Elrond entered the room quietly, looking at the dark-haired elf sleeping in the bed. He was not surprised to see Glorfindel by the window; he had expected to find the Seneschal here.
"How long will he sleep?" Glorfindel’s voice was rough.
"Well into the morning," Elrond answered. "Today exhausted him; we should not ask for more of the story until he grows stronger."
"He never did take care of himself, did he?" the golden tenor said sardonically. "Never put himself first. That will change. I will not allow him to tire himself needlessly."
"Allow?!" Somehow, Elrond did not think that Erestor would approve of the blonde’s thoughts.
Glorfindel nodded, running a tired hand over his face as the lord of Imladris looked at him -trying to decide what to say. In the end, Elrond decided to drop the subject and remained quiet.
"How are you, my friend?" The Peredhel asked eventually. "This day cannot have been easy on you."
The blond shuddered as he remembered fire and shadow, pain and death. "It was not," he admitted. "Seeing my death…" He fell quiet, as he fought to control himself. "How did the others react?"
"The others are asleep," Elrond said quietly. "I gave them all a light sleeping potion, which you should drink as well. I will take mine once I leave this room."
Glorfindel hesitated a moment, glancing down at the dark elf, before he nodded.
Elrond yawned as he filled his goblet with fresh fruit juice and drank deeply. The sleeping potion was slow to let go this morning and he wondered how long it would be until one of the others joined him. Frowning, he thought of the story that had been told yesterday. It worried him that Erestor seemed to carry so much guilt for things outside his control. How had he never noticed the burden on the advisor before?
The door opened as Celeborn entered, his eyes falling on the Peredhel before he started choosing his breakfast.
"How is Galadriel this morning?" Elrond asked.
Celeborn smiled slightly. "She is well. Sad, but well. Yesterday brought back many painful memories for her."
Elrond hesitated. "How much…"
"How much of it did I know? " the lord of Lothlórien asked. "Very little. I knew who his father was, I knew of his deeds at Alqualondë and I knew he was left behind for dead on the Helcaraxë. That is all; of his time in Gondolin I knew nothing."
Elrond sighed and nodded. "It was not a pretty tale he told."
The silver head shook slowly. "It was not," he admitted. "Had it not been for the sleeping potion, Galadriel would have found no peace last night. Yet I do not believe the tale ends there." He smiled suddenly. "I am, however, grateful for Erestor’s innocence. Galadriel seems to have had more than a passing interest in him. Smiling in the midst of battle." He laughed tenderly. "She is so utterly shameless at times."
Elrond smiled fondly at Celeborn. The love between the lord and lady of the Golden Wood had always run deep and that was something he was envious of – to share so many centuries together and still love one another so highly. He sighed as he thought of Celebrían and their parting.
Celeborn glanced at him, noting the change in the Peredhel’s mood. The room fell into quiet as the two lords dwelled over their breakfast, brooding in silence.
The door was flung open as the twins bounced in, and the atmosphere in the room changed drastically; their still youthful enthusiasm and energy brought the older elves out of their thoughts.
"Ada, did you realise he knew your grandparents? He was there when Eärendil was born!" Elrohir’s voice was eager. "He saw a star grow up!!" Elrohir’s eyes widened. "He saw the Silmarils! And Fëanor and Maedhros! He lived in Gondolin!"
Elrond laughed at his younger son. "I saw the Silmarils as well," he reminded him. "Two of them, as did Celeborn. Galadriel, however, saw all three, at the same time that Erestor did. And I grew up with Maedhros and Maglor."
He turned to the elder twin who had sat down quietly, a thoughtful frown over the pale features.
"Are you well, Elladan?" Elrond asked.
"Has he ever been happy?" the elder twin asked suddenly. "Has there ever been _anyone_ that was truly his?"
Elrond was quiet, unsure of what to say. There were parts of the story that he would never be able to comprehend; a father turning his back on a child, a mother who did not care. It was beyond him how anyone could be so cold, forcing a small boy to live a life in loneliness. He tried to imagine not loving his children but failed; a child was meant to be a joy, a gift, not a burden. Praying to the Valar, he wished Erestor’s mother a life of unhappiness and Fëanor to be tormented in the Halls of Waiting.
