A heavy arm lay over his waist, holding him close to the warm body laying behind him. He froze as he tried to recall what had happened the previous day, tried to remember why there was another in _his_ bed. His eyes closed as it all came back to him, his fury, the strong muscled body struggling against his and the flavour of the hot mouth that he had tasted after so many millennia. What have I done?
Warily, he moved, lifted the strong arm that was flung over him and slid out of bed.
Erestor looked down at the sleeping elf, frowning; this was all wrong, it was a huge mistake. Soundlessly, he moved into the bathroom, locking the door carefully behind him before preparing his bath. How could one day contain so many things wrong?
He lingered longer than usual in the bath, hoping, wishing the other gone before he came out. But once he finally dared to go back in the bedroom the other was still there, still asleep.
Carefully, he dressed, a strict formal robe of black velvet, stricter that most of his other robes. He bore no jewels, no hair-clasps as he twisted his hair into hard braids. He crossed the floor and looked at the elf in his bed. Maybe I should go to my study and let him rest. Let him wake to find me gone.
Still, he knew that he could not do that; it would make things more awkward later on. Best thing was to face last night now, before meeting anyone else.
"Elrond," he said, his deep voice louder than usual.
The grey eyes of the Peredhel filled with awareness as Elrond woke, focusing on the dark elf beside the bed. Erestor, he noted, was back to his normal distant self, no sign of the emotional distress from the previous evening. In fact the advisor seemed colder and more distant than ever. Elrond stretched and sat up, tilting his head slightly as he continued to look at this chief advisor. "How are you feeling?"
Erestor looked at him.
"I am well. Last night should not have happened. I would appreciate if you left, discreetly."
Elrond sighed and got up. "One day, Erestor," he said quietly, "you will learn that needing others is not wrong. That love will not only bring pain but also great joy."
The black eyes grew even more distant.
Elrond shook his head and grabbed his robe as he walked passed the other. "I wish to hear more about your life today, Erestor. I expect you in Celebrían's gardens in an hour. Make sure to eat before then." He closed the door behind him and sighed again. He had hoped to finally be able to reach Erestor after what had happened but instead the other had withdrawn even further.
Glorfindel turned to corner to find himself close to Erestor's rooms. He knew he should let the other rest, stay far away from him until Elrond managed to calm the distraught elf, and yet he found himself here. He had hardly slept throughout the night, plagued by nightmares of pain and fire, of falling and darkness, and his waking hours had been spent worrying about the elf that held his heart.
He froze as the door to Erestor's chambers opened and Elrond exited, still pulling his wrinkled robe around him, the black hair tousled from sleep. Glorfindel felt his heart break at the sight. At the same time as a deep sense of betrayal ran through him; Elrond had known, damn it, Elrond knew what Erestor meant to him! The blue eyes met the grey eyes of the Lord of Imladris; for a moment neither moved. Glorfindel lowered his gaze and turned, running to get as far away from the heartbreak as he could.
Glorfindel moved gracefully, his sword cutting through the air, connecting with nothing as he danced through the movements. So many centuries of love unspoken and now, when I am finally brave enough to speak, I have lost him.
His heart ached. Suddenly the curve of this blade was cut, metal meeting metal. Surprised he looked up and met the concerned eyes of the elder twin.
"What put you in such a mood, friend?" Elladan asked softly. "We tried calling you several times but you were lost too deeply in your mind to listen."
Glorfindel stepped back and lowered his sword. "It is nothing." His voice was flat.
"We have known you all our lives, Glorfindel. ‘Nothing’ does not make you deaf to your surroundings," Elrohir said behind him.
Glorfindel sighed and closed his eyes, calloused fingers running through the golden hair. "It is Erestor," he admitted. "He and your father are lovers."
Elladan stared incredulously at him, while Elrohir burst out laughing.
"You are not jesting, are you?" Elladan’s voice was incredulous. "You truly do believe this."
Elrohir’s laughter silenced as the Seneschal nodded. "Why?"
Glorfindel glared at the younger twin. "I do not know why; probably Erestor thinks that your father is a wonderful elf! I did not ask!"
Elrohir gulped, swallowing his amusement. "No. I meant, why do you believe this?"
The blue glare lowered. "It does not matter," Glorfindel mumbled sadly.
Elladan put his fingers under Glorfindel’s chin and tilted his chin. "It does matter," he said softly. "Because I cannot believe it. My hear t tells me that Erestor loves you."
A small hope flared in Glorfindel’s eyes. "Me?"
Both twins nodded seriously.
