Glorfindel would always think of that morning as the start of things. He was on his way back from the training ground, having spent the morning drilling his warriors in formation technique, looking for a wash and a new set of clothes before taking lunch in the hall.
But hiding behind a pillar on one of the Homely House’s long walkways he espied a familiar figure, and from the hunch of their shoulders he sensed that they were in distress.
Unable to help himself as usual, he stepped around the pillar and placed a comforting hand on the young elf’s shoulder. “What is distressing you, Melpomaen, that you are hiding here out of sight?” he asked kindly.
The petite librarian’s head darted up to look at him, round grey eyes peering past the dark hair that seemed to be permanently stuck falling into his face. Then he looked down again just as quickly. “Glorfindel,” he murmured, “You are mistaken; I am fine. Not distressed, I assure you.”
Glorfindel sighed. Since the first time they’d met, Melpomaen had always worried about being a burden on him. At first he’d thought it was something to do with his unwanted hero status as the reborn Balrog slayer, but he’d soon enough learnt that he was worried about being a burden to everybody. “Little one, I have known you long enough that that does not work on me anymore.” At Melpomaen’s sheepish look, he smiled and squeezed his shoulder gently. “Come, tell me. I won’t divulge your secrets to anyone, I promise you.”
Which was how they had ended up sitting alone on a small covered bench in the rose garden, with Glorfindel hugging Melpomaen’s shaking shoulders as the little elf cried into his shoulder. He had managed to glean from the sniffs and the sobs that the elf Melpomaen had been seeing for the past two months had cast him aside rather cruelly. Nauril is lucky I found Melpomaen first, Glorfindel thought, picturing the young solider Melpomaen had been involved with in his mind. While he intended to have some sharp words with the younger elf’s former interest, he doubted the treatment would have been so measured had Erestor been the one whose shoulder Melpomaen had sobbed upon. The counsellor was fiercely protective of those he cared about, and being on the receiving end of his wrath was a rather unpleasant experience to say the least. And I should know, having incurred it on several occasions.
Eventually Melpomaen’s shoulders stopped shaking quite as hard, and Glorfindel managed to coax him into a small smile with silly, mostly self-deprecating jokes, then took his hand and led him back to the archway that led into the House.
“Thank you, Glorfindel,” Melpomaen said when they reached it, still sounding a little melancholy. He lingered for a few seconds awkwardly as if unsure of what to do or say, then gave the warrior a fleeting hug and then disappeared quickly down the hallway in the direction of his chambers.
Probably embarrassed, Glorfindel thought with an affectionate smile. Now he faced a dilemma, however. He had promised not to tell anyone about Melpomaen’s troubles, but if the story came from him Erestor might not feel the need to grab the nearest sharp object and go on a headhunt. Would he be in the hall at this hour, or in the office with Elrond perhaps…
Glorfindel turned, surprised. Elladan was standing in the corridor behind him, his face full of concern. “What’s wrong with Mel?” he asked, frowning.
Glorfindel chewed his lip for a second. “You’ll have to ask him yourself,” he said, shrugging apologetically. “I promised not to tell anyone.”
Elladan gave him one rather unsettling searching look, his face suddenly very similar to his father’s, and then nodded and started off down the corridor after Melpomaen. Glorfindel caught his arm as he passed. “Don’t do anything stupid,” he warned, giving the younger elf a stern look.
Elladan looked confused. “Why…?”
Glorfindel released him. “You’ll see. Don’t.”
Elladan nodded, still frowning, and disappeared down the corridor. Glorfindel dithered a little, but decided he really did need that wash, and his stomach was growling. Erestor could wait for the moment.
The tinkling and crashing of water hitting the rocks below dominated the circular terrace room that Elladan found Melpomaen in. The little librarian was leaning on the railing that overlooked the thundering tumult below, his back to the door. Elladan watched him for a moment, noting the hunched shoulders and the miserable way he was slumped against the spray-slick wood. The noise was so loud that it obscured Elladan’s footsteps as he walked over, and he jumped when a hand was laid on his shoulder.
