Title: Sweetness and Gall

Author: Maggie Honeybite

E-mail: maggiehoneybite@hotmail.com

Pairings: Elrond/Melpomaen, Glorfindel/Erestor, Elrond/Gil-galad implied, Elrond/Glorfindel implied

Rating: NC-17 eventually

Warning: m/m slash, mild BDSM in later chapters

Beta: Manon

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, nor do I make any profit from them. Any writing I do is done with a deep respect for Tolkien and out of an abiding love for his Elves.

Feedback: Would make my day

Notes: FYI, this story takes place around TA 1000.

Acknowledgments: A big thank you to all those who sent feedback.  Thanks to my beta, Manon, for her helpful comments; thanks to Kharessa for the encouragement; and thanks to AC for inspiration, help with research and constructive criticism. :)

 

Chapter 1:

 

Elrond Half-elven sighed and rested his hands on the railing surrounding the wide balcony on which he stood, his keen Elven eyes following his father’s ship’s path across the sky.  The light of Eärendil shone down on Middle Earth and its inhabitants, bringing hope and comfort to those in need of solace, his son among them.  The peace and quiet of the night and the brilliant light of the stars always gladdened Elrond’s heart, even when it was most heavy, somehow managing to make the Lord of Imladris feel small and important at the same time; a modest part of a meaningful whole.  He had his place in the grand scheme of things, and the knowledge of this significant fact made his burdens a little easier to bear. 

 

He said a silent prayer to Elbereth in thanks for the blessings he had been granted, determined not to dwell on those that had been denied him, then turned and reached out with his hand for a flaky honey pastry temptingly displayed on a silver plate set upon a narrow table by the wall.  The sound of hesitant footsteps halted his hand’s progress and Elrond turned towards the open doorway, curious about the unexpected intruder in the library beyond.  The quiet footsteps ceased, replaced by the sound of someone sliding a book from a high shelf, then commenced again as the unanticipated visitor made his stealthy way towards the balcony on which the Half-elven stood.  A few seconds later Elrond’s puzzled eyes were met with the sight of a young, dark-haired Elf, already deeply engrossed in the volume he held, even though his feet had not yet carried him to his intended destination.

 

"Melpomaen?"  

 

The young Elf nearly dropped his book in surprise, his wide eyes focusing on Elrond’s kind face in apparent panic as he quickly stammered his apologies.  "My Lord!  I’m so sorry; I did not know you were here!  Forgive me for disturbing your peace."

 

"You have done no such thing." Elrond smiled at the young one, determined to put him at ease.  "It brings me great joy to find that there are those in the Last Homely House who so love books that they would forego their rest to spend the deepest hours of the night in the company of the written word."  He gestured for the Elf to come closer.  "I would be glad if you agreed to share my company as well, since we both seem to share a taste for late night reading."

 

Melpomaen wavered, seemingly wanting to accept the Elven Lord’s invitation, yet too awed by the authority of the ancient one before him.  He took a few deep breaths, the answer apparently unwilling to come from his tightened throat.

 

"Pastry?" Elrond held the silver plate out towards the young scribe, enticing him with the appetizingly arrayed morsels coated in sweet honey.

 

That seemed to decide the dark-haired Elf, for he gave a somewhat more relaxed smile and took his first timid step towards the Lord of the valley.

 

"Mind the book..." Elrond managed to call out in warning, but Melpomaen had already carefully laid aside the volume he had cradled, ensuring it was safely out of harm’s way.

 

"I wouldn’t dream of defiling a precious tome such as this with my sticky fingers," the young Elf shyly offered, as his hand reached out for the delicacies on the silver plate before him.

 

"You have a great respect for books," Elrond noted appreciatively.  "You’re a great deal more careful with them than my sons were at your age.  I seem to remember a rather unfortunate incident involving a volume of Dwarvish tales and a pot of raspberry jam..." The Half-elven raised his eyes to the heavens and smiled indulgently, his tolerance owing to the perspective of a few hundred years.

 

Melpomaen looked horrified.  "Raspberry jam?!  But the books in your precious collection are so rare and beautiful!  They should be treated with the utmost care and attention!"

 

"Spoken like a true scribe and lover of lore." The Lord of Imladris gave another pleased look to the young Elf before him, who fairly glowed under the attention.  "It seems you have chosen the right occupation, Melpomaen.  With this much dedication to your craft, you are sure to excel."

 

Melpomaen blushed and nodded happily.  "Yes, I hold much love for what I do.  And I’m so pleased to be here in Imladris; Edhellond didn’t have such... treasures as these." His eyes lovingly scanned the heavy bookshelves lining the walls of the spacious library, his fingers still gingerly holding the remnants of his pastry.

 

"You know you are welcome to use this library whenever you wish." Elrond’s tone was inviting, his grey eyes keenly assessing the shy Elf and finding him worthy.  "Any time of day or night."

 

"I wouldn’t want to intrude..." Melpomaen sounded unsure, yet quite clearly tempted by Elrond’s offer.

 

"You will not intrude, I can assure you of that."  The Half-elven’s voice was heartfelt and sincere.  "I greatly pleases me that you find such delight in my library’s collection.  Not all do, you know."

 

"Your sons... they do not care for books?" Melpomaen timidly ventured, looking up at Elrond with curious, wide eyes.

 

"Oh, they do now, but when they were younger..." Elrond gave an exasperated sigh.  "Elrohir always did like books, maybe a little too much sometimes; hence the raspberry jam.  It was Elladan who often had to be chased into the library with a stick... or the threat that I would get Glorfindel." The Lord of the valley laughed quietly and offered his companion another pastry, which the young Elf eagerly took.  "My oldest son always did prefer his sword and horse to quill and parchment."

 

"*I* always preferred my quill and parchment to sword and horse," joked Melpomaen with a self-deprecating smile. "That’s probably why I’m such a terrible swordsman, and as for horses..." He cringed.  "They do not care for my company."

 

"Your skills with the quill, on the other hand, are quite commendable, Melpomaen." Elrond complimented the dark-haired scribe, feeling a secret thrill at how his kind words raised a blush to the young one’s cheeks.  "Erestor has shown me some of your work; you write a very fine hand."

 

The object of Elrond’s praise coloured with delight and timidly dropped his eyes to the floor.  "Thank you, my Lord."

 

And that was when Elrond felt it; that long-forgotten quiver in his stomach, the desire to reach out and stroke a delicate cheek and see those curious eyes gaze into his own, the sudden urge to speak more honeyed words and be rewarded with a hesitant, beautiful smile.  Although he hadn’t felt such stirrings in centuries, he recognized their symptoms at once, for it felt as if his heart had suddenly grown wings and begun its first, uncertain flutters in his chest.  «He is a child!» Elrond quickly chastised himself, but to no avail.  For the heart has its own reasons and will not listen to the well-meaning arguments of logic.

 

"How do you like it here in Imladris?" Elrond quickly asked, determined to dismiss from his mind the curious and disturbing feelings that had just made his heart quake and his body respond in kind.

 

"I like it quite well, thank you my Lord," the youngster eagerly replied, brushing a stray piece of pastry from the corner of his shapely mouth.  The Lord of Imladris could only stare, mesmerized, as the young scribe quickly flicked the tip of an enticing, pink tongue and removed the offending trail of honey from his lower lip.

 

"Do you... miss home?" Elrond continued, half-ashamed at his body’s unexpected response to the tender charms of the younger Elf.  He was an ancient Elf Lord who had experienced and endured much over the course of his many millennia.  To be suddenly overcome with strange yearnings for one so much younger and so obviously vulnerable was unseemly and... quite out of character for him.  He simply didn’t act thus; he never had. 

 

He had always been drawn to strength; both of body and of spirit, as his long-standing and passionate relationship to his High King could attest.  Gil-galad had been all that and more; strong and unbending, he had borne the heavy mantle of responsibility and destiny with grace and courage few could boast, and Elrond had loved him for it.  His long-dead lover’s tenacity and stoutness of heart had forever marked the Peredhel, and he did not believe that he could ever settle for anything less, for anyone whose star shone less brightly. 

 

There was his wife, of course, but... well, that was another matter altogether.  He had come to the marriage with few illusions, yet with the earnest hope that they could build something lasting, something pure and good.  It had taken him a few centuries to realize that Celebrían simply preferred to remain apart, no matter his good intentions.  Reluctantly, he had resigned himself to his loneliness, knowing no one could ever rival Gil-galad’s hold over his heart and, thus far, no one had.  So why did he now feel that strange yet all-too-familiar heat rise to his cheeks, and why did his heart beat faster when his eyes met Melpomaen’s? 

 

"I have felt more at home here in Imladris over the past few months than I ever did back in Edhellond." Melpomaen’s voice was tinged with bitterness and Elrond suddenly felt a piece of the puzzle slide into place.  The scribe may have been young and not had the appearance of a warrior, but there was strength in him, to be sure.  The young one’s eyes held the steeled resolve Elrond had come to recognize in those whom life had dealt a hard blow.  Melpomaen may have been young, but he was no child.

 

"Do you miss nothing of it?" Elrond prodded further, needing to know more.

 

"I... miss the rivers.  And the sea." Melpomaen’s thoughts turned inward, his eyes looking into the night but not seeing. "And the salty air." He looked up at the Elven Lord and smiled.  "But not the people."

 

"Not your family?"

 

"My parents were killed when I was only a baby, and the people who raised me... they were not my family." His mouth turned grim again.

 

"I’m sorry to hear that, Melpomaen." Elrond’s voice was full of sympathy. "I know too well what it is to lose your parents at a young age."

 

"I know, my Lord." Now it was Melpomaen who gave the older Elf a look filled with sympathy. "But your father watches over you still." The young elf raised his dark eyes to the stars.

 

"Aye, and it comforts me greatly to watch his ship sail across the sky." Elrond smiled. "I sometimes come here just before the dawn to track its progress.  It makes me feel less... alone." He glanced at the younger Elf, his gaze unguarded, and was met with a look of genuine concern and understanding.  «Aiya, what am I doing?» Elrond suddenly came to his senses.  «I am speaking of matters far too personal to discuss with someone of his age and station.» 

 

"What about your family here, my Lord?" Melpomaen’s voice was timid, but his eyes betrayed a far greater courage.  "Your children?  Your... wife?"

 

Elrond could have stopped the conversation right there; the young scribe was, after all, asking about matters that should not have been his concern.  But the look on Melpomaen’s face and the affinity Elrond felt between them, strengthened by the intimacy of the silence in the pre-dawn darkness, made him answer without hesitation.

 

"My wife spends most of her time in Lórien.  She prefers it there." The Lord of Imladris gave his young companion a frank look, which communicated much more than words could hope to do.  "My daughter is with her, and my sons... travel a lot.  They are away just now."

 

"If I called Imladris my home, I would not want to leave its beauty for all the charms of Middle Earth."  Melpomaen stared at the stone tiles beneath his feet, but Elrond could tell from the trembling in his voice that the sentiments he had just expressed were ones he held most dear.

 

"But you *do* call Imladris your home, Melpomaen." Elrond gently reminded the younger Elf.  "It is your home now, even if it wasn’t before."

 

"Yes..." The young scribe’s face brightened visibly. "Yes, I guess it is."  He looked at Elrond with eyes that gleamed with an inner light that made the Half-elven’s lonely flesh tingle once again.  "Thank you for speaking with me.  You were most kind to make me feel welcome." He turned as if to leave.  "I will not disturb your private moments any longer."

 

"Don’t forget your book." Elrond held out the leather-bound volume to his retreating companion.  "It’s what you came in here for in the first place." He gave the young scribe an amused smile.

 

"Oh, I couldn’t take it out of the library, it belongs here..."

 

"I’m sure it will be quite safe with one who loves books as much as you." Elrond smiled again.

 

The Lord of Imladris watched Melpomaen take the weighty tome, give a quick bow, then soundlessly slip out of the room.  He closed his eyes and sighed, trying hard to ignore the fire the younger Elf had kindled in his heart.

 

Chapter 2:

 

Melpomaen woke early to the feeling of a light breeze coming through his window.  Still unused to his surroundings, and not quite at home in his wide, high bed, he stumbled awkwardly before painfully landing on the cold, hard floor.  The day was definitely not off to a good start, he thought stoically as he picked himself up and rubbed his sore ankle.  Quickly dressing in the long, flowing robes customarily worn in Imladris, he nearly fell again as his foot accidentally stepped on the hem of his outer garment.  He was finding these long robes to be a real nuisance, and would have much rather worn the loose tunics and casual leggings he was used to, but his position as apprentice scribe and advisor in Elrond's household, and respect for the customs of his new home, obliged him to adopt the habitual dress of the valley Elves.  He would get used to it in time, he thought.  It was a very small price to pay for the privilege of working and living in the Last Homely House.  He was quite fortunate to have been accepted into Elrond's service, and would do his best to acquit himself admirably of his duties.

 

His thoughts inevitably turning to his work, Melpomaen realized with dread that today was a day of rest.  There would be no Elves toiling in the vast libraries of Imladris today – especially not on as fine a morning as this.  Most would be outside with their families and friends, enjoying the sunshine, strolling through the gardens or perhaps taking a swim in the Bruinen.  Unfortunately, unlike the vast majority of the valley Elves, Melpomaen found holidays to be awkward at best.  He had no family and had not been around Imladris long enough to make any friends.  Not that he found making friends easy at the best of times; his introverted, timid nature made it difficult for him to open up to others, and severely impaired his ability to initiate conversations.  «A fine advisor I will make...» thought Melpomaen disparagingly, as he carefully closed the door to his chambers.  He wished he had the confidence of someone like Lord Glorfindel, who always seemed to be laughing or talking loudly, ever at ease and in his element. 

 

The young Elf sighed and directed his steps towards the large dining room.  It was about time for breakfast; he would have a bite to eat and then head to the library.  He had left some work unfinished the previous evening, and just because he wasn't required to work today didn't mean he couldn't dedicate a few hours to copying his scrolls.  If he chose to spend his day of rest hunched over his writing desk, it was his choice.  It was where he felt most comfortable anyway.

 

The dining room, with its large windows overlooking the extensive gardens, was not crowded.  Most of the long tables were empty, and only a few small groups of Elves sat eating and talking in hushed tones.  Melpomaen piled some wild blueberries and honey pastry on his plate – he had to admit, these Imladris Elves certainly did know how to bake – and was just about to sit in a corner by the window when a cheerful voice reached his ears.

 

"Eating alone?"

 

Melpomaen looked up and was somewhat surprised to see an unknown, golden-haired Elf smiling at him.  He looked around to make sure that the stranger wasn't addressing someone behind him, but no, the Elf seemed to be speaking to him.

 

"Melpomaen, isn't it?  I've seen you around, but I don't think we've had a chance to meet yet.  I'm Caegaran.  Have a seat, breakfast always tastes better in pleasant company."  The Elf's voice had a light, affable tone to it, and Melpomaen found himself relaxing.  He moved closer and sat down.

 

 "I see you've discovered Imladris' famous honey pastry.  I can't get enough of the stuff myself."  Caegaran's blue eyes twinkled merrily as he gave Melpomaen a friendly wink.  "Don't get much of that when we're out on patrol.  Have to make do with lembas."

 

"You're on the border patrol then?"  Melpomaen finally managed to say. 

 

"Yes, for about two centuries now.  I work under Lord Glorfindel mostly, though I do lead the patrol myself from time to time.  Especially in these times; we patrol more frequently since the Orc attacks have intensified, so I get a bit more responsibility.  At least something good comes out of it all, I say."  He grinned at Melpomaen.

 

"Certainly..." was the cleverest response Melpomaen could think of, and he silently cursed himself for his timidity.  Since coming to Imladris, this was the first conversation he'd had that did not revolve around his official duties.  Well... save for that strange late night encounter with Lord Elrond on the library balcony, but that certainly didn't count.  After all, the Lord of the valley could do as he pleased in his realm, and if it amused him to speak to young Elves in his employ, it was his prerogative.  Melpomaen certainly didn't think that their tête-à-tête – surprisingly candid though it was – could ever blossom into a real friendship.  But this – this strange Elf chatting him up over breakfast – now this had potential.  He took a deep breath and resolved to be as witty as Glorfindel.

 

"Do you enjoy the border patrol?"  All right, so it wasn't the most insightful of questions, but at least it was a start. 

 

"For the most part."  Caegaran nodded thoughtfully.  "Some days it's pretty dull, but the other day, for instance, just as we were crossing the river..."

 

His companion's tone of voice and body language signalling the beginning of a lengthy tale, Melpomaen sat back and leisurely sampled the blueberries and honey pastry on his plate.  Lapsing into his old habit of surreptitious observation, he discreetly let his eyes wander over the Elf sitting across the table. 

 

Caegaran – just now expressively gesticulating with his fork – was tall for an Elf, with golden hair and clear blue eyes.  His skin had a golden tint to it, much unlike Melpomaen's own, which was pale and delicate.  He seemed a good-natured fellow, and Melpomaen found himself smiling at the thought that, at last, he knew someone in the Last Homely House with whom he could share a meal.  Perhaps this day of rest wouldn't be such a chore after all.  Maybe they could walk down to the river or through the gardens or...

 

"... and it was a good two weeks before I could hold a bow again, let alone fire an arrow," Caegaran was saying.  "It was Lord Elrond's healing abilities that saved my arm, naught else, of that I am sure."  His eyes suddenly rested on Melpomaen with deep concentration.  The young Elf found himself growing uncomfortable.

 

"Do you work with Lord Elrond much, Melpomaen, as part of your duties?"  Caegaran's eyes had focused on Melpomaen's own with such intensity that the dark-haired Elf found he had to will himself not to look away.

 

"From time to time... I'm apprenticed as one of his scribes and advisors, only the most junior of advisors mind you... I've worked with him in the library sometimes, and I do attend his council..." Melpomaen felt a chill travel down his spine as Caegaran's eyes turned almost predatory.

 

The border guard's voice had almost a mocking tone to it when he next spoke.  "Have you served Lord Elrond yet, Melpomaen?"

 

"Served him?  Why, I serve him every day; I copy scrolls and look after library books..."

 

"No, I meant *served* him..." Caegaran's smirk was nothing short of malicious.  "In his bed..."

 

Melpomaen felt like the bottom had dropped out of his stomach.  He heard a ringing in his ears as he stared at the other Elf in disbelief.  "Wh... what?"  This was madness, the other Elf couldn't possibly be serious, could he?  He swallowed nervously and glanced at Caegaran, hoping to catch a glimpse of the amiable, laughing fellow he'd been talking to just moments ago.  That Elf, it seemed, was no longer there.  In his place sat an evil looking creature who seemed to delight in Melpomaen's discomfort.

 

"Or didn't you know?"  Caegaran continued, undeterred.  "Lord Elrond expects his advisors to serve him in every possible way."  He smirked.  "And I hear he's got quite the imagination, so I hope you've got an adventurous streak..."

 

"But that can't possibly be true, I mean, Lord Elrond is noble and serious, he wouldn't..." Melpomaen was grasping at straws.  The thought that the kind and wise Elf he had talked to in the library just a few nights before, and whom he had instinctively trusted and admired, would harbour these secret perversions was appalling.  Still, he had trouble disputing this horrible information when the source of that information was staring at him with such a knowing look in his eyes.  Caegaran seemed so sure of what he was saying and *had* been on the border patrol for two centuries, whereas Melpomaen had only been in Imladris for such a short time...  Maybe there were things no one had told him, things he was only meant to learn later...  "Lord Elrond wouldn't..."