"No," he whispered. "No, I…" Glorfindel thought of what he had seen. Could he have been wrong? He looked at the twins and noted the affection and honesty in their eyes. Impulsively, he hugged them both hard. "Thank you."
Elladan smiled as he reached out and tucked a golden strand of hair behind Glorfindel’s ear. "Ada wishes us all to meet him in Nana’s gardens in half an hour. Erestor is going to tell us more of his life."
Glorfindel hesitated, doubts springing up to meet him again. He was not sure if he could stand having his fears confirmed in front of the others.
Elladan saw the hesitation in the blue eyes. "Erestor will need us there, Glorfindel."
Glorfindel nodded. "I will be there."
The others were already in the gardens when he entered. Celeborn, sitting with his back against a tall tree, Galadriel cradled against his chest, looking utterly peaceful. Glorfindel and the twins sat on the edge of the fountain, strong hands tracing patters through the flowing waters, and Elrond was seated in one of the large chairs, skimming through letters.
This was his family. He straightened his back, lifting his head as he entered the gardens.
"You commanded my presence, my Lord." His voice was cold. "What do you wish to know of me?" He would not show any weakness today; he needed to be strong if he was to get through this.
Elrond gestured to the chair beside him. "Please, sit with me."
Stiffly, Erestor crossed the gardens and sank down in the chair, ignoring all but Elrond.
The Lord of the Valley sighed and bit his lip. "Erestor," he started. "I did command your presence, but I will not command you to speak." He got up and knelt in front of the chair where Erestor was sitting, forcing the other to meet his eyes. "I will, however, ask you to speak to us. I believe you need this, my friend, and we will need to understand. "
Erestor remained quiet as he looked at Elrond.
"Erestor, please." The Peredhel sighed as the other remained quiet. Finally he got up. "You are free to go."
To his surprise, Erestor suddenly grabbed his hand.
Glorfindel’s eyes widened and filled with pain as he noted the small and, for Erestor, intimate gesture.
"The road we travelled after the fall of Gondolin was hard, " Erestor started. "We walked for a long time with little food or rest, surrounded by enemies. Many were the battles we fought as we wandered, lost in the wilderness."
He felt as if a fog surrounded him since the fall of Gondolin; he lived and breathed, but did not feel alive, all curiosity and eagerness to learn was gone. Only the love of Idril, Tuor and Eärendil made him fight the weariness of his soul and ignore the call of Mandos.
The elves at the settlement at the Mouth of Sirion welcomed them with open arms, taking them in and sharing what little they had. Only he was not welcomed as a long lost brother; too many of the refugees of Doriath looked at him with suspicion in their eyes, remembering their suffering at the hands and swords of the sons of Fëanor.
Rarely did Erestor venture outside the house of Idril and Tuor, seeking the company of books rather than elves. He talked seldom, and his smiles to his friends were few and rare. Only Eärendil still brought life into the empty eyes as he patiently taught the boy all that he knew of lore and herbs, of legends and weaponry. Often did the boy seek out his tutor, chattering about his day and adventures, of the other elves in the village and of Elwing, daughter of Dior. When the rumours that the Silmaril was in the hands of Elwing reached Erestor, his heart wept, recalling oaths taken when the light died, remembering blood-soaked shores and children dying. Once again he took upon himself to guard and to keep safe a child, and he was glad when Eärendil grew to manhood and peace remained.
He grieved with Idril as Tuor aged, and he cried when they left him behind to go searching for shores that Idril could hardly remember and he was truly alone. He knew no other that had crossed the ice; all the children he had saved were gone, and to the elves around him the Kinslaying had faded to legend.
Long he stood there, watching until the ship could no longer be seen and still he remained throughout the night, his years heavy on his mind. As dawn passed into bright morning he turned and went back into the house. Eärendil grieved his parents deeply and refused all comfort and food; he slept but a few hours every night. Erestor’s heart ached as the young one faded into a mere shadow of himself.
A week had passed since the ship left when Erestor walked through the village for the first time. He felt eyes watching him and heard the whispers, but chose to ignore them. He hesitated in front of the house of Elwing before he raised his hand and knocked. He could see her eyes widening in fear as she saw him; the slender white hand flew up to her neck, clasping at the necklace she wore hidden. Bitterly, he smiled at her.
"I have no longing for the accursed stone," he said flatly. "Eärendil needs you; if you do not go to him he will die."
He turned and waked away, not looking to see if she went to Eärendil or not; he would know soon enough. Once again he walked by the beach throughout the night, gazing towards the west and wondering if Turgon’s daughter still lived. As midday came the following day, he walked up to the house, determined to start packing.
