Erestor stopped running when he reached the entrance to the dining hall. Quickly smoothing his hair and robes, he struggled to regain his breath. He was late! Grooming had taking him much longer this morn than was normal. Erestor had bemoaned his wardrobe and his personal choices of the stately black robes. Finally, after the second bell had announced the morning meal, he had pulled on a soft gray robe with a bit of cobalt satin trim, thinking to himself that the blue matched a certain Elda’s eyes. Now posed upon the entrance where he would see said Elf, he struggled to regain his composure.
Erestor hated to arrive tardy for anything. He disliked the eyes that would be automatically drawn to latecomers. And as he moved towards the main table this morn, he especially hated the extra attention his care with his appearance drew. It became well worth it, however, when he saw a light appear in Glorfindel’s eyes upon seeing him. Erestor mumbled his morning greetings and slipped into his chair across from the blond. The appraising eyes unnerved him somewhat, as he was unused to being the focus of such interest, and he bashfully lowered his own gaze to his plate.
So caught up was he in Glorfindel’s presence that he did not hear Elrond address him. It was only a gently hand laid upon his that drew his attention to his Lord. Erestor flushed and looked up to meet Elrond’s kind eyes, happy his Lord had not embarrassed him or called him to task for his lack of awareness.
"The cook wishes to go over the store-house totals after your tour this morning." Elrond said, with a soft amusement present in his voice.
"Very well, I will bring you the completed list after I meet with her," Erestor replied, happy to have something to focus upon other than the blond seated across from him.
Elrond turned his attention to his Seneschal. "Glorfindel, after Erestor has shown you about this morning, your captains will meet with you and go over the rosters. Then if you have no objections, the three of us, Erestor, you and I, can sit down and discuss changes you would like to make."
The rest of the breakfast-time was spent in this manner, with Elrond outlining the plans for the day. It sounded to Erestor as a full day, with the added task of bringing Elrond and now Glorfindel up to speed. With a sigh, Elrond finally laid down his napkin rose from the table. "It will be a busy day, Erestor. I will see you after the tour, and Glorfindel, later this morn." Elrond departed, leaving the pair alone.
Glorfindel rose also and came around to stand beside Erestor’s chair. "Well, I guess we should get started. It sounds as if this will be the only break from work for either of us today." Glorfindel held out a large hand and with some trepidation, Erestor placed his own in that powerful paw. He allowed himself to be pulled to his feet to stand next to the Elda.
Many eyes followed the Chief Advisor and Seneschal as they left the dining halls together. Each was heart-rendingly lovely separate, but together, they made a perfect picture. Erestor’s petite figure with his dark hair and eyes seemed to complement and was in itself enhanced by the larger goldenness of the Balrog Slayer; akin to night and day they appeared. The large warrior’s hand of Glorfindel laid protectively against the small of Erestor’s back drew much attention not only for the possessive manner it invoked, but that Erestor seemed to allow and welcome it. While some envy could be seen in the eyes that followed them, most held only an avid interest at the rightness of the picture.
Erestor forced himself not too lean to heavily into the warm hand at his back. The heat that spread through his body at Glorfindel’s touch caused his own temperature to rise and a flush to stain his cheeks. None had touched him in this manner, ever. Erestor knew not what malady took hold of him, but his palms were damp and butterflies danced about in his stomach. For the very first time ever, he babbled. Glorfindel heard everything there was to know about the library, the kitchens, the wine cellar, the bailey, and the stables. There was no corner of Imladris that Erestor did not show to the Balrog Slayer.
Finally, they arrived at the gardens. Though still unfinished, they showed a hint of their future beauty. It was when Erestor began sharing the details of the garden’s future that Glorfindel caught Erestor’s hand and pulled him to a stop. Erestor looked up into those eyes, eyes that he had not met at any time today. Glorfindel just smiled gently at him. "Let us take a break and sit and enjoy the gardens. I can hear of their design at another time." Glorfindel pulled Erestor to a nearby bench and sat the flustered Councilor next to him. "Tell me about yourself, Erestor?" Glorfindel asked.
Erestor nervously folded his hands in his lap. "About me?" he asked.
"Yes," Glorfindel answered, again bestowing a smile upon the dark advisor. "How long have you lived here in Imladris? Tell me of your family."
Erestor’s face closed and his shoulders tensed. He did not answer Glorfindel’s question, but instead asked one of his own. "What is it like in Mandos’ Halls?"
It was Glorfindel’s turn to blanch and become tense. He regarded the younger Elf seriously, all affection and gentle teasing gone from his features. "Why would you wish to know such a thing, Erestor?" he asked, voice solemn.
Erestor shrugged his shoulders and looked away. He began picking a stray thread from the sleeve of his robe. Glorfindel did not allow Erestor to retreat, but cupped the younger Elf’s chin and turned Erestor’s face back to him. "Tell me, pen velui, what has you so curious about the lonely halls?" (Lovely one)
"My family is there," Erestor answered simply, voice devoid of emotion.
Glorfindel removed his hand from Erestor’s face and instead took hold of one of the advisor’s hands. Squeezing it gently in encouragement, he silently offered his support.
"I was twenty-two when Elrond found me. He saved me, but was unable to save my family." Erestor halted, his voice quivering with emotion. "My family was murdered, Glorfindel, murdered by Orcs. So you see, that is why I wish to know what it is like in the Halls, because that is where they dwell." Erestor turned back to met the Balrog slayer’s eyes. Bravely he returned the warrior’s strong gaze, ruthlessly pushing aside his emotions.
"I am sorry, Erestor. I did not know what had befallen your family." Glorfindel sighed, his voice heavy with regret. "For me the memories are too near. It pains me deeply to speak of my time there. But I can tell you that your family is together within Mandos’ Halls." Glorfindel seemed to reach some decision. He said nothing more to Erestor, but instead rose from the bench and offered Erestor a hand. "Come, I am sure Elrond is looking for you and I must meet with my captains." Once Erestor had accepted the hand and had risen, Glorfindel dropped his hold and moved away.
Erestor glanced sideways at the blond as they walked back towards Elrond’s office. He did not know what had happened, but Glorfindel seemed to put distance between them now. The Elda walked slightly in front of Erestor. No longer did that warm hand rest against Erestor’s back, nor did Glorfindel’s blue eyes look upon him any longer. Erestor did not know what he could have done. Was it that he had asked about the Halls? Had he offended the warrior or brought back to painful memories? Was Glorfindel angry with him now?
Silently, and with tension hanging between them, Erestor and Glorfindel arrived at the half-Elf’s office. Erestor halted at Elrond’s door, turning back to face Glorfindel. He looked up at the blond with solemn, dark eyes. "I apologize, Lord Glorfindel, if my question offended or troubled you. I meant no offense." Erestor turned and started to open the office door. He was stopped from entering by Glorfindel’s hand upon his arm.
Glorfindel smiled at Erestor, but it was not the same smile as before. His voice was as formal as if he addressed Elrond. "I thank you, Lord Erestor. I will meet with you later regarding the rosters and my recommendations." With that said, Glorfindel turned and walked away, never seeing the hurt that appeared in Erestor’s eyes.
To be continued...