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In The Bitter

Chapter Text

Glorfindel was watching Maeglin disappear into the trees. Not for good, though. With the tension eased between himself and Maeglin, Elrond had approached them with the thought that, perhaps, after Maeglin had finished with the rest of his penance trip, he could return to New Imladris to stay. Glorfindel had found no objection, and Maeglin had looked relieved. Apparently, the reunion with his mother's side of the family had gone very, very badly.

Not that Glorfindel had completely assented from the goodness of his heart. Maeglin had presented himself as an odd paradox of being both terrified of Erestor and completely reckless. For the last two weeks of his stay, he spent a great deal of time pushing Erestor almost to the breaking point, and then backing off and running away. Glorfindel had warned him that if he wasn't careful, he would find himself turned into a frog sooner rather than later, but he was laughed off. Of course, Glorfindel found Erestor's reactions amusing, and perhaps did not warn Maeglin as strongly as he should have.

So, when Maeglin did not run out of Erestor's office screaming two days past, Glorfindel sighed to himself. Praying that he would not be the next amphibian-elf, he ventured inside to find a glass tank on a little table beside Erestor's desk. Inside was a little brown frog, desperately croaking and jumping from glass wall to glass wall. Not that it could be heard, for of course Erestor had silenced him. Not even a soft thump of frog to glass contact. It had taken a bit, but eventually Erestor had returned the frog to his regular state. But only after pointedly discussing recipes for frog legs.

Indeed, Glorfindel was unsure whether Maeglin fell under the category of courageous or foolish. He did admit that Erestor seemed to find great enjoyment in practicing retaliatory spells upon the unfortunate elf, and he was also truthful enough to confess that it was nice having someone besides himself test Erestor's patience on a daily basis. It kept things fresh.

"You should stop thinking such dangerous thoughts, Glorfindel. They could lead you down a path that ends up fried in butter."

Glorfindel froze as he realized that Erestor was right beside him, and had apparently gained telepathic abilities. She smiled at him, which at this point was infinitely creepier than a smirk.

"No, I did not read your mind- at least not in the manner you fear. I read the thoughts from your face. You really are a poor liar, I hope you realize that." Well, that was partially good news. Still unsettling.

"Do you give lessons on striking fear into the hearts of others? I am sure as a master of the art, you must have many apprentices." Erestor pondered it exaggeratedly, pursing her lips and tapping her chin.

"No, but perhaps I should. Elladan and Elrohir seem to have a natural knack for it, and rightly so considering their ancestry."

"The Lady Galadriel I can see, but whom else?"

"Ah, Lord Celeborn of course. He rarely makes use of it, but sometimes he just looms silently, and looks upon you from the shadows. Then Lord Elrond, obviously."

"Obviously."

Erestor seemed to detect the disbelief in Glorfindel's voice, and did not appreciate it.

"You see him displeased with others less than I do, but mark my words! There was once a merchant who made…unfortunate remarks about Arwen." Erestor shuddered. "It ended poorly. I prefer not to think of the day myself. Think of Lord Elrond at his most intimidating. Do you have it in mind? Good. Now think of him without his normal restraint, a descendent of Noldor who crossed grinding ice, of men who were valiant without peer, and a half-Maiar maiden who threatened to disembody Sauron and then stole a silmaril from Morgoth's crown as he slept."

She had a point.

"I concede. We need not enumerate any others. Please?" Erestor tilted her head in graceful consent. "I had perhaps forgotten that Lord Elrond is rather fearsome. So you think his sons would make- No, no, no. I refuse to consider this matter any further. You will NOT create such terrible weapons, I will not discuss it."

Erestor shook her head and gave him a superior glance. Glorfindel watched her face carefully.

"We are avoiding the topic."

"Are we?" She asked idly, which was always a signal that it was incredibly important.

"Yes. Perhaps we should move somewhere a touch more private?" He offered his arm, and Erestor took it. Considering his options, Glorfindel decided to pick her office, reasoning that somewhere in Erestor's territory would relax her. There was little talk as they passed through the hallways, although they had spent more than enough time with each other to make reading the mood quite easy. Few elves were inside at this hour, it being a custom to take an early lunch outside during the spring months. Hopefully this would mean less chance of interruption, but Glorfindel still closed the door behind him as they entered Erestor's domain.


She had known this conversation was coming. That did not mean she was glad of it. The past was a very heavy burden, and not one she particularly enjoyed rehashing past death. Sighing heavily, she plucked at her clothes that were much closer to a dress than she particularly enjoyed, but until she learned how to say 'no' to pleading, adoring little elflings with eyes too big, it was a terror she had to endure.