"Erestor!" Eärendil hugged him as soon as he had entered the door. "Erestor, you will not believe this! Elwing has bonded herself to me!" A bright smile graced the beautiful face.
Erestor smiled slightly. "I am happy for you. Give me a moment and I will be out of your way."
The grey eyes widened. "Why are you leaving?"
"Because you are bonded - you have no need of me. I also do not think that Dior’s daughter would like me under her roof."
A stubborn look appeared in the grey eyes. "I do not care, " Eärendil said firmly. "You will stay."
"If my husband wishes you to stay, then please stay." Elwing’s voice was cool but polite.
An uneasy peace settled between Erestor and Elwing as the time passed; no words were spoken unless necessary. She shunned him as much as she could, memories shadowing her eyes when she could not, and he withdrew once more to the library and safe company of books.
When Eärendil sailed they both fell quiet and words were rarely heard in Eärendil’s house. A year had gone since he sailed when the twins were born, small miracles that brought the two grown elves closer together. He spent hours with them, marvelling over them, and wondered if he had ever been that small, that trusting. A desire to live was kindled inside him as he watched them, a will to protect them from all such horrors and heartbreaks as he had seen. Late at night he knelt by the cradles and swore an oath, to protect and cherish, to guide and to serve for as long as he was needed.
Long was Eärendil gone, and the twins grew and learned to walk and talk. They were happy children, filled with mischief, spontaneous hugs and sloppy kisses. The boys often clung to him, sticky hands grabbing at his robes or tugging at his hair, as he told them many stories and legends of love and friendship in the hope that they would remain open and trusting. But no stories did he tell them of Gondolin or Aman; never did the names of Glorfindel and Ecthelion, great heroes of the Noldor, come over his lips, for those stories remained untold.
Many were the nights when he could hear Elwing cry herself to sleep as the seasons passed, and yet Eärendil did not return. A message came from the sons of Fëanor, requesting that the Silmaril should be returned to them. A great council was held in the village and Erestor alone pleaded that the stone should be given up, but none would listed to him, as they accused him of being in league with his brothers. He begged Elwing to flee, to take the twins and go to the High King on the Isle of Balar for protection, but again he was denied. For some years more, the peace held.
He had taken to twins to the waterfalls when the screams reached him, and his heart froze upon recognizing the sounds of battle. Quickly, he lifted the children into his arms and ran towards the hollow behind the water. He walked as far back from the roaring water that he could before he put down the small and bedraggled boys.
"Stay here!" he told them sternly. "Do not move and do not speak. Do you understand me?"
They looked at him in silence, fear shining out of their eyes.
"Do you understand?" he asked again, shaking them lightly, carefully, so as not to hurt them. Finally, they nodded at him.
"Good," he whispered as he quickly hugged them. "I will go for your mother, wait for me."
Silently, he slipped out from behind the curtain of water, praying to the Valar to keep them safe . He hoped he would be able to return to them. He saw Elwing just outside the village, on the edge of a high cliff above the sea. Tall warriors were closing in on her. He did not stop to see who their attackers were - men or servants of Morgoth - as he threw himself through the crowd, grabbing a sword from one of the fallen. Somehow, he found himself in front of Elwing with their enemies at his back, and he turned into the powerful dance of blades, steel connecting with flesh.
His eyes lowered and the sword fell out of his hand as he saw the red hair of the fallen elf in front of him. It was one of his brothers.
The remaining twin roared and raised his sword. Erestor looked at him; he would not fight this, he could not fight his own brothers… and yet he just had, and one of them was dead because of him. Kinslayers, a name his brothers had worn for a long time - and now he was one of them, truly one of the sons of Fëanor.
"Stop, Amrod! I wish to speak to him." Maedhros’ voice was firm.
Erestor was still staring at his brothers when he heard the soft whisper. "Take care of my sons, Erestor."
He turned as he heard her and stared in horror as she jumped. Dimly he was aware of someone holding him back, dragging him away from the edge of the cliff as he tried to reach her. His heart was heavy as he realized that once again he had failed, that yet another death lay at his feet.
The battle around him grew quiet, and soon all that remained were the shattered pieces of the lives they had built, refugees from Doriath and Gondolin had fallen in yet another battle. Houses set on fire and the shores red with blood and shattered bodies. Two brothers he had never known were dead. Many of the survivors swore fealty to Maedhros as they desperately tried to salvage something out of the day.
"They told me that you died on the ice." Maedhros’ voice was quiet. "Galadriel sent your belongings to me, to keep them in the family. I will, of course, return them to you. If your home is not on fire, I suggest that you pack what you wish to bring, you, my brother, are coming with us."
"Maedhros, they say that there were two children, two boys, who have not been seen since before the battle!"