 

"Wouldn't he?"  Caegaran's lip curled in a sneer.  "I beg to differ, young one.  He would.  Why, even Lord Glorfindel shares his bed and serves him most intimately.  I saw them myself."

 

"You did?!"

 

"Aye.  I was walking in the corridor late one evening and Lord Elrond's door was slightly open.  So I looked.  And there was Lord Glorfindel on his knees in front of Lord Elrond, performing... well, let's just say that his performance must have been more than satisfactory, for Lord Elrond was quite vocal in expressing his appreciation."  Caegaran smirked.  "So if an ancient Elf Lord like Lord Glorfindel isn't above looking after the... personal needs of our Lord, I wouldn't think such service to be beneath you."

 

"But I.."

 

"I wouldn't worry too much, Melpomaen.  I hear Lord Elrond is a skilled and inventive lover.  I would think you'd rather enjoy the experience when he turns his attention to you... whatever he has in mind for you.  And don't think I haven't noticed the way he looks at you."

 

This was almost more than Melpomaen could bear.  He felt his head start to spin and blood rise to his cheeks.  "The way he looks at me?"

 

"The way he stares at you at mealtimes or when you walk by, his eyes lingering on your body, appraising your every line and curve.  Haven't you noticed?"

 

"No..." Melpomaen's voice was almost a squeak.

 

"I wouldn't be surprised if he summoned you to his chambers before long."  Caegaran gave Melpomaen a sly, significant look.  "And then... I hope those long fingers of yours are skilled in more than just calligraphy..."

 

Melpomaen was beyond trying to formulate a reply.  He stood up suddenly, knocking over his chair in the process, and bolted from the room.

 

****

 

Glorfindel sighed with pleasure and lifted his face up to the sun.  He took a deep breath, luxuriating in the sweet scent of the air, and let the golden rays warm him to the core.  He so enjoyed these relaxing strolls in Elrond's private gardens... «I must remember to do this more often,» he thought to himself.  An afternoon's rest in this peaceful green oasis did him so much good!  He always came back to his duties refreshed, rejuvenated and calm.  He turned a corner, walking past an elegant statue of the Lady Elbereth that Elrond had recently commissioned and which he found to be quite fetching, and took a seat on a low bench, party hidden by the shrubbery.  No one would find him here.  He smiled.  Yes, that's exactly why he liked these gardens so much; he could lose himself here for hours and not deal with his duties as Elrond's seneschal.  It was a rare luxury; one which he allowed himself only seldom and one which, he knew, Elrond did not begrudge him.  Glorfindel leaned back against the bench, looking around him at the empty gardens, so peaceful, so quiet, so...

 

What was that?  Glorfindel sat up, wondering if his eyes were playing tricks on him.  But no, what he was seeing seemed real enough.  One of the young apprentice scribes, Melpomaen, was practically galloping up the path, looking as if a troop of Orcs was after him.  Melpomaen's robes were hiked up not to impede his run and his hair was in a mess about his head.  One of his arms was flailing about wildly.

 

"Lord Glorfindel!"  Melpomaen's voice held a distinct note of desperation.  "Lord Glorfindel, please, I must speak with you!"

 

Glorfindel sighed, and reluctantly stood up from the bench.  His afternoon of leisure would have to wait.  The young Elf seemed truly distraught; whatever had upset him would have to be dealt with and dealt with immediately.  Ah, well, Elrond's private gardens weren't going anywhere; he'd just have to come back another time.  Glorfindel took a deep breath and schooled his features in a look of concern and understanding.

 

"What is it Melpomaen?  What's wrong?  Are you hurt?"  Judging by the way the young scribe was acting, whatever was ailing him was pretty serious.  Glorfindel did not know Melpomaen very well, but he knew him well enough to see that his panicked demeanour was severely out of character.  Melpomaen was usually controlled and reserved, and seemed reluctant to draw attention to himself.  If anything, he was timid and seemed to have a hard time speaking to older Elves like Glorfindel unless his job absolutely required it.  And here he was now, making a spectacle of himself in Elrond's private garden, asking, nay, insisting to speak to Glorfindel during the Elda's cherished afternoon off.  Something was definitely wrong.

 

"Come here and sit down, Melpomaen."  Glorfindel tried to sound soothing.  "It can't be as bad as all that, now."

 

"I'm afraid it is..." Melpomaen sounded crushed.  Glorfindel noticed with alarm that the young Elf was close to tears, his face flushed and his slender frame trembling.

 

Glorfindel sat back down on the stone bench and pulled Melpomaen down beside him.  He brushed a stray lock of dark hair out of the younger Elf's eyes and gave him an encouraging smile.  "Well?  What sort of calamity has brought you here in such a state?  You said you wanted to speak with me."

 

The young Elf took a deep breath.  "Is it true what they say... what they say about..." Melpomaen's voice was shaking, yet he ploughed on with the resolve of someone determined to unearth the truth or go to his doom. 

 

"About what?"

 

"About... Lord Elrond?"  Melpomaen's eyes, fixed firmly on the ground until this point, glanced up at Glorfindel's face, wide and frightened.  He looked so young, Glorfindel thought, so young despite the formal robes he was wearing, so young despite the serious manner he had tried to adopt all those times the Elda had seen him in Elrond's council.

 

"What about Elrond?"  Glorfindel's voice, though kind, could not help betraying a note of curiosity.

 

"That he... that he... expects his advisors to..." Melpomaen lowered his eyes again and his voice dropped to a mere whisper.  "To pleasure him... in bed?"

 

Glorfindel's sky-blue eyes widened as he stared at Melpomaen in disbelief.  It was usually difficult to rattle Glorfindel; after countless millennia of experience and time spent in Mandos' Halls, he thought he'd seen and heard it all.  But apparently not.  This was something new.

 

"Wherever did you get that idea?" Glorfindel's voice was incredulous.

 

"Caegaran.  He's a guard with the border patrol.  He told me."  Melpomaen sounded a little less shaky.  "Are you saying it's not true?"

 

"What kind of establishment do you think we're running here, Melpomaen?" Glorfindel had broken out into a grin.  "I have no doubt that you have many talents, but I assure you that the only ones that interest Elrond are those you are able to display in the library and in his council."

 

A blush coloured Melpomaen's cheeks.  He glanced up at Glorfindel, relieved yet still not convinced.  "But Caegaran told me that you..."

 

"That I what?"

 

"That you and Lord Elrond were..." Melpomaen let his sentence trail off, his meaning clear.

 

"Ah." Glorfindel paused, finally understanding.  So this was the real reason for all the commotion.  "Tell me, Melpomaen, how old are you?"

 

Melpomaen turned a deeper shade of red and looked at Glorfindel defiantly.  "I'm almost eighty-six."

 

"Pen-neth..." Glorfindel leaned in closer and looked into Melpomaen's eyes kindly.  "May I call you that?  I *am* a good few millennia older than you..."

 

"Yes, my Lord."

 

"Pen-neth, no doubt you've noticed that Elrond is very beautiful.  Even by Elven standards, he is exceptionally fair.  Not to mention wise.  And kind.  And... powerful."  Glorfindel paused, studying Melpomaen's expression.  The young Elf was all eyes, drinking in every word that fell from the Elda's lips.  Glorfindel continued.  "Many are drawn to him, attracted by all those qualities.  But Elrond is a very private person, and he tends to keep people at a distance.  Do you understand?"

 

The blank look in Melpomaen's eyes told Glorfindel that the young scribe did not. "Melpomaen, when people feel rejected, or when they think that their heart's desire is beyond their reach, they sometimes get bitter... and lash out."  Glorfindel could see a glimmer of comprehension in Melpomaen's midnight eyes.  "That... border guard who told you all this nonsense, well, he likely has feelings for Elrond that are not returned and he thought..."

 

"That it might be amusing to hurt me instead."  Melpomaen's voice was steady, if a bit sad.

 

"Yes, that's one way of putting it."  Glorfindel gave Melpomaen one of his famous charming smiles.  "As for Elrond and me, well... we've known each other for a very long time.  We are close friends, Melpomaen.  It's true that our relationship sometimes goes beyond friendship, but that is our own affair.  And I can assure you that whatever activities Elrond and I choose to engage in, whether in the privacy of his chambers or mine, have absolutely nothing to do with my position.  Er, my position as his seneschal, I mean."  Glorfindel flashed Melpomaen a wicked look and the young Elf blushed fiercely once again.

       

"Feel better?"

 

"Yes." Melpomaen's voice was indeed full of relief.

 

"Good.  Now make yourself comfortable and tell me exactly what this border guard told you."

 

 

***

 

Notes:  pen-neth – young one

 

Chapter 3:

 

"Burning the midnight oil again, mellon?"

 

Elrond looked up, startled to see Glorfindel peering at him through the doorway.  He smiled and beckoned his friend to come closer.

 

"No rest for the wicked..." He gave Glorfindel a conspiratorial smile.  "Just finishing up some reports...  Thranduil's recent delegation has brought us news of some pretty serious skirmishes with Orcs in the Greenwood.  Nothing they weren't able to handle, of course, at least according to Thranduil – you know he's too proud to ever admit any sort of weakness – but worrisome nonetheless.  Why, what was on your mind?"  Elrond's voice held the unmistakable tone of fatigue.

 

"Just seeking out your company after a long day."

 

"Had a long day too?"

 

"You could say that.  I had a rather interesting conversation with Melpomaen this afternoon."

 

"Oh?"

 

"Concerning you, I might add."

 

"Really?" Elrond's voice suddenly seemed to have lost some of its fatigue.  "Do make yourself comfortable and tell me more.  I'd like to hear this."  The Lord of Imladris stepped aside and gestured for Glorfindel to move to the fireplace.  With a mischievous smile, the blond sank down into a cushioned armchair.  Elrond sat across from him and motioned with his hand for the Elda to continue his story.

 

Glorfindel needed little encouragement.  He leaned forward and launched into his tale with the relish of someone who loves a good piece of gossip.  "Melpomaen came to me today, rather in a panic.  Apparently he'd had a disturbing conversation with one of the Elves assigned to the border patrol.  This Elf told him..." Glorfindel had a hard time suppressing a snort of laughter.

 

"What?  Don't keep me in suspense, meldir; come now, what?"

 

"He told Melpomaen that, in his role as one of your advisors, he'd be required to serve you in a rather... personal capacity."

 

"Huh??"  Elrond's fair features held an expression of utter disbelief.  "Melpomaen thought I expected him to..."

 

"To bed you, yes."

 

"But..."

 

"Don't worry meldir, I set him straight.  The poor Elf.  You should have seen him, Elrond, he looked so distraught, eyes all wide and frightened, hands twisting his robes – he nearly cried.  It would have been rather a sad sight – if it hadn't been so amusing."  Glorfindel chuckled as he regarded his friend.

 

Elrond still looked rather baffled.  "But why would he..."

 

"Apparently someone told him of the closeness the two of us sometimes share and explained that my reasons for... keeping you happy had to do with my loyalty to you as my liege.  And that Melpomaen, as one of your advisors, would be expected to do the same – out of loyalty to Imladris and a concern for your well-being."  Glorfindel was nearly doubled over with laughter by this time.  He clutched his stomach and gasped for air.  "Forgive me, Elrond, maybe you don't find this as humorous as I do... Oh, but it is funny!  You should have seen the look on his face!"

 

"Was the idea that distasteful to him?"  Elrond's hesitant question stopped Glorfindel's laughter short.

 

"What?"  Glorfindel looked at Elrond, puzzled. 

 

"You said that he looked distraught and that he nearly cried.  All this at the prospect of sharing my bed."  Elrond's voice held a note of discouragement and his eyes carefully avoided the curious gaze of his friend.

 

"Elrond, don't tell me you're actually interested in the Elfling...  Are you?"  Glorfindel was stunned.  "Whoever told him this crazy story also hinted that he'd found favour with you, but... I just assumed it was all part of some joke, some twisted game... No joke, huh?"

 

Elrond twisted one of his braids in his fingers, looking visibly uncomfortable.  "He's... quite fair, Glorfindel."  His eyes hesitantly sought out those of his friend, and then focused once again on the fireplace.  "Not in a manner that's obvious or flashy, but... Melpomaen is lovely in his way...  So tall and slim and dark... He's quiet and timid yet, when he speaks, the advice he gives is sound and the remarks he makes are sharp and witty.  I... like him, Glorfindel.  I think he reminds me of myself in some ways, back in the early days in Gil-galad's court, when I felt so out of my element and thought all eyes were on me and judging me.  He looks uncertain, but there's much beneath that shy exterior."  Elrond's grey eyes again met those of his friend, and his eyebrow arched.  "What?"

 

Glorfindel regarded his friend and sometime lover with an amused look.  "By the Valar, you are a rare sight.  It has been ages since I last saw that kind of fire in your eyes."

 

"Oh, what's the use, Glorfindel?  You said yourself..."

 

"Elrond, he only reacted that way because he thought he might be forced into something he would have no say in.  Now that he knows he has a choice in the matter, he may..."

 

"He may what?"

 

"Well, he may come around..."

 

"Right.  And Orcs will learn their manners and quit attacking our borders.  Ever the eternal optimist, Glorfindel."  Elrond ran his long fingers through his dark hair, sighed, and got up from his chair.  "Enough of this talk.  Would you join me in the kitchens?"

 

"If you can't have love, there's always sweets..."

 

"Oh, shut up Glorfindel."

 

 

****

 

Melpomaen looked up from the parchment he was copying and carefully dipped his quill in the elaborately inlaid inkwell on the table before him.  The inkwell, like most things in the Last Homely House, was an object of great beauty.  Much care and craftsmanship had gone into its making, and Melpomaen had to admit that he had never known the joy of working with such pleasing and well made tools before coming to Imladris.  The Lord of the valley liked surrounding himself with beautiful things, less so for their material value – although his home certainly did not want for jewels or precious mithril – but rather because he found their elegance and charm delightful to the eye.  The home of Elrond Half-elven was filled with masterfully carved wood, exquisite paintings and detailed tapestries, not all of them valuable, but all of them lovely.  The very inkwell Melpomaen was using may not have fetched a high price – being inlaid not with jewels or gold but rather bits of glittering seashells – but it was beautiful to behold and made the young scribe's work that much more of a pleasure.  On most days, that is.  For this day, Melpomaen found it fiendishly difficult to focus.

 

Sitting on the other side of the library, bent over an ancient scroll in an attitude of perfect concentration, his long dark hair gleaming in the afternoon sunlight, sat the cause of Melpomaen's inner turmoil.  Elrond.  Blissfully unaware of the effect he was having on the young Elf in his employ, the Lord of the valley ran a manicured hand through his carefully plaited locks and frowned as he scrutinized the text before him.  He then soundlessly pushed his chair back from the table, moved to a tall bookshelf in the corner and, picking up a heavy volume, made his way back to his chair and gracefully sat back down.

 

Melpomaen sighed and willed his thoughts to return to the text he was copying, but with little success.  Glorfindel's words suddenly came back to him: «Elrond is very beautiful.  Even by Elven standards, he is exceptionally fair.»  After spending several months toiling in the vast libraries of Imladris, Melpomaen was just now beginning to see the truth in Glorfindel's statement.  His employer, his Lord – Elrond Peredhel – was a true beauty.  Nay, calling him a beauty did not seem adequate; did not quite do justice to his grace, elegance and inner radiance.  Nor did it take into account his kindness and wisdom – qualities that only served to make him more desirable. 

 

Melpomaen could only assume that he had hitherto been blind.  How else would he not have noticed the way Elrond's grey eyes could peer intensely, staring right through the person he was talking to, only to twinkle in mirth when someone said something amusing?  How could he not have seen the way Elrond's dark hair cascaded down his back, the way his voice was low, yet musical, the way his expressive, full mouth curved into a lovely smile?

 

The object of Melpomaen's admiration suddenly shifted in his chair, parting his long legs and leaning forward over the volume that lay open on the table.  His heavy velvet robe fell open slightly, revealing just a hint of a legging-clad thigh while at the same time hugging the arch of his muscled back.

 

Elbereth! thought Melpomaen with alarm, forcing his gaze down to the parchment beneath his fingers.  His face burned with the heat of a strange, suppressed excitement as his thoughts took a disturbing, though not altogether unexpected, turn.  He could only imagine how Elrond's back, muscled from ages of fighting and training, would taper to shapely buttocks, how his chest would give way to a flat stomach, which in turn would... My, was it getting hot in here?  All of a sudden Melpomaen felt thankful for the long robes customarily worn by the residents of Imladris.  He hadn't liked them at first, finding them too formal, but now he had to admit that they had their uses.  No other garment, he thought, would have successfully hidden the all-too-obvious and not entirely welcome evidence of his arousal.  He shifted uncomfortably in his chair and glanced at Elrond again.  The Lord of Imladris, just at that moment charmingly twisting one of his long plaits in his fingers, looked as comely as ever.  Maybe even more so.  Valar, thought Melpomaen, this was going to be a long afternoon...

 

 

****

 

Melpomaen was on his hands and knees and Elrond was behind him.  Elrond's hands were on the young scribe's shoulders and his dark hair fell in silky strands against his back.  The Peredhel's breath felt hot against Melpomaen's pointy ear and his hardness moved deep inside the younger Elf, filling him with such a sweet ache that he thought he would burst with the joy of it.  Melpomaen wanted more, wanted it so badly...  "Please..." he longed to whisper, but found that he could not coax any sound from his tightened throat.  Elrond's hand traced patterns down Melpomaen's chest as the Elven Lord rocked inside him.  The older Elf's fingers moved to circle Melpomaen's erection and began stroking it in time with his thrusts.  His movements became more feverish as he neared his own completion.  His breath in Melpomaen's ear became more laboured, and his hand on the young Elf's shoulder tightened its grip.  Melpomaen could only close his eyes and feel the Half-elven fill him so completely that the rest of the world receded in comparison.  As Elrond's hand stroked harder and faster, Melpomaen felt himself lose control and spiral into a sweet abyss as a shower of light exploded behind his eyes.

 

Melpomaen awoke with a start as he spilled himself between his sheets.  Pleasant sensations still coursing through his body, he lay back, closed his eyes and groaned in frustration.  Great.  Now he was going to have to change the linens, and Elbereth only knew what he was going to do with the dirty ones.  Why did this have to happen to him now?  He thought he'd been done with it; he hadn't had a dream like that since his body had first awakened before his majority.  It had been a terrible nuisance and embarrassment to him then, waking up wet and sticky in the middle of the night, but he thought he'd been done with all that business for good.  And now his old predicament was back with a vengeance, and over Elrond no less!  Elrond, his employer, his Lord, his liege... 