She really was going soft, she just knew it.

Meanwhile, Glorfindel had been trying to start the conversation in a rather endearing but incredibly awkward and somewhat insulting way. Or at least she assumed, it had been a few minutes since she last paid him any actual attention.

"It is only that this seemed somewhat personal to you. Plus, you did spend a great deal of time talking together- not that I was upset, although I was worried- but I have watched you when he was not trying to try your patience. I saw you, and I wonder why exactly you were so determined that he and I come to an understanding so-"

"Glorfindel." He stopped his rambled sputtering and focused. Now Erestor felt uncomfortable. When he forsook his carefree demeanor, having a Great and Ancient Reborn Elf Lord directing all attention at you was…disconcerting. Erestor was made of stern stuff, and continued.

"I have told you a great deal about my childhood. I do not think I ever shared with you one aspect, and not through intention to deceive." She drummed her fingers on the desk. "I spoke with you about Maeglin and what his father did." Glorfindel nodded. "I…have experience with such an occurrence."

"Continue."

"In my case, it was an accident. But it happened nonetheless. As a child, the evil one, Voldemort, came to kill me. He had split his soul several times before, and had intended to use my death as a sacrifice for another foul split. Instead, well. His body was destroyed, and I was left. Containing a part of him. It was over a decade and a half before I found this out, and before it was removed."

Glorfindel was unreadable, which scared Erestor in a way she hadn't felt in a long time.

"So, Maeglin and I have that in common, knowing what it means to have something else inside, to know the dirty feeling that accompanies the realization." Still, Glorfindel was silent. Erestor waited, unsure of what to say next. Was he merely processing, or was it disgust?

"It is rather painful, having someone else in your head. I could feel his emotions, see when he tortured his victims. If you were wondering, this was part of the origin of my insomnia." Erestor shook herself. Focus. "But it hurts, rather as if every inch of what should be you has been replaced by fire and ice." He looked disturbed now, and Erestor watched him carefully. Rejection? Acceptance? Indifference? No, hardly the last one.

"I see." He sounded troubled. Erestor sighed.

"What did Maeglin say of it?" Erestor wasn't sure how to answer him. Or she was, but it felt incredibly private, even though he had given permission to share his story with any who asked.

"Well, he said that he was terrified." And how he had trembled as he told her. "That it was horrible, and that death was actually a mercy."

Nothing was said for a long while. Shadows grew longer, and Erestor only moved to light a few candles. They weren't needed, not really, but she liked the comforting flickers of light. As she lit the last one, she turned to find Glorfindel smiling at her.

"You are well?" She asked, tilting her head to the side. He seemed…satisfied. He sighed happily.

"Yes. Are you?" Erestor waved away his concern.

"Of course."

"I am sorry."

Erestor was curious.

"Sorry for what?" Glorfindel took her hand and studied it in the candlelight.

"Many things. I did not doubt you, but I was…worried. And I hope you did not get the wrong impression, that I was judging you." Erestor remained silent. Glorfindel turned chagrined. "You did."

"Not for certain."

"But it was a worry."

"Yes."

"Then I am sorry for that. It was not towards you, that is, I was not upset with you. It was the people you were forced to fight." He rubbed her knuckles, and she shook her head at him.

"I understand what you mean to say. Do not worry, I cannot hold your concern against you. I am a little…paranoid at times, which is hardly your fault."

"Now."

"We are long past that stage, Glorfindel. No, the fear of persecution comes from habits ingrained long before I even knew you existed."

"Should my ego be hurt?"

"If it is not, I have not been clear enough." It was an obvious attempt to steer the conversation away from the more upsetting topic, but Erestor allowed it. Delving into childhood insecurities required much more time and tea (and patience) than she had right now. Glorfindel was ever sensitive to her moods, even if his ability to shift them was rather blunt. Blunt as a mallet. Blunt as a mallet pounding a rock. But still well intentioned. She kept that last bit in mind, and things worked out better. Allowances, she reminded herself, had to be made for elves as old as Glorfindel. Dotage, and all that.

"I know that face. THAT is your "Glorfindel is ANCIENT" face, which I do not appreciate."

"Glorfindel, I cannot understand your sensitivity to the issue. The Lady Galadriel is less touchy on the subject."

"Lady Galadriel is welcome to address the issue however she likes. I have different concerns."

"Vanity."

"No."

"Idiocy."

"No! I am the face of Gondolin, and an immortal Elf besides. My age has nothing to do with my visage."

"Lord Ecthelion of the Fountain is the face of Gondolin. You feature in 'How Not to Kill a Balrog' manuals."

"Amusing."

"Always."