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The Lovely Blood

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Elrond walked briskly down the stone staircase of the front courtyard with a grim face as his stricken advisor rushed to open the heavy gates of Imladris alongside the guards, anxiously assessing the changes made to a scouting party as they re-entered on sweating horses and empty stomachs. Two elves trailed behind on foot, their horses lost or dead. Six horses had been lost from the party in the week they had been gone, and four elves also hadn't made it back to the safety of their home. Fewer men seemed to return from each patrol; the threat of the orcs was becoming less of the slight concern Elrond occasionally penned to neighboring leaders and more of an immediate hazard that was venturing closer and closer to Imladris's borders each day. But there was little Elrond could do to protect his people. To stay vigilant against the threat he needed to know where the increasing amount of orcs were based - to find out, men must face them. Imladris has it's fair share of warriors and hunters, and it was only the experienced Elrond let leave on patrols but still many succumbed to the orcs's wrath. It seemed to be unfixable: how to protect Imladris without leading it's occupants into death?

"Elrond!" Erestor's call pulled the lord from his harrowed thoughts and he looked up from the face of a weary grey mare to his advisor's. Erestor stood by a gaunt returnee who was gently pulling an unconscious figure down from where they were draped across the back of a nervous bay gelding. "I have been informed that five men were lost to the terrain or orcs. This - " Erestor paused slightly ".. Elf, was recovered from a small orc base. He was restrained and unconscious, and has been unconscious for most of the journey home. He needs healing."
Ignoring the familiar pinch of sorrow at hearing the mortality rate of the excursion, Elrond moved forward to collect the figure Erestor and the matted sentry now supported between them. Gently scooping the inert ellon into his arms, he ensured his chief counselor was equipped to guide the returning party and their steeds back to where they belonged before starting his ascent of the stairs to the main entrance, cradling his patient against his chest.

The mysterious elf was pale, with smooth peach skin only slightly marred with bruises around his neck and wrists. His skin was fine and nearly translucent but his veins were pink beneath it, rather than the deep blue Elrond expected to see. His hair was a straight chocolate brown, with long silky tips and blood-darkened streaks by his forehead. His eyes were closed. What colour would they be, Elrond mused, gently setting him down on a flat, padded bed in the healing wing. He took a thinly woven cloth and dampened it with a mixture of clean, cold water and a pale green anticeptic gel. Brown, to match the hair? He gently pulled the cloth over the crusted blood at his hairline. Or hazel? Hazel eyes were nice, with their flecks of green and gold illuminating the dark background. Placing the dirtied fabric to the side Elrond took a comb and began to separate the matted locks from the strongly-scented dark blood. Was it orcish? It was hard to say. Shuddering slightly - ironic, Elrond knew, as he was both a healer and a warrior; he was no stranger to blood, orcish or otherwise - he finished combing the smooth hair and discarded the comb, then reaching to collect a pungent herbal oil that would soothe the lilac bruises on the stranger's skin. Gold eyes, Elrond decided, as he cought the small brown bottle. With his lovely chocolate hair and pale skin, the best colour to finish the pallette would be a clear, luminous gold.

Turning to apply the sharp-smelling oil, Elrond froze. The stranger had sat up on the medical bed and was smiling at him with long, sharp incisors and dark brown eyes stained with a deep red.

His heart had stopped, Elrond thought, as he tried to move, tried to break eye contact with the - well, decidedly not an elf. No, his heart hadn't stopped. He could hear the blood rushing around his head, feel his pulse in the pad of his thumb. The figure stood up, swaying slightly. He didn't break eye contact, and Elrond couldn't tell if the swaying was due to lack of balance or was intentional, as a cobra sways before it darts forwards, impaling it's prey on pearly fangs. He tried to swallow but couldn't, so instead spoke through the dryness of his throat. He should run. Why wasn't he running?

"I - I was-" he croaked, nervously. He swallowed again and licked his lips as the figure opened his slightly, baring their fangs. He tried again. "I was wrong," he managed. The not-elf with gorgeous hair looked confused. But only for a second. Because then he lunged forwards, hands outreached and mouth open, and pushed a startled Elrond to the ground, pinning him and barely restraining himself from snarling as he sat, face suspended above Elrond's.
"You were wrong." He repeated. His voice was low; alluring and steady, and his breath was sweet, if not a little metallic. Elrond repressed another shudder. Blood was not his friend today.
"I was wrong," he agreed, panting. His pupils were large with - some - emotion, but he didn't know which. The not-elf leaned ever closer, hands digging into Elrond's shoulders. "Because I thought you would have golden eyes," he continued. There was no reaction from the figure that straddled his chest, lightly panting by has face. "I thought you would look the best in gold " he corrected. His assailant froze for a moment, his face flooding blank with shock, or some similar emotion. "But, you're.. you're beautiful.." he finished breathlessly.

Elrond closed his eyes. He didn't fight death, but he didn't want to see it coming, even at the hands of the lovely not-elf he had unknowingly carried into Imladris. A Trojan horse of beauty rather than wood. But instead the weight on his chest shifted, then disappeared. He opened his eyes. Instead of tearing into his neck, the not-elf sat calmly and prettily on the edge of the bed he had awoken on, holding the bottle of oil Elrond had dropped when attacked. Elrond blinked. And stood. His assailant didn't move, save from the slow twist of his fingers on the unopened bottle.

"I - I'm confused" Elrond admitted. His voice broke through the air, seeming loud to Elrond after embracing what could have been an eternal silence. The not-elf nodded, but offered no explanation. Elrond regarded him dubiously from the rather large distance he had been pushed across when attacked earlier. Slowly, with solemn eyes and concealed fangs, the brunette slid from his perch and trotted over to Elrond, pushing the brown glass bottle into his hand before returning. Elrond unsteadily twisted the lid from the jar, and then advanced deliberately, stopping with every few paces only to begin again. Eventually he stood before his patient-made-attacker-made-patient again, and cautiously took his hand, elevating it for better access to his wrist. They smiled prettily, but it did nothing to appease Elrond's doubt. If anything, it just increased his suspicion. Pouring a decent pool of oil onto one palm, Elrond began massaging it into the damaged skin. He moved to the other wrist. And then a particularly dark bruise on his assailant's left forearm. And then he stopped, and stood back. His pulse hadn't stopped racing and he felt faint. There was a lot he didn't know about his patient, and he was uneasy with that knowledge.

He stood before the not-elf for a few minutes, simply watching him speculatively. Eventually the not-elf gave in to the silent interrogation and huffed defeatedly.
"I am Lindir" he pouted.
Elrond visibly perked up. "You are Lindir? That is your name?"
"Yes."
"What is your race?"
Lindir pouted slightly more. "It's complicated."
"How complicated?" Elrond pushed. Lindir groaned exaggeratedly, all walls of mystery and seeming hostility broken down, and fell backwards into a lying position on the bed.
".. I'm a vampire."
"That wasn't very complicated" Elrond grinned. His heart was still racing. Why was he grinning? He almost died. "But vampires are rare on this side of the grey mountains. Why are you here and how were you captured by the orcs?"
"Orcs." Lindir tested the word in his mouth. "You have a lot of them here." He said accusingly with a pointed glare towards Elrond. "I wanted to come to Imladris."
"What business do you have here?"
"I've come to meet your lord Elrond."
Elrond raised an eyebrow wryly. "Have you seen him before? Or actually, do you know who I am?"
"No to both questions." Elrond watched him expectantly. Lindir looked confused. Then realisation dawned on his face. And finally, fear. "No!" He wailed, distraught. "But i-"
"Tried to kill me?" Elrond suggested.
"Yes! No! Oh god" Lindir whined, pulling his knees up to his chest. "this is terrible! I didn't know- I thought the lord - you - was a warrior, not a healer. If I knew I wouldn't have-"
Elrond interrupted. "If you are to stay here you can't just drink from whoever you want, no matter their station. I will arrange an acceptable feeding schedule for you with consenting elves, and you will not hunt without permission or a companion when outside of Imladris. Violence will not be tolerated here." Elrond finished speaking and looked at Lindir, who sat, open mouthed and starry eyed on the bed.
"I can stay?"