The face that whirled towards him still had a few fresh tears on it, which Melpomaen ducked his head to hastily wipe away, hiding behind his thick hair. “Hello, Elladan!” he said, all fake cheer. “What brings you out here at lunchtime?”
Elladan frowned sadly, his heart constricting. He’d hoped Melpomaen would see him as more than his lord’s son by now, would see him as his friend. And more than a friend, a small voice whispered, but he crushed it sadly. No point in contemplating the impossible. “Why are you crying, Mel? And don’t you dare tell me you’re not, because I can see that you are.”
Melpomaen sniffed and looked away. “It is nothing, I promise you,” he murmured quietly, almost unintelligibly over the roar of the falls.
For a second, Elladan was unsure. Perhaps he really didn’t want to talk about it…But he was probably trying not to burden him with his troubles. Again. “Mel, you always say that. I hate seeing you sad like this…” Elladan reached up and gently brushed away another stray tear that had leaked from the corner of Melpomaen’s eye.
Melpomaen turned away back to the view over the railing and didn’t say anything for a few moments. “You remember Nauril?”
Elladan grimaced. He remembered Nauril well; he’d always struck him as arrogant and disdainful, and his opinion had only been worsened by the news that he and Melpomaen were ‘involved’. “The solider you were…seeing?”
“Well, I am seeing him no longer. He told me so this morning.”
Elladan scowled. “To give you up, he must not be worthy of your affections.”
Melpomaen turned back to him, a look of faint surprise crossing his features. “You sound almost like Erestor,” he said with a tiny smile.
“I mean it. Have you told Erestor yet?”
Melpomaen looked troubled. “No. I almost dare not. I thought…I thought I would go to him when I have had time to…gather myself, I suppose.”
Elladan nodded. “That would probably be best,” he said softly. “You wouldn’t really want him to maim or injure Nauril in some awfully grotesque way, would you?”
“I suppose not,” Melpomaen said, smirking a little. “But then again…”
Unfortunately, the bath and lunch had taken longer than expected, and the news had leaked through to the now irate counsellor through some undisclosed source. Glorfindel swore vehemently that he’d have the informant cleaning the stables for two weeks if he ever found out who it was.
He wouldn’t be surprised if Erestor started breathing fire in a moment.
“It’s surely not so bad,” he said soothingly, “All of us have heartbreaks on the road to love.”
“Unacceptable is what it is, Glorfindel,” Erestor hissed at him from the other side of the room. They were in one of the higher terrace rooms, afforded a lesser view of the waterfalls but an excellent view of the two younger elves below. Melpomaen and Elladan appeared to be chatting amiably, the young Peredhel gesturing at something in the valley below.
Glorfindel swung his legs up and crossed his feet on the low table in front of him, leaning back his chair. He pretended he missed Erestor’s sharp look of disapproval, and yawned expansively. “He’s young, Erestor. He’ll be right as rain in no time, you’ll see.”
Angry eyes turned on him. “Glorfindel, what-”
“And if you’d like,” Glorfindel interrupted, “I’ll have a few words with young Nauril about being more courteous to those upon whom he conveys his affections. Alright?”
Erestor scowled slightly at him, but his face lost its dark aspect after a moment. “That would be wise,” he conceded reluctantly. He turned back to the view below.
Glorfindel sighed and looked over his friend with an exasperated, affectionate smile. Such a fool at times. Such a beautiful fool… He got up and walked to stand behind him, intending to offer him some gesture of comfort. He allowed himself a few seconds to contemplate his beautiful best friend, his mind spinning its usual (and, he told himself, almost definitely impossible) fantasies about being in love; perhaps brushing that hair back to press soft kisses onto the pale skin of his neck, or grasping that perfect chin softly and giving him a gentle, calming kiss…He reluctantly stopped that train of thought and placed a hand on each of his shoulders instead. “I swear, your shoulders are so tense I could see them trembling from the other side of the room,” he laughed quietly, rubbing them softly.
Erestor half turned his head, regarding him with one unreadable dark eye, then turned away again. “It’s Mel,” he said by way of explanation.
Glorfindel nodded and indulged himself by rubbing wider circles onto those slim shoulders. “I know. He means the world to you.”
