to degrade our friendship. But if some of the elves of Imladris
understood what I really was, they would want me to wave my hand and
bring Sauron crashing to the ground. And I cannot do that.”

“Why not?!” Glorfindel demanded, wishing that it could be so simple.

“For one thing, I am simply not capable of doing so. When I took this
body, I gave up much of what I had in Valinor. And besides, Lord Elrond,
as always, talks good sense. He has said on many occasions that he
believes Men must take responsibility for their mistakes - and this applies
in the wider sense. The Free Peoples of Middle Earth must learn to
solve their own problems. My job is to advise them, to encourage them, and
to lend a hand here and there. If I were to come along with a miracle
at every turn, how would the Children of the Valar ever learn to do
anything for themselves?”

Glorfindel assumed a troubled expression, and he stood in silence for
some time, absently examining his friend’s face and clothing, the
colours of ash and cloudy winter skies. “As you wish. But please, tell me
about Erestor. I do not wish to hurt him - tell me how I am stifling him.”
He hadn’t dared confide even to Elrond about his concerns, but back in
Valinor Olórin had known his every thought, so it did not feel like a
betrayal of Erestor to talk to the Maia.

“You treat him as if he were a little child.”

“I do not!” Glorfindel’s eyes flashed with outrage.

Mithrandir shrugged. “You asked. I never made any promises that the
answer would please you.”

But already Glorfindel’s hand had come to cover his mouth, as he
considered what truth might lie behind the Istar’s words. “I suppose, maybe a
little.”

“Think about it. *Properly*. When was the last time you asked for his
opinion on something important? The last time you left him in charge?”

“He can’t…”

“He can’t what? Think for himself? Make even the simplest of decisions?
Glorfindel, you disappoint me.”

The Elda swallowed quickly, cursing under his breath in language he
would never have used in front of Lord Elrond. “Elbereth Gilthoniel,” he
finished with a sigh. “You’re right. Too right.” He hung his head in
sudden shame.

Mithrandir smiled at his friend's colourful oaths, but was not
finished. “You encourage him to depend upon you. You lead him around as if he
were your pet dog. You conspire to ‘protect’ him from difficult social
situations. And still you wonder why he continues to be withdrawn.” The
words were scathing and accusatory, but they were necessary to carry the
message straight to Glorfindel’s heart. The golden-haired Elda took a
shuddering breath.

“How could I do this to him? Oló - Mithrandir, help me! I love him so
much; I never wanted to do this! All this time I thought I was helping
him to heal and I was just increasing his isolation…”

“Enough,” the Istar snapped, as Glorfindel’s distress threatened to
disintegrate into sobbing. “It’s not yet too late to make amends. He
trusts you, beyond anything and anyone else. Trust is what is most
important. Together, you can make it better.”

“Tell me how.”

Mithrandir chuckled. “Here I am, sent by the Valar to aid the fight
against Sauron, to bring hope and peace to the Free Peoples, and I find
myself giving advice on love to a heartsick elf. You understand that I
can’t do this for you.”

“Mithrandir, I’m asking you for your advice as my wise friend, not for
your counsel or intervention as a Maia, or an Istar, or anything else.
You were there in my darkest hours and I value your thoughts above all
others.”

“Well, it always does to have respect for your elders. Very well then.
My advice: talk to him.”

“Talk? How could that change anything?” He caught Mithrandir’s rather
reproachful expression and sighed. “What would you have me talk about?”

“Anything. Everything. Nothing. Just talk. Made it clear you expect no
particular answer from him, but talk. I’m sure you thought that you
were somehow protecting him or doing him a kindness by keeping words as
few as possible between you, but you weren’t. If you continue to separate
him from the rest of the world he will continue to try to retreat from
it.”

“He won’t like it.”

“Not at first. He’ll learn.”

Glorfindel shook his head, golden locks tumbling everywhere, and
gave a short, sad laugh. “It’s strange. Here we are, finally together
after millennia of that uncomfortable tension and coldness that used to
hover between us - I should be rejoicing. So should he. Yet what it took
to bring us together was a tragedy so painful I sometimes doubt if I
will ever see him truly happy again.”

Mithrandir placed both his strong, gnarled hands on Glorfindel’s upper
arms, and his blue eyes met the elf’s with a powerful, unwavering gaze.
Such was the force of his personality, the Elda was unable to look away
or move. “Listen to me. You must believe he can be happy. He will be.
But you must let him find that happiness on his own terms.”

“Of course.”

The Istar smiled at the conviction in Glorfindel’s voice. “The best
thing for him is for him to learn to rely on himself again. You are doing
him the greatest favour if you encourage him to do that.”

“Is that all you came to me to say?” Glorfindel asked.

Mithrandir rubbed his brow and pursed his lips. “If there was anything
else, I’ve forgotten it. Now run along and give Erestor some company.
I’ll drop in later to see how you both are.”

Translation: pen-neth = young one

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Part 2

#The smile on your face
Lets me know that you need me
There’s a truth in your eyes
Saying you’ll never leave me
The touch of your hand says
You’ll catch me wherever I fall
You say it best
When you say nothing at all#

***

Erestor contemplatively stroked the edge of the quill pen with one
slender finger for some minutes, his gaze flicking distantly between the
balcony window, left partially open to let in the sweet spring air, and
the closed door to the study.

Eventually he took a small square of plain paper from the pile at his
elbow and wrote a few words on it, laying it carefully on top of the
sheets he had just read. They were servants’ schedules, mundane matters
which with he would not normally have to deal, but some recent changes in
staffing had meant that timetables had to be redrawn completely, and
cross-referenced against Glorfindel’s list of patrol arrival and
departure times. There were some inconvenient overlaps which Erestor wanted to
bring to Elrond’s attention before he proceeded further; as a result
there were likely to be some disruptions for a few days, as the new
schedules were put in place. He had put a concise explanation of these in
the note and pinned it to the top sheet. When the Lord of Imladris had
time, he would be able to look over it.

He turned to the next document in the pile. It was not a widely known
fact just how disorderly Elrond’s affairs could become if left untamed.
He was a very learned elf, and in Imladris *everything* got done on
time - but the chaos evident in Elrond’s study made this seem like a
veritable miracle. It wasn’t that Elrond was scatterbrained; it was just
that with his vast wealth of experience, his restless mind could never
consider just one matter at a time. He had to deal with every problem, all
at once; he hated procrastinating for any reason.

To Erestor’s surprise, he saw that there was no ‘next document’ - he
was finished; for the first time in months, as he recalled. He wiped the
worst inkstains off his fingers with a cloth from the desk drawer and
stood up. His fingers were cramped with writing and his shoulders were
tight from hunching over a desk for hours. There was time yet before the
day was over; a relaxing ride would be a relief. If he could find
Glorfindel, perhaps the golden-haired Elda would be amenable…

Most likely, his lover, if not on a short patrol, would be in the
company of the twins, who had returned to Imladris that morning. They were
long since old enough to need his tutelage no longer, but they still
enjoyed a good lively workout with their old swordmaster. Erestor was fond
of the two intrepid Peredhil as well; he would like to see them again
before they disappeared off on yet another orc-killing mission.

Returning to the rooms he shared with Glorfindel, he changed quickly
into riding clothes, throwing one of Glorfindel’s riding cloaks about his
shoulders as an afterthought, enjoying the familiar scent of his lover
which clung to it.

Glorfindel was exactly where Erestor had expected him to be; prancing
around on the grass with both the dark-haired twins attacking him at
once. Erestor admired his lover’s grace and balance with an appreciative
eye, although he admitted to himself that these days the twins were
hardly inferior. Glorfindel had taught them well.

He found a comfortable place on a nearby wall; sitting on it, he was at
a non-intrusive distance from the fun, but still got a good view.
Glorfindel’s long blade carved arcs of silver fire in the air, holding off,
simultaneously, so it seemed, Elladan’s upward sweep and Elrohir’s
sudden lunge. Of the three sparrers, only Glorfindel had any inkling of
Erestor’s ability to criticise and appreciate the swordsmanship on
display. The dark-haired elf’s reputation in Imladris was as a quiet, reserved
scholar. However, that had not always been the case… But that had been
an age ago, and he had since sworn that those days were behind him.