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For the next few days, Lindir followed Elrond as if he were a small puppy learning the ways of life from a great wolf. When Elrond walked through the gardens, Lindir was there. When he ate a meal, whether in public or in his chambers, Lindir sat nearby and watched adoringly. When Elrond slept at night Lindir refused his assigned room, choosing instead to lie outside Elrond's door. After some days he upgraded to a chair in the corner of Elrond's chambers. And after a week he began to lie at the foot of his new lord's bed. Elrond let him.
He had grown fond of Lindir, despite the unconventional meeting, and he was pleased with Lindir's effort to integrate into Imladris's society, following Elrond's every suggestion and appearing each day, well dressed and eager to assist his lord. Over time he became the ideal assistant and was, if not a little work-orientated, consistently polite and friendly. But Elrond had never really found out why Lindir came to Imladris, other than to unearth and serve the great lord he had learnt of and idolised since being a youngling. Elrond didn't push. He could tell Lindir didn't like talking about himself; didn't like being different from the other residents of Imladris.
Not that they disliked or alienated him in any way. Elrond had never released the details of how he discovered Lindir was a vampire, and the elves of Imladris were neither disagreeable nor bigoted and so they welcomed him with open arms, tactfully avoiding the subject of the orcs and introducing Lindir to many people and professions - Elrond eventually heard from a passing elf that Lindir was 'quite a skilled minstrel despite his recent introduction to the art' and took it upon himself to encourage Lindir's passions when the sweet vampire wasn't fawning over his lord.
Despite the welcome he received, Lindir was still uncomfortable with his differences - even though his companions weren't. Drinking blood was different on his journey to Imladris. He would hunt when he was thirsty, and he would hunt without judgement. He was alone in the mountains and forests, alone when he lay beneath the stars with dirty hands and a full stomach. He didn't hunt when passing through villages. The risk of capture was too high. Only once did he reveal himself, in an isolated trading village, when he was pursued one night by a drunken man. Lindir recalled he smelt of beer and damp, rotting wood. The man had cornered Lindir against the wall of a grimy hut and pressed him against the wall, staggering and leaning heavily on him. Lindir was suffocating under his weight and odour. He had to get away. So he dug his teeth into the man's beer-swollen, ruddy cheek with a snarl and then tore away, ripping through the soft flesh as his assailant yelled in fear and pain. Then Lindir ran. He exited the village and hit the woods before the sun rose. Before his victim raised the alarm to his friends and neighbors. Before they had the chance to begin the hunt.

Lindir didn't eat for days after. Every time he cornered a rabbit, or saw the flicking tail of a bird from the corner of his eye he could taste the ruined, salty blood of the drunkard, could feel his bloated arms pressing into his chest and stomach, the wet, splintered wood biting his shoulders as he tried to lean away. He hadn't bit a human since. Or many mammals. The warmth of the blood sickened him. After roughly a week of fasting he had to eat again, despite his reservations, and so he found a stream and squatted by the bedside, waiting for his prey. It was there the orcs found him, gingerly eating the flesh of a cold, twitching fish. It was nearly bloodless but that was fine. It distracted him from the memories of the sweaty man in the late-night drizzle. It distracted him from the grotesque barking figures that seemed to surround him, emerging from the trees en mass. They were humanoid yet haggard, their eyes beady and bleary and their skin oozing black. But they were just apparations borne of hunger and fatigue, Lindir reasoned. The largest one barked an order to a smaller, wiry grey figure with broken teeth. It moved forward, dancing on its feet like a nervous dog and then Lindir felt a sharp pain on the side of his head, quickly followed by the strong urge to be sick. For a second everything was outlined with almost blinding white. And then everything went black.

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Elrond woke to whimpers echoing from the foot of his bed. More than a little concerned, he hastily lit an oil-based lamp and moved from his seat to find the origin of the sound, bringing the lamp for light. Moving cautiously to the area of floor shadowed by his bed his confusion cleared almost instantly as he saw Lindir, curled in a ball and twitching in his sleep. Setting down his lamp, Elrond kneeled beside his assistant and shook his shoulder gently to wake him. When Lindir didn't waken but instead whined in fright, Elrond gently pulled the shivering vampire into his lap and wrapped his arms around him for warmth, rocking gently and murmuring in Lindir's ear.
"Maes, wake up. You're having a bad dream. Come, Lindir. Wake. It'll pass. I'm here, Lindir. Wake for me."
Soon Lindir's cries quietened, and then ceased fully. Still Elrond held him, and leaning against the base of his bed, eventually fell asleep with his self-assigned assistant in his arms.

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When Lindir woke, he realised he had slept in. The watery light that leaked from Elrond's window was a clear indicator of that. But the few clouds Lindir could see were thin and white like fresh snow, and he felt warm this morning - he wouldn't ruin the feeling with unnecessary worries. Most days he was welcomed by the chill of Elrond's stone floor, so the beauty of the light and surprising comfort he felt basking in it was a rare luxury. The next thing Lindir realised was that he was hungry. Really hungry. He still couldn't shake the memories of the beer soaked man, and he couldn't bring himself to drink from the elves of Imladris, no matter how willing or accepting of his needs Elrond said the volunteers were. The guilt and fright of the night tasted sour in his mouth when he even thought of drinking. His stomach delivered a particularly sharp pain in protest but Lindir ignored it. The last time he fasted he was alone and vulnerable. Now, he was surrounded by friends and companions. He didn't need to drink to survive. Maybe he could even eat fruits and bread like Erestor. Like Elrond.
Smiling contentedly despite the prevailing ache in his stomach, Lindir rolled onto his side and sighed happily under the sun's eyes, pressing his face into Elrond's chest, who lay slumbering behind him. Elrond. Lindir's eyes snapped open and he jerked upright. He was lay on Elrond. Slowly and somewhat warily rising to his feet, Lindir gazed down at his Lord who lay peacefully on his stone floor rather than his bed.
Considering his options, Lindir decided to wake Elrond - after all, they had both overslept, and Lindir was more bothered than he'd like to admit by seeing Elrond lay on the floor like a servant. Well. Like Lindir. It just wasn't right, Lindir rationalised, for a lord as great as Elrond to submit to the same standards he felt obliged to. He deserved more. Leaning over his lord, Lindir reached to shake his shoulder, but hesitated for a moment before diverting his attention to Elrond's hair. Gently stroking it with a fingertip, Lindir shivered with delight at the sensation and the captivating colour. Elrond's hair was darker than his, and richer, like the bark of a tree after a summer storm, or the glossy fur of a Chantilly Tiffany cat - a regal and aloof animal Lindir had seen in the company of men on his way to Imladris. Humming appreciatively at Elrond's mane, Lindir let his eyes wander back down to Elrond's amused face.
"Good morning, Lindir." He said pleasantly, chuckling as Lindir pulled his hand back from his hair, mildly distressed at being caught playing with his unconscious lord's hair. Elrond pushed himself up into a sitting position to match lindir, smiling tenderly at his tense assistant.
"Did your nightmares stop last night?" He asked tentatively. Lindir opened his mouth and then shut it again. Elrond continued. "You woke me last night. You sounded upset but wouldn't wake so I stayed with you. Do you remember having a bad dream?"
Lindir swallowed, the images of last night coming back to his mind. "Yes," he admitted uneasily. "But they come too often to dwell on them. I am sorry for disturbing you - it won't happen again."
Elrond regarded him levelly. "Perhaps tonight you should sleep in my bed rather than my floor." Noticing Lindir's expression he elaborated. "I would have suggested your own, but you seem to be boycotting your room, and I feel you'd sleep better in a bed. Maybe your dreams would improve." He smiled "Besides, I enjoy your company. Now, let us get dressed for the day's work."
Lindir nodded mutely and accepted Elrond's offered hand, letting him help him up from the floor. Still processing the unexpected start to his morning he left Elrond's chambers silently to find his own bathroom and closet.

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The day had gone smoothly for Lindir since he dressed and met Elrond for a late breakfast before starting his work. It was only midday - a mere few hours later and yet he had been very productive, both performing the Elrond-related duties he had adopted into his regime and helping Erestor with some additional paperwork he noticed the advisor seemed rather swamped in. The papers on which weapons and equipment needed to be replaced after the latest excursions to reinforce Imladris's borders against the orcs had been filled out and set on Erestor's desk within minutes of Lindir accepting the task and rushing to check the contents of the armoury, and now he had nothing left to do. He would look for his lord but he knew that Elrond's sons had returned from a rather successful Orc Hunt, and so they would be spending time together discussing what they had uncovered during the past few weeks.