Erestor nodded quietly, and they stood like that for a while, looking out over the valley. The two young elves disappeared after a while, so Glorfindel assumed Erestor was deep in thought about something important, and that was why he didn’t return to his work. He wouldn’t allow himself to hope the dark-haired elf was lingering solely to enjoy his company; he was far too busy for that. Arien was halfway down from her highest point when Glorfindel realized what he’d forgotten. “Oh damn,” he muttered.
Erestor jumped slightly. “What?”
“I knew I was supposed to be doing something this afternoon. Elrond wanted that damn report in, before dinner as well.”
Erestor turned to him with a smile, slipping out from under his hands. Glorfindel let him go reluctantly. “You go write it, then,” he smirked, “and I’ll distract Elrond for a while.”
Glorfindel watched him as he swished past and to the door. “Distract him?”
Erestor laughed. “He’s fairly easy to distract. I just came into possession of a rather rare book of poetry, too…”
Glorfindel laughed with him. “I’ll see you at dinner,” he smiled. My wonderful, gorgeous, maddening…friend.
The next day dawned clear and warm, a perfect day for the height of summer. The birds were happily singing in their trees by daybreak, and they continued throughout the morning as Arien rose ever higher. Now Arien was almost at her zenith, and her rays turned the roofs of the Last Homely House to a shimmering haze of heat.
No amount of sunshine would reduce the need for daily training, though, and Elladan found himself longing for shade as he fired another arrow down the long range and almost dead centre into the target.
A buzz of voices came closer behind him, and Elladan groaned quietly as he made out one particular voice in the chatter. Nauril. He’d promised Melpomaen he wouldn’t say anything, though, so he resolved to ignore him.
The young Silvan had other ideas. As the few friends accompanying him threw themselves lazily on the ground, he set his quiver opposite the next target over. After he’d loosed his first arrow, he commented conversationally, “You were with Melpomaen yesterday,” grudgingly adding, “Hír nin,” at Elladan’s sharp look.
“If I was, what business is it of yours?” Elladan asked sharply, loosing another arrow with more force than he’d intended. It thudded into the white section of the target. He hissed under his breath and pulled another arrow from his own quiver with a stab of irritation.
Nauril regarded him with what was almost a sneer. “I only sought to warn you, hír nin,” he put a sneering emphasis on the words, “He really is a dreadful bore. Pretty enough, yes,” his friends in the background snickered, “but all he ever does is read, read, read! And all he ever wants to do is talk…if you know what I mean.” Nauril winked mockingly at him. Elladan gritted his teeth; the fool was baiting him, and despite his efforts to the contrary, it was working.
“No chance of getting that frigid mouse into bed!” one of the other elves commented, to which they all hooted with laughter.
Elladan hoped his bow wouldn’t become matchwood; he was gripping it hard enough. “If I needed your opinion on my friend, Nauril, I would have asked for it,” he spat. “As it is, you can keep your poisonous comments to yourself. Melpomaen is perfectly lovely, a fact that you would be able to see if you could but see two inches past your grossly inflated ego.”
Nauril’s eyes narrowed. “Are you calling me arrogant?” he asked dangerously, all trace of mockery forgotten.
Now would have been the time to calm things, had Elladan been thinking in a lordly or even a sensible manner. Unfortunately, lordliness had flown out the window. “Yes I am,” Elladan stated vehemently, “An arrogant, pig-headed, twig-brained fool. You aren’t even worthy to lick orc dung from his boots!”
With a snarl, Nauril launched towards him, trying to land a punch. Elladan dodged it and struck out, but went wild and hit his shoulder. They grappled with each other for a few moments, enthusiastically encouraged by Nauril’s band of friends. Elladan landed one fierce punch which broke Nauril’s nose with a sickening crack, and was returned with a split lip that gushed blood all down his chin.
Stumbling backwards, Nauril fell to one knee and scrabbled for something on the ground. Bearing down on him, Elladan didn’t see the wicked spike of the arrow until Nauril was propelling himself from the ground, aiming it at him…
A body suddenly appeared in front of Elladan, unwittingly intercepting Nauril’s weapon, and a familiar voice grunted in pain. Then Elladan found himself dragged off by other soldiers, and saw Nauril in a similar predicament opposite.