"I do not think there has," Galadriel answered sadly, shattering the quiet as she entered the room and poured some fruit juice, ignoring the food. "His life has been long, and lonelier than I thought."
She saw the twins open their mouths, eyes filled with questions; she raised her hand, silencing them. "We should wait for Glorfindel, I believe," she said as she seated herself next to her husband. "I am sure he will wish to be present as well."
The twins sighed disappointedly and picked at their food, eyeing the doorway impatiently as they waited for the warrior. It was not long until Glorfindel entered the room, his face pale and drawn and his eyes haunted. He said nothing as he crossed the floor and reached for the Miruvor, filling a goblet and downing it before he looked at the others. Elrond frowned slightly, but kept his peace.
"Did you sleep?" Elladan’s voice was concerned as he looked at his tutor.
"Yes," he said as he sat down. "I slept. It is the morning and the waking that brings the nightmares."
Galadriel nodded in agreement, plagued by her own memories.
"Erestor’s mother was not well liked," Galadriel said suddenly. "She was cold and haughty at the best of times and I cannot say that my impressions of her improved yesterday. He, on the other hand, was rather well liked, polite, intelligent, quick of learning; he put the rest of us to shame. No one learned as well or as quickly as he did, not to mention that his beauty was legendary - to this day I have never seen any to match it. And so he scared us with his brilliance, the black eyes filled with a knowledge we could never grasp, and out of fear our tongues grew sharp and our words carried poison. I loved him in those days and was thrilled when I saw him at the feast, but when I tried to talk to him I blushed and stammered like a child."
Amusedly, she chuckled, recalling that day many millennia ago, recalling music and colours and a great hall filled with elves, all looking at the dark elf with barely controlled desire.
"At Alqualondë, when he spoke to me, I could have died of happiness. He, Fëanor’s fire, spoke to me. If he had asked me to bring back the Silmarils single-handedly I would have." She laughed fondly. "And to this day he has not realised why."
Her smile faded and the blue eyes grew serious. "I will not speak of Alqualondë," she said, "save this: had he not pushed Glorfindel into my arms that day, I too would have joined the battle. For that I am grateful, for that I may yet find forgiveness. He did a wondrous thing on a day of evil."
She stopped and paled as her hand searched for Celeborn’s. Silently Glorfindel pushed a goblet of Miruvor into her hand and she smiled gratefully, drinking deep of the strong liquid.
"The Helcaraxë," she started. "What happened on the grinding ice was so pointless, so evil. There were elves who did not like him because of the blood of his father. That night…we had lost Glorfindel when we set camp; it happened frequently and was to no worry as we always knew he could be found with Erestor. At every chance he got he ran, as fast as his little legs could carry him, and he always found Erestor. Countless times they came back to us, his stubborn arms wrapped around Erestor’s neck, refusing to let go."
She smiled at the Seneschal. "You always did adore him."
Glorfindel blushed slightly. "My tastes must always have been good," he mumbled.
"Yes," she agreed. "They always were. His patience for you was endless; he could carry you for hours while you played with his hair or slept. He was always wonderful with children. That night we had lost you again, and were just about to send Ecthelion to search for you when we heard you scream- loud, heartbreaking wails- and we ran, afraid that you had been hurt. What we found… There was blood everywhere. He was motionless, his skull shattered by a heavy blow." She shuddered. "We thought him dead already, as we could find no signs of life and no one could survive an injury like that. We tried to find out who had hurt him, but no one saw or heard anything - or if they did, they kept silent. In the end we left him there, praying that the Halls of Waiting would bring him peace. It was to be many centuries before I saw him again, before I learned that he still lived."
Glorfindel closed his eyes, remembering his fingers running over deep scars on the head, of Erestor pale and bleeding on the floor; he had no memories from the grinding ice, and he tried to imagine how anyone could have wanted to hurt the young elf. After a while, he grew aware of the twins watching him, their grey eyes both eager and concerned.