 

Oh, but Elrond's touch had felt so good in his dream... Elrond's hands, his breath, his... especially his... Oh, Valar, thought Melpomaen, would it really feel like that?  Would Elrond be gentle and slow or would he take him roughly?  The Lord of Imladris seemed so kind, he really was kind, but Melpomaen had heard that those who carried the burden of office and kept up a constant appearance of control sometimes took their frustrations out in the bedchamber... He shivered, from fear or excitement, he did not know.  Don't be ridiculous!  Melpomaen checked his wild imaginings.  As if Elrond would really be interested in him!  Elrond had Glorfindel, after all; the Elda himself had admitted as much to Melpomaen.  «Our relationship sometimes goes beyond friendship.» That's what Glorfindel had said.  So what Caegaran had said may also have been true.  A sudden image of Glorfindel on his knees in front of Elrond, taking the Peredhel's length into his mouth, flashed into Melpomaen's mind.  And he found himself growing erect again.  Oh, would that it were he on his knees in front of Elrond, not Glorfindel!  He would use his nimble, scribe's fingers to undo Elrond's lacings, he'd free that velvety hardness he remembered from his dream, he'd nuzzle in the soft curls he found there... That thought made his desire twitch against his belly, and Melpomaen slipped his slim fingers under the covers and took himself in hand.  The sheets were already a lost cause; he may as well take advantage.  He closed his eyes and began the long, measured strokes that always brought him release.  And his thoughts continued.

 

What would Elrond be like as a lover?  Would he be silent, betraying his pleasure only with hitched breathing and the occasional quiet whimper?  Or would he give voice to his body's enjoyment, moaning his pleasure aloud and calling out at the moment of climax?  Would he... would he call Melpomaen's name?  Sweet Valar, thought Melpomaen, to hear that low voice call his name aloud in a moment of passion would be pure bliss.  His hand stroked faster under the sheets.  His back arched up, his thighs flexed, his fingers gripped harder and, closing his eyes tight, Melpomaen came. 

 

He relaxed against his pillow again.  Ridiculous Elfling, he thought.  What would the Lord of Imladris want with you when he has countless others pining away for him, a beautiful wife – who may be away a great deal and seems rather cold and distant, but is beautiful nonetheless – and a lover like Glorfindel?  Why, Glorfindel was practically a legend!  Not to mention attractive, charming and... experienced.  Wistfully, Melpomaen remembered how the Elda had joked with him, sexual innuendo rolling off his tongue with the practiced ease of many an age.  Oh yes, Glorfindel would know how to please Elrond, he'd know exactly what to do.  He would be just as commanding or submissive as the situation required, and wouldn't be embarrassed at all.  He would look Elrond in the eyes as he displayed that golden, sun-kissed body, he would be as wanton as the Half-elven liked him to be... Melpomaen could never compete with that...  Why, he'd never even had a lover before...

 

Melpomaen couldn't help but cringe as he thought back over the few sexual encounters he'd had over the years.  There really hadn't been many, just a hesitant kiss or two, a few hurried touches in darkened rooms, and... well, of course, there had been that one time... The reason he'd ended up in Imladris in the first place... But he could hardly call that an encounter, after all, nothing had happened in the end.  The young Elf he'd met at the summer festival in Edhellond had seemed nice, had told Melpomaen he was beautiful, had held his hand... and then suggested they go someplace more private... Melpomaen had agreed, half-drunk on the idea that someone wanted him, drawn to the other's knowing eyes, his lilting voice, the warmth of his skin...  The Elf had smelled nice too, Melpomaen remembered, smelled like a summer day, something that made Melpomaen think of sand and wild grass, and it was that scent that Melpomaen recalled most vividly whenever he thought about what had happened next.  They had ended up in an empty storeroom, Melpomaen cornered between a shelf and a wall, the other Elf pressed up against him, his lips on Melpomaen's neck, his hands on Melpomaen's body...  The Elf's touch had felt so nice, his presence so comforting, his whispered words so soothing... Melpomaen had closed his eyes and imagined he was lying among sand and wild grass, that he finally belonged to someone, and he felt happy...  And then, suddenly, the dark room was full of light, the other Elf was scrambling away from Melpomaen, fumbling with his clothes, and someone was screaming... And Melpomaen was left huddling in a corner, embarrassed, his leggings around his ankles...

 

Melpomaen's foster-mother – for it was she who had inadvertently walked in on the two Elves – had been indignant and, after hurling a number of choice expletives in Melpomaen's direction, wouldn't speak to him for a week.  And then she'd made it painfully clear that Melpomaen was no longer welcome in her house.  Not that he'd ever really felt welcome there... It was almost a relief to leave, especially after he'd managed to secure a position as scribe-in-training in the famous libraries of Imladris.  It hadn't been an easy task, the Last Homely House being a choice destination for all aspiring scholars and archivists, but Melpomaen had finally succeeded with the help of a few enthusiastic recommendations from his teachers and mentors, who believed him to be both bright and talented.  When he arrived in Elrond's realm a few months ago he felt like a brand new chapter in his life had begun.  Here was his chance at a fresh start, a chance to make something of his life, to finally stop feeling like a burden...  He hadn't bargained on the Lord of Imladris being such a distraction...

 

Melpomaen slipped from his high bed and gathered the soiled sheets in his arms, taking them to the small adjacent bathroom and dumping them in a heap.  He retrieved a blanket from the tall chest of drawers in the corner and curled up on the bed again.  This madness would have to stop, he told himself.  He would not mess up his life again over an idiotic attraction; his life in Imladris was far too precious a prize to risk for the desires of the body.  What he felt for Elrond would pass, he was sure of it.  It would just take some time, but he was an Elf; he had all the time in the world.  He would simply have to wait it out and try to make the best of a bad situation.  He smiled to himself as he thought that making the best of a bad situation was something he'd become very good at, something he'd been doing all his life.

 

 

****

 

Notes:  mellon – friend

        meldir – friend (male)

 

Chapter 4:

 

"Could you hand me that volume, Melpomaen, the one I was looking at before?"  Glorfindel dipped his quill in the inkwell, determined to finish the task at hand before the afternoon drew to a close.  He watched as the young Elf carefully climbed the ladder up to the highest shelf and handed him the book in question.  "Thank you, pen-neth."  He smiled at Melpomaen.  Since their memorable conversation in Elrond's garden, Glorfindel had continued to use that endearment to refer to the young scribe and, surprisingly enough, Melpomaen hadn't seemed to mind.

 

Glorfindel watched as Melpomaen neatly stacked a pile of parchments on the corner of his desk and, rolling up the sleeves of his robe, prepared to attack another, messier, pile.  "Are you planning on staying here all night, pen-neth?  Why don't you go on and get ready for the festivities.  Leave me here, I won't be long.  You must be eager to enjoy all the fun they have planned for this evening, especially after spending the whole day in this dreary place."  Glorfindel winked at the younger Elf.  Melpomaen smiled, nodded, and quietly slipped from the room. 

 

«Ai,» thought Glorfindel, «I hope this one at least has a good time tonight.  He works far too hard for one so young.  And so serious too.» He sighed and turned his attention back to the weapons inventory he'd been working on.  But, try as he might, his gaze kept wandering to the window and his thoughts kept lingering on Melpomaen. 

 

Nearly a full cycle of the seasons had passed since Glorfindel had comforted a terrified Melpomaen in Elrond's garden and, in that time, the Elda had had plenty of opportunity to observe both the young scribe and the Lord of Imladris.  Really, it was rather painful to watch.  Initially, Melpomaen had seemed relieved that no perverse favours would be required of him, as he'd been led to believe.  But, as time went by, Glorfindel could see the young Elf's eyes watching Elrond, seeking him out, drawn as if by a magnet.  First Melpomaen's gaze had been full of curiosity, then curiosity had turned to admiration, and lately his look had been filled with such longing that, had the ridiculous story concocted by that border guard been indeed true, Glorfindel was sure Melpomaen would not have minded at all. 

 

But if Melpomaen's quiet worship of Elrond had been painful to watch, Elrond's own growing attachment to the dark-haired scribe was no less distressing to witness.  Glorfindel had initially been surprised that his old friend would be interested in an Elf as young as Melpomaen.  There was no accounting for taste, the Elda told himself, as he patiently waited for his friend's infatuation to pass.  But it hadn't.  Elrond's heart, so long accustomed to nothing but duty and responsibility, had seemed to blossom in the presence of the young Elf.  The Lord of the valley left him alone, of course, convinced as he was that Melpomaen would find his advances distasteful, but his feelings hadn't diminished; had grown, if anything.  Elrond, after centuries spent alone, or as good as alone, was in love.  He was distracted.  He lost sleep.  And he spent as much time as he could possibly manage in the presence of his beloved – without making his feelings known.  That had proven quite challenging, as Elrond did not like to resort to deceit.  Still, he kept coming up with more excuses to visit the libraries, and kept thinking up more reasons why his personal correspondence just had to be copied out in Melpomaen's fine hand.  Which only served to make Melpomaen gaze at him with more longing.

 

What Glorfindel found the most infuriating was that both Elves seemed completely oblivious to each other's feelings, each convinced that the other couldn't possibly be interested.  It was enough to drive one mad!  Glorfindel didn't know if Melpomaen's sleep was disrupted, as his chambers were located in a completely different wing of the Last Homely House, but he often found Elrond's light on, even quite late at night.  Once he had even gone to his old friend, determined to help him relax, and offered what had sometimes given Elrond comfort in the past – himself.  But Elrond had only smiled a sad smile and said "thank you, mellon, but you're not the one I want."  They had spent the rest of the night curled up in armchairs in front of the fire, drinking copious quantities of miruvor.  It had given Glorfindel some measure of comfort to think that Elrond had finally managed to rest that night – curled up on the rug in a drink-induced haze.

 

Giving up on the weapons inventory at last, Glorfindel straightened up his papers, left the library and headed up the stairs to his rooms.  The preparations that had been going on all week were soon to culminate in an all-night celebration, and the Elves running to and fro were almost delirious with excitement.  Midsummer night's eve was one of the biggest festivals of the year; certainly the most frolicsome.  Even the more staid, serious Elves usually found themselves laughing and joyful as Imladris welcomed the coming of summer.  None would sleep this night – the shortest one of the year – for their time would be occupied with feasting, dancing, merrymaking and love.  The only Elves doing anything resembling work would be the healers gathering herbs in the woods, for it was said that the healing powers of medicinal plants collected on midsummer night were strengthened by the magic of the evening.

 

Glorfindel smiled as he thought of the upcoming festivities.  There would be food and wine aplenty, of course, for Imladris' cooks would certainly rise to the occasion.  There would be music and dancing, with the valley's Elf maidens taking each other's hands and skipping lightly in circles in the forest glade.  There would be bonfires blazing, with Elves leaping over the flames to ensure luck in the coming year.  Young girls would weave flower garlands and then place them in their hair, and with the coming of the morning those garlands would be tossed into the Bruinen, to float briskly downstream and carry the joy of the celebrations to the rest of the valley.  All that made for a truly enjoyable night, but it wasn't what Glorfindel found most fascinating about the festival. 

 

Midsummer night's eve being a celebration of life and love, the pleasures of the flesh reigned supreme on this one night of the year.  Couples hoping to conceive a child would leap the flames together to enhance fertility and then lie with each other in a secluded spot beneath the trees.  Hopeful lovers would often choose this time to confess the desires of their hearts, and bodies, to the object of their affection.  And even those Elves who were unattached, and were content to remain so, rarely found themselves without a pleasure partner on this magical eve.  Glorfindel smirked at the thought that the woods of Imladris on midsummer night were fairly filled with soft sighs and cries of delight, and one had to be careful where one stepped lest one trip over a couple locked in a passionate embrace.

 

Having dressed in dark leggings and an azure embroidered tunic that brought out his sky-blue eyes, Glorfindel paused in front of the mirror to braid his hair.  His hand lightly caressed the strands of ribbon on his dresser as he hesitated on which one to choose.  There was one midsummer's night eve custom that he found particularly intriguing.  It was unique to Imladris, and Glorfindel was not quite sure how and when it had originated, but it had taken deep root and was now as much a part of the festival as the bonfires, music and food.  All Elves taking part in the celebrations would braid ribbons into their hair, ribbons of either gold or silver.  Silver ribbons meant that the Elf in question was open to a romantic tryst that evening, either actively looking for a partner or simply waiting for an offer or invitation.  Gold ribbons signalled the opposite, and were worn by either those in serious relationships, who would naturally spend the night with their chosen committed partner, or those who, for whatever reason, wished to remain alone.  Glorfindel's hand hovered over his dresser for a moment, then picked up the silver ribbons.  «There are so many beautiful Elves around at the festival,» he thought, «it would be a shame to waste the opportunity.»  Though there was no particular Elf that made his heart beat faster – even Elrond, for all the times they had lain together, was simply a cherished friend and nothing more - maybe tonight he'd find someone to make other parts of his body thrum with excitement.  Oh yes, thought Glorfindel, this was definitely one of his favourite holidays.

 

****

 

Elrond smiled magnanimously as he slowly made his way through the crowded forest clearing.  The sun had long set and darkness had descended over Imladris, but the clearing was filled with the light of dozens of bonfires blazing in the night.  The atmosphere was festive, and the Elves filling the woods this night were clearly enjoying themselves.  Long tables had been set up under the trees, and they sagged with the weight of various Imladris delicacies.  Huge barrels of mead stood close to the tables and, judging by the unsteady gait of some of the revellers, had proven quite popular.  The music of flutes and drums could be heard above the din of exuberant conversation, merry laughter adding to the mix now and again.  The joy in the air was almost palpable, and Elrond could not help but feel a twinge of regret.

 

Alone.  Always alone.  He would give much to switch places with one of these carefree Elves just for one evening.  As it was, he would go through the motions of playing gracious host, smile his wise ruler's smile and retire to his bedchamber when the celebrations began to get more heated.  There would be no warm body to hold him, no welcoming arms to sink into, no comfort to be found in a loving embrace.  His bed had been cold for longer than he cared to remember, and Glorfindel's sporadic presence in it did little to assuage his loneliness.  Glorfindel was a friend; Elrond would not fool himself into thinking that there was love there.  And sharing the caresses of one who did not have his heart, who was there simply out of physical need, only served to make him feel empty and rendered his loneliness more acute.  He wanted more but was unlikely to get it; that much he knew.

 

Elrond weaved lightly through the crowd, smiling at his subjects as they greeted him with love and admiration, raising his cup in a toast every now and again.  He did enjoy the duties of playing host, and had long gotten used to doing the honours by himself.  It had been many years since his wife was at his side during midsummer night's eve, her beauty dazzling all those around her, her golden hair shining in the light of the flames.  Celebrían now resided in Lórien and no longer even bothered to come home to Imladris for important occasions.  They had kept up the pretence of a happy union for a while, but even that had proved a strain.   Elrond still wasn't sure where he'd gone wrong, how it was possible that things had changed so much between them.  They had been happy, or so he had thought, but he wasn't even sure of that anymore.  *He* had been happy, that was certain.  But Celebrían?  He had never really known her mind, he realized that now.  And she had floated out of his life just as impassively as she had drifted into it, never letting her guard down, never letting him past that wall she'd built around herself.

 

Elrond's heart beat faster as he glimpsed a slender, dark figure of an Elf standing to the side of the clearing.  He watched as Melpomaen hesitantly joined a boisterous conversation and was handed a cup filled with mead.  The young Elf drank a mouthful, then coughed and spluttered as the alcohol burned his throat.  His companions laughed, amused, and patted him on the back in encouragement.  Melpomaen drank another mouthful, this time with more success.  He grinned, evidently pleased with himself, and said something that made his companions break out into laughter once again.  Elrond could see Melpomaen visibly relax, tension lifting from his face and shoulders.  The young scribe looked happy and Elrond was pleased that he had managed to overcome his shyness.  The Elf Lord knew how difficult it was for Melpomaen to speak to strangers, especially in a social setting.  His heart filled with something akin to pride, and he realized with some surprise that it was a feeling he'd often experienced on witnessing one of his children's accomplishments.  So he felt slightly protective and paternal toward the young Elf, he thought to himself, amused.  It certainly wasn't the only thing he felt...

 

Distracted as he was by the sight of the dark-haired, slim beauty raising a cup of amber liquid to his full lips, Elrond nearly collided with Glorfindel.  He was caught by a pair of strong, warrior arms, and spun around to face the golden-haired seneschal.

 

"He'll be your undoing one of these days, you know, the way you act around him.  I could've been an Orc waiting to ambush you, and you would not have noticed."  Glorfindel tried to sound impatient, but Elrond could tell he was amused.

 

"You often remind me of an Orc, my friend."  

 

"Touchy tonight, aren't we?  It's all that pining and sighing, you know.  Why don't you do us both a favour and just take the Elfling, Elrond?  You know you want to taste those lips, feel that pliant young flesh beneath your hands..."

 

"Glorfindel, stop..."

 

"Or what?  You'll get an embarrassing erection right here in the middle of the clearing?  I'll wager you already have one... Thank the Valar for your stately robes of office."  Glorfindel grinned.

 

Elrond shot his friend a look that could've annihilated a small village.  It was true; beneath his burgundy robes he was uncomfortably hard, his member aching to be touched.  But it still didn't give his friend the right to taunt him about this impossible situation.

 

"Oh, why don't you just go and find yourself a bed-mate or two, Glorfindel?  Put those silver ribbons in your hair to good use?"

 

"I plan on doing just that, and so should you.  Silver would have suited you better than gold, Elrond; I don't see why you persist in denying yourself the pleasures that can be had this night."

 

"It wouldn't do for one who has a spouse.  Even a distant one."

 

"But so many would love to share their bed with you tonight."

 

"Not the one I want."

 

"I wouldn't be so sure."  Glorfindel's expression suddenly turned serious, then tender.  "Why don't you tell him, Elrond?  His reaction may surprise you."

 

"I don't have the right to make one in his position uncomfortable by my advances.  He works for me, Glorfindel, and Imladris is the only home he has now.  I couldn't bear to disturb his peace, to make him feel like his presence here was conditional upon..."

 

"Elrond, you are impossible sometimes."

 

"So I've been told."  The Lord of Imladris gave his friend a smug smile.  "Now leave me to my musings and go enjoy the night.  I wouldn't deprive whichever Elf you choose of the pleasures of the great Glorfindel of Gondolin.  Go."

 

"Think about what I said, Elrond."

 

"I've been doing entirely too much thinking lately."  Elrond smiled as he watched his friend disappear into the crowd, admiring glances following him as he went.  Glorfindel certainly was beautiful; he would have no shortage of offers from those who dared approach him, and was unlikely to be turned down by anyone he propositioned.  «Ah,» thought Elrond, «if only my own life were that simple...»

 

 

 

***

 

 

Notes:  pen-neth – young one

        mellon – friend

 

FYI: The midsummer's night eve customs described in this chapter were borrowed from various European cultures, except for the gold/silver ribbons, which are pure fiction.

 

Chapter 5:

 

Glorfindel weaved through the crowd of laughing Elves, catching eager glances cast in his direction.  He was an object of desire, he knew; an object of desire and fascination.  Admired from afar for his noble and heroic deeds, and lusted after for his perfect, golden beauty, Glorfindel usually didn't come into direct contact with those who wanted him.  Midsummer night's eve, however, was an exception.  Here, anything could happen, and often did.  Elves of less noble birth and lower station, younger in years and experience, felt comfortable with openly showing their interest on this one night of the year.  And so, as Glorfindel walked through the throng, he was met with many eyes issuing fairly obvious invitations. 