Erestor saw Maedhros’ eyes close. "Not again," Maedhros whispered. "Find them! If they are still alive, we will take them in!"
"What will you do to them?" Erestor kept his voice cold, hoping that the weariness would not show through.
"We would never willingly hurt a child, brother," Maedhros said seriously. "We will raise them as ours."
Erestor nodded as he got up and walked into the house of Elwing and Eärendil. He gathered what few items he valued - the drawings, clothes for himself and the twins, and Elros’ soft toy, before returning to his brothers.
"I know where they are, " he said. "But let us make one thing clear before I lead you to them. I go where they go; if they come to harm I will
kill you, brothers or not."
Maedhros nodded at him. "I promise that you will not have to do so," he said. "We will raise them as if they were our own sons."
It was years before the twins stopped crying for their mother, years of nightmares through which he held them, soothing them as best he could. He remained isolated, befriending no one but his brothers, and still preferred the quiet solitude of the libraries to the company of others. The items he had once brought from Aman were returned to him, pieces of a life lost so long ago that he could no longer recall the details. They were not bad years that were spent with the sons of Fëanor; Maglor taught him many songs and Maedhros taught him to fight one handed, to favour no hand over the other. Sometimes it seemed as if Maedhros tried to fit what should have been centuries of friendship into days; constantly he followed Erestor, and rarely did his grey eyes leave the tall form of his half-brother.
He stood with them as a new star arose in the night sky and just like them he felt the power of the Silmaril call to him and he rejoiced that it was safe. The twins had almost reached their majority on the day when the ground shook and the seas shifted, shattering glass and broken wood as parts of the house fell. He could feel the change in the world but could not tell how or why it had changed.
The twins had grown strong and tall and followed Erestor more closely with each day that passed. He stumbled over one of their strange whispered conversations a few days before they reached their majority. Quiet words hissing through the night:
"You cannot do that! You will not do it!"
"Will too! Just because you are afraid."
"I am _not_ afraid! You are just stupid if you think that will work!"
Erestor decided to interrupt the discussion before it came to blows. "Why are you arguing, young ones?"
The twins gasped and spun around, staring at him in horror before both sets of eyes lowered. "Sorry Erestor," they mumbled in unison.
He nodded at them, accepting their apologies. "Go to bed," he said. "It is late."
The dark heads nodded as the twins hastened away and left him alone with his thoughts.
do it! Tomorrow!" The last whisper faded.
He looked up in surprise when the door to the library opened the next morning and Elros entered. Not often did anyone join him at such an early hour and Elros was rarely seen in the library no matter what time of day. The elfling was dressed in the new tunic and trousers that had been made for the twins’ begetting day and the dark hair was tidily braided. Erestor frowned as he tried to recall if it was today that they reached their majority, but he was convinced that it was not.
"How can I help you, young one?"
The child swallowed and flushed. "CanIspendtodaywithyouErestor?" The grey eyes were large, pleading.
"If you wish, I would be glad for the company," he answered calmly, wondering why the twin felt a need to hide.
Two hours later he found himself growing increasingly worried, after listening to stuttered questions as Elros looked more and more flushed; the grey eyes grew glazed and the slight body began to shiver.
"You are well, little one?" he asked, pressing a hand against the young one’s brow. "You seem flushed."
Elros’ blush deepened and he seemed to be having difficulties breathing. Erestor frowned slightly, wondering if the illnesses of men could travel down the bloodlines; maybe the child had a fever such as those that men sometimes suffered from.
Elros scooted closer to him and looked at him, eyes pleading. "Hold me?"
Erestor’s concern deepened. Elros was an independent child who had ceased asking for hugs several decades ago. "Of course Elros, " he said, gathering the pouting child close. "You seem to have picked up a fever. I would be happier if you returned to your bed."
The door opened and Erestor looked up gratefully, hoping for assistance. He met Maedhros’ eyes, confused by the fury he saw in them.
"What is going on?" Maedhros’ cold voice reminded Erestor of Fëanor.
"I think he is ill."
"He seems well enough to me!"
Suddenly Maedhros laughed, a cold, bitter sound. "There is nothing wrong with him!"
Erestor frowned as he glared at his brother. "I believe there is," he said stubbornly. "He is flushed and shaking and…"
"Tell me, Elros, are you unwell?" Maedhros’ voice was still hard.
Elros shook his head. "No," he whispered.
"I did not think so. If naught is wrong then please refrain from putting Erestor through your tiresome and unwanted presence, and go and play with someone your own age and stature 'Peredhel'. He is beyond you!"