The Seneschal sighed heavily and tried to gather his thoughts. "From my childhood in Valinor I recall only happiness and beauty, apart from vague memories of my mother’s death and the cold of the ice. In Gondolin I never knew him. I saw him a few times, turning a corner, stepping back in the shadows, but never once did I see his face. I am afraid I have nothing to add."
Glorfindel fell quiet as his memories went back to the white city, to the blood and screams, smoke and fire. He could still recall the fall of Ecthelion, and above else he remembered pain. Pain from burning, from falling, from dying, the screams and sounds around him as all ended. He shuddered and refilled his goblet. Waking nightmares indeed.
In silence they finished their meal, memories, torments and questions running wild through their minds, questions only one could answer, and he was not there.
Elrond frowned as he noticed the open door to Erestor’s study, and moved to close it. Erestor did not take kindly to others entering his study uninvited. He froze as his eyes settled on the advisor behind the desk.
"You should not be here."
The tired black eyes met his. "Am I confined to my chambers, my lord?" The deep voice was chilly.
Surprised at the question, Elrond shook his head. "No, of course not."
"Then do you no longer trust me to fulfil my duties?"
Elrond felt confused and hurt by the other’s reaction. "I do trust you, Erestor, more than anyone else. Learning the name of your father did not change that."
"Then tell me, why should I not be here?" The dark gaze was steady, stubborn.
Suddenly, the Lord of Imladris realised what was behind Erestor’s odd behaviour, and he chose his words carefully. "You are still not well, Erestor. Yesterday took too much out of you and I would rather see you rest than spend time in here. Your health is more important that work."
"Then let me do this, please," the Noldo said. "Unless you request to hear more of my life story?"
"Your story will wait until you are stronger," Elrond said firmly. "And I wish that work would as well."
The advisor looked at him. "I will need to keep my mind busy."
Elrond sighed as he considered his options. Finally he tilted his head and looked at the tall elf behind the desk.
"Do not overdo yourself," he said as he pulled the door closed behind him.
A soft knock interrupted his work. Erestor frown irritably at the door.
The door opened timidly and admitted a tired looking Lindir. The minstrel looked at the advisor, who had not lifted his head from whatever he was working on.
"Are you well?" the white haired one asked.
"I am." The deep voice was impatient. "What can I do for you, Lindir?"
"I am so glad that you are back. The valley has been in total chaos; Aiglos has been gone for well over a week and I cannot find it! The elflings are behind in their education, as I am unsure of what to teach them, and the…"
Erestor looked at the minstrel, the cold black gaze making the other falter and grow quiet.
"Does Imladris still stand? Have any major catastrophes happened? Any wars broken out?"
Lindir shook his head.
"Then please, "Erestor said firmly, "no more. Imladris will not fall to pieces if the remaining problems are left until morning. The elflings should be learning about the fall of Doriath, so please teach them about the vanity of Thingol, the blood of Fëanor and that accursed stone. "His voice hardened towards the end. "As for Aiglos, you should check the hayloft at the eastern stables. That is were the children usually hide it. Anything else?"
Lindir shook his head and backed out of the room, carefully, as his eyes remained fixed on the irritable advisor.
Erestor went back to the letter he had been reading before the minstrel interrupted. Four letters later, he was once again interrupted by a knock on the door, and Elrond entered.
"I forgot to ask you if you had got anything to eat yet?" Elrond asked concernedly.
Erestor looked up from the parchment. "No, I am not hungry," he answered distractedly before turning back to the letter.
"You need to eat, Erestor!"
"Hmmm? Yes…I know. I will eat later."
Elrond frowned and remained in the doorway, watching the other. The advisor was still too thin and pale, and the slightly empty expression on the dark eyes scared him.
"How are you feeling?"
Erestor sighed and put the parchment down. "What do you want Elrond? Ask."
"Are you well?" Elrond asked again.
"Better than I have been for some centuries," The deep voice was cold.
"Why does that not please you?"
"You already know the answer to that, my lord," he replied.
"You will still not leave?" The Peredhel’s voice was sad.
Erestor shook his head. "No," he confirmed. "I will not."
Erestor went back to the letter and heard that Elrond had finally left him alone. Yet again, he got wrapped up in his work only to, five letters later, once again get disturbed by a knock on the door. Sighing, he leaned his head into his hands, wondering why all of Imladris wanted to disturb him.