Glorfindel stood between them, wincing, with one of the guard captains behind him looking worriedly at the arrow protruding from the seneschal’s shoulder. “Should I pull it out?” he asked worriedly.
“Leave it for Elrond,” Glorfindel grunted. “Take them both to the Healing Wing,” he commanded the soldiers, and the elf on Elladan’s left gave his arm a tug. Gently but firmly, he pulled free of their grasp, content to walk there himself. Now the adrenaline of the fight was gone, his stomach roiled with nerves.
His father was going to kill him.
“They certainly are inventive these days,” Elrond remarked dryly, inspecting the point of the arrow he’d just pulled from Glorfindel’s shoulder.
“At least he didn’t stab you too hard, hmm?” Erestor asked Glorfindel with a small smile.
“It certainly feels hard,” Glorfindel muttered grumpily, his voice muffled slightly by his lying face down on the bed between the two of them. “I hope his nose mends crooked and he is forever left uglier.”
“It would certainly teach him a lesson,” Elrond chuckled darkly, moving away to wipe the arrow and lay it down. Adopting a much more serious expression, he turned to the other side of the room and said in a clipped tone, “Have you finished with that?”
His son didn’t meet his father’s gaze. “Yes,” he said quietly, replacing the medical supplies from where he’d bound his own lip. Elrond had taught him well; the binding was perfect.
“Well, I will leave it between you and Glorfindel,” Elrond said briskly, turning to clean up. Elladan sat in mute silence, waiting for his old tutor to chastise him.
Glorfindel sighed. He could deal with scraps a thousand times, but it never made it any easier. “Did you hit him first, Elladan?”
“No,” Elladan muttered. After a second he admitted, “But he wouldn’t have hit me if I hadn’t insulted him first.”
Glorfindel nodded to himself. He had thought as much; the Peredhel might be hot tempered at times, but he was never one to unnecessarily pick a fight. Wincing, he turned over and sat up. Elrond gave him a sharp look, but didn’t interfere. His shoulder burned with a kick, but he gritted his teeth and ignored it. “It seems you are both in the wrong then,” he said to the embarrassed young elf who was staring woodenly at the floor.
He nodded. “I’m sorry.”
Glorfindel sighed again. Whatever was in that potion Elrond had just given him was kicking in, and his eyelids felt unaccountably heavy. “When I’m thinking straight, I’ll think up some gruesome chore for you to complete while you contemplate your actions. For now, I just want to sleep.” Yawning, he lay back on the pillows.
At that moment a familiar face poked around the door. Spotting Elladan, Melpomaen advanced further into the room, sporting a large scowl, until he stood before the distressed-looking elf. “I told you not to say anything,” he growled.
Elladan looked up at him with wide, pleading eyes. “Mel, I didn’t-”
“Outside?” Elrond suggested pointedly, holding the door open for them. Melpomaen stalked out with Elladan following, looking forlorn.
“He’s as fierce as you in a mood,” Glorfindel laughed, lowering his head again after watching the little scene.
Erestor shifted in his seat. “I am not fierce,” he said haughtily.
Glorfindel laughed again. “Like hell you aren’t,” he chuckled, “Half the scribes and counsellors in Imladris are terrified of you!” Erestor gave him a look, which only made him laugh harder, which in turn made his shoulder ache. “Ow,” he murmured.
Elrond came back in then and chivvied Erestor out, insisting that Glorfindel needed his rest. Glorfindel smiled at the thought of how undeniably cute Erestor looked when he was annoyed. There was something distinctly cat-like about the way he scrunched his nose. Glorfindel laughed a little to himself. Anyone else would have been nervous of upsetting the notoriously stern counsellor, but Glorfindel found it cute. His chuckles carried him into a deep, dreamless sleep.
A week later Elrond had released Glorfindel from the Healing Wing, but had insisted that he didn’t go back to training and teaching until he had fully healed. Glorfindel would wait each morning in his room for Elrond to come and tend to his bandages, but of late Elrond had been increasingly busy and hassled. Seeing that, Erestor had asked if he could take over this duty for his friend, being versed enough in the Healing arts to see to the small tasks needed. Elrond had agreed gratefully, which was how Erestor found himself knocking on Glorfindel’s door early that morning.