 

Whom should he have tonight? he wondered.  He had so many options, all of them tempting... Did he want a male or a female?  Hmm... It had been a while since he had lain with a she-Elf, a long while since his strong hands had wandered over soft, female flesh... It might be nice... But the magic of midsummer had to be reckoned with, and the fact that the night was believed to enhance fertility could not be ignored.  «No,» thought Glorfindel, «best leave that one alone.»  A male then.  But which one?  Did he want a strong warrior's body, with powerful shoulders used to wielding a bow?  One of his own border guards perhaps?  «No,» thought Glorfindel with a frown, «that would lead to too many complications on the morrow.»  A scholar maybe?  Slim and straight, with delicate hands and pale skin?  Hmm... Oh dear, Glorfindel smiled as a delicious shiver ran up his spine, midsummer night's eve was such fun.

 

His eyes wandered over the crowd of Elves willingly parting to let him pass and assessed their eager expressions.  Too eager, perhaps...  He really did enjoy a bit of a challenge, he realized, and these Elves presented none.  All he would have to do was walk up to one of them, look him in the eyes, touch his chest lightly with his index finger and the seduction would be as good as over.  «What seduction,» he thought with annoyance, «these Elves were seduced long ago!»  What he needed was someone on whom he could work his charms tonight, someone who would put up some measure of reticence... The culmination, when it came, would be that much sweeter for it.

 

Glorfindel continued moving forward slowly, his eyes scanning the clearing.  Suddenly, he stopped dead in his tracks.  There.  On the other side of the crowd, under a large oak, calmly sipping his mead and his face as stern as ever, sat one of Elrond's most trusted advisors.  Erestor.  Oh, Erestor was challenge personified!  The dark, serious advisor was a skilled diplomat and seasoned warrior, and could handle himself in any situation.  Glorfindel had never seen him lose his temper, even when deliberately provoked.  Unlike Elrond, who sometimes flew into impetuous, if short-lived, rages, Erestor was always perfectly in control of his emotions.  Some even speculated that he had none, but Glorfindel knew better, having seen him in a rare moment of vulnerability after the twins were born. 

 

When Elrond had placed first Elladan and then Elrohir in Erestor's clumsy arms, the advisor's dark eyes had suddenly grown misty, his brow knitted with the effort of holding back unexpected tears.  And then, just as abruptly as it had come, the moment was gone.  Erestor handed the twins back to Elrond calmly, congratulating him graciously, his face as composed as ever.  But Glorfindel had seen, and would not forget. 

 

Glorfindel's connection to Erestor had always been distant, if respectful.  They were different, though each admired the other's strengths and abilities.  Glorfindel had even tried to bring their relationship onto a more friendly footing, but to no avail.  Erestor apparently preferred to maintain his distance, meeting Glorfindel's affable overtures with his trademark sarcasm.  Glorfindel had never managed to crack that façade or get beyond that mask of indifference.  Well, now was his chance and, by the Valar, he would take it.

 

****

 

Elrond cast one last look over the clearing and turned to head back to the Last Homely House.  The festivities were now in full swing; Elves breaking away from the crowd in pairs and heading toward the privacy of the woods.  That was Elrond's cue to leave the revellers and make his way to his room.  Without the inhibiting presence of the Lord of Imladris, the celebrations were sure to get even more rowdy.  «Just as well,» thought Elrond, «let them have their night of wild fun without their stodgy old Lord getting in the way.»  If anything particularly memorable happened, Glorfindel would make sure that he heard about it in the morning.  Somehow, Glorfindel always seemed to have access to the juiciest Imladris gossip.

 

Elrond was moving through the trees quietly, carefully stepping over jutting roots in the darkness, when the sound of suppressed sobs reached his ears.  He stopped to listen, then moved towards it, his healer's instincts taking over.  If anyone was hurt or in pain, the least he could do was find them and attempt to help.  No one should be crying on a night like this.  Slowly, he walked towards the sound, carefully pushing stray branches out of his way.  The sight that met his eyes stole the breath from his body as his heart contracted painfully in his chest.

 

"Melpomaen!"

 

Elrond stared at the frail figure of the young Elf huddled under a large beech, his arms wrapped around his knees and tears streaming down his face, and wanted desperately to wrap his arms around him, comfort him, hold him...  Instead, he settled himself down softly in front of him and peered intently into his big, dark eyes.

 

"Are you all right?"

 

"I'll... be fine."

 

"What's wrong?"  This was all the Half-elven Lord was able to say, in spite of the hundreds of questions swirling around madly in his brain.

 

"N..nothing."  Melpomaen's answer did not sound convincing.

 

"Come now, you wouldn't be crying over nothing.  Please... tell me what's wrong..." The emotion in Elrond's voice was unmistakable. 

 

The young Elf looked up, clearly surprised by Elrond's tone, then looked down at his hands again.  "It's just that...I'm so... alone."

 

Elrond smiled sadly to himself, struck by the irony of the fact that he had just been dwelling on his own loneliness not two hours earlier.  But his situation could not be helped; Melpomaen, on the other hand, was a young and attractive Elf.  Surely he would have no trouble finding a companion...

 

Elrond swallowed determinedly, pained by the advice he was about to dispense.  "Then why braid gold ribbons into your hair, meldir?  Silver would suit you better, with your dark hair and pale complexion..."

 

"You mean I should..."

 

"Why not be open to the possibilities of this night?  You are very fair; many would welcome the chance to get to know you better."

 

"You think me fair?" 

 

The amazement in Melpomaen's voice brought a lump to Elrond's throat.  «Yes, my love,» he thought, «I think you fair.  I think you the fairest Elf in all of Arda...»

 

"Aye." Elrond said.  He watched joy flash across Melpomaen's tear-streaked face, then fade as the young Elf again gazed down at his hands.

 

"But I couldn't..." Melpomaen's voice was, once again, hesitant.

 

"Couldn't what?"

 

"Braid silver ribbons... into my hair."

 

"Why not?  You are young and unattached.  If no one has captured your heart, then I don't see why you shouldn't..."

 

"But someone has!"  The insistence, almost violence, in that statement made Elrond sit up, surprised.

 

"Has what?"

 

"Captured my heart..." The young Elf's voice had dropped to a whisper, but his dark eyes burned in his pale face.

 

"Oh."  Elrond wished the earth would open up and swallow him, sparing him the pain of seeing this sweet young Elf confess his love for another.  Still, his concern for the young one's well-being won out over his own jealousy, and he continued.  "Then why not tell her of your love?"

 

"Him."

 

"Oh."  Elbereth, but this was difficult.  "Why not tell him then?"

 

"Because he doesn't love me.  Could never love me." Melpomaen's voice trembled.

 

"You don't know that, Melpomaen." 

 

"Yes, I do."  It was the resignation in Melpomaen's voice that made Elrond's decision for him.  He couldn't let the young Elf's misery continue.  If it was at all in his power, he would help ensure Melpomaen's happiness, even if it broke his own heart.

 

"Melpomaen, listen to me.  Go to him and tell him.  Tonight.  At worst... he'll reject you.  At least then you'll know for sure.  Otherwise you'll never know.  And you may regret not knowing."  Elrond sighed wistfully, thinking back to his own youth.  He had loved Gil-galad for more centuries than he cared to count before he finally broke down and approached him, only to find out that his feelings had been returned all along.  He did not regret the time they had together, bittersweet though it was.  What he did regret, time and time again, was that they might have had many more centuries before his High King's bright flame was cruelly snuffed out.  Centuries that could never be reclaimed. 

 

"You think I should..." Melpomaen's voice was a blend of incredulity, terror and excitement.

 

"Yes, pen-neth."

 

Elrond was too stunned to react to what happened next.  He saw Melpomaen hesitate for a second, his big dark eyes widening, and, before he could say anything else to reassure him, the young Elf had pounced, black hair flying, and pressed a heated, desperate kiss to Elrond's mouth.  Then, aghast at his own boldness, Melpomaen staggered back and fled into the night, leaving Elrond with a surprising sweetness on his lips.

 

****

 

Emboldened by his newly found purpose, Glorfindel swiftly crossed the clearing, stopping only to fill a silver cup with mead and bring it to Erestor.  The dark-haired advisor had finished his own drink and was calmly reclining under a large oak, far from the excited crowd surrounding the bonfires.  He looked up and watched Glorfindel approach, his inscrutable expression betraying nothing of his reaction to the Elda's apparent intention to join him.  Erestor's eyes regarded the tall, blond Elf with the sphinx-like serenity so typical of the dark advisor, and Glorfindel knew that, had he arrived in full battle dress and with a host of Elven warriors behind him or, better yet, wearing nothing but a smile, he would have been met with the same impenetrable look.

 

"Good eve to you, Erestor." Glorfindel smiled seductively.

 

"Glorfindel." Erestor's voice was composed, guarded even.

 

"I brought you some mead, as your own cup seems empty."

 

"How kind of you." Erestor took the proffered cup warily, gratitude conspicuously absent from his voice.

 

"May I join you?" Glorfindel gestured to the patch of grass next to the seated Elf, his eyes half-lidded in a fashion he knew from experience others had found utterly beguiling.

 

"Suit yourself."

 

Glorfindel sighed inwardly, realizing that seducing the serious advisor would take all the skill he possessed and then some.  But then, he was never one to shrink from a challenge.  If he could face a balrog – albeit with rather unfortunate consequences – he could certainly succeed in making this solemn, reluctant Elf yearn for his touch.

 

Seating himself down as gracefully as possible, Glorfindel leaned close to Erestor, letting his golden hair brush against the other's cheek. "Enjoying the evening, meldir?"

 

"I was until a minute ago."

 

"Does my presence pain you so?" Glorfindel's full, luscious lips curved into an enticing smile, revealing a perfect row of pearly-white teeth. "I rather hoped you'd be as glad to see me as I am to see you."

 

Erestor leaned back and regarded Glorfindel with amusement, his eyebrow arched in a manner evocative of the Lord of Imladris.  "Have you had too much to drink, my dear Glorfindel?  Mayhap you've confused me with someone else.  There is a clearing full of Elves whose eyes light up at the mere sight of those ribbons in your hair; surely you do not wish to waste your evening sitting next to dull old me."

 

"Dull?  You?  Never.  You're the best company in this entire valley." Glorfindel parried, running a fine-boned hand through his golden tresses and letting his tunic stretch temptingly across a well-developed bicep.  He had to admit to himself that there was a grain of truth to these sugar-coated words; Erestor certainly was one Elf in whose company he never grew bored.  The sardonic advisor's jabs, insults and dry wit were a refreshing change from the near-worshipful way many of the other inhabitants of Imladris treated Elrond's seneschal. 

 

Deciding to pull out all the stops, Glorfindel leaned in closer and ran a slim finger down Erestor's arm.  "I like that black tunic on you; it's very becoming."

 

"I always wear black." The dark-haired Elf's voice was a mixture of incredulity and derision.

 

"You always look appealing."

 

"Glorfindel, are you trying to seduce me?" The look of amazement on Erestor's face was quite apparent now.

 

"Am I succeeding?" Glorfindel moved closer still, and let his honey-scented breath tease the tip of Erestor's ear.

 

The object of his attention shifted away from the intimate contact, fixing the blond Elf with a disparaging stare.  "What do you think?"

 

Glorfindel had to concede that his would-be bed partner did not look in the least bit seduced.  Nor did he look aroused, excited or even, well, interested.  He, on the other hand, had managed to work himself up into quite a state, and now found that he craved the taste of those very lips that were, at that moment, curled into a sneer.

 

Glorfindel swallowed hard, unable to avert his eyes from the sight of the beautiful aloof Elf before him.  Eyes black as night stared back at him defiantly, fanning the flames of his rapidly rising desire. Not used to being denied his most fervent wishes, the Elda found himself at a loss at what to do next.  Surely he couldn't just give up; going back to his rooms only to have his dreams haunted by visions of cool, dark perfection would be nothing short of torture.  Something needed to be done.  But what?

 

"Erestor I only wish..." Glorfindel's hitherto suave tone had lost some of its certainty.

 

"You wish what?"

 

"I only wish to kiss you."

 

Some of his obvious need must have crept into his words, for the look the dark advisor gave him was not mocking. Indeed, Glorfindel could have sworn he saw a glint of something unprecedented in those black eyes, something primal and untamed. But that look lasted but a moment, and the riposte thrown back in the balrog slayer's face was nothing short of malicious.

 

"You will never get your hands on me."

 

Glorfindel recoiled as if slapped, anger swiftly rising in his belly to match his desire.  So the dark-eyed Elf thought himself too good for him, did he?  No one had ever talked to Glorfindel of Gondolin that way and he wasn't about to allow it now.  Stifling his outrage as best he could and determined not to let the cunning advisor get the better of him by goading him into losing his composure, the magnificent blond warrior met the other's contemptuous look with his own determined expression.  His full lips curved into a slow smile as he threw back his challenge: "Care to make a wager?" 

 

Astonishment briefly registered on Erestor's scornful features as heat coloured his pale cheeks.  Glorfindel could see both ire and curiosity battling for domination on that usually so impenetrable face.  Curiosity won.  "Just what did you have in mind?" Erestor's voice was uncharacteristically tainted with all the emotion he usually so masterfully restrained.

 

Sensing himself halfway to victory and revelling in the excitement of the hunt, Glorfindel replied: "I would fight you."

 

"Fight me?"

 

"The exercise yard is deserted at this hour; we could cross swords and thus resolve this matter honourably.  I know you are an accomplished swordsman, Erestor, and you know that my skill is not inconsiderable.  I think it a fair proposition."

 

"And the winner..." Erestor seemed to be considering the matter seriously.

 

"To the victor go the spoils."

 

"Meaning..."

 

"I would have what I have already asked for.  A kiss. Nothing more.  As for you... you may ask of me whatever you desire.  Or you may send me away in disgrace; whatever is your wish."

 

Glorfindel watched as Erestor's lips tightened into a thin line, his dark eyes blazing with the intensity of all the stars in the night sky.  The dark-haired advisor's determined mouth curled up into a sneer and from his lips fell only one word: "Agreed."

 

 

***

 

Notes:  meldir – friend (male)

        pen-neth – young one

 

Chapter 6:

 

Melpomaen raced through the woods, his swift feet barely touching the ground.  His mind was a muddle of confused thoughts and his heart thundered in his chest, less from the fast pace of his run than from the awareness that he had actually kissed Elrond.  His lips still burned from the heat of that kiss and his entire body felt as if it were on fire, but Melpomaen raced on, determined to get as far away from those grey eyes and that tempting mouth.  Valar, whatever had possessed him?  Had he lost his mind?  He had taken advantage of Elrond's kindness and given into his basest urges, no doubt shocking the Half-elven Lord beyond imagining.  He hoped a sudden bolt of lightning would strike and put him out of his misery, for surely the consequences of his impetuousness would be harsh. 

 

A stray branch whipped across Melpomaen's face, momentarily blinding him, and he stumbled as he ran, losing his balance and tripping over a tree root.  His hands flew to his face and he braced himself for a painful fall when suddenly he felt strong arms grab him from behind, preventing him from tumbling forward.  The momentum of Melpomaen's stumble was too much to counter, however, and both Elves landed on the forest floor, their fall broken somewhat by the soft moss growing there.  To his terror, Melpomaen found himself trapped under Elrond's well-formed body.

 

Terror soon turned to amazement, however, as Melpomaen felt Elrond's hands tenderly exploring his face.  The Lord of Imladris did not seem angry at all.  Quite the contrary - the expression on his face could almost be taken for...

 

"Melpomaen..." The young Elf had never heard his name said with quite so much reverence.  He stared, hypnotized, as Elrond's thumb gently traced the curve of his cheek.  "Melpomaen, why did you do that... what you just did back there?"

 

Melpomaen could not lie, not here, not now.  Certainly not with Elrond's body so close, his grey eyes peering into his own with such intensity.  "You said I should tell him," he said simply.  "I could not find the words."

 

He closed his eyes, bracing himself for Elrond's reaction, but nothing could have prepared him for the older Elf's response. 

 

"Melpomaen... melamin..." Elrond's voice was thick with emotion.  Melpomaen felt a tear land hotly on his face and then Elrond's mouth was upon his, the older Elf kissing him with the fervour of one starved. 

 

Melpomaen's shock was such that he merely lay there, forgetting to breathe, his arms at his sides and his eyes wide open, feeling the heat of Elrond's mouth, the passion of the kiss.  Suddenly the kiss stopped.  Elrond looked up with alarm, uncertainty in his eyes.

 

"Melpomaen, I'm sorry!  I thought you wanted..." The older Elf looked crestfallen.

 

"Nay!  I mean... aye!  That is... I do!  I do want you!  I've wanted you for so long..." Melpomaen stuttered, struggling to explain, to make Elrond understand that his advances were anything but unwelcome.  It seemed he had found the right words after all, for the Half-elven fell upon his mouth again with a gasp, kissing him with a passion apparently long suppressed.

 

Melpomaen had enough presence of mind to marvel at his great fortune; that the one thing he had so long desired - and thought he could never have – should all of a sudden be granted to him like an amazing gift.  He soon forgot to think, however, for Elrond's mouth and hands were doing incredible things.

 

Melpomaen's experience being limited, he would no doubt have melted under Elrond's touch even if he did not love him.  That he had long ago given his heart to the Half-elven Lord made the experience all the more intense.

 

The touch of Elrond's mouth to his own made Melpomaen's skin tingle, and made the hair on the back of his neck stand up in the most delicious shiver.  Elrond was kissing him deeply, pouring all of his emotion into the kiss, and it made Melpomaen dizzy with desire.  Elrond's hands caressed his face, brushed his hair away from his brow.  Then Elrond's gentle fingers moved to Melpomaen's ear, as they lightly traced its outline, lingering on the sensitive tip.

 

"Ah..." A soft gasp left Melpomaen's lips and he felt Elrond smile into the kiss.  Insistent fingers continued their exploration of his ear, and Melpomaen feared he would spend right then, but then Elrond's hands moved lower, his palms flat on the younger Elf's chest, his mouth nuzzling at his neck.

 

"I want to feel you..." Elrond breathed, and Melpomaen felt the clasps of his tunic coming undone.  He spread his legs and brought his knees up on either side of Elrond's hips, feeling his hardness grind against Elrond's arousal.

 

The Half-elven now had Melpomaen's tunic halfway off and was stroking his skin lightly with his warm hands.  His thumbs lingered on the younger one's nipples and Melpomaen arched up in sudden want.

 

"You like that?" Elrond's voice, though tinged with laughter, was husky.

 

"Yes..."

 

"How about this?" Elrond's mouth followed in the wake of his hands, closing around one of Melpomaen's nipples.  The older Elf's tongue flicked lightly against the small hardening nub.

 

"Ooh..." Melpomaen's entire world had narrowed to that one sweet spot, his awareness limited only to Elrond's insistent mouth.  He shivered.  He felt one of Elrond's hands stroke his flank, the other questing lower to the ties of his leggings.

 

Suddenly, all he wanted was to open himself up to Elrond entirely, giving him all that was in his power to give.  The love in his heart welled up so strong as to eclipse even the lust in his loins.  All at once, he felt himself to be some sort of offering, and longed only to place that gift in Elrond's gentle hands and see him be glad.  What he wanted more than anything at that moment was to make Elrond happy.

 

"My Lord..." Melpomaen whispered as Elrond's hands began impatiently to grapple with the ties just below his navel.  The Lord of Imladris looked up suddenly, his dark hair falling softly around Melpomaen's shoulders.  "Elrond," he said gently.  "Please, call me Elrond."