Lindir knew Elrond didn't expect him to work quite so much as he did. In fact, he was sure Elrond would encourage Lindir to take a day without work, but Lindir would rather make himself useful to his hosts rather than lay around idly. Although, he could take a short break, Lindir considered. He had no work to do in the next few hours and though he was reluctant to admit it, he really wanted to eat. His hunger had not lessened these past few days and Lindir, despite his reservations towards blood, knew he needed to eat - after all, he would be a better help to Elrond if he didn't feel so weak. Conceding to his baser urges, Lindir decided to find a source to drink from. It was only after he had searched the halls of the Eastern wing and the white rose garden that he found his prey; a lone elf sat on a bench, gazing at the sun with his back turned to Lindir. His robes were green and his hair was a relatively dark shade of brown, covering his neck and upper back. Lindir took a step forward quietly, calculating the distance between him and his prey. He was so hungry. He should have followed Elrond's schedule - he was breaking Elrond's trust even by hunting. But he couldn't wait another three days for food. He wouldn't be able to stay in control; at least there would be less of a scene if he drank now, in the isolated garden, rather than later. And it wasn't like he going to kill the elf. Ignoring the guilt that pooled in his stomach, he stepped ever closer, jaw loose and muscles tense. He was so close he could smell the elf, his scent intoxicating and oddly familiar. Was that-? Elrond turned as a twig snapped beneath Lindir's foot, his face painted with inquisition and then delight.

"Lindir!" He exclaimed. "come, sit!" Moving to the end of the bench he pulled his robes closer to his legs, leaving a space for Lindir to sit next to him on the white stone bench. Lindir's heart nearly stopped at the unexpected reveal. He had almost hurt Elrond. Again. He would have been sent away from Imladris if he had attacked him - and it was only by luck that he hadn't. Swallowing uncomfortably, Lindir forced a smile and took the offered seat at Elrond's side.
"I thought you would be with your sons" he stated.
Elrond smiled fondly. "I was earlier, but they have by since departed; they were tired from their excursion."
Lindir tried to smile back but it died on his lips. Shame pricked at his neck at the memory of what he was about to do to Elrond became more prominent in his mind. He couldn't do this. Not to any elf - he'd have to accept help. He swallowed again, trying to wetten his dry mouth and throat. "My lord, I'm hungry."
Elrond looked surprised. "You shouldn't be. When did you last eat? You know I've arranged for various elves to offer their blood every few days. I-" he paused as a horrible thought crossed his mind. "Have they been denying you their blood? Someone should have told me if they changed their minds-"
"No, no," Lindir rushed to reassure him. "They still consent. Just..it's hard to explain. The taste of blood. I hate it. But it's the only thing that sustains me."
Understanding dawned on Elrond's face. Then concern. "But you must feed. It is dangerous to fast for so long. " He looked thoughtful for a second but his worry washed the emotion from his face quite quickly. "Can I ask, does all blood repulse you?"
Lindir considered the question. "It hasn't always. But I find it hard to drink from people. I try to feed off of animals but even their blood has tasted wrong recently.."
Elrond looked upset. "I am sorry, but you can't drink from animals here. They can't consent so it goes against our laws. What if you only drank from one elf? Would you adjust to the taste?"
"Perhaps. It feels wrong to try though - it would weaken them considerably and It would be a rather personal arrangement. I don't know your people well enough to ask that of one of them." Lindir sighed defeatedly. If he couldn't drink in Imladris, he wouldn't survive. He would need to leave and hunt alone in the forest, with the orcs ever nearby. This was the only place he felt at home at and now he couldn't even stay.
"Do you know me well enough?"
Lindir's head shot up, his pupils wide. "What-?"
"You can drink from me." Elrond repeated calmly. "I trust you to take a safe amount each time. And if my blood is what you need to survive here, then I gladly offer it to you."

Time seemed to freeze for Lindir. He saw the two of them, sat together in an empty rose garden, his lord looking at him expectantly. He imagined biting him, lapping at the blood he almost unconsciously craved, tasting it on his tongue; feeling it coat the walls of his throat, filling his stomach. It would taste different from his other sources. It would be sweet. Or rich. It would taste like Elrond and Lindir knew that if he started to feed he wouldn't stop when his lord murmured his name, or squeezed his arm. He would be too consumed by his hunger to see the emotion in Elrond's eyes as he fell back, trying to escape. And when he had finished draining Elrond's body and was discovered by a passing elf he knew he would still have Elrond's blood coating his skin as he fled, still taste it at the back of his mouth when he lay down to sleep in the woods each night, uncaring that the elves that hunted him down to avenge their lord came closer to him with every passing moment. Everything would be over. Everyone would remember him as the vindictive vampire that travelled months alone in the wilderness just to murder Imladris's benevolent leader. And Elrond. Elrond would be -
Elrond was looking at him worriedly.

"Lindir?" His face cleared slightly as Lindir met his eyes. "I am sorry. That was too heavy an offer. I will arrange for blood to be extracted from volunteers and delivered to your chambers each night. Hopefully you will be able to drink in peace. Maybe you'll fare better without an elf attached to your meal."
Lindir lowered his eyes. "Thank you, my lord. And you need not to apologize for the offer. I appreciate it. And I am still considering it. But if there is no work for me I will take my leave - I feel I am currently too hungry to have company, so I will be in my room until I feed tonight." Lindir rose and with a bow to Elrond, left the gardens.

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Thoughts of Elrond and his offer consumed Lindir for the rest of the day. Boredom eventually pushed him from his room despite his hunger but the tasks he undertook did little to distract him. When he delivered new parchment sheets to Erestor's office he saw the red insignia on the corners of the thick papers and tasted rich blood in his mouth. When he sat outside, passing full quivers to Glorfindel and his students whilst they practiced their skills, he couldn't look away from the targets when the sleek arrows punctured the dark wood like sharp teeth to bared skin. When he had finally abandoned his task to be helpful and had returned to his quarters to sulk about the situation he found himself in, he found all of his attempts to forget about Elrond's offer rendered completely obsolete, because Elrond was sat on his bed. Lindir shut the door quietly and moved forward with a questioning look at his unexpected guest.

He smiled weakly at Lindir. "I apologize for invading your privacy, but you said you would be here so I thought I would wait. I came to - I wanted to apologize for earlier, but you weren't here and I didn't want to miss you, so...well. I wanted to apologize. I'm sorry." Elrond's voice trailed off uncertainly.
Lindir released a breath. "That's a lot of apologies." He pointed out. Elrond had looked upset when Lindir entered the room and his expression hadn't changed much since. Lindir was concerned. "But firstly, you needn't apologise to me for anything. You're my lord. I am here to serve you."
Elrond looked somewhat indignant and opened his mouth to defend Lindir's role in Imladris.
"Regardless of that, there's nothing you need to apologize for." Lindir continued. "If I were to accuse you of anything it would only be that you are too accepting. You welcomed me into your home, allowed me to live and work at your side; you forgave me almost instantly for the crime I nearly committed upon meeting you." He paused when he saw Elrond was watching him with wide eyes. He let out a shaky breath, thrown off by Elrond's gaze.
"You offered me your blood. You trust me completely but I haven't earned any of it. You believe in me, despite not knowing anything about me. You will never be in a position where you need to apologize to me, but my every moment is spent wondering how I can repay your immense kindness."

Elrond rose from Lindir's sheets. His eyes were calm and warm as he looked down on Lindir. Lindir watched him stand.

"I want to apologize for earlier." Elrond repeated gently.

Lindir's face filled with confusion and he swallowed against his dry throat as he moved to protest.
"It was unthinking of me to offer my blood so lightly. You are right, I have welcomed you into Imladris despite our initial meeting, but it was because you have shown qualities we value here. And you *are* valued. You are kind, honest and intelligent. You treat everyone with respect and always focus on helping those around you. When you divulged that you were finding it difficult to drink blood I should have found a better solution than to offer you mine. I should have known how you'd react. It was unfair of me to put you in that situation."

Lindir looked upset. Every time he spoke with Elrond he ended up baring his soul, he thought uneasily. The half elven lord had an unpredictable effect on him.
"I am not honest. You have made your judgements of me without knowing everything." He admitted ruefully. "Again, you have nothing to apologise for. It is not your fault I reacted as I did. And I - I need to say, when you offered your blood I could only think of-" He took a deep breath to steady himself in preparation for what he was about to reveal.