Tears filled the child’s eyes as he suddenly freed himself from Erestor’s embrace and ran.
"Elros!" Erestor glared at his brother as he got up to follow the crying boy. A strong hand around his wrist stopped him.
"Let him go!"
Erestor spun and glared furiously at the younger elf. "Have you lost your mind?! He is a child
"Trust me," Maedhros roared back at him. "He is no longer a child! How far would it had gone if I had not entered? Would he have managed to bed you before you came to your senses and saw what he was up to? "
"Bedded me? Are you absolutely insane? What is wrong
"I do not wish to see him anywhere near you again, Erestor." Maedhros’ voice softened slightly as he reached out and tucked raven hair behind Erestor’s ear.
Erestor straightened his back and looked his brother in the eye. "You have
lost your mind! He is a child, just as I was when I was told by your father to stay away from my brothers. You just told a child to stay away from someone he sees as a parent. I have nothing
to say to you until you come to your senses!"
He slammed the library door as he left.
It was later that night when Maedhros came to him, pale and drawn, avoiding his eyes.
"The War is over," Maedhros said tiredly. "The messenger reached us today at noon. Three days ago the host of the Valar cast down Morgoth and broke his crown. A stroke so hard that it shook the world." He smiled but no joy reached his eyes. "Pack, brother. You and the children are leaving at dawn. Take them to the High King." For a moment Maedhros lingered in the doorway, then he left.
They reached the camp of the High King two days later, at sunset. All three were tired and weary from travelling. Elros no longer spoke to anyone save Elrond, and even then his words were few and quiet. Erestor’s heart ached at the hurt shining in the young eyes, but all his attempts to talk to the child had failed.
He did not know the elves that stopped them; most of them were tall and blond, Vanyar, and all of them appeared hostile as their eyes fell on him.
"I bring the sons of Eärendil to the High King," he said quietly.
It happened quickly; they did not even allow him time to take his farewell of the young Peredhil he had known their whole lives. They were gone, and he was surrounded by aggressive elves. He felt more alone than he had for a century.
"The sons of Fëanor will not steal the Silmarils so easily," someone hissed at him; he did not see who. Something hit him in the back, forcing him to his knees. He kept his hands open and refused to reach for his sword, refused to defend himself. They continued to beat him, venting fury and hatred that had been nursed through centuries, until it all went black.
He awoke in darkness, chained to a wall; the ground beneath him was damp and cold.
Carefully, he moved, suppressing a moan as broken bones and open wounds shifted at his movements. He was alone again, forgotten. Panic arose in him as he wondered if he had been left to die again, if the camp had moved on and left him. He tried to calm his shuddering breaths and forced himself to relax when sounds outside the door reached him through the thick wood.
The door opened and an unknown elf entered, kneeling in front of him. Light fingers were placed under his chin until he reached amused green eyes.
"I have heard many tales of your beauty, Son of Fëanor," the stranger said. "I am not disappointed. If you behave well, I will release you from the chains."
The hand caressed his face, his neck and chest. Horrified, he realized what the stranger implied. Erestor scrambled backwards as far as the chains and the wall would allow. "NO!"
The green eyes hardened as the stranger arose, carelessly slapping his face hard enough for his head to connect with the wall in a sickening thud. "Think carefully, Son of Fëanor. I will come back for your answer."
The door closed, and he was once more alone in the darkness.
He was not sure how long he lay there, alone; some days passed, he thought, but not many. No one came to see him again, no food and no water was given and he shivered with the constant cold. He sometimes heard sounds reaching him from outside, laughter and music of which he had no part. One night he heard what sounded like fighting and his heart froze. What if the camp would fall, leaving none but him alive? Desperately, he struggled against the chains, sobbing as the hard steel bit his wrists and he remained bound. Suddenly the door was flung open as they came for him, three elves he did not know, and the stranger that had visited his cell. Without care for his injuries, they dragged him and threw him down next to fallen bodies.
"This is what your brothers did!" one of them hissed. "Kinslayer! Scum!" A booted foot connected with his ribs and he bit back a whimper.
A hand wrapped itself in his hair, bending his head backwards until his neck felt like it would snap under the pressure.
"Do you wish to join them? Shall we spill your blood to pay for theirs?"
A shiver ran through the ground as the earth shifted and the volcanic fire flared through the night. Pain coursed through Erestor's mind, despair and emptiness. The sea boiled and great waves swept over the shores. Erestor screamed as he felt the fire consume him, felt the water rushing through his lungs.
Slowly the trembling of the earth and the high waves calmed.