“Come in,” a voice called from within, and Erestor entered to find Glorfindel standing in the doorway to his balcony.
“Elrond, these bandages are itching something fierce,” he complained, frowning and trying to scratch at a point on his own back that was nearly unreachable.
“I think he’s given you smoother ones today,” Erestor said, trying not to laugh at Glorfindel’s ridiculous position.
His friend looked up, surprised. “Erestor?”
“I offered to help Elrond by doing a few jobs for him,” Erestor explained as he set the box of medical supplies he’d been carrying down on a table. “He’s been very busy at the moment, and I am well enough versed in healing to see to your shoulder.”
“Well, I certainly have no objection,” Glorfindel grinned, sitting down on a small divan and shrugging out of the light shirt he was wearing. “It still aches,” he grumbled.
Erestor laughed at the small pout the warrior was sporting. “Are we complaining, oh mighty Balrog-slaying one?” he teased, coming round to remove the bandages covering Glorfindel’s shoulder. They weren’t as extensive now as they had been before, a sure sign that Elrond’s treatment was working its magic.
“Not in the slightest,” Glorfindel said stubbornly, “I’ve had much worse.”
“I know,” Erestor said softly, suddenly serious. He remembered the tapestry in the hallway; a flash of brilliant gold the only small flame of light in a swirling cloud of black evil. He shuddered slightly.
Glorfindel laid a hand on his and turned to look at him. “Sorry,” he said quietly, “I only meant it light-heartedly.”
Erestor smiled at him. “Nay, I am sorry. I took it too heavily.” They chatted about small things of little consequence as Erestor removed the rest of the bandages and began to spread a thick paste onto the wound. Glorfindel winced; it must sting.
“I’m sure you have a few scars of your own, anyway,” Glorfindel said brightly, fingering the thin white line of one of his own.
“A few,” Erestor agreed. “Not as many as you, though. Do you make a habit of running into sharp objects?”
Glorfindel laughed quietly, while Erestor gently traced a longer, deeper scar that ran over Glorfindel’s other shoulder blade. He meant it; Glorfindel really did have an inordinate number of thin white scars traced over his body. To Erestor, instead of ugliness, they spoke of dedication. Glorfindel was the sort of person who would take a sword thrust in place of one he loved without hesitation. Or, for that matter, an arrow thrust. Erestor smiled to himself as he rewound the bandages. “There you are,” he said cheerily when he had finished.
Glorfindel grinned at him as he pulled his shirt back on. “I should heal in no time, then?” he asked with a wink.
“I’d answer, but that might contradict Elrond, and you know what he’s like,” Erestor said with a wry smile. He looked round at a quiet tap on the door. “Come in.”
One of the kitchen maids bustled in. “I brought you breakfast, milord, courtesy of Lord Elrond,” she announced, smiling conspiratorially at Glorfindel as she set the heavy tray down.
“He’s been getting them to send me breakfast every day,” Glorfindel explained with a slightly exasperated sigh. “Sometimes lunch too, if he thinks he can get it to me before I get to the hall.”
Erestor laughed. “He’s taking care of you, you ungrateful toad,” he said, glaring at him in mock disapproval.
“Yes, well,” Glorfindel grumbled, and glared at Erestor when he laughed. He could tell the warrior had nothing to say to argue with him, and he let it slide. “I think I’ll have it outside,” he said, looking out through the glass doors, “I was sitting out there earlier, taking in the sun.”
“We’ll bring it out,” Erestor assured him. Giving him a glowing smile that made his heart warm, Glorfindel walked out into the sunshine. Erestor turned and took some things from the tray, making it lighter to carry for the poor kitchen maid.
“He looks better,” she smiled as she mixed the tea.
“I think he will be better sooner than I thought,” Erestor agreed.
“I also think he will better like having you look after him, milord,” she said, nodding to herself as she added sugar.