"You imagined killing me." Elrond's voice slid through his turbulence mind.

"What-? I - how did you-"

"It's fine," Elrond reassured him. He stepped forward and took Lindir's hands. They were trembling. "Maes, calm yourself. It's fine. You couldn't help it; I put too much pressure on you and you lost control. I do not blame you. If anything, I am pleased you tried so valiantly to avoid that outcome."
Lindir bit his lip to stop himself from crying. He was going to confess anyway - so why did it hurt to know Elrond already knew? He didn't think of him any less. He wasn't condemned to leave Imladris and wander through Middle-earth, weak and alone. Lindir was here. With Elrond. Safe. Safe. Lindir choked back mirthless laughter. How could he be safe? How could he accept Elrond's endless forgiveness? He didn't belong in a place so full of peace and beauty. He couldn't survive on love alone.

"Lindir?" Elrond looked concerned. With some effort Lindir focused on his face.
"I'm sorry,"
"It's alright. You're overwhelmed. Come, sit." Elrond gently led Lindir over to his unused bed and pulled him down onto it. They sat side by side in silence, Lindir trying to process the unexpected outcome and Elrond waiting for Lindir to speak. Eventually Lindir turned to his lord, pulling his legs up onto the bed and crossing them to ensure he wouldn't change his mind and leave the room. Elrond looked at him apprehensively. Lindir paused, composing himself.

"You are right." He began. "I wasn't prepared. I didn't know how to react and I was scared I would hurt you. I couldn't risk losing control." He faltered slightly, taking a moment to focus on Elrond's eyes. "I'm prepared now."

Elrond looked amazed and somewhat joyful. "Are you sure?"

Lindir nodded determinedly. "If you are." Elrond's eyes softened with an emotion Lindir couldn't name. It was bubbly and fond and relieved all at once, and Lindir felt the same emotion moving through his veins, warming him from within. He was safe and it was perfect.

Elrond took his attendant's hands, holding them tightly. The two became mirror images of each other, sat cross legged on the bed as they were, their arms resting between them with clasped hands. Lindir gazed at Elrond with nervous joy, trying to absorb every detail of the moment. How Elrond's robes were smooth and crisp, but held some white dust at the hemline from a chalky path. How a few strands of his dark hair had come loose from the decorated braids that were pinned above the back bar of his circlet, and were now floating slightly, hanging over the mass of hair running down his shoulders. He saw the warmth of Elrond's eyes as he gazed back, and felt the warmth of his hands as he held Lindir's, his knuckles brushing the sheets.

Elrond was nervous. And ecstatic. But mainly nervous - the atmosphere of the conversation leading to this moment had fluctuated wildly and amidst his joy that Lindir had accepted his offer Elrond had some fear that he would change his mind. That eventuality shouldn't be so worrying to him, Elrond knew, but Lindir drinking his blood had so much meaning - it meant that Lindir trusted him, and trusted himself to stay in control. It meant that Lindir would have a constant source to drink from, which meant he wouldn't need to fast. He would be able to feed within the grounds of Imladris - he would be able to stay. He would become a permanent citizen. He would stay with Elrond. And of course Elrond wanted him to stay. But why? He was pleasant company and Elrond would never tire from watching him talk and laugh, but there must be a deeper reason. Elrond could admit he thought the sweet vampire was beautiful, and his intense admiration and loyalty was positively endearing, so it - oh. Did he have feelings for him?

Elrond was startled from his realisation when his eyes met Lindir's. The deep, shadowy brown and gleaming red flecks of Lindir's irises had been almost completely overwhelmed by the deep purple-red hue of deoxygenated blood that seemed to seep from his dilated pupils. Lindir was so close. He had moved on the bed and was now kneeling before Elrond, one hand on the lord's knee and the other on his shoulder. Elrond nearly whined at the sight of Lindir's eyes, but composed himself and rested his hand on Lindir's arm, nodding slightly; breathlessly. He angled his head to the side, exposing more of his neck for his hungry attendant, and locked his eyes on Lindir's hand. His skin was gorgeously pale - with an almost translucent quality, like a smoothly cut shard of alabaster stone under the light of the moon.

Blinding pain.
Then nearly instant relief.
If Elrond hadn't already been sitting, he would have fallen to the floor during those seconds of agony, probably pulling his charge down with him. As it was, Elrond slumped forward heavily into Lindir, his arms wrapped around him and his hands clawing into Lindir's shoulders for support as he gasped for air, his whines muffled by the crook of Lindir's neck. The wave of cool came soon after, numbing the fire of his wounds as it spread through his body, soothing every muscle. Elrond's hold on Lindir lessened. Lindir kept drinking. Elrond could hear the sound of rushing blood in his ears, could hear Lindir's whimpers as he swallowed the surging blood almost desperately, his teeth rubbing against Elrond's neck as he tongued the two open gashes. The blood that continued it's path around Elrond's body seemed to get increasingly cooler as Lindir drank, chilling Elrond's limbs and making his heartbeat weaker. And weaker. Elrond felt dizzy. He was so close to Lindir and Lindir was so close to him. He could smell the sweetness of the vampire's disheveled hair and the metallic tang of his blood, hot against his neck and Lindir's lips. Elrond closed his eyes. And he let go.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

When Elrond came to he was lay in his own bed. The air was cool and crisp and the doors to the balcony were open, allowing the watery golden light of morning to fall onto the stone floor and far wall of his room. His limbs felt heavy and warm and his neck ached slightly, made stiff by the night of sleeping nearly upright on over four pillows.

Unaware that Elrond had woken, Lindir, straddling his lap in fresh robes was lapping at Elrond's neck at a steady pace. His tongue was warm and a little rough, but it brought no fresh pain. In fact, Elrond noticed, the only pain he could feel was from his awkward sleeping position. His wounds from the night before seemed to have disappeared.

"Lindir?" He murmured questioningly. The vampire moved back so Elrond could see his face. His eyes had changed again from last night's, and were now their usual mixture of dark brown and gleaming reds rather than the deep purple of his bloodlust.
"Yes, my lord?" He smiled sweetly. Elrond tried not to laugh at his expression - he looked like a well fed kitten, flashing innocent eyes and purring for strokes.
"What have I missed?" Lindir caught the subtext and began to explain the results of their night.
"I think I took too much," he began sheepishly. "not because I lost control, just that I hadn't eaten for too long. When I finished drinking you had passed out, so I carried you here to rest and I brought extra pillows because you needed to be elevated during your sleep for good blood flow. You should feel better now, your blood pressure is almost normal again. And I've closed your wounds," he grinned, poking his tongue out. Elrond saw blood mixed with saliva and gingerly touched his neck. It was damp but otherwise unscathed.
"It's my saliva," Lindir explained. "It has higher healing properties than other races because we have evolved to need it more." Elrond nodded.
"And you carried me?"
Lindir went a bit pink. "Well. To be fair you were quite light at that point, and I had just fed so-" he was interrupted by Elrond's laughter.
"I was quite light? If blood loss is linked so closely to losing weight, maybe we should do this more often," the lord chuckled. "Though actually," he said, turning more serious, "how often do you need to feed?"
Lindir looked contemplative. "I'm not sure. As I've said, I usually feed on animals. Their blood lasts me for a few days, depending on the size. I've drank much more from you."
"Then it is an easy solution. It isn't really necessary to schedule your feeding habits. As long as I have enough time to gain my strength between each meal, you can just come to me when you need."
Lindir looked adoringly up at Elrond. His eyelashes and circlet caught the light of the morning sun and for a moment before a passing cloud stole the light, he seemed to glow on Elrond's lap.
"Beautiful.." Elrond breathed, rapt by his shining attendant. The two sat there, distracted from their conversation and watching the enthralling lights dance across each others faces. Lindir moved his hand to Elrond's cheek. Gently. Reverently. Elrond closed his eyes. He could feel Lindir's warm breath, could feel his hair brushing against Elrond's chest. Lindir slowly pressed forward, dragging his thumb across Elrond's cheek.