 

"Elrond..." Melpomaen continued, his heart brimming with tenderness.  "Anything you want... it is yours... I'll do anything..." He closed his eyes and felt Elrond shift higher and place soft kisses on his eyelids.

 

"Shh, little one." Elrond's voice had lost some of its huskiness and now sounded almost soothing.  "What I want most of all this night is to please *you*."

 

Melpomaen's heart nearly burst at these words, and he reached up and kissed Elrond insistently, his long fingers tangling in the Lord's dark hair.  Elrond's hands continued their work, and soon Melpomaen's hardness was released from the confines of the constricting cloth and rested securely in the older Elf's palm.

 

Melpomaen was quite familiar with the feel of his own hand, but this sensation was different.  Elrond's hands, gentle and strong, began to stroke him lightly.  He gasped and bucked up into the Half-elven's grip.  Elrond gripped tighter, stroked harder.  Melpomaen could hear the sound of his own uneven, raspy breathing above the soft silence of the forest night.

 

Then Elrond shifted, moved lower, the soft strands of his hair trailing over Melpomaen's chest and stomach.  The younger Elf had no time to wonder at this sudden change for, all at once, he sensed Elrond's warm breath on his most private of parts and felt wet heat enclose him.  He heard himself scream and dug his nails into the soft moss beneath him, thrusting his hips up into Elrond's willing mouth, the source of his pleasure.

 

Melpomaen had often fantasized about doing this to Elrond, conjuring up images of the Elven Lord spread out beneath him, wondering at his scent and taste.  His fantasies had never, for some reason, involved the beautiful Lord of Imladris doing this to him.  Now that it was happening, Melpomaen realized with awe that no fantasy, no matter how intense, could ever have come even close to what Elrond was doing to him now.  Every fibre of his being felt as if it were on fire as Elrond's mouth sucked insistently and his tongue circled lightly.  The heat in his belly grew and he was no longer sure whether it was soft moss his hands were clutching or Elrond's dark silky mane.  All rational thought fled, leaving him only with desperate need.

 

Slowly, the forest all about him seemed to open up, dark night descending on his senses. Melpomaen tensed, thrust up one last time and came hard with Elrond's name on his lips.  As he lay there trembling, he felt Elrond shift up and enclose him in a protective embrace, gently kissing his hair.  "All right?" the older Elf asked tenderly.  Melpomaen could only nod.  His wildest fantasies had just come true.  He didn't think "all right" did justice to the storm of emotions flooding through him.

 

He closed his eyes and relaxed in Elrond's arms.  The Elven Lord rose up on his elbow and leaned in close to Melpomaen's face.  He brushed his sweat-slicked cheek lightly with his lips.

 

"Melpomaen?" He asked softly.  "Would you..."

 

"Yes!"

 

"But I haven't even asked you yet..." Elrond laughed softly.

 

Melpomaen flushed slightly and gazed up into Elrond's grey eyes. 

 

"You know I won't say no to you," he said, his voice suddenly serious.  "You may ask me anything."

 

Elrond kissed him gently.  "Would you share my bed tonight?" he whispered.  "I wish to hold you and feel you beside me when I wake.  My bed has been cold for far too long."

 

****

 

The clang of metal on metal resounded through the empty exercise yard as two tall Elves faced each other, bodies poised in combat.  Bare torsos glistened with exertion, Ithil's pale light accentuating the sinuous play of taut muscles under silken skin.  Two bodies, one pale as moonlight, the other golden, wove around each other in a centuries-old dance of sweat and steel, nimble feet finding the ancient pattern of give and take, advance and retreat.

 

Sword securely wielded in his experienced hand, Glorfindel parried his opponent's aggressive thrust and countered with his own attack, forcing the other Elf to leap to the side in an effort to evade the sharp steel blade.  Dark eyes were locked with his sky-blue ones, conveying the determination and resolve so apparent in his sparring partner's bold, wrath-fuelled technique.  Erestor was no unskilled Elfling but rather a seasoned, battle-hardened warrior, and Glorfindel found that his own oft-praised fighting abilities met a more than worthy adversary in the dark-haired advisor.

 

They had been engaged in this tenacious struggle for close to a half-hour, Elbereth's shimmering handiwork in the night sky the only witness to their exertions.  Twice had Glorfindel nearly knocked the sharp weapon out of Erestor's grip, and both times his dark-eyed rival had managed to deflect the threat.  The golden-haired Elda was beginning to rue his own ardent wishes of less than an hour ago, for it was becoming painfully clear to him that whatever sweet carnal delights he was to sample under cover of this enchanted night would come at the price of much toil and sore limbs.  Erestor was indeed proving to be a challenge.

 

The seneschal's heart beat rapidly in his chest as he once again advanced on his ever-elusive love interest.  He fought to maintain his concentration, well aware that the pounding beneath his ribs had its cause not in the arduous nature of their swordplay but rather in the black-haired, grim-faced vision of beauty before him. 

 

For Erestor was magnificent.  Glorfindel was quickly coming to the conclusion that he had never fully appreciated just how exquisite Elrond's chief advisor really was. He wasn't pretty, not in the way some Elves were, with delicate features and a graceful, almost feminine charm; no, Erestor's beauty lay in his carefully maintained distance, his barbed scorn and ever-present reticence.  He didn't try to please, on the contrary, he was most happy when he offended, for it allowed him to remain apart and maintain his precious autonomy.  His sharp, exotic countenance, with its high cheekbones and unforgiving eyes, only added to that impression of aloofness.  And his body... well, Glorfindel had to admit that the physique usually concealed beneath Erestor's severe black tunics and robes was not that of an Elf who had spent the better part of this age behind a desk.  Strong and sinewy, it was just as well toned and battle-ready as the sharp advisor's mind.

 

Erestor countered Glorfindel's next attack with ease, and then swiftly mounted his own.  His strong, agile legs carried him forward with so much force and momentum that, when his boot caught on an inopportunely placed flat stone, causing him to lose his balance, it was too awkward for him to jump back and regain his footing.  Elrond's chief advisor swayed slightly, flung out his other arm to regain his equilibrium and ceased advancing on his golden-haired rival.  It was at this precise moment that Glorfindel's sword caught his opponent's weapon off guard, sending it flying to the other end of the exercise yard.  By the time Erestor had recovered from his unfortunate stumble, the tip of Glorfindel's sharp blade was pressed against his neck.

 

"Looks like I won our bet." The blue-eyed seneschal smiled maliciously, his breath still ragged from the long and exhausting duel.

 

Erestor only stared at him with fire in his eyes – whether of hatred or passion, Glorfindel wasn't sure.  It was hatred probably, as the prickly advisor had only ever tolerated his presence at best, but it was nice to pretend that the flames in that intense gaze had been kindled by the heat of desire...  «No matter,» thought Glorfindel, «a kiss is what I have won and so a kiss is what I shall have.»

 

"I suppose you're going to collect on our wager." Erestor's voice was strained, not only from fatigue but also from an apparent effort to keep his volatile emotions under control.  The look he sent in Glorfindel's direction would have caused a lesser Elf to cower in fear.  It only made the golden-haired Elda want his dark-eyed prize even more.

 

"Without delay." Glorfindel smiled, let his weapon drop to the ground, and methodically advanced on his captive.

 

His strong hands met the sweat-slicked planes of Erestor's stomach, one sliding up to explore the tense muscles of his chest, the other venturing around and down, to cup the tempting round globes of his backside.  He pulled the reluctant chief advisor toward him, grinding his needy hips against the other's groin.  Then he slowly brought his face close to the other's and captured those elusive lips with his own eager mouth.

 

The kiss was deep, slow and thorough.  Well aware that this might be the only opportunity he would ever have to take these kinds of liberties with the raven-haired Elf he desired so much, Glorfindel made the most of it.  He kissed Erestor with all the skill he had acquired over both his lifetimes, his overpowering need making the contact between them almost electric.  He plundered the other Elf's mouth like a thirsty man finally given water, his hands memorizing every curve of the proud advisor's well-formed body.

 

He was just about to pull away, his conscience reminding him that all he could rightfully claim was one kiss – though his body longed for more contact – when, to his surprise and everlasting joy, he felt Erestor shiver in his arms and groan with pleasure.  Strong arms encircled Glorfindel's tall frame with ardour, pulling him closer, as his kiss was returned with the heat of a passion the golden-haired seneschal could only have dreamed of.  Stunned, Glorfindel could only enjoy the feel of his own skin against that of his suddenly eager partner who, it seemed, had chosen this moment to make up for centuries of suppressed lust and desire.  Erestor's unexpected zeal took the blond warrior's breath away, as he was thoroughly kissed and felt greedy hands explore his shoulders and flank.  Glorfindel closed his eyes and gave himself up entirely to this fierce, if startling, onslaught on his senses, when, quite abruptly, Erestor tensed in his arms and then pulled away, his face filled with shame.

 

"Damn you!" the flushed advisor swore, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand as he backed away in haste.  "I can't believe you made me... I never lose control!"

 

His mind still clouded with passion, Glorfindel watched, helpless and confused, as Erestor turned and ran out of the exercise yard as fast as his swift feet could carry him.

 

 

****

 

 

Notes:  melamin – my love

 

Chapter 7:

 

 

Melpomaen heard the door close quietly, then watched Elrond turn towards him and smile.

 

"Here we are."

 

The Elven Lord's voice was hushed, hardly more than a whisper, and it sent a shiver down Melpomaen's spine.  The thought of what they had just done and what they were about to do made his knees tremble and his palms sweat.  Although he had fantasized about this moment more times than he could count, and his heart was filled with a grateful amazement that it was actually, truly happening, he could not deny the fact that he was apprehensive.  For all his desire and eagerness to please, his experience was limited.  Would he be clumsy?  Would he disappoint?

 

His self-conscious musings quickly evaporated into the night air as two strong arms gathered him up from behind and he felt Elrond's breath on his neck.  "Welcome to my chambers" the Lord of the valley breathed into his ear.  "I do not think you've ever been here before."

 

"No."

 

"You are most welcome," Elrond said, and then set about demonstrating just how welcome Melpomaen was.

 

Through the cloud of lust rapidly enveloping his brain, the young Elf looked about him and took in his surroundings.  The room was spacious and elegant, as befitted the noble Lord who dwelled within, but nothing about its furnishings could be called lavish.  Even the large four-poster bed that was its centrepiece seemed fairly plain.  It was a practical and comfortable room, with shelves lining its walls and a large desk under the open window.  Light curtains billowed in the breeze, filling the chamber with the fresh scent of lilacs.  Even in his less-than-coherent state, Melpomaen could see that Elrond's bedchamber lacked a woman's touch.  Everything about it was masculine, from the heavy leather-bound volumes filling its shelves, to the sword proudly displayed on the wall, to the pragmatic blue cotton sheets on the bed toward which the older Elf was slowly leading him.

 

"Lay down with me." Elrond's husky voice held the promise of such delights that Melpomaen fairly swooned in his arms.  He felt himself being lowered onto soft covers, felt the touch of cool cotton against his burning skin, then saw Elrond settle in beside him and turn toward him.  The Peredhel's elegant hand stroked his cheek.  He shivered, uncertain whether it was from desire or fear.

 

"Shh, pen-neth.  We'll take it slow." Elrond's hushed murmur was more comforting than seductive, and Melpomaen felt grateful.  With all the nerves jangling in his body, he did not think he could handle a demanding, aggressive lover.  Not now.  As aroused as he was, he was also afraid.  Although, he thought, he wouldn't change the course of this night for anything.

 

Elrond's gentle hands moved against Melpomaen's face as his lips lightly caressed the trembling Elf's ear.  Melpomaen heard his own breath quicken and felt his thighs part of their own accord.  He turned to face his older lover and looked into his grey eyes.  "Touch me," he said.

 

Elrond smiled and did as he was bid.  His strong body moved atop the dark-haired Elf on his bed, his hands eagerly learning the lines and curves of the young one's prone form.  His mouth sought the hungrily parted lips of the Elf beneath him, tasting him and letting himself be tasted in return. 

 

Melpomaen, delighting in the weight that was pressing him down into the sheets and reeling from the sensation Elrond's fingers and lips were eliciting, let his own hands wander over the powerful body so close to his own.  Delicious fantasy at long last turning into incredible reality, he grew bold and let his palms slide over the curve of Elrond's spine down to cup his shapely rear.  But he did not linger.  Suddenly timid, he moved his hands away almost as soon as they had reached their long coveted destination. 

 

Elrond broke their kiss and looked into Melpomaen's flushed face, curious.  "Do you wish to touch me?"

 

Melpomaen nodded, his throat suddenly dry.

 

"Then take your fill, lirimaer." The Lord of the valley smiled at the obviously aroused yet uncertain scribe in his arms.  "There is nothing I would like more than to feel your hands on my body.  Touch me, however you will."

 

And Melpomaen did.  Thinking back on it later, he would not be able to truly say whether it was courage or lust that spurred him on and guided his shaking fingers.  Nor did he care to analyze his motivation, not when Elrond moved so beautifully in his arms, eagerly leaning into his awkward caresses, nor when the lovely Peredhel's eyelashes fluttered and his lips parted in soft, pleased gasps under Melpomaen's unpractised touch.

 

They moved lightly on the bed, undressing each other slowly and with care.  Every inch of Elrond's flesh unveiled to the eager scribe's eyes and hands was a revelation, a gift.  After months spent coveting the Elven Lord from afar, Melpomaen found that he could barely contain the fever that consumed him.  His heart beat madly in his chest as more and more of his lover's beauty was gradually bared to his admiring gaze. 

 

Elrond's burgundy robe was pushed out of the way, exposing a well-toned chest and taut stomach.  Melpomaen's lips parted in sudden want when he saw the dark trail of hair leading down from the Half-elven's navel and disappearing beneath the band of his leggings.  His hands could not help but follow that tempting path as his tongue timidly lapped at the older Elf's neck.  He felt his own leggings being eased down by Elrond's expert hands, then bravely mirrored his new lover's actions.

 

They lay naked together, entwined on the bed, relishing the unfamiliar contact of skin on skin.  Searching hands explored newly discovered flesh, delighting in the differences between them; Elrond's slightly darker complexion a contrast to Melpomaen's paleness, which almost seemed to glow in the darkness of the room.  The Half-elven's broader shoulders bore witness to his warrior past, as did the few silvery scars that marred his otherwise perfect form.  Suddenly reminded of the age and wealth of experience of the one lying beside him, Melpomaen was struck by a sense of awe, which temporarily halted his curious fingers' progress.

 

Then he looked down and all uncertainty fled, replaced instantly by an overwhelming, desperate desire.  For even down between their thighs they were different; Elrond's proud erection duskier and heavier than Melpomaen's own long, slender shaft.  The sight of his lover's sex majestically rising from a nest of dark curls was too much for Melpomaen, who had never before been faced with such tempting beauty.  All the furtive longing of the past few seasons suddenly tumbled together in an avalanche of pure need, his timidity temporarily forgotten.  Urged on almost by a force beyond himself, the young Elf found his ardent tongue following the enticing trail of hair down to the source of Elrond's pleasure, his lover's heady scent beckoning him with the promise of even greater rapture.

 

Before amazement at his own daring had time to register in his passion-fogged mind, Melpomaen parted his lips and captured the crown of his lover's length in his greedy mouth.  Experimentally, he ran his tongue over his prize, remarkably silky, warm and responsive under his touch.  He tasted both sweetness and salt, and, with blood pounding in his ears, began suckling softly, his long fingers twining in the curls at the base. 

 

Anxious to please, he tried to remember what Elrond had done to him not an hour earlier. Incredulous, he tasted his lover's desire, then cautiously took his shaft in deeper, closing his eyes in concentration.  To his delight, he heard the Elven Lord moan and felt him arch his back above the cotton sheets.  A fine-boned hand tangled itself in his dark tresses, gently urging him on.  Breathless with the unexpected thrill of power that made all his hair stand on end, Melpomaen assiduously applied himself to his task.

 

Elrond's hips moved instinctively, though Melpomaen could tell that his lover tried to hold back out of concern for his inexperience.  Still, with the heat of passion impeding logical though, the older Elf could not help but forget himself as he sought his pleasure ever deeper in the young scribe's mouth.  Unaccustomed to such an intrusion, Melpomaen gasped for breath as he struggled to continue his ministrations.  Finally, when a particularly energetic thrust suddenly brushed the back of his throat, he whimpered, coughed and pulled away.

 

He was immediately caught by the shoulders and pulled up to lie flat against Elrond, as his mouth was captured in a searing kiss.  He felt his older lover's hand snake down between their bodies and purposefully wrap itself around both their erections, his own hot and eager, Elrond's still moist from Melpomaen's mouth.  The sensation of being stroked thusly, feeling both the friction of the Peredhel's hand and the damp silkiness of his member against his own hardened flesh, quickly proved to be Melpomaen's undoing.  Though he tried to rein in the wave of mounting pleasure, he could not delay the climax that gripped him with surprising force and swiftness.

 

Melpomaen's essence surged across Elrond's hand and abdomen and the younger Elf reddened with shame.

 

"I'm sorry..."

 

"Whatever for?" The Lord of the valley softly kissed Melpomaen's ear as the embarrassed scribe hid his blush in the crook of his older lover's neck.

 

"I spent too soon..."

 

"Oh, but you're so lovely when you spend..."

 

The teasing sensuality in Elrond's voice was enough for Melpomaen to glance up, and his uncertain expression was met with a warm smile.  Elrond discreetly cleaned the evidence of his young partner's passion with the edge of a blue cotton sheet, then tenderly took the hesitant scribe's face in his hands.

 

"I like to watch your pleasure, Melpomaen.  It shows that you desire me, that I please you.  You need not apologize for that." Elrond kissed him.  "Besides," he continued with a grin that could only be described as wicked, "you will spend many more times before this night is through."

 

Feeling his desire quicken once again at his lover's brazen words, Melpomaen willingly surrendered to the Peredhel's possessive kiss.  He melted bonelessly under his lover's attentions, as the Half-elven touched, stroked and caressed every part of his trembling body.  The older Elf's hands ghosted over his ear tip, neck, chest, shoulders, and Melpomaen sighed.  Elrond's fingers brushed his nipples, stomach, thighs, and the young Elf arched up and closed his eyes.  Skilful hands moved over his rapidly swelling member and teased the sensitive sac beneath, and he moaned softly.  The touch drifted further down and cautiously explored his cleft... Melpomaen tensed.

 

Sensing his young lover's obvious discomfort, Elrond moved his hand away.  "It's all right," he whispered. "We don't have to..."

 

"Wait." Courage and determination shone from Melpomaen's eyes.  He swallowed nervously. "I want to." He took Elrond's hand and slowly guided it back to his parted thighs.  "Just..."

 

"I'll be gentle, I promise," Elrond breathed.  He gave his young lover a tender kiss, then gently positioned him on his right side and spooned up behind him.  Melpomaen closed his eyes and concentrated on how the night breeze cooled his heated flesh, as Elrond lightly caressed his buttocks.  A shiver ran through his tense body as he felt the Elven Lord shift away and heard him open a drawer.  «Elbereth!» thought Melpomaen with a trace of panic, «this is it!» He tried to calm his racing heart, but it fluttered in his chest like a frantic bird.