The twins entered and sank down in the closest chairs they could find, their smiling eyes filled with curiosity, with questions. Erestor rose and walked over to the table that held the Miruvor carafe and poured three generous servings, two of which he offered to the twins. Quietly, he sat down again, hands wrapped around his goblet; he had known they would come to him.
""What do you wish to know?"
"What did you think of Glorfindel when he was little?" Elrohir asked curiously.
Erestor raised his eyebrows in quiet surprise; this was not what he had expected.
"He was-" he paused thoughtfully, casting his memories back to a small golden boy filled with hugs and kisses. "He was lovable, a happy child full of bright smiles and totally fearless. Why?"
The twins shrugged.
"Was he cute?" the elder twin asked.
"Yes, he was."
"What was he like in Gondolin?" Elrohir asked again, eagerly.
"He was much the same as when he was a child. Young, happy, fearless and loving." Erestor started to feel suspicious about their interest in the Seneschal, wondering if a warning to Glorfindel would be in place.
Elladan’s voice was suddenly serious. "Why was it his death that broke you? After all the others? Why not Turgon or Ecthelion?"
"Because he was the last," the advisor said. "Because I had already lost the others. Because…" He fell quiet, frowning as he tried to find an answer, tried to find the truth. Thoughtfully, he sipped at the Miruvor.
The twins glanced at each other before they both spoke, their voices mingling. "Erestor, did you love Glorfindel?"
Erestor choked on his drink, his black eyes shocked and impossibly large as he coughed and spluttered, staring at the twins.
The twins rolled their eyes. "You heard us. Did you?"
Erestor stared at them, disbelief clear in the dark eyes. He could not believe what he had just heard; they were not having this conversation. They simply were not. Finally, the twins realised that their tutor was truly speechless, that he would not, could not answer them.
"Erestor?" Elladan’s voice was concerned.
The advisor looked up at them with a dazed look in his eyes, but remained silent. Uncomfortably, the twins shifted, realising they had gone too far, and hastily made their apologies.
Erestor remained where he was long after the door had closed, thoughts running through his weary mind, images of himself and of Glorfindel. Frustrated, he got up and walked over to the window, all concentration shattered; he knew there would be no more work this day. He was still standing by the window when he heard the footsteps stop outside his door. Without a doubt, he knew who stood on the other side- he had always known.
"Come in, Glorfindel," he called, wondering why the Valar hated him.
The blond opened the door and entered hesitantly.
"Erestor…I…" he started, only to fall quiet again. The silence stretched as they looked at each other, tormented blue eyes meeting cold black.
"What can I do for you, Lord Glorfindel?" The deep voice was chilly and distant. "Surely you must need something, to search out one such as I, a Kinslayer by your own words?"
"I…" The tenor was low, apologetic. "I should not have said what I did; I should have known you better than that."
Erestor laughed harshly, a hard laugh with no joy. Glorfindel flinched at the sound, the regret in the blue eyes deepening.
"I am truly sorry," he whispered. "You did not deserve the words I threw at you in anger."
Erestor gave him a strange look, his eyes old and tired as an odd emotion flickered through them.
"You are wrong," he said finally, voice calm and resigned. "I _did_ deserve it. I _do_ deserve it. What do you want?"
The blond looked at him, tormented by questions and memories. "I must know…You took a sword saving me that day." He hesitated, wondering how to explain what he needed.
Erestor closed his eyes and unbuttoned his robe, pushing it aside. "This one," he said quietly, tracing the scar with his fingertips. "Is that what you needed to know? What you needed to see?"
The blond nodded silently, not trusting his voice as he walked closer to the councillor. Erestor did not move but remained where he was, quiet and distant as a statue.
"How bad was it?" Glorfindel’s eyes were fixed on the scar.
"Bad enough." The dark voice was empty of emotions.
Entranced, the blond reached out his hand and traced the scar, his fingers following the path that Erestor’s had taken a few minutes before as they ran over silky skin
Erestor flinched and took a step back, turning as he hastily buttoned his robe. The Seneschal let his hand fall as he thought of what he had seen; it had been a deep wound once, a killing wound. Once again, he wondered how Erestor had survived for so long.