A panicked elf burst into the room, holding his bleeding forearm. His armour was dented and the braid that had pulled his hair back was cut and fraying by his neck where a thin red line lay. "My lord!" He gasped, choking on his bloody saliva. "Orcs. They attacked us at the gate." Lindir fell away from Elrond, throwing his legs to the side to stand up.
"Where are they now?" He demanded.
"They've come in. Erion and Lanniel were killed defending the gate. I came to warn Lord Elrond. We need more soldiers." He turned to Elrond. "We have over fifteen of our most experienced fighters out on patrols. Those closest to the border are likely to have been killed. I need permission to take Lord Glorfindel and his cadets to the front lines. Anyone else who can fight must defend those who can't. I have already sent men to bring everyone into the Great hall. Others have unlocked the armoury to hand out weapons."
Elrond nodded grimly. "You can take Glorfindel. Try to secure the front entrance. I will check the hall and then join you." The guard bowed and left, blood still dripping from his arm.

"Come, Lindir. We need to collect our armour." A thought occurred to Elrond. "Can you fight?" Lindir looked dubious.
"I usually have no need for weapons when hunting. I haven't much experience."
"That is fine. I will find you a suitable blade and you can help defend the hall." The corridor to the central armoury was eerily quiet. Most rooms were empty and the ones that weren't were occupied only by those who were rifling for any makeshift weapons. When they reached the armoury, it was bustling with cadets and any elves with some talent with a sword or bow.

Elrond headed for the armour section, pulling breastplates and thick leather arm guards from the wall whilst Lindir looked around, wide-eyed, watching friends and acquaintances pull on heavy tunics and collect weapons. He saw a shy minstrel choose a heavy greatsword with a determined expression, testing the weight in his hands. He saw a sweet elleth who helped in the kitchens take a quiver of arrows and a sleek metal bow, moving towards her friends, who too held various weapons. At the far wall of the room stood a scholar Lindir had seen in Elrond's office, pulling his dark hair into a tight braid for agility in battle, a shortsword in its sheath on his hip.

Elrond appeared at Lindir's side. "Here," he offered, holding out a curved elven dagger. Lindir took it with thanks and tucked it into the small leather sheath he had found, noticing Elrond was dressed in nearly full battle armour, his sword Hadhafang hanging at his side.
"Where will you be?" He enquired anxiously.
"Wherever the orcs are. But you must stay with the others in the great hall. Stay vigilant. If any orcs get in then.." Elrond hesitated, looking at his attendant.
"I will defend the others." Lindir said gently. "Do not fear for me. Just.. stay safe."
Elrond gazed down at Lindir tenderly and pushed a strand of his hair back, his hand resting by Lindir's face. Lindir smiled reassuringly. "Go. I will be fine."

With a final glance back, Elrond left for the front courtyard to assess the damage and track the orcs. Lindir, grabbing a thin metal chain from the wall, rushed from the now near-empty armoury to find the great hall.

He made his way towards the hall cautiously. The corridors of the last homely house were ominously deserted but the irregularly spread bursts of sound from the many short-lived battles close on the other side of the walls were frighteningly loud despite their briefness. He had crept through the Main Western hallway and many branching passages to avoid cutting through any outdoor paths that could potentially leave him exposed to an orcish attack, and had reached the end of the western wing when he heard the familiar barks and grunts of orcs. They had managed to come inside - and they were close. How many people were dead, Lindir wondered. Had they all fallen by the crude weapons of the orcs? Were the gardens littered with broken elves? What of Elrond? Lindir's fear seemed to make him invisible as he, frozen with terror, pressed himself against the wall, hardly daring to look out into the hall. He was hidden in the shadowy mouth of the large corridor, the orcs somewhere to the left of him in the perpendicular hallway. He couldn't hear many of them, but they were getting closer, the hoarse, animalistic voices rising with the dragging of their feet and clanging of their weapons.

To reach the main hall he would have to cross the width of the orcs's passage and continue down the rest of the western corridor, where he would then turn left to enter the great room. Judging by the stench that floated from an unseen place to his left, they were now close enough to see and pursue him. He would bring them to the hall full of shoddily armed, unprepared elves, many of them young and weak. He would lead them to a hall filled with prey. He couldn't do that. But he couldn't go back either, because shortly after he had passed a small storage room filled with parchment and ink, he had heard a cry as an elf was cut somewhere behind him, the orc snarling in victory. He had smelt the blood, but didn't go back on accord of the orc's hiss of rage as the injured elf slipped from it's grasp and fled down some nearby passage. Lindir couldn't risk running back into that orc, lusting for battle after it's unfair loss. And he wouldn't wait here for the orcs to reach him - although they nearly had, he could smell. Taking in a breath of sour air he braced himself and pushed away from the stone wall. He took a moment to wind the chain around his hand a few times, and pushed his hair back from his face. He wished he had put it up, like Erestor had thought to do.
Stepping out into the corridor his blood seemed to freeze in his veins at the initial fright of seeing the orcs. They were closer that Lindir had thought, and stood, somewhat surprised, a few paces away. There were three of them, the closest one dressed in thick swipes of dirty grey cloth, bandaged around it's chest and legs, with stringy black warg hide pinned to his back, the skull-less head hanging dismally over the orc's misshapen features. His skin was black and oily and the mangy leather belts at his waist struggled to hold the thick metal pipe he had secured by his stomach. The end was mottled with dried and recent blood alike, as Lindir saw when the orc, slightly taller than it's companions, pulled it free with a broken-toothed glower.

He swallowed nervously, his knuckles white between the silver chain links digging into his hand. His dagger was still in it's sheath and he wondered belatedly why he hadn't taken it out before stepping from his hiding place into the orc's path. The two smaller orcs were dressed similarly, in stained and torn wraps and thick leather belts. One was sinewy and grey, with bulbous knees and elbows. His eyes were yellowed and a red slime oozed from his lipless mouth. He held no weapons but had a large bundle of pillaged trophies strapped to his back in a dirty cotton sheet. Most of the angular bumps resembled the heavy antiquities or expensive glass goblets found in the hall, but there were some softer objects tied into the makeshift sack that stained the soiled fabric red. Lindir's mind moved to unsavoury places when he realised part of the orc's odour was made up of a sour cocktail of elvish blood. He took a step back.

The smallest orc, grimy and black-skinned like the apparent leader, was brandishing a roughly cut wooden blade, the dark wood twisted under his grip. He snarled, swinging the stake at Lindir, and as it moved past him, some inches away from his stomach, Lindir remembered the largest orc had a metal pipe, and was currently bringing it down towards Lindir's head.

He moved backwards, fear burning through him as the pipe, burnt red with blood, cracked into the stone floor. Tremors moved up his legs as the clang of the pipe rang with the aftershocks of hitting the floor - the stone flag was cracked and the loose shards now littered the visible surroundings. Stumbling away as the orc lifted his pipe once again, Lindir tried to pull a plan from his numbed brain. Obviously the most dangerous enemy was the leader, but he was two heads taller and much more muscular than Lindir. The shortest one was somewhat brawny and held a dangerous-looking wooden shiv; Lindir could probably fight him if he lost the weapon. That left the orc with the pack. He was pale and bony compared to his companions, and and he would be slowed down by their stolen gains.

He was good enough, Lindir decided, resting a hand on his dagger. He crouched slightly, waiting for the pipe to swing down above him before pushing off from the cracked floor and springing forward under the leader's outstretched arms. The pipe cracked behind him and Lindir ducked to the side as the orc dragged his pipe around, almost hitting the smallest orc, who yelped in fear as it swung past. The momentum pulled the pipe into the wall above Lindir's head, splinters of stone flying out onto the two smaller orcs. Taking advantage of the distraction, Lindir ran for his target, who was conveniently now the closest to him, pulling his borrowed blade from it's sheath. He held it out at arms length as he ran and it caught the orc's shoulder - the skin was only nicked but the leather strap supporting the great canvas sack was cut fully, causing the pack to swing down lopsidedly, unbalancing the orc as Lindir swung again with the curved dagger, slicing the clammy flesh of the orc's barely covered chest. A thick black slime oozed out as he fell back onto the floor, somewhat supported by the pack as he screamed in shock and pain alike.

His shorter companion, enraged by Lindir's attack and struck by some protective instinct upon hearing his friend's gibbering wails, let forth an almost animal sound that pulled pure fear from Lindir's heart. The maddened orc ran towards him with a foamy mouth and furious eyes, the roughly cut stake aimed at his face. Lindir yelped in shock and stumbled to the side as the the orc tried to harm him with an almost desperate rage. Although short, the orc was fierce, and with each swing of his wooden blade, he came closer to cutting the vampire's face.