 

"Breathe." He heard the smile in Elrond's voice as the older Elf spooned up behind him again.  He felt his virgin opening teased once more, this time with something moist and slick easing the way for Elrond's fingers.  "Are you certain?" he heard his lover whisper, and he knew that if he were to say "no," the beautiful Peredhel would stop at once, pose no questions, make no recriminations and ask no more of him than he was ready to give.  He also knew, deep down in his young heart, that he wanted to give himself to Elrond, to offer the ultimate gift he had to give. Precisely because the older Elf did not demand it.  Because he was so kind and patient.  And Melpomaen's heart ached with love for him.

 

"Yes," he whispered, and felt a slick finger penetrate him.  He heard the curtains flutter in the summer breeze.  Another finger.  The sweet scent of lilacs reached Melpomaen's nostrils as he tried to relax against the careful intrusion.  He felt Elrond softly kiss his pale, hunched shoulder.  Probing fingers moved slowly, meticulously preparing him for what was to come.  It felt foreign and new, but not painful.  Melpomaen relaxed.  The fingers retreated, leaving him with a feeling of strange emptiness, and the young Elf sensed Elrond shift again.  Then he felt something hot and rigid between his buttocks and he clenched his eyes shut.

 

There was surprisingly little pain.  He had expected it to hurt, to tear, but Elrond had prepared him well, and his passage admitted his lover's length with remarkable ease.  What he felt, to his amazement, was a curious sensation of fullness, of being completed from the inside out.  That, and the warmth of his lover's body pressed up against him in the most intimate of ways.  Elrond held still for a moment longer, then began to rock forward.

 

Melpomaen felt his lover move inside him, thrusting slowly.  His eyes still closed, he cautiously began to relax and let the sensation wash over him freely.  It didn't feel bad, no; it felt almost pleasurable to have Elrond's sex sliding deep within.  It was good to have the other Elf so close.  Melpomaen felt his lover cup his erection in his palm, Elrond's other hand reaching around the young scribe's shoulder to clasp his hand.  He entwined his fingers with Elrond's, his full attention focused on the strange sensations the Peredhel was eliciting.

 

"Good?" Elrond breathed in his ear.

 

"...good..." Melpomaen's hesitant tone contradicted his answer, the frown of concentration on his brow a further clue to his incomplete ease and imperfect enjoyment.

 

"Mayhap we can make it better," his older lover whispered, then shifted the angle of his hips slightly, continuing his attentive exploration of Melpomaen's tender passage.

 

His desire suddenly cresting, Melpomaen bore down on the hardness gently invading him, surprised by the insistent "yes!" that escaped his parted lips.  Valar, what was *that*?  His dark eyes, hitherto closed in the private discovery of new sensations, flew open as he felt Elrond stroke something within him that made all the stars in the heavens explode in a flash of fire.  He quivered in weightless bliss, suspended somewhere between earth and sky as Elrond masterfully brought him to the brink again and again.  By all of Ilúvatar's creation, he had never dreamed it could feel *this* good!

 

It didn't take long for Elrond's sure strokes to bring Melpomaen to his peak.  Panting with astonished delight and eagerly impaling himself on his lover's length, the young scribe came with spectacular force, his fingers tightly clutching the Half-elven's hand.  He barely noticed Elrond's final push as the older Elf found his own release in the recesses of his body, though his keen Elven hearing did register the whispered "Melpomaen..." that left his lover's lips at the moment of climax.

 

Lying in a boneless heap atop the blue cotton sheets, Melpomaen slowly came back to his senses.  His lover's body felt comfortingly warm against his back as the soft night breeze gently cooled the last tremors from his spent flesh.  The covers beneath him felt soft, as did the silky strands of Elrond's hair falling over his shoulder.  His pillow felt... damp.  Regaining awareness with a jolt, Melpomaen suddenly perceived the tears gliding down his cheeks.

 

Elrond's fingers, reaching up to brush a sweat-dampened strand of hair off Melpomaen's cheek, encountered undeniable trails of salty wetness.  The Elven Lord leaned over, alarmed, and peered into his young companion's flushed face.

 

"Have I hurt you?"

 

The urgency in his voice heightened Melpomaen's dismay at his own lack of control.  How could he be so transparent in his innocence?  Why, he may as well have printed "virgin" across his forehead; his reaction could hardly have been more telling.  His face colouring in disgrace, he hastened to reassure his lover.

 

"Nay, I am not hurt.  It's just..." He fumbled for the right words and came up empty.

 

Elrond shifted closer and looped a protective arm around Melpomaen's middle.  His mouth hovered close to the young scribe's ear.  "The first time can be quite... moving," he whispered.

 

Melpomaen's cheeks, already red with embarrassment, blazed anew.  He turned to face Elrond, his wide eyes mortified.  "Was it that obvious?"

 

Elrond smiled and, in true diplomatic fashion, parried with a question of his own.  "Was it all right?"

 

"It was better than all right." Melpomaen sighed as he nestled closer. "It was... lovely.  It was not what I expected."

 

Elrond smiled again.  "You know," he murmured conspiratorially, "I was nigh terrified my first time.  I still remember it clearly, though it was long ago."  Noting Melpomaen's curious expression, he continued.  "I was older than you, by a few centuries, but still... felt like a mere Elfling.  He was a warrior in his prime, proud and strong.  He could be fierce in battle.  I feared he would tear me asunder and..." He paused, his unfocused eyes staring out over the dark room, then continued. "I remember being surprised that someone so mighty could be so tender.  And astounded that two male bodies could fit together so well."

 

"What happened to him?" Melpomaen asked softly.

 

"He is dead," Elrond said simply, and a brief spasm of pain flickered across his face, then was gone.

 

"I'm sorry." The young Elf whispered respectfully, lowering his gaze.  He felt Elrond stroke his cheek.

 

"It was long ago, pen-neth," the Elven Lord said, then leaned down to kiss him. "And we are not here to dwell on past pain, but rather to rejoice in the gifts this night has brought us." 

 

Melpomaen leaned into Elrond's embrace, his heart full of love.  The night had already brought him far more riches than he'd ever dreamed could be his.  No matter how it ended, he would not be sorry.

 

 

****

 

With the first light of day timidly illuminating the sky, Elrond felt Melpomaen shift in his arms.  He gently stroked his companion's shoulder, willing him to relax and fall back into the pleasant reverie they had both been enjoying, but the younger Elf would not be calmed.  He seemed restless as he turned on his side and nervously brushed a strand of coal-black hair behind his ear.  The bedchamber grew brighter.  Melpomaen hesitatingly sat up.

 

"I... should probably go," he said, his voice strangely hushed.

 

"Why?" Elrond sleepily lifted an eyebrow, instinctively reaching out for the one who was suddenly professing an inexplicable desire to leave the warm bed.

 

"Dawn is nearly come," Melpomaen answered, looking out the window – purposely avoiding his eyes, Elrond realized.

 

"So?" The Elven Lord was still baffled.

 

Melpomaen met his gaze at last, his expression uncertain.  "Midsummer night's eve is at an end..." His eyes dropped again. "It was... wonderful, but... I wouldn't want to overstay my welcome.  If you wish to be rid of me, you need only say..."

 

"Rid of you?" Elrond was fully awake now, his voice incredulous. "Mel... did you think all I wanted was one night?" He sat up in consternation and peered into the younger Elf's face.

 

"Midsummer night's eve isn't just any night.  Things happen that otherwise... wouldn't.  I do not know what you wish, but you already know my heart.  I told you before that you could have anything... I meant that.  As for me, I do not mind... I will be content with..." Melpomaen broke off, holding back tears.

 

"Mel," Elrond twirled a strand of the scribe's jet-black hair around his finger, then pulled him closer.  "Do you think me so callous as to go around bedding innocent young Elves and then casting them out of my chamber at the break of day?" His tone was teasing, but the expression on his face was not.

 

Not getting a response, the Lord of the valley pulled his young lover into a tight embrace.  "Listen to me, Mel.  I hardly remember the last time my heart felt this glad.  I have waited a long time for you, wishing to be with you and thinking you beyond my reach.  I do not take what happened between us lightly.  I would have it mean more... if that is also your wish."

 

"It is," the young scribe whispered, and Elrond felt himself enfolded in a crushing embrace.

 

 

****

 

 

Notes:  pen-neth – young one

        lirimaer – lovely one

 

 

Chapter 8:

 

 

Elrond rose from the cooling water of his bath and quickly dried the droplets from his body.  Shivering, he eagerly slipped into his warm robe, enjoying the feel of the warm cloth against his skin, then hurried toward the warmth of the fireplace.  The playful dance of snowflakes outside the window was a sure sign that winter had arrived in the valley at last, and the heat of the fire was pleasantly comforting to the Half-elven's chilled flesh.  His fingers reached for his hairbrush on the side table and encountered a small silver hairclip instead.  He smiled, weighing the little trinket in his palm, as he thought of the one to whom the tiny ornament belonged.

 

Melpomaen had risen early that morning and, discreet as always, had slipped away to the privacy of his own chambers before Anor's first rays had lit up the sky.  As always, he was forgetful, and had likely left his hair unbound as he made his quiet way through the deserted hallways of the Last Homely House.  «No matter,» thought Elrond, «he will retrieve his clasp the next time he comes.»  He smiled as he felt gratitude flood his being, from the top of his head to the tips of his somewhat icy toes.  Melpomaen was truly a gift from the Valar, and Elrond was not so arrogant as to neglect thanking Elbereth for the good fortune she had bestowed upon him.  For the first time in centuries he greeted his mornings with joy, and his nights... His smile widened as he recalled the many pleasures of the nights he shared with his young lover.

 

They had kept their relationship very private out of consideration both for Elrond's distant spouse and Melpomaen's position in his older lover's household.  Not only would it not do for the Lord of Imladris to flaunt his newfound happiness while his wife still lived on this side of the sea, but it would make it supremely awkward for Melpomaen to be known as Elrond's consort while his status as the Elven Lord's advisor was still not established.  The young scribe may have been bright and able, but malicious tongues would surely take advantage of any hint of Melpomaen's success to imply that he owed his advancement not to his skills as a scribe and advisor but to his... other talents.  Elrond couldn't bear to subject this sweet young Elf to such hurtful gossip, and so the delights they found in each other's company remained their own affair.  The few close friends that were privy to their happiness could be trusted to keep that knowledge to themselves.

 

Having finally grasped his elusive hairbrush, Elrond set about combing the tangles out of his long dark tresses and fashioning his hair in elaborate braids, as befitted his status.  He smiled again as he thought about how Melpomaen liked to braid his hair for him.  The young scribe's fingers were nimble and deft, and the plaits he wove always seemed somehow more elegant than those Elrond could manage on his own.  It was yet another one of Melpomaen's numerous gifts which the Elven Lord was forever discovering, to his boundless delight.  His young lover sometimes reminded him of a curious object Elrohir had once purchased at a fair in Lórien; it was a gracefully carved and elaborately painted wooden figurine that, when twisted open, revealed another, smaller figurine, which in turn revealed another, and another...  Melpomaen was like that, Elrond realized, as his heart gave a pleased leap; just when he thought he knew everything about his young, dark-haired love, Melpomaen would surprise him with a completely new, delightful aspect of his temperament.

 

The young scribe had not minded the need for secrecy their relationship involved, although Elrond had at first feared that he would balk at the clandestine nature of their love.  Far from being upset, Melpomaen had accepted the limits of their situation with astoundingly good grace.  «Aye, I am truly fortunate indeed,» though the Lord of the valley as he once again contemplated the many riches of his lover's heart.  Melpomaen had proven to be wise beyond his years, his insight tempered by the hardships of his young life, and Elrond was both gladdened and relieved to find that the young Elf's ardour in the bedchamber was fully matched by the depth of his compassion and understanding.  Despite his tender years, Melpomaen was no child – he was someone Elrond could actually talk to, and the ancient Elf Lord found that to be a treasure worth far more than any of the jewels safely hidden in the vaults of the Last Homely House.

 

Elrond sat down on his wide bed and, slipping off his warm robe, began to dress for the day.  Drifting down, his gaze was met with the sight of a dark passion mark on the inside of his right thigh.  He sighed and closed his eyes as pleasant memories flooded his mind.  A great deal had changed since the first night the young Elf had trembled in his arms.  Over time, Melpomaen had grown more comfortable in their love play, becoming bolder and more adventurous.  His hesitant hands had grown steadier, more sure, as he gradually learned just how to bring Elrond to the brink of ecstasy and beyond.  It was not unusual for him to take the lead in their lovemaking of late, and Elrond gladly relinquished control of their sweet couplings to this fiery young spirit who possessed him so utterly and so passionately.  It felt good to trust someone enough to allow himself to be taken, Elrond thought.  He hadn't been in that position since the days Gil-galad's sturdy frame had covered his more slender one in the High King's bed – the place where the Peredhel had taken his first lessons in pleasure, love and devotion.

 

The Lord of the valley gave the reddened mark on his sensitive flesh one more curious look before pulling on his leggings.  «The little minx!» he thought with a smile as he recalled the delicious events of that morning.  He had been awakened, with the first hint of the dawn glowing in the sky beyond his window, by the feeling of a teasing, kittenish tongue lapping at the tip of his still-sleepy desire.  He had lifted up his head from the comforts of his pillow and looked down, only to be met with the sight of his own flaccid sex being enveloped in the exquisite heat of Melpomaen's mouth.  His young lover had worked his talented tongue over his rapidly hardening member, all the while gazing up shamelessly into Elrond's astonished eyes, as if daring him to stop what he had taken the initiative to begin.  Melpomaen had had his way, of course.  Within minutes, Elrond was panting, head thrust back in undeniable bliss as the dark-haired vision between his thighs brought him to an explosive climax and then enfolded him in a tender embrace.

 

It had been a lovely way to start the day, thought Elrond as a pleased shiver travelled down his spine.  Unfortunately, the time had come to bring his mind to focus on other, more official, matters.  He sighed as he fastened the last few closings on his formal robe, then set off down the hall, in the direction of his council room. 

 

He sincerely hoped this morning's council would be more productive than the one of a few days before, which had been downright strange.  The Lord of the valley had never before seen his seneschal and chief advisor acting so, well... bizarre.  Glorfindel and Erestor – both usually so professional and controlled – had seemed to completely forget their surroundings as they engaged in relentless verbal warfare, only thinly veiled by the pretence of a discussion about distant patrol outposts.  Although the words they spoke and the arguments they brought forth seemed well within the limits of the subject being debated, the sparks that flew between them and the daggers in their eyes told quite a different story.  Something was definitely afoot. 

 

«Why am I always the last one to know these things?» Elrond puzzled as he pushed open the door to the spacious chamber, already filled with his advisors.  His eyes instinctively flew to the figure of a dark-haired young Elf standing in the corner of the room.  Melpomaen gave him a brief, knowing smile, then discreetly lowered his gaze to the ground.  Sighing quietly, Elrond willed his mind to leave personal affairs be, and concentrate rather on important matters of state.

 

****

 

«Twenty-three, twenty-four... twenty-five...» counted Glorfindel with amusement. «Our distinguished friend has really outdone himself this time.» 

 

The official gathering was finally drawing to a close, and the golden-haired seneschal was trying desperately to stay alert as one of the junior librarians gave an account of the re-cataloguing of the Last Homely House archive.  The topic, though no doubt of some importance, was unfortunately as dry as the bed of the Bruinen after a severe drought, and the thoroughly bored Elda was attempting to divert himself by tallying up the number of times the serious librarian said "in truth" – one of the otherwise quite competent Elf's more annoying habits.

 

"In truth," the librarian droned on, much to Glorfindel's delight, "the re-cataloguing efforts are now complete and the Imladris archive has never been in finer condition."

 

Silence settled over the room, interrupted only by the buzzing of a stray fly – its sound surprisingly clamorous in the otherwise hushed chamber. 

 

"Thank you." Elrond's voice betrayed a note of relief. "That was most... enlightening."  The Elven Lord rubbed his eyes, then reached for a crystal goblet filled with water.  "Now, before we conclude this morning's council, there is one more matter I wish to inquire about..." Elrond's eyes sought out Erestor who, it seemed to Glorfindel, visibly stiffened under his Lord's gaze.

 

"Erestor," Elrond continued, "I should very much like to have that report on the weapons' inventory you were to prepare for today."

 

Erestor's pale skin turned a shade whiter as he stared back at Elrond across the table, looking somewhat... cornered.  Glorfindel could almost hear the thoughts flying wildly in the chief advisor's brain as his fingers frantically searched through the pile of papers in front of him.

 

"The... weapons inventory report?" Erestor sounded uncertain.

 

"The very same."

 

"Ah, well... it seems that..."

 

It suddenly occurred to Glorfindel that Erestor – always-organized, never-unprepared Erestor – was about to get caught with his proverbial leggings down.  Elrond's raven-haired chief advisor was starting to look a little bit panicked and distinctly uncomfortable under Elrond's questioning stare.  It was rather disturbing to see the usually so unflappable Elf looking so out of character.  Glorfindel felt a pang of conscience at the thought that it was likely his continued attempts to pursue the reluctant advisor that had contributed to Erestor's unusual memory lapse.  And if he was the cause of Erestor's imminent debacle, then maybe he...

 

"My Lord, if I may..." Glorfindel sprang into action.  "I'm afraid the fault is all mine."

 

Glorfindel barely registered Elrond's disapproval, his full attention being focused on Erestor's reaction.  The dark-haired Elf who had been the subject of so many of his dreams over the past months looked slightly taken aback. 

 

Glorfindel continued.  "It was my duty to provide Erestor with the most recent weapons count and... it seems I have been remiss."

 

"I was rather hoping to peruse that report today." Elrond sounded disappointed.

 

"I assure you, my Lord, I shall deliver the information to him as soon as I can.  I apologize once again."

 

"Very well." Elrond gathered up his robes and stood up.  "Erestor, as soon as the report is complete, could you let me know?"

 

"Of course, my Lord." Erestor, still looking a bit dazed, remained seated as the other Elves slowly dispersed.  When the door had closed behind the last of the stragglers, Glorfindel strode over to the confused chief advisor and sat down.  The eyes that met his were filled with dismay.

 

"That was uncalled for." Erestor's tone was sharp.

 

"I was merely trying to..."

 

"I would appreciate it if, in future, you did me no more favours."

 

"But, Erestor, I..."

 

"I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself; I do not require your patronizing concern."

 

"I merely thought that since..."

 

"Then stop thinking, Glorfindel!  Leave that to those who are trained in the task." Erestor's voice dripped with sarcasm. "And, while I have your attention, I would be greatly indebted to you if you refrained from pestering me.  Please do not gift letters and flowers upon me.  Do not manoeuvre your way to my side at mealtimes.  And, for Valar's sake, cease your attempts to edge your way over to me in the public bath!  It is a wonder I manage to perform my duties at all; wherever I turn, your face is all I see!"

 

"Merely because I find you so hard to resist..." Joking his way out of difficult situations had always worked for Glorfindel, but not this time.

 

"Your advances are *not* welcome!  *Do* you understand?!" Erestor looked to be near his breaking point.

 

Glorfindel took in the sight of the beautiful, irate chief advisor, then lowered his head in defeat.  "Yes, Erestor.  I'm sorry." He glanced up in time to watch Erestor's midnight hair disappear around the corner of the doorframe with a swish.  Mere seconds later, the door closed with an audible thud.  Erestor was gone.