Finally, Glorfindel disarmed both the twins, tripping Elladan so that
the Peredhel fell right into a puddle, and sending Elrohir sprawling
into a bush. The younger twin disentangled himself, ruefully picking
flowers and pieces of twig off his leggings; his brother, dripping wet,
stalked off to fetch a towel as he feigned insult.

Glorfindel now noticed his silent spectator, and running his fingers
through his very *slightly* tousled hair, ran over to where Erestor was
sitting, account the dark-haired elf’s riding clothes. With a smile, he
recognised that Erestor had borrowed one of his own cloaks
and fondly fingered the slightly frayed hem.

Erestor jerked his head enquiringly towards the stables where their
horses were kept, and Glorfindel answered with a nod, but held up his
hand, indicating his clothing. Naturally, he’d want to change from the
sturdy leathers he’d donned in order to protect himself from the twins’
exuberance into something lighter. He grinned and set off towards his
rooms.

Whilst he waited for the golden-haired Elda to join him, Erestor busied
himself with saddling both their horses; his own bay mare, Mothwen, and
Glorfindel’s spectacular white stallion, Asfaloth. Mothwen nudged him
affectionately with her velvety nose, half-closing her eyes with pleasure as he
stroked her under her jaw.

Asfaloth eyed him curiously as he lifted the light saddle on to the
stallion’s back; he wanted to know where his master was. Erestor was
tightening the girth-straps when the horse raised his head and gazed happily
towards the stable-door. Glorfindel was there, leaning casually on the
door and smiling radiantly. His golden hair could outshine Arien
herself…

Erestor led the stallion out and relinquished the reins to his lover,
who did not mount immediately but waited for the counsellor to fetch
Mothwen. He hadn’t moved when the dark-haired elf returned; he was simply
standing with one hand resting on his horse’s shoulder, staring at the
few, snow-white clouds.

Only then did Glorfindel swing lightly into Asfaloth’s saddle,
appearing to float up without putting in any visible effort. Erestor mounted
with equal ease, and he sent Mothwen forward with nothing more than a
shifting of his weight.

Glorfindel let Erestor take the lead, content to follow the dark-haired
elf wherever the whim took him. Erestor headed for the mountain
foothills, all at once lusting after the wide, free expanses, the sweet air,
the colourful flowers. He found a trail, one of his favourites, and let
Mothwen canter, giving her her head for while.

Few things in Middle Earth are swifter than elven horses - the two
beasts’ hooves ate up the miles effortlessly, and Erestor relished in the
feeling of the wind lifting the braids and locks from his shoulders.
Glorfindel’s riding-cloak billowed behind him, and Erestor leant forward
over Mothwen’s neck, eyes narrowed against the bright sun.

After a couple of miles of exhilarating gallop, he slowed Mothwen to a
brisk walk, and Glorfindel drew Asfaloth up alongside.

***

The golden-haired Elda coaxed Asfaloth closer to Mothwen until he was
within touching distance of Erestor. He smiled contentedly at the clear
sky. “Beautiful day, isn’t it?” he asked, conversationally.

Erestor regarded him in startlement, then shrugged and turned his head
away. But Glorfindel caught the pained expression on his lover’s face
before it was obscured by a curtain of ebony hair. *Mithrandir, let this
be the right way, or I shall regret this forever…!* The dark-haired elf
inched his mount away from Asfaloth until there was a good five feet
between them.

Glorfindel persisted. He gave Erestor a couple of minutes to consider
this new development, then moved Asfaloth closer again. When Erestor
next looked at him, curiosity and, again, dismay, written plainly on his
face, the golden Elda reached out hesitantly towards him and began to
caress the tip of one pointed ear. Erestor flinched back initially,
then relaxed and let the affectionate gesture continue. Glorfindel smiled
gently, and began to speak again, quietly, and offhandedly, “I’m glad
you persuaded me to come out today; Elrond would probably have found
reason to coop me up with sentry timetables in his study otherwise. He’s
been trying to catch me in between border patrols for weeks now…”
Erestor frowned again, but his gaze only left Glorfindel’s face for long
enough to keep checking the path ahead; his lover could only guess at the
thoughts running behind those dark, mysterious eyes. He regarded the
bemused counsellor affectionately and noticed that Erestor was wearing a
ring he hadn’t seen before.

The golden-haired Elda pointed to the slender hand holding one rein in
a light grip. “Is that new?”

His interest made Erestor almost smile; he lifted his hand and examined
the mithril circle, styled as interlinked toadflax flowers, as if he
had not realised he was wearing it. Then he extended out his hand towards
Glorfindel so the golden-haired elf could also see. Glorfindel
recognised the design as Mirkwood Silvan; and he knew Erestor hadn’t been to
Thrandúil’s realm for *centuries*, which suggested that most likely, the
ring was very old rather than very new. A treasured possession from the
past which he had chosen to take out again, for some reason? “It’s
beautifully made,” Glorfindel complimented, smiling, as Erestor withdrew
his hand.

Yet again, Erestor broke eye contact and stared into Mothwen’s
jet-black mane. When he met Glorfindel’s eyes again, his expression was
uncomfortable, almost pleading. *Oh, Erestor, you can’t run forever.*
Nonetheless, he stayed silent for a time.

Some time later, as they rode through a grove in which gloriously
scented blossom trees shed pure white petals everywhere like snow, and the
air was tangibly heavy with floral aroma, a vibrantly green beetle
landed on the back of Glorfindel’s hand. With his other hand, he reached
over and tugged Erestor’s sleeve, and pointed to the beetle with a
laughing smile. “Amazing, isn’t it? - there’s as much beauty in living
creatures as in any jewel an elf or a dwarf could create.”

The beetle opened its wing-cases and took off, only to alight a
fraction of a second later - right at the tip of Erestor’s nose. Glorfindel
raised his hand to cover his mouth as he laughed at his lover going
cross-eyed trying to focus on the insect, and then Erestor finally relented
and allowed himself to smile with restrained amusement. It was the
first time in far too long that Glorfindel had seen such an emotion dance
in his lover’s eyes.

After that, Glorfindel continued to talk, lightly and noncommittally,
whether or not Erestor was even looking at him. He’d comment on a bird’s
nest, a fragrant flower, the play of sunlight on a pool of water. After
a while, Erestor stopped staring at him as if he’d sprouted horns and
feathers and, instinctively realising he was not required to answer or
indeed react at all, relaxed and allowed his lover to go on. But
Glorfindel could see the pained line carved across Erestor’s forehead, the
only outward sign of what the counsellor was thinking. He sensed the
dark-haired elf’s feelings of isolation, and once more hoped that he wasn’t
doing more harm than good. But Mithrandir had to be right; Erestor
couldn’t avoid interacting with others forever.

They followed the trail round a low hill; its slopes were covered with
young trees, birch and rowan. The new leaves were as soft and tender as
a baby’s skin, and glowed green with the light filtering through them.
A brook ran beside the path, chuckling and murmuring to itself like an
old crone Glorfindel had once met when riding patrol. The surroundings
were beautiful and picturesque; Erestor reined in and dismounted near
some rocks that looked as if they’d make comfortable seats. The
counsellor began to rummage in the saddlebags, and a moment later produced some
refreshments. Glorfindel, who had been feeling vaguely hungry, grinned;
trust his lover to have the foresight to bring something to eat.

He’d even packed cups; he poured miruvor for Glorfindel without
spilling a drop, and the two ate and drank in a silence which seemed relaxed
rather than uncomfortable. There was crusty bread - Glorfindel thought
he could still detect warmth in it from baking, even though they’d been
riding for some time. There were blushing apples, sweet, fruity
cheeses, juicy peaches and blackberries so ripe they left purple stains on the
elves’ fingers. Erestor fastidiously wiped his hands off on a cloth
dampened with water from the brook as Glorfindel wondered how on earth he
had obtained such fruits when it was spring and they were totally out
of season.

Erestor proffered the cloth. The look on his face implied that this was
not a suggestion, and his gaze fell disdainfully on Glorfindel’s
bluish-violet fingers. The golden-haired warrior playfully considered picking
up one of the berries which had not been consumed and squashing it all
across Erestor’s perfectly formed lips. Surely he was entitled to tease
Erestor about his obsessive neatness *sometimes*? Reluctantly, he
accepted the cloth and wiped off the sticky juice.