Despite the intense panic and fear that threatened to overtake Lindir's body, he tried to stay calm and concentrate on his surroundings as he dodged each of the increasingly accurate attempts to wound him. It wasn't working very well. The raw stench of his opponent left his head swimming and eyes watering, and so there was little opportunity to stay vigilant as he danced away from the wildly active weapon the orc wielded. In the back of his mind he could hear the whimpers of the sickly pack orc. He hadn't stood up, despite his injury being less than superficial. The worst he could do to Lindir was get underfoot. The small orc was obviously the major threat as he was so close - and constantly getting closer. The panicked vampire couldn't swing back with his dagger, rather focusing on defense as the orc slowly pushed him back through the corridor. Looking past his attacker in a moment he found spare, it was with terror Lindir realised that the largest orc was motionless, the great pipe held loosely in a slack hand.

He was smelling the air.
He was smelling the elves in the great hall.
He looked back at Lindir and bared his teeth in what Lindir could only describe as a threatening grin. Silently, he walked away, leaving Lindir with the two other orcs and desperate fear for the elves he promised Elrond he would protect.

No. Lindir gritted his teeth. He would not let anymore people get hurt. The sour scent of blood was still hanging in the air, and he had a keen enough nose to recognise the blood of his friends. The blood of an elfling. The blood of warriors.
He whipped around as the orc tried again to make contact with his face. Almost. This game of cat and mouse was taking too long, Lindir realised. If he was going to prevent the largest orc from reaching the great hall, he would have to go on the offence. He inhaled deeply, readying himself for the next sporadic attack from his opponent - who, he noticed, was tiring somewhat; the orc's movements were slower and his breaths gurgled with swallowed saliva.
The orc swung.
Lindir stabbed.
Time seemed to slow as Lindir was pulled forward by his dagger, cutting through air with a disorientating ease. The weapons connected and Lindir's blade went through the wooden stake, splintering the core as it shot past his ear. The elven blade carried on down until it hit clammy grey flesh, slicing through the purlicue of the orc's hand. The force of the blade hitting and cracking a thin bone sent tremors through Lindir's arm, and he watched numbly as the orc screamed and fell back - much like the pack orc had - blackened blood streaming from it's damaged hand. The orc's thumb had been almost severed and his forefinger hung loosely, red and swollen below the wrist where bone had been hewed. The pulpy blood spilled onto the floor as the shortest orc screamed into his undamaged palm, shuddering and twitching in a fetal position at Lindir's feet. The scrawny pack orc had backed against the wall, his cloth sack half opened between him and the other groaning orc. It was filled with various silverware and filched possessions - Lindir recognised the smiling face of an ellith and her son in a bronze frame with cracked glass. Next to it lay her severed hand, a silver bonding ring on her finger.

Lindir's stomach tightened, sour bile rising to the back of his throat. He looked down the hall. The largest orc with the bloody iron pipe was nearing the corner to the great hall. He would have to leave his revenge for later. With a last look of disgust to the cowering pack orc, he turned and ran down towards the largest orc, his arm again outstretched, blade in hand.
Maybe it would focus on him if he stabbed it hard enough, Lindir joked grimly, before frowning confusedly. Why was he talking to himself? He needed to focus.

He hadn't reached the orc when it swung around, the pipe flying past Lindir's head as he hastily slowed his run. The pipe didn't slow, instead smashing into the vampire's arm with a sickening crack.
Blood dripped to the floor where the blood-rusted pipe had pierced his skin. Through the wound peeked a milky shard of bone, like a feather protruding from the split seam of a pillow.
Lindir would have fainted from the pain and the view alike but he was too busy falling backwards as the pipe, ever vigilant, was swung into his gut.

Darkness.
Who killed the sky?
There's blood. Inside. His organs were weeping.
Joy. No! Dark-
Then a throb of pain in his head, pulsating through his body as he tried to sit up. His arm didn't move. His eyes were open but where was the sun? The orc was walking away. Numbly Lindir braced himself, pushing his hands against the floor. It felt like he was touching rubber. Or was that his skin? He couldn't feel his face. Lips and teeth. Lindir's mind swayed. He was being pulled into a whirlpool, his thoughts sucked into a smoothie of aching rubber. The orcs he had felled were crying on his behalf. The pain in his gut was stolen from them. He owned all pain. Brain..huh? Lindir tried to laugh but his voice was gone. Fire was in his brain and his brain was in his mouth. Lips and teeth. Lindir tightened his grip on the chain wrapped around his knuckles - always the knuckles - to ground himself. A deep breath. good, good. The fire was melting the rubber. The smoke was pulling him apart. He passed out.

----------------------------------------

When he came to, the sun was alive again.
That was Lindir's first thought. His second was Ouch! He felt as if all of his organs and muscles had been carefully shredded and then taped back into a Lindir shape in the hopes his tissue would knit together again. No such luck.
He groaned, moving his hand up to shield his face from the sun. He still had red marks from the chainlinks, he noticed blearily. The chain had gone. He didn't know where. He didn't care. Lindir shut his eyes and for the second time in his recent memories, succumbed to the darkness.

Flowers. He could smell flowers. And orcs, and tears. Who was crying? Why was this happening? Lindir couldn't open his eyes. His brain was wrapped in cotton - and so was his face, he struggled to realise, touching the thick bandage over his eyes. His lips felt dry. The slight movement left him exhausted. His hand fell back down and the sound of his breaths lulled him to sleep.

It was still dark when Lindir woke for the third time, but there were shadows and outlines dancing across his eyes. The bandages were gone. Lindir's stomach turned when he smelt the orcs in the air, his mind racing back to the first time he met them. He turned over and was sick onto the floor beside his bed. His bed? Lindir pushed himself up with his good arm and looked around the room. He was in the healing ward, he saw, but it wasn't as full as he would expect. The few elves nearby were talking, laughing, eating. Their wounds were scarring and their friends were sat by the beds. They had been here for a while. Lindir felt sick again. What about the orcs? Bracing himself for another wave of nausea, he took a deep breath in, smelling the air. Orcs. Blood. It was stale and faraway, but still so close. Lindir turned his head to the window and looked at the sky. It was stained red by the rising sun, framed by the shrubbery of the gardens below. Lindir's heart hurt. It was too much. He let go.

He was on a boat, riding the bruinen away from Imladris. The banks were lacy and green, with pale flowers and dark roots showing through the crumbled soil. Nothing made a sound. Lindir looked down at the boat: it was small and wooden, with varnished sides and a red floor. The water was leaking in, darkening the waxed planks but Lindir didn't care. Did it matter? The river was shallow. Already, gravel scraped the wood of his vessel, already his body was liquidised by some reason that he couldn't remember. His veins were filled with painkillers, numbing him from his core outwards. He was already made of water. He should join his brethren. Lindir stood clumsily, rocking the boat although it was barely moving now. Water licked his ankles, encasing his feet and calling him to the tide. The boat was rocking. Lindir was shaking. Something was calling his name, the past silence maimed with a pulsing call. He tried to move but his limbs weren't his own. Water. He needed the water. He strained to reach the river, to dissolve beneath the current, but it was too late.
Water.
Water.
Elrond blinked down at Lindir, one hand on his shoulder and the other resting on his cheek. He looked at his vampire's eyes to see if they were lucid. Lindir didn't respond.
"Lindir?" He sat, rubbing his charge's shoulder gently. "Lindir, it is time for you to wake."
Lindir breathed in. He should have been lay beneath a blanket of water, rather than a thin cotton cover.
"Water." He whispered sadly.
Elrond's eyes brightened at his word. "Of course, I brought some for you earlier." Turning to the bedside cabinet, he took a glass of water from the top and brought it to Lindir's mouth. "Maes, drink."
Lindir drank weakly, the water wetting his cracked lips and dry throat. Elrond stroked his hair lovingly.
"What can you remember?"
Lindir furrowed his brows. His head ached. "I was going to the great hall. There were orcs." He faltered slightly. "They had killed people. They were going to - they - " Lindir stopped. "I promised to protect the elves in the great hall. I couldn't."
Elrond made a low noise and sat on the bed by Lindir's side, reaching out to hold him as he pushed himself up off of the flattened pillows.
"You did well. The orcs didn't reach the great hall. Glorfindel saw you passing through the west corridor and followed , but he was delayed helping someone-" Elrond paused to compose himself. "I believe an ellith lost her hand."
Lindir nodded against Elrond's chest. His eyes were closed but he could still see the contents of the pack orc's sack, spilling across the stone floor in a rainbow of metals, glasses and flesh.