His mind reminded him that Erestor had taken that wound for him, for a child he did not even know. Nausea welled up in him as he recalled what he had learned the previous day, when he recalled his own voice no more than two days ago – filled with venom. He regretted those words of anger, spoken to one that he had considered a friend, one whom he loved.
"I…" he started again, breaking the silence.
Erestor spun around and looked at him. "What?! What do you _want_ from me?!" His black eyes flashed. "Do you wish to learn who yielded that sword? Do you wish to know who held the blade that killed your mother? Is _that_ what you need?!"
"Yes," the tenor whispered.
"It was Fëanor," Erestor said coldly. "My father killed your mother. Does that knowledge give you peace?"
The blue eyes closed in horror and pain as Glorfindel shook his head.
"No," he admitted. "It does not."
Erestor looked at him coldly. "If that is the case, Lord Glorfindel, I would appreciate it if you left me to my duties."
When the door closed, Erestor sank down behind his desk. He felt scared; it was a very long time since he had last had to deal with his fears. He felt as if the life of peace and quiet that he had managed to create for himself was falling apart – the lie behind it revealed. He was nothing, no more that Fëanor’s bastard. This time, when his life fell apart, there would be no pieces left to pick up. And, still, what scared him the most was Glorfindel, with his easy companionship, his big heart and his forgiveness. Erestor hated himself for his distance, for the poison in his voice when he denied the other friendship.
Did this never end?
Exhaustedly, he tidied up his desk and left. There would be no more work today.
Erestor awoke to the sound of someone knocking at his door and cursed as he got up to answer it, staring disbelievingly at the blond on the other side of the door.
"No," he said.
Glorfindel smiled broadly at him.
"Yes," the Seneschal replied mildly. "I know how much you missed me. I also thought you may be hungry since you decided to skip both breakfast and lunch," he continued as he pushed a heavy tray filled with food into Erestor’s hands. "You are much too thin after your illness."
Erestor looked at the tray in his hands and back up to Glorfindel. "I am not hungry."
The sapphire eyes slowly looked at the advisor, assessing him as they caressed the thin body, and a lazy smile graced Glorfindel’s lips.
"You are too skinny. Eat"
Before Erestor had time to react the other elf was already gone. Confused, he looked at the tray in his hands and sighed. It did smell good. He closed the door again and sat down by the open balcony doors with a book, enjoying the steaming soup and warm bread.
Erestor was immersed in work a few days later when a tray was set down in front of him. Surprised, he looked at the tray on top of the important letters and documents, before he raised his eyes and saw Glorfindel close the windows.
"What are you doing?" the advisor asked curiously.
"You have been ill; this cold is not good for you."
Erestor stared at the blond.
Glorfindel merely smiled at him. "Eat," the golden tenor said. "You are still too skinny."
The door closed and the Seneschal was gone.
Erestor pushed the tray aside, annoyed at the interference as he went back to work. In the back of his mind, he wondered why Glorfindel had suddenly taken leave of his senses. Erestor had never needed anyone to look after him; he did not want anyone to look after him. It seemed to be no more than a few minutes before the blond returned, frowning as he noticed the untouched tray.
"You need to stop skipping meals."
"I am not hungry." Erestor’s voice was cool.
Glorfindel sighed and unfolded a blanket he had carried under his arm, wrapping it around the advisor before lifting the tray and taking it with him as he left.
Erestor ground his teeth quietly. He wanted to strangle the blond, he truly did want to strangle him. He shrugged off the blanket and glared at it.
"I am not too skinny!" he said to the empty room.
Erestor carefully tried to pull the Library door closed behind him, balancing the stack of books in his arms. As he pushed at the door with his foot, someone suddenly took the books away from him. Erestor closed his eyes, counting to ten before he looked at Glorfindel, his eyes shooting daggers.
"You should be resting," the blond said, as he started down the corridor.
"Give those back!"
Glorfindel shook his head. "They are too heavy for you."