He was no longer held; the elves that had surrounded him had backed away. He could see panic and fear in their eyes, but he did not care. Tears streamed down his face as his body shuddered from the memories of pain and his soul ached with emptiness.
"They are gone," Erestor whispered, stunned. "The Silmarils are no more; they have been swallowed by the earth and sunken into the sea." His black eyes glistened with tears. "My brother is dead."
The stranger hissed and pulled his dagger as he advanced on Erestor. "You lie. The last light of the Trees cannot be gone!"
"What in the name of all the Valar is this?!" The new voice was hard. "Since when do we treat our own kindred in such a way?"
"My King." The elves around Erestor bowed their heads.
"I believe I asked a question. And I do
expect an answer!"
The elves shifted around him, moving until the green eyed elf stood alone. "He is Fëanor’s son!"
"Was he caught when the Silmarils were stolen, as our kin was slain?" The voice of the King softened slightly.
"No, my King. We caught him four days ago. He came with the Peredhil twins - doubtlessly he int..."
"Four _days_? Are you then no better than Fëanor himself?!" The voice was furious.
Vaguely Erestor noticed someone kneeling in front of him. Gentle fingers tilted his head until he looked into blue eyes filled with concern. Erestor tried to shy away from the touch - he was already hurting so much - but the soft grip held him in place.
"Peace, little one," the warm baritone of the King said. "I will not hurt you."
The days and weeks passed as Erestor healed; dimly, he could feel the pain and emotional distress of the Peredhil twins, but was unable to help them. Soft voices and gentle hands surrounded him, and he was aware of leaving the soft bed as they travelled somewhere by horseback and by ship. Through it all, a soothing baritone calmed him and soft blue eyes guarded his rest. He felt safe.
Months had passed before he was fully aware of his surroundings; the room was large and bright and the sun shone in through the open window.
"The healers tell me that despite their healing your scars refuse to fade. Apart from that, you should be quite hale by now." The friendly voice of the King startled him.
"Sire," he said, as he tangled himself in the sheets trying to get up.
The King laughed and pushed him back towards the pillows. "Ereinion, please. I hope we will be friends, Erestor Fëanorion."
He paled at the name and closed his eyes.
Ereinion frowned. "I am sorry, I did not realize the name caused you pain. I meant no offence."
"None taken," Erestor whispered. "I…"
Ereinion shook his head and gently caressed the raven hair. "I need no explanations," he said calmly. "Although I hope that one day, pen-vain, you will trust me enough to tell me what pains you." He gave Erestor a small smile as he got up from the bed and left the room.
The King had hardly left when the door burst open and Erestor found his arms filled with a sobbing Peredhel.
"I was scared we would lose you, Erestor," Elrond said once his tears had calmed somewhat. "I could not bear it if I was to lose you too."
Erestor forced Elrond to meet his eyes. "What do you mean, lose me too?" he whispered, feeling the panic rise in him. "Who else did you lose?"
"Elros is gone."
"What do you mean gone?!" He could hear the edge in his own voice.
Elrond cried as he told Erestor of the choice they had been given and how Elros chose to live as a man. Erestor’s soul ached as he realized that he had failed their trust; in his heart he knew that it was the argument between Maedhros and Elros that had forced the choice. He had lost them both, his brother and a child he had loved as his own.
As the centuries passed, he once again found himself in the role of the advisor and tutor to Elrond, and Ereinion often sought him out for counsel. A deep friendship grew between the three elves and for the first time in his life he felt at peace. Many were the evenings when Erestor and Ereinion sat talking until the fire had burned down.
He looked up as he realized that Ereinion had been quiet for a long time. To his surprise, the King stood in front of him, his expression thoughtful as he looked at Erestor.
"Ereinion?" Erestor said as he reached out and touched the strong arm. "Are you well?"
A strange look passed over Ereinion’s face. "Yes," he whispered before he gently pressed his lips against Erestor’s.
Erestor gasped and shied backwards towards the wall, as the stared at his friend. "What are you doing?"
Ereinion’s eyes narrowed slightly. "I was kissing you," he said. "Although I must admit that I had hoped for a different reaction. Erestor, surely you know by now that I love you!"
Erestor paled and reached out a hand, supporting himself against the wall as he continued to stare at the other.
"Apparently you did not." Ereinion’s voice was controlled. "Tell me, Erestor, do you love another?"
Numbly Erestor shook his head.
Ereinion smiled slightly, the tense expression on his face fading. "In that case I will keep to the hope that I will one day make you love me. Will you allow me to kiss you again Erestor? I would not ask for more than you could give me."
For a long time Erestor looked at him, as he tried to analyse this development between them. Finally, he nodded. "I think…I think that I may like that."