"Despite that," Elrond continued uneasily "He reported that he reached you moments before you were knocked unconscious. With the element of surprise he was able to kill the last orc. He was impressed by what you had managed to do previously." Elrond smiled down at Lindir but he was silent against Elrond's side, half buried in the cotton sheets. "I'm impressed as well." Elrond finished. "And so proud."
Lindir didn't speak. He could hear the bruinen trickling quietly, the sound carried through the still air and the glassless window. It sounded like it did in his dreams. His throat felt strangely full, as though it was lined with cotton, and his mind ached dully behind his brow. He swallowed, his tongue tasting like blood and dirt against the roof of his mouth.

"Lindir?" Elrond pressed gently. His attendant looked up, eyes vacant. The river was calling. "Lindir, you need to feed." Lindir shook his head almost imperceptibly. The motion made him feel sick and a fresh wave of nausea arose in him, overpowered only by the pain of his stomach. Reminded of his injuries, Lindir looked down beneath the thin cotton gown someone had dressed him in. It was backless and flimsy and was dropped quickly with the pull of a tie behind his neck.
Elrond inhaled quietly.
Lindir's stomach was bruised black and yellow in a thick band over his naval, with deep red tendrils of stain spreading below his skin by his side. The skin was thickly patched in various white materials and Lindir strongly suspected his skin had split upon impact with the iron pipe. It would have been painful, had his head not been made light with a medley of drugs. Elrond hummed softly and took Lindir's hand.
"It's improved over the last few days but you've been given a lot of painkillers. What can you feel?"
"My stomach. It hurts. And I feel sick."
Elrond squeezed his hand "and what about your arm?"
Lindir looked at him blearily. His arm. The orc had hit him, he remembered, the pipe bursting his body like a once-taught balloon. He was sent from his feet to the floor, where he had landed in the blood previously sprayed under the orc's pipe. His arm. It had been caught and ruined under the metal, his bone cracking and skin tearing. His blood flying in little drops. Lindir winced, his temples still throbbing as he sought to recollect his memories.
"The orc," he uttered quietly, slowly. Unsurely. "I was running behind it and it knew. It turned and I tried to stop but it was all happening so fast - and the pipe, and my arm-"
Elrond watched carefully as Lindir spoke. "It broke your arm before your stomach was injured?"
"Broke?" Broke. Bone. Blood on the floor. Blood on his skin. His skin, torn - ripped by the impact and pierced by bone, bleeding red. Red blood on the floor and the wall and on him and his radial bone, emerging so alarmingly from his forearm -- "my arm was broken?" Lindir repeated faintly. Elrond, concerned, tightened his fingers around Lindir's hand again . "look at it, Lindir. Tell me how it feels." -- his bone, sharp and pale beneath his blood and above his skin, exposed to the air, to the orc; the orc - the orc t heorcth eor----

The orc swung, damp on its skin and exertion in it's sweat as it strained against momentum, shoulders and arms moving with the pipe. The pipe making contact. Lindir crumpling, his eyes wide and skin reaching its maximum elasticity and beyond - tearing, flying; feet off the ground, body heading towards it. Blood on the floor, both sprayed then dribbled from Lindir's arm. Lindir on the floor, lungs emptying of air as his descent finished all too rapidly. His head cracking and his breath snatched by the cold stone flags.
His vision fading.
Pain.
The orc above him with a gruesome sneer. A red line of blood crawling down the dirty pipe held in it's hand. It hadn't even hit the floor by the time Lindir lost consciousness.

 

The orc keened in victory, spitting black phlem to the floor as it turned to walk away.
Gold hair flashed by one of the many glassless windows of the corridor, illuminated by the sunlight.
An ally had arrived.

Seeing the bloodied vampire on the floor, Glorfindel called his name in hushed tones. The orc snarled, irritated by his new foe but Lindir didn't stir.

"Lindir."
"Lindir, focus." His temples throbbed. "Lindir." A raised voice. "Open your eyes, maes. You have to focus."

There was pain in his head, swirling behind his eyes, and in the leaking flesh of his stomach. His knuckles hurt beneath Elrond's tight grip; his other hand did not. Lindir struggled to look down, his eyes obscured by hot tears that clung to his eyelashes yet refused to fall. His other hand was pale and still, resting on his lap. Thick bandaging obscured his wrist from view. The boning of the splint on his forearm bulged from beneath the wrappings, thick wooden stripes tied to his flesh. His arm didn't hurt. It wasn't numb. It just.. wasn't there.
"Lindir? Can you hear me?"
Again his throat felt tight and his mind heavy. He shouldn't have woken up - the bruinen would have carried him away by now, Lindir thought miserably. He would have been lay in the sea, weighed down by wet clothes rather than troubled thoughts. His lips tasted of Sea Salt and it was only when Elrond wiped his cheeks with his thumbs that he realised his tears had fallen after all.
"Oh my dear.. why are you crying so? Does it hurt all that much?"
Lindir felt timeless for a moment in that he was almost frozen - his heart pulsed slowly enough to pain his chest and he couldn't inhale because of his panic. Tears ran down his face hotly and wetly with a speed that only enhanced the lack of movement in his lungs. As they hit his lap a dam seemed to break inside him and he gasped for air through his sobs, sadness bubbling up his throat as he cried. Elrond pulled him into a tight hug, smoothing his loose hair flatly down his back to try and ground him. "Hush. Don't worry, melmë. I'm here." Lindir shook against his lord, the grief of his encounter with the orcs spilling from his subconscious into the room. The colours that spun behind his closed eyelids seemed to show the emotions hanging in the air and soaking through the cotton sheets of the lowly erected bed of the healing ward; murky yellows dragged themselves across the ceiling whilst heavier blues dampened the white walls. The bottom of his vision was stained with a swirling pool of violet and dirty orange. Lindir closed his eyes tighter to black out the colours, focusing only on Elrond's soothing voice. As he clung to him, being stroked and gently rocked, Elrond's murmurs gradually bled into whispers, which in turn lessened to the sound of his heart beating against Lindir's.
Together they sat with their foreheads touching, bathed in silence.
As one inhaled, the other exhaled, quietly feeling the other's breath against their lips.
All was calm.

Time had fallen away by many a minute when Lindir finally opened his eyes. Elrond's stayed closed, dark eyelashes waiting by his cheeks.
Strands of his hair had freed themselves of his partly braided hair and were now stuck to his face or were restfully floating by their brethren, only slightly misplaced. He probably hadn't noticed. Lindir smiled weakly, lifting his undamaged hand to stroke away a dark streak of hair from his lord's face. Elrond hummed, pushing into his hand before opening his eyes. He smiled against Lindir's palm, looking at him with concerned but mostly loving eyes.
"Are you feeling better, melmë?"
Lindir nodded, bringing their foreheads back together but not breaking his soft holding of Elrond's face. "Better when you're here."