“I am not so sure; I am no great healer. Battlefield medicines are my stock and trade.”
“Aye, but you make him happy, and that makes all the difference.” She winked at the surprised counsellor as she picked up the tray and carried it past him. “Sweet on you, that is what he is, no mistake.”
Erestor stared after her as she went out to deliver the breakfast to its grateful recipient. ‘Sweet on him’? What on earth did she mean by that?
About two weeks later, he had had plenty of time in which to ponder her statement, and had found it most troubling. Glorfindel was a warrior, but he was gentle by nature. But now that Erestor was looking for it he recognised that a certain gentleness, a certain tenderness in Glorfindel’s manner was reserved only for him. It was a certain warmness, a level of caring that seemed to go somewhere beyond normal friendship. Erestor didn’t want to think about what was further beyond friendship, but at times when Glorfindel’s eyes would light up with that something as they spoke together, saw each other, he swore that something inside him was answering back. This didn’t even take into account his sudden propensity to blush when Glorfindel was near, or how he couldn’t help but notice how handsome the warrior was, or how beautifully defined his body was when he removed his shirt for him to see to his injury. He tried to tell himself it was completely inappropriate, but his dreams as of late had more and more often featured a certain shock of bright blond hair, and not always in completely innocent situations either. Only last night he had been plagued by a dream of the hot, heavy weight of another’s body settled comfortably over his own flushed and completely bare skin, and of soft blond locks brushing his face, a familiar voice husking unspeakable things into his ear, and him squirming under graceful, long-fingered, ever so gentle hands…
He cut off that train of thought irritatedly as he knocked on Glorfindel’s door. Tonight they would sit and talk and share wine like always, and he would give no thought to Glorfindel’s wonderful smile or his beautiful hair or those damn hands.
Glorfindel opened the door with a glowing smile, looking wonderful. Or just well-dressed, which is the appropriate response, Erestor, he inwardly chastised himself. “Erestor,” he said again, and the way his voice lingered over the syllables made that something creep up on him again.
He ignored it and smiled. “Good eve, Glorfindel. Is it safe to say you are fully recovered?”
“Elrond pronounced me so this afternoon,” Glorfindel told him as he went to get wine glasses from a side cupboard. “And he’s finally allowing me to go back to training my men.”
Erestor sat on the comfortable divan in front of the fire. “Good. You’ve been growing restless, cooped up in here,” he said, uncorking the wine he’d brought over with him.
“And you’ve been a dear to put up with me,” Glorfindel laughed, sitting down on the divan beside him and lightly kissing one of his cheeks.
Erestor blushed, and leant forwards as if intently reading the label of the wine bottle in order to cover it with his hair. “It was nothing,” he mumbled. “This is Gondorian wine, by the way. Something Elrond bought in a few weeks ago.”
“So this is wine you’ve filched from him, is it?” Glorfindel sipped some, grinning roguishly. “Why, it is most delicious!”
Erestor gave him a light-hearted glare. “I did not steal it from Elrond,” he said emphatically. Then he added with a sly smile, “I may have liberated it from his chambers, but that is not the same thing.”
Glorfindel roared with laughter, and Erestor chuckled along with him. “I wonder if he’ll notice?” Glorfindel laughed.
“If he does, he will most likely suspect his sons,” Erestor snorted. “They are most notorious wine thieves.”
“Speaking of those twin forces of doom and destruction,” Glorfindel said, setting down his glass, “How are relations between our dear Mel and Elladan?”
“Whenever he hasn’t been knee deep in your paperwork, Elladan has been following Mel around like a lovesick puppy,” Erestor laughed, remembering how just this morning he had entered onto a scene of Melpomaen attempting to re-shelve books with the over enthusiastic help of the young Peredhel. Elladan didn’t have much patience with reading, and though he had a sharp mind ordering the books by section and alphabetical order seemed too much of a bother for him.
“Or perhaps he was simply distracted by his company,” Glorfindel laughed when the story was related to him.
Erestor smiled wryly; he could relate to Elladan in that respect. He wondered if Glorfindel had any idea how handsome he was when he laughed. Pushing the thought away, he said, “I would have expected Mel to have seen him off by now, but since he hasn’t, maybe there’s hope for him yet.”