Ereinion smiled and walked closer, brushing his lips against Erestor’s. "Give us time," he whispered. "I will wait for you."
Yet more centuries passed, as the elves finally spent their lives in peace. Countless times over the years that passed did Erestor and Ereinion come back to the night of the first kiss. Erestor pleaded that Ereinion should give up on him, and Ereinion always declined.
Only those arguments cast a shadow over Erestor’s life, as he accused himself for causing his friend pain; Ereinion deserved better than to waste his life waiting for such a tormented excuse for an elf as himself. And still, as the centuries passed, they continued to spend long evenings together, talking and laughing. Many were the sweet kisses that Ereinion gave him, never more than kisses and never less, Erestor never returned them. More than a millennium and a half had passed since they had first met and their friendship had started.
"I am one of the oldest of the Noldor in Arda, by now I may even be the oldest," he said one evening, his voice low. "I was born under the light of the Trees, to a mother who did not want me."
Ereinion’s eyes widened as Erestor began to speak, for the first time opening his past. Erestor talked for a long time; midnight came and passed before the tale was finished.
Ereinion’s eyes were filled with tears when Erestor at long last fell quiet. "Oh, Erestor," he whispered.
Erestor gently touched his fingers to Ereinion’s lips and shook his head. "I needed to tell you this," he said quietly. "And now I need to decide what I see in my future." Erestor bent forwards and caught Ereinion’s lips with his own, lightly touching his tongue against them until the mouth beneath his opened. Finally Erestor withdrew. "I will be back at dawn," he said as he left the room.
He walked down to the shore where the dark waves dragged at his robes. His mind was in turmoil. Could he take this chance of happiness? Did he deserve peace? Maybe the Valar had forgiven him. He truly did not know. Confusion soared through his being, pain and hope battling for dominance. He looked at Eärendil and the Silmaril as they quietly sailed across the sky, and his eyes burned with tears as he remembered the boy and the fall of Gondolin.
"I have failed so many of you," he whispered to the darkness. "How can I ever be forgiven such failures?"
He thought of Ereinion with his warm smile and blue eyes, of patience and friendship and of sweet kisses, and he cried. Was what he felt love? Was this feeling of security and comfort what the minstrels sang about? How would could someone who had never known love, learn to love? He looked inside himself and wondered if he could love, if there was a heart inside the ice of his being, and found that he did not know the answer.
He closed his eyes and saw the blood, the ice and the burning city; he felt his sword take the life of a brother and he saw the faces of the dead. How could he be forgiven? How could he have the right to love?
Torn feelings rushed through him and he cried bitterly for all that had been, for long years of emptiness and for a future alone. He cried for the love that was within his grasp and yet not within his right to accept.
"Help me!" he screamed at the stars, the Valar. "Give me some sort of sign that you have forgiven me!" But none came. He sank to his knees in the cold water. "Tell me what to do," he whispered.
Night started to fade and he got up. The soaked robes were heavy. He still did not know what the right course would be, but he longed for companionship. Quietly, he evaded the guards and went to his rooms, changing his clothes and running the brush though windswept hair as he decided. He wanted love and strong arms and sweet kisses; he was tired of being alone.
As the first light of dawn came, he looked out the window; his heart froze as he saw the white ship cutting through the dark waters, a glint of gold shining at its prow. He had asked for sign and the Valar had answered.
He went down to the Havens with a heavy heart. He was not forgiven; there would be no forgiveness for a slayer of kin, a Son of Fëanor. He kept his face calm as he reached the harbour.
"Send for the King and the Herald," he told a sentry. "The Valar have sent us a gift." He heard the sentry leave, running to fulfil his orders.
Erestor stood on the dock, watching the ship draw closer. His breath hitched when his eyes suddenly made out the figure at the prow. The wind played with the golden tresses and he already knew the smile that would shine in the sapphire eyes.
Behind him he could hear the other elves appear, but he did not turn.
"Erestor?" He heard the tenderness, the hope in Ereinion’s voice and he closed his eyes in pain. Ereinion had always deserved better. Slowly he opened his eyes and turned, keeping his turbulent feelings tightly reined as he schooled all emotion out of his face before meeting the eyes of his King.
"The Valar have returned a mighty warrior to join your court, Sire," he said coolly, distantly.
He saw Ereinion step closer to him, blue eyes searching his face for answers that were not there, and the hurt in his eyes broke Erestor’s heart.
"Erestor?" Ereinion’s voice was pleading, as understanding and betrayal grew in his eyes. "I do not want him. He is not welcome at my court."