Speechless and fuming, Erestor stared after him, before he stormed after the other. This was driving him insane; it had to stop.
If it was not Glorfindel pestering him like a hen that had gone insane over her chicks, it was Galadriel looking at him with sad blue eyes, Celeborn watching him, quietly, the twins tiptoeing around him as if the smallest sound would break him, or Elrond watching him with those grey eyes, worried, concerned eyes, seeing straight through him. It had to stop or he would kill someone, starting with Glorfindel.
He slammed the door to his study shut behind him. "This has to stop, Glorfindel," he said, forcing his voice to remain calm. "I am not weak, nor am I helpless."
Glorfindel looked at him worriedly. "Are you well, Erestor? You look upset."
"Yes, I am well, Glorfindel; you made sure of that," he said, his voice bitter. "As you all took my death from me."
"Erestor, you are still fading." The Seneschal’s voice was faint.
"Yes, I am well aware of that; in fact, it is my choice."
"How can you make such a choice, Erestor? Will you not change your mind?" The tenor was insistent, pleading. "Erestor you have to…"
The advisor spun around, dark eyes glittering with fury.
"NO! Now _please_ leave me alone!"
Glorfindel sighed, annoyance creeping into his voice. "If I have to tie you to a horse to get you to leave…"
"You would not be able to," Erestor snapped. "You may have fought a Balrog, ‘little warrior‘, but you will _not_ ever_ best me in combat."
Glorfindel swallowed as he looked at the furious elf in front of him, backing towards the wall as Erestor stalked closer.
"You must leave!" the Seneschal tried again.
"I MUST do nothing!" the dark one hissed, slamming his palm against the wall, effectively trapping the golden elf.
Before Glorfindel had time to react, a strong hand was wrapped in his hair, bending his head backwards as his lips were claimed in violent kiss. Passionate, deep kisses drugged his mind as he felt his mouth open under the assault. Erestor‘s tongue wrestled with his own, tasting him, marking him. Glorfindel forgot to breathe as he arched against the dark haired elf making strange needy sounds in the back of his throat, desperately trying to get closer, his breathless moans, whimpers, swallowed by Erestor.
Glorfindel swayed as the contact suddenly ended. Gasping for air, unable to support himself, he slid down against the wall, staring at Erestor. The advisor backed away from him, staring at the crumpled shape of the warrior, dark eyes wide with horror and guilt.
"By the Valar, what did I do? What have I done?" The deep voice was shaking as Erestor suddenly spun and fled the room.
Glorfindel knew he should try to stop the advisor, call for him, but he was still unable to form words where he sat, gasping for air, shivers running through his body.
"Erestor?!" Glorfindel heard Elrond’s voice on the other side of the door and winced, hoping that Elrond would leave even as he saw the door open.
Elrond saw the crumpled shape of his friend, and recalled the panic on Erestor’s face as the advisor had burst out of the room.
"Are you well?" the Peredhel asked as he hurried to kneel by the blond. "Did he hurt you?"
The Seneschal shook his head slightly as he kept his gaze lowered.
"Glorfindel, if Erestor is losing control and turning violent…" Elrond’s voice was worried.
"No," Glorfindel rasped as he tried to compose himself. "He did not hurt me. He kissed me."
Elrond’s eyes widened. "Oh," he said faintly. "So you are not hurt?"
The glazed sapphire eyes met Elrond’s, amusement seeping though the shock. "No," the Seneschal confirmed. "I am not hurt"
Elrond stood up, relieved and feeling slightly out of his element, as he reached a hand out to the blond, offering assistance. Glorfindel looked at the hand and shook his head slightly, blushing.
"…I…I think I will…stay here…for a while longer, thank you."
Elrond’s face showed his amazement "That must have been an interesting kiss," he teased, amused by the discomfort that flickered over the other elf’s face. "Would you like some Miruvor to help you calm down?"
The blue eyes snapped up and the blush deepened as he shook his head.
"Are you sure?" Elrond moved across the room with the carafe even as he spoke. "It may calm you down."
"Any calmer and I would be dead!" Glorfindel suddenly snapped. "Now will you _please_ leave?"