“I think there is always hope,” Glorfindel said, giving him a rather sly look from the corner of his eye.
Erestor chose to ignore that comment and its implications. “Well, if Mel approves of him, I won’t say no,” he smiled.
“He could do a lot worse,” Glorfindel smiled fondly. “And I think Elrond would approve.”
“I can’t see why he wouldn’t,” Erestor gave Glorfindel a sidelong glance, wondering. “Unless you know differently?”
Glorfindel held out his hands defensively, looking slightly surprised. “No, of course not. I didn’t mean it like that.”
Erestor sighed. “I didn’t really think you did. I swear, sometimes my affection for him brings out the worst in me.”
Glorfindel rubbed his shoulder sympathetically. “Nay, it brings out the best in you; your love, your compassion. You look after him.”
Erestor smiled at him; but that look in his eyes was back full force, and he glanced quickly back to his wineglass. “I’ll take your word for it,” he murmured quietly. Glorfindel rubbed his shoulder soothingly a little more, but didn’t say anything else. They chatted about inconsequential things for a while, the normal gossip of the valley and whatever happened to be on their minds. Erestor noticed that Glorfindel was sending him a lot of sideways glances, and when he thought he wasn’t looking he would get a look in his eyes that was quite unfathomable. Erestor felt himself shiver a little, though it was baking hot here by the fire. “Shall we go outside?” he suggested, indicating the door to the balcony.
Glorfindel nodded, and they went out into the moonlight. The night was pleasantly cool, and a soft breeze moved through the trees; the air was alive with the noises of the night. Every surface was gilded silver under Tilion’s soft beams. “I cannot understand why you lit a fire in the middle of summer, Glorfindel,” Erestor said exasperatedly, leaning against the balcony rail.
“I had some wood to burn,” Glorfindel murmured. Erestor raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. He stood silently taking in the beautiful tableau presented before them, the valley laid out in all its glory, bathed in Tilion’s shimmering light. He breathed in a deep lungful of the sweet-tasting air. “You have a wonderful view from here, Glorfindel.”
“I do,” Glorfindel said from behind him, sounding a little pensive. Erestor turned to find Glorfindel watching him, his eyes strangely intense. Then he smiled slowly. “A most wonderful view,” he said softly, a tiny rasp in his voice that sent shivers skittering down Erestor’s spine.
He blushed uncontrollably. “Stop leering at me,” he muttered, embarrassed, and the warrior grinned.
“I can’t help it; moonlight suits you.”
“Oh really.” Erestor turned back to the scenery, trying to sound arch. “And how, pray tell, did you come to that conclusion?”
“It makes you look beautiful,” Glorfindel said simply.
Erestor was sure his face was about to catch fire, and his stomach was fluttering. Hopefully it wouldn’t be noticeable. He turned back to his companion and fixed him with a frown. “Stop teasing me, Glorfindel.”
He hesitated a second, then purposefully and almost silently moved across the space in between them, took Erestor’s face in both hands and kissed him, deeply and suddenly. Completely taken by surprise, Erestor found himself responding automatically, opening his mouth with a gasp and letting his fingers tangle in the hair that lay across Glorfindel’s shoulders.
Glorfindel smiled slyly when he pulled away. “Did that feel like teasing to you?” he asked in a low voice. Erestor shook his head mutely. Glorfindel’s fingers softly traced the curve of Erestor’s lips. “Would you like me to not-tease you again?” Glorfindel asked, leaning forward to whisper into Erestor’s ear.
Erestor nodded once, and Glorfindel pulled him tenderly into his arms. The kisses steadily became deeper, more desperate, Glorfindel’s arms tightening around him and his own hands threading and tangling through thick gold tresses. Now he understood that something that had been in his friend’s eyes, the something that responded inside him; it was fire, smouldering before but now burning, consuming. Coherent thought vanished in the rush of a sudden, sharp hunger in his belly, making him cling to Glorfindel as if he were the only rock in the middle of a storm-driven ocean.