Erestor inclined his head, taking great care to hide his pain. "As you wish, Sire. I am sure he will be a valuable addition to Lord Elrond’s household."
He turned back towards the ship which had now arrived. The golden elf moved gracefully towards him, more beautiful that ever as the light of his life-force shone strong. Erestor straightened; he would not fail this time. No matter what changes he saw in the warrior, one thing remained the same - he was still a child saved from the deaths at Alqualondë.
"Welcome, Glorfindel of Gondolin," he said calmly as he looked into the sapphire eyes.
Glorfindel felt queasy as the spell broke too suddenly; the images were ripped away from his mind with surprising speed. Confused, he looked at Erestor to see what had prompted the abrupt end and gasped as the other elf fell. Throwing himself from the edge of the water where he had been sitting he reached Erestor in time to ease his fall, sinking down on the ground beside him.
"Erestor?" Glorfindel stroked the raven hair away from the pale face. The black eyes were empty and unconscious. "Erestor!"
The sound of his voice seemed to wake the others from the spell, eyes blinking as they tried to regain focus on their surroundings. Elrond gasped at the sight of the unconscious elf in Glorfindel’s arms and quickly knelt down beside them, running quick hands over the limp body.
"His fading has quickened," he said finally. "All the signs are now strong, the cooling of his skin, the fading light of his soul. I doubt he would be able to reach the havens any longer. Time is running out."
Glorfindel closed his eyes. "How can you help him?"
Elrond shook his head. "I cannot. I do not know how. I will read through whatever information I have on fading, but I know of no other cure than to sail West."
"So he is truly dying this time." Glorfindel’s voice was flat. "Because you forced him to relive his life, he will die!"
The grey eyes filled with pain. "I am sorry, Glorfindel, " he whispered. "But the healer in me tells me that this needs to be done. It is the only thing I can do that may help."
"You cannot make him continue this!"
"He is right." The deep voice was weak.
Glorfindel lowered his eyes to Erestor. "This is killing you my friend," he whispered insistently. "Do not do this."
Erestor smiled tiredly. "It has been killing me for a long time," he admitted. "This way you will all know why."
Quietly, Galadriel and Celeborn left the garden, their slender fingers entwined. Elrond firmly turned his sons towards the house and gave them a nudge, glaring at them as they opened their mouths to complain. The twins fell quiet and reluctantly walked towards the house as Elrond followed, leaving Erestor and Glorfindel alone in the gardens that Celebrían had once created for love.
Glorfindel was not sure how long he had sat there, looking into the dark eyes, before he became aware of Erestor trying to sit up.
"Can you stand?"
Erestor shook his head. "Not unaided, I think," he admitted.
Carefully, Glorfindel got up and lifted Erestor to his feet, supporting the other elf, who was leaning heavily against him. Slowly, they walked to Erestor's chambers in silence, step by careful step, Glorfindel was carrying most of Erestor’s weight as the other seemed to have no strength of his own. At long last, they reached the bedchamber and Erestor all but collapsed on the bed.
"Do you need anything?"
Erestor shook his head. "No, thank you," he said.
Glorfindel rose to leave, and realised to his surprise that Erestor seemed reluctant to let go of him. "If you are feeling lonely, send for your lover!" he snapped, as jealousy once again flared.
Erestor paled and closed his eyes. "I am sorry," he said, his voice dull, dead.
Glorfindel frowned at the reaction, as images flashed through his memory. He remembered Elrond spending endless nights at countless sickbeds, the memory of Erestor emotionally broken, loneliness and desperation staring out of the black eyes. Glorfindel felt sick as he cursed himself for jumping to conclusions.
"You and Elrond," he said with certainty, keeping his eyes fixed on Erestor, "were never lovers."
The black eyes remained closed.
Glorfindel sank down on the side of the bed and gently ran his hand over the black hair. "Look at me," he said softly.
Reluctantly the black eyes opened.
"Do you wish me to stay?"
Erestor was quiet for a long time, and Glorfindel was convinced that his offer would be turned away; he deserved no better.
"Please," Erestor finally whispered as the black eyes fell away, avoiding Glorfindel's.
Glorfindel smiled slightly and lowered himself to the bed beside Erestor, wrapping strong arms around him. Gradually Erestor's tense body relaxed, and Glorfindel was convinced that sleep had finally claimed the tired elf as he himself felt his mind starting to drift towards sleep.
"I am so sorry that I violated you." The whisper was almost inaudible.
Glorfindel swallowed back the emotions welling up in him, forcing his voice to remain calm. "You did not," he mumbled into the midnight tresses as he pulled Erestor closer. "You could not, for I would be happy for whatever touch you gave me. Now sleep."