 

«Alas, all my brilliant strategies have turned to dust,» thought Glorfindel bitterly.  The silence that settled over the room was almost deafening.  What was he supposed to do now?  Not only had Erestor not appreciated Glorfindel's valiant attempts at rescuing him, he had made it abundantly clear that he was not interested in the golden-haired seneschal at all.  «Valar, what now?» Glorfindel rubbed his temples in frustration.  It was true, he had made himself a bit of a nuisance since the very memorable events of midsummer night's eve.  But how could he not?  Erestor had gotten into his blood.  That one taste of the usually so icy chief advisor's passion had been intoxicating, and Glorfindel could not help but crave more.

 

Or, at least, that's how it had begun.  Glorfindel would slip into reverie only to find himself staring into the dusky eyes of the one who haunted his waking dreams.  He would walk the hallways of the Last Homely House and find himself inexplicably drawn to the spacious library and, once there, to a certain heavy oak desk in the corner, and the black-clad silent figure usually seated there.  He learned to recognize and love the barely perceptible sound of the chief advisor's efficient footsteps in the silence of the long Imladris afternoons, and the downy hairs on the back of his neck would stand up whenever his nostrils caught a hint of juniper mixed with ink – Erestor's very own scent.

 

The very council sessions he had previously seen as tedious and dull – a necessary evil at best – now became rare opportunities to delight in the dark advisor's intelligence and wit.  Sometimes he even deliberately provoked Erestor with his comments and questions just to hear his impatient and scathing retort.  Oh, how it thrilled Glorfindel to see those ebony eyes flash fire as well-aimed verbal barbs were flung his way, cutting him to the quick.  Sometimes he even thought he could see traces of a different kind of fire in Erestor's gaze, though the proud advisor would never deign to admit it.  It was this vague hope – hope that the fervour he had briefly experienced in the beautiful Elf's arms might not be out of his reach again – that led Glorfindel to pursue his heart's desire in earnest.

 

He went about it in the way that had always stood him in good stead in the past: he took the most direct path.  But, though he usually had little trouble getting Elves to succumb to his charms, he quickly found that Erestor was no ordinary Elf.  The sweet words Glorfindel spoke and the gifts he sent were met with indifference or were ignored outright.  His attempts to get close to the reluctant advisor were brushed off tactfully but effectively.  His one bold proposition that Erestor dine in his chambers was met with a polite, but definite, refusal.  It was disheartening, to say the least, and almost – almost – made him abandon his efforts.  But just when Glorfindel was about to give up on his impossible quest and settle for admiring the cold, dark Elf from afar, he would catch an unguarded expression on Erestor's face, see the counsellor's eyes blaze briefly as they met his own, and know deep down in his bones that he had not imagined it; there *was* something there.  And so the entire infuriating dance would begin again.  It was utterly exasperating.  *He* was utterly exasperating.  His difficult, abrasive, beautiful, most intoxicating of Elves.

 

Seeing him at this morning's council, so unsettled and unsure, robbed for a moment of his ever-present control, had touched something in Glorfindel, causing him to react almost without thinking.  «I should have known better,» the Elda sighed.  Erestor would not take well to any insinuation that he needed help.  He would never ask for it, and he was not likely to accept it gracefully when it was freely offered.  Especially not from the one Elf in Imladris who had been hounding his steps for months, intent on getting into the chief advisor's bed and, Valar forbid, his heart.

 

«I am a fool.» Glorfindel closed his eyes and dropped his head down to the table before him, his golden mane falling all over the polished wood in disarray.

 

"Am I... interrupting something?"

 

Startled, Glorfindel quickly straightened up in his chair, his slightly mussed tresses evidence of his inner unrest.  A narrow crack in the door revealed a pair of curious black eyes.

 

"I can... come back later..."

 

"It's alright, Melpomaen, come in.  I was just..."

 

"Taking a well deserved rest?" The amused tone in the young scribe's voice brought home to Glorfindel just how much Melpomaen had changed over the past few months.  When he first came to Imladris, the young Elf would never have dared joke so easily with Glorfindel.  But now Melpomaen no longer saw the golden-haired seneschal as an ancient Elf Lord; he saw him as Elrond's good friend.  The proud warrior of Gondolin cringed at the thought of the many ‘Glorfindel stories' the Lord of the valley had likely shared with his young lover in their quiet moments between the sheets.  No wonder the young one felt free to take such liberties.

 

"Yes... well, the morning *has* been rather trying," the seneschal admitted grudgingly.

 

"I do not doubt it." Melpomaen gave Glorfindel another cheeky grin, then sat down across the table from him.  He gazed at the older Elf for a moment, as if weighing the words he was about to speak, then leaned in closer.  "He didn't mean it, you know.  Whatever he might have said."

 

Melpomaen's words, though quiet and almost deliberately gentle, made Glorfindel's heart pound.  "What?"

 

"He was only upset..."

 

"Who?"

 

Melpomaen looked at him rather like an exasperated tutor would regard a not-too-bright student who had neglected his lessons.  "Who do you think?" He shook his head in disbelief.  "Do you honestly think others don't see?"

 

"See what?"

 

"The way you act around him.  The way... he acts around you." Melpomaen shrugged.  "He does, you know."

 

"Erestor?" Glorfindel heard the note of hesitant hopefulness in his own voice and felt ridiculous.  He was far too old and experienced to be acting like a blushing youth.  Here he was, getting romantic advice from... from Melpomaen, for Valar's sake!  Damn that cold-hearted chief advisor: he was turning him into a laughing-stock!

 

"Yes. Erestor." Melpomaen smiled at him – a smile that was not at all mocking – and Glorfindel felt his embarrassment ebb somewhat.  The young one did, after all, know a thing or two about the torment of unrequited love... Funny how the tables had turned.

 

The dark-haired scribe patiently continued.  "You know I usually work in close proximity to him in the libraries, so it's difficult not to notice his moods.  Especially when they're so obvious."  He smiled again.  "He's been... quite distracted lately."

 

"Lately?"

 

"Ever since midsummer's night, come to think of it, but then..." The young Elf blushed.  "I was far too preoccupied myself for a while to heed the clear signs."

 

"Of course." Glorfindel smirked.

 

"But now... it's getting nigh impossible to work with him!  He practically threw a heavy volume at me the other day just because I mentioned something about balrogs in passing.  And it had nothing to do with you!  And he forgot all about that report – quite unlike him, you have to admit.  He hates himself for it, it's plain to see.  He hates having his carefully arranged world disturbed."

 

"So... why did you say that he didn't mean it?" Glorfindel was puzzled. "If he hates it so much, then why wouldn't he hate... me?  It's only logical."

 

"Yes..." Melpomaen gazed off into space, his eyes focused on a speck of dust twirling in the sunbeam falling across the wooden table.  "Except..."

 

"Except what?"

 

"The other day..."

 

"For pity's sake, Melpomaen, speak your mind!" Glorfindel was beyond politeness, his patience having been exhausted long ago. 

 

The young Elf gave him another exasperated look, then continued with his tale.  "You sent him a note, which he promptly crumpled."

 

"Yes, I know.  All my notes get the same treatment."

 

"That was in the morning.  We worked all afternoon, and Erestor was touchy as usual.  We finished work around dusk, then retired for the evening meal."

 

"I do hope there's more to this story..."

 

"Patience, Glorfindel, please!" Melpomaen glared. "Later on that night, Elrond asked me to get some of his papers from the library, so I went back.  It's usually quite deserted by that time, so I was surprised to see Erestor there.  In the corner, by his desk.  He didn't see me, though.  I was quiet."

 

"And??"

 

"He held your note; he was reading it.  And then... now, this may sound strange, but I swear it's true, although it's so unlike him..."

 

"Melpomaen!!!"

 

"Sorry.  He... kissed it.  He held your note to his lips, closed his eyes and kissed it!  I don't think I've ever seen such emotion in his face.  I was so shocked I forgot all about Elrond's papers and just left.  I think he meant for that gesture to be private and I couldn't very well just walk in and..."

 

"Did he really?" Glorfindel's wide-open eyes held all the hope and amazement of an Elf a fraction of his age and wisdom, but he was long past giving a damn.  Erestor cared!  Arda was a beautiful place!  He stared at the young Elf across the table – the bearer of such good tidings – and laughed; an honest, genuine laugh of pure joy.

 

Melpomaen gazed back at him in obvious pleasure, then gathered up a pile of papers and rose from his chair.  "I should return to the library; he sent me for these documents which he had... forgotten." The young scribe smirked at Glorfindel.  "I can't tarry any further.  I simply though you might want to know..."

 

"Thank you, pen-neth." Glorfindel crossed the room in a few long strides and enclosed the young Elf in a warm embrace.  "You are a prince among Elves."

 

"Hardly." Melpomaen extricated himself from the seneschal's crushing, if heartfelt, clasp.  "Just someone who knows how it feels to be..." 

 

"In the dark?"

 

"And without hope, yes." Melpomaen smiled and made for the door.

 

"Tell Elrond he's fortunate to have found you."

 

"He knows." And with a last mischievous grin, the young Elf was gone, leaving Glorfindel alone with his thoughts, which were, for the first time in a very long time, glorious.

 

 

****

 

Notes:  pen-neth – young one

 

 

Chapter 9:

 

 

A quiet, barely perceptible, knock at the door roused Glorfindel from his daydream.  He had been staring out the window of his bedchamber, enthralled by the play of the light on the pristinely white surface of the snow outside.  It had been a long time since the rays of the setting sun had so captured his attention but, then again, it had been a long time since he had felt this elated.  The entire afternoon had drifted by in a pleasant haze of Erestor-filled dreams.  The responsible seneschal of Imladris had sat on the edge of his bed and watched the snowflakes twirl about as his thoughts lingered on dark hair and black, angry eyes... His conversation with Melpomaen had put him in a ridiculously good mood, and he did not care if he frittered the afternoon away in a manner utterly unsuited to his status and age.  Erestor cared!  What else mattered?  Glorfindel smiled.  He would give the offended advisor some time to let his anger cool, and then he'd approach him again.  All was not lost.

 

The stubborn knock on the door returned with slightly more force this time.  Glorfindel sighed and reluctantly moved to answer it.  Late afternoon was turning into evening; and the thoughts of most of Imladris were likely focused on the upcoming evening meal.  Who was bothering him now and what could they possibly want?  One of his strong hands grasped the door handle and pulled the door ajar in an exasperated motion.  His annoyance fled, however, as he beheld the figure of a clearly uncomfortable-looking Elf standing in the hallway.

 

"I owe you an apology." His unexpected visitor glared at him with a guarded expression.  He did not look repentant.  "May I... come in?"

 

"Of course, Erestor, you are most welcome."

 

Glorfindel stepped back and let the door swing wide open.  He gestured for the advisor, dressed in severe black as always, to approach the fireplace.  Then he closed the door and turned to face his guest, excitement mingled with fear churning in his gut.

 

"What you did today was inexcusable." Erestor's voice, though no longer livid, still held the sting of indignation.

 

"You have a most interesting way of apologizing, counsellor." A hint of a smile could not help but creep into Glorfindel's voice.  Leave it to Erestor to make even the simple task of apologizing as frustrating as possible.  That damn Elf seemed to take every established rule and then stand it on its head.

 

"And you have a curious conception of what is 'helpful,' Glorfindel," Erestor shot back, staring the seneschal down.  "You should know by now that I do not require... assistance.  If I fail in my duties in any way, *I* should be the one to deal with the consequences.  I am not a maiden to be rescued."

 

"I know, Erestor," Glorfindel said quietly, turning his blue eyes away from the tension in his friend's gaze, "I was in the wrong."

 

"Not to say that I don't..." Erestor's voice abruptly lowered both in pitch and volume, "...appreciate it."

 

Glorfindel looked up, uncertain he'd heard correctly.  Did Erestor just say he appreciated his clumsy attempts to help?  Had those foreign words actually left the chief advisor's lovely lips?  It couldn't be.

 

Erestor apparently sensed his companion's confusion, for he moved forward and continued to speak, his coal-black eyes tenuously focusing on Glorfindel's blue ones. 

 

"I may sometimes appear cold and distant, Glorfindel, but... I am not made of ice, in spite of what people say.  I know you've made repeated efforts to... be kind to me in recent months, and... I am not very good at responding to that kind of attention.  Still, I wanted to let you know that... that..."

 

The usually so eloquent advisor was desperately struggling for words, his pale features flushed with consternation.  Seeing the strange fire in the dark-haired Elf's eyes and hearing his nearly frantic tone, Glorfindel stepped closer.  And closer.

 

"...let you know that... I am not completely unaffected..." Erestor's eyes widened at Glorfindel's steady approach, but he did not move.  His breathing had become unsteady, however, and he now sounded as if he'd just run a great distance.  "...unaffected by your... your...oooooh, Glorfindel!"

 

The last exclamation came just as the golden-haired seneschal, impatient from months of fruitless pursuit and nearly out of his mind with crazed desire for the Elf before him, suddenly grabbed Erestor by his hips and pulled him close, crushing his mouth in a fierce kiss.

 

The next few minutes were a blur of hot mouths, tangled limbs and discarded robes.  The two Elves rolled on the soft carpet in front of the fire, heedless of their surroundings, wanting only to taste and feel as much of each other as possible.  The long, drawn out build-up to the encounter only served to heighten the frenzy and passion of their coupling.  Hands explored skin, clutched at hair and grasped buttocks as the air was filled with desperate moans and whispered endearments.

 

Glorfindel, his long-ignored hardness fit to burst with want, clutched his partner as if his life depended on it.  Not knowing which part of Erestor to touch or taste first, he attacked the hitherto reluctant Elf with unparalleled ardour.  His mind long past the state where rational thought was possible, he did not even consider the mechanics of their lovemaking until he heard Erestor hiss in his ear "take me!" and saw the dark-haired advisor get on his hands and knees and look over his shoulder, eyes half-closed in lust and lips parted.

 

The balrog slayer frantically snatched the long-unused bottle of oil from his night table, sending assorted items clattering to the ground in the process.  The sight of Erestor's pale bottom so invitingly displayed against the flames dancing in the fireplace was almost enough to bring on his release, but he held on, maintaining control through an almost heroic effort.  Knowing he would not last long and practically delirious with anticipation, he laid his hands on that eagerly awaited prize and, after only the most cursory preparation, mounted Erestor from behind.

 

The world stopped.  Responsibilities, worries, regrets – none of them counted in this instant, none of them existed.  The universe spun out into insignificance, and all that remained was the willing body beneath him and the pulsing sheath of heat swathing the only part of him that still mattered.  At this moment, Glorfindel would have gladly given his soul back to Mandos' keeping if that had been asked of him in return for this unearthly pleasure.  He held still, the sensation almost enough to rob him of consciousness.

 

Then Erestor dropped down onto his elbows and laid his head on the soft carpet, his raven hair fanning out around him like tendrils of dark flame.  At the sight of that long back, white against the deep russet of the rug, Glorfindel lost all shreds of self-control that may still have been his to command.  Releasing a savage groan, he closed his eyes, threw his head back in abandon and began to thrust.

 

He was not gentle, nor did he think that Erestor would have wanted him to be.  The way the pale advisor moved under him, his body taut like a tightly coiled spring, told him that the forceful rhythm he'd set was precisely what was desired.  Still, he was vaguely conscious that his hands' grip on the dark-haired Elf's hips was so firm as to border on painful, and he suspected that once their frenzied passion was spent, Erestor would be left with dark bruises as tokens of their coupling.

 

Concerned for his partner's comfort, he made an effort to clutch him less roughly, loosening his hold on the narrow backside so temptingly displayed under his gaze.  But his palms were slippery with oil, and his fingers skidded down the beautiful advisor's hips, awkwardly breaking the pace Glorfindel had set for their lovemaking.  Striving to keep his balance, the Elda scrambled to gain purchase on the slick body under his hands, inadvertently grazing the skin with his nails and leaving angry red marks behind.

 

Words of apology died on his lips as he saw Erestor throw his head back in ecstasy and cry out "more!" in response.  Incredulous and slightly taken aback, he experimentally dug his fingers into the yielding flesh and squeezed.  The gasp of rapture that was his answer would probably have been enough to instruct him as to his lover's surprising preferences, but then Erestor looked over his shoulder, gazed directly into Glorfindel's eyes and nodded.  And the warrior of Gondolin knew beyond any doubt what his partner wanted.

 

The golden-haired seneschal hesitated for a few disconcerting seconds, then promptly made up his mind.  After all, he'd had stranger requests before and, though the reserved advisor's penchant for rough play came as somewhat of a shock, it was hardly offensive.  Glorfindel had yearned to touch that lean, pale body for many lonely months, and if the touch he now bestowed on it was harsh instead of tender, so be it.

 

Determined to please, Glorfindel pulled away from the heat enveloping him just enough to deliver a stinging slap to the eagerly proffered buttocks, then drove his mithril-hard need into the tight channel before him with all the power he could muster.  Erestor practically shivered with delight, spreading his legs wider and arching his back to give the balrog slayer easier access to his willing entrance, the sharp gasps coming from his parted lips evidence of his obvious pleasure.

 

Encouraged by this partner's enthusiastic response, Glorfindel abandoned himself to the frenzied pace of their joining, forsaking all thought of care and instead treating the eager Elf beneath him with all the harshness he seemed to relish.  His hands held the other's body in a bruising grip as he pierced him again and again, delivering the occasional blow with his palm or pinch with his fingers.  Finally, when the quiver of Erestor's muscles signalled just how close he was, Glorfindel wrapped his hands around the advisor's flowing dark mane and, using the midnight tresses as reins, rode the Elf to completion.

 

Erestor cried out and collapsed on the soft carpet, panting.  Glorfindel quickly followed suit, wrapping his arms around the shaking advisor and tenderly pressing his mouth to a single blue vein throbbing a rapid rhythm in the hollow of Erestor's throat.  Suckling gently, the Elda felt his companion's heartbeat gradually slow under the light touch of his tongue.  He closed his eyes and delighted in the stillness, the calm that had come in the aftermath of their untamed lovemaking.  Erestor was in his arms.  It seemed the Valar had answered his prayers at last.

 

He was about to whisper as much into the delicately pointed ear of the one curled up against him when, without warning, he felt the pale body stiffen and move away.  Before he could protest, Erestor had scrambled to his feet and, his gait unsteady, began to gather up his clothes.  His eyes frantically searched the ground for carelessly discarded garments, looking everywhere but into Glorfindel's baffled face.

 

"Erestor, what..."

 

"I'm sorry Glorfindel, I... have to go," Erestor addressed the crumpled velvet robe at his feet, hands hastily gathering up fabric.

 

"What's the matter?" The disconcerted seneschal raised himself up on an elbow, thoroughly puzzled.  "Didn't I please you?"

 

Erestor looked up from the sad looking heap of clothing in his arms and Glorfindel saw his eyes.  The look in those deep pools of blackness could only be described as haunted.

 

"I'm so sorry... I got carried away... I should never have..." His voice breaking, he haphazardly pulled on his robe and, clutching his soft leather boots to his chest, fled into the hallway.

 

****

 

"Elrond!! Fires of Mordor, Elrond! Are you in there?!"