They rested against each other for a moment until Lindir again broke the silence with a low hum.
"My arm. I wasn't upset because it hurt, but rather because it didn't. My stomach feels so raw and yet I can't even move my hand."
Elrond looked at him. "You're worried that your arm will not heal,"
"Yes. I think? I can't feel it right now. I can't move it. What if it doesn't improve? It was really badly injured, Elrond. There was bone."
Elrond took his damaged arm and gently lifted it from the elbow, raising the forearm to unpin the tail of a long bandage. Lindir watched as he placed the silver pin on a side table and began to unwrap the bandage on his arm.
"It has been five days since the orc attack. You and other casualties were treated in the evening, after all orcs had been purged. I set your arm myself." He paused to remove a wooden splint and to put the long bandage to the side. Lindir's arm was covered only by a swathe of cotton that Elrond started to untape and remove. "You have been mostly unconscious for the past few days, but your injuries were dressed each day. It will probably take some months for your stomach to heal fully, but I think your arm will be healed in about six weeks." Peeling the cotton from Lindir's arm, Elrond revealed a deep red gash that cut across his upper forearm. It was somewhat jagged, but was protected beneath the pale scar tissue that had began to knit together. "Your bone has been reset but is still fragile, so I want you to wear a splint for some time."
Lindir looked down at his arm with a pained expression, noting that the curve of the scarring gash mimicked the path of the blood that had streamed from his exposed bone. He swallowed with difficulty. "Why can't I feel it?"
"You should be able to, but it's probably due to your medication. Now that you are awake we will have to reduce the amount of painkillers you've been taking - you'll feel it in a couple of days."
Lindir pursed his lips and sank into Elrond's chest. Groaning in frustration he squashed himself against his lord and looked up pleadingly.
"I don't want to be in here for any longer. Can't I stay in your room? It's too cold in here and the bed is too low."
Elrond laughed as Lindir pouted at him.
"It's too cold because you're not in bed," pulling Lindir's hospital gown back up, he tied it loosely behind his neck, again covering his bruised and bandaged stomach. With a gentle smile he pushed Lindir onto his back and half-covered him with his cotton sheets. "But, I will consider moving you to my room within the next week. As for now, you need to rest."
Lindir sulked. "I don't want to rest. I'm hungry."
Elrond smiled. "Are you? Or do you just want me to stay with you?"
Lindir made an exasperated noise reminiscent of a carefully composed keysmash* and pulled Elrond down towards him. The esteemed lord of Imladris only just managed to catch himself above Lindir - rather than hitting the mattress - as Lindir used his robes to pull himself up slightly, mouth and tongue connecting with the side of Elrond's throat. "Forgive me." He murmured against his lord's skin. Then, he bit.

*Of the sffhjksstthh variety

A stripe of pain ran down Elrond's spine as Lindir's fangs sliced into his neck, causing his arms to buckle slightly, chest hitting Lindir's as he fell. The vampire didn't seem to notice, pulling his head away to breathe and then returning to his lord's neck to lap away the red blood that drizzled from the shallow cuts.
Hissing slightly he pushed up against Elrond to gain better access to his neck, his good arm pressing down on Elrond's back, molding them together as he drank. Blood dribbled from the side of his mouth as he sucked on Elrond's neck, and it ran down to his chest, dyeing the front of the flimsy cotton gown red.
Elrond gasped against the crook of Lindir's neck, glimpsing the deep purple of his vampire's eyes when he raised his head. It was almost too much. The pain had lessoned around Lindir's mouth, skin somewhat numbed by his analgesic saliva, but the low of his back ached from the original streak of pain, and his head was becoming heavy. It felt as if the faster Lindir drank, the slower his blood moved around his body, and it was making him dizzy and nauseous. He sagged against Lindir's shoulder as his vampire made a new cut on his collar and shut his eyes. The outline of his thoughts were foggy yet boldly coloured, and as he slipped away an image of Lindir stained black with orcish blood crossed his mind. In one hand he loosely held Hadhafang and in the other, outstretched to an unconscious Glorfindel, was a silver bonding ring, slippery with its owner's blood.

When Elrond's eyes opened again Lindir was still suckling at his neck, but his hand was now gently stroking through Elrond's hair rather than pushing him down. The pain had almost all gone and his arms no longer felt like jelly, yet there was still a feeble ache in the back of Elrond's head. Groaning slightly, he buried his face under Lindir's chin, who had ceased lapping at Elrond's wounds upon seeing his lord awaken.
"Are you ok?" The vampire asked.
Elrond didn't need to lift his head to know what Lindir's breath would smell of. The aroma of blood was heavy in the air and the sheets of his bed. He groaned again.
"How is it," he began, slurring slightly, "that you can be so injured by an encounter with an orc and still fell me with.." A yawn. "..with one bite.?"
Lindir laughed into the top of Elrond's head. His breath was warm.
"I think the question here isn't of my strength, but of how weak you become in my presence," he replied lightly. Elrond grinned against Lindir's collar, amused by his joking.
"You're a beauty, of course, but who can really compare with someone as great as me?" He quipped back, lifting his head to smile at his vampire.
Lindir smiled back with soft eyes. "No-one can compare" he murmured. Elrond didn't speak, caught in Lindir's eyes. It suddenly occurred to him that the last time Lindir had drank from him had ended in the same situation as he was now, breathing upon his attendant's lips; noses nearly touching.
Let's hope no-one interrupts this time, he thought, shakily breathing out a laugh. He felt his pulse slow with anticipation - or maybe it was that time itself isowed - and leaned forward almost unsusceptibly, edging only a millimetre closer to the vampire beneath him.
The said vampire raised an eyebrow curiously, noticing Elrond's change in demeanor. "What are you thinking about? You've gone red,"
Elrond pulled back. "Ha, uh, I jus-"
"Is it me?" Lindir teased, sharp canines protruding slightly from his lips as he grinned mischievously. Elrond couldn't help but notice just how cute he looked even when he was looking at him so predatorily - maybe it wasn't such a good idea to be lay on top of him, Elrond realised. Flushing, he sat up to put some distance between them, but the smiling vampire seemed to stalk forward, pushing himself from the pillows so that they were again face to face. He pouted at Elrond's lack of compliance, reaching out and tracing shapes on Elrond's arm with a finger.
"Won't you tell me?" He hummed, leaning forwards and breathing by his lord's ear. "I'll reward you for it.."
Elrond swallowed, closing his eyes to collect his thoughts. Lindir was so close to him again, hand dragging up his arm and mouth by his jaw, smiling into his skin, knowing that Elrond would of course buckle beneath his administrations.
He knew that Lindir had realised exactly what he was thinking as soon as he tried to move forward. Bet he didn't know what he was thinking now, Elrond grinned faintly.

He leaned back, turning his face away from Lindir to hide his smile as the vampire purred, edging closer and wrapping his hand around the back of his neck. "you know I'm going to win, Elrond" Lindir whispered into his neck. "You should just tell me.."
Elrond grinned, raising his face to the ceiling and growling softly in mock frustration. "Maes, Lindir," he whined, trying not to laugh as he felt Lindir smirk in victory against his skin, mouth and teeth hovering over his jaw.
"Yes..?" He hummed gleefully.
"Hh, Lindir.. I need.." Elrond let his voice trail off, arching towards his attendant. Their chests pressed together and Elrond felt the pressure on his neck increase as Lindir breathed in his scent.
"Tell me what you need," he said with a strained voice, muffled by Elrond's skin.
The lord of Imladris pulled back, leaving the distracted vampire leaning into air. He looked up, surprised by the sudden movement and Elrond's laughing smile. He opened his mouth in confusion, but was beaten to talking by his mirthful lord.
"I need you to rest," he said in a level voice much unlike the one he had spoke in moments before, rising from Lindir's lap to move from the bed. "And then I'll consider relocating you to a 'warmer place'." He grinned humourously at the stunned vampire. "My room if you're very good."
Lindir stared, wide eyed and open mouthed.
"Wha- I - you tricked me!"
Elrond laughed lightly. "Your health is my only priority, my dear. I can't let you distract me from the job I've taken as a healer."
Lindir sulked below him. "That's not fair. I've fought two orcs and spent a week asleep and yet you hold no pity for me? At all?" If he could cross his arms he would have. "Wow. No, that's fine then." His voice was not quite low enough to be a whine. "I'll just stay in here. By myself. Obviously you don't care enough to distract me from this horrid cold room I've been thrown into."
Amused, Elrond squatted by the low bed. Lindir was now lay flat again, facing away from him. "So overdramatic," he hummed. "'Obviously' I must make you a lot weaker than you make me." He mocked, recalling Lindir's previous joke.
Made indignant by the teasing, Lindir whipped around, hair splaying across the pillow as he opened his mouth to protest of Elrond's cruelty and lack of care towards 'his patient'. He would have voiced these complaints had Elrond's mouth not suddenly been on top of his. He tasted of sandalwood and thyme, and his lips stole Lindir's ability to speak. Pulling back slowly to stand again, he looked down at his vampire with a smile and loving eyes. "That's what I was thinking of earlier."
Lindir didn't speak. He could feel his face heating up.
"Now rest, my dear, and I will return shortly."

As Elrond left the room, he tasted Lindir and the surprisingly sweet metal of blood on his mouth and smiled. When the end came and Middle Earth was left for the dogs and men alike, he knew that Lindir would be the light that would guide him home.