When both elves had finished eating, Glorfindel shifted his body so his
back was against a rock and Arien’s light fell upon his face. Perfectly
at ease, he basked in the pleasant warmth, and presently felt the light
weight of Erestor’s head leaning on his chest. He gazed adoringly down
at his lover, extending one finger to brush the counsellor’s cheek
tenderly. Erestor did not recoil from the touch, so Glorfindel persisted,
gently tracing the outline of his lover’s jaw, then moving to Erestor’s
lips. Those lips curved upwards under his finger into a real, genuine
and terribly precious smile. Then, spontaneously, they kissed the long,
pale finger which lay across them.

Glorfindel was shocked that Erestor would volunteer such playful
intimacy, hesitated, but amazingly, the small smile did not fade. With his
other hand, the golden-haired Elda caressed his lover’s dark tresses, and
Erestor’s resettled his reclining form slightly, as if trying to get
even closer to his love. After a while, Glorfindel let his hands drop and
shut his eyes, enjoying the carefree bliss of the moment.

After a few minutes, he reopened his eyes to find Erestor had fallen
asleep on him, a handful of Glorfindel’s tunic clutched possessively in
his fist. The counsellor was frowning in his sleep; evidently whatever
was going on in his dream displeased him. At least, however, he did not
seem otherwise distressed. The warrior wrapped his arms around his
dark-haired beloved, wanting to remind Erestor of the intensity of his
devotion even in sleep, but wary of disturbing the slumbering counsellor.
Erestor frequently suffered from acute bouts of insomnia, so Glorfindel
didn’t wish to deny him even this small period of peaceful sleep.

As he cradled the slender body, his gaze roamed the surroundings, and
happened to alight on some clusters of celandine growing in the grass,
just within his reach. The elegant little flowers, like tiny suns in
their own right, had always held a special significance for him. They had
been one of the symbols of his House, back in Gondolin all those long
centuries ago - Los ’lóriol, the Golden Flower. In those days, he had
owned a mantle embroidered from top to bottom with the flowers, in gold
thread that shone wherever the light touched it, and more celandines had
been inlaid in gold on his sword and armour. He now seldom wore the
device, since the House of the Golden Flower was now long dead, and all
but forgotten save in the great ballads. But the flowers still grew, a
quiet reminder of those days.

Erestor stirred in his arms, and a soft sigh escaped his lips as
awareness returned to his dark eyes. He ran a delicate hand over his hair to
check that the locks had not been mussed whilst he slept, then smoothed
several non-existent creases from his robes. He looked at the horses,
grazing contentedly, then turned to Glorfindel.

He stopped. Glorfindel had captured one of his hands as he turned, and
their eyes locked meaningfully. The golden Elda raised his other hand
and opened the fingers. A single celandine lay in the palm of his hand,
a perfect flower. Not a petal was bruised or blemished. Erestor picked
up the flower between his finger and thumb and scrutinised it, only to
have his examination interrupted by the kiss Glorfindel pressed on to
his lips. Glorfindel fondled a lock of Erestor’s hair, asking tacit
permission, before accepting back the flower - but only temporarily, as he
proceeded to slide it under the clasp holding Erestor’s hair in place.
Now a flash of bright springtime nestled among the glossy midnight
locks. The golden warrior stepped back a pace to admire the effect, then
paced in a full circle of his lover. He couldn’t fault a thing about the
solemn elf - how could one being be so exquisite? “You are beautiful,”
he told Erestor, and kissed him again.

The sky was warming to rose and amber around the horizon now; the
afternoon was getting on, and even if they were not back at Imladris for
dinner, Glorfindel had no desire to spend the night in the open. It was an
easy ride back, but perhaps Erestor was right and they should be
getting underway now. He helped the counsellor to clear up the remains of the
picnic, packing it into saddlebags to be tied on to the horses’
saddles, and they began the pleasant journey home.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Part 3

#All day long I can hear people talking out loud
But when you hold me near, you drown out the crowd
Try as they may, they can never define
What’s been said between your heart and mine#

***

Erestor turned over, threw off the bedsheets, pulled them back up
again, adjusted his pillow, tried staring out of the window at the night sky
and then turned over once more, but sleep continued to elude him. His
thoughts had gone into one of those loops, circling round and round
through the same memories but getting more and disturbing each time.

The outside weather did not help. It had turned gloomy; clouds obscured
the stars and there was an acid tang to the air; he thought a storm was
on its way. The worst would tend to pass Imladris, but they could get
the edge of it. Certainly, he would be able to see the jagged lightning
rending the sky with irreverent viciousness later.

He glanced across the darkened room, to where Glorfindel’s bed was. He
had not yet consented to share a bed with his golden-haired lover; it
had taken the somewhat drastic measure of Glorfindel moving all
Erestor’s possessions in here to make him agree even to sleep in the same room.
He wasn’t yet ready to take the step of letting even Glorfindel so
close during the night. His instincts still told him that he was only safe
when he was alone, yet his soul cried out for comfort and
companionship. It was this dilemma, and the various associated memories, which
tormented him now.

But tonight Glorfindel did not seem to be faring much better. The Elda
was shaking in his sleep, making the blankets twitch. He clawed at the
pillow, once grabbing it so hard his fingernails tore through the soft
fabric. What was distressing his lover? Erestor cursed his own
selfishness. He was not the only one with troubles.

But Glorfindel was always so confident, so happy and cheerful. He was
ever the life of the feast, the elf who always fell victim to the charms
of Elrond’s three children to the point of spoiling them more than he
should... He did not seem the type to be plagued by dark memories or
private concerns.

Erestor climbed out of bed and seated himself gently on the edge of
Glorfindel’s mattress, unsure whether to wake the golden-haired Elda or
let him be. In the end, the decision was made for him; Glorfindel’s lithe
body jerked suddenly, and he sat up, frightened, cloudy consciousness
returning to his eyes. Erestor could see his lover’s sides heaving as
Glorfindel panted nervously; he was breathing far, far faster than
normal. Every so often, a shudder ran through him. He didn’t seem to know
where he was or notice Erestor’s proximity.

Erestor remembered all the times he had found himself in a similar
condition, and how, every time, Glorfindel had appeared, showing him love
and comfort and support. He did the obvious thing, the thing Glorfindel
had always done, and wrapped his arms protectively around the panicked
elf. Glorfindel’s whole body tensed and struggled, so Erestor loosened
his grip, but stayed close, stroking Glorfindel’s hair and rubbing one
thumb over his knuckles. As the Elda seemed to calm, he took one hand
in his own and squeezed gently, reassuringly, and brought it to his
lips. Glorfindel responded by pulling the hand in his chest and took it in
both of his, as if never wanting to let it go.

He sat like that for some time, no longer shuddering, but clutching the
hand tightly. Erestor was at a loss for what to do next. Placing a
finger beneath Glorfindel’s chin, he lifted the beautiful Elda’s face so
his blue eyes met Erestor’s brown ones. It was if the link provided
something for Glorfindel’s mind to seize upon, and reason returned with a
jolt.

He saw Glorfindel’s gaze move from his lover’s face to the hand he was
gripping, the rumpled bedsheets, Erestor’s unbraided hair, and seemed
confused. The last traces of the nightmare were fading from his eyes,
but shadows of fright still remained. The Elda’s lips parted, as if he
was going to say something, but then shook his head vigorously,
frustratedly, and exhaled; Erestor noted the way Glorfindel’s shoulders
shuddered as he did so.

***

Elrond awoke with a start as the sound reached him. The cry sounded as
if it had been wrenched from the creator’s throat, and the weight of
sorrow and memory and loss it held were enough to make Elrond’s own heart
twist in his chest. Who had made the noise? I sounded as if it was
coming from Glorfindel’s quarters.

He was out of bed and sliding into a nightgown in a moment. Erestor had
been anxious and easily distressed ever since the incident at
Caranband and the Peredhel lord’s first thought was that his advisor was
suffering from bad dreams, and not for the first time. Strange - it hadn’t
sounded like Erestor. On the other hand, it had been so long since he’d
heard any sound from the counsellor that he could have forgotten.

He set off down the corridor towards his seneschal’s rooms, hoping
Glorfindel had everything under control, but ready to offer support and
assistance if necessary.

***

The golden-haired warrior pointed to the desk that stood by the window
in the adjoining study; Glorfindel usually preferred to write personal
correspondence in here, rather than going to the library. Erestor,
immediately comprehending what his lover wanted without the need for words,
fetched a sheet of paper and an inkpot, in which a quill had been
carelessly left from the previous day, and handed them carefully to the
distressed elf.