 

Elrond's long fingers, hitherto gently caressing the arch of Melpomaen's slender foot, halted their progress at the sound of Glorfindel's enraged voice, accompanied by the hammering of fists on the door to the Peredhel's bedchamber.  Alarmed, Elrond let his lover's foot slip from his grasp, rose from the armchair he had been reclining in and hurried toward the entranceway.  Melpomaen curled his long legs under him and settled deeper in his own chair, turning his face toward the sudden uproar with curiosity.

 

"I'm here, Glorfindel, there is no need to break the door down." Elrond did his best to sound soothing, hoping to pacify his friend before the latter did any permanent damage to the elaborate woodwork.  The balrog slayer's strength *was* legendary, and no door was likely to withstand his attack for long.

 

Moving with efficiency, Elrond turned the key in the lock and admitted their unexpected visitor.  The sight that greeted him and Melpomaen was one for the history books, though Elrond doubted anyone would actually have the nerve to pen the description of the noble warrior of Gondolin now standing before them in all his dishevelled glory.

 

Glorfindel – usually so careful, almost pedantic, in his appearance, so fastidious about his dress and hair – was the picture of disarray.  His face was flushed, his leggings rumpled, his hair tousled, and one of his warrior braids undone.  His tunic was on inside out. He was wearing only one shoe.

 

"Is he here?" he asked, seemingly completely unconcerned by the impression his unusual state may be making on the two Elves staring at him in disbelief.

 

"Who?" Elrond's eyebrow rose skyward in bewilderment.

 

"Erestor isn't here, Glorfindel." Melpomaen quickly came to his confused lover's assistance.

 

"Where is that cursed Elf?!! If I ever get my hands on him..." Glorfindel's voice was shaking, his breathing ragged.

 

"It seems to me that you already got your hands on him," Melpomaen remarked with a smirk, eyeing the obvious love bite on Glorfindel's neck with amusement, "or, rather, he got his hands on you..."

 

"Erestor?" Elrond's expression turned from bafflement to shock as his eyes traveled from his seneschal to his lover in turn, then back to his seneschal. "What in Valar's name..."

 

"He ran from me." Glorfindel's breathing had calmed somewhat. "I don't know where he is.  He is not in his chambers, nor in the library.  Not in the gardens either.  In fact, he is nowhere to be found."  The Elda's blue eyes regarded Elrond and Melpomaen with desperation.  "I must find him. I *have to* speak with him. I have to speak with him *now*.  Please, if either one of you knows where he might be..."

 

The pleading in the blond warrior's voice was a sound neither Elrond nor his young lover was used to.  It took them both aback and made them look twice at the ruffled Elf before them. Glorfindel, nervously cracking the large knuckles of his strong hands, seemed almost afraid.

 

"Have you tried the guest wing, Glorfindel?" Melpomaen asked with compassion, wisely deciding that jests could wait for another day.

 

"Guest wing?"

 

"He goes there sometimes when he wants to be alone.  Try one of the garden suites at the very end of the corridor.  We have no guests in attendance at present, so maybe..."

 

"Guest wing..." Glorfindel repeated to himself, nodding, his eyes focused on Melpomaen's face.  "Thank you, pen-neth."  He sighed.

 

Then, as abruptly as he had appeared in their midst, he was gone.

 

Elrond turned his puzzled expression in the direction of his lover, who had gracefully risen from his comfortable chair and now stood beside him.  "May I ask just what exactly that was all about?" The Peredhel's tone betrayed his utter consternation.

 

Melpomaen smiled and wrapped his ink-stained fingers around one of Elrond's ceremonial braids. "You mean to tell me that you, the Lord of this realm, are completely in the dark as to the affairs of your subjects?" he joked.

 

"Affairs?" The Half-elven let his perplexed gaze rest on Melpomaen's amused face.  "You mean to tell me that Glorfindel and... and Erestor are..." His eyes fluttered in disbelief as he searched his lover's eyes for answers.

 

"I think I have been misled about your powers of observation, melme," teased Melpomaen mercilessly, delighting in the older Elf's unusual lack of composure.

 

"And I think that I have been deliberately kept uninformed of this most crucial development," Elrond parried in turn, the initial shock of the surprising revelation wearing off somewhat. "And now I think I shall ask you to explain all about this affair and your inexplicable familiarity with the situation..."

 

"Oh no, meleth," Melpomaen whispered seductively as he secured a firmer hold on Elrond's braid and pulled him in for a kiss, "I think I can find far *better* uses for that sweet mouth of yours..."

 

 

****

 

Notes:  meleth – love (Sindarin)

        melme – love (Quenya)

 

 

Chapter 10:

 

 

The guest wing of the Last Homely House was deserted and eerily quiet, save for the sound of Glorfindel's hurried footsteps on the stone tiles.  Winter being far from Imladris' busiest season, the lavish suites in the guest corridor sat empty and useless, patiently awaiting the arrival of more temperate weather and, with it, visitors in need of rest and accommodation. 

 

Dozens of identical looking doors stretched out in front of Glorfindel on both sides of the hallway, mocking him with their uniformity and stillness.  There were at least thirty rooms in this part of the house alone; would he have to try every single one of them before he finally tracked down his elusive would-be lover?  «Curse it,» Glorfindel swore under his breath, «which room are you in, Erestor?»

 

Slowly, he made his way down the oppressively hushed hallway, his ears straining to pick up any sign of life behind the heavy oaken doors.  The first ten rooms he passed yielded nothing; all he could hear was his own uneven breathing.  He continued forward, listening intently.  The stone floor felt frigid under his bare foot.  Finally, when he was almost halfway down the corridor and his foot was nearly numb from the cold, he heard something akin to a choked sob coming from one of the rooms.  Without thinking, he pushed open the door and barged inside.

 

Erestor was crumpled up on the carpet by the bay window, his black, wrinkled robes fanning out around him.  Crumpled – that was the only accurate way to describe his huddled posture and broken demeanour.  His arms were wrapped around his knees, which were drawn up to his chest.  His hair fell forward, covering his face.  Glorfindel's heart nearly broke at the sight.

 

"Erestor..." the dishevelled seneschal whispered insistently, and the dark-haired advisor lifted his head at the sound of his name.  His eyes, though red-rimmed, were dry.  His lips were grimly set in a thin line, his jaw clenched.

 

"Please leave." The barely audible words left his lips, and he dropped his head again.  The raven hair swished back down over his pale face, once more forming a protective curtain behind which he could hide.

 

But Glorfindel would not be dissuaded.  Not now, nor ever again.  He crossed the room in a few long, determined strides and settled himself down on the carpet beside the forlorn looking Elf.  One of his large hands carefully parted the silky curtain of hair, exposing the advisor's carefully hidden face.  Erestor flinched, but Glorfindel did not pull away.

 

"No," the Elda said with determination, "you shall *not* run from me, Erestor.  I won't stand for it.  Not again.  You *will* talk to me this time."

 

Erestor shifted away from Glorfindel and turned his face toward the window.  "What is there to say?" he whispered hoarsely.

 

Glorfindel was incredulous.  "What is there to say?  You run out of my room like a creature possessed, leaving me with no explanation at all, and you claim there is naught to say?  A bane on you, Erestor; after what just happened between us not more than a half hour ago, I think you owe me a few moments of your precious time."

 

A spark returned to the Erestor's coal-black eyes at the sound of Glorfindel's anger.  For a few seconds, he regarded the golden-haired Elf with his customary intensity, then dropped his gaze to the ground.  "I have no explanation to give," he said simply, his tone resigned.

 

"But why did you run?" Glorfindel asked with hurt in his voice.  "I thought that things were... well between us.  It certainly seemed that you were... that I had... made you happy."

 

"Please don't remind me!" Erestor hissed, and jerked away from the seneschal's touch.

 

Cut to the quick by the dark-haired Elf's words, Glorfindel felt his ire rise.  "Don't remind you?!!" he roared. "Just what, pray tell, do you wish not to be reminded of, meldir?!  How you trembled under my touch?  How you pleaded for more?  How your body welcomed mine with eagerness and ardour?!  Or would you rather not hear about all those months you made me wait, made me beseech you for your favours and humiliated me in front of all of Imladris?!  Which is it, Erestor?!"

 

Baulking at Glorfindel's furious words, the pale advisor looked up with fire in his eyes and spat his answer in the Elda's face: "I never asked you to go after me, Glorfindel!  Why in Valar's name did you bother in the first place?!!"

 

Choking on a suppressed sob, Erestor broke eye contact and hugged his knees even tighter, his hair falling down over his face like a curtain once more. 

 

Glorfindel was truly at the end of his tether.  If he didn't make this infuriating Elf understand the contents of his heart now, he likely never would.  Subtlety had not seemed to work with Erestor, who, despite his legendary diplomatic ability, was surprisingly obtuse when it came to matters of love.  In one last desperate attempt to woo his heart's desire, Glorfindel decided to cast all delicacy aside.

 

"Have your eyes been clouded or your mind otherwise afflicted that you cannot see what I feel for you?!  Can you truly not see that I love you?!" 

 

Erestor's hunched shoulders suddenly straightened up, his face peering out from behind the veil of ebony hair.  "You love me?" he whispered, his tone distrustful, then added insistently, "you should not."

 

"Why in the name of all that is fair and good should I not?!!" Glorfindel was shaking with frustration.

 

"Because..." suddenly Erestor seemed to have shrunk further into himself, his black eyes staring at the floor, unseeing, "I'm... loathsome..." He hid his face in his trembling hands.

 

"You're... what?" Glorfindel's sky-blue eyes widened in shock.  "Why?"

 

"Because... the things I enjoy are... unseemly... You shouldn't be asked to participate in such... indecent acts." Erestor's voice had dropped to a pained whisper.  "I'm so sorry, Glorfindel, I tried so hard to hold back, but I just could not...  You should have stayed away from me, mellon, you would do better to just stay away..."

 

Huddled in a heap on the floor, Erestor looked just like a bereft Elfling; so different from the usual confident and cool persona he presented in public.  Glorfindel felt his heart pierced with a hundred sharp icicles at the sight of his most precious Elf in the clutches of such anguish.  He moved closer and gently placed his hand on Erestor's shoulder.

 

"Who told you that you were loathsome, melme?" he whispered, his face full of tenderness.  "Who dared say such hurtful things to you?"

 

"He did." Erestor's voice was muffled, his face still cradled in his hands.

 

"Who?"

 

"My... first lover..."

 

"If I ever get my hands on him, I swear I shall cut his throat, "Glorfindel pledged insistently, shifting closer and gently enfolding the distraught advisor in a warm embrace.  He placed a reverent kiss on Erestor's dark, tangled mane, then whispered, "you are the fairest, cleverest and most honourable Elf I have ever had the privilege to know, Erestor.  Anyone who tells you different is an utter fool."

 

A pair of dark, red-rimmed eyes looked up at Glorfindel distrustfully, peeking out from behind a shroud of jet-black hair.  For a moment, Erestor did not speak, but simply regarded his companion with a combination of uncertain hope and unease. 

 

Moving to tighten his embrace of the wary Elf, Glorfindel felt Erestor tense, his spine going rigid under the seneschal's hand.  Unwilling to cause the other any more distress, the Elda slowly moved away, settling rather for intently examining the advisor's face, which reflected a myriad of confusing emotions.

 

"You... do not think ill of me?" Erestor asked hesitantly, attempting to school his voice to its usual tone of controlled neutrality, and almost succeeding.

 

"Nay, of course not!  Why would I?"

 

"Even after... what happened this afternoon?" Erestor's voice shook a little.

 

"What was so terrible about this afternoon?  You came to my chambers, I kissed you, and we made love.  I thought it was rather wonderful, myself." Glorfindel smiled and stroked Erestor's dark locks with his hand. 

 

"But I... I wanted you to... that is, I..." Erestor's voice was shaking in earnest now, as were his shoulders and hands.

 

Glorfindel gently took those trembling hands in his own, and met Erestor's haunted eyes with an honest look.  When he spoke, his voice was slow and measured.

 

"You, meldir, prefer a firmer hand than some.  You find pleasure in touches others would find painful.  You enjoy the sensation of giving yourself over completely to another, of surrendering control.  It is not uncommon among those of our kind.  There is no shame in it."

 

"Isn't there?" Erestor's gaze dropped to the ground.  His lips once again tightened in an unforgiving line.

 

"Is that what *he* told you?"

 

Glorfindel saw Erestor give a terse nod and felt tremors wrack the pale hands he cradled in his palms.  He calmly stroked the long fingers and watched the tremors gradually fade.  Amazed, he wondered briefly at how the dark-haired Elf huddled beside him seemed like a young colt; easily frightened and ready to bolt at the slightest sign of danger.  He resolved to be quiet and still, and to let Erestor speak when he would.  If the advisor wished to unburden his heart of any hurts that lingered there, Glorfindel would let him do so in his own time; he would not push.

 

His eyes still focused on the floor beneath his feet, Erestor slowly began to speak. 

 

"I was much younger then.  He was older, and quite beautiful.  At first, our lovemaking was gentle, but then he... began to do things; things to which I... did not object.  Over time, I learned to enjoy them more and more, and his... contempt for me grew." 

 

Erestor took a deep, calming breath, then continued.  "Afterwards, he would insult me – every time.  He told me I was a..."

 

Sensing the tremors begin again, Glorfindel hurried to Erestor's aid.  "There is no need, meleth; you do not have to tell me that."

 

The advisor sighed, then continued with his tale; every word leaving his lips quite obviously difficult to disclose.  "He... made me feel so small.  And I did not leave him.  I kept going back, for the things he did to my body felt so good." 

 

Erestor wrenched his hands from Glorfindel's gentle grip and buried his face in them, his fingers digging painfully into his scalp.  His lean frame shook with the force of barely controlled sobs, though he made no sound. When he finally let his hands drop to his lap, and lifted his face up to meet Glorfindel's solicitous eyes, his expression held more anger than sadness.

 

"When he left, I swore on everything I held dear that I would *never* let anyone do that to me again.  Would never let anyone touch me."  He swallowed awkwardly.  "And I have not.  Until... today."

 

It was then that Glorfindel realized with awe just how meaningful their encounter in front of the fireplace had been, how much Erestor had let his guard down.  And it was with reverence that he understood just what manner of a fragile and precious gift had been placed in his large, warrior's hands.

 

Acting entirely on instinct, and wanting only to give expression to the feelings of love and protectiveness suddenly taking wing in his heart, he leaned down to the cold, tiled floor and placed a gentle kiss on the top of Erestor's bare foot, which timidly peeked out from under the advisor's crumpled robes.

 

Surprised, Erestor curled his toes and drew up his knees closer to his chest.  He looked at Glorfindel, his expression puzzled and unsure.

 

"If it were I who had the incredible fortune to share your bed, Erestor, I would give you all the love, admiration and respect you so rightly deserve, and may Mandos reclaim my feä if I ever grieved you," Glorfindel whispered.

 

Erestor's black eyes, burning in his face like a pair of embers, grew wide at this earnest admission.  Parting his lips, he hesitated for a moment, then asked haltingly, "You think I deserve... respect?"

 

Glorfindel smiled at this unexpected question, the words sounding so foreign on the tongue of one who was so respected and admired – sometimes even feared – both in Imladris and beyond its borders; one whose astute intellect and political abilities were nigh legendary.

 

"You are more deserving of it than most anyone I've ever met."

 

"You still think so even after what... you know about me?" Erestor's tone held a note of suspicion.

 

Glorfindel let out a long breath, then faced the uncertain Elf and answered honestly and with as much conviction as he could summon. 

 

"Let me tell you what I know about you, Erestor.  You are the only Elf in Imladris, save for perhaps Elrond, who does not treat me as if I were some sort of demi-god or hero, returned from the dead to be worshiped and idolized.  In your eyes, my feet tread on the same earth as those of the smallest and most humble of Ilúvatar's creatures; they do not float above it.  You see all my stumbles, my mistakes, my foolishness, and you are never too faint-hearted to look me in the eye and tell me exactly what you think of me.  You are acerbic, sometimes even insolent, and yet... I treasure one of your insults more than the sweetest compliments I am likely to get from anyone else.  You never let me forget who I am, and for that you will always have my complete respect."

 

Erestor's pale face took on a slightly rosy hue in reaction to Glorfindel's confession.  Yet his mouth was still loath to curl up in a smile, and the expression in his eyes was wary.

 

"And my..." he broke off mid-sentence, uncertain of how to continue.

 

"Your... tastes?" Glorfindel supplied.  Erestor cringed, then nodded.

 

"Why should those be a barrier to me loving you?  If you wish my hands to be rough instead of gentle, they shall be.  I would not mind it; in fact, I rather think I would... enjoy it."  The seneschal grinned at the stunned Elf before him, then once more took hold of Erestor's hands and cradled them in his own.  "It would not be the first time I'd been asked to grant... unusual requests in the bedchamber.  Though, I daresay, it would be the fist time I'd do it with this much love in my heart."

 

With his eyes focused on Erestor's face, Glorfindel could almost see the advisor's ever-present mask of control finally crumble and fall to the floor.  The dark-haired Elf took a shaky breath, then released it and let his features relax, the corners of his mouth curling up in a hesitant smile.  Glorfindel felt Erestor's fingers tentatively return his hands' caress.

 

"Dare I ask what manner of... unusual requests you speak of, Glorfindel?"

 

Detecting a hint of humour in Erestor's voice, the Elda leaned closer and whispered in mock horror: "Ones that would make your blood run cold, meldir, though discretion prevents me from speaking any further."

 

Erestor smiled in earnest then. "Does that mean that I can also count on your... discretion?"

 

"Of course, Erestor.  I am perfectly capable of keeping certain things private, despite what they say about my proclivity for gossip.  Your reputation will be quite safe with me.  Your honour, on the other hand..."

 

Glorfindel's saucy jest was rewarded with a quiet laugh from his companion.  Never one to miss an opportunity, the golden-haired Elf captured a dark strand of hair between his fingers and pulled Erestor in for a tender kiss.

 

"Does this mean that you'll let me walk you back to your rooms, meleth?"  Seeing a shadow of hesitation cross Erestor's face, he quickly added, "You need not invite me in if you do not wish to.  I realize that what happened between us today was quite sudden, and... it need not happen again soon.  I would not rush you."

 

"Very well..." Erestor smiled again, and Glorfindel's heart nearly soared at the sight.  He doubted he had ever seen anything quite so lovely.  He stood up slowly, pulled Erestor up beside him and, taking the advisor's hand in his, led him into the empty hallway.

 

"Perhaps we should take the back stairs, Glorfindel.  Neither one of us looks... presentable."

 

The tousled-looking seneschal smiled at Erestor's obvious understatement.  They both looked like they had just been through a mild natural disaster, and anyone who looked closely would have no trouble discerning precisely what they had been doing. 

 

"What? You do not want to announce to the whole of Arda that you are mine and I am yours?" Glorfindel teased.

 

"Well... nay. Do you?"

 

Glorfindel stopped and turned toward his new love, the expression on his face suddenly serious. 

 

"I would shout it from the rooftops if you would let me," he whispered, and kissed Erestor's cheek.

 

 

****

 

Notes:  meldir – friend (male)

        mellon – friend

        melme – love (Quenya)

        meleth – love (Sindarin)

 

The End

 

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