In the end, they didn’t even make it to the bed. The thick rug in front of the fire was much closer at hand and looked inviting, and the heat of the flames flushed Erestor’s pale skin as deft fingers relieved him of his clothing, a hot mouth pressing soft kisses to every inch of skin uncovered. Glorfindel threw off his own clothes impatiently, hitting something across the room with a haphazardly flung boot. Neither of them cared. Erestor could feel every hard muscle as Glorfindel laid over him, pressed against him, grinding their hips together. He raised one slender leg to wrap around the warrior’s waist, urgently pulling him closer. Glorfindel turned his lip’s attention to sweetly ravishing Erestor’s neck, making him gasp and moan softly, while he ran the arch of his foot down Glorfindel’s perfectly formed thigh.
Grunting in annoyance, Glorfindel reluctantly pulled away and got up, reassuring Erestor that he would be back within seconds. And he was, lying down again and husking soft apologies into Erestor’s ear while showing him exactly what he’d run off to find. Erestor moaned into Glorfindel’s shoulder as gentle oil-slicked fingers touched his entrance, caressing softly before dipping inside. Glorfindel kissed him deeply as he added a second finger and a third, making him squirm with need and use every second his mouth lay uncaptured to beg Glorfindel to go faster, faster.
Even in the height of passion wanting him to be comfortable as possible, Glorfindel ignored his pleas until he was satisfied that he was indeed ready. Then he slicked his own length and laid his forehead against Erestor’s, eyes searching for that last permission. Erestor kissed him softly, and he pushed forward, filling him all at once.
Unbidden a moan rose from Erestor’s throat, echoed softly by the warrior as he began to move achingly slow, savouring each movement. He had them both gasping to each thrust within minutes, picking up the pace and groaning into the side of Erestor’s neck. The counsellor’s fingernails raked Glorfindel’s back as he writhed uncontrollably beneath him. It was so much better than the dreams; so much better.
The firelight caressed every bronzed inch of Glorfindel’s chest as he leant back, his eyes dark with hunger that only made the inferno in Erestor soar higher. He was beauteous and glorious in the red glow, powerful and commanding in his stance and his movements; yet Erestor knew he was endlessly caring and gentle, and would stop at a second’s notice if he had but asked. Not that he had any intention of doing so as Glorfindel ground deeper and harder into him, making him whimper with pleasure.
He gasped the warrior’s name brokenly as he came, hearing his own groaned into his ear a second later along with hot warmth inside him. They lay there breathing hard as the waves of pleasure subsided, Glorfindel’s long fingers tracing patterns on the slim thighs wrapped around his middle. He pulled out gently then lay down, gathering Erestor into his arms. “I’ve wanted to do that for a while,” he admitted softly, stroking Erestor’s hair back from his face.
He snuggled deep into the possessive embrace and murmured, “I’m glad you did.”
Glorfindel laughed quietly. “I hoped you would be. To have you one night, only for you to decide in the morning that this was a bad idea, I’d…”
Erestor looked up at him and stroked his cheek softly. “What?”
“I’d be heartbroken,” Glorfindel admitted quietly, not looking at him. “I…I love you, Erestor.”
A warm feeling filled his insides, and a helpless smile lit his face. What had been in both of them had been fire, yes; but now that had burnt out, all he saw in Glorfindel’s eyes was love. And I love him also, he knew suddenly and with perfect clarity. I probably have done for a while, actually. He beamed up at the warrior and leaned up to kiss him softly. “Good, because I love you, and I don’t plan on letting you go anywhere either.”
Glorfindel’s smile was the sun bursting from behind a cloud. He returned the kiss with vigour, and it was some time before he asked, “Does that mean you’ll stay, tonight?”
“You thought you could keep me away?” Erestor laughed quietly. Glorfindel chuckled and stood slowly, then reached down and with perfect ease picked Erestor up off the floor and carried him, laughing softly, into his bedroom.
Inside moonlight spilled through a half open curtain, bathing Erestor in its radiance again as Glorfindel set him down on the bed. “Still beautiful?” he asked teasingly as he slipped under the light covers.
Glorfindel smiled. “Even more so,” he murmured sincerely, before twitching the curtain closed and coming to lie beside him.