Glorfindel did not write; he drew. First, a precipice, a sheer drop
running hundreds of feet straight down. A lone figure, dressed for battle
and holding a sword, was swiftly sketched on the edge. Then, towering
over the figure, a monster, wreathed in flames, brandishing a fiery
whip, appeared, staring down at its target with hatred and anger in its
slanted eyes. A rough sketch it may have been, but it captured the moment
with uncanny intensity; Erestor almost expected the Balrog to step from
the page, for the ink lines to solidify into a whole form, reborn and
wanting vengeance.

The counsellor touched the figure, then looked at Glorfindel, who
nodded, and closed his eyes briefly. The elf - Glorfindel - in the picture
seemed so alone, so desperate. But the artist was not finished. His hand
continued to move frantically over the paper, turning it over and
starting a new drawing on the reverse side. Erestor didn’t recognise the
scene at first, but then recognised the ship in the background as Telerin.
Glorfindel added himself to the picture again, but this time he was
saying goodbye to his loved ones, one foot resting on the ship’s
gangplank. This must have been his final memory of the Undying Lands, before
following the summons back to the troubles and darkness of Middle Earth.

What had triggered the return of these sad memories? Was it the storm?
There was a tension in the atmosphere, as the clouds poised themselves
to spring rain upon everything. It made Erestor almost itchy, a strange
feeling of something prickling between his shoulder blades. It could be
that. He reached out tentatively and ran his hand in caressing strokes
down his love’s forearm, hopefully giving comfort and reassurance, and
this time Glorfindel smiled back and gently began to play with
Erestor’s black hair. He rested his head on the counsellor’s shoulder, looking
more vulnerable than Erestor had ever seen him. It made him love the
beautiful warrior more than ever before - was this how Glorfindel felt
when Erestor was having one of his periods of despair and insecurity?

A crack of light appeared at the other side of the room, widening to a
yellow oblong as Elrond opened the door and entered the dim room. He
took in the normally confident and laid-back seneschal cradled
protectively in the arms of the often insecure advisor and almost did a double
take at the apparent role reversal. Erestor pushed the sheet of paper
towards the Peredhel.

Elrond glanced over the drawings and frowned with understanding. His
expression showed concern, but this was quickly alleviated by Erestor’s
confident nod. He and Glorfindel would be there for each other tonight.
The Lord of Imladris returned to the doorway and left.

***

Erestor awoke to find himself in an uncomfortable, semi-reclined
position, leaning against the headboard of Glorfindel’s bed - and there was
no sign of his lover. That in itself was unsurprising; he liked to rise
early to spend time organising his guards and scouts. But he was
concerned for the seneschal’s emotional condition today and would have
preferred to see Glorfindel that morning and assure himself that his beloved
was all right.

He dressed quickly and braided his hair, fussing with it until every
plait was to his satisfaction, before going into the outer rooms.
Glorfindel had thoughtfully had breakfast sent up and left on the table for
Erestor; that was a good sign, as it showed his lover could not be
totally preoccupied with the night’s events. Of course, as usual, Glorfindel
had ordered twice as much food as Erestor required. The Elda remained
convinced that Erestor was far too thin, not seeming to realise or care
that Erestor’s weight was exactly the same now as it had been a hundred,
five hundred or a thousand years before, and he had always been
perfectly content that way.

There was a note pinned to the door leading out of the seneschal’s rooms.
As the two lovers tended to be in and out of the quarters - and
especially in Glorfindel’s case, often at unpredictable times, depending on
patrols - it made sense simply to leave notes lying around for one another
if there was something to be communicated. Erestor had located some
distinctive notepaper specifically for this purpose; it was pale peach in
colour, like a summer sunset, and had small pieces of rose petal
embedded in it, giving it a faint perfume. Glorfindel had eyed the paper
suspiciously at first, but the idea had appealed to his romantic
inclinations, and he’d recently taken to cutting it into heart-shapes before
writing his messages. This, Erestor considered to be rather wasteful, but
oddly charming, so he tolerated the scraps of offcuts which Glorfindel
invariably left in a heap in the middle of his desk.

This time, the message was simple. “Thank you for being there.”

Erestor folded the note and stashed it in an inner pocket of his robes
before setting off for Elrond’s study, where some important accounts
awaited his attention.

***

Glorfindel pinned up the latest list of patrol assignments and turned
back to his officers. “With the twins away on another orc-killing spree,
and nine scouts still out of action after that ambush last month, we’re
a little short-handed, but I’ve been able to work around it. I’ll be
leading the next border patrol to the south and we’ll leave four days
earlier so as to cover more ground. In the meantime the north and west
patrols will have to…” He stopped mid-sentence as a sensation which he
imagined must resemble being stabbed in the eyes with smouldering pokers
assaulted him. Everything disappeared in a dazzling yellow sheet of
light and he felt someone catch him as his legs gave way.

It was like last night’s dream, only a thousand times more vivid. The
Balrog’s stinking, scorching breath was hitting him all over again. The
sterile, icy cold of Mandos was simultaneously freezing his soul until
it seemed ready to shatter. All the friends he had lost that day…and
all the friends whom he had left behind forever when his fëa answered the
irresistible call of Mandos…Ecthelion, his dearest friend, but also
Penlod and Duilen, Egalmoth, Rog and Galdor and Turgon, the King himself;
Tuor and Idril and little Eärendil; even Salgant and Maeglin, whom he
had once counted as respected colleagues before they showed their true
spirits. “I have missed you all,” he murmured. “You will not be
forgotten - that, at least, I can promise.”

“Lord Glorfindel?” The worried question was accompanied by a stinging
pain across his cheek; the officer had slapped him in an attempt to
bring him round. “Lord Glorfindel, you are not well. I sent a servant to
fetch Lord Elrond; he is on his way.”

“No,” Glorfindel protested weakly. “I’m fine…it’s just memories.” He
blinked his vision into focus, registering that his eyes were full of
tears.

“Just memories? You were unconscious for several minutes, chanting the
names of the heroes of Gondolin and shivering as if with cold. Your
eyes were shut…”

“I’m fine!” said Glorfindel more assertively, and pushed to his feet;
he’d been propped up against the wall at some point after he’d
collapsed. He steadied himself with a hand against the smooth stone, then
rubbed
the back of his sleeve across his still-moist eyes and forced a smile.
“Shall we continue? As I believe I was saying, the north and west
patrols will have to…”

“Glorfindel, I’d like you to come with me to the Houses of Healing
immediately,” said a firm voice from the doorway. Glorfindel turned to see
the Lord of Imladris standing with folded arms and an expression that
could not be argued with.

“Lord Elrond, I appreciate your concern, but the episode was transient
and I’m fully recovered already.”

“Nonetheless,” the Peredhel lord argued gently, “I want to assess your
condition in full. One such event, I’m prepared to accept as chance,
but this is the second time in less than a day.” He took a steely grip on
Glorfindel’s arm and virtually frog-marched him out of the room.

“How did you know about last night? You weren’t there…”

“Your scream awakened me, and even if it hadn’t, I am well enough
attuned to Imladris that I can tell when someone within its borders is that
distressed, as you are quite aware. But when I came to your rooms,
Erestor seemed to have everything under control and so I didn’t disturb you
further. Now, if you would sit down here and tell me what on Arda is
going on with you.”

***

The pen dropped from Erestor’s hand, sending ink flying in droplets to
land all across the page of the open ledger on which he had been
writing. In other circumstances, the pattern of steadily-expanding black
circles of varying sizes might have been almost aesthetically decorative,
but not in this case, where they obscured several figures which Erestor
had spent some time laboriously calculating from various disordered and
poorly-annotated documents, most of which originated from either Elrond
or Glorfindel.

Something was seriously wrong. He didn’t know *what* precisely, but his
certainty that *something* was amiss was unshakeable. Without pausing
to consider what he was doing, he scooped up the ruined ledger and
hurried from the study.

As he reached the library, he entered, wound his way among reading
desks and aisles of books until he found one of the junior advisers, then
laid the ledger in front of the surprised elf before dashing off again.
It was only when he found himself standing before the grand entrance to
the Houses of Healing that rational thought processes began again.

His instincts were telling him that it was not some*thing* but
some*one*, and according to the knot of anxiety in his stomach, someone
important to him. The good thing about being a senior figure in Imladris was
that no door was strictly barred to him, and no-one would question his
business anywhere, so he was able to walk right in amongst the healers
without a problem.

A moment later he was standing inside a small private room regarding a
curious-looking Elrond and a troubled-looking Glorfindel. He was at his
lover’s side in a moment, crouching down next to the chair on which the
golden-haired warrior was sitting and trying to read some hint as to
what was going on in his beloved’s eyes. Glorfindel responded with a
reassuring smile and a gentle squeeze of his lover’s shoulder.

Erestor wasn’t going to be satisfied so easily. He could see the
shadows dancing in those jewel-like orbs, see the pain which pressed his
lover’s mouth into a thin line, and no amount of pretty smiling was going
to persuade him that nothing was currently amiss with the handsome Elda.

He looked inquiringly to Elrond, but received no explanation. The
Peredhel showed confusion and worry, which Erestor didn’t find particularly
reassuring.

***

Glorfindel hated seeing his lover look so concerned for him - surely
Erestor had enough to deal with, both in his work and personal life,
without having to stress over the golden-haired seneschal as well. However,
it was quite impossible to deceive the counsellor; Erestor had always
been adept at picking up nuances and reading the emotions behind the
most impenetrable facades, and Glorfindel knew his own facade was far
from impenetrable right now. What had triggered these flashbacks? Elrond
could only supply educated guesses - the violent storm, maybe, calling
back memories of the Fall of Gondolin, or perhaps something he had read
recently which had affected him more deeply than he knew.

Erestor hadn’t moved, those searching dark eyes still trained
unerringly on his lover’s face. He wanted to know what was going on and, ever
the stubborn one, wouldn’t give up until he found out.

Elrond stood up abruptly and beckoned to the two elves. Leaving the
Houses of Healing, the Lord of Imladris headed for his study, which Erestor
had no doubt left just minutes ago. The Half-Elven lord pulled three
chairs up to the large desk, seating himself and indicating for the other
two to join him. Then, reaching down and opening a nearby cupboard, he
withdrew a huge roll of blank parchment.

He made as if to unfurl it in the middle of the desk, right on top of
papers which Erestor had clearly been organising, judging by their
perfect alignment and precise pattern, but the counsellor intercepted the
parchment when it was still several inches above the desk, holding it up
whilst he carefully moved each stack of documents to one side or the
other. In a few seconds he had created a clear space in the centre large
enough for the parchment to be unrolled without disturbing anything
else. He nodded readiness for Elrond to continue and the Peredhel lord
laid out the sheet before Glorfindel. “Last time, drawing seemed to soothe
you somewhat,” he stated. “As well as telling us an awful lot about
your visions. Would you like to do the same thing again?”

Glorfindel picked up a charcoal pencil and sketched. Like most Noldor
he was a naturally good artist and the faces he drew, although
somewhat rough, were accurate enough representations of the images in his
vision. Row upon row he drew, face upon face, adding, usually as an
afterthought, the names of the faces’ owners. This, though, was largely
unnecessary - Elrond and Erestor clearly recognised the black-and-white
likenesses of many of Gondolin’s long-departed heroes - lovely Ecthelion,
aristocratic Egalmoth, fearless Rog, his expression hardened by anguish
for the torments his people suffered because of Maeglin, dauntless Tuor,
fair enough to be one of the elven-folk himself; and the list went on.
Soon, the faces were marred by watery droplets, smearing the dark
charcoal across the sheet; Glorfindel did not wipe the tears away.

The golden Elda felt fingers tangling in his locks, stroking his hair
and shoulders. Erestor offered a quiet smile to his lover, at once
promising support, comfort and sympathy, daring the unusually bold display
of affection in response to Glorfindel's distress. Was there an elf in
Middle Earth today who had not known loss at some point? They had all
had friends, lovers, family members stolen from them in the days of the
Last Alliance. But Glorfindel had been unprepared to have all the old
wounds opened afresh at once.

He scrubbed at his eyes, fighting the gut-twisting grief for so many
wasted lives, so many slaughtered innocents, which rose around and within
him. It disturbed him - he was used to the painful memories, but time
had enabled him to manage them so they didn’t affect his day-to-day
activities. The lack of control was a deeply unpleasant feeling.

Elrond’s steady grey gaze caught and held him, providing an
anchor-point from which he could take charge of himself again. The Peredhel
lord
touched his seneschal’s hand briefly, before rolling up the parchment
and replacing it in its cupboard.

***

“Glorfindel, Elrond has asked me to speak with you. He is very
worried…”

“And hopes you may be able to help. Of course. I respect his
consideration. But Mithrandir, I’ve had a bad night, and I’m not sure I’m up to
involved conversation this morning. Can’t you just let me get on with my
breakfast, so I can take some guards out into the meadow to train and
have that chore done with?” The Elda rearranged the porridge in his bowl
some more, turning the formerly elegant spiral of honey on top into an
unrecognisable brown streak. Elves never got ill, so normally found the
maladies of men hard to fathom. Today, however, he began to sympathise
with the mortal creatures. Every time he had drifted off to sleep last
night, he had reawoken sweaty and shivering in Erestor’s arms, blinking
away vivid images of war, destruction and death. The Fall of Gondolin,
the Nirnaeth Arnoediad and the Last Alliance blended into a single
living nightmare and, witnessing so much death, it had taken his lover’s
gentle, soothing touch to ease the loneliness he felt at being here in
Middle Earth when so many slept in the Halls of Waiting.

“I’ve never known you to describe it as a chore before.”

“You borrow my headache and see if jumping around with a sword looks
like a fun diversion then.” He realised he was as irritable this morning
as…well, as *Erestor* had a reputation for being. Not that Erestor had
been anything close to irritable lately. Oh, how guilty Glorfindel
felt, running to one who had enough troubles of his own.

“How is Erestor holding up, with you like this?” Mithrandir enquired,
echoing the golden-haired warrior’s thoughts. Possibly, he had picked up
on something; Glorfindel raised an eyebrow thoughtfully. Perhaps a few
stray thoughts had escaped his mind and floated across to the Istar. He
wondered about the idea for a moment, then dismissed it as ridiculous
and answered the question.

“As always, it’s hard to say. But he is always there, whenever an
attack comes.”

“How many have you suffered now?”

Glorfindel grimaced. “Eight now, with the one at dinner time yesterday
evening and all the ones last night.”

“They’re getting more frequent.”

“And more intense,” the Elda agreed. “But even Elrond doesn’t know how
to stop them, so what can I do?”

“You could obey your lord’s orders, for one thing, and take a few days
away from your duties. You’re not exactly working at peak efficiency,
after all.”

“I can’t afford to let my men down. With the Shadow hanging over us, we
mustn’t let our vigilance slip.”

Mithrandir reached out and laid a weathered hand over Glorfindel’s
long, pale one. “Take some time off. If not for your own sake, for
Erestor’s. We may not know why you’re having these flashbacks, but I’m quite
certain that overtiring yourself with your duties won’t make them go
away, and it’s not fair to inflict this on Erestor unnecessarily.”

Glorfindel’s blue-grey eyes were dark with anguish, but his expression
became suddenly decisive. He thought he understood what the Istar was
suggesting. “You’re right, mellon-nîn, I should leave until this is
over,” he said with determination, “I shouldn’t expect Erestor to pick up
the pieces for me all the time. It’s not right; it’s not fair on him.”

“Glorfindel, sit down!” the Istar said sharply as the seneschal rose
from his chair. “I wasn’t implying you should *leave*! As if *that* would
be any good for anyone.”

Glorfindel sighed and dropped back into his chair, hanging his head so
the tips of his hair hung nearly into the barely-touched breakfast.
“What *should* I do, then?”

“Might I suggest that you simply stay here, rest, and leave Elrond and
me to use our not inconsiderable resources to find out what in the name
of Elbereth the Shadow is plotting this time. Spend some time with
Erestor, just enjoying one another’s company. You’ll both benefit from
that.”

Translation: mellon-nîn = my friend

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Part 4

Glorfindel strolled casually into Elrond’s study, not in the least
surprised to see Erestor engrossed in paperwork. Sitting down, he waited
for the advisor to notice him.

Eventually, Erestor looked up and started, seeing his lover sprawled
across the chair opposite. His expression registered worry at first,
which both charmed and saddened Glorfindel - the former, because it showed
how much his beloved cared; the latter because he felt guilty being a
source of anxiety for the counsellor. The frown, however, disappeared
when he realised Glorfindel was not unwell, and actually became a
cautious smile when he spotted what the golden Elda was holding. The miruvor
was one of Elrond’s best, and one of the Peredhel lord’s favourites;
Erestor had also been known to indulge on occasion.

“Fancy a break from all that?” Glorfindel asked, gesturing at the
papers on the desk, then nodding towards the door which led from Elrond’s
study to a more comfortable sitting room. Erestor followed his gaze, then
glanced back at the papers. Swiftly, he moved to his lover’s side,
picking up two glasses from a tray in one corner on the way.

Glorfindel was intrigued to see that the cosy sitting room was in a
state of unusual disarray. Books were piled chin-high in places, and the
shelves, normally close to sagging under the weight of hundreds of old
tomes, were half-empty as a result. The Elda read the titles of some of
the uppermost volumes and raised an eyebrow. They were accounts by
archivists and scholars of the Second Age on some of the devices used by
Sauron to deceive his enemies. Elrond was clearly taking his seneschal’s
recent symptoms very seriously.

Erestor poured miruvor for both of them, and handed a glass to his
lover, which Glorfindel absently accepted. He hadn’t considered his
flashbacks to be a true device of Sauron before now. It was a disturbing
thought, that the enemy had such control of his mind. But why him? Surely it
would make more sense to incapacitate Elrond, or Lady Galadriel in
Lórien? He shook his head, and started to pace the room.

Erestor regarded him with a degree of irritation - justifiably, since
after interrupting his lover’s work, Glorfindel was now pacing like a
caged predator, staring into thin air and completely neglecting his
drink. “Sorry,” he apologised, claiming the elegant armchair closest to the
window. Erestor took a seat next to his lover, and with a small but
definite smirk, touched his glass to Glorfindel’s. The crystal rims chimed
prettily together, the amber liquid splashing up the sides and running
down in rivulets like warm honey.

It tasted like honey as well, sweet and spicy and rich. Erestor’s lips
were even more delicious when he leaned close and stole a brief but
deep kiss. “You’re amazing,” Glorfindel murmured as he sat back again.
Erestor dropped his eyes, and Glorfindel was somewhat surprised to see a
slightly blush colour his lover’s high cheekbones. He brushed the
rose-coloured skin with his fingertips, wearing a contented smile.

Erestor placed his glass on a nearby table and moved to perch on the
arm of Glorfindel’s chair. He entwined his fingers with his lover’s and
drew Glorfindel closer, until the golden-haired warrior was nestled
against his side. Glorfindel decided he found the position extremely
comfortable, relaxed as he was, and temporarily at least, free of the
visions. They were growing intense enough now that echoes remained even when
he was not in the middle of an attack. If he shut his eyes, he could
still see some of those faces, as if drawn in red fire on the insides of
his eyelids. To make matters worse, the faces of the fallen were now
being joined by the faces of those who had survived and were left behind,
some of whom were elves he’d never even met.

He rubbed his temples wearily. Maybe Elrond was right to make him take
a break. Maybe he needed it.

His eyes fell upon the volumes which sat on the table beside Erestor’s
glass. They were stacked in order of size, and each had a single green
ribbon inserted between the pages. Elrond tended to use whatever scrap
of paper he could find as a page-marker; the immaculate positioning of
the books clearly had nothing to do with the Peredhel lord. Glancing
around the room, he realised that it wasn’t really as disorganised as
he’d first thought. The books may have been taken off the bookcases, but
they were piled in neat stacks, in the same order as they were normally
shelved.

He gave Erestor a faintly reproachful look, and indicated the piles of
tomes. “You’ve been busy.” At least it explained why Erestor had
disappeared extremely early that morning, after returning to their rooms
extremely late the previous night. Glorfindel had not questioned this at
the time, assuming that either his lover wanted some time alone, or was
dealing with some important paperwork, but it appeared that neither was
the case.

Erestor sighed softly, as he tended to do when faced with someone he
considered to be acting unreasonably. Reaching forward, he lifted the
uppermost book from the pile on the table, careful not to upset his glass.

He placed the ancient, leather-bound tome on Glorfindel’s lap and
opened it at the page marked by the ribbon. The page was yellowish,
darkening to pale brown at the edges with age, but the illuminations were still
vivid. The text was Westron, that of a sage from Arnor.

“That’s impossible,” Glorfindel said, staring at the leaves of battered
parchment. He stabbed the text with one finger. “*That* cannot be
happening to me.”

But as soon as the words left his mouth, a reasonable part of his mind
asked, *Why not? What makes you so special that you are somehow immune
to the curse of the Dark Lord?*

He read the page again, teeth biting painfully into his lower lip.
Perhaps it was true.

Erestor read his expression correctly and placed a light, warm hand on
his lover’s forearm. Glorfindel flinched back, shivering. How could the
advisor bear to touch him after knowing…*that*?

***

“How did he discover this?” Elrond asked, frowning. He forced his
expression to relax - after a facetious comment from one of Arwen’s friends
- ‘You always look so dark and brooding, with your Frown of Doom!’ -
he’d become acutely aware just how often his brow *did* begin to crease
whenever he was upset or concerned. And now was certainly one of those
times.

“He didn’t. Erestor did.”

“Oh, I see.” Elrond examined Mithrandir closely but, as usual, he found
it hard to discern what the Istar was thinking. “I admit that what is
happening to my seneschal disturbs me deeply. I found it hard at first
to believe this was even possible, but the more I consider it, the more
sense it seems to make.”

“Not only is it possible, it has happened. Sauron may be disembodied,
but his spirit can still do a lot of harm. After all, his spirit is the
only thing that stops many of his minions from crumbling to dust.”

“So I did not remove all the shards from that wound Glorfindel took
last year in the skirmish with those warg-riders. It’s my fault.” He
straightened his robes and moved from the balcony, where he had been gazing
over the picturesque valley of Imladris. “I shall find him immediately
and see what can be done.”

“What can be done for whom?” asked Glorfindel, entering the room. “Am I
to conclude I am the fashionable topic of conversation at present?” His
glance took in the serious-looking Peredhel lord and the grey-clad
wizard.

“Glorfindel, we now know what is wrong with you,” Mithrandir said
gently. “It is imperative that we do something about it before it’s too
late.”

“’Too late’? Before I become a like *them*, you mean? That’s what you
think will happen, isn’t it?” His normally lively blue-grey eyes were
cold as a winter’s dusk. He didn’t bother to define ‘them’; all three of
them were already picturing the hideous Nazgûl, neither dead nor alive,
shadowy, consumed by hatred and greed.

“All the evidence suggests that there is indeed a risk of that
occurring,” Elrond replied. “You were wounded by a dagger from Mordor last
summer and the blade shattered after injuring you; as you no doubt recall,
this confused us quite considerably at the time.”

“Elrond informs me that you were feverish and…*delerious*…for some days
afterwards,” Mithrandir remarked. Glorfindel blinked, the slight
reaction confirming this. “And, in fact, only showed signs of improvement
once Elrond removed several small shards of metal from the wound.”

“Yes, but surely the fact that I recovered suggests that he got
everything out,” Glorfindel argued, but the tremor in his voice proved he was
trying to convince *himself* more than those to whom he was speaking.

“And you have an alternative theory as to why you are now collapsing
every few hours, overwhelmed by visions and memories?” the Istar
countered. His voice held an edge of warning, but the worry in his eyes almost
reminded Elrond of Celebrían when one of the twins had hurt himself
playing.

“Maybe the Shadow’s reach is longer than we thought, and falls over all
of Imladris.”

“The Shadow’s reach is long indeed,” said Elrond. He dropped his voice.
“But do you think it could touch you this deeply with both Vilya and
Narya so close? I think only something working from inside you could
cause such torment.”

“So? What do you propose to do to me? Surely you don’t intend to skin
me and search through my flesh until you find the last tiny splinter?”

“No. I’ll find the shard without harming you, and only when I know
where it is shall I attempt to remove it.” Elrond realised his tone had
turned cool and clinical, as it did whenever he was discussing a patient
who required his skills.

Glorfindel looked sceptical, clearly not convinced. “I don’t like this
one bit. Is there really no other way?”

“I’d suggest you take that question to Erestor,” Mithrandir said
mildly. “He is the one who has spent the last two days poring over the most
obscure texts in the library and Master Elrond’s study for more
information.”

Glorfindel nodded and sighed. “Aye - I have a feeling I’m going to have
to *drag* him away from the books in order to get him to go to bed
tonight.”

***

Erestor read the note which Glorfindel had left for him, and bit his
lip. He crumpled the paper into a tiny, tight ball and dropped it into
the bin. He had no answer. His searches had come up empty; Elrond did not
seem to have a single book that that gave any indication of how to help
his beloved.

Guilt hit him, and anger at himself. He refused to accept that there
was nothing he could do, but there seemed to be no avenues of research
left to pursue. Forcing down his frustration, he leaned on the rail of
the balcony which adjoined the dusty-smelling study and let his thoughts
wander. Mithrandir was walking in the gardens; a soft spiral of greyish
smoke followed the Istar from the pipe he was smoking. Erestor wrinkled
his nose as a slight whiff of it reached him on the breeze.

The grey figure wound his way among the flower beds for some time
before reaching a rose espalier which was starting to wilt. Pausing, he
tilted his head to one side and frowned at it. With a mischievous smirk, he
reached out his staff and touched it to one of the leaves. The
transformation was impressive. Slowly at first, but then with increasing
vigour, the espalier began to perk up again; the rather half-hearted blooms
swelled and opened in the glorious colours of a summer sunset.
Mithrandir looked at it and smiled to himself.

Erestor did not smile. Why, if the Istar could breathe renewed strength
into a faltering plant, could Mithrandir not help Glorfindel? The
answer echoed in his mind; he understood well enough, although he still did
not like it. He recalled something the Istar had said to them on the
subject some long decades ago when an impetuous young elf had accused him
of caring nothing for the fate of the Eldar, else why would he not act?

*“…It is neither my place nor within my power to solve all of Middle
Earth’s problems. You Eldar can save yourselves from the Shadow, if only
you would dare to try…”*

At the memory of those words, a small seed of hope began to germinate
in Erestor’s mind.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Chapter 5

Glorfindel awoke with tears streaming from his eyes; the pillow was
damp from all his crying. He couldn’t go on like this. Glancing across at
the other bed, he saw that Erestor was sleeping restlessly. Although
the advisor would never admit to it, Glorfindel knew he was finding it
extremely difficult coping with his lover’s condition.

This wasn’t fair, and more than that, it was downright irresponsible.
What if Sauron discovered a way to transfer his malign influence from
Glorfindel to one of the other elves in Imladris? It seemed like a
fantastical idea, but was it a risk they could afford to take? And being the
one closest to him, the most likely candidate to be affected was
Erestor.

He sat up in bed, throwing off the light coverlet. He could not let
that happen. Whatever it took, he would never allow the Shadow to reach
the elf he loved more than anything else on Arda.

He moved quickly in the semi-darkness of the bedroom, locating his
riding clothes and putting them on, rooting in a trunk for half-a-dozen
long knives which he stored in various places on his person. As an
afterthought, he braided the most unruly strands of his hair to keep it out of
the way later. Finally, he swung a cloak around his shoulders and
fastened the brooch at his throat. His sword and bow were kept in the arms
store; he would head there, collect them, and then he’d get out of
Imladris as fast as Asfaloth would bear him.

He threw a final, sad glance over his shoulder at the beautiful form
stretched out on the bed. Erestor’s black hair fanned out across the
pillow; unbound, there seemed to be endless masses of it. He felt terrible
leaving his lover like this, but the longer he stayed, the more chance
there was that the darkness inside him would spread to those he loved
as well.

The hallway was even darker than the bedroom; it was oddly cold, and
sinister shadows made strange shapes with the pillars and trelliswork.
Closing his eyes briefly, he swallowed, and reminded himself once more
that this was the right way, the only way. Then, raising his head and
staring determinedly at the carven oak doors at the end of the hallway, he
set off with a firm, definite stride.

“Dartho.”

*Stay.* The word was spoken softly, yet carried clearly through the
stillness of the night to Glorfindel’s ears. Astonished, he stopped
sharply and spun round. For that voice was the one which he loved above all
others, and it was also the one he had feared he would never hear again.

Erestor was standing in the doorway to their rooms, one hand resting
lightly on the doorframe, that midnight mane cascading over the pure
white silk of his nightshirt. His eyes were huge and dark and spoke
volumes. “Dartho,” he said again, this time in a whisper which was heavy with
emotion.

Glorfindel stood rooted to the spot, staring in shock at the advisor.
It had been so long; he had almost forgotten the sound of Erestor's
voice. Suddenly consumed by the urge to have Erestor near, he covered the
few paces between them in less than a second, enveloping his dear, dear
lover in his arms, gripping his hands, pressing his lips to the tousled
hair. He cursed himself for his weakness, but knew that as long as he
was holding Erestor so close, he would never be able to leave.

Erestor met his lover’s eyes searchingly, as if trying to read
Glorfindel’s intent in their depths. Evidently, he could see Sauron’s shadow,
for he paused and tensed in his beloved’s arms. But he did not pull
away. In fact, he drew Glorfindel even closer, caressing the Elda’s cheek
with his thumb, wiping away the film of tears that still clung to the
seneschal’s cheeks. And once more murmured, “Dartho.”

Then he held out his hand towards Glorfindel, sliding off that mithril
ring which Glorfindel had noticed and remarked upon before, dropping it
into a palm which the seneschal had unconsciously extended. Glorfindel
turned it over in his fingers, curiously admiring the fine
craftsmanship which had gone into it. He saw there were words engraved around
the
inside:

“A token that my wearer’s heart has been gifted to another.”

Glorfindel’s eyes widened, and he stared in amazement at the
counsellor, whose expression was once more inscrutable. Erestor’s hand came up
to
rest gently on his lover’s chest, just above the furiously beating
heart. After a moment, Glorfindel reciprocated, noting that Erestor's pulse
was also racing; but after a few moments he felt their hearts slow to a
steadier pace as they both drew comfort from their closeness.

Erestor claimed his lover’s lips tenderly, and Glorfindel was vividly
reminded of the first time they had kissed, on a night as dark as this.
That night, he’d learned that Erestor was not to be forever cut off
from him. That night, he’d seen the first flickerings of the hope that had
sustained him these last two years. This hope, he determined, would
enable them to find a way to stay together now.

***

Erestor could feel the pain and fear radiating from his love as he
steered Glorfindel back towards the bed. Glorfindel kept glancing nervously
towards him, as if expecting Erestor to be angry at his attempt to
leave in the night. Erestor was indeed angry, but the anger was directed
towards Sauron with single-minded intensity; he privately cursed the Dark
Lord a thousand times for doing this to his beloved.

Glorfindel trembled in his arms, and Erestor could only guess at the
frightened thoughts which were running behind those normally laughing
eyes. He trusted Glorfindel, above and beyond anyone else on Arda, and
knew the Elda would never leave without reason. The only conclusion he
could draw was that Glorfindel had convinced himself that somehow, in
leaving, he’d be able to protect the rest of Imladris from harm.

Stroking the golden hair, watching as Glorfindel forced composure upon
himself, slowing his frantic breathing and easing the coiled tension
from his muscles, Erestor knew that the memories and flashbacks had to be
banished before the sun next set. He would not allow Glorfindel to
suffer another night like this.

But he dreaded what he would have to do, for the only way he knew of
doing this would probably cause his lover to suffer even more before
Sauron would finally release his hold.

***

What in the name of the Valar was going on? No hangover experienced by
any Man on Arda could possibly compare to this, and Glorfindel wasn’t
exactly in a condition for detailed analysis of his lover’s actions, but
that did not mean he wasn’t greatly confused when Erestor had taken his
hand as dawn broke, half half-beckoning, half-lifting him from where
he’d sat all night on the edge of the bed with his lover close, and led
him to the paddock where Asfaloth had been put to grazing with the good
weather.

The stallion was awaiting them, standing quietly at the edge of the
meadow, and nuzzled Erestor knowingly. The counsellor indicated for
Glorfindel to mount Asfaloth bareback, even offering assistance when he saw
the seneschal regarding the horse’s high withers with trepidation. Then,
intriguingly, Erestor vaulted up behind, taking a tight grip on his
lover’s belt. This, Glorfindel suspected, was to stop *him* from swaying
in his seat, as Erestor was perfectly capable of keeping a secure
pillion seat without needing such a strong hold.