Elrond started and realised that his famous diplomacy seemed to have deserted him since entering the room. A deep blush settled over his face as the Lord of Imladris quickly excused himself and left.
Glorfindel leaned his head against the wall as he tried to come to terms with what had just happened. For centuries, millennia, had he dreamt of kissing Erestor, but he had never expected this. Finally he pushed himself of the floor, grimacing at the wet stickiness of his clothes. He prayed to all the Valar that he would meet no one on his way to his chambers.
Erestor fell to his knees by the river, mud staining his clothes, as tears flowed down his face. What had he done? He rocked where he sat, sobbing hysterically; he could still feel the strong body struggling against him. He had lost his temper and by doing so he had almost violated a friend, _had_ violated a friend, as Glorfindel had had no choice but to submit to the kiss. He disgusted himself. This was why he should never let anyone close; this temper that he had inherited from his father never did do anything good. He truly was his father’s son. He knew that he could not go on like this any longer; he was losing control. Stumbling, he got up and moved back towards the house, numbly; there was no grace in his movements any more.
Elrond saw the bedraggled elf enter the house. Black hair caked with mud and leaves and the robe torn, the pale face was dirty and the sign of tears was obvious to all. What scared Elrond the most however was the desperation in the shining eyes, which stared unseeingly ahead as Erestor stumbled forwards.
Elrond heard Glorfindel's strangled gasp behind him as the Seneschal saw the bedraggled elf. The blue eyes were open in shock as they stared at the usually regal creature, and his heart broke when he noted the change. The proud elf had broken.
Erestor’s haunted eyes snapped up as he heard the gasp, and the advisor backed from the advancing blond.
"Erestor?" The tenor was soft, worried.
The tall body shook as the advisor continued to back away, growing paler the closer Glorfindel got. Elrond’s hand grabbed the Seneschal’s arm, stopping him.
"Don’t," the Peredhel whispered. "For some reason, you scare him."
Pain and confusion ran deep in the blue eyes, but the Seneschal did not move. Carefully, Elrond moved past the Seneschal, his eyes fixed on Erestor. To his relief, the dark elf remained still. He was aware of the absolute silence around them, a silence which meant that others had now joined them. He could see his sons in the corner of his eye – held back by Celeborn and Galadriel.
"Erestor?" Elrond said gently. "What is wrong, my friend? Can I help?"
The dark one did not answer; his tormented eyes fixed on the Peredhel as Elrond walked closer, drawing close enough to touch. Elrond reached out a hand and ran it lightly over Erestor’s cheek; the dark eyes flickered to Glorfindel before closing.
"I cannot do this any longer," Erestor whispered. "Let it end." The tall shape crumpled, and Elrond wrapped his arms around the advisor.
"Come," The lord of Imladris said softly.
Elrond closed the door to Erestor’s chambers, pushing the other one down on the bed as he dragged a chair over for himself. "Talk to me."
Erestor looked him in the eyes, all distance gone. "I cannot do this," he said honestly. "I am losing control." He fell quiet again and Elrond waited patiently. "I attacked Glorfindel today," Erestor finally said. "I lost control and I…violated him."
"It was a kiss, Erestor; you did not hurt him."
"Maybe no more that a kiss this time; I still violated him. What about next time? How far would I had gone had I not regained some of my senses?" he shuddered. "Had I not forced myself to stop?"
"But you _did_ choose to stop," Elrond reminded him. "Just as you would if it happened again."
Erestor shook his head. "I am not sure I would," he whispered, looking at his lord. "I am not sure I could."
Elrond thought carefully of what to say that would not add to the guilt and self-hatred that Erestor was already feeling. "Glorfindel," he said finally, measuring his words as he spoke, "has spent the entire week trying to take care of you, but also trying to provoke you one way or another. I do not hold him blameless in this, nor do I believe that he objected to the touch."
The other lay silently, no torment and no guilt fading from the deep eyes.
"Erestor," Elrond said finally. "I believe you should get some sleep. In the morning I think it will be time for us to hear more about your life." He got up to leave when something held him back. In surprise, he looked at the ivory hand on his wrist before his eyes met Erestor’s dark pleading eyes.