He barely had time to finish this thought; Asfaloth leaped straight
into a powerful gallop. Glorfindel thanked his choice of mount; the pace
would have been profoundly jarring to his aching head and generally
exhausted body if the horse had been any but this.

The warmth of the sun seemed to fend off the flashbacks for a while,
but they caught him up eventually, and he drifted once more into the
swirling nightmare of the faces of his loved ones and the death-cries of
his dearest friends.

They weren’t all just memories now - he glimpsed Erestor’s face in
there too. But he knew Erestor was not among the fallen. Erestor was
holding him now. Illusions and truth were becoming indistinguishable; he
shivered with fright and cold.

The rocking motion of Asfaloth’s strides abruptly stopped, dead. The
arms around his waist clutched him, and the visions faded enough for him
to focus. He turned to see why Erestor had halted them. The
counsellor’s expression was blank and he was staring off to the east, where the
mountains plunged their indigo heads into the grey clouds and glared at
the plains below.

Glorfindel instantly recognised the narrow pass at which Erestor was
gazing, even through the dissipating haze of flashbacks. It was burned
into his memory, and Erestor’s too. That was the pass that led to
Caranband. Unsure what Erestor would do, he placed his hand over the one
resting on his right hip. The touch seemed to provide the emotional support
the counsellor needed, and at a shifting of Erestor’s weight, Asfaloth
moved off again.

They took the path, and Glorfindel became increasingly anxious as to
what was going on. Erestor surely did not want to revisit Caranband? Even
in his current state, he was getting concerned for his lover.

It could have been just a few minutes, or it could have been many
hours; it was hard to tell. But the next time Asfaloth stopped, he felt
Erestor slide from the stallion’s back, whilst somehow still keeping a
steadying hand on Glorfindel’s waist. The seneschal looked somewhat
groggily down at his lover, feeling Erestor tug at the hem of his shirt. He
allowed himself virtually to fall into the counsellor’s arms, draping an
arm across the slender shoulders for support as he swayed alarmingly.

He looked around them. They were not at Caranband, but he could clearly
see the multiple entrances to the Red Caves further down the pass.
Erestor was pointedly avoiding looking that way, instead focusing on
Glorfindel. The seneschal let his eyes roam over Erestor’s elegant form, to
the rocky ground beneath their feet and the sheer escarpment which rose
up from the edge of the path. It towered above them, leaving the path
in shade; it was cool here.

The other side of the path dropped away downwards, a cliff edge leading
into a canyon; a river was rushing along its bed far below, its dark
waters broken into white-grey foam by rocks that lay in its path. He was
seized by a powerful sense of urgency; he knew they had to hurry.

They had to get the survivors away from here, especially the princess
and her young son, Eärendil. It was vitally important. But then there
was the Balrog. If he didn’t act now, it would attack the children and
the injured elves who were travelling at the centre of the party, into
which it had now leaped. No longer caring for his own life - he had lost
so many others he loved, his life seemed to hold no meaning now - he
sprang after it, his sword shining in the cold sunlight.

The Balrog’s heat was unbearable even at this distance; the foul fumes
fanning off it were stifling. He ignored them; he and his men had taken
down Balrogs and fire-drakes in Gondolin, when, mere hours ago, it had
still been a city worth saving. He could manage this one too. The
others hurried on, coaxed forward by his lieutenants and the Lords of the
other houses.

The fight was intense, fast, impossible. He knew from the moment he
struck the first blow that there was no chance he would survive this. The
others, busy urging on their exhausted charges, could not aid him and
the Balrog was frenzied, determined to kill as many of the refugees of
Gondolin as possible. His sword spun from his hand; he pulled a dagger,
left-handed, from his belt, and attacked again. He had it…he’d taken
it. Time slowed at the Balrog slowly tilted backwards off the edge of
Cristhorn pass and prepared to plunge into the canyon below. A wrenching
tug on his hair…and he was falling too. He made not a sound; it didn’t
matter. The people were safe. He had done all he could.

The Balrog continued to struggle, twitching in its death-throes, and he
glared defiantly into its blazing eyes. But they were no longer the
eyes of the Balrog. These were twin balls of flame, with dark, slitted
pupils that pierced mountains and minds alike. A voice whispered to him,
threatening tempting in turn, beckoning him into the flaming eyes. And
he was falling, not into a chasm, but into fire, and the voice grew
louder. No! It wasn’t meant to happen like this. He couldn’t remember from
where the certainty came, but he *knew* that this was wrong. He felt
his body singeing and burning, melting into non-existence; the pupils
merged into a single fiery chasm which opened up to swallow him, and he
knew he was lost; not only his body, but his spirit as well.

Hands closed on his wrists, halting his descent. Hands which were long
and slender, but which held an unshakeable strength. The right hand had
inkstains on the first two fingers, a slight callus from the quill; the
left was criss-crossed with pale, familiar scars. They were all that
kept him from falling into the eyes, but they refused to let go. Erestor
would not allow him to fall.

Erestor.

Two more eyes appeared before him, but these were not flaming or evil.
They were the colour of warm earth and were filled with mingled
sadness, and love. He gripped the wrists of the hands that held him and
trusted Erestor to pull him back up.

The flames disappeared, and a tiny shard of black metal clattered to
the ground beside him.

***

Erestor held the shuddering figure who nestled, gasping for breath, in
his arms. He didn’t know what Glorfindel had seen in the vision this
time, but the Elda had gone completely tense the moment he saw where the
path dropped away, and Erestor had only just managed to catch him as he
collapsed to the floor. Glorfindel’s eyes had remained open throughout
the episode and Erestor had felt his heart almost breaking as he
recognised the grief, and then the terror, in the blue-grey orbs.

He’d gripped his lover’s wrists - by the Valar, Glorfindel’s skin had
been so cold! Colder than the ice which formed on the surface of the
Bruinen in the harshest winters. Disturbingly lucidity had returned to his
features as their eyes had locked. It felt as if something was trying
to pull Glorfindel from his grasp, but Erestor’s fingers kept their
hold. And Glorfindel’s hands had grabbed back.

Then Glorfindel’s struggles had stopped. He’d gone suddenly limp, but
his expression relaxed as he did so. His eyes had widened briefly as
full awareness returned, his hand going to his side. It came away with
smears of blood, but no wound was visible. And the sliver of Mordor blade
slipped from his fingers and fell to the ground.

*“...You Eldar can save yourselves from the Shadow, if only you would
dare to try…”*

Mithrandir had spoken truthfully. It had hurt Erestor deeply to force
his love to confront the visions, but in doing so, Glorfindel had been
able to rid himself of Sauron’s taint. The shard no longer nestled in
his flesh.

It was less than half an inch long - so insignificant, yet so deadly.
So black, it could have been a fragment of pure jet, except for the
chill which clung to it, riming it with hoarfrost even as they looked on.
Glorfindel shuffled away from it, radiating disgust and fear. Erestor
kept close to the Elda, maintaining a light grip on Glorfindel’s hand.

They stayed that way for a long while, as Glorfindel gathered his
composure again. And, eventually, the Elda raised his head with some effort,
even forcing a weak smile, and Erestor inwardly rejoiced when he could
see no trace of the Shadow remaining in his lover’s eyes.

***

Finally, Glorfindel was able to look away from the piece of metal.
Instead, his eyes sought Erestor’s. The advisor seemed oblivious to the
tears that coursed down his pale cheeks; his concentration was on his
lover. Glorfindel certainly felt faint and dizzy; were it not for the arm
supporting his shoulder he would not have remained sitting upright. He
wanted to sleep. But first he had to express his gratitude…somehow.

He brushed Erestor’s lips with his finger - he barely had the energy to
lift his hand! - then touched his own. The counsellor nodded, and
leaned in to allow a gentle, unforgettable kiss. It was sweet with love and
salty with tears, and Erestor’s lips felt so warm against his own he
didn’t ever want them to go away. When they finally parted, Erestor
tilted his head in question.

Glorfindel nodded. Then, “Thank you…” he murmured. *For everything,
love.*

Erestor raised a fine, dark eyebrow and smiled.

Yes, Glorfindel determined, this hope would be enough for them.

***

#The smile on your face
Lets me know that you need me
There’s a truth in your eyes
Saying you’ll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me
Wherever I fall
But you say it best
When you say nothing at all#

FIN

All constructive feedback